June 21, 2024

(Editors’ note: The Midland Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on February 3, 2008.)

Like the last time, and the last time, the heavens have not been kind, and I am driving myself home at four o’clock in the morning after another unlucky night at the casino.
I slide a CD in the car stereo and Bocelli’s mournful voice fills the interior of the car, neither too soft nor too loud, just enough to keep me awake.
Bocelli is singing what sounds to be an Italian song and I croon along with him. No one sings Amapola better than Bocelli does.
It is all I can do to pry my eyes open, imagining myself on a big stage, a throng of people at my feet, singing as beautifully as only Bocelli can.

Suddenly something darts across the road, and my motor conks out as I quickly brake to a screeching halt.
My lights follow suit, and everything is pitch black.
It is not Bocelli’s voice that has been transplanted in my throat but rather his blindness in my eyes. I see and hear nothing, and I am scared.
I have no idea where I am. I turn the key once, twice, but the ignition has gone dead. I have no courage to get out of the car and check the batteries.
I turn the key again and miraculously the machine comes alive. I double pump the clutch, shift to first gear, and thankfully find myself cruising once again along Naguilian Road, controlling the urge to floor the gas pedal and speed away as fast as I can.
Bocelli’s voice comes back on air. I press the eject button, and the CD slips out.
Silence engulfs my surroundings, broken only by the purring sound of the car motor.
Time once again to talk to God.

Looking upward at the starry sky, in a voice loud enough to wake up all the sleeping creatures descended from Noah’s 40-day water journey but which only I and God can hear, I ask why I am being punished so, and like the trial lawyer that I once was, plead my case the best I can.
“I do not hurt or oppress people,” I say, by way of opening my summation.
(Okay, I may have offended a few).
“True, I have a multitude of sins, but none so terrible to deserve the hell I am going through at the moment.”
I hear God’s reply in my mind, and he reminds me that I was the one who placed myself in the hole I am presently in, not Him.
“All right, I won’t argue against that,” I answer back. “But unless you lend me a helping hand, I can never get out of it, no matter how hard I struggle.”
“Well,” again God responds in my head, “gambling or any vice, for that matter, is like quicksand, the more you struggle, the deeper you sink.”
I open my mouth to say something, but the lights of the city appear before my eyes, and I can no longer ignore the turbulence in my stomach.

I park the car near Chow King, mentally counting how much money I have left, and half the women holding nocturnal jobs are going in and out of the restaurant.
My eyes dart from one fleshy thigh to another, and all sorts of erotic thoughts play in my DOM mind, easing out God’s wise counsel early on.
(I ought to be ashamed of myself).
I am home and kilometers away from the casino, yet only a foot or two from hell, given my sinful desires and impure fantasies.

Today marks the first time that I am unable to attend the Araneta International Derby in 20 years, and repentance has nothing to do with it.
Like the ongoing China cold weather, there appears to be no end in sight to my woes.
Hopefully, the feng shui experts say things are about to turn around.
May 2008 will be better for a snake (born) like me.
Still, God has the final word. Why else would I be talking to Him?
Believe or believe, insanity of the religious kind has its blessings.