Day #3: Strong
They took turns choosing their next victim. And in Manila Bay, it was easy: the sunset was spectacular and the coconut trees swayed cooperatively with the breeze, so the vibe was open, carefree. Carmen had never read a guidebook in her life, but she’d concluded that Manila Bay must be top of the list, because all tourists went there. It was the place to take photos, scope out local street food, hang out solo. She herself liked sitting on the breakwater wall, facing the water and breathing in the salty air.
She always chose the men—the stronger and sturdier they looked, the better. “Why must you choose these giants?” Uncle Anton often complained, usually after everything. He would make a big show of rubbing muscle balm to his shoulders, twisted and aching, he’d say, from dragging the drugged-out man from restaurant to taxi.
Secretly, Carmen was always a little afraid that a woman wouldn’t be able to take it. She knew what Ativan, in unchecked doses, could do to one’s body. And she herself shuddered at the effects: the dizziness and palpitations, the wooziness and finally, the long, deep black-out. The men with the muscles and heft, they were the ones who could survive this drug’s silent attack.
So she always chose someone who looked strong, even fit. She already knew, from working this trade for years, that physical strength didn’t mean that they weren’t unhappy, discontented, or weak. It didn’t mean that they weren’t lonely.
These strong men, they usually said yes on the first try. Perhaps, they felt brave. Perhaps they liked the idea of living on the edge. Perhaps they felt they were equipped with enough brawn and wit to fight or save themselves, should things get awry.
But how could things go wrong when it’s just a homely couple and their daughter who befriends them and they’re all just admiring sunset? Who needed saving from just another provincial lass like Carmen, who wants to take selfies with her phone?
These questions become meaningless the moment these men, once ramrod and strong, turn limp and unconscious—all because they couldn’t say no to a family’s friendly invitation to eat and drink.