Archive for October, 2011

The Low-Flying Dove

Posted: October 13, 2011 in Our work
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One of the first things we learned when we arrived in Manila was that there is no word for “prostitute” in Tagalog. If Filipinos talk about the girls or women working on the streets and in bars, they use the English word or the Filipino euphemism kalapating mababa ang lipad, low-flying dove. One of the staff at Samaritana told us that this was a clue to understanding just how shameful prostitution is in Filipino culture. As I came to know and love dozens of these women, the idea stuck with me–not just the shame, but the image of a beautiful bird who flies low and can’t recover. The phrase haunted me all year; now it’s the title of my novel.

Many of you have asked for updates on the book, which I really appreciate! I finished it a couple of weeks ago, a feat made possible by my husband, who has been working hard to make sure that I can write full-time, a dream we’ve shared for more than a decade. It’s been a season of uncertainty, but also of wonder; God willing, a new little Davis will show up sometime in March.

As of a week ago, my novel is in the hands of a couple of agents. While the publishing process can take months (or even years), I wanted to give you a little taste of the book in the meantime. The moment I have any updates on the publishing process, you will find out about it here.

The following is a short excerpt from the middle of the book. While many scenes are more light-hearted and capture all that I came to cherish about the Philippines, other parts touch on the difficult realities of sex trafficking and prostitution. This particular scene is an introduction to Lovely, a low-flying dove.

-Laura

Excerpt from The Low-Flying Dove:

The dogs woke Lovely on the morning of her wedding. Usually she could shake off the pre-dawn cacophony, or even let the insomniac roosters and yelping animals tumble into half-dreams. This morning all she could think about was him, a vision too chilling to let her linger in morning slumber.

She crept past her sisters, who slept the contented sleep of innocence, snoring softly. As she passed the mattress by the far wall, she could hear her father’s whistling breath, and was immediately hit with the smells of sweat and Ginebra gin. She no longer heard him when he came in at night, many hours after the rest of them had fallen asleep. Lovely’s mother slept facing the wall, her back to her husband.

Outside the air was thick, and the sky hung heavily with pregnant clouds. The gray light of early morning didn’t have its usual cool, and Lovely took this to be a sign, a bad omen of her own terrible future.

She walked, ignoring the nagging conscience that had always been with her as the Ate to her younger siblings. She shouldn’t be out walking on the morning of her wedding. She should be home washing herself, wrapping her hair into little knots that would later become curls, dressing in the dress her mother had borrowed money to have made. She shook off this old wisdom; it hadn’t served her well. Someone else could be the Ate from now on.

She came to the place she’d been looking for without realizing that she was headed there all along. It was a sandy spot along the coast, less of a beach and more of a shoreline with only wispy memories of white sand. On the east side of the island, the waves were powerful and constant, a message from the endless ocean that ended in lands so distant and different that it was easier not to believe they were real. But on this side of the island, the water was still, and the world felt manageable, small. It was a place she hadn’t come to for many months, since before she’d left the province to work for Ma’am Yolly—before she met Jejomar. There was a perfectly smooth rock facing the water that was just the right size for a small person to sit.

Ate?” A squeaky, insistent voice stirred the morning haze just as Lovely was about to sit down. “Ah-tay!”

“Quiet,” she scolded, knowing without turning that it was Boy. “It’s still early.”

“Help me,” he said as he shoved a dirty fistful of white flowers at her.

“Not today, Boy,” she said, shaking off the feeling that had settled in before the small boy had spotted her.

Isa lang,” he cried. “Just one, Ate?”

She let him settle into her lap and dutifully tied the flower stems together in knots until she had made one wilting necklace, and then another. The flimsy blossoms might sell enough for Boy to buy some peanuts, but she didn’t have the heart to tell him that with her distorted harelip, his sister would always sell more. It wasn’t enough to simply be cute. They were street children, practically orphans since they had no father and their mother would do no more than sit on city curbs begging for spare change, sniffing rugby.

When at last Lovely had tied up the last of his flowers, Boy took the bundle and scurried off, forgetting to say thank you, and oblivious to Lovely’s weary expression.

She didn’t cry today as she had for so many days before. There was no use in replaying the scene, wondering if she could’ve somehow escaped from his grasp, chased away everything that would follow. Perhaps it hadn’t been her fault, her mother had said, smoothing Lovely’s hair as she cried, her inner thighs still burning even though she had washed herself until the blood and cloudy white fluid was gone. He really shouldn’t have been at the house while Ma’am Yolly was out. But Lovely was so pretty, and it was easy enough to understand why he’d wanted her. Now that he’d had her, they would marry. Perhaps it wasn’t the union they had hoped for, but there were worse men in the world, and Ma’am Yolly would find them work.

Her mother had said these things without looking directly at her, her soothing hand a betrayal. Lovely knew that the man she was marrying was not a good man, and her mother knew it, too. She must’ve known that Lovely had done nothing to suggest to him that she wanted the bruises on her wrists from where he held her down, or the lump on the back of her head from where he slammed her against the floor until she held still and let him do what he’d come for.

“Mama,” she’d said, facing away from her mother, but she couldn’t bear to ask the question she’d wanted to for months, to know if her mother had knowingly sent her to Ma’am Yolly’s, knowing what she’d be expected to do there. Lovely’s mother, as if she had known that the question was not one to be discussed, did not respond.

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