You can see him walking aimlessly in his oversized T-shirt while staring at bypassers through his scattered eyes. Then, his body starts to shake and he just collapses.
On the narrow one-way road of Jereos, La Paz, people would recognize this cursed individual as Korsnoy.
Korsnoy is the man of the present and the future, but never of the past. Abandonment was his first curse and, I believe, the root of all curses that life bestowed upon him. His mental condition—autism and epilepsy—was deemed to be a result of an unwanted pregnancy from a forbidden relationship.
An attempt to free him from his predicament came from a friend of his biological father: A man whose career as an architect granted him eternal bachelorhood until his death. As a salve for Korsnoy’s curse, he offered a space in his house and, more importantly, himself as a father figure. His kind heart was supposed to be the ending to Korsnoy’s against-all-odds story. Unfortunately, a good heart isn’t the key to immortality. The stairway to heaven? Perhaps. Remember Blakdyak’s song, ‘Goodboy’?
The second curse came to him in a deceitful form which our iconic president surely had on his lengthy to-do list. Cigarettes, alcoholic drinks—name it and, for sure, the thirty-three-year-old Korsnoy already tasted through men who took advantage of his condition. While it made him an even uglier creature to behold, no one took the blame or even suggested treatment.
These circumstances led me to the search of Korsnoy’s last curse—his disability.
His haunting image in Jereos goes unnoticed most days. He usually sits on the bench positioned near the neighbor’s sari-sari store and silently watches whatever is playing on the shop’s TV. On sunny afternoons, he takes shade under the tree and talks with the pedicab drivers & neighbors, including myself.
However, his curse began to attack as he succumbs to his guilty pleasures.
As I was about to buy my beer, I saw Korsnoy lying along the road, his body shaking furiously. Panicked, I ran to Manang Bekbek, one of the people looking after Korsnoy, for help. She promised they will bring him back to his home once the shaking had passed.
True to her words, I caught Korsnoy watching TV in the store the next day; He survived that night’s attack. Still, we—the people of Jereos, La Paz—knew that his curse lurks, ready to swallow him anytime soon. A few days before writing this, he collapsed on the chair in front of me after taking his coffee and cigarette. Everyone seemed unperturbed except me.
One day, I mustered all the courage to confront Korsnoy and his current guardians to discover where it all began—no promises and expectations, but just a listening ear and an open heart. Upon arrival, I was greeted by the 80-year old man, Mang Narciso, and Manang Bekbek’s sister named Inday in their unfinished house. They were not related to Korsnoy, but they treated him like their own.
Mang Narciso, the old man suffering from a heart condition who was also abandoned by his family, was a good friend of Korsnoy’s late father. When he decided to move in La Paz, he welcomed Korsnoy with open arms despite having nothing more to offer than food and a space to sleep.
Mang Narciso is disabled himself. He cannot walk nor do any strenuous activities; Otherwise, he will go straight to heaven and reunite with Korsnoy’s father. (If I haven’t met Inday, I would’ve been dead like his late wife, but that’s a different story). They can only do so much, and besides, what other options do they have?
I left with a wounded heart. The ones tending a cursed man is cursed himself. Perhaps the collective apathy of the healthy and strong is worse than being cursed.
If Korsnoy was normal according to society’s standard, would he bear the curses that haunt him now? What if his parents kept him despite the circumstances of his mental and physical condition? Would he tell an inspirational story rather than a tragedy? No one knows what the future holds for people like Korsnoy.
We could only wish for the best that one day, he will find his way home–a society, a refuge where his curse doesn’t define him.
Photos by Joseph Batcagan unless stated otherwise.