He walked toward Tyro and took the dress from him. “Guess I left the door open again. For someone who’s keeping this great secret …” He sat down on the side of the bed. “I heard Tan called Maddie Rosé when he first met her. The only living thing allowed to come in here was the original Rosie the dog. Tan wasn’t allowed because opening the door meant discovering my secret. But he’s been in this room and even worn this dress.”
After over an hour of driving straight home from work, Tyro arrived in Paso de Blas. He was crawling past Erato High School, the closest private school to Cornelia Homes, when he spotted a bunch of students in uniform in front of the main gate. They were laughing as they talked. But one of them seemed lost in a world of his own, pensive and oblivious to his friends. One of the friends poked him in the arm, but he didn’t pay attention to what she was saying.
It was the scrawny boy who’d called Tyro’s dog Rosé a few days ago. Tyro recalled the balletic way he had bolted toward the backyard after realizing the dog was indeed Tyro’s. He giggled, shaking his head.
He drove past the bunch of students and up to the curb and stopped the car. He got out and walked toward them.
“OMG, what a hot guy!”
The murmur from one of the students was loud enough to reach Tyro’s ears as he stepped in front of them. He ignored it. “Hello! Going home? Looks like one of you here is my neighbor. I’m offering a ride home,” he said casually. He worked as an assistant English professor at a university near the city he and his mother had previously lived in, and that was the tone he used when talking to undergraduates on campus.
“Hey, I’m sure it’s you, Tantan Jonathan!” a female student exclaimed, pointing at Tyro’s young neighbor. “You were talking the other day about your neighbor crush. Is he the one y—” The girl stopped and made a face when the boy smacked her on the arm. The group, mostly female, burst into laughter.
“Shut up! I didn’t tell you anything!” The boy looked as though he wanted to vanish into the ether.
“You’re blushing, Tan!” one of the few male students teased.
“That’s enough,” Tyro said, feeling a bit guilty. “I’m Tyro, by the way. I just want to talk to him. My family and his family haven’t been formally introduced to one another yet.”
The laughter died down. He looked at one after the other with curiosity, but nobody seemed to want to say anything.
In a few minutes, Tyro and his twelve-year-old neighbor were driving home. Gone were the bright colors and the corsage-ornamented headband the boy had been wearing a few days ago. He looked immaculate in his Erato High uniform. But his thin voice and fluid movements were still there.
“So what’s special about Erato High School, Tan … Tan—Jonathan, right?” Tyro asked to start a conversation. The boy still looked serious and unfriendly.
“Right. Tan among my friends. Tantan in the neighborhood. Erato students’ outlook on life and appearance must be as lovely as Erato’s playing of the lyre. I can say many students at school have lovely singing voices.”
“Including m—” Tan closed his mouth. And then, “Well, I’m not sure.”
“Those bully friends say I sound like the squeaky hinges of old doors that need lubrication. I say the hinges of my doors don’t sound like that. How could they even say—” He stopped when Tyro burst out laughing.
“Sorry,” Tyro said when he saw Tan’s unhappy gaze. “I’ll be the judge, then. Let’s see whether it’s hinges or songbird.” He pretended to look at the side mirror on his left to hide his face, suppressing another bark of laughter.
“Fine. By the way, how did you get to know my dog, Maddie? And why were you calling her Rosé? Where did you get that name?”
Tyro glanced at Tan. When he looked forward again, he saw the road sign telling him that they were approaching the main entrance of Cornelia Homes.
“I honestly didn’t know she was the next house’s dog. She just appeared in front of me one day, we became friends, and she became Rosie.”
Tyro glanced at Tan again. Rosie? The guttural French R and the short buzzing consonant between vowels were gone …
Early Saturday morning, Tyro walked toward the Abestros home, a rectangular Tupperware in his hand and Maddie tagging along excitedly. He rang the doorbell only once; the door opened to a sweaty Mr. Abestros in a brown tank top and gray jogging shorts.
“Tyro, right? Oh, sorry, I’m working out.” Mr. Abestros tried to wipe off the excessive sweat on his shoulder and thick upper arm.
“That’s okay,” Tyro said, trying to keep his eyes on the man’s stubbled face. “My mom wanted to share this adobo with you and Tan.”
Tyro glanced down. “And Maddie is looking for her best friend. She wonders where Tan is right now.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you for the adobo.” Mr. Abestros took the Tupperware from Tyro. “I’ll go give my thanks to your mother later.”
“She’s out to meet with her friends. She’ll come back tomorrow. Probably.”
“Some other day then. Tan’s not home right now. Out with his classmates to work on some project. I’m sorry for you, you there, little girl.”
Maddie yelped, disappointed to hear her best friend was not at home to play with her.
“Would you like to come in to see how immaculate the whole house is?” Mr. Abestros joked.
“Our house is probably as immaculate.”
“There’s the lady of the house, of course. Our house, I like it a little dirty, you know. Just a little dust here and there. There’s no lady here anymore.”
Tyro didn’t have to see the scornful look on Mr. Abestros’s face because the edge to his voice gave it away.
“Some other time, Mr. Abestros. I also have to go out today.”
“Dalvin. That would make me feel a decade younger.”
Tyro nodded with a quick smile …
2019 Pushcart Prize Nominee
Its editor describes it as “an intelligent and compassionate story about being queer in the Philippines.”
Praise for “Rosé”
“It is a great story! I was expecting one thing, and the author delivered something else entirely. Not at all a typical story about being queer, but probably an actual typical happening in Philippine culture. Well done! I look forward to what’s coming next from the author.”
— Bill Householder, Fiction Writer and Bibliophile
“Rosé is so wonderfully layered. I love the way it keeps unfolding until the very end.”
— Maria Meindl, Fiction Editor and Educator
“Wonderful story! The author tells a story of a story. Brilliant mind for writing this interesting story in a limited number of words.”
— Jerome Balinton, Humanitarian and Writer
“I enjoyed the story. Great dialogue, and I liked the mysterious build-up of the story. The author kept me reading to the end. Great work!”
— Michael Carter, Fiction Writer and Lawyer
“This could become a novel. It’s the kind of fiction we need! These are the kind of themes that are quite new and intensely important. I was hooked from beginning to end. The author is very talented.”
— Richard Catron, Artist and Educator
Header Image: Anthony Intraversato