What happens when a goddess of Philippine mythology, tired of being worshiped, descends from her mountain and leaves her homeland? What happens when she winds up in the United States, living as a human, finding ways to occupy her time? “Maria Makiling Off the Mountain” by Anna Cabe, this week’s New Voices story, sets out to answer those questions. A love story at heart, “Maria Makiling Off the Mountain” is a wonderful story about finding home away from home.
You might wonder what I, Maria Makiling, formerly of Mount Makiling, am doing here in the urban United States in the twenty-first century. Shouldn’t I be dancing somewhere on my mountain, followed by a train of furry creatures, my hair swirling to my feet, my body robed in white flowers?
What if I told you I got tired of being worshiped? Or even remembered? Not when everything and everyone I ever loved died or was destroyed? That if I had to leave my mountain, I didn’t want to spend it among people who might remember what I was?
Contrary to what you might believe, a lapsed mountain goddess in the new millennium doesn’t live the life of an Instagrammable granola princess, a hippie-activist ensconced in trees. I have an apartment and a 9-to-5 job, a bank account. I have house plants.
Yes, I glow if I forget myself. And yes, my cacti flatten their spines and purr when I croon to them absentmindedly in the evenings. I keep a supply of ginger in my pantry, in case I need to turn some into gold. And yes, my hair is perpetually long, falling past my ass when I let it down from my messy topknot.
People don’t leave offerings on my doorstep anymore. I prefer it that way. You see, it’s not as if I’m trying to be human; I can’t be. But there’s no place anymore for a mountain goddess, not in the United States, certainly not in this city on the Middle American prairie. I can at least try to blend in.
So, today, my boss was screaming at me. I was drawing upon millennia of patience. It’s still taking all I could, not to call upon my father (not that I know where he is anymore or even if he survived the passage of time, the end of the gods, etc.) to smite him in place, to turn him into a tree or an ant.
“Can you be any less competent?” he screamed, throwing his hands into the air. So I made a mistake. Big deal.
I didn’t like my boss, but as I tried to remind myself, he was a run of the mill mediocre little man. The kind who struts around like there’s an invisible crown teetering on his head, who believes that I’m actually listening to him when he’s raining spittle upon me. I’ve seen too many of his kind. Sometimes, I nearly forgot myself and called him by another name.
I’ve had many jobs over the years. This was my fourth position doing data entry. This place was so middle of the road, as far as companies go, that I sometimes called it another name as well.
“I could fire you right now!”
Perhaps he would. Maybe I would go back to working in a vet’s office.
“I quit,” I said politely. And he shut up, deflated, like a bullfrog. I almost felt sorry for him, even though only a few minutes ago, I was debating upon calling my long-lost relatives to turn him into a real frog. Something little and ugly, easily snapped up by a heron.