Pablito Miranda, Gangster of Sorts
Roel Christian G. Yambao
The toughs of one world were first chronicled in their epic glory by Borges. The toughs of another Borges only saw glimpses of, glimpses which he shared with a thousand other chroniclers, each with more dubious ability than the next. But Pablito Miranda (this name, as everything else in his life, was not his) was neither of one world nor the other. He was metropolitan as the air that poisons the half-starved souls in favelas or soothes the battered heart of a millionaire fleeing from his most recent heartache to the kitschy calm of the Riviera, or by some twist of fate heals the first and curses the latter. He was Pablito Miranda; the world it seemed belonged to him.
Yet it was not always like this. Before he became Pablito Miranda he was just a hoodlum among the many that populated the underworld. After the war, his exploits had had everyone talking of him, an unlikely hoodlum: handsome, young, tough: a criminal which may be nothing but a product of youthful rebellion or, if what they say is true, the saviour come to rescue the oppressed. Soon enough he had become a legend and his life, as happens to all men who become subjects of biographies by becoming great, became unrecognisably distorted. Still he lived those early years in a constant fear that one day he’d cease being himself and become Pablito Miranda whom everyone had heard of but nobody quite knew; an image which they think they collectively created to forget the nights they sleep with empty stomachs or a gunwound that won’t heal and has nothing whatever to do with him. But it was this fear after all that made what he most dreaded happen.
One night, after a week of extraordinary quiet in their neighbourhood, he killed nine or ten cops in a brawl. In a matter of hours every one in the urban poorhouses of the city knew of the incident and believed their redeemer had come at last and their days of poverty would soon end. To this day the story is still told to children how Pablito Miranda, the Robin Hood of the Underworld, killed thirty cops with a kitchen knife (just a kitchen knife and the cops had guns as big as the moon!) to protect the oppressed. The version Pablito Miranda himself heard in his deathbed included the beauty Estelita Hernandez (then eighteen with the most ravishing breasts) whom he was supposedly trying to save from the vicious policemen who were harassing her.
When Pablito Miranda died at seventy-three he was so withered and old nobody cared to attend his funeral but the whore Carmen whom he had been sleeping with for almost a year. They had forgotten him. His old age disappointed them they had no choice but forget he was the same man as Pablito Miranda whom now to the generation who did not know him and only heard of him from their mothers was nothing but an urban legend. How dare he die so undignified, jaundiced, bald, missing his front teeth? How dare he ruin the image of Pablito Miranda as eternally young and handsome? This hideous man could not be him! And so they decided it was not him but just another old man, and in the underworld old men were disposable commodities. When the old man died nobody wept for him but the whore Carmen and while she wept stories were still being told about the handsome young hero of the by-gone days, Pablito Miranda.