The Elektra in Elvin Abude

By Jon Verzosa


I found myself  running to the Metro to meet my old friend Elektra at Mall of the Emirates.  It was 6:30 PM and the train was packed with the pungent smell of the early evening and torrid spirits thinking Christmas carols.  My spirit, on the other hand, was focusing on my hand, as it grows and radiates to the sound of whistles, then like a rubber band, reached a man in his 20s who was staring at my bespectacled face – ready to create sounds with my aloofness.  I looked at him steadily and he looked back, not knowing where to look because I locked him with my unmoved eyes.  I felt his eyes darted to the windows but he saw me there too.  He looked down.  I was there again.  He moved away suddenly, looked back at me and smiled.  I did not smile back.

I reserved my smiles for Elektra.

I was about to meet a queen in her castle at the Mall of Emirates and I knew I will be propelled into her vaccum.  Purple lipstick, glitters, fur, peacock eyelashes, icy deep voice, red red nails and crossed legs the size of the Everest.  I was concerned with my hawkish posture as well.  I sniffed myself.  Salvatore Ferragamo.  I ran my hand on my hair and separated the soft straws of my hairline into three lest it covered my entire face.  I affixed my specs and floated to the swarm of the castle’s tangy mien.  Little did I know, I was already suspended.  My hands trembled nervously netting her invitation as she awaits.  I, at her service, breathed in knowing that she was not just expecting me.  She was about to tell her story too.

Elvin was born 34 years ago in Malate.  He loved Jesus and stitched hallucinations as a child.  He looked at himself naked in the mirror and flinched to his chivalrous habitus hissing back at him.  It was a nightmare.  He surged on anyway, picked up stones in the streets and wondered why evolution is unfair at times.  Stones can metamorphose through time and history, why can’t he?

Born under the sun sign of music and good luck, he studied the world through the lyrics of his favorite soul music.  He worked at McDonald’s while in school and adapted through the sizzle of burger patties and amenable co-workers who dressed his burgers at daytime and greased his bed at night.  Throughout this metagalactic world of boys and burgers, he celestially groped on Aretha Franklin’s dumplings and rocked his regions with saxophone, crocodile tears of lost love and turned himself into a workaholic.  Oblivious of the fact that his body did not respond to love inasmuch as his heart screams to belong in a man’s fortress and be his queen.

The Queen’s Castle:  Apres / Mall of the Emirates

Jon:  Did you always like Mariah Carey?

Elektra:  Yesssss.  Mariah, Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston . . . all the soul girls, you name it.  I looove them.

Jon:  I liked Mariah before she became a slut in the recent years.  Why the soul girls?

Elektra:  I don’t know.  I think because as a girl, it makes me feel even more of a girl.  There is something about R and B that bequeathes realness of emotions to the physical self.  I mean, look, Get Here by Oleta Adams is so unsurpassed.  They had to make an acoustic remake of that song to give it a new sound.  But never a new soul to it. You did not ask me who I idolize among all of them . . .

Jon:  Who?

Elektra:  Regine Velasquez.

(high fives, shrills of laughter)

Jon: Tell me about Regine.

Elvin:  Oh wow.  She is so brave.  She is so original.

Jon:  Original?  She does remakes more than original songs.

Elvin:  Gaga, I mean, her voice is so distinct.  And her journey from rags to riches, from a nobody to the Philippines’ songbird is simply inspiring! A drag queen’s life can be dotted by her ups and downs, especially her climb to superstardom.  A frail, angry 12 year old sissy wanting to wear his mother’s clothes can be a daunting experience.  To see  Regine wear her boobs-out, almost bare, body fit gowns can inspire that kid to be her!  To be as brave as her.  Come on, Jon, don’t tell me you were never tempted to buy a Regine CD ever in your life?!?

Jon:  I have her very first CD.  There is this song called Will There Really Be A Morning? that I particularly liked.

Elektra:  See?  Ikaw din pala!

Jon:  Of course! We watched her concert here in Dubai in 2007, remember?

Working in an advertising agency years later, Elvin found his Wonder Woman circle through the Maristelas.  This became the era of syndicated gayhood.  The Maristelas, a cluster of florid she-males who were also business associates, dentists and advertising agents cultivated little Elvin’s head and made him repair the blemish of the male body that started with liquefying his toned muscles and turning them into soft petals through pills and exercise.  Overnight, his skin became melodious and while his vocal chords hooted, it became magically silky.  Elvin walked in the drizzles of his own recreation and sang On The Wings Of Love, entertained by his prism of the heart and the sunshine that gracefully came with it. He laughed with glee one day when he woke up one morning with . . . breasts.

The Queen’s Castle:  Apres / Mall of the Emirates

Jon:  Why did you not fall in love again after Malik?  I mean, that was 5 years ago?

Elektra:  I don’t know.  That is the dreamboat of being a drag queen, I guess.  Living in a fantasy of unreturned love and soaking in it. It is a sad place to be but it takes more than cosmetics and silicon to be called a drag queen.  Dragging is easy, even a kargador or ugliest of all men can do that.  Put lipstick, skirt and a head dress on a monkey and it becomes drag!  But being a queen is another story.  Your sashes and crowns from any gay beauty pageant won’t be taken into account for being a real queen.  I mean, being a queen is an attitude.  It is language, DRAMA, facial expression and the way you walk.  A brainless sissy will always be bakla or gay but a shrewd sissy can always be a queen.

Jon:  Isn’t that grotesque?

Elektra:  GrotesqueLY queenly!  Look.  When I visited Australia last year, their version of gayness looked so grotesque to me.  I just do not get the macho thing happening . . .

Jon:  You did not answer my last question.  Why did you stop falling in love?

Elektra:  And end up like you?  Falling in love with practically everyone at any time?

Jon:  I am a slutty basket case, your highness.

Elektra:  Yes, you are.

(Laughter and choking over my Chardonnay)

Elektra:  Like I said, Jon, love is not like the speed of sound.  It is like Wonder Woman in slow motion that comes to you in times when you least expect it.  I have been a drag queen for years.  I have become accustomed to the faux of things. I mean for crying out loud, my breasts are even fake!   5 years ago, Malik came into my life and it became an obscurely dizzying life!  It was insane.  But it was real.  With all the pretensions a drag queen’s life demands of them, I still want LOVE to be real.  And so, I await its coming.  I will embrace it with my overly-accessorized arms once it arrives.  As long as it is real.

Along with the Maristelas, Elvin arabesqued to the stage and fought for what he believed in:  God, love and sense of worth.  Clad in long gowns and 2 inches thick make-up, Elvin smiled her wildest, lighted the whole stage with his winsomeness and posed his lithe body for everyone to see. They called it Gay Beauty Pageant but to him it was beauty in randomness.  It was dimensional.

The boys in the audience regressed their erections and chuckled through their ache to bed him.  Even for a night.  To taste the fathomless lust gyrating in front of them, lipsynching to Donna Summer, half wishing he is a bona fide woman so they can marry him right off.  What can a man ask for?  Elvin is funny, provocative and witty.  The perfect wife.

Elvin, on the other hand, took the stage many nights thereafter.  He saw himself come back to life.  He also saw the same frail 12 year old boy ostracized by his own father because he was a homosexual.  The boy who was not allowed to enter the church because he was gay.  The same teenager who worked his way to college to prove his worth to himself and to forget the cold shoulders that dominated his early years. One night, he got the crown and was named The Queen Of Soul.

Elvin, in drag, a queen, gave birth to a complete being.

That same night, Elektra was born.

The Queen’s Castle:  Apres / Mall of the Emirates

Jon:  The Queen of Soul, wow!

Elektra:  Yes, the pageant was called Search for The Queen of Soul . . .

Jon:  Very nice!  Imagine, it is like an allegory of your penchant for the rhythm and blues.  I mean, didn’t you feel like you have represented all the Mariahs of the world?

Elektra:  No, sweetheart.  The Queen of Soul because the pageant was held days before November 1, the Feast of the Dead!  Try translating The Queen of  Soul in Tagalog?

Elektra and Jon in unison:  Reyna ng mga Kaluluwa !!!

(roars of laughter that almost broke the wine glasses at Apres)

Jon:  Tell me about these pageants, Elektra.  Did you ever get into a catfight?  Is it really that competitive?

Elektra:  Masking tape. Before the glam and the fab, it is all masking tape, push up brassiers, third base make up – the works.  It takes hours to prepare before a pageant!  and days before that in terms of shaving and waxing. It is grueling.  Believe me, I don’t look at myself in the mirror once fully made dahil mukha akong multo (I look like a ghost) with all that make-up!  But once on stage, with all those lights, I transform into a goddess!  It is so uncanny . . .

Jon:  I am sorry to interrupt, but don’t you guys tie your penises somewhere between your legs or something?

Elektra:  Masking tape!  Tape it! Tape it until it is flattened.  Tape it until it becomes invisible from the face of the earth.  Masking tape!

Jon:  Does it get political?

Elektra:  Not from where I came from.  It is fun actually because from my experience, when we get the cash prize, we spend it on bulalo that came with a lot flirtation and loads of talking about the pageant that has just come to pass.   You know what, we actually do this not for the money.  We do this for self-expression.  Something that you don’t do everyday belonging in a society that ridicules the subterrenean and the weird.  Beauty resides in what you represent, not how you look at the end of the day.  I mean, I may not be dressed as a queen right now and have decided to run away from that scene a couple of years ago, but I know that I was remembered for my winning answer.

Jon:  And what was that?

Elektra:  I was asked  to define self-worth.  I said, “Working in an advertising firm have exposed me to beauty and independence of the mind.  As a gay man walking with his head held up high, I affirmly believe that we must backbone our lives not only through independence or beauty but also through self-belief, self-love and self-trust.

Jon:  Winner !!!

(High fives and more laughter)

Jon:  Hey I will call this interview Confessions of an Ex-Drag Queen.  Happy Birthday, girl.

Elektra:  Why ex?  I am spending my birthday in 5 days and I will be turning 35 – the dreaaaad !!! – so I am throwing a birthday party slash concert.  Yes, Jon, this is the last time I will show my friends that once a queen, always a queen. That’s why after my party on Friday there should be The Last Concert of an Ex-Drag Queen from your side. It’ll be perfect!  Costumes and repertoire galore!  I am calling it THIS IS IT, ate !!!

Jon:  Like the Michael Jackson documentary?  Wow.

(Laughter laughter laughter)

Elektra:  I so love you Jon.  Thank you.

Jon:  Love you more!


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