My Other Side
All Soul's Day has never been a day to contemplate mortality or any such dreary occupation. The day has no stillness in it, no calm available for any reflection. It does not have that hushing sorrow (and of course none of the wailing kind) although it remembers that, etched in memory as letters on an antiquated gravestone.
Why, in all my November firsts, I don't remember it even as a day of reverence! Yes, we have the roving priest who says mass in the cemetery at the break of day, the fact that kids couldn't play atop graves, and the need for everyone has to respect errant spirits when walking on unbeaten paths and peeing in some hidden grove. But mostly, I've felt it as a celebration, a family reunion involving, well, all souls.
Indeed, my precious culture never really enabled me to fret about not going anywhere after death. I am socially understood to die someday, receive some customary expressions of grief at the outset, but otherwise graduate to the rank of celebrant emeritus, invisible but felt at least once every year. Not a really bad end, come to think of it. I am even allowed (somewhat feared but expected) to snatch a disrespectful kid stepping on the punso or peeing on some hallowed trunk, and transform him into a bogey, a legend to deter all those who might follow his smelly tracks.
Maybe that odious job isn't even mine but for some attendant spirits, some territorial keepers. Every establishment needs some sort of guarded outpost eh? And besides the security, it's a mighty fine place to get buried too, you know.
I will die someday, leave my cataracts, my convoluted lungs, and my rheumatic frame to worms I would contract for such a purpose. Maybe they'll make better use of it than I did all my life. Quite positively, they'll derive more relish from the whole package than I ever did!
Oh okay, maybe I'll rage some just for dramatic effect, a parting shot at the world that's done me wrong or not enough good. Or whatever, yadayadayada. I don't imagine myself having been any such asset to it either so I won't be one to keep the good night waiting.
Having uncoiled myself from my then hideous mortality, I would take a walk or a glide or whatever form of mobility available to me by then to a nice, broad rooftop. Our panchong is carved on the side of a hill. Up my rear, the groves attend to me with its charms and insects, the former being now more potent for me than the latter.
But I would sit back and just stare out front for a while. Down the stone graves and the labyrinthine paths, I see the main street. Further, the farmland. Or actually, I would love them to remain farmlands until I die. You see, my beloved bay yawns a bit further. No one wants his view of the night sea distracted by subdivisions. Hell, if they insist, I'll sit atop some posh rooftop. Let's see if some guard dog or homeowners' association can exorcise me from my unfortunate perch.
I'll haunt the night's shore for a while. I took my seat there, in my youth, to attend to countless sunrises and sunsets. I've been there even when the sun is highest. Once, I even went there to view a storm. But I could only come with the sun. I recede from the shore as it does. You see, we fear the night shore as it is the nest of clandestine gangs with their addiction to infamous substances. I haven't had a taste of that so I've no ticket to submit. No safe access to the infestation for me. Fear and principles keep me from the night shore. Let's see if such trifles would contain my immortal soul. Hell, just for kicks, I may join those addicts and grace their hallucinations for a while. Let's see who would monopolize the shore on that great starry night!
Maybe I'll quit this forever after a month. Or some forty days. Maybe I'd come searching for the grandfathers I barely knew, the heroic guerilla and the silent farmer. I would ply the hillside for the gossip and stories of my grandmothers. Oh I sorely missed those! I'll come asking, maybe an old soul or attendant spirit there would give me some clues. Or maybe I just need to follow some scent.
Some trailing echo of those stories.
Or maybe I already know, somehow, like some directly downloaded briefing from some central brain. I'd hurry there, to wherever-there-is. I'll just come back here later when the living kin comes a-calling, lighting my way with their candles, chatting endlessly with each other and intermittently keeping the tykes from collecting too much wax for their sculptures. Don't worry if they blow off my candles, I'd whisper to the back of your heads. I'll just follow the scent of your candles. Or the echoes of your gossip. I'm on my way. I'm never late for celebrations.
Especially for this one, when I am free from any meditation whatsoever and my inmost ears exist only for your reports of own joys and the tragedies of absentee others. Excuse me though if I steal out at times and I'd rather spook the braver of these kids, indirect fruit of my now completely rotten seeds.
I'd plant in him something else now, please don't mind. It's one of the more tasteful curses. He'll grow to love the sea. He'll grow to follow the scent of stories.
But hey, he's not allowed to pee there.