February 2, 2003
The elders are outside, chatting away over this and that, him and her, we and them. It's still very dark but they're up early because they'll cook for the first death anniversary of my grandmother. I woke up to the chirps of these old, early birds. I couldn't sleep anymore. Dawn was just too cold here in Quisao. If you let your coffee stand for a minute you'll lose that scalding quality. Let it stand for five? Then don't bother calling it my-morning-coffee anymore.
My mistake was to leave my journal in Makati. To travel light, I brought only the necessaries. Aside from clothes and personal effects, I packed materials for tomorrow's afternoon meeting and evening class. I only allowed myself a thin volume by C.S. Lewis, "The Abolition of Man."
I forgot that during short visits to Quisao, I don't naturally take to the book. I take to the pen. So I am here, awake at early dawn, pinning thoughts on a multi-purpose notepad. I will have to tear these leaves off afterwards. They belong to another tree.
I want to write a letter. I don't know exactly who I want to write to. Definitely though, it can't be a letter to Her. I can never place Her here, in the depths of Rizal. Sure, the nights and dawns are particularly lovely. Yes, the calm of the dark is especially reassuring when the moon governs, ruling by reflecting everything else in a concentrated, enticing light. However, when the sun is up, all sorts of rumors, bad-mouthing, complaints, and resultant problems arise. Bad faith wakes up with the people. And I cannot bring Her here.
I have this theory that everybody I ever wrote to from this place was somehow touched by what I gave them at the time. Yet, come years, all these relationships would end unceremoniously, sometimes after turning very sour. In any case, all these ties are now gathering moss. There is no exception I can recall.
I have an example. It is not the only example, it is not even the one foremost, but it is the example I now choose to be first since this was the severance I most recently suffered. During the college summers I spent here, I wrote greeting cards and letters to the Seven. Some of their letters fell on summer dates, see? A few summers and half a year hence, the Seven are all up at arms against my Thebes. Maybe this Theban isn't blameless. Still, it is the thread of fate we are examining here, not the bounds of will. Maybe some responsibility is shed from the agent in such a study. Well, come to think of it, is not the escape of responsibility the natural intention?
So there, a wooden caveat should be nailed somewhere here to warn me that I cannot wash my hands in the waters of this encompassing, deterministic river. Should I so attempt the forbidden ablution, I would find my stark red hands magnified by the waters.
With the horrid sign in place, let us return to the study. The Seven is lost, friends all, sisters almost. Maybe some even remaining friends I could die for. Still, that remains a plain conjecture until death itself is before me. Even if it were really true, I won't spread the word too far. Why would I show my bare throat to those on my tail and after my head?
So, to preserve them and me, I maintain my great walls. With the hubris I am heir to, I claim that these are impregnable! Not even admissions such as those given above are true entries to the bulwark.
I also wrote them from here, the first Her and the second Her. Maybe also others, I'm not certain if they merit the capitalization, much less sure if they want it at all. So do the numbers grind, halting at seven and two? I've written from this place since secondary school! Why do the years feel like lost lifetimes? Why do the hopes and loves dashed seem numberless here? Numberless, yes, like the ripples of the great Laguna de Bay, all broken as petty waves upon the common shore.
Let us study the student. I view all these now like a neo-Grecian posturing among the ruins of some dead acropolis. Ruins always have that inviting, faintly bitter smell of tragedy about them. We come to them, all eyes, hands, and noses, trying to gather meaning from the victims of entropy. They have survived countless warriors wearing evolving coats and arms. They have survived generations of stealthy plunderers and young, ignorant vandals.
Yet even as mere pieces of a once grand entirety, they remain, surviving as physical memory becoming several wholes through generations of legends and histories. We claim these texts and they belong to every claimant.
If the warriors would bring final war upon the ruins and reduce even the stumps of old pillars to finest rubble, all of the Parthenon survives with the dodging Greek. If the heavens stop falling on her and the air becomes breathable again, the stones are embedded in her as shrapnels from a defiant, dying past. It becomes a part of her stories, her very Story. The meaning will evolve come new conflicts and temporary unities. She has it all in her until she herself becomes such a ruin. Until everyone she has contaminated with it is reduced to the minute dust or fine ash.
So I come here, back to the place where I launched my thousand ships toward previous Helens. They are all lost to me now, friends and lovers. I write from myriad locations now, offices, faculty rooms, libraries, halls. Other homes.
Let me never take pen to paper here except to polish what little I saved from the losses of youth. Let me not build over the ruins in the hills and plains of San Diego de Alcala. Let the rocks stand where they are until the final hand comes. Until the great lake would rise and come a few hundred feet closer to the seduction of the still-distant moon.
Let me never write anybody from this place. That may somehow assure me that I will not lose Her, my great triumph. Not Her or anybody still left to me.
The mending masonry of life advances, brick by brick, forward and upward. Or so I hope. I fancy that I now build on solid rock, not the great shifting sands of youth.
Who can say though? What if I can always leave this place but the place can never leave me? What if this land is too much in the heart that my heart is now nothing but this land? If so, then it matters not wherever I stay, whenever i write, whomsoever I address. I cannot but write from here.
Even so, I cannot but travel, think, write, sing, love, and act until my will's end.
Even if I can only come from here.
The sun is almost up. The elders are actually just getting warmed up. I don't recall any moment of silence in the background. I also don't remember finishing my cup...
As I expected.