Dis 18, 2003

UPLB Last Day 2003

This is the record of my last hours at UPLB for the year 2003. Nothing important happened. At least nothing to the sensational level of Blas Ople or Saddam Hussein. I'm just some Dennis anyway. What do you expect?

I just need to commit this to a better memory.

I wake up at dawn to finish up on checking and grading the exams and essays of my criticism class. My black bile seems to have fermented over my dreamless sleep. I try to detoxify it with leftover chocolate cake and take it all down (or at the least, dilute it) with strong, creamless coffee.

I am ahead of my own schedule so I read and edit at a comfortable pace. The past months taught me that it does not do much to rush. It remains a bitter lesson. This is how it is, the months said: "The substance of melancholy is a subtle poison. Stir it too slowly and the bile will clot into a paralyzing tar. Stir it too fast and you risk combustion." There is an art to this. The black fluids and white spaces of life demand a constant, disciplined motion from the man.

I am not afraid of either stasis or explosion. There are things to consider though and so I will fear both until the students' semester is over. For now, I stir with teaspoon, then with red pen.

The cocks are crowing, answering each other as if every assertion is a question. This colloquium of dawn pockmarks the silence of dawn without destroying it. The cocks fill it, make it more eloquent. They make the silence come alive like punctuation marks on the great sentences.

Or have I just mixed my frustrations in editing and pretensions to poetry?

I feel an affinity to the chill of December dawn here. It is unbearable and sleep-inducing when you stop too long. When you move though, it is friendly; it caresses your will - like a spent woman - when you work.

Still, my favorite part of the day in Los Banos is its morning. Despite the face it wears, it is always fresh, vital, and promising in its silence. I bathe in cold water to challenge the geese of my skin and take them to submission. Then I gather the germ of this day with a calm stride.

The workers pound and saw their way somewhere on top of our cubicles. A colleague stands beneath the hole in the ceiling, trying to figure out some secret order behind the beats. He does not notice my approach and I stand very close to him and breathe on his nape to startle him. I succeed. He curses and bellows as I say good morning. He seeks justice from other teachers and I laugh my loud, hollow laugh.

I work some under the rising chatter and pounding. I collect my grading sheets from my desk and exit my department with the plan of finishing the records at the nearby canteen in SEARCA. I get myself a good seat. I am too early for any company except for employees. I am too early for breakfast. The burners are preoccupied with the pots and pans but the only finished product is a plate of fried eggs. I work first.

I register all my grades an hour and a half later and take up "The Crucible" of Miller. I do not get far with it. A fellow passed me with his tray and I learn of breakfast that way. I choose sweet chorizos with a fried egg and a double serving of rice. I concoct my sauce. Because I take my time with the food and the play, the other fellow finishes up ahead with his newspaper. I don't mind except that the cleaners and cooks barely notice me in my nook. So they kid around and some girl or other begins a discussion of pubic hair. I leave Miller's Salem for a while and try to get the jokes. One of them comes across me on her way to install glasses by the steel jug. She starts a bit, then shouts to the jokers to shut up because a customer is present. I wish they do not stop. The joker continues; she either did not hear or did not care. I am further amused by the efforts of this woman with the glasses to try and shut the joker up while beside herself with laughter. I do not keep my smile. But I keep my stare down my book and food.

I text the group leaders to tell their members that they can retrieve their submissions. I want them to note my marginal notes and sometimes copious reactions. I subtly advise them by telling them to "make the best of the season." Some of their papers bleed red, black, and blue because I could not make up my mind which ink seems less vicious. I do hope they make the best of the season.

On my way out, I see a student with her face almost on her chicken macaroni soup. She seemed to enjoy it. I remember how that felt, before I was contaminated with the awful need for refinement. It is indeed wonderful to stoop low with your face so close to the soup. It is intimate that way. You taste the soup down with tongue while feeling it rise to the skin of your face, its steam taking its well-herbed odors to your hungry nostrils. I wish I could eat like that again, with the gusto of my entire self. I take my unfolding wishlist outside and proceed to the department with the papers and blue books.

I deposit the payload on my desk and head for my unit to encode the grades. After this chore, I inform my co-teacher that I will not join him for lunch as previously planned. That done, I figure it will take him around three and a half hours before he comes. We'll proceed to Manila together. He plans to cap off his year by having his playwriting class sing "Pasko na Sinta Ko." I watch a film. The Hours. Have you seen it?

I finish the film, deeply satisfied with my choice ending. My friend knocks. I hand him the dalandan he left. He says he really left it for new year, you know, the lucky round fruits thing. I aim for his face, a cue for him to grab it from me. I make sure the jalousies are shut, the plugs are pulled, and everything is prepared to be coated by the dust of my absence. I lock up. We take the jeep to the bus station.

I count the minutes before I'm home. Have a nice day.