Abr 30, 2006


Still April, huh? I won’t go with Eliot on this one. April isn’t cruel. Poor month just forgot it’s manners.

Abr 28, 2006

Good night

Good night. Glad we passed each other. A happy glance, to be sure. Kindly send him my regards.

Abr 25, 2006

The Opportune Twine

The heat woke me up forty minutes earlier than my five-thirty alarm. Just as well, I thought, and went downstairs for e-mail. Ma was awake and, as mothers are wont to do, inserted her opinion in how I conducted the morning. She even fixed the things that I stacked on the sofa.

I wore a white sleeveless shirt, my bloomed-bottomed jogging pants, and a pair of blue shoes from my brother’s stack. Shoes had been ground by wear and tear, but I didn’t need to look pretty and it seemed like it would hold for a couple of hours. Had a bag with me that contained my journal, pens, Bautista’s Tinik sa Dila, and a pair of nunchukus. The plan was to walk along the Pasig River to the Makati Park, do some drills, and record everything in sight. A couple of poems to be read if the hand got too tired or everything in sight would not yield insight.

Walked my walk, drilled my drills. But the heel of the right shoe tore from my foot. It hung like a limp wing. Felt the need to go home before these shoes gave up their soles. I mean shoes and soles too, for the left shoe also felt too loose for comfort. My brother must have given the pair for Ma to get it fixed by a shoe repairman near her school. Even after repairs, he never wore it again.

I did though; that’s okay. I walked with steps that kept my foot low so that the heel trails more than hangs. There were many people in the park by then, but I did not have to care. If it took me fifteen minutes to get to the park, I figured that the way back could take twenty plus.

Kept my eye on the sidewalk for cord. One could be lying around or tied to some post from streamers cut with haste. Found some too, gray straw. Plastic, the type we use for most of our packing purposes. Just the right size, a few inches shy of three spans. It was dry, been out in the sun long enough. Also meant that I passed it earlier and paid no attention to it. I thus doubted if it would hold; what if it was as dry as an old leaf? It survived the twining though, two tries to be precise. I figured out a better way to tie up the heel after a block.

What were the chances of coming across the needed cord? One could think of statisticians. One could think of Jung. One could think of God. Or one could think of utility in the light of existence and see how two pieces of trash can help each other in this world. And what would that make the world? The happy garbage bin.
It is possible that there exists in this case three pieces of trash. One unfortunately sentient, possessing the interesting ability to remembers to look for things and friends from sidewalks in times of need. For indeed, with eyes framed by such a worldview, we see necessity as much the pure progenitor of invention as it is the sole legitimate mother of friendship.

Generic gray straw: a friend indeed for a friend in need.

I felt lucky not to come across a familiar face. Several were in mind though, and a light despair came out knowing that each friend had equivalent to values, had equivalent I could need them for this or that, emotional support, ego gratification or physical, affirmation, belonging, free pasta, a forwarded joke, or those tears on my shoulder that make me feel important, my consolation had value, I was needed. The inescapable need to be needed then.

Oh, this was just a light despair, don’t mistake me. A morning despair. A despair that is accursed exactly because it will not crush me with its weight, and it will linger as age lingers.

I couldn’t lift my eyes from the sidewalk, even if the shoe felt a lot more secure. I looked as a man looking at the ground for direction, as a man looking at the dregs of tea, as a man who couldn’t look up. There might be a familiar face, and too early in the morning.

Grass, grass, thistles, cigarette butts, a variety of plastic wrappers, crushed crowns, and a dead kitten. Fortunately, it was not bloated.

Now why would it occur to me that a kitten was luckier to be dead rather than dead and bloated? Most of the dead cats I’ve seen were bloated, as if their aversion of water were justified. But this kitten? A gray and white thing, most of its fur intact, curled with eyelids shut as if shut by a jaw too slack, and the jaw slack as if the hunger had not left.

Just dead above dead and bloated: why? Because it was prettier that way? It preserved the cat, the alive cat. Why do I ask of death to preserve the image of the alive cat when it has let go of everything else anyway.

Just a few steps, a block before I reached our welcome mat. The billboards came in sight, I had looked up. The biggest billboard, built with more smiling surface than the combined floor space of a four-family compound, displayed with jubilant beach bodies a softdrink’s decalaration of summer. Like a sun god, a mob god, the great yellow billboard was attended by three lesser frames inhabited by four female faces, faces of goddesses advertising clothes. More face and company font than textile. Two of them resembled former girlfriends.

The people who lived near the billboard complained because they feared the beams would destroy them come storm or quake. The company, anchored as it was on church land, would not tear down “the signs” nor give any monetary concession for the homeowners to fortify their homes. Even the nasal rumor that some of the residents of the area were drug users came into play. I lived beyond this stretch, but why beyond?

I thought as I approached the signs how awfully interesting the morning would turn out to be if one of the two faces crashed down and killed me. That would seem too contrived.

What if two faces came down on me, at once, equally killing me? That would come out absurd.

Predictably, I chose absurd over contrived. Predictably, I chose to shelve the speculation, walk beyond the shadow of the boards.

The pandan needed watering, I saw as I rang the door. My sister opened it, my sister who was a day old after yesterday’s birthday. I showed her the shoes and the straw before I threw them. I tried to contemplate on their “throwness” for a while longer, but nothing in me budged. I had put more in the trash than I thought. Opted to have a few laughs for breakfast.

23 April 2006

Abr 6, 2006


I met with one of the most extraordinary phenomena that I ever saw, or heard of: - Mr. Sellers has in his yard a large Newfoundland dog, and an old raven. They have fallen deeply in love with each other, and never desire to be apart. The bird has learned the bark of the dog, so that few can distinguish them. She is inconsolable when he goes out; and, if he stays out a day or two, she will get up all the bones and scraps she can, and hoard them for him till he comes back.

John Wesley
Diary entry
April 5, 1790

I said that you should have written something like this yesterday, then some greater achievement. But "there were obligations." Obligation! How much have you given to that word? And what drives them mad is when they come too close to you and they see that you would give so much more. Heights always involve vertigo.

You argued: astronauts? They do not do heights, I answered. All the training, the great physical and mental conditioning, all this was meant to take the sense of height out of the body. The man on the moon stares at the walled earth with a feeling of wonder, not with vomit souring his nerves. Where there is no vertigo there is no true perception of height.

You asked if I also feel vertigo around you. I said no, not anymore. Not that I have generated comparable heights (also: abyss). Maybe I am rendered immune by constant exposure? As when I say your name so many times that I forget your face.

You asked if I think low of you now. Not low, just lower than before. It does not have to be a sad thing. Maybe, I am just waiting for depths (or towers) you have yet to show. Or I'm not waiting, and I'm happy I do not need to wait.

What if there were no greater pits, no higher ground? You asked. No vertigo then, I answered, no madness. Could you survive this? A love without madness?

Some more talk - this and that - and we took our different paths to act upon our lives: you entirely involved, I with my eye on you as I do my work.

Obligations. You could have said, "there were things in the way," or the more trendy "there's stuff." You did not have to say or write another word. You act, and in our social class, that must be the greater achievement. I write about you, moving. I write in the shadow of your movement. Either all I write about is your shadow or all my writing is your shadow. When I write about you, I feel like I am moving, like I am part of the dance.

You always assure me that I am. You even tell me that the dance would not be possible without me, because if you stopped and thought about work, the work would not have been done. You even stress my role, how the need for reflection cannot ever be gainsaid. This assurance may be what keeps my madness at bay.

"Dance" is too good a word for obligation, I thought at last, after our parting. You would show me with the unwitting brilliance of your everyday practice that dance was never a word.

When you dance, I forget your name.

Abr 1, 2006

I doubt she remembers

One Saturday morning, I told a class of young workshoppers (much younger than my usual college learners) the story of the six blind men and the elephant, how one thought the elephant was a tree because he was hugging the leg (like so); how another argued it was a fan because he held the ears between his palms (like so); and how another was sure it was a snake and he was cupping the tip of the trunk because it could be a venomous head. But one blind man rested his back on the elephant's side (like so, leaning back with arms crossed), quite content, certain that whatever the elephant was, it was a wall, while the other grasped the tail (like so), glad to know the elephant was a rope, sad he had no strength (or eyes!) to flail the damned truth against the heads of his colleagues.

The last blind man was silent, the bickerings of the others heard by him, but he was focused on keeping his hand pat on the point of the ivory trunk (like so), because only he knew the need for vigilance against movement, only he owned his blindness and hated it: for he stood at the unfortunate end of a poised spear!

I admit that I thought I lost the students then, this discussion reaching levels that I thought impenetrable to them (despite my gestures). I stopped and searched their eyes for some cue to shift stories in midstream.

A girl with curious ponytails raised her hand (and this happened a year ago, but I still remember how her palm touched the upper air as if it were palpable) and asked: "Was this elephant alive or not?

"Do they know?"