Hul 1, 2006

Guam

He had already written his memoirs entitled La Revolucion Filipina. He had given what he thought his best in the service of his country. As he put it, comparing his life to an old watch he had, the spring of his miserable existence was weakening. He simply felt that he was going back to his native land to die. He could not bear the idea of dying elsewhere.
-Cesar Adib Majul
Mabini and the Revolution

History is inexorably just and its judgment is terrible against those who offend it.
-Apolinario Mabini
La Revolucion Filipina, Vol. II


An ocean nymph who has six webbed toes in each foot and enough fins to last her several crossings of all seven seas learned to rest her head on the lap of a freethinking paralytic. A fierce-thinking man yet gentle in all other respects, the cripple placed his note-board on her head to write. On one side of the page lay a peep of her driftwood-coloured hair, on the other, the sight of her pink lotus lips and sunlit chin. They did this every day, and it was on his lap and under his notebook when she smiled.

She began attending his daily composition by the sun. As if pushed further and further by the surf, she sat nearer with every visit. He smiled every time so that she would not fear him. He continued writing so that while his presence becomes familiar to her, his rhythm would likewise grow predictable, therefore safe. Before long, she sat by his knees. He had to move his makeshift table away to keep the ink from her hair. Yet, she tried to come closer to his pages. In the most gentle jest he could manage, he put the board on her head to show her where her efforts where leading her. He put a page on the board and wrote a score of words without ink. Rather than drive her away from his page, she found her still as if all grasping and swimming has left her. He guessed that she was willing to try a page. And another. Then another. Though he heard little from the grace of her motion and nothing from her mouth, he gauged that the nymph loved how the scribbling progressed in flows and fits from her nose to her forehead.

She knew no language apart from that spoken by his hand. Only dimly did she understand the eyes so clean of salt where she rooted her gaze every time the board was lifted. There never existed any custom below or above water for the nymph except that free-flowing contract between his dead lap and her head. Yet, whenever the board moves, she is certain that the lame man is swimming.

One day, she came to the shore and found the paralytic gone. She did not understand and had no way of understanding. Over the span of their days, he released many sounds into the air and she received all of them fully but without comprehension. They came to her as a different water, a water with undulations charged with intent. At times, an abrupt water with no obedience to any felt wind. She heard entire archipelagos of sighs, for the sounds had horizons in them, had the taste of footfalls.

Yes, recently, the sounds came slowly and there were less of them. Yes, the notebook moved very little, mere ripples compared to wave upon furious wave of their earlier time. Yes, when he stopped and caressed her hair, sometimes, the fingers fell limp there like dolphins ultimately overcome by the water. When he realised this - it sometimes took just one sway of the cocoanut or the whole course of finely shattering cloud faces before he noticed his hand - he used his other hand to fish out the absent one. Oh yes, he was fond of whispering to her ear. She remembered how it tickled her before, those curious winds.

Yes, during those last whispers, what she heard was a voice similar to those locked in marooned seashells.

The ocean nymph stayed until the sun set. She stayed a while longer in the night that drew the sands and waves into a dark mass. Then she quitted that shore with no breath. A sea crossed and she returned, stayed awhile. Seas crossed and she returned, stayed awhile. Still, there was none of the dry rustling. No matter the depth and expanse of the bellowing, beating oceans, they always somewhere contained this frail bloom of sand. She always came back.

Always: but she forgot and forgot more often, often seeing that past hand beneath the bare sun as nothing more than a mirage, but more and more frequently she saw herself as the drifting mirage to some cripple who cannot even smell the sea from where he sat.

Always: until the moment when no memory of the paralytic is left inside her, when only the oceans know if she is alive or not, swimming and swimming as she does from one vast nowhere to another; if she belongs to time or to a time without shores, that greater sea without time; if she is free, beyond all land-held keepers of time, beyond that dreamer who impressed memory and moment upon her shadowed eyes.

Always: until only oceans will have knowledge if there exists or will exist, or if there ever existed in their shifting waters a place where the nymph’s face shall find or should have found that movement it longed for - that abandoned manner of waves.