Dear Dr Recto:
You may be pleased to know that I’m putting your bureaucracy lessons to good use. At least, I’m trying to. God knows though, “trying” sometimes just doesn’t cut it.
God knows – one or another anyway – how difficult these words come. I just sort of “bit” into the first paragraph. Three sentences spit out, just like that. Then this friction. Each word gets erased even before I put it to pad. But since I’m supposed to be a man of letters, I guess I must push forward. Graduate to phrases, to sentences, to paragraphs. But always, ever and always arrive at the period.
I got a promotion recently. “Of sorts,” really, as those in the know understand that these things only hold currency on paper. Not much weight to that. And not that I welcome any weight, real or virtual. You know, I didn’t notice I had a scowl on when they gave me the official documents. The Dean called my own face to my attention, “why are you frowning?”
You would’ve known the answer better than anybody else.
I see you, you know, as I write this. I never really paid my respects. And so, I see you only now. And we are talking as we used to, about leaders and professors, about the difficulties of hoisting up the PhD program across three colleges, about the state of the nation. About what I can do with what I have. All your whys and wherefores.
I now see your smile and hear your voice.
“Ma’am Mitang,” everybody called you that. Never got the hang of it. You were always Dr Recto. And now my mind astonishes me with a cruel command that breaks into this futile letter: “Doctor, heal yourself!” You’d forgive me my black humor, I know; in many ways, you never seemed to me a UP professor. I mean that as a compliment.
I hear you laughing now, in the Center – my Batcave, marked with guano for life. I try to remember the smell: I can’t.
I finished the degree a year ago. The secretaries told me that you asked about my status when I was on the last leg. Bless you for the thought. Bless you for making my transition to my adviser easy. Dr Santamaria was great help. Also, Dr Sobritchea and Ma’am Michiyo. I wish you were there when I finished. I didn’t care to march. I probably would have if you asked me. And I know that, were you active, you would’ve made sure I was attended. No way to say no.
Anyway, yes, I’m about to begin another semester. Which means another foot into the end of the career; I have a couple of years to move up or out. The others think it’s a needless policy, cruel even. I don’t know. I want it to be my decision when the time comes, but I don’t think it’s too grave an emasculation if I just get myself kicked out. I mean, it’s a sem. It’s some months. I take what I can, push when possible, pull when necessary, one foot always in the end of all things – where both of your feet are now planted.
Dear professor, your book is still with me, the Tao Te Ching. How to return it? I think you’d be pleased to know that I’ve built so much upon that seed you lent me – that which now cannot but be an incontrovertible give.
Neither you nor Lao Tzu would think much of my “progress.”
Well, I want you to know (but what could you know? Maybe, instead, just the plain desire to express this, to you or to the air that is not you nor God nor anything) how I never want to forget your kind face, but I probably will. I don’t want to forget your lessons but what of that desire? Time will eventually thwart it.
Dadufalza, before you. In time, Atienza. In time, F– . In time, my parents.
Obliquely, I discover the wisdom of keeping friends to a bare minimum. It’s not your thought. Surely not the idea of that silly intelligence who proclaimed that a day when one failed to make a new friend is a day lost. Rather, the day you make a friend is the day you fashion loss, the day you condemn your soul. And another’s.
Dr Recto: whether we were friends or not, I declare that I shall not befriend your memory. All your lessons will automatically become mine, no more, no less. I shall forever refuse to accept your memory. And in this manner, I keep you. By always ending you, I forever resurrect you.
This may puzzle you. I try – now – then now – then now – yet, I can’t bring myself to see you perplexed. I never saw your face when confused. I never will.
In conclusion: this impossible feeling that I’ll live to write another day. Damn the everyday conceit of always assuming that you will see a day to its very end. Then the assumption of another stupid year. And another. As if eternity were just as easy as deceiving yourself.
Dear teacher, your smile was more necessary on this earth. Dear mindmother. Still, you ran out of moments. Before I did. In pace requiescat.