SR.SOL— That you may gain a clear understanding of what needs writing?
ANATH— That I won’t forget who to translate, and why. Whose ideas matter.
SR.SOL— Only that why concerns me.
ANATH— Always have, always will. Maybe that’s the reason—
SR.SOL— For the moment, I’ll assume it’s no exercise of the pathetic.
ANATH— Very kind of you. Once, an uncle of mine said that the world brims with good works, but not one from a pure intention, and that was why he’d rather sleep with a bottle.
SR.SOL— You drink?
ANATH— Well, he was drunk when he said this, and that’s why I even mentioned it. I’m not out to justify myself.
SR.SOL— All our statements justify our deeds. Statements that don’t seem to justify our actions are in fact justifying hidden or forgotten actions.
ANATH— So much then for the infinite variety of statements. But if that’s so, what are questions trying to do? What’s a question like “do you drink?” trying to do?
SR.SOL— You are burying yourself. This is what it’s all about. Nothing heroic, particularly because you’re doing it in full view.
ANATH— You can take it as an act of gratitude toward the mother tongue. The mother bird regurgitates food straight down the throats of the chicks. Wouldn’t be here without the mother tongue.
SR.SOL— I don’t want to discuss your salary, so don’t go there.
ANATH— You can, for once, be generous and take it as an act of commiseration, an act of absorbing off-shore suffering to the point where the redundancy becomes painful because, well, no suffering was ever foreign.
SR.SOL— Maybe you’re play-acting. Yes, but why? You are scourging yourself because of the gladness in your heart. Or it’s not happiness altogether. There’s something, there must be something because you’re doing it in full view.
ANATH— I have friends, the most perceptive of friends. I have a grand total of ten readers, two of them are myself. I have seven standing advisees, no eight, but he has receded from plain sight. Another has tasted metafiction in English and will require mechanisms for rehabilitation when she regains her senses. A third is drenched in the drippings of the mother tongue. I should keep up, or seem like I’m keeping up. Because I’m doing this for him, this third one. And then, and then there’s the first—
SR.SOL— Of course not, this was never about them. Or is it … my God. You filth, you filthy stretch of skin! I know this pattern ... you have been laying groundwork!
ANATH— Hey, listen. I’ve got this appointment. Lunch, or something.
SR.SOL— These are wards!
ANATH— Or coffee. I have family whole for another Sunday.
SR.SOL— Gargoyles. You’re fencing yourself in with gargoyles. I should have seen this sooner. Translating’s a truly roundabout way of doing it—and the texts double the view—but the purpose is unmistakable.
ANATH— However inexact a practice. Take “gargoyle,” for instance. Let the first draft reflect that I elect the word “bul-ol” as the closest Filipino equivalent, culturally speaking. “Herm,” the Greek.
SR.SOL— Neither herms nor colossi. You ball of spit.
ANATH— Still not getting it. That’s why I’m doing it in full view. Because you’ll never get it, and I want you to appreciate your mortal thresholds.
SR.SOL— My life is all about embracing my limits.
ANATH— And the embrace has far too short a compass. I’m sorry.
SR.SOL— Sorry, because no one has ever done a thing such as this for me. No one’s ever tried to ward me off.
ANATH— Because no one sees you coming. That’s your charm.
SR.SOL— Who has taken the time to carve the skulls of saints with my initials?
ANATH— Now look here, nobody’s naming names. This neglect springs only from courtesy.
SR.SOL— You mentioned a lunch meeting. And I should return to my charitable works, do excuse me.
ANATH— You read people like me. Us beggars. You read the invisible. That’s as charitable as it gets.
SR.SOL— I was referring to the floods. There are medical supplies to carry. Luggage. Soup kitchens.
ANATH— You read the invisible, Sr., that’s kindness nonpareil.
SR.SOL— My self-flagellation must believe itself altruistic. If my back is to endure.