“He will straddle the line, aware up to the point of knowing he is getting the worst of both worlds, but never stopping to wonder why there should ever have been a line, or even if there is a line at all. He will learn how to be a twinned man and will go on at the game, straddling until he splits up the crotch and in half from the prolonged tension, and then he will be destroyed.”---Thomas Pyncheon, “V”
I have never been any good at straddling lines, though, once or twice, I had been foolishly at it, trying to work for a government press office, while once in a while writing stories for the newspapers, which everybody else around me was doing, anyway; each of us trying to pass herself off as a journalist even if she were associated, one way or another with some interest group or office. Shame on me, indeed, and what a shame!
But unlike most of my peers who were valiantly succeeding at the game, I was failing miserably. I never quite became the “twinned woman” that Pyncheon meant, feeling deep in my gut that there has to be that line somewhere, which I can’t see but which I may have to pay with my life and sanity for crossing or straddling it; and straddling it had felt like a curse.
So, I did not actually split up my crotch in half from the prolonged tension because I was already falling then. I was already deep in the rut when I felt the last gasp of my own life force pulling me out of that hellhole.
Crossing that invisible line to the other side, I discovered how many people have been at the game, splitting their crotches in half in prolonged tension, self-destructing. Straddling lines have been a reality in the country’s journalism profession, which for most people, promised much power but not much pay; and straddling lines have been used by powers-that-be to justify the killings of journalists in the country, now dubbed as the world’s worst place for journalists to be.
Yet, who am I in this world to condemn or even to badmouth the “straddlers?” Vergel Santos, a hardliner in this respect, had even said (during the 5th National Union of Journalists of the Philippines national congress in Tagaytay)—that even freedom is not for free. It comes with a price, he said, and you pay for it in various currencies. You may have to pay for it with courage, or passion, or love, he said.
The impulse to create or to write is not something that one can summon at will just because somebody else is telling one to do it. When someone out there is forcing me to write a story that I don’t want to write in the first place, I get the urge to run and crawl back to the borders, where lines get blurred and where the overwhelming stench of death and decay can easily make one blind.