Saturday, October 11, 2008

Love Notes to Flo

In an airy, open space that served as our function area on Naong beach, just a tricycle ride from Dipolog bus terminal, while listening with horror to Thelma, the Subanen woman from Zamboanga del Norte, recount a motorcycle ride that sliced part of the sole of her right foot because she clipped both her feet on to the burning motorcycle engine when they were about to fall on a cliff, I saw you concealing yourself behind the post.
Someone pointed you out to me. He hides himself with the grace of an antler, I thought. Who could he be?!
Every time I moved, the antler moved gracefully, covering its track, tilting its face from behind a trunk of a dead tree.
From where I was, all I can see was a brown shirt and a backpack. I chased you down the corner to see a glimpse of your face. Finally, you gave in. You came to me asking for the girl we both lost more than 20 years ago.
What do I remember about that girl? A vague memory of her shy, awkward strides, her fears of offending somebody, or of what her friends might say! I can’t even remember her face.
I can remember the university gate where we camped in, the shards of broken glass near the door of the administration building after it was hit by water cannon, the cries of teachers, the squad of soldiers in camouflage and long firearms facing the picketline, the police and their truncheons, the bruises on our arms, the awareness that even an ounce of water, when shot in a trajectory, could also hurt and kill. I can still remember some godforsaken thing she used to wear, the stupid things she used to think, some moments inside the picket line with huge streamers marked “Imlan resign,” few stolen moments at someone else's backdoor grabbing a bite of skyflakes in the midst of a hunger strike, an old black typewriter where we used to type—what? I can’t even remember.
Everything has become a blur, except for the memory of your sweatshirt.
Why do you ask me about what happened to that girl? She might have died so many years ago. She might have been trapped inside the university wall, unable to get out. All I can say is I'm happy to be here--for I am the one who survived!

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