Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Lettuce Tree

I wish you'd find time to water the lettuce I planted in the pot outside my window. I only remember it on my way to Esperanza when I looked out the window of the running car and saw the murky brown water of the Naboc River snaking down the ridges below, trying to but never finding the level ground that could put a stop to all its running.
I want you to remember as you water the plant that there was only one leaf left of it the other week but now it has grown three leaves, each one promising to be greener than the other.
Let's not allow the plant to wilt. Let us work together and pray for more shoots to grow and spread into leaves so that when I come back, its succulence and crispiness will make us forget the blight.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bottled Feelings

I know you’d say this is such a boring picture. That you’ve seen this before and that I could have done this better; maybe, find another angle to give larger space for the ripples in the water, so that maybe, it could bring about the catharsis that we need.
You know, you might be right. I took this picture towards the sunset in early 2006 when things were equally foreboding as they are now. I remember staring at the dark clouds looming over the estuary of Davao Gulf and thinking I should not take such kind of pictures in the beginning of the year--!
But who could resist? I clicked away the shutters, discarding the symbol and, as my pagan soul seems to warn me, a thousand and one repercussions. In the face of such irresistible beauty who would still care for meanings? Isn’t that how cruel our impulses are?
This morning, I was crying at the dining table because Jamil told me I was not cut out for running stories, I often get left behind. But I was not cut out for slow moving stories either because I had not written anything of the sort for a long time.
I did not have anything against Jamil. He is the kind of man who would push you down when you’re down and push you up when you’re up.
In fairness to Jamil, he cried the first time he saw my first fiction in a magazine. That year, we still lived in a garage. He used to treat me like that woman in VS Naipaul’s “The House of Mr. Biswas” but the day he read that story, he came up to the room in a daze and taking a long, hard look at me, said, “Ma, you made it, Ma.” If you’d known Jamil for a long time, you wouldn’t believe he would do it—come to the room in a daze and say, “Ma, you made it, Ma.” I wanted to ask him, made what? But I merely stared at him and kept quiet because I knew how lousy that story was. I kept a copy of it in my drawer to take a look at it once in a while but over the years, my belief only strengthened that it was really such a lousy piece. So, I hid it again in the drawers hoping that someday, I will have the courage to burn it. I was not crying because Jamil told me I was not cut out for running stories because I believe he was right. I was crying because I remembered something that Rainier Maria Rilke wrote in his “Letters to the Young Poet.”
Things are getting so dark for me these days that I began rummaging my files to search for meanings.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Lusting at Zeitgeist

It’s a German word, I know. Which means, the spirit and outlook of the age. But we never saw it when over a year ago on our way to the campus, roommate Prathibha and I first passed by the row of shops just outside our dormitory’s gate.
We were only aware of the most pleasurable things staring at us from the glass walls: Jeanette Winterson’s, “Arts and Lies,” Neil Gaiman’s collections, and again, further down, Winterson’s “Oranges are not the only Fruit.”
We were almost late for the morning classes but we couldn’t help ourselves. We entered the shop, almost gasping for breath, to find more treasures inside (perhaps, the world classics crammed in such a small space): Gabriel Garcia’s “No One Writes to the Colonel,” in at least three editions; “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” some old classics by Chesterton and other titles I thought I’d never ever find on earth.
It was only much, much later, when Pratish and I would meet our German roommate Jana would we find time to look at the shop from a distance and read the German name above it.
If there was one pleasure that Pratish and I were hanging on to during our summer stay in Manila, it was this very small bookstore that offered the best of the world’s classics in such a small space. The prices, however, were not really as dirt-cheap as it could go: the owner, of course, knew what she was selling and had kept the prices only as low as P100. I discovered that in Manila, you can book-hunt to places where you can actually find books by your favorite authors at P50 (try the uppermost floors of the National Bookstore in Cubao) or even at P20. Try the Instituto de Cervantes during its anniversary and you’d get them with long-stemmed American roses!