For two or three times now, at a particular hour at night, I have watched myself multiply four or five times before the wall as I took my descent from the fifth floor of this university building to the ground floor. I see the images of myself—five of them, of the same height and build—staring back at me, with a look that asked, “What are you doing here?” I did not know the answer. But the mirror on the wall seemed to be telling me what I certainly feel: I was only getting myself sliced; cut up to pieces.
The stairway looked dark and abandoned. Everybody still around at this time of night was rushing toward the elevator. Everything about the whole place looked squeaky and clean, which to one more accustomed to chaos like me, felt quite alienating.
If I had to work like this, would there be enough time for me to write? Would I even be able to talk about narrative techniques in a class still about to write a breaking story?
I was actually thinking of another university very close to the sea, whose turn-of-the-century campus was lined down by dark-limbed acacia trees, and the wooden buildings, particularly Katipunan Hall, looked like the exact place where Andres Bonifacio might just have held a meeting to overthrow the government of Spain. Was it Sheilfa, or was it Claire, who once said it was the only university that celebrated madness as a sign of genius, the madder you think there, the more accepted you get. Am I exaggerating? Is my own memory playing tricks on me, just like the mirrors on the stairway wall?
But from the windows of that university’s huge library, near the shelves and corners darkened with the languishing volumes of Balzac and Voltaire, I used to watch the green soccer field teeming with young athletes. I, too, considered myself mad, and remember that university with fondness.
In the place where I am now, they try hard to suppress madness. They ask you to dress well, to conform, to comb your hair, get a husband, make a happy home, such things. Sheilfa was mad, schizophrenic even, that’s why she’s really a good writer. Unlike me, she’s not afraid to offend. The greatest thing she ever brought to the office was a copy of Granta featuring an old rat. I loved reading about that rat, I can’t help crying at the end. Yet, Sheilfa was seized by sudden madness, and thought I found her anguish hilarious. She thought I was laughing at the sight of her hauling her delightful books near the office sofa. Perhaps, I was writing so badly, the meaning of my text spread beyond its original intention.
She never knew I lived the same life on the edges, and a delight offered by her books, made me last one more day.