Friday, February 27, 2015

How I once endured the flight back home

What flashed before me was our last day at Esteban Abada, after I discarded my poetry notes and Seng took to our room the weighing scale he borrowed from Lyn, to help us find out if the books we were carrying would already exceed our baggage allowance for our flight back home. No, I told Seng in an unbending voice we used to assume when we were dead set at doing something they did not want us to do. I don’t want to pay for an extra baggage, I told Sengthong, everything that would exceed 10 kilos, I would have to hand carry, I said. So, we were taking out things from our baggage, even as we were weighing them. But we hoarded such an overwhelming volume of  books that summer that I ended up with what I thought must be some 12 kilos of books in my hands.  I put them inside a canvass bag, printed with a reproduction of an Amorsolo painting, and carried it to the airport like a rucksack. If Bryant had only seen me carrying that rucksack of books, maybe he would laugh. The load was so heavy, I couldn’t breathe after every six steps. It felt like all my internal organs would explode. I was already sweating all over. But I was very proud to let anybody notice, so, I made it a point to look natural, prevented my tongue from sticking out of my mouth, because I could hardly breathe.  If you had seen me, you would think I was only taking a leisurely walk as I boarded the plane, you’d never think I was only pretending, taking the easy stride, with a bit of rest every six steps of the way. 
That's how I knew how hard it must have been for you. 

Let me tell you about Eponine, the Grey

You never told me you had a little girl, so, when I heard about it, I was happy and surprised, even as I castigated myself for missing that particular part of your life, which must have been such a landmark. This was before I saw the picture of you and your little girl in my inbox. I used to have three very big girls, too; and I knew how big they have become when last Saturday, faced by a big Cat that suddenly appeared at our doorway, two of my girls expanded to twice their size, eager to prove themselves they were ready to defend their homeland.  I still remember how Eponine, the Grey, stood there, making herself as big as she can get; although the biggest that she can get at that moment was only up to the shoulder of the Cat. But Eponine was the most intelligent and the most brilliant of them all; the type who gets what she wants without even trying. I saw her last Saturday trying to scare the Cat; and I called my boy Sean inside the bathroom to come out fast because he will miss the action.  It was Eponine, the Grey and Oreo, the Black, who stood their ground against the Cat; while Henri Matisse, the Yellow One, shielded herself in the corner ready to duck and dart, if worse came to worst. But after a while of sabre-rattling without any actual action, I finally decided to call Oreo to my lap, leaving Eponine at the door alone to confront the intruder. Although she was able to maintain her size, I can faintly see her legs shaking at the effort. This makes me very sad every time I remember it now, the image of her standing bravely at the door. This was Saturday. The following day, a windy Sunday, Eponine got hit by a slamming door when I was coming out to get something.  What followed must have been 48 hours of terrible pain and suffering that only Eponine knew and I can only imagine with remorse.  In the morning of Tuesday, Eponine still attempted to join the boodle fight that characterized our feeding time with her two sisters but she could no longer make herself stand up.  I went to her to comfort her, telling her she did not have to move about because she was a very Special One, I prepared a special food for her.  Her mouth would no longer open when I tried.  Between 8 to 9 am on Tuesday, February 24, 2005, on the eve of the 29th year of the Edsa people power, I lost an intelligent, brave and loving girl of a cat. Her leaving fills us with sorrow so deep, it will take a very long time to heal.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dear Prateehba

Once you told me you’ve been reading Toni Morrison’s Love but can’t get to what she was saying, you decided to discard it, tucked it away somewhere out of sight.  Did I get you right about this, or is my memory messing up again, mixing up a bit of something with other snippets of past conversations?  I bring this up because I wanted to tell you about that particular man in Toni Morrison’s fiction; how he reminded me of a real person, someone I interview every day, sometimes at the dead of night, when everyone else—except for power-starved reporters—is already sound asleep. I think about this man, this Toni Morrison man, whose magic has caught everyone in his spell, so that, just like any other writer who came close to him, I, too, was overwhelmed by the desire to write his memoir; until it struck me one day that he was a Toni Morrison man, whose memoir I wouldn’t dream of writing, if I’d continue to love and honor Toni Morrison, unless I’d do it from the point of view of those who loved and suffered under his spell; the women.  Dear Prateeh, is there a way for writers to unravel the spell of an exemplary magician able to enthral his audience with the strength of his personality and magic?  Is there a way for us to span the growing distance between Davao and Kathmandu before it grows even bigger than the nautical miles in which it is usually being measured? Is there a way to reduce time and space and matter into pulp so that we can finally travel beyond walls, our minds soaring free of our bodies? It’s a Sunday morning here at my desk, where I face the growing clutter of wires, cables, chargers, keys, which I never had the luxury to set in order, as I was in a constant rush, just like the way we were in that dorm at Esteban Abada.  From my desk, I keep hearing the soothing sound of running water in the kitchen, where Sean is washing the dishes I abandoned, and somewhere in another corner of the house, Ja deep into his writing, quiet as a mouse. Outside my window, the three cats bask in the sunlight. Both soles of my feet keep brushing the top of the magazine pile growing fast under my table. We always dream of writing memoirs, though, we know no one else can write a memoir but the owner of the life we want to write. Unlike a biography, a memoir dwells only at a particular moment of a life, projecting it to eternity so as to render that particular life some meaning.