It’s that time of the year. Notebook needs to retire. And so I’m feeling sentimental.
I usually burn through a notebook in two months, but this time, I was writing in two simultaneously, and a couple of days ago, the pages of the last one just ran out. Poof. The last two notebooks are square-ruled Moleskines — yes, they look like Math notebooks, get over it. Anyhoo, I started writing on one about mid-February, stopped a while to go to the other, returned to the first on the last days of March, stopped, didn’t return to it for a really long time, went back May-June-ish, hopped and skipped and juggled.
The notebooks have, I guess, a record number of false starts for stories, and some daydreams/fantasies because I’m O.C.-creepy that way. Here are a couple of G-rated excerpts from the two notebooks, and I’ve kept the mushy stuff to a minimum. Maybe. I dunno.
So. Indulge me.
Random thoughts, because when there are things to do, and you’re feeling to guilty to play poker for procrastination’s sake, you philosophize. Ya think. However randomly.
1 – Are novels in the Philippines — those written in English, in particular — allowed to be insular? More inward? Although I’m not saying that I’ve noticed that everything has to be social realist in bent, I am saying that there’s just the pervading feel that, well, if you’re going realist, and you’re writing in a language that could reach beyond the shores (not to mention beyond the circle of friends who happen to be mandatory readers of whatever one publishes), you have to make it count. And to make it count, one must at least have the smallest commentary on the current Philippine (economic, social, cultural) condition. Parang may false (?) sense of responsibility that, well, since you’re writing anyway, gawin mo nang makabuluhan. Makabuluhan, Jaysus. Talk about OFWs, talk about orchards and talking Taglish in cafes, talk about C5 and Hayden Kho. Again, I know you’re not required to go all propaganda on their asses, but, well, how many novels have hazarded to talk about a family, and just a family, never leaving the walls of their home? Or maybe a venture here and there to the small town surrounding it, but never never giving more than a passing glance to the (campaign) billboards dotting the roads, the grimy children asking for coins, the, I dunno, dynamics of sustaining peace and amicability in a, uh, interracial household. Pretty closed-in on itself naman, you may think — but people out there can make it work. Is this too lazy for the Filipino novelist?
Also, there’s the matter of our history. Damn but we’re overflowing with the potential for grand epics, not to mention period pieces and historical fiction. You want blondes clogs in your novel? Go back Pre-Spanish era, when we made besos with the Dutch during trade. Want another hack at Noli and El Fili? By all means, go ahead. Go Yank, as well — have a GI fall madly in love with your usual camisa-clad labandera. And then there’s the Japanese Occupation, which I’m partial to. Or put them all together and have your own saga.
Is it because we have too much compelling material around us na at the height of self-absorption if we lock ourselves in a house for the entire duration of the novel?
And even though I believe that whatever commentary you have, it’ll inevitably seep out from scenes and characters — say, a thirty-something plain-looking woman in a government-issue clerk uniform, coming home from work, removing her patent leather stilettos as she goes; say, a happy little boy waiting in front of his house for his dad, watching the grunts and roars of tricycles passing by — there’s no need for force, dude. Madadaan naman sa usapan. Natural na mangyayari yun — if it has to do with your character, then it’s going to be skimmed upon, however teasingly.
2 – Why do Happily Ever Afters have such a bad rep? Is it, “If you’re going realist, make it hurt.” Hay. At the risk of sounding emo (and therefore confirming all the suspicions), I’ve been making everything hurt for too long, and (oh god, yuck) getting hurt in the process. Dude, it’s draining to write about the fucking human condition — mostly why I hate writing in the First Person POV in my fiction, since, man, I can get pretty schizophrenic and start mirroring the moods of betrayed wives and grieving adolescents. Hell.
Nothing beats the feeling when you sit back from the laptop/PC/notebook and you know you’ve done something so good, so hurting, it terrifies you. But then again, I’d also like the feeling of weaving a tale of boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl have raunchy Happy Times, boy and girl have Big Misunderstanding, boy and girl inevitably and irrevocably get back together after pages of grovelling. I don’t think it’s making readers feel good, as much as it’s making me feel good. Yes, writing is self-serving that way. But, you know.
3 – The death of such small things. The dynamics of grief, and grief by association, and being needed, and stepping back because so few people want to admit that they need someone, and being pissed as hell because you can’t grieve properly, you’re not allowed to be needed.
That’s it for now. Brainfart.
Oh hai internetz. Some of you kind people may have noticed that, for the past couple of days, I haven’t been posting as rabidly as I used to. Well, it’s primarily because I have rediscovered life now. Screw that chick (methinks it was Annie Dillard, but Google-fu is wonky right now though) who said, “The writer does not need to concern himself with the world.” Because, dude, screw that. The only reason anyone ever writes is because of the world – either it fucked him up good, or it just fucked him hella good (to continue on the same crass vein; apologies to relatives who may be reading this).
I have discovered that in my newly rediscovered life – a resurrection really; long periods of existential dread have a deplorable, albeit predictable, habit of sucking the life out of you – there’s not much internet access to go around. Yeah, I’m stuck in a cave for the better part of the day, but it’s with a person I haven’t seen in a long time and miss so terribly that everything’s got this new feel to it (kind of like how one’s ass feels against upholstery that’s still static-y from the plastic wrapping).
Well hello crickets and the occasional tumbleweed. How ya doing? Great, I hope. The weather’s balmy — today I woke up because of the cold. I’ve always been more of a fan of heat than the cold. Although with the cold, I can layer. Layering is cool, you know. Cool. Haha, that was like a pun on cold. Like, you can layer (which is cool) when the weather is cold. There’s no escaping low temperature these days. Haha. Haha. I say, Haha, chap, haha!
Okay. Today, we mix it up a little. Because this whole review thing isn’t really my thing, although I have told you guys — Mr. Cricket and Mr. Tumbleweed — that it’s not a review thing but I think you still think this is a review thing. It’s a, well, it’s a short story thing meant for communal nomnomnom-ness. But then, ya know, it came to me last night: there’s something very lonely about this whole thing. (Thing, thing, thing!) Not lonely as in Little Girl In the Corner Wishing Someone Asks Her to Play Jackstones. It’s more, well, alone. Solitary?
A while ago it was 11:11. And I wished for something good to happen to you. Within the year. Hopefully before the month ends.
And the first wish that came to my head, the first wish that I tacked on to my digital clock was for you, for your good tidings, for happy thoughts, for windfall, baby, windfall — all in on succinct statement: 11:11 PM – I wish P. this year’s happy thoughts. Preferably by the end of the month.
And then I though about adding my own wish, for me this time, my happy thought, my own windfall, you know, windfall, windfall? But then I wondered, what if you’re only allowed one wish? What if wishing two things to one 11:11 was asking for too much? What if more than one wish dilutes the effectiveness of the Wish-Coming-True-ness of it all? Like both wishes come true, only you get your windfall in three years, and I get mine when I’m 35. Something like that. And the clock ticked by, and the clock ticked by, and I tapped the ring on my finger against the screen of the cellphone — tap, tap, tap — and man I was tempted I was so tempted.
But that 11:11 was for you, not because of some coerced cosmic sacrifice, but because I wanted it for you, I wanted to do it for you. There’s only so much I can do with these limits, and tacking wishes to digital clocks is one of the actions available in that limited repertoire.
I let the 11:11 disappear into the 11:12, and it was only the wish for you that had been uttered, and I didn’t mind, not really. I wanted that first wish to work, and I wanted it to work so badly, I wanted it to come true. And so that 11:11 was for you.
I wished for your windfall, because isn’t your windfall my windfall too? It is, love, it is. I mean, that’s only one of the many many many things we do so we can make each other happy — appealing to the inner workings of the universe, a.k.a. Cosmic Juju — and I must admit to a little pride, some relief, in getting it all rolling, seeing those numbers on my cellphone screen, right after a message from you that says, “I miss you too. Driving kanina. Smiley face.”
Because we have it on good authority that real men don’t use emoticons.
Today we talk about Teh Awesome Power of teh Luuuurve™. I’m sabaw right now, given a steady diet of eggplant and iced tea, so skip usual introduction to five minutes of a potential waste of your time, and let’s get right down to wasting your time. Besides. If I launch into any semblance of intro, you’ll have to witness a rather embarassing tirade on googly-eyed teenage Sasha, the goodly-eyed teenage Sasha no one really talks about because it’s just too humiliating an existence for the world in its entirety. Because, you know, when Sasha talks about Luuuuve™, it’s all Third-Person-Self-References, and the proclivity to quote Barthes, as well as to use words like “proclivity” — so, yeah, no intro. Hah. Ahem. And since I’m not liking the whole narrative shiznit right now, this shall be my first enumerative post for this blog. Transitions can go to hell.
(You may as well know now, if you don’t already, that my inanity can go to legendary extents.)
Say, ten years from now, I have this little girl, and her father’s gone off and had himself killed by a drunk driver, and I happen to have more topak than I do now, complete with episodes of girl-on-girl lurve, well, if that kid would be asked to write an essay about her family, particularly about her topak mother, this could very well be what it would sound like.
Here’s an excerpt from a really long piece, “No Life in Sheep” — it’s this story that this blog’s named after. How conceited of me, yes, how self-promotional. Tss. And oh, and this, and thirty more pages from the same story, as well as another three-pager, will appear in Heights’ Seniors Folio. Or so the editors say, hehe. :}