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Two Years

Comics #01

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However Randomly

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.

Cosmic Juju

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.

It’s teh Luuuurve™

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.)

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Another Primer

You do realize something’s gotta give. (And whenever I hear those last three words, the image of Diane Keaton dancing around naked in her living room while Jack Nicholson looks on just flashes and flashes and flashes. Flash. Whatever.)

I am waiting for a headache to pass. I am waiting for the ihawan in Gonzales St. to open so I can pig out, because I haven’t pigged out in so long. I am waiting for people to stop thinking of ways to eat my hypothetical pet pig of the future, Commodore Hump. I am waiting for tonight, like J.Lo, who, she’s quick to remind you, has not forgotten that she’s from the block.

I am waiting for a mentor/childhood hero to get his Sanuks in the English Dept., as he bears the magic signature. Someday I will have a magic signature. Someday people will line up in the rain and circle around blocks just to be in the ten-foot radius of my magic signature, which, typically, will have a smiley face as a punctuation mark.

I am waiting for short stories with titles like “Lie” and “Silverfish” and “Hysteria” and “A Few Things You Should Know” to get jiggy with the inner workings of our wonky universe and write themselves. Here’s the thing: I love what I do, and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.

Most of all, I am waiting for poems like this to stop sneaking in on me and have me blubber and slobber all around the room, in search for my green flats and that donut I just know is somewhere:

The Primer by Christina Davis

She said, I love you.

He said, Nothing.

(As if there were just one
of each word and the one
who used it, used it up).

In the history of language
the first obscenity was silence.

And then Barthes comes along, even though I’d taken the pains to shipping him off to cat-infested Kael Co’s house: ‘”Am I in love? — Yes, since I’m waiting.” The other never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn’t wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game: whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely: I am the one who waits.’ You think you know so much, Roland my boy, don’t you? Well, fuck you, man, fuck you. You and the baby penguins and one-week-old puppies and the platypus and baby pandas. Fuck it.

I am waiting for the blog entry that won’t take me too long to write, because I don’t need to think of codes or hide behind quotable quotes; I don’t have to go through my repository of Shit, Booger Complex snippets from literature because I do not have the capacity to express myself with my own goddamned words.

Sucks when the New Year rolls in and you become absolutely sure of one thing, and that one thing you’re absolutely sure of cannot — for the fucking life of it, at the least for the goddamned conventions of politeness (i.e. white lies) — goddamn give you a simple Yes or No. By all means, it’s moving back to the rainbows and cavorting bunnies mode, but dude, come on. You think I feel vindicated because it’s shining-shimmering-splendid now because I goddamned cried like it was a The Buzz interview? Gaaahd.

Yeah, it’s all coming up roses. (If you think about it in the technical level, it is.) But I’m not making sense. So, yeah. Shutting up now.

Stay and Drown

In a room with 2008, while 2009 is tapping his foot by the door. (With excerpts from “A Primer for the Small Weird Loves” by Richard Siken.)

So, 2008, I know we started out on the wrong foot. Remember that I cried on New Year’s Eve 2007 because the phone lines were clogged and the one phone call that would augur the awesomeness of your year could not go through? Remember? Oh, I’m sure you do, you sly windbag, you sneaky little fuck, you poor excuse for slime. Ah. Ahem. I do apologize for that outburst: things have been weird lately. Yes, weird. I am a year older, but apparently my linguistic capacity has not improved, save for some choice words like ruckus and propensity and, that dear old favorite, litote. Where was I? And before you point out how my habit for digressing has not been shed, I’ve found my train of thought, there, chugging on the edge of a cliff, little puffs of smoke dotting the too-blue skyline. (Yes, I still enjoy metaphors, especially of the dramatic, hinting-at-despair sort.) Anyway. Anyway. I’m speed-writing two stories as application for an award, because no one awards you freely these days, you gotta go to them with magic signatures and a stack of paper by the inches — leave that short skirt at home, keep your red suede ankle boots at home. Stay with me, 2008. If I could snap my fingers, I would. But I can’t snap my fingers, I can’t whistle, I can’t dance the swing, I can’t go out of the house without my sea-green bangles, I cannot understand colorblindness no matter how many times it’s been explained to me. Yes, all that and more. Hello, my name is Sasha Martinez —

* * *

Says to himself
The boy is no good. The boy is just no good.
but he takes you in his arms and pushes your flesh around
to see if you could ever be ugly to him.
You, the now familiar whipping boy, but you’re beautiful,
he can feel the dogs licking his heart.
Who gets the whip and who gets the hoops of flame?
He hits you and he hits you and he hits you.
Desire driving his hands right into your body.
Hush, my sweet. These tornados are for you.

You wanted to think of yourself as someone who did these kinds of things.
You wanted to be in love
and he happened to get in the way.

* * *

— and you, you killed my father. Prepare me a bottle of champagne before we dine. Yes, I admit, that was a bad pun on Iñigo Montoya’s speech from The Princess Bride. I love that movie, by the way. That’s one of the good things you gave me, 2008: looking at Mandy Patinkin all moustached and bloody and waving his sword about with heartbreaking precision saying, Hello-Hello-Hello in different levels of softness, in rising level of volume. Thank you for that. There are many things I should be thankful for, I suppose. I got some new journals, and a lot of books, happy tree friends, a lot of little joys, what I then thought were Big Bangs. But I wanted a yellow dress, a yellower room. And a Palanca would’ve been nice too, or a revision of that anticlimactic pre-nineteenth shindig at the Mandarin. Oh, you don’t have to scramble to get me them now, it’s okay, sit down, I can hear your knees. Rest, stay, it’s over and done with, it’s really okay —

* * *

You have your own body to deal with.
The lamp by the bed is broken.
You are feeling things he’s no longer in touch with.
And everyone is speaking softly,
so as not to wake one another.
The wind knocks the heads of the flowers together.
Steam rises from every cup at every table at once.
Things happen all the time, things happen every minute
that have nothing to do with us.

* * *

— and that’s just the way things are, you know. Don’t worry, I’m past all bitterness. It’s over and done with, you and I are over and done with, there’s really nothing you can do for me now. Please don’t take that personally, I know this is the first time this has happened to you, in this short-lived relationship, but, well, this happens to me all the time. When I was a kid, I didn’t even get to say goodbye to the others: they just drifted away. But you. You’re special. You are. Well, you were. (Most of the time, hindsight isn’t flattering at all.) But you have to go now, I’m not staying here for you any longer than should be. I mean, yes, I’ll stay here and hold your hand, of course — but I have to leave, you know. I have to leave. What? Yes. Sure, I’ll stand right here, and watch, although I will have to admit that this isn’t what I’d imagined when, just a little while ago, you wheezed around, proclaiming —

* * *

…you want a deathbed scene, the knowledge that comes
before knowledge,
and you want it dirty.
And no one can ever figure out what you want,
and you won’t tell them,
and you realize the one person in the world who loves you
isn’t the one you thought it would be,
and you don’t trust him to love you in a way
you would enjoy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way is filthy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way keeps weakening.
You thought if you handed over your body
he’d do something interesting.

* * *

— you know, things you wouldn’t have believed in otherwise, but, yes, would still do: that yellow dress, that yellow room, my Big Bang, a goldfish, a little dog. Waking up in time for class is yet another example. Slowdancing at the fiesta to sappy music is another. But you couldn’t really do that. You’re a stubborn old goat, is what you are, and I say that with as much fondness for you as I can. We had some good times, let’s leave it at that, shall we? We shall. Please do this for me. 2009 is eager to sweep me away from here, from you. He’s promised many rainbows and cavorting bunnies, and “handsome pay” — I’ll try to hold him to that, because, well, let me tell you something, 2008, my bittersweet buddy. Come closer, dammit, oh wait, I will, it’s the least I can do. Here. Yes, yes, there. That’s it. Okay. You ready for this? 2009 was shady at first but he was something new, something strange. He told me, I will haunt you, but you’ll enjoy it. Frankly, I prefer that the Enjoy part comes before the Haunt part. But, well. He’s true to his word. The H-word. It’s been a rough ride with him so far: I pulled down the windows to hear the wind rasp and howl into my head but I got hit by branches and those signs that bear Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees”. I cried, 2008, I cried a lot. But —

* * *

…there are no more couches and he will have to
sleep in your bed. You try to warn him, you tell him
you will want to get inside him, and ruin him,
but he doesn’t listen.
You do this, you do. You take the things you love
and tear them apart
or you pin them down with your body and pretend they’re yours.
So, you kiss him, and he doesn’t move, he doesn’t
pull away, and you keep on kissing him. And he hasn’t moved,
he’s frozen, and you’ve kissed him, and he’ll never
forgive you, and maybe now he’ll never leave you alone.

* * *

— I think he’ll never leave me alone, no matter how long the silence was after I gathered my courage and asked him that. He asked me to Stay, 2008. Where else would I go? Really, where else would I go? Although I did ask him, Should I stay or should I go?, even if that reminded me of a song that played only in bus rides to far-off places. And there was that silence again, that long, seemingly interminable silence that just stilled me, stole me, and I thought, Dammit, I can’t do this, there will be others, but finally he spoke, he spoke, 2008, and though he was still hazy, I imagined a pendant glinting in that hollow where his collarbone dips, I imagined a beard, I imagined there was an tattered red book in his back pocket, a red book I’m sure he was going to throw away as soon as he had the chance, and he said, 2008, he said in his deep voice I now know I cannot bear without me hearing it, he said, he said, Stay. He said Stay, and he said it with no punctuation marks, no squiggly lines, no finite dots, no sickly alluring dashes, just Stay, and the white space bloomed after that, it bloomed. I could say it blinded, but all of this has been too purple, even for my liking.

I have to go now. I’ll knock on your door every once in a while. But, well, you know how this is.

Good Morning, Memory

A Love Letter to Memory, Sweetness, and Collateral Damage.

There are things I have committed to memory, although that is rarely the original intent: that is, leaning forward to press my face against a white mum I will then discover to be scentless, I do not do so because I would want to spend my idle moments recalling how the crispness of the mum’s non-fragrance leapt into my nose and scurried into my brain, where it now nestles with a song from ’98 and the color of my grandfather’s favorite tie (maroon). To use a favorite word of P.’s, it’s all incidental. (Do I believe in incidence? Or do I revert to it when I do not want to spend time elaborating on what I believe in, and do?)

*

For example, I have committed the lay of our house to memory, down to every little adjustment of the dining room chairs, every tiny journey of one shirt from one stack to another, of the cheese grater, of the astringent, of the unused socks, of the more expensive paint brushes, of our photos from childhood, of shredded paper, of receipts, of a book (from Hundertwasser to Silber, from Schulz to Deveraux, from Glück to Barthes), of the bedsheets with the Winnie the Pooh stencils. I have committed the dips of the bed to memory, which part of the pillows have been stained by a head fresh from the shower, which blanket is coarse but thick or silky but flimsy against December chill. How the 4 AM sun peeks through the heavy curtains to spill on the ugly floor tiles, the carpet tiles that still make me bitter, the sheets, the wood doors of the cabinets. The space between the bathroom walls, that I can navigate it without bathing everything with light.

*

I have committed the scent of the air of the house after a night out, after a weekend away. The scent of Gard to memory, along with High Endurance, and Olay, and Suave hand cream. The scent of a kiss. The scent of pork chops marinated in beer. The scent of wood shavings. The scent of his newly laundered clothes, and then my newly laundered clothes. The scent of flesh falling off from bones. The scent of ammonia. The scent of thinner and expensive tubes of paints and cheaper tubes of paint. The scent of new books. The scent of old books made new by recent acquisition. The scent of Kalinga coffee at noon. The scent of a cigarette lit. The scent of a cigarette refusing to be stubbed. The scent of used cotton in the ashtray burning from sparks. The scent of Victoria’s Secret Believe and Pear Glacé. The scent of the inside of his car, the scent of the seatbelt of the passenger seat. The scent of a the back of the neck in the mornings, the scent of that peculiar dip in a chest come evenings.

*

I have committed the squeal of the garage gates opening to memory. The slap of his palms against the steering wheel as he parks the car. The recoil of the seatbelt. The bang of the car door that shouldn’t be banged shut. The creak of the front door. The creak of a hinge in the folding table. The creak of the cabinet doors, second and third from the right. Doors. The resting of the futon on the floor. The unfolding of a blanket. That pause before water hisses from the shower. The coffee percolating. The bubbling of water and rice grains. The pots and the pans, the dishes to be washed, the dishes just washed. The alarm clock’s shrieks, the other alarm clock’s shrieks. The signal of a message, to him, to me. I have committed phone calls to memory. Not the content of them, no, of course not — but how they begin, and certain ritualistic highlights. Hello, I will say, and my voice has sweetened on its own accord. And I will hello into silence, the ever-present momentary void that can only be sealed by a more insistent Hello from me, and the intake of his breath that shall follow that Hello, and a sigh. I will always say more than him. I no longer mind this, well, not as often as before. This is the way we are: I spill my words and stories indiscriminately, and I imagine him nodding from wherever he holds his phone to his ear, and his eyes could dart to the sheen and shine and things around him, and then he returns to me, and then he will say, “Ah,” and I hear the gentle exhalation of his breath, and I hold my own, before I plunge in and move on.

*

I have committed tastes to memory. I will not elaborate.

*

I have committed the rasp of bare walls to memory, and of unvarnished wooden chairs. I have committed the early morning cold of the floor to memory. The warmth of paper newly inked by my own writing, the clean, mechanical dots and lines forming symbols forming verses forming blocks of words forming story forming creative portfolio for senior thesis. The scratch of coffee grounds one a canvas, under two coats of paint. The down that covers the stems of tomato plants. The heat rising from a pan just placed on the burner. The planes of another’s body, along with mine: my hipbones, his calves, the near-indiscernible rise of a new tattoo, the silver earring that loops through the lobe of his left ear, the veins that river my wrists, the hair that spatter his forearms, “a kiss on the back of the knee” (Sexton), an arm around my back, a palm on my shoulder, fingers on my arm, my cheek on his skin where shoulder meets chest, my hand on the soft rise of his chest, my fingers grazing his collarbone, the gravitation of our legs under the blanket. A nudge awake in the morning, just in time for class. A shaking to draw you out of a dream. Of course, a kiss. The reverberation of his smug laughter in the darkness. A playful, annoyed swat at the most accessible body part. A kiss: hello, goodbye, just because, what are you doing?, you look so silly but I love you anyway, you make me so bad I want to throttle you but here’s to show I love you anyway.

*

I have committed his name to memory, that when I am not with him, I find myself calling everyone with familiarity and expectation, with more than a little greed, and laughter, and breathlessness. A girl who makes me chuckle in fond exasperation shall be admonished with the first syllable of his name. A phone call to an aunt in need of my services (that is, to rummage in her closet in search for a specific beige blouse with the most specific alignment of ruffles) would begin, brittle, with that first syllable. Looking up from my notebook fifteen minutes I bent over it, his name would slide from my mouth like silken sand in loose fists. And. And when he calls, I will say his name once, twice, then once more, relishing the rightness of uttering a name to the one who bears it, and I will say it again, and again, before I slip into the other names I have bestowed upon him.

*

And so. From The Brooklyn Follies, by Paul Auster:

“I want to talk about happiness and well being, about those rare, unexpected moments when the voice in your head goes silent and you feel at one with the world. I want to talk about the early June weather, about harmony and blissful repose, about robins and yellow finches and blue-birds darting past the green leaves of trees. I want to talk about the benefits of sleep, about the pleasures of food and alcohol, about what happens to your mind when you step into the light of the two o’clock sun and feel the warm embrace of air around your body. (…) I want to remember the cerulean dusks, the languorous, rosy dawns, the bears yelping in the woods at night. I want to remember it all. If all is too much to ask, then some of it. No, more than some of it. Almost all. Almost all, with blanks reserved for the missing parts.”

And then another. From The Passion by Jeanette Winterson:

“I say I’m in love with her. What does that mean?

“It means I review my future and my past in the light of this feeling. It is as though I wrote in a foreign language that I am suddenly able to read. Wordlessly, she explains me to myself. Like genius, she is ignorant of what she does.”