From the short story, “Eros” — began a long time ago, stunted right about fifteen minutes after a long time ago. (Need to write more, yes, I know. Hay. I don’t believe in writer’s block, though. Boredom, sure; disinterest, perhaps.) It frustrates me, how this reads. Existential Dread / Matrimonial Boredom Word Vomit. Oh well. I blame the poets.
She was a child. And so, perhaps, this made it permissible for her to come home to an apartment that was currently empty, with the imprint of another person’s lips on hers. As little as a couple of months ago, she would have fretted at the possibility of lingering strange scents, of the welcome unfamiliarity of new and longed-for tastes. She would have spent as long as she could under the shower, until the shrill beeping of the shower’s heating system drove her away—and even then she’d bow her head to turn the secreted shadows of her nape against the scalding water. And then. And then, with her body mottled pink, she’d brush her teeth in front of the dresser mirror, her pruned fingertips peeking with every up-down-up-down motion of the toothbrush. She would only stop when the foam turned pink, when her gums felt sore when she’d touch the tip of her tongue to them. And then she would wait. Sometimes, she’d read a book as she did so, but mostly she would just sit cross-legged across the bed, leaning against the headboard and simply wait.
But she was a child, she’d been thought of as one, and called a child too many times—and this is what children do, regardless that another man had kissed her and whispered her name in a tone that too many people have been carrying around blithely. This is what children do: she took her jeans off and left them in a heap on the floor. She climbed into bed in the blouse she’d been wearing all day, and her underwear. She slept.
Later—she did not know when exactly, only that the room was still illumined only by the fluorescents—she woke up. Woke up for just a few moments, the world blurred at the edges, more memory than actual experience. She saw Tom walking into the room, and she saw him in one of his gray shirts, and she saw him look at her form on the rumpled bed. And she didn’t understand that look, couldn’t. She slept.
She woke up during the night a few more times, with the same listlessness as she had before, the momentary snatches of how the world—how Tom—moved on as she lay sleeping. Saw Tom in front of the desktop. Saw Tom climbing into bed. Saw Tom’s back turned away from her. And when she reached over to pull him back that his heat may press against hers, she felt him resist. She drew her hand back, let it fall to the bedspread. She was curled up behind him, not touching him. Her last thought before she finally succumbed to a deep sleep was that if anyone leaned over them, some divinity, some brownnoser from above, they would look to be in pursuit: him steadfastly distancing himself, her in flight. It was her last whimsy of the day.
Give me something to write about.
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.
The tenth edition of Short Story Month is served early, because I am a dutiful daughter that way. After all, what child would dare blog on Mother’s Day? Well, I’m sorely tempted – but I think my father will whack me on the side of the head if ever I so much as crack open my laptop tomorrow. Well. So we get around this by jumping the gun, so to speak – I never really know when to use “so to speak” correctly. For that matter, “jumping the gun” too. Hm. Anyway. The short stories we feature today are all about mothers. No, wait, I lie. They’re somewhat about mothers – not even good mothers – and here they are:
#30 – “Sleepwalking” by Amy Bloom. In the aftermath of her husband’s marriage, what does a woman do? Get freaky with her stepson, that’s what! Okay, so I just gave away one of the story’s surprising joys (joyful surprises?). The narrative’s one of those leading-to-nowhere kinds. And then it actually leads somewhere. And that somewhere is a doozy, so matter-of-fact doozy, that you just have to put the book down and say, “Oh wow.”
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?
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. :}
I probably spent four hours trying to figure out what I should write to resurrect this blog. The choices were Edward Cullen, thoughts on the beast called Writing, why no one bothers to listen to what the fictionist wants to say, and this ridiculous fixation with Robert Pattinson (he’s in my dreams, bench-pressing a van). Most of these required me to think. I gots to save my mental bits, because the Big Kahuna in charge of the creative juices suddenly decides that a “short” story whose pages count 87 1/2 so far ain’t done yet. Gah. It’s about, what else, a girl. And another girl. And there may be some sexy times, but we’re not sure yet. Nuh-uh.
I did write a short story (really short, distressingly short) about vaginas. It is cool. Allow me to quote myself: “My cunt has a deep sense of foreboding,” Ann-Marie allowed herself to think. Boo-yah! Don’t worry, it’s not all about vaginas. There’s a Caesar salad in it as well. And a phone. And a mattress. Of course there’s a mattress.
It’s nearly 4 in the morning (I think — lost whatever tedious sense of time I possess) and you know me well enough that there’s nothing remotely smart in this blog entry. And to aid my flagging thought systems, we’ll do this mathematically. That’s the way I roll. Yeah.
1 – I’ve noticed that no one really bothers to hear what the fictionist says (mostly because this fictionist has earned a reputation that is giggly, giddy, and inane in the “I like eggs” kind of way). The poets cannot be faulted for this, fascinating conversation-hoggers they may be.
I’ve realized (and it took the making of a CW thesis for me to do so), that I hate talking about what I am as a writer, that I’d rather just let the banging-away-at-the-keyboard do the talking. Lots of them other dudes seem to not have any trouble with the whole Poetics/Process/Fucking Genius-ness Speeches, with or without alcohol, preferably the former.
Well. Maybe it comes with age. Haha. Er. Yeah. Maybe it comes with one’s ease with the craft and the art, that elocution becomes as effortless. Maybe it comes with age–you know how family elders rap your heads with a fan/cane to make you listen to how the good ol’ days were, and how today’s just full of fascinating shit? Maybe it comes with genre? That is: maybe, in contrast with popular belief, poets are not the brooding dark forces that throw themselves off cliffs with a bottle of alcohol; they’re the rowdy ones, the sing-an-Irish-song types—and the “other” dude, the one no one really talks about because he writes—gasp!—prose, is in the corner, looking very bored with the whole thing, and half-eavesdropping in witness of yet another human ritual—the “Mas mataas ang ihi ko sa’yo” kind.
Or, maybe, as some of you may have begun to think, maybe I’m an arrogant, conceited ass, who thinks no one deserves my opinions, yeh poor, pathetic fools. (Cue evil laugh). Poets annoy me with their Greater-than-Thou gesticulations. Nonfictionists bore me. Playwrights have me scrambling for my Happy Place in face of their relentless volume. Wala ka sa Lolo ko. Blah blah.
Maybe I just can’t talk. People look at me when I talk. Jeesh.
2 – Someday I will have the guts to stop disclaiming. The way I say, “Yeah, I’ve read the Twilight Saga, but for purely recreational purposes only.” And then launching into a feeble discussion about the dilemmas of entertainment vs high-brow Ooh-I’m-a-writer writing. And then saying, “It was a terribly written book, but it was very affective.” And then launching into a feeble discussion about literary merit vs affect. Blah blah and more blah.
3 – Speaking of goats, it’s summer. Which means it’s the season for fiestas. Which means we need to have a lot of food. Which brings us back to the goats. I have fond memories of a goat tied to a mango yet-to-be-tree. And boats. Boats. I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. It was fun. I never thought I’d enjoy tigers so much. Although when he was talking about God and all that jazz, I had to put the book down and look for something subversive like, er, Memnoch the Devil. And you need towels in boats because you tend to get wet when you’re in a boat, and so, well, that brings us to Alicia Erian’s Towelhead. It was nice, as well. And maybe, with a little research, I can find a connection between goats and boats and Martin Scorcese and Julia Cameron, because I read her memoir, Floor Sample. She’s the one who came up with the hokey, but strangely effective, Artist’s Way. Ya know. Daily Morning Pages, Artist’s Date, and what have you. She’s also coo-coo crazy. And a sober alcoholic. Book gave me the impression that Alcoholics Anonymous peeps compose those Greek choruses that warble Awoo in the wings. Yeah. I’m not very sympathetic, I’ve discovered.
4 – Here’s something from the introduction of My Mistress’ Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. Just the introduction, because that’s all I read, which means, [a shout-out to people who earn money], I want a copy! Please? I’ll name a character after you, and I can guarantee it won’t kill any puppies! There’s a copy in A Different Bookstore in Serendra. Kthxbai! :D
When it comes to love, there are a million theories to explain it. But when it comes to love stories, things are simpler. A love story can never be about full possession. The happy marriage, the requited love, the desire that never dims – these are lucky eventualities but they aren’t love stories. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.
We value love not because it’s stronger than death but because it’s weaker. Say what you want about love: death will finish it. You will not go on loving in the grave, not in any physical way that will at all resemble love as we know it on earth. The perishable nature of love is what gives love its profound importance in our lives. If it were endless, if it were on tap, love wouldn’t hit us the way it does. And we certainly wouldn’t write about it.
5 – If you have nothing to do this Saturday — that is, if you’re not graduating or some other inane thing (hehe) — come to Conspiracy. We’re having an exhibit of all the people we sketched. A senior artist had to resort to emotional blackmail to make me frame one of my sketches, but it’s just an itty-bitty thing, nothing too distracting. Forge on ahead to look at pretty pictures. :) Oh, and, I may not be there myself, since I have to do Dutiful Daughter schtick and be at my mother’s bedside. We’re getting rid of her (thank you, Big Kahuna) non-cancerous lumps. So, love to everyone.
6 – Why the fuck am I so giddy?