Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jose


I saw you sitting alone in the 35th floor cafeteria.

You were holding a cup of coffee while reading a copy of the PSE Index. From time to time, you looked blankly at the glass walls and gazed unseeingly at the storeys of high rise condos in front of you.

Sadness flitted in and out of your face. There was pain... and anger, but sadness was all there.

You were so easy to read that I told myself, “Here’s a young man who seems to have everything but is not really enjoying anything.”

I judged you as a loner.

I classified you as a social outcast.

I did not approach you though the urge to comfort you was strong. I could not talk to you because your silence forced me to fortify my walls-my only comfort zone where drifters like you could not faze me.

I heard your name being spoken with awe by the regular girls in the Sales Department. the guys in the Accounting Department said you were an inveterate pedestal that nobody could topple. You were a god and a devil.

I knew that you achieved everything you dreamed of-the capital stocks soaring high, the monopoly of very profitable oil and gas ventures, the top spot on the Wall Street Journal. You were a force to reckon with. Your name was splattered all over the pages of papers from the smuttiest tabloids to the most respected Time magazine. You were an untouchable.

Just years ago, I heard that you made the most successful merger of your life. You were finally to be wed to the most sought-after socialite in Italy. She was a real beauty alright, with her mixed Filipina-Italian features, operatic voice and ballerina bod. She was a perfect epitome of grace and poise matched with wit and intelligence that made her father win bids in government contracts through which he prospered. With her good breeding and your second-to-none success story, you were the talk of the town.

I was there watching the two of you as you waltzed together in the Champagne room. I was held captive by your public appearance on the national TV after your Hawaiian wedding. I swear I had the creeps when you told the press that you were so happy you were ready to give half of your billions to the needy.

Months after you celebrated the birth of your son, I was the first to cry when I heard that you leapt out of your 40th floor penthouse because of a failed marriage.

Your life was not a fairy tale story. You were born to be comfortable and happy with your mother and father. They were simple folk in a rural area and family ties were strong for them. You decided, though, at a very young age that you could not follow your parents’ footsteps. You followed your own dreams and had it.

You were content for quite some time until you felt that you need more, so you worked harder and earned more, you sacrificed more and yielded more.

You created your own story and made it to a happy ending…almost.

I admired you for your courage and guts.
I was so proud of your achievements and hard-won fights in life.
I, however, grieve for the loneliness you suffered, the pain you bore, the hopelessness and mental torture that decayed you and your cherished dreams.

You created a bauble and it was not made of strong materials. You made it with all the accessories but the result was weak because it was made of ephemeral trappings.

You have forgotten love.

I grieve for you because I showered you with so much love, but you used it to the less important things. You gave it to a sponge who could not give back what you gave to her. I wished and prayed that may my love for you give you comfort wherever you are.

If I could just soar and reach you up there, I would fill you up again with love. I would fortify the cusp where my love won’t ever be used up. I would not let you be far away from me anymore.

Jose, my son.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dustin

“…I would like to visit you for a while
Get away and out of this city
Maybe I shouldn’t have called
But someone had to be the first to break.”

It was as if I hurtled into time. The loft of so many memories, some of which were wonderfully happy while others were lonely and painful, stood the same as if it was the last time I stood there waiting for Dustin. The coffee brown carpet, the apple green and gold wallpaper, the burgundy settee and the much-used silk pillows were still in place, so were the photographs of countless tours and vacations Dustin and I had together. I could have sworn I still smell the aroma of kapeng barako we loved to share during our little chats in the morning before we both go to work.

Dustin was an active student leader when I first met him during my Freshman Orientation. I did not love that love at first sight really happens and it was ludicrous that something I never really believed in would happen to me. Oh the way he spoke, the way he stood up in front of so many people, his eyes, his smiles…the first time I set my eyes on him I knew my heart was lost forever.

I made the first move. I should have felt ashamed of myself but I did not. In the ensuing days, I pestered him with lots of questions blanketing myself with my status as a wild-eyed freshie. He was amused. I could feel it every time he looked at me and I presumed he was aware of just how desperately I wanted to be with him at all times. One thing though that I was thankful for was that he never did take advantage of me. He was the same gentleman who escorted a pregnant woman while ascending the stairs, the same educated man who never bat an eye when talking about student issues and concerns.

I joined all organizations where he was a member. I became deeply involved in community services and student affairs. This made me closer to Dustin and in time, we became really good friends. At that time, I was ready to accept that maybe friendship was the only thing in store for us. Maybe we're not meant to be anything other than the best of friends, the best of comrades...

I was mistaken.

One afternoon, I was out jogging in the Circle. The last two weeks before graduation were hard work for me who had to meet scholarship erquirements so I decided to sweat out all the stress that built up duirng the exams and paper defense. Dustin was supposed to meet me there but I was already a good half an hour ahead of him when he finally showed up. He brought coffee and donuts that smelled heavenly I'd forgotten i was irritated with him.

The coffee broke the wall between us. That nearly-boiling coffee who must have played Cupid decided at an inoppurtune time to slosh its way on my jogging pants. I shrieked my heart out and I saw the way Dustin panicked. Never, even in the face of a full-battle-geared platoons of riot place did I see him panicked the way he did when i shouted out my pain.

He rushed me to the East Avenue and even in my semi-conscious state, I heard him say, "Hold on, baby, I'm here." His hands, tightly gripping mine were cold and clammy.

Amidst blacking out and resurfacing of my awareness, I could feel Dustin’s presence. He was the one who assisted in tending my wounds. He was the one who fed and gave me medicines. He was the one who handled the awkward questions my mother gave him. I felt special but I did not want to assume that there was something deeper between us.

After a week, I was already feeling fit and healthy to let loose. The doctor made me promise to take extra caution in tending the wounds to prevent infection. Aside from the diet and the medication I had to religiously follow, nothing prevented me to confront the issue between Dustin and me.

I found him on his favorite spot under an awning of bamboos near the lagoon writing something. Hesitation gripped me as I stood there watching the play of wind on his long curly hair (he said it was a vintage tibak hairstyle). Could I be wrong? I took a deep breath to gather courage but before I could even say “hi!” – he asid, “Leigh, I want to show you this.”

He handed me a folded blue paper and I started to cry when I saw its content. On the paper was a big heart divided in two, the right half bearing his name and the other half was bare. At the bottom of the heart was a note which said “Will you fill up the other half? It does get lonely when I’m on my own in here?”

I never had anything to say. I just hugged him tight. It was as if the sky streamed out all its brilliance and the joy of the world rained down on us. The first time he pressed my lips on mine on that summer afternoon under a bamboo grove was etched forever in my heart.

My mother never approved of our relationship but Dustin and I were so crazily in love that we decided to live together. After two months, we were secretly married with my best friend’s parents who acted as sponsors. Our married days were the happiest with only the thought of our parents’ anger graying out some of our moments. Dustin was the perfect soul mate, the best confidante and the most effective entertainer I had. He made me laugh freely. He made me appreciate the wonders of helping others in need. He made me do my best and let me forget all worries and regrets.

The loft where we resided was packed with books and CDs we both loved to indulged on during our free days. Our friends would sometimes drop by for a visit and they could not stay for long, well simply because Dustin and I couldn’t take our eyes off each other. We were maddeningly so in love with each other that no people could separate us even for the minutest minute.
It was on February 21 when something happened.

Dustin was so excited that their organization’s year-long planned medical mission in the far-flung barrios of Mindoro was rolling. I was supposed to be there with him but something came up in the workplace and I had to let him go there alone. For the first time, I was not there to help him in his commitments. Those days were turbulent with battalions of military men sent in the province for anti-terrorism drive. I was not very much worried though because Dustin had the mission widely promoted within the local government units in Mindoro. It was supposed to be legal but it turned out differently.

Four days before our wedding anniversary, Dustin was reported missing. Two weeks after, he finally came home…I tried not to cry knowing that he wouldn’t like tears. I held on to the anguish, fear and pain harrowing my being. I tried not to look at him knowing that I must not. I did however, because I had to understand why his body was mutilated and his skin was garishly pale. I had to touch him and seek the energy that he used to exude. I had to make myself believe in the unacceptable: that he finally came home cold and lifeless inside a wooden box.

Now, I’m here at the same loft after two years. I am standing on the same place where I had the most wonderful days of my life. I am looking into things that I’ve loved and have made me complete. I am here inside where I had loved Dustin and Dustin had loved me.

Two years after, I have to go back and close this chapter of my life. The pain is still here. It emerges at some lonely moments and makes me numb. I am holding on to the love we shared – desperately trying to hold on.

“Mommy, Mommy.”

Denise. My beautiful baby.

That little voice-oh Dustin, look at our child. Our child who made me sane and strong when you left me. I cannot think of the bleak years ahead without you, but you gave me a sunshine – our sunshine.

I could not have survived knowing that you perished, that you died unjustly with no one to hold you. Not even me. Oh please God, give my love to Dustin.

For he will always be here in my heart.
Yes, forever, I will love you, Dustin.
Writing is a habit of mine.

My first writing session happened on our five-year old Spanish house in the province. The place was made entirely of wood and bamboo. I had the full utilization of its wooden door because I made this my official blackboard. The floor, polished well with red floor wax, was my first canvas where I made my basic lines and shapes. My writing material was those white apog (lime) which abounded the nearby lime processing company. My first teacher was my mother who painstakingly etched my name on the door and guided me through my first serious hand grips and pulse motions.

The first letter I was able to write was the letter M which is the first letter of my mine. It took me three days before I was able to master the four straight lines. The Os and the Cs was harder and took me longer days to perfect. I never did make my O a real O because my version had jagged edges. Up to this day, my C tends to resemble a bamboo stick that would not bend or a half moon with the upper curve dipping downward.

I spent three solid months learning to write my whole name comprising of 19 letters. It should be 20 but I just added my middle initial during high school when my feminist teacher told me that mother’s name should always be included on the child’s name. This actually befuddled me because my middle initial which was the initial of my mother’s surname was actually her father’s name. I told myself, “So much for my mother having her own name, or her mother’s name.”

So I entered a government-funded kindergarten armed with my 19 letters and 5 basic shapes. All that were lacking I learned from sitting in the front row. If I sat at the back, I would not have learned the alphabet. All I would have seen were the backs of the 60 or so classmates studying with me.

So I learned to write on the door, on the floor, on my pad paper, on the blackboard when my teacher wanted me to write “I will not be noisy anymore.”, then finally on the typewriting paper.

My writing progressed from my apog chalk, to fat pencils, to ball pens, to typewriter then finally to computer.

I loved the typewriter the most.

The ta-ka-tak of the keys was the juicer of ideas. The sound filled my mind with the scenes and lines. The hardness of the keys kept me in focus. The ting when I was nearing the end of the line whipped me to be accurate in giving details. When I made a mistake, either in grammar or spelling or I made a word that was not in cohesion with the rest of the sentence, I did not delete anything. I left a blank for me to return to when I had thought of something which could be inserted.

So I went writing with my typewriter. I was not a touch typist; in fact I was using the dutdot system which made my aunt really mad because I never learned to type using all fingers.

On and on I wrote sentences that became prose and essays. I wiggled clich├ęs and phrases and created poems and songs. I went tak-a-tak-ing even in the wee hours of the night under the glow of an overhead gasera. I wove my ideas and thoughts. I built my dreams and hopes. I cried my tears and laughed at my joys, celebrated my victory and mourned my defeat on those words I typed on bond paper.

When I became pregnant, I stayed at home. After the usual household chores, I would sit in our apartment’s terrace and mull over the future. The day dreaing would last five seconds and I had to get a pen and paper and a notebook (or whatever comes in handy) so that I could capture the words that fill my mind. I wrote the stories of my first love. I sang to my child through my own version of nursery rhymes.

Today, even during the busiest times at work, I still snatch some quick time to jot a sentence or two. I have two pending essays that I could not finish for lack of nicer ideas. I am still thinking of writing a love story with Mt. Everest as the main setting but I still haven’t researched on the details.

I know that even when I reached my retirement age, I would still be writing. When my fingers would give way to numbness of arthritis, I would write by voice.

I would share my words and let my children and grandchildren write on the words, and they would pass on the tradition to the next generation until all the words on earth are gone.