that’s the title of a book my friends in south africa, chevon, natasha and duncan planned to write someday.
it all started on a road trip to sun city to celebrate nat’s birthday in 2003. jp was driving and we were running out of driving games. the girls were starting to get bored of playing ‘10 degrees from kevin bacon’ – which i refuse to be a part of and we all agreed that to play ‘i spy’ was beneath our dignity.
then we spotted a hot air balloon flying off the distant horizon. so colourful, so alone, so precariously poised between the earth and the clouds. somebody (i can’t remember who) said it will be cool to take a hot air balloon safari. another said it will be even better to do that and then bungee jump from it. i said that’s a fantastic title for a book. they looked at me wondering what am i talking about.
i explained that aside from evoking imagery that is full of excitement and symbolism, it also captures the fact that people usually take chances when they think that their starting point is a place of stability, when in fact – nothing in life is stable. everything is fleeting. like a flight on an air balloon.
during the trip we ‘wrote’ chapter 1: why natasha is no better than a crocodile.
you see, sun city features a daily show of live chicken being fed to crocodiles as one of its tourist baits. nat, in her characteristic theatrical way, expressed indignation in such display of cruelty and barbarism. as if she never eaten chicken before. chevon and i agreed (or maybe we just wanted to irk her?) and hastily pointed out that the only difference is that the crocodile actually kills its prey itself while she expects some poor old butcher to do it for her so she can pick it up in nice little frozen pieces in her nearby grocer. ergo, the crocodile shows more strength of character.
after the trip, we talked about the book project excitedly and roped in duncan. we came up with chapter concepts such as ‘fight club for sissies’ (duncan’s) and ‘aging barfly as watering hole furniture’ (chevon’s).
years have passed since then. natasha is on her 4th year in japan teaching english. duncan went back to the uk and disappeared from our radar. chevon moved to another city to cohabitate with stav. and me, i came back to the phillipines.
the book was never written.
the thing is, this is not the only book that was planned to be written by my different group of friends. my former collective planned to write a book entitled ‘our fathers’, gibo of window exit got a number of us excited on the idea of a book with a collection of essays on relationships.
now if i add all the other things that i planned to do with friends and groups of friends, my mind reels and i can’t even begin to remember a fraction of it. just a a feeling that there have been way too many.
in my old age of 38 i wonder if i shown more determination to pursue these plans (assuming my determination is strong enough to push those around me) would they have come into fruition. and if they did, would my life be fuller? more lived? more meaningful?
my dear friend stav, in his usual mocking pragmatism, is of the opinion that people are bound to say things they don’t mean when they know they will never see each other again. citing how people who spend time together in a holiday or similar short cabin fever-inducing, intense experiences tell each other they will email all the time, keep in touch, be best friends forever just to ease separation anxiety.
but for me the book projects were particularly poignant. as if there was something in us that unconsciously recognised the ephemeral nature of life experiences and wanted to freeze time by capturing them in words. it was not just because we wanted to make each other feel better. i’d like to believe that it is recognising that we have shared something significant – and while we are compromising to reducing such to anecdotes – we are not willing to let it pass by unnoticed.
regardless of the fact that they never happened, i don’t think it was just hot air.