Saturday, July 26, 2008

claiming ever after

cindi-fucking-rella!’, exclaimed laura san giacomo playing kit de luca in pretty woman. we all laughed because we understood. when asked who we know gets his or her happy ending, it seems profanity is not only called for, it’s hilarious.

lately, i have given this issue much thought. not only because i realised i have found the one i’d want to share ever after with. ironically, because there were numerous occasions in recent past i felt i have lost him.

so boo-fucking-hoo, poor little old me. right? (i don’t know about you but not having my happy ending, rather than just questioning who has, is a better excuse for vulgarity.) you’re probably thinking, we all go through the up’s and down’s of relationships. what can i possibly add to the discussion that sappy love songs we tirelessly sing in karaoke’s have not overdone and turned into cliché?

frankly, nothing.

except that it’s mine. and since i’m the one feeling the blues everyone else is excluded. it’s extremely isolating. and against reason, i feel like i’ve been broken like no other person has been broken before.

when considering my latest relationship angst, my friend g in his unique brand of wisdom told me, ‘snowhite had to swallow a poisoned apple and die. ariel had to lose her voice. fiona had to turn into an ogre. all these for a happy ending. even in fairy tales, they did some hard work. who do you think you are that you expect real life should be any easier?’

for the butch men who can’t relate, let me translate my friend’s astuteness. snowhite’s prince had to accept that his beloved was cohabitating with seven cute little men before him. prince eric almost married the sea witch. shrek had to fight a dragon. but perhaps closer to real life, belle’s prince had to turn into a beast before finding his humanity. clearly, no matter what side of the gender fence you relate to, the road to happiness is paved in hell.

last night my friend id reminded me of desiderata. you know, strive to be happy. in our unspoken agreement, it was clear that what desiderata did not explain is that ‘striving’ is actually going through the sham, drudgery and broken dreams.

despite all these, here i am again. hoping that somehow things will turn out right.

don’t get me wrong. i know that richard gere will never climb up my fire exit (especially when the house i live in doesn’t have one) with his umbrella and a bunch of flowers, pledging his love. but it doesn’t have to be richard gere. i never really found him all that attractive. after all, i’m not a prostitute who looks like julia roberts (despite my intermittent, not-so-secret wish to be so). still, i’ve always believed that if i believe, someday i’ll have my fairy tale.

and like my heartache, this faith in happy endings is mine.

quick, give me that poison apple.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

after sunset

a new day brings distraction but i miss him most when night falls.

with the setting of the sun, sadness creeps and comes unbidden. i don’t notice it until i feel a dull pain in my chest, followed by a profound sense of hollowness. it feels as if along with his goodbye came the disappearance of my insides. not the physical part of me. just the part that makes me human.

i do not profess to be a sentimental person. i don’t cry at sad movies. i barely remember birthdays. i don’t even remember the exact day we met. or fell in love. or moved in. i remember i lost the ring he gave me to wear as a sign of our commitment. he gave me another. i remember i lost a total of four rings. the last one he tried to find for days before finally giving up.

tonight in the dark, i remember exactly how he smells. how his eyes light up when i walk into the room. how happy he looked when we danced close to each other. how proud he feels of every decision i make in my life, even when i stand in shaky ground. i remember every single thing he has done for me that can be considered kind, loving or tender. i remember how often all of these happened in the last six years. i realise how little i have appreciated those moments and often thought it didn’t happen often enough.

i know how hopelessly flawed he was. my unforgiving eyes must have shown it. i know my sharp tongue has wounded him too many times. now, i remember how the pain is reflected in his physical reaction when i say something hurtful. how his hands shake in every fight. how he cried when he said he wanted to be a better person for me.

in daylight i can convince myself that i ran out of memories that bind me to him. until night falls and one more memory emerges from the darkness and jolt me back to the feeling, i felt the first time he said goodbye.

i want him to come back. but most of all, i want him to know that all those things did not go unnoticed.

i remember.


tonight he sent me a poem, i'll share with you how it ends:

you love me
you are my peace
what my heart longs for

tonight, i am not afraid of the memories, i welcome darkness again like a lost friend.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

road to rendition, finale & epilogue

‘at kung di ka makita
makikiusap kay bathala
na ika’y hanapin
at sabihin, ipaalala sa iyo
ang nakalimutang sumpaan’

i gave my flawed but impassioned rendition of this song because i just started remembering.

it was way past midnight in a folkhouse owned by a friend’s family a good six hours away from the prison. this was where we decided to spend the night before continuing our journey.

earlier in the evening, our small party of M’s friends was merrily drinking and chatting away while local performers were creating magic on-stage. i suppose we all wanted to leave the ugliness through the music and unpoliticised conversations buoyed by alcohol. even for a while.

judging from the laughter, constant buzz and increasingly enthusiastic applause; they are succeeding from blocking out most of the bad that is out there. protected by the rustic, almost ethereal atmosphere of the quaint watering hole, i guess it was easy.

except for me. while others tried to forget, i started to remember.

the whole night i hardly sat on the table reserved for us. most of the time i was outside smoking trying to get some even emotional keel as memories start to come in waves. this behaviour earned questioning even disapproving looks from those who are close to me in the group. to compensate, i sang. heck, the place is almost closed and there was only one other table occupied outside of ours.

the funny thing is, while my song talked about promises made to belong to each other, M and i never talked about what was between us much less made promises.

so in the absence of those ‘what’s does this mean?’ discussions that people have to help define the space between, i bear witness only to my truth.

i remembered it started way back when we were student activists. those of us who were involved full-time used to stay in a staff house. it was a raggedy wooden apartment in the city we can only afford because we were practically staying for free, courtesy of a comrade’s family who owns the place. since we were successful in organising our constituents (or so we’d like to think) things can get a bit crowded at times. especially at sleeping time.

on one of those nights, M and i were sleeping next to each other. at one point in the evening i woke up with my hand being crushed by M’s crotch who was (or at least appeared to be) sleeping on his stomach. he was hard. i found this strange. i had a girlfriend then, and M was a friend but never showed any particular interest in me. so i extricated my hand with a little difficulty and went back to sleep with my limbs close to my body.

the morning after M was his usual cheerful friendly self so i thought nothing of it and decided it meant nothing.

years passed. i left the cause, started to work for an NGO and ended up consulting for a big government foreign-funded project for agrarian reform. i tried my best to protect the farmers and poor communities interest in this work but i can’t say i have always won. most of the time i was stressed, depressed, hating my place in the world.

M, on the other hand, was getting more and more involved. this I hear from friends who are still active in the struggle. he was working in the north apparently, deeper into the rural areas.

one night, he just showed up outside my apartment door. i remember it was summer. the upstairs bedroom was punishingly hot so i usually sleep in the receiving room downstairs with only cushions and carpet between me and the marbled floor. he said he’ll be staying the night. i offered the bedroom but he also found it too hot. so like many friends who sleep over, he joined me in the floor.

unlike many friends though, sometime during the night we ended in each others arms.

and here is where it gets hazy. the truth is i cannot even remember who started it. i don’t remember if we even kissed in the mouth.

all i remember is we did it. i remember his gentleness. i remember he gives good attention to my nipples. and at one point, he made a suggestive grab of my ass. i took away his hand because at that point i was a total ass virgin. and even if i wasn’t, his proportions would make the experience nothing short of, well – a pain in the ass.

the morning after, much like years before, M acted as if nothing happened.

this nocturnal visit was followed by another after a month. and another. and another till i lost count.

and every morning after, M acted as if nothing happened.

his visits were always unannounced. he sometimes stayed a few days. i remember when he did, he made an effort of helping in the house by cleaning or buying food. my friends claim he washed my clothes. i can’t remember that. maybe some will think that this is perverse poetic justice, since i’m washing our dirty linen in public.

but i never thought there was anything dirty in what M and I shared. i was single this time (i’m not a total floozie, you know). i was new to male-to-male sex. and as far as i can remember he was, too. on both counts. whenever he visited i was glad but not in the way i’m elated when i turn a trick. it was more glad like i’m happy when i meet up with a friend i haven’t seen in a long time.

and there was the tenderness. it’s as if by these moment of unspoken intimacy we are trying to heal each other’s battle scars. to take away the weariness of wars waged differently but bloody and violent all the same.

i don’t remember exactly how long it lasted. i must have been months or even a year. i just remembered the way it ended.

one night M arrived when i was with a man. i can’t remember who it was only i was sleeping with him. i remember the uncomfortable feeling of wanting to explain and not knowing why i should. that night, M slept on the upstairs bedroom.

in the morning, he left before i awake and did not return.

after singing, i headed outside to smoke yet again another cigarette. my attention was caught by the translucence of the mother of pearl windows lit from the inside. as i stare at the sliding windows i wondered if things would have been different if he made any effort to discuss what was happening between us when it was happening. i wondered why i didn’t make the move given i was known to be mr. ‘let’s talk about it’. i cannot speak for M. but there was only one answer that i can come up with for myself. he was good to me on a time when i needed some tenderness amid self-hate. i thought he found comfort in me, too. and maybe, just maybe, that’s enough.

i was interrupted in my thoughts when one of my friends said we should turn in as we have an early morning and a long journey ahead of us.

before sleeping, some of us met and started to discuss the next steps to ensure that people give the support M needs in the days to follow.

in the morning we headed off early. having been away for 7 years in a country where roads are very well maintained, my body was not taking on the local roads easily. after hours of rough driving, i had to lay down the car seat because my lower back and ass was sore.

as i held on hoping not to find myself in the car floor, i thought this was poetic justice. it took me two days to travel this road and finally remember. and M finally gave me a pain in the ass.


the idea of blogging about this started with the suggestion that was made by my politician friend as i narrated in part 2 of the series. while a number of people wrote about M, i thought i’d write something similar to pay tribute to the man that he is.

but my electronic pen has a mind of its own. as many writers will agree, when you start to write a story, you never know where it will take you. a friend of mine thought it was too revealing. but i thought he was a good man and i owe him the truth of what happened from my point of view.

M will probably never read this. i hope though that in some cosmic way putting it out there will get the message to him. that despite all the things that are left unsaid between us, it was real. it was good. he was good to me. and for that i will always be grateful.

but more than that (should it not be apparent in the blog) i apologise to M and all the others like him for not having the strength of conviction to will myself to commit to the cause. all i can commit to is to take with me the principles i learned in the struggle and apply it in whatever i do. it’s not much but i suppose i cannot do more than that. suffice to say, doing that is not easy in this dog-eat-dog world. it has made me make very hard decisions and landed me in not so ideal situations. like being jobless now. but at least i can live with myself.

i know that M's predicament is not an isolated case. all around us, people are persecuted for taking a stand and for fighting for a more just society. i hope in some small way the story brings to light this fact and humanises the characterless faces we sometimes read and hear about in the news.

M is still in jail. my friends and i continue to drum up support for his case.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

road to rendition, part 2

i’ve always believed that people embellish the truth when asked to talk about someone publicly.

attending a mass and a tribute that was held to bind the community together and protest M’s arrest and detention, this was going through my mind. i listened to speaker after speaker tell the crowd gathered in a church built inside the ruins of an ancient one what a marvelous person my former flame was.

don’t get me wrong. he is not a bad guy. in fact, he has devoted his life to a cause he believed in. this belief made him work tirelessly without material compensation or personal glory. unfortunately, it also gave this government grounds enough to fabricate facts and slam him with common crimes. many people would consider that kind of selflessness noble. and that includes me. i believed in that cause and similarly devoted my life to it once. in many ways i probably still believe.

but this is not the point. all these information about him have been said by people who spoke. so what do i really know about him?

my politician friend joked that i should give testimony on M as somebody who knew him on a different level. (our secret fling was not so secret after all.) i cringed at the thought that the only new information i can offer so far is the size of his dick. and i cannot possibly say that. not in a church, anyway. besides, i don’t think that piece of information needs embellishment.

after the programme we headed off to the nearby town where he is detained. as hundreds turned up to visit, i mentally prepared myself for much waiting. the atmosphere outside the jail was almost festive as most of the visitors knew each other. the jail itself did not look particularly imposing, except for the military men with high powered guns sitting and standing all around. since a number of them were actually wank-worthy, i guess lascivious whimsy held intimidation at bay.

my politician friend arrived and we were heralded inside (damn, i didn’t even have the time to offer one of those gun slinging brutes a cigarette!), escorted by the assistant warden. political patronage is fine when it works to your advantage, i suppose.

my anxiety came back as we entered the visitors’ hall. would he see that i have managed to forget almost everything about him?

and then there he was. he was cheerfully greeting everybody with a hug and he did not see me until i was in front of him. when he realised it was me, he let out a small delighted expression of surprise that almost sounded like a yelp. then he pulled me in his arms in a bear hug. i didn’t say a word through this and just quietly gave way to others who wanted to greet him.

he is bigger than i remembered. and better looking. except for some lacerations in the face you wouldn’t think he’d gone through a lot of shit. if i didn’t knew better i would say imprisonment and torture become him.

when the crowd settled down a programme of sorts commenced. M started telling everybody the circumstances of his arrest, his torture, his transfer to this jail and the status of his case. he thanked everybody for their support and asked for everybody’s continued assistance in the long legal battle that he foresees. in return, my politician friend sang (god bless him) and so did a distant niece of M. M closed the programme by singing his favourite song that (not surprisingly) asks everyone to exert themselves to right the wrongs of this world.

while all of this is happening, i sat quietly in a corner wearing my shades and puffing on my cigarette like the good other (wo)man that i am. (did i mention he is married?) i would have wanted to say that seeing him opened the floodgates of memories of tender moments we have shared. only, it didn’t.

as people started leaving after the programme, i queued up to say my goodbye. he embraced me again and gently asked almost in a whisper, “when are you coming back?”

i smiled, turned to thank the warden, walked away without looking back.

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