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.