Sunday, April 26, 2009

memories are deceitful above all things


caloocan city, midnight, 1995

having survived what must have been the worst ‘date’ of all time; a torturous dinner in cafe ysabel worthy of all sorts of indigestion, i felt a certain relief. i put the word ‘date’ in quotation marks because i didn’t know what exactly just happened.

despite the disastrous rendezvous j was dropping me off at my place. still, the drive home proved to be be just like the dinner, a series of uncomfortable silences punctuated by awkward small talk. it was a few blocks from home so i was not taking any more of it.

“why do we even bother?”

i saw his forearms flex in the steering wheel and his jaw muscles clench. his dark brooding eyes peered through his long hair, “i think we both know why we want this.”

i didn’t know what he meant and i wanted to ask, but it was my street corner. his big car couldn’t go much further into the urban poor side streets. so he stopped. again, the silence.

“goodbye, then.” i said as i reached for the door handle.

“goodbye, kiel.”

i felt there were things that were to be said but it was not the time. i stepped out of his car. as i closed the door i saw that he was already looking ahead. i stood there and watched him drive off, his car’s rear end lights blinking farewell in the dimly lit side street.

i knew i will probably never see him again.

washington dc, close to midnight, 2009

after finishing his lobster dinner, j and i asked the fil-am waitress if we can smoke outside. the dinner was unlike the one that we had more than 10 years ago. though i didn’t eat (on the account of having to endure some ghastly vegetarian dinner earlier while schmoozing with NGOs from all over the world, contemplating on our raison d’etre and our changing place in the power tables), it went well because we actually talked.

getting the blessing of our waitress, we were standing in the curb of a shabby chic restaurant cum bookshop near dupont station. smoking thoughtfully. it was almost midnight.

“so, you don’t live in the city, right?” i asked.

“that’s right. i live in virginia, about 45 minutes via the metro,” he gestured vaguely at the direction of the station.

“so what time’s the last trip?”


“we better get going then.”

“it’s alright,” he said, taking a long drag from his flickering cigarette.

“alternatively, you can stay at my hotel and i can do funny things with your body,” i offered deadpan.

“i appreciate the gesture but, no thanks, ” he paused thoughtfully, “ besides i have work tomorrow.”

“good. i really don’t want to sleep with you. but you were being so nice i thought it would be rude not to make a pass.’

we looked at each other and then we started laughing while putting out our cigarettes.

back at our table, we both reached for our drinks quietly, the laughing fading to smiles.

“a lot of people think i’m gay, but i’m not – you know,” he said suddenly serious, looking me in the eye.

“we dated once, j.”

“really? i don’t remember. all i remember is that i felt you were always judging me. and how i proved you right being mr. establishment, working for the bank. while you are still an activist.”

i studied him, looking for signs of denial. the thinning clean cut hair and boxy marks & spencer suit have taken the place of the long silky hair and tight fitting shirts of old. the ‘suit’ looked earnest. if he was lying it didn’t show in his countenance.

“i wasn’t exactly memorable, but yes – we did go out once. and i never judged you.”

the silence that once was the trademark of our time together came back.

”so what are you doing tomorrow night?” he asked. but before i can answer, he continued, “ oh no, i have a date with this girl tomorrow.” he was frowning.

“that’s ok" i said, adding promptly, "we should go, or you will miss your train.”

we paid the bill and walked outside.

“well, enjoy the rest of your stay in washington” he said.

”i will. goodbye, j.”

we hugged tentatively.

“check me out if you come back, in case i’m still here.”

“sure,” i said quietly, not knowing if i was being truthful.

i turned and walked away, zipping my jacket to ward away the cold. i was already thinking that for 14 years i thought that there were things to be said between us and it turned out there was none.

i don’t know if he was watching my departure because i didn’t look back.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

panaginip sa abril

as promised to luis and zen, here is the original tagalog version of last week's poem. every second line is mine:

sapantaha lang natin ang pagpatak ng ulan
sa panaginip, yakap mo ang araw
at kapwa tayo naalimpungatang pawisan
balot ng init at uhaw na abot langit

ilang tag-araw na tayong isinumpa ng ganito
dinadaya ng panahon,
kinukutya ng pagmulat
sa umaasong aspalto ng tanghaling tapat

babangungutin ba ako
ng pangamba sa dapithapon
kung pagkakanulo
ng salawahang panahon?

pipikit pa rin ako
at hihimlay sa ulap
ng tag-salat
sa buwan ng paggapas
dahil kahit di ininda ang patak ng ulan
di man natin saliwan
ang unang tikatik ng abril
liliparin natin
ang panginorin
hindi hihintayin
ang muling paggising

Sunday, April 12, 2009

a dream in april

i once had a relationship with a writer. while the passion was mediocre, we wrote well together. here's an english translation of a filipino renga we wrote while we were still figuring out what we were to each other. thought i'd share it before april ends...

the rain is just in our imagination
in dreams, you embrace the sun
until we both wake up drenched in sweat
consumed by unbearable heat and thirst

many summer have passed with this curse
cheated by time
mocked by consciousness
in the burning asphalt of midday

will i have nightmares
of melancholic sunsets
if i betray
the traitorous seasons?

still, i will close my eyes
and lay in the clouds
of famine in harvest time

because even if we missed the rain
even if we did not dance
under the first shower in april
we will fly to the skies
and not wait to be awaken again

Sunday, April 5, 2009

mona lisa syndrome

jp once told me, you are like the monalisa, you are nice to look at, but not much use for anything else. that comment did not hit home until much later when i realised that i have been infected by the da vinci virus.

the da vinci virus infects the unknowing, but fully healthy individuals as host. before you know it you are one piece of work, err… art.

latent symptoms include:
• over-articulation
• over-intellectualisation
• self-indulgence

full blown syndrome to watch out for:
ISO sarcoma – unrealistic standard applied to everybody including oneself
pronoun disorder – inability to recognise anything but i and me, a.k.a. me- as-earth pre-copernicus syndrome
paparazzi paranoia – delusion of persecution of the tmz-type reporters and yet posing for pictures not being taken
hysterical garp blindness – sudden bouts of failure to perceive a world not according to one’s definition
delusion of rebonded rapunzel – delusion of hair so long, so smooth - flipping it would make the asian tsunami look like a drop in the bucket

initial morbidity reports claim that long-time sufferers eventually die alone.

unfortunately, there is no known cure. there are anecdotal reports, however, that a good dose of talking-down-to by undaunted close friends can make the syndrome almost a manageable disease.

thankfully, my early diagnosis aided by my partner's astute observation led to better disease management. i reject being a cordoned-off picture, no matter how pretty (and even that is a subject of debate). as my good friend fuschiaboy reminds me…

“refusal is elegance.”

look at the mirror and ask yourself, am i infected? better yet ask your most cheeky friend.

smile, mona lisa.

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