Saturday, October 26, 2013

Paulaner

Falling debris, crashing bridge, and all the other objects of fear are far and unreal. Nothing scars like words words words.

So maybe a silence and Paulaner. As it is wont to work, draft dries tears.
Bartender: Are you waiting for someone?
Me: No.
(Yes.)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

5am

5am Sunday moon
—Good morning, moon.
—Same moon in between two cats on the wall walking toward each other.
—Cheap bars nearing closing time, drunken men not quite done partying.
—Stench of uncollected garbage.
—Jeepney half-filled with women in uniform, reporting for factory work maybe.
—20-minute walk to the country club.

6am
—Sporting event starts. Kids play, I work.
—No appetite for breakfast, craves coffee only.

10:30am
—Work done. Heads straight to ATC.
—Bought Alex Garland's The Beach.
—Full-body massage.

ATC cat
1pm
—Late lunch, starts reading The Beach. Exciting. Wants to go to the beach.
—Spots a cat.
—A mother approaches, asks if she and her kids could share a table with me. Sure. Let's share the cake as well?
—Vow of endless love: 'I shall love you until cats stop being cute.'

3pm
—Watched Carrie. Film's pretty tight, I don't however see the point of remaking it.
—Window-shopping.

5pm
—Goes to Mama Lou's to meet past office mates.
—Too early, reads The Beach some more. This would be more fun if I were wide awake.

5:40pm
—Duna arrives. Sleepiness diminishes.

Yani, Emgrey, Duna, me, and Julie
(Photo by Emgrey)
6pm
—The gang's complete. Reunited with Yani, Emgrey, and Julie after almost two years of no contact.
—Pizza bianca, prosciutto (I spelled it right the first time!), red wine, chicken pesto risotto, steak, more chicken, seafood pasta, red sauce, iced tea, blueberry cheesecake, chocolate cake, tiramisu, beer. Cigarettes for them.
—Love girls who know how to enjoy their food. Love people who splurge.

9pm
—Awake for 24 hours.
—Home, thinking of the day that's been, still tasting the steak, worrying about deadlines.

10pm
—Probably asleep. Probably thinking.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Forever, in an instant, from sunshine to shadow

I made my way up the east staircase, one slow step at a time. At the top I stopped to rest, perching for a while on the last step like a bird on a bough.

Only here at the top of the house did I feel myself removed, in a way from the crushing burden of being a de Luce. Up here, above it all, I was somehow myself.
The Buckshaw house featured on the cover of the
Orion paperback edition of I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
by Alan Bradley
Buckshaw is a Georgian house which size is commensurate with its history. It is home to the de Luces—widower Colonel de Luce and his three daughters: Ophelia, Daphne, and Flavia, along with the colonel's trusted steward, Dogger.

The bird perching on the bough was Flavia, a young girl with a passion for chemistry and the dead. She is the lead character in Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce Mystery series, which I only recently discovered but quickly fell in love with.

I finished the fourth title, I am half-sick of shadows, this afternoon. The country is observing a holiday and this was a chance for me, like Flavia, to feel myself removed, in a way from the crushing burden of being an adult by sitting at my spot in my favorite restaurant, reading and dining in peace.

I've always had reservations for whiz kid characters, because their genius can sometimes be improbable and they can get too cheeky for my taste.

Flavia de Luce has those moments. I was surprised, for example, that despite her scientific acumen and talent at detective work, she still believes in Father Christmas. But I was ready to romanticise: No matter how smart someone is, the lure of a warm and generous figure can be irresistible.

Her language, too, is uneven. Though we may expect her to be articulate, even sharp, given her wits, I failed to recognize her poeticizing voice in the opening paragraphs of the book:
Tendrils of raw fog floated up from the ice like agonized spirits departing their bodies. The cold air was a hazy writhing mist.

Up and down the long gallery I flew, the silver blades of my skates making the sad scraping sound of a butcher's knife being sharpened energetically on stone...
These things notwithstanding, I am caught up in her world. One reason is that while in the midst of solving murder cases, Flavia is deep within her personal mysteries as well—what her mother Harriet, who died before she could have memories of her, was truly like; why her sisters hate her; and how to show her affections to her father.

It is the tenderness and the unriddling of emotional confusions that I follow in this series.

In the first novel, The sweetness at the bottom of the pie, there is a memorable chapter where Flavia describes her eldest sister Ophelia's command of the piano, and 'because she plays so beautifully, [Flavia] have always felt that it [is her] bounden duty to be particularly rotten to her'.

This hits home as daily, we face scenarios wherein we cannot find the motivations behind certain actions, and we know too well that asking someone why they are the way they are does not necessarily lead to a satisfactory or at the very least honest response.

Why is talking to each other difficult? In I am half-sick of shadows, Flavia got to confront Ophelia:
'Why do you hate me? Is it because I am more like Harriet than you are?'

'Hate you, Flavia? Do you really believe I hate you? Oh, how I wish I did! It would make things so much easier.'
They talked and in the talk something was learned yet nothing was resolved.

In the postlude, Flavia mused:
Was my life always to be like this? I wondered. Was it going to go, forever, in an instant, from sunshine to shadow? From pandemonium to loneliness? From fierce anger to a fiercer kind of love?

Something was missing. I was sure of it. Something was missing, but I couldn't for the life of me think what it was.
If it's any consolation, Flavia, those of us thrice your age have posed the same questions long ago and managed to reach this point, doing just fine—scathed as we may be, and perhaps ought to be—without any answer.

But then, what kind of life it would be where everywhere is sunshine? How can love be visible without the spectrum of emotions in which it shall be located?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The ecstasy of yours

Three things I love: coffee, snail mail, books. Two more things I love: surprises, giving.

A lot of my friends celebrated their birthday in September; so it was, for me, next to Christmas, the month when I handed out the most number of gifts. And I wonder what makes gift-giving so pleasurable. Does it have to do with the desire to please someone or gain something in return? In my case, all I want is to see a positive reaction from the recipient once the present is unwrapped. So there's selfishness in there, too—needing an acknowledgement of your good taste, attention to the other's lifestyle and quirks, and resourcefulness.

That said, it's also wonderful to be on the receiving end. Yesterday I was bedridden, nursing a cold and tortured by the thought of wasting the entire weekend at home. But happiness soon arrived at the gate, a surprise package from J:

Clockwise from left: (1) a jar of coffee;
(2) a narrative of her day; (3) Twilight translated in Tagalog
(1)
How many things do you plan to buy but couldn't get around to buying even if it's easily available and quite cheap? One of those things in my list is a coffee jar. So when I saw this, I giggled. And knowing my friend, something must be inside—and I was right.

(2)
For the longest time, we've been exchanging letters— because that's how we roll. But when she moved to a farther place, she stopped receiving mails, including a postcard I sent her from Cebu. Apparently, the post office in her area is not reliable. Where do lost things go?...

(3)
A copy of Takipsilim. I was bewildered as Bella. Whatever that means. But J supplied a thorough explanation, said she bought it because:
  1. She found it amazing that the damned book was translated in our language— 'Pinaghirapan din itong isalin ng manunulat natin';
  2. She remembered me when she read the title (referring to a poem I wrote with the same title); and
  3. Because certainly I will never ever buy it for the sheer fact that it's Stephanie Meyer's Twilight and that it's written in Tagalog.
...hinding-hindi mo ito bibilhin dahil ito ay nasa Filipino o Tagalog—attention can sometimes lead to bad judgment, but I'll let it slide. At least now I have a conversation piece to put in my bookcase.

J ended her letter:
Marami din akong bayarin, at ang natira ay nilulustay ko rin. Isang nagpapaligaya pa rin sa akin ang kaunting kakayahang makabili ng mga bagay para sa mga taong mahalaga sa buhay ko; hindi doon sa bagay, kundi sa pagbibigay, 'ika nga. Kaya hayaan mo na lang ako. Sa akin naman, ang lahat ng mga bagay na ito, nabibili man o hindi, ay lilipas din, balewala din pagdating ng panahon. Ngunit alam natin ang mananatili, hindi ba?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Posterity is not our business

Last month, The Guardian ran a Q&A with James Bond. I'm no idol, but the questions are fun to answer. So here's my adult slam book post.

When were you happiest?
In college.

What is your greatest fear?
Secrets exposed, privacy invaded.

What is your earliest memory?
Life in our house at Agoncillo in Malate, Manila.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I can be passive and passive-aggressive.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Inconsideration.

Aside from a property, what's the most expensive thing you've ever bought?
A 20/20 vision.

Where would you like to be now?
In bed with this guy I met early this year.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Scar at the back of my right lower leg.

What is your most unappealing habit?
I retire to my little space and become very quiet, expecting everybody to understand, forgetting that people sometimes actually seek and enjoy my company.

What is your favourite smell?
Musk.

What is your favourite word?
Tomorrow. (I like spelling it, especially when it comes to the double r.)

What is your fancy dress costume of choice?
Beauty queen. Or dominatrix, coz it's so not me.

What is the worst thing anyone's ever said to you?
Tie between you're not pretty and you're stupid.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Most pleasures, I think, have an element of guilt.

What do you owe your parents?
Security.

Which living person do you most despise and why?
Too many to mention.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Really, just, easily.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
Working as a tutor for so long.

How do you relax?
At my secret Sunday restaurant, seated at my favorite spot beside the window, having brunch or late lunch while reading a book. I know I'm done when I've had my third cup of coffee.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Financial freedom.

What keeps you awake at night?
Dreaming.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Fisherman's Horizon by Nobuo Uematsu.

How would you like to be remembered?*
'She saw something in me that no one else has even seen. She understood.'

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Never count on things or people to be fair or good; but always be fair and good.

There are more questions that I find very interesting, but also difficult to answer. I'll list them in the meantime and maybe get back to it later:

Which living person do you most admire and why?; What is your most treasured possession?; Who would play you in the film of your life?; What is your favourite book?; To whom would you most like to say sorry and why?; What or who is the greatest love of your life?; What is the worst job you've ever done?; If you could go back in time, where would you go?; Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?; What do you consider your greatest achievement?; Tell us a secret.

* In the article that inspired this entry, James Bond responded to the question, 'How would you like to be remembered?' with 'Posterity is not our business'.