Riding in Cars with Boys

I stepped down from the plane and just died.

Which, of course, is an exaggeration. I’m still alive, obviously. But with the stifling heat and humidity, the airport delays, and the lack of decent facilities (like air-conditioning) at NAIA, I might as well have died. I was home alright.

I  have never considered New Haven as “home.” Granted, I was only there for 4 years; but I have actually contemplated becoming a permanent resident. Without this incident that prompted me to return, I would have gladly turned my back at Manila, easily forgetting such a city even existed.

When I left 4 years ago, the roads surrounding the airport were craggy, bumpy and perennially congested — with cars and vans, trucks and buses; and commuters that are illiterate to road signs; and traffic enforcers that are overworked or corrupt or incompetent (or all three). These roads that all led to shopping malls.

Four years later, except for additional malls that have sprouted like ghastly mushrooms, everything was still the same. I was home, alright.

Auntie Juliet met me at the airport. Unlike NAIA, Auntie has changed. She looked stooped and smaller than I remembered. The lines on her forehead  more prominent. She still had that same smile, sweet but not cloying. She welcomed me the way she always did when I came back from school; when school meant college which was just a few cities (not a few countries) away.

“I told you I’d just get a taxi. You shouldn’t have bothered going all the way here,”I said.

“Shut up,” she told me cheerfully. “And get in the car.”

Unlike me, Auntie can drive. I am a klutz when it comes to cars. I have begged Jonas to let me practice on his Honda but he would only give me a look that I interpreted to mean: “You have got to be kidding!”

I don’t know why he couldn’t be more supportive. I feel like an incompetent ninny because everyone around me thought that when I get behind a wheel, that’s a sign that the evening news will feature a road accident along Quirino Avenue. Or C5 Road. Or Nagtahan Bridge.

Truth be told, I was not too keen to drive a car, either. First, the charges in the parking facilities in Makati where I used to work were tantamount to usury. Second, Metro Manila’s traffic was something straight out of purgatory. So I used to commute using the LRT or the bus or jeepney. How plebeian!

When I started going out with Jonas, he assigned himself as my designated driver. Whenever he was in Manila and not off doing field work in some godforsaken place, that is.

I liked having Jonas drive me around. I loved the long trips most of all; when during the weekends he would accompany me to my hometown and the trip would take 4 hours (5 if the traffic was heavy) and we would have these philosophical discussions about important questions such as:

1. Which has better french fries, McDonalds or Jollibee?

2. How many mistresses does Erap Estrada really has?

3. Who was the mastermind in the execution of Andres Bonifacio?

4. Was Imelda Marcos sexually frigid?

5. Do dogs and cats really hate each other?

6. Is shower-sex overrated?

Jonas’s opinion was: “dexterity counts a lot when attempting to go all the way in the shower.”

My opinion was … I had no opinion.

But since I had to pretend to be more worldly that I actually was, I had to make up an opinion, so I said, “I think it’s best to do it in a car.”

So.

We did do it in a car. Eventually.

In a gray 2001 Honda CRV with tinted windows and while the stereo was blaring “All I Need” by Shamrock.

Yes, shower-sex was definitely over-rated.

Lost

Raffy: Bakit ka nagpaiwan?

Lea: Bakit umalis ka kahit naiwan ako? Dahil malakas  ka at malakas ako. At iba ang gusto mong gawin sa gusto ko. Nawala ka sa akin pero kung sumunod  ako sa iyo noon ang nawala sa akin ay ang sarili ko. Magiging masaya ka ba sa isang babaeng walang sarili? Hindi na sya siya magandang asawa kapag ganoon.

(Raffy: Why didn’t you go with me?

Lea: Why did you leave? Because we were both strong and we wanted different things. You left, I lost you. But if I had gone with you, I would have lost myself. Would you be happy with a woman who doesn’t own herself? She would not have been a good wife for you.)

Bata,_Bata…_Pa’no_Ka_Ginawa_by_Lualhati_Bautista_Book_Cover   From: “Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa” (translation mine)

Award winning Tagalog novel by Lualhati Bautista.

It also had its own movie which starred Vilma Santos,

an actress who became a politician, a typical career path for Filipinos.

***

(Alice’s POV)

I miss Jonas.

It is April but I feel chilly which, according to Kim, is weird because everyone in New York just adore this weather. Maybe, she said, I am cold intolerant.

I just woke up and the one-room loft  we share is empty. Kim’s bed is already made up; she went out early to make rounds.

I am alone save for my thoughts and these … memories … of him, who else?

I know, I know … this was my choice. I chose to go.  I chose to leave him hanging there with his ring and his good intentions and his heart which, according to Marianne, I have broken into smithereens.

So I am the bitch. Fine. I admit it. You can unfriend me on Facebook, Marianne; I messed up royally.

But … I also had to do this. I had to get out of that country which is slowly suffocating and killing me. I had to escape from my work where I haven’t been happy for a long time. I wanted this — this opportunity to learn so much more than I would ever have a chance to know had I stayed in Manila. I would never have forgiven myself if I didn’t take this chance.

Jonas, don’t you understand? I love you. With all that I am. But I also love me. If I had stayed with you, I would have lost myself. And would you be happy  with a woman who does not own herself?

I feel cold. So I wrap Kim’s sweater tighter around me, and curl like a child on the lone sofa in the living room. I listen to the Chinese foodstore owner haggling with a customer downstairs, the smell of fermented shrimp paste wafts up my nostrils. Smells of home have never made me feel sadder.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Alice wonders at how clean and beautiful everything is in New York. She would have enjoyed being here, in the center of the world, if only she didn’t feel so shitty about what she left behind. Central Park in April. Picture from Wikipedia.

Notes About “Falling”

Really, sometimes it can be nothing special. Like one day, you go along when someone asks you to go out, and you have nothing to do, so you agree.

basta driver sweet lover

What will trigger it may be something as mundane as a wicked sign on a jeepney, or a teenaged couple doing PDA in the middle of a busy street (get an effing room, you said under your breath; which for some reason amused him so much);

PDA -- "public display of affection" . Image from hhsbearpress.wordpress.com

PDA — “public display of affection” . Image from hhsbearpress.wordpress.com

 

… or a stray dog crossing the road (a comment he made on that would segue into a story about his favorite dog when he was a boy).my dog

When you were younger, you thought it came with violins and hearts and flowers. And thunder and lightning and rainbows. And they did say (whoever they were, you never could figure out the identity of “they”) that it would be like walking on air, sublime happiness.

You can’t really relate with the idea of sublime happiness. Marginally comfortable is just fine with you.

Hiking -- something to get over an other humdrum Saturdat morning

Hiking — something to get over an otherwise humdrum Saturday morning. You did protest and said that you don’t do nature stuff. And he said that there’s a first time for everything.

But then, when he started striding into your life as if he owned it, you started to question the stuff that you were comfortable with. He asked you:  why not go mountain hiking because you spend so much time indoors that you lack vitamin D. Instead of saying, I can buy supplements at GNC thank you very much, you said “okay”.

Why is that you wonder?

And then he said that he liked it when you wore your hair long and free from confining ponytails behind your back, you actually blushed!

Remember when you were suspicious of people who gave you compliments? Now you have actually forgotten your scrunchies and have started the habit of blow-drying your hair!

And then when he started hovering around you almost everyday, you did not tell him to go home and stop making a “tambayan” out of your apartment. You served him iced tea and at one time even cooked pasta.

The problem with giving people an inch of yourself is that they would eventually ask for the whole package and you would be too polite to be selfish.

…. Or you would be charmed because they asked so nicely.

The problem with sublime happiness is that it can creep up on you like a burglar. And steal all your furniture.

You wake up from sleep and all that you thought you owned (including your heart) was no longer yours.falling in love

The Giver

I recently re-read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry because I heard that it was turned into a movie! The first time I read it, I was 17 y/o, upon the recommendation of my friend B who, at that time, was glomming Newberry award-winning books.

Book cover of "The Giver".  I was 17 y/o the first time I read it. That was the era pre-Hunger Games.

Book cover of “The Giver”. I was 17 y/o the first time I read it. That was the era pre-Hunger Games.

Poster of the "The Giver" the movie. I have yet to watch it. Question: why the girl in the poster? From what I know, the book was not about a love story.

Poster of the “The Giver” the movie. I have yet to watch it. Question: why the girl in the poster? From what I know, the book was not about a love story.

“The Giver” is a YA novel describing a dystopian community where everybody cooperates; everyone knows his/her place in the system; everyone is happy; there is no hunger, illness or strife; older people or babies who do not fit in are “released” with such heart-warming ceremony.

It is the story of 11 year-old Jonas who was assigned to be the next Receiver of Memories — with all the pain and joy that such a work would entail.

It is a world of blacks and whites and grays. No colors at all.

Jonas was astounded during his lessons to be the next Receiver. He realized that there are such stuff called “colors” and “heat” and “cold”. He got to learn about sunshine and snow and sleigh rides. On the other hand, he also got to experience hunger and conflict and war. And he was made to perceive death — seemingly the worst atrocity of all, depending on how one looks at it.

“The Giver” was like an allegory about “growing up”.

It was a disturbing book. Even for a 17-year old.

But then, one lives in a disturbing world. Even if one is already way past 17.

*****

I was reading several articles on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was just as bewildered as Jonas.

There are no such things as heroes and villains. Just different types of victims (i.e. one who suffered the holocaust and one who suffered displacement and foreign occupation). And different types of perpetrators (i.e. one who straps explosives on one’s body and kills a busload of innocents and one who fire explosives and kill a block-ful of innocents).

*****

One wishes to be young, to go back to a time when pride seemed meaningless and power was not even a word. When there were still no grudges and it was still easy to share a playground to lie on.

*****

On a positive note — Free ebook sites are one of humanity’s greatest inventions :)

Christmas in New England

Photo from vistaphotography.com

Photo from vistaphotography.com

The best thing about studying in the East Coast is the fact that it has four seasons, Kim gushed, practically a poet (poetess) in how she described the changing leaves from green to yellow (or maple) to brown (or tan) as the summer gives way to fall; and then winter when everything is white and still, as silent as the stars.

I  stare at Kim, at her enthusiasm, her utter love of this place called New England. I am fond of New England, and found Connecticut to be a most delightful place. But I cannot love it, hard as I want to. My heart belongs to somewhere else.

***

It was our first Christmas together. I couldn’t yet put a label on what we actually were. I would introduce him to my friends as Him … Jonas. No labels, just his name.

“Sooo …” Manda, a classmate asked. I had to attend the college reunion, if only to show my support for Kim, gregarious Kim, a member of the organizing committee. “So Jonas and you have been together how long?”

Manda was one of the most prolific gossips in our class. I had to watch my tongue around her.

“Kim introduced us last February.” I said carefully.

Jonas being Jonas had that small smile on his face. Which I found both adorable and irritating.

“Really!” Manda exclaimed. “Wow! I’m so happy for you both. And here I am 23 years old and still NBSB.” Giggles. Sometimes Manda could be so sympathetically pathetic. I had to laugh with her.

“Oh God. I hate reunions.” I told Jonas when we managed to escape from my college crowd to a secluded area of the multi-purpose hall. I was having a bottle of Tanduay Ice, while he was nursing his iced tea. Jonas was adamantly against having alcohol when he knew he had to drive.

“I actually think it’s fun. I enjoyed meeting your friends.”

“Which of them? Manda?”

He nodded. “She’s ditzy, but she’s nice. We should introduce her to somebody. She seems to be fixated on her having no boyfriend since birth.”

“So we’re playing cupids now, huh? Who among your friends would you suggest can take on Manda?”

“I think Eric will like her.”

“Isn’t Eric like … gay?”

Jonas stared at me for a second then laughed as if I just made the funniest joke in the world. “Honey … Eric is not gay. He just dresses … more fashionably than other guys. But he’s definitely into girls.”

The first time  I met Eric, he was wearing a fuschia Ralph Lauren top and Guess whitewashed jeans that just hugged his ass. What could be gayer than that? “How do you know?” I asked feeling lighthearted, I didn’t even correct Jonas for the endearment he used.

“Eric uhmm … we uhhh … I had to accompany him once to a KTV and … no he’s not gay.”

“So you accompanied him to a KTV.”

“Yup. There were a lot of us. I think it was Eric’s birthday.”

“And so what did you do?”

“The guys each had a GRO and … you know …”

I could see that this was making Jonas uncomfortable. Maybe he was careful about saying something that would make me upset or jealous. But I was just amused.

“So they each had a girl … And you?”

“Well … “

I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing at his discomfort.

“So was it fun?” I had to ask.

“Not as fun as drinking this iced tea and being with you.”

The lights were not so dim that I couldn’t see the most tender look on his face. And I knew it was for me. I stopped laughing. Suddenly, I was the uncomfortable one.

***

So that was maybe 6 Christmases ago. Not a white Christmas. More of a smog-filled one. We had to navigate the EDSA traffic to reach my apartment after the party. The stifling heat of the metro was only momentarily relieved by amihan winds that blew into the car as we passed through Roxas Boulevard.

I have to admit that I was a bit tipsy during the ride home. Yes, 2 bottles of Tanduay Ice could do that to me.

Jonas, the ever cheerful driver, had to park by the Baywalk because I felt that I really really had to throw up. He rubbed my back, as mortified me hung my head before  the Manila Bay. Thank god, the vomit did not come. And thank god I had a very reliable and sympathetic … friend to take me home.

So yes, he kissed me.

We were standing there, me leaning against him for like eternity. A lot of things  can happen in an eternity: like he can kiss your hair, then your forehead, then your nose, your cheek and then your lips are touching and then time has no meaning.

We were alone along that long stretch of coconut lined road and the ocean was still and the night was full of stars. There were no clouds at all.

And that is why I can never love this perfectly beautiful New England Christmas as much as I love that imperfectly balmy-cool Christmas in Manila.

lovers-silhouette

Manila bay sunset. From http://www.tripadvisor.com

first loves

 

Ana thinks that, maybe, first loves are overrated.

But they are definitely powerful. They evoke images that are iconic to one’s personal legend. They remind her of archaic concepts like innocence, hope and the giddiness of childhood.

picture2_11-22-14

Christian sleeping. He would definitely kill Ana for taking his picture.

 

For Ana, first love means writing and Christian and romantic fiction. Not necessarily in that order.

Therese used to tease that she is a closet romantic.

“You want to see the world as some sort of idealized Monet painting. And then you go on nervous breakdowns when somethings happens to jolt you to the fact that it’s not.” Therese observes.

Claude_Monet,_Impression,_soleil_levant

“Impression, Sunrise” by Claude Monet. Image from Wikipedia. Ana loves sunrises more than sunsets.

 

Ana frowns. “I thought we were talking about my social anxiety. Where does Monet come into all this?”

“Ana, darling, your work is just a part of who you are. It is not you. You do not love your work, that’s fine. That doesn’t diminish it in any way. Those who say that one should do only what one loves, well they’re assholes. Or they are rich bitches who can afford to choose jobs.”

Ana sighs, “Well, we have already established that I’m definitely not rich. And while I do not hate my job, I do not love it either. Therese, there would be days when I got so stressed with the demands of my work that all I wanted was TO DIE!! To just drop down and die. The only thing stopping me was the great sex I was having with my boyfriend. It made me reconsider and grudgingly conclude that life may not be so bad after all.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… and this too shall pass

Two important things happened last October.

First, was my mother’s 8th  death anniversary on October 3. And second, on October 27, I commemorated the 1st time G and I went on a date.

In this picture: The Malate Chiurch, also known as Our Lady of Remedies Parish Church. First date with G--  went to the 6 pm mass then ate at a nearby restaurant. Contact lenses got dislocated so his face looked blurred  for the most part of this date.  Memories! (Image from Wikipedia)

In this picture: The Malate Church, also known as Our Lady of Remedies Parish Church. First date with G– went to the 6 pm mass then ate at a nearby restaurant. Contact lenses got dislocated so his face looked blurred for the most part of this date. Memories! :)                                                                                    (Image from Wikipedia)

That is my life, it seems, the morbid and the glorious juxtaposed with each other.

My complaint to god (if there is one):  How come the morbid parts happen more often than I want? And the glorious portions end too quickly?

I can hear god’s answer: ho ho, that’s my joke for you, my dear.

Needless to say, I am not often fond of god’s sense of humor.

***

Last September, a writer named Charlotte Kitley died. I do not know her but her words moved me.

So here they are –

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/charlotte-kitley/bowel-cancer-charlotte-kitley_b_5836238.html

So I guess,  what one learns from all this is that no matter how brief and inconsequential our “stuff” may be, in the end our words remain.

And if those words manage to touch some other sentient being, then all our “stuff”, however petty, small or ordinary,  can be elevated to some degree of greatness.

***

But then again, on a morbid note, pride is one of the seven deadly sins. And the devil’s favorite, if Al Pacino (in “Devil’s Advocate”) will be believed.