Holding Hands and Other Milestones

 

For quite a long time, there wasn’t any. Physical stuff between us is what I mean.

I can chalk up 90% of that to the fact that I am repressed; and 10% to the fact that I am naive. I actually believed him literally when he informed me that he wanted us to “be friends”. Which I interpreted to mean as something platonic.

He does not exactly fit the archetype of male that I usually have a crush on — tall, brooding mestizo types with heavy lidded gazes. He appears average — open, smiling and approachable, dark, school-boyish, straight nose, big ears, cute dimple  … but average nonetheless. That first date we had, he gave out the impression of being an agreeable teddy bear.

Maybe attraction starts with hyperawareness. An emotion that makes one feel unsafe.

I can pinpoint the exact date when this happened. The middle of June, just before a typhoon. He called my cel to tell me that he’s passing by my apartment later that day to return a CD I lent him. I had forgotten all about that CD and I couldn’t have cared less  if he returned it or not.

I was checking papers in the faculty lounge of the Psychology Department, taking advantage of the fact that classes have been suspended and I could catch up with the scut works that come with being a lowly undergrad instructor.

Me: You really don’t need to bother coming over. A typhoon’s brewing.

Jonas:  It’s not raining yet.

Me: But it soon will. Manila might get flooded.

Jonas: I’ll bring a car.

Me: To return a CD? Just take it, I don’t listen to that anyway.

Jonas: Why don’t you want to see me?

Me: It’s not that I don’t want to see you. But I don’t see the point of you being hassled coming here just to return a CD.

Jonas: It’s not a hassle. Look, have you had lunch?

Me: Uhh … no.

Jonas: So I’ll bring some food and we  can have lunch together.

In my culture, there is something about eating with another person that breaks the ice. Something about sharing one’s bread or whatever. And also, I was really hungry.

Now I am thinking, if I didn’t really like him, I could have lied and told him that I had already eaten even if the truth is that my stomach was rumbling like crazy. Or I could have told him that I was really busy. Or I could have told him to drop dead.

Since I didn’t do any of those things, I found myself at 4 pm  alone in the faculty dining room with this guy I dated once almost half a year ago, who appeared seemingly out of nowhere to return a music CD that I  couldn’t care less about.

He looked thinner than I remembered, his eyes sunken and tired. He still had the same smile, though, the one that would light up and transform his face. I could have imagined it, but he looked really happy to see me. Please note that this is is the first time we’ve seen each other in 4 months and that there was no communication between us during that time; save for a conversation over text a month ago when he asked me about withdrawal from amphetamines.

He brought two paperbags-full of Chinese food, the bag had the logo of a well-known restaurant in Banawe.

Jonas asked, “Why are you working?”

“Why should’t I?”

“Classes are suspended. People are either in their homes or in the malls.”

“I don’t have money for the mall, and I can’t finish all these paperwork at home,” I pointed out. By this time I was famished; I had to help myself to a steamed bun inside that paperbag.

I was munching away and he was looking at me like a doting father. “How’s your drug addiction?” I asked tactlessly, half joking.

“I was not the one into drugs.”

“Who was?”

“My uh … a friend.”

“And how’s your friend?”

“She tried to commit suicide last night. I just left her this morning in the ICU.”

I stared at him open mouthed. He sounded flat, toneless, definitely not joking. “Oh god, Jonas, I am so, so sorry!”

Silently, he took my hand (the left one that was not holding a pork bun) , and started tracing my palm with his fingers. “Me too.”

Half Truths

And so to bed. This is where the power shifts. If hes good for you in bed, youre now in trouble. If youre good for him, hes now in trouble. Bed is the fulcrum of the power shift.  (Erica Jong)

***

It is the truth – and like most truths, is only a half of the whole Truth – that the only time Jonas can shut Alice up is when he kisses her.

Alice has been musing about this hard-to-digest fact while reading up on the very dry, very boring topic of myths about gender as proposed by the American intellectual Anne Fausto-Sterling.

Fact: Jonas was the first male to have ever kissed her,  and the first person she has ever had sex with. True, she is probably limiting her education by not exploring other amorous options. However,  it is entirely possible to prove a point using one subject instead of a sample of 100.  Alice just can’t figure out exactly what that point is.

Fact: Sex with another person can rattle someone in a way that masturbation can’t. Maybe it is because of the foreign-ness of having another person’s body-part insinuating itself into yours. She has long dispensed with the requisite Catholic guilt and neurosis that accompanies masturbation. But still, a week, a month, 6 months  after you-know-what happened, she is still not sure if the experience had given her something, or if she’s simply been had.

Fact:  She considers it an act of kindness to have told him that she loves him long before she was certain what it meant to say “I love you”.  Until now, she is suspicious of this entity, this label, this concept that flows so easily from his mouth; and  yet so difficult for her to acknowledge.

Over-analysis has probably been the downfall of many women (and men) who cannot trust the truth that what they feel is what they feel; and, anyway, to hell with psychology!

Last night,  they were working in this apartment; he in his laptop, she in hers.

Kim was out (saving the dregs of broken humanity in the government hospital  where she was on surgical duty) so Alice and Jonas had the place all to themselves. Before she went,  Kim reminded Alice of the electric and water bills to be paid; and told Jonas that the pipes in the kitchen are busted again and can he “sweetie please” kindly see if he can do something about it. As usual,  Jonas was his usual cheerful self acquiescing with Kim’s request.

Alice felt it imperative to point out: “It really is not your job to fix our pipes; I can easily call a handyman;  there are a lot of them around Malate who needs the work.”

“It’s okay, I want to do it.”

“Have you fixed a broken pipe before?”

“No. But it’s pretty straightforward. I can figure it out.”

“Or you will just google it.”

“Correct.”

What Alice hates is the self-assured way he said “correct”;  the self-assured way he barges into her life.  Appearing and disappearing at regularly irregular intervals  with no explanations in between.  Telling her that he loves her and expecting her to believe it. She hates it that he appears to feel hurt when she put that so-called “love” into rational scrutiny.

She hates it that she can stay put when he can’t.

(Teaching oneself to get used to having another person around is as difficult as teaching oneself to get used  to not having him around)

Fact: what Alice hates is that Jonas can so effortlessly make her feel like a “girl”.

About Last Night

Girl Before a Mirror" by Pablo Picasso. Image from nigerianboricua.blogspot.com

Girl Before a Mirror” by Pablo Picasso. Image from nigerianboricua.blogspot.com

Through the cracked mirror, Alice stares at herself and wonders if there is any difference between her and this woman before her now.

An hour ago, he kissed her by the gate. It was still dark outside; even the rooster in her neighbor’s yard had not deemed it fitting to crow out as was its morning ritual. He said goodbye and that he will see her in a week. She said okay and reminded him to stay safe. He smiled and said, always. Then he asked anxiously (again) if she was really alright. This time, she had to roll her eyes at him and there was a tartness in her voice when she answered that yes she is more than alright and that he should stop the Sir Galahad demeanor because she is not a damsel in distress, far from it. She had sex, lost her virginity but that doesn’t mean she got injured in any way. Jonas hugged her and he told her (again) that he loves her. Then he walked away and was gone.

Through the cracked mirror, Alice stares at herself and wonders if there is any difference about the way she feels about him now compared to yesterday.

Of course it would come to this, who was she kidding? It’s not as if they were living in the eighteenth century when remaining chaste until matrimony was paramount.

She was (is) not Maria Clara, after all. Far from it. She detests that woman, in fact. She has never understood the fascination with that Jose Rizal character, insipid weak simpering girl. But Alice, Maria Clara was a product of her time so give her a break. Why — would you be doing things differently if you were in her shoes? If you were the lovechild of an indio woman and a Spanish friar, forever surrounded by chaperones and duenas, cosseted by your shallow social climbing father, would you not have behaved like the way she did? Don’t be so goddamned superior; you would probably have been worse than Maria Clara, come to think of it!

Alice stares at herself. At her shoulder length hair that he kept playing with just a few hour ago. At her eyes, pupils dilated. She read somewhere that the sympathetic nervous system kicks in during sex and that’s the reason for the pupillary dilatation; and that girls tend to look more attractive to the opposite sex when they have dilated pupils.

Alice looks at herself and wonders what he saw in her. He often said that he finds her beautiful; which she just took with a grain of salt. Why? She wanted to badger him: what makes me beautiful? This hair? My eyes? My nose? My lips? These freckles on my face? Just what is beautiful about them?

As far as her physical attributes went, Alice was never vain. Her body, her face were what they were and that’s that. She regards them with a brutal matter-of-factness; so that she cannot understand when someone would regard them (herself) with sentiment or covetousness. She just didn’t believe that there is anything different (or special) about her face, her body compared with that of any other woman.

Alice stares and stares. She didn’t dare touch herself.

Defiance (or The Intricacies of Making Out)

boy&girl kiss

from telegraph.co.uk

There was this point during all  that fooling around; after he removed her bra but before he unzipped his pants. When they both came up for air after exchanging oral fluids for 30 minutes or more.

He saw her face and there something there that wasn’t there before. Apart from arousal (dilated pupils, skin flushing); apart from curiosity, there was … something.

That moment, Jonas felt that Alice would walk on fire for him or with him, if he asked her to.

***

Year later, she would look back and remember that night. And her memories are the same yet different from his.

Alice can remember, besides the toe-curling, lip-biting, feel-goodness — well besides that —  what she was feeling was defiance. As if Jonas was her very own rebellion against years of self-imposed discipline and abnegation. Like he was that candy that one allows oneself to eat after a month-long low calorie diet. He was like that expensive silk blouse she allowed herself to buy with her first salary.

Making out (and what came afterwards) felt like her just-rewards for being such a “good girl”.

***

from favim.com

from favim.com

There was that point while they were making out; after he took off her panties but before they were completely naked.

(That point, dear reader, was when Jonas stopped using his brain, and we all know that another part of his anatomy was doing all the thinking. Girls, give him a break … he’s a guy!)

That moment was crucial for what didn’t happen: Alice didn’t say No.

She was not drunk, she was not under drugs. She just didn’t want to say no because, what the hell, she had been saying no for 24 years and what did that prove? Besides, it felt fucking great to finally say yes.

Thirty-five

Germaine Greer, that controversial ’70’s feminist who wouldn’t give up, even now in her 70’s, once said:

“The point of an organic family is to release the children from the disadvantages of being extensions of their parents so that they can belong primarily to themselves.”

Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch, 1970

If I can find a copy of this is Booksale, it will go right to my TBR pile.

If I can find a copy of this is Booksale, it will go right to my TBR pile.

Miz Greer, much as I would like to agree, in principle, with your thesis, putting your point into practice would prick parents at their thorniest. Children, you see, are the emotional properties of their parents. And our parents have never; and will never (unless they are dead) let us forget that.

Mothers are the worst. Especially if you are a daughter. I cannot speak for the sons, but if they are there somewhere, I am sure they also have their gripes.

One’s mother almost died giving birth to you; so you owe her. For life.

Wait-just-a-fucking-minute!! I did not wish to be born … I was not exactly consulted if I wanted  to be brought into existence. So excuse me … if I resent your demands for my gratefulness. For this supposedly blessed gift called Life.

***

For a woman turning 35 (one score plus one-and-a-half decade) years old, a milestone has been reached. In medical parlance, she has arrived at a quandary called, “elderly primipara/primigravida”.

Once upon a time, when obstetrics was populated by white-men-in-white-uniform, the term “elderly primipara/primigravida” was invented. I think that its insertion into the lexicon of obstetrics residents was partly a warning sign to girls — get a man and have a baby before 35 or you will die.

Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain. A writer who died penniless. Just another chap who may just  be my role model.

Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain. A writer who died penniless. Just another chap who may just be my role model.

In truth, and statistics will show (Mark Twain did say that there are lies, more lies, and statistics) that a lot of morbidities occur in women who gestate after 35. To wit: gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, gestational trophoblastic diseases, gestational hypertension, etc, etc.

I have come to believe that girls get knocked up in their teens because they were stupid; in their twenties because of peer pressure; and give in to maternal instincts in their 30’s because they fear death.

So Miz Greer …  a child is an extension of their parents. Your thesis is a fantasy. A wonderful fantasy, like The Lord of The Rings is wonderful, but a fantasy nonetheless.

But I love you, anyway :)

Genetic Progenies

The thing about living things is that reproduction for them is a biological imperative. Like take the virus, for example — its main reason for being is to produce another virus and then another and another; until it is just swimming in a sea, an ocean of its copies.

FYI, humans are not viruses. Although we are mammals (and the creationists would probably disagree), we have developed this thing called “culture” and we have (supposedly) this trait called “rational thought” ; so that our actions are governed by them and not by instincts alone. We act after an intelligent discernment of our condition and surroundings — ideally.

So genetic progenies are not necessarily bad, if they are already there. Like, kicking and screaming and demanding for milk or attention. If they are still zygotes … well their right to “live” is probably debatable. I think that the right of a living, breathing, thinking, woman should take precedence over a zygote’s … but that’s just me.

It is terribly insulting and very sexist to ask a woman why she doesn’t have a child; men are never asked that question (thank you Zooey Deschanel for that wonderful idea!).

There may be something racist and classist in perceiving minority women or poor women as irresponsible  sluts for having kids like rabbits. However … I have met some of these women … and they can sound very irresponsible. I lay the blame on their parents though, for not bringing them up well and not giving them a good education. Parents can so fuck up their children’s lives — especially when/if those children become parents themselves. Talk about a cycle of irresponsibility.

There is a whole world of reason why women (hey men are part of this too, or aren’t they?) have or do not have genetic progenies. Sometimes, there may not even be a reason. It (the pregnancy) just happened.

Like a thunderstorm or an earthquake.

I was interviewing a pregnant patient, and I was counseling her on family planning. She tells me that after this child, she does not want another. So I suggest, that she and her husband should decide on a family planning method. I drone on and on about the methods that are available. And this morning, the woman gave birth, and I offered her the family planning method that is currently available in the clinic which is IUD. The woman refused; said that she will just take the pill. I do not believe her. This is her fifth child by husband number 4 and I have this niggling feeling that she keeps having children to have a hold over the men she has relationships with.

I am saying this from the point of view of the child, who was not asked to be born: Hey parents, it is not your right to have kids. If you cannot bring us up in a manner that will not make us a nuisance to society, then do not have us at all. Underpopulation is currently not a world problem. And hey, it should be okay to have sex … I mean what hypocrisy is it that you tell a 15 year old child to preserve her virginity when sex is so much fun that you “accidentally” had me when you were young.

Fuck.

 

***

Reading Lists:

http://mic.com/articles/112910/12-women-who-had-the-best-response-to-society-s-biggest-expectation

http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/08/25-famous-women-on-childlessness.html

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/kids

http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/03/when-men-want-kids-and-women-arent-so-sure.html

http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/gender-issues/83453-early-pregnancy-philippines?utm_content=buffere26f1&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/money/10-differences-between-middle-class-and-rich-people.html

Words

I have never learned how to speak Bisaya.

Not surprising; since 99% of my life was spent in Luzon. There are over 150 languages spoken in this country that I call home. And I only know 2 of them! Shame on me.

We did have a culture before King Philip of Spain and Uncle Sam invaded our land. We were a hodge podge of many tribes; one of those tribes were the Tagalogs; and this was their ancient language called alibata. Blame the Spanish friars for eradicating it from modern society. How's that, Pope Francis! Another historical fact, the Catholic Church should say mea culpa for.

We did have a culture before King Philip of Spain and Uncle Sam invaded our land. We were a hodge podge of many tribes, not so different from the different Scottish clans before the English invasion. One of those tribes were the Tagalogs; and this was their ancient language called alibata. Blame the Spanish friars for eradicating it from modern society. How’s that, Pope Francis! Another historical fact the Catholic Church should say mea culpa for?

Once upon a time, when I was a student, the topic of National Language was an emotional and personal pet crusade. I would debate someone, anyone who would dare to malign Filipino and insist on English’s superiority as a medium of expression. Blame it on the university where I graduated. It insisted on equating “love of country” to “love of national language”.

I was (and still am) an expert Filipino speaker. My first articles and stories were in Filipino. The stories I love passionately (Edgardo M. Reyes and Lualhati Bautista’s novels; Gerardo Sicat and Genoveva Edroza Matute’s short stories, to name a few) and the poems that I used to emulate (Francisco Balagtas’s “Florante at Laura”, Jose Corazon de Jesus’s “Ang Pamana”, Teodoro Agoncillo’s “Republikang Basahan” etc.) were all in Filipino.

It was Mr. F. Sionil Jose that made me realize that the Filipino language (much as the Philippine’s official Language Commission would try to deny it) is actually the Tagalog language with some variations.

 

There is nothing inherently wrong with the Tagalog language. Half of my genes are Tagalog; that must be a reason for my affinity with it. However, I have been traveling to the southern parts of my country for several years now; and I found that a lot of people that I would consider my own, do not even understand me when I speak this language that the academics call “Filipino”.

I first read this book, the life story of a Manila high class prostitute when I was 19 y/o. Re-reading it for the 2nd time was week was an enlightening experience. I learned: 1. This book's values was terribly old-fashioned and Mr. Jose is probably a male chauvinist pig, but I love him anyway!; 2. This book's heroine should have been introduced to Anabel Chong, the pornographic performer who once held the record for the most men fucked in a gang bang; then this book's heroine would have learned something like "she doesn't have the corner on suffering in this world; 3. Virginity is overrated.

I first read this book, the life story of a Manila high class prostitute when I was 19 y/o. Re-reading it for the 2nd time last week was an enlightening experience. I learned: 1. This book’s values are terribly old-fashioned and Mr. Jose is probably a male chauvinist pig (but I love him anyway!); 2. This book’s heroine should have been introduced to Anabel Chong, the pornographic performer who once held the record for the most men fucked in a gang bang; then this book’s heroine would have learned something like she doesn’t have “the corner on suffering in this world”; 3. Virginity is overrated.

Traveling to Cebu, a city in the Visayas, I realized how woefully inadequate my so-called education was because I couldn’t adequately converse in Bisaya! I had to speak to taxi drivers and fishermen in Oslob beach in English!

(Nothing terrible with English … my blog is in English, for one. It is the world’s lingua franca at the moment, true. Scientific and medical journals are written mostly in this language. My favorite writers write in English!

But the roots of this language has nothing to do with my geography. And it is useful and fun and I love it but …

Sunrise in Oslob. Oslob is a southern town in Cebu island. And what's remarkable about it is that every morning, huge whalesharks would swim very near the beach and go so near the fishermen that they would feed them.

Sunrise in Oslob. Oslob is a southern town in Cebu island. And what’s remarkable about it is that every morning, huge whalesharks would swim very near the beach and go so near the fishermen that they would feed them.

Tumalog Falls. a very charming, very pretty waterfall, also in the town of Oslob.

Tumalog Falls. a very charming, very pretty waterfall, also in the town of Oslob.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.. but it is not … entirely mine.

And there is something heartbreakingly sad when a person from Kansas cannot converse with a fellow American from New York because they don’t have the same language, and they have to talk using German to understand each other.) 

***

So these are just words.

And someday, if I’m really bad, they will be forgotten.

***

By the way, the term “I love you” in Bisaya is “Ginihugma ako ha nimo.”

Okay, Cebuanos and other Bisaya-speakers  can shoot me now.