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We all are a member of some sort of groups on Facebook whose members are people we have not seen for ten years or more. Aside from the occasional informally organized reunions that take place once every two years during the Christmas season, we ‘ve never truly caught up with most of these people because we’ve already moved and tread on with our own individual journeys. Holding on to the past will simply slow down our ply forward.
I’ve recently received notification on Facebook about a photo taken more than eleven years ago of the Delta platoon of my high school CAT program. It was a very old photo taken by our high school’s official photographer scanned for the sole purpose of being uploaded on Facebook. For throwback Thursday says one of the hash tags.
I was not in the picture but was tagged by one of the private cadets on the photo who’s a classmate. He is now working in the Middle East. He’s a family man. His profile picture on Facebook is that of his beautiful daughter, smiling innocently at the camera. Had I taken a similar path as this classmate, I would’ve already a child of my own and my Facebook page less a celebration of the self than about my child.
I was my high school CAT corps commander. The conversation about the photo revolved on an incident that happened one Friday afternoon more than eleven years ago. It’s a funny banter about a control freak corps commander who found them hiding in one of the classrooms of first year students, foiling their effort to evade the unforgiving 4pm brigade formation under the still scathing afternoon sun. Of course they never forgot to mention the number of push-up they had to perform as punishment for their act.
I joined the happy exchange. My tone was that of a nostalgic old man looking back with a satisfied smile at a past long gone.
Versions of the story varied a little; some people I couldn’t recall to be there had sworn they were. Our memories being less stable than the ground we tread on shake uncontrollably most of the time. Every time we retrieve data stored in the mildewy recesses of our minds we struggle to recall. But we always allow for so much leeway, for some inconsistencies in details, for contradictions because this is how memory works. We invent, recreate, imagine. However, we seldom care. The past is for all of us to define.
But what bothers me more than the many versions of that incident is the apparent feeling of distance. My participation in the conversation on the page felt forced. My fakeness was so palpable I was ashamed of myself. The language they use, the slang from eleven years ago which they still pepper their sentences with sounded dated. Nothing changed it seemed to most of us.
That classmate who posted the photo said I was furiously shouting at them that afternoon. I was very mad, he wrote.
I laughed. How could I be so passionate about something that my memory has failed to store?
This is what eleven years does to all of us.
Contrary to what most people say about early morning rush, it does not have only one version. Its depiction in popular culture: a man or a woman with a venti tumbler of brewed coffee in tow and a leather sling bag coiled around his or her neck running or brisk walking to work is, like what I said, only one of the many possible permutations of this ugly phrase.
I am yet to see a version of a guy teaching Literature. It must be like this,
He wakes up at five in the morning, languishes in his bed for the next 30 minutes checking his Facebook, emails, a couple of international news site, then a national news site. He then comes up with a dreary opinion about where the world is heading. Feeling a little morose because the real seems to be heading nowhere, he clambers out of his bed and on to the kitchen to make some coffee. While waiting for it percolate,
He snatches a book from a nearby shelf, reads a chapter or spends several minutes sitting on the toilet bowl hoping to finish a short story right at the same moment the reason he is seated on a toilet bowl is successfully concluded.
It’s six o’clock. He goes out to the balcony to take a glimpse of the rising sun turning the sky tangerine by the seconds until it bursts into a bright lemony hue. Then it’s just the dreaded blue.
He goes to the corner of his unit, drops like a log and executes with perfection 50 push-up reps. He stands up, catches his breath, and again drops like a log, this time with less attention to form, does 30 push-up reps.
He then rushes to pick a nice pen from among his more than 50 different pens stacked neatly somewhere close to his working table. He grabs a clean sheet of paper and begins writing down his thoughts. He imagines himself being in class, trying a little too hard to make himself believable before a group of students who seems unconvinced.
It’s seven. The caffeine in his first cup proves insufficient, so he pours another cupful. Minutes after, his heart is on an overdrive. He can hardly think because the beating of his heart drowns whatever thought his brain is attempting to articulate. He writes organic, paralysis, invisibility, dichotomy, anathema, archetypal, and scribbles notes around the circled name of the protagonist.
At 7:30, he races to the shower, takes a quick bath, dries himself up, wears a shirt in muted color and pattern which is de riguer among professors of Literature, takes it off, and eventually decides on wearing a tight red shirt.
At eight, he appears all set.
I just got to write about this because I do not want to look back to this part of my life someday and find nothing written about it. It can’t be this eerily quiet. This is for my benefit.
I continually make stupid decisions.
And I suffer terribly because of them.
I am indifferent toward the color gray, but for the first time, I feel so much affinity and empathy for it.
You know who you are.
(Written on 15 June 2014)
Sadly Virgin Labfest is ending today. I watched two sets for two Saturdays; that’s a total of six plays. The plays were definitely worth the almost an hour of queueing for tickets and the long commute from Quezon City all the way to CCP in Manila.
Paying 270 pesos for an escapist Hollywood flick at an SM cinema and be seated next to a really bad audience or paying three hundred for each set and be carried to three different, highly-charged slices of life in a single night is a no brainer comparison. The plays are a runaway winner.
I hope we can have something like the Virgin Labfest all year round.
This is a miserable corner of the living room. All books I have no plans of reading soon are placed here, hopelessly waiting for boredom to prod their soon-to-be owner to sample them.