Night before posting grades

With the grades of my students due tomorrow, I know this night will be spent caressing their papers like an estrus lover, making sure I take into consideration everything they have poured into their works or I’ll miss the all-essential sap that will comprise their grade. I hate the idea of evaluation, of appraisal, of giving equivalents to works whose values will never be accurately and precisely quantified regardless of rubrics that attempt to minimize subjectivity as much as possible. But like everything, unless I am able to come up with something better, I have to make do with what I have at present.

While I am groping my Excel sheet and fingering a small calculator (as I have never fully mastered, and trust, this Excel thing), my laptop plays Eraserheads (how dated) just to remind me how it was being an insecure, acne botched undergraduate student to also give me that sense of empathy and to drizzle myself some form of level-mindedness amid pressure.

I am not a difficult teacher, I think.

I hated giving a 5.0 and do not enjoy keying in an F.

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Dinner for one

After I said good-bye to two of my students who did their final presentations this afternoon, I left consultation room number eight of the English Department feeling and relishing that freedom. I am at last unbounded by deadlines, deliverable, and to-dos. The sunset was strikingly beautiful and the leaves of eucalyptus trees along the path to Leong Hall were very graceful as they swayed with the cool late afternoon wind. I walked with insouciance, unhurried for the first time in ten months.

From Katipunan, I made an unplanned trip to the grocery for dinner. I bought a kilo of fresh salmon belly, some greens, and fresh spices. I waited for Babe’s text, but it seemed that the SMS wasn’t anymore coming so I went on with my plan and cooked dinner for one at eight.

I am considerably adept now in the kitchen, able to move around quickly minus the spills, burns, and splatters, unlike before when I would take out all the content of the fridge and the cupboard before I can produce a turd-looking, mangled sunny-side-up egg. Since I bought my pans and cooking utensils, I make sure I cook daily. I’ve been doing this for almost two weeks now.

The evil of fast food has never been more emphatically pilloried as when I compare it to my cooking. (I am not in any way trying to imply that I am excellent at it. No one, though, has expressed abhorrence to my cooking yet. My brother enjoys free meals and has not said any word about it.)

In a matter of 30 minutes, or less, I came up with salmon cooked in butter and a lot of garlic and a gorgeous-looking salad in olive and toasted basil dressing.

I have gotten so used to always having dinner with somebody that I thought I already forgot how it feels to dine alone. But like anything that we have grown up having and eventually ‘losing’, we still often catch ourselves surprised whenever we find out that there are things that tenaciously glued themselves to us, things we can never fully let go of or live without even though we thought all along that they’ve been long gone, deserted us for forever.

For how can a man so used to solitude all of a sudden declare his inability to have dinner by himself?

I must have gotten scared of being alone again, thinking it was impossible to revert to those dinners where I faced a blank wall while eating my plate of unpalatable unknowns, being seated next to a stranger while I was toying an overdone beef with my fork, or unsuccessfully keeping myself from hearing garrulous undergrads while I force-fed myself with pork swimming in its despicable grease.

It’s impossible to tell whether this is mere routine or a vestige of some pre-human instinct biologically wired in us through evolution. This recently learned (conditioned) desire to eat with somebody felt oddly good, not better than eating alone, though, as they each exists on different planes of pleasure.

While I was having dinner this evening, I knew I was my old self again–enjoying a simple meal, but this time I cooked the dinner myself, not feeling any remorse, as I should have been spending this time with somebody too special I’d ask a random customer questions as unimaginable as ‘Is salmon better than cream dory?‘.

To some, loneliness means eating alone. If I were younger, if it were three years ago, then I would agree with them. But I guess, years of living alone and spending countless dinners with so many somebodies and even more dinners by myself taught me that however you look at it, a good dinner is a good dinner regardless of whom you’re eating it with, or whether you’re having it quietly in a room where the only sound you hear is the sound created by your tongue smacking your upper palate as you masticate that delicate pink salmon or with somebody while whispering sweet nothings to each other.

And of course, how can I forget, a good meal is never complete without a nice cup of tea after.

A small challenge

Anyone who can guess what this picture means will get this as prize.

Oh yeah, I know meanings are never static, but cut me that crap this time. This sketch has a fixed meaning in the mind of the person who drew this. And you need to guess what that was.

Write your answer on the comment box below; include your name and email (the email will not be published, believe me). Good luck!

The tale of our Hachiko

Hachiko is Baby’s gift to me on our third month. I must have hinted that I wanted a fish, and I must have jokingly specified I wanted a fighting fish in one of our late night conversations.

He’s a Siamese fighting fish, doomed to eternally live a solitary life.

I had six pet goldfish when I was in college who stayed with me until just before graduation.  They all perished when my landlady, whom I left them to be taken care of while I was studying in Kuala Lumpur, overfed them with those green-and-red pellets.

I named all my goldfish before so when they died because of my landlady’s over-eagerness, I felt that gaping hole of having lost loved ones. But I never blamed my landlady as fishes have naturally short lifespan, though I won’t deny that I had this urge to serve her coffee mixed with what was left of my fish’s pellets after she told me that she killed my pets.

I can’t have a dog because I move around quite often (and I never really liked dogs; they’re overly patronizing and love licking). Cats are fine because they’re intelligent, independent, scheming, and non-obtrusive, but I can’t have one unless I have a place I own.

I guess, so long as I continue living a life like this, moving from one place to another almost every six months, I can have nothing but fish as pets. I do nothing much except to feed them every morning and change the water in the bowl every weekend.

Then Hachiko arrived.  We had to eliminate other names from our long list–Curry (because that night I cooked curry for my baby, Fynn because of his beautiful fins, Peacock, Cock, Alabama, some other odd-sounding suggestions, then finally, Hachiko). He is named after that faithful Akita dog who waited 9 years for the coming of his master  in front of the Shibuya station in Japan.

My first glimpse of Hachiko was his beautiful fins fluttering in the water inside a fragile glass that was wrapped in newspaper and plastic bag under the bathroom sink. I peeked inside but acted like I did not see anything so I would not spoil my Baby’s surprise.

I had to sneak him to my unit because my condo prohibits its tenants from having pets. A week ago, while moving his tank, I accidentally broke it, so I had to temporarily place him in a plastic pail in the bathroom while I rushed to a hardware to buy a glass tank but ended up in the grocery and bought a transparent cookie jar instead.

The first thing I do in the morning before I start with my morning rush it to check my Hachiko and feed him with flakes (not anymore the green-and-red pellets) that promise to give him brilliant scales and lush fins.

Hachiko has given me something to look forward to after a tiring day. And something to remind me that he’s from somebody whom I love so much and who loves me back as much.

Half-invigorated

The previous week was nothing short of things that overwhelmed and shocked my core. I thought I would not come out whole. But a few seconds ago I checked, I am as whole as ever, only a little tired.

I had to submit three papers for my master’s classes, meet my students for consultations on their papers, attend to my brother who was admitted for a week in the hospital, coordinate the writing of a book for an NGO I’m working for, comply with the requirements of the new program I’m moving to (I’m transferring from Journ to Asian Studies next sem) and the list continues.

I am beginning to grow sick of complaining about the things I’m going through these days; I hate listening to my own rants and rambles.

And I’m just happy to be back here.