Poetic justice

Seeing the rubble of what was once a monument to snootiness–I heard the old rich of Varsity Hills Subdivision cried their lungs out while the men of Quezon City’s demolition team snatched the CCTV cameras and hammer to the ground the gate and guard house that used to stand for the oppressiveness of the homeowners’ association–may just be one of the most gratifying feelings I have had in a while.

I did not witness the performative poetic justice served piping hot, but seeing the wreckage and the road free for both cars and pedestrians to use is enough. It’s like watching a Greek tragedy and being spared of witnessing the violence that has just transpired as one only sees the aftermath, only this time, the homeowners are not the tragic character–they are the vile villains in Mexican telenovelas of the 90s, unrepentant until the very end.

Catharsis for the audience is served just as well.

For the longest time, the wealthy of Varsity Hills Subdivision had been claiming the public road as theirs by enclosing it in gates they had constructed and placing their guards that are ordered to stop the people who do not look middle-class enough or who will not answer back in grammatically correct English.

While taking pictures, for this post, the entire drama is summed up by that woman riding a motorcycle who gave me that very meaningful smile that borders between victory and what can be said in Tagalog a “beh, buti nga!” In my language we call it “gaba”.

We need to witness dramatic scenes like this more often.

A stray dog

We humans think in symbols (albeit unconsciously, and most of the time use symbols that are a part of the general repertoire of symbols so unoriginal and fully embedded in the language we fail to realize that they are in fact symbolic).

And we impose gravity on these objects that so happen to be there in the most opportune of moments and associate with them meanings both frivolous and profound. Often, we begin by using them as a metaphor, an all-purpose cliche to simplify thoughts, but which also has this very insidious effect of rendering our thoughts banal, even dead, if chosen haphazardly and in a way that is uninterrogated. (Which is almost always the case. As who has the time to examine one’s choice of metaphors in speech?)

But in some very rare instances, we strike at something novel, pure, original, and powerful that we get dumbstruck at how metaphors, if chosen correctly achieve the status of a true symbol, recurring and with multiple layers of meanings. And dangerous because they function as a frame by which look at the world.

This afternoon, on my way home, I saw this black Labrador. I used to see him last year with an older-looking Labrador who by the looks of it was in the twilight of his dog life. They were inseparable. Then this year, this guy has been seen plying Alvero Street every afternoon alone.

Cats fascinate me more than dogs. Cats seldom show emotions and feign independence. Dogs are rather predictable, unashamed of dependency. Dogs are sad creatures programmed to suffer from a tragic old-age. Cats expire in privacy that is of their own choosing, untheatrically. They don’t experience abandonment because they are no one’s pet to begin with. One doesn’t feel nostalgic towards things he doesn’t experience or believe to have experienced.

For dogs, it’s different. It’s heart rending to see an ageing canine walking on a street alone and abandoned. It’s sad because they had a taste of love and warmth but are deprived of it at a time in their lives when they need these the most. To be conditioned to feel love for one’s entire existence then to be divested of it is painful, and to witness one creature experience it is as painful to the observer.

When I was told that he’s called by someone in his past a stray dog I had nothing but pity and guilty empathy. I wanted to run my hand on his hair, look at him in the eyes, and tell him I will not abandon him, but I have nothing to prove that I will stay true to this promise. I barely know him. I don’t know his fear, his dreams, or the extent of evil he’s capable of doing. I only see what is good because that is what is allowed by our young relationship.

To declare that I will be loyal to him, to be with him, forever, will not make me any different from that person who promised the solitary Labrador that he will be with the dog until his dying days.

I, like any human being, am capable of leaving behind the things, pets, and people I care so much about.

And this is the folly of the human being. But it doesn’t mean that we stop making this promise, that we give up on attempting to stay true to this promise, that we don’t articulate this promise.

Because after all, everything begins with that promise. To have it is better than nothing at all. To experience love no matter how short is better than to not have experienced it at all. To hope that forever exists is a choice I shall make than to forever doubt its probability.

Delusional, sure.

But so what? This is what our brief existence allows–forever.

Why have we become like this?

A friend of mine, a young woman of 26, asked me if she could leave before three today to join a protest rally on Katipunan, which if a critical mass is reached, will head to EDSA this evening. I indifferently said yes and told her to just make up for the lost hours next week. I on the other hand had to stay until 6 at the school to work on the evaluation of the French class students. I have papers to check this weekend, a class to prepare for, and cats to take care of. I also have to catch up on my workout as I haven’t gone to the gym for a week now because of work.

The people I see on the street, those my age, show that similar look of resignation, save for some undergraduates in their PE shirts or long tees who seem poised to change history tonight.

For all the rest, this protest on EDSA against the clandestine burying of the remains of Marcos is an annoyance, a cause of this monster traffic. The reason they’re stuck on buses on their way home to Fairview or Bacoor.

This is what has become of us. Work has made us unresponsive to events and happenings that would otherwise scandalize us had we been not rendered docile and satisfied but unthinking by work. I hate this feeling. This is what it means to be an adult; I hate that I am one.

I told myself a long time ago when I was much, much younger, that I would be part of history unfolding. That I will not stay home and let pass that rare opportunity to make a difference in this country. But look at me now. I’m scurrying to go home, cursing the traffic on EDSA just to catch some sleep.

And the saddest thing is that, passing by EDSA shrine, I saw a small crowd, hardly a critical mass enough to send the message that the people are indignant. There were several groups taking selfies while a member is holding a placard.

Everyone is tired. Everyone has gone tired. What with the unfulfilled promises of the past two People Power? The world goes on turning, with Marcos’s body finally subject to the actions of worms and vermins, after years of keeping it almost lifelike inside a tomb his family built for him.

But even rats and roaches won’t touch him. Who would want to gnaw on a dessicated body preserved in formaldehyde for almost three decades?

Life goes on.

And that is the tragedy of the Filipino, myself included, this general quiet and seeming indifference, this lack of rage at the direction this country is heading.

And my train goes to the direction of home, and I’m dying for sleep.

Another train ride

I dread the thought of being mercilessly hurled back to the daily grind, of being pathetically celebratory at every precious moment I am able to save for rest and for those short but sweet moments I spend with babe. But while I still have remaining time, a minutiae, to be happy about being a free man, I decided to might as well live the remaining time as if the next minute were to be the end of the world.

Though, I admit I miss running toward train doors about to close in on me, cursing inconsiderate people who simply stand and hum a tune at the right side of the escalator on a rush hour, rehearsing in my mind the lines I will deliver in front of my class, looking sweaty and disheveled at 7:30 am, and using a bunch of photocopies to wipe the perspiration on my forehead. There’s something about the morning rush that heightens all my sensory perceptions, except two. All these running and chasing after the wind imbue in me bionic eyes, ears, nose, while they blunt my taste buds and sense of touch. I am good at dodging people walking and running against my direction, I can hear hushed conversations full of intrigues between strangers, or smell the stink of fellow commuters, but my taste buds do not discriminate between bland and tasty and having been exposed to the very tight proximity of other people who are as rough and acrimonious as I, feeling the pain or discomfort, physical or otherwise, has been completely shut off from my system.

This afternoon, on my way to Katipunan, that comfortable train ride reminded me of the more exciting ones I’ve had and piqued my desires for more. I am looking forward to new experiences.

I am excited. Always.

I hope to employ irony, impeccably, in my blogging soon.

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.

Lost phone

I just lost my phone.

It feels like half of myself  had been forcibly taken away from me; but for some reason of supernatural sort, I feel liberated at the same time. I do not know from what, but it just feels good in a way quite difficult to explain.

I’d gone too dependent to it, from sounding the alarm every six in the morning, listing  the schedule of my daily work that I juggled quite well these days thanks to my phone, and in times when I was down, it was from it that I took strength to go on each day as it had become the medium for the inspiring words sent to me by my family and some friends or calls from my mother that never failed to calm my often distraught spirit. That blue Sony Ericsson had been an efficient extension of myself while remaining inconspicuous throughout.

At 7:30 this morning, while I was in my usual hurry to leave after a quick breakfast, because of its unobtrusiveness, I forgot it on top of the table at McDonald’s. I was already in Katipunan when I realized that I left it there. I did not anymore bother to go back and killed any hope that I can still retrieve it. It’s forever gone.

Losing something as indispensable as one’s mobile can expose one to the many vulnerabilities of not being connected to the rest of one’s circle or to the rest of the world, if one wants to heighten the role he plays in the universe. However, it can also mean freeing oneself from the shackles of the modern world and its insistence on materialism. And finally appreciating life for what it truly is–beautifully simple.

Losing one’s mobile is the nearest one can get to the ascetic lifestyle, like that of a hermit, when nothing matters but the mind and the possibilities it can contain, unbefuddled by the pressures of modern living. It’s finally realizing that happiness is not a result of accumulating and possessing material wealth but that it emanates from something bigger, more sublime than our very corporeal existence.

Then I remember I was waiting last night for a message from a friend about her comment on the write-up I did for her boss. I remember I had this very chummy correspondence with a high school ex. I remember I was expecting for a call from an organization I submitted an application to more than a week ago.

And the truth hit me coldly in the forehead. I JUST LOST MY PHONE!