And verily the day ended as expected. How could it have departed otherwise? We seek God in many wonderful tenses. They are not as countless as numbers; yet, and yet, ‘It’ can happen without them, counts—whatever, wherever they lead you, but back again like a snake biting its own tail. The end of the poem. And also, the beginning of whatever cannot be introduced by numbers—supposing we lose count out of weariness. The beginning of the poem. Did I say something? Did I happen while, askance, surveying my fingers? Did I count myself?
It’s the eve of the dead. I never felt deader than the dead.
There were six of us, each presumably a decent, mature soul drifting in the corridors of our autonomous individual self-façades; a uniquely assembled album of tissues, a carte du jour of aging physiologies; charters of biochemistry, ‘bodies’, say, our constitutions, or whatever name they get in the sciences probing into the complications of human nature.
There were six of us that any science could plumb through, or correct if at all it would succeed getting near us. Another storm is approaching. That’s meteorology getting near us. The glass wall is revealing the statistical probabilities any math could make of people lining up on the taxi bays, of cars full blast on their headlights, down four storeys from where we could view the slowly building rundown of human reactions to Santi.
On the dining table, back up at Tongyang in mega, we were giving out numbers, integers, calculus, atoms, and minds as we sank into our glasses of draught beer and the excellent food, a blend of sea harvests—shrimps, the most scrumptious—and local gastric varieties, gently sizzling in front of us on two round food basins like fixed kitchen sinks hollowed out, forming two simmering coeliac concaves, in the middle of the dining table. The mild rains outside were announcing the median, the average, the differential, the Nijmegen, the Manchester, and, not to be left out, the ecstatic of the algorithm of the skyline. Four of us are keeping distinct professions in our wallet: a statistician, an engineer, a social scientist, and an ecstatic wanderer. But then I wonder if thinking can still be a profession.
I was seated next to Joseph on my right, next to him, his beautiful wife Meanne. We were dining on a long table; in front of us, Bong, unaccompanied, and Deks with his genial wife May. I was the last to join in the company, like the engineer, single-handedly.
Joseph is picking up the tab for a despedida dinner. He is flying to Las Vegas.
Of my male friends Joseph is one of the few closest to me. There is no comparison. Another friend of mine would tease us it’s suspiciously homoerotic. But no, it’s not something like that for all I care about Freud, Lacan, or Lou Andreas-Salome. And yet I suspect Joseph for his mightily clean shade, something I am not the only one that’s been able to pull across the times we have been running a friendship, or call it a eudemonic alternative to the monotonous yet effort-intensive way of modern living.
We can suspect just about anybody for the mystery there is about people, their origins, the smell of breath with which they pollute the air, the moral offenses they weigh in to the depressing sins of humanity; their dark untold secrets, their activities behind the shadows of other people they can befriend or negotiate for cover, what with the clothes they wear, the language they speak, the competence they project, the undies with which virilities are carefully disguised, the questionable history behind libidinal lives, the juices, the saps, the urging essences with which they burn fantasies, their desires, the sexual catch-22s and all; the soul they dangle on the fringes of existence. It was Joseph’s moment to reveal himself to us.
I am closely watching her. She is asleep, her pain buried somewhere, or languishing on the trail of a secret she discovered. She must have memorized all the lines that divide my heart and hers, my world, my impossibility, her womb, her child, her completion that’s twitching her lot before she enters into the threshold of motherhood. I felt the lump in my chest…How could I feign saintliness…In the background— whispering memory of a father long dead…
…Try to look at everything you wasted before the two of you suffered reverses: she came down the aisle; you— at the front end of the altar brooding in your hand-washed barong, wearied of sex. Recall how you ran the gauntlet and braved the roads, throttled your heart like an athlete you were, beaming on your sole spotlight, your sole error, your soles aching with sores you could worry about later in bed with your girl. You seldom feel now how fast or slow time moves—was it moving before running the syzygy to spawn a being, whatever you were thinking while coming toward yourself? Did you move while asking? Or did you move the bed?
That vocal piece of a father didn’t survive to witness a wedding day.
Joseph never knew a father. Well, he knew who his father was. He decided though to carry his mother’s maiden surname Mercado.
A week from a farewell dinner he organized, he would be leaving. He would carry with him a wound he is nourishing. He would spend some time forgetting how it was in this country, in his hometown in Mindoro, his first urban experience in Tondo, and every ground his peppy pair of walking and running locomotives made landings on, felt the turbulence on his wings, got entangled with some of his most precious dreams he never accomplished.
Rumors had it that he would be replaced as dean of his college, ahead of the expiration of his appointment.
In one of our private conversations, he told me how he felt strongly for the downside of his being so meticulously impossible. Those were not his exact words though.
I was putting words into his mouth, noting just the same, that each of us—people—is impossible already just by simply existing in the way each of us ‘stand outside the time’ we were all born into.
We were born in that warp of time that, after committing ourselves to life and all the trials in store for us since birth, we would later learn, wish, and seek to get out of. If only to protest the fact that we didn’t choose to be born at all, and yet how come we are doomed to age before dying into the great nothing, dissipate into the vast timeless womb of creation, from which we became.
People are alike only in this regard: we are all captives of the sting of freedom, rich or poor, man or woman, or in-between lives that challenge moral proprieties; of flying out from the time of creation, never wanting to rest our wings, claiming ownership to our taste of victories and miseries, our dual lives as simultaneously existing and dying—we bury what we cannot make use of, those that pain us, threaten our self-coherence, our self-respect, or those that shatter our optimism toward anything that pulsates with awe and excitement, like romance, like promises, like toys, like occasions, like circumstances, like the leaves of grass, like Whitman in favor of Emerson, like a useless part of us was buried with them—as only an impossible being can perform with pride, with dignity and resolution.
Like any of us capable of love, of the infinite that is the destiny of human life, of the impossible, to make. To reject our time and become as timeless as the secret of a free evolving universe.
It happened for the first time. I was on the driver’s seat, but drunk as always. Meanne, so attractively composed on her white shirt matched to faded skin tight jeans, was on the passenger seat next to me, teaching me to switch on the panel to run the wiper. The rains were pouring. I was trailing a black Montero, then, a truck, and many other lazily rolling vehicles; I was having my time tinkering with the gears. Joseph was snoozing his worries at the back seat. It wasn’t my car. It was the wife’s and the husband’s. I was a stranger in this conjugal spin of events.
I couldn’t recall how I found myself in front of a McDonald joint. And there I was a man desperately looking for answers…There were snapshots of trains, of avenues, of ladies’ skirts, of a lock of hair that smelt of detergent, of a crowd of street urchins singing early carols, a dispatcher pointing at me, a blind woman following me who seemed to know her way so much than I do, all the jumble of abstracts my mind was absorbing. I was talking to a shadow…
…I asked the man
alighting his cigar from his mouth:
What about the sutras
spinning above your head?
I am spinning with my question, tired
of asking every man disembarking.
The train was slumbering like it too
was tired of every man worn out
by his ignorance of the journey.
Do you want to know what these are?
The man replied.
I was about to ask you which train you came from…
October 31, 2009. Quezon City.