‘A Figure in the Distance’
It was a long time I guess since the last we met. He had grown his beard quite thick to the degree that it looked his best so far, besides the fact that I knew how he desired to grow his beard unkempt. That was the last time we talked about before he reappeared in the landscape of my memory. His name is Diego. I saw him somehow, but I didn’t see him in his physical presence. He crossed my mind, without rhyme or reason. What is he doing these days? How old is his child now?
My eyes were busy trying out the various titles on a bookstand at the lobby of Shopwise at Commonwealth while my wife was cramming for groceries inside the department store. I was carrying my nine-month old boy and we did a tandem on the titles and colorful frontispieces which caught my attention. We almost had to say Eureka! together, a twosome of eager expressions when I caught sight of ‘The Figure in the Distance’. My son was uttering something in a slow preoccupied manner as he scrambled his soft hands on the cover. It’s a biographical novel, one of my favorite reads these days. That figure is a father. The author is a son paying homage to his old man. I wondered what distance would mean, but I quickly played up the thought that there ought to be a distance between a father and a son.
He must have likened the sable gloss of the cover with a picture of an old bespectacled man framed in a thin line forming a figure of a box . I caught his eyes in their curious attention fixed on the jacket. He went on mussitating something only he knew. And then he looked up at me as his lips were starting to form a round delicate ingress of a speech-cave. I felt something in my chest, increasingly throbbing in a thoughtless carnival of patchy rhythms as he was uttering something to me. I imagined him asking me if it’s ok to remember me when I’m really gone. In the meantime, we can enjoy each other’s company without the need to fill in any gap. We can look at each other, eye to eye as we usually do. Then he would beam his sweetest and his daintiest, and I would clench my teeth to suppress my rather bizarre excitement to swallow this spotless, naïve, pure, innocuous dearest of my life. But I would only manage to plant a smooch on his fresh milk-scented cheeks.
At the back of my mind, I was listening to myself as I whispered a battered philosophic tune. I was telling myself what I was telling my students the other day. Indeed, it is ironic to find real happiness when one is perfectly oblivious to the fluctuation of one’s moods. The opposite—pain, grief, sorrow, and a deep sense of loss—is rather occasioned by a thoughtful conquest of a disposition bordering on insomnia. A mindful occupation in this sense can only indicate that somehow time has stopped, and a void has conquered a space, enough to disorient happiness, snatch the bliss from the rapture that had borne it.
But, perhaps, I was really remembering my dead father in this tricky mood, at a distance from the border of the unknown where the sands flow like water before the water melts into an infinite dry space. Strange as it was, I put the book back on the stand with the back cover facing the on-looker. The figure in the distance was then a figure in the dark converse of another world where I suppose it wouldn’t disturb a soul anymore…
About Diego. He was my college best friend. I ask myself where he is now. It is a distance that one cannot measure if only to say that I don’t have any idea where he could possibly be. What I know with certainty is that our parental obligations have all but required us to avoid contact with our impressionable ghosts as much as possible as the youths we once were, carefree and audacious with a penchant for irreversible mistakes, and what have you.
That distance also allows us to drift along our own lives, freely succumbing to the moral imperative of raising a child so that the future can abide as a future, so that it can have an unbroken stash of humanity forever an appreciative slave to its randomness, its promise of spontaneity, of combusting the energies of creation as the supply lasts. Indeed, the future owes a lot to those who had walked out on their ghosts that used to question the necessity of this metaphysical bondage to the unknown but are now fornicating with the concrete probabilities of infinity.
And then I realize how it is almost impossible to be a father if what some people say is true—that the child or the youth in us shall never perish of the hands of time. October 3, 2010