Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Reader Who Mattered The Most


It's been almost half a year since my mother passed away, and I just now realized something. The only person who read everything I had ever written -- from grade school sscribblings to high school essays to published stories to my first book to my columns for the Bulletin and the Star and articles for Esquire -- is gone. I will never get a text from her again telling me that she enjoyed a particular Friday's column, or my latest short story. My best reader (and, quite frankly, the most knowledgeable, exacting editor I ever knew) is no longer a phone call or a car ride away.Of course that loss is little compared to the loss of the woman who birthed me and raised me and loved me. But it is all part of one great loss. 

The one reader who matters the most to me is gone. I'm kind of surprised that the belated realization hasn't destroyed any notion I have of writing another story, much less another book. Perhaps that point of despair will come later, when it really sinks in. (Does it ever really sink in? Or is it just reminders out of the blue, just quick and lingering stabs, until it's my turn to go?) Or, perhaps, deep down I really must believe in some sort of afterlife, because I still feel that my continuing to write to the best of my abilities will in some way reach her, and, once again, make her proud.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Views on Toys


Tonight I was reminded (via a Facebook friend's update) of one of the few toys from my childhood that I truly enjoyed. I never had very many toys; since I started reading everything I could get my hands on at the age of three, most of the gifts I got from that point onwards were in the form of books. Which was the way I wanted it, really.

But once in a while, I got something like the side-scrolling Scramble video game from Tomy, or this: a Peanuts View-Master set. (From the Plaza Fair department store in Makati Cinema Square, I believe... Thank you, Mom.) I can't find an image online of the actual set I had -- It was a big round can which contained the View-Master and an assortment of reels, with an orange rubber lid. I can still remember the feeling of peeling off the lid, the slight escape of air, every time I wanted to get at the toy inside and click through those amazing little 3D images of my favorite cartoon characters engaged in familiar adventures. It was great.

I know I'm prone to nostalgia by nature (Nostalgia By Nature: that was my rap group in the 90s), but I seem to be recalling childhood possessions with greater clarity, or at least sharper feeling, lately. I know why, of course: it's another way of remembering my Mom, who basically chose these toys for me (sometimes assisted by my endless wheedling). Aside from the Peanuts View-Master set, she also got me the two-volume slipcase of Origins of Marvel Comics/ Son of Origins by Stan Lee (and Kirby and Ditko etc.). Not a toy, but who knows how I might have turned out without that immortal work of literature plugged into my brain at such an early age?

In principle, I don't think parents should lavish toys and gifts on their children, even if they can well afford it. When, like absolutely every other Filipino child my age, I asked for the big Voltes V toy with the five different ships that could be plugged together to form one giant robot, my Mom explained to me that it was so ridiculously expensive that they would never get it for me -- even if we won the lottery the next day, and could theoretically buy a hundred of them. It was just priced too high for a toy. That was a good lesson to shatter my mind with early on.

In the future, perhaps each child in each family will have the tools, digital and otherwise, to construct their own playthings without recourse to rapacious corporations. It could happen, a 21st century version of using your imagination and a cardboard box and/or a stick, or pieces of paper.

Still, I can't help but feel grateful for the few well-chosen toys I had, far between and few enough for me to appreciate them, and of course, above all, for the woman who chose and gave them to me. It may have been the least of the countless kindnesses she bestowed on my life, but thanks, Mom.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Sunny Morning at Mom's

I dreamed about my mother still young and beautiful and alive, and almost immediately, in the dream and in real life, I started crying uncontrollably, and then I woke up. The phrase "tears on my pillow" never had any lasting literal truth for me before this year.

I don't miss her every minute of every day, but the moments when I feel the loss come like gunshots, sudden and messy and undeniable in their impact.

Anyway, it was the endpoint of a long dream sequence that involved me being in Mick's townhouse (!) to help welcome Bobby back from the airport. This welcome back turned into a big house party which turned into a morning after, with Mick and everyone too asleep or hungover to help me home. And so I had to fight my way through streets and streets of soldiers and bus-riding mutants, Mad Max-style, just to get back to my place, which was in UP Village. (I remember Shinji Manlangit, of all people, handing me a laser rifle to help me make it through.) There was an army of people singing parody songs. There was a cult who had devoted themselves to making a warped version of Esquire Philippines, issue by issue. Yes, really.

And at the end of all this nutty chaos, Mick picked me up at home, and we went on a weekend morning to where my Mom was living, in a beautiful house with a swimming pool and a sala suffused with sunlight. Mom was sitting up on a daybed, and I had been bantering with Mick, and I turned to Mom to good-naturedly request that she berate Mick for making fun of me, and then I saw Mom so young and beautiful and alive and I immediately started crying, in the dream and in real life, and I woke up and here I am.

I love you forever, Mom.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Next Book


We don't need any new books, do we?

I used to go to Booksale about, oh, twice or thrice a week. Ever since the most recent deterioration of my eyesight -- thanks to the side-effect-laden BP meds prescribed by the sour-endocrinologist-I've-since-stopped-seeing -- I've had to give that up. I can still see the "low-hanging fruit" -- the big coffee table titles in the display window, the books stacked in front or on top of the bins -- but I can't really dig the way I used to, can barely see the spines, much less catch an attractively type-designed title from a distance.

I guess that's okay. I have too many unread books as it is. Of course I miss it though. It was a fairly reliable source of joy, and you need at least two or three of those in life to keep going, I think.

Writing is still -- or can be -- a joy. I suppose my books might be the most enduring things I will produce in this life. The thought of making more still pleases me, on the whole.

And then I think of the people for whom new books are just an excuse to hate or tear down or make themselves feel better by comparison, and I wonder, "Why bother?"

We don't need any new books, do we? Especially if they just end up being targets or paperweights.

But I can't help but still be excited about the idea of new or newly-discovered books. I now enjoy browsing through Amazon (not a great substitute for Booksale, but still). I look forward to the new Jonathan Carroll or Murakami, even if I haven't finished a Murakami since After Dark.

I still want to write things that at least people I love and respect will appreciate (and that might reach a susceptible stranger or two). There may be no point to it, ultimately, but for now, it's still something I want and try to do. And with the two new stories I finished this year, I think I finally have enough for a third book. So that's something. Or at least it's not nothing.

(Above: Possible cover study for my next book. Photo by Kidlat de Guia. Sadly, the blurb is bogus.) 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

You Should See a Doctor

You should see a doctor.

You should see a doctor who will listen to you, and not just tell you what to do. You should see a doctor who will explain to you what is happening to you, clearly and without jargon, condescension, or judgment.

You should see a doctor who will not just look at your tests and then barrage you with drugs to get your numbers down. You should see a doctor who will not insist on surgery without informing you of all the dangers and exhausting other possibilities. You should see a doctor who will not ignore your stories about how the meds or the procedures aren't working for you, and in fact seem to be making you worse. You should not see a doctor who seems profoundly unhappy about being a doctor.

You should see a doctor with an open mind, who has experience and confidence but not overconfidence. You should see a doctor who treats you like a person and not just another appointment.

You should see a doctor who, first, does no harm, and then, second, actually helps people. That's what they're supposed to do.

This House is Not Your Home

I think my deep-brain might really be trying to tell me something. Just woke up from another dream of leaving: once again, I was in my old room in UP Campus, with the pale yellow walls and the window view; once again, I was packing my things in preparation for living somewhere else. That's at least the third time this week, and it's entirely possible I've had the dream every single night, since I usually forget sleep-dreams. (Although last night's dream was about my cat having a kitten. But maybe it was a chaser-dream or a double feature.)

Things I recall coming across in the dream: my Lola Cil's hardcover, first-print edition of Kerima Polotan's The Hand of the Enemy, which is the copy I read way back when I was in grade school; a drawer full of knickknacks that I wanted to save; and a huge transparent sack of junk food, that contained among other things at least twenty little bags of caramel popcorn and one large plastic bottle of "all natural" yet obviously artificially mass-produced orange juice.

It was this last item that got me to thinking -- I suppose hoping, really -- that this recurring dream might not be a premonition of my impending death. In the dream, there was no question that I intended to discard the sack of junk. Perhaps "moving house" is a metaphor for finally transforming my ailment-ridden body into one that's in better shape. After all, I saw my new doctor earlier for the second time in as many weeks and I think she's helping me. The mood of these dreams, though, is so bittersweet-bordering-on-outright-sadness. Which would make sense if they were death dreams. But why regret leaving a crappy house/ body for a better one? But then again I guess we can learn to love -- or at least be dependent on -- anything that's familiar, no matter how shitty it is. The shittiness you know is safer than the great unknown.

Here's hoping the dreams mean something good, anyway.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

And Change My Stride

Tricky - Makes me wanna die from A on Vimeo.

I've been meaning to write a list of the things I still want to do before I die (write more books, mainly). But tonight I'm just so tired -- tired of trying, tired of pain, tired of people -- and the idea of going away now is just so appealing. I wouldn't mind nothingness afterwards. I will probably feel differently in the morning. Maybe I'll do that list tomorrow.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Time Might Separate Us Some Day


I watched Hotarubi no Mori e last week. Such a simple and beautiful little story. It kind of ties in with what I've been thinking and feeling lately about mortality and meaning. Of course I suppose one reason we love stories at all is that in their selection of glimpses and moments they achieve an effect, one might call it an antidote, that fights the general sense of pointlessness that grows to pervade our living, the longer we live. (Life is so long, and so fleeting.) 

We have probably forgotten any number of firefly forests that we once knew, lost in the accumulation and discarding of detail. After we die, I imagine a great remembering, perhaps a great ordering of experience: all the little narrative arcs and how they all contribute to a grander one. Or perhaps there's oblivion. I can't know for sure right now. But it's nice to imagine a secret but innocent friendship, an almost-kiss, and a series of summers that changed a life. "...Even still, until then, let's stay together."