Sabina, hallucination

 
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”—Jeremiah 17:9

Imus

Images. Sparrows on the Meralco powerlines singing punctiform chirps. A brown aspin prancing down the road. Clouds eschewing nomenclature and a street sign proclaiming his name: Via Ruzzini. She was behind the steering wheel. Like the old days. I told her that she was still beautiful. She still is. Honestly, you are, I asserted. Thank you, she said. She turned the radio on. Radio surfing: Jam 88.3, vacant frequency, noises, blue grass, queasy bossa nova, radio ad, indescribable, intermittent sounds, like scrunching up a corrugated board or listening to a suppressed resonance of a recorded political rally, Monster Radio, then went back to Magic 89.9, dialed, dialed, she finally let go of the digital dial. She settled for a mediocre pop song. She saw a funny sticker on a jeepney in front of us. She put out her phone from her branded bag, took a picture, Will Instagram it later. I smiled. Silence. Space. Silence and space, are not they sharing the same meaning? No, the former is the crooks’ argot, the latter an esoteric language for the forlorn. If I die in Bali please tell my brother and sister that I love them. She didn’t react. She didn’t really care, I guess. I was sure. She was with me because she needed me. Today, at least. Was everything real? The sensation of being there but not actually there: flotsam amid flotsam, pages upon pages, what rode astride my shoulder was still a mystery to me—was it you? Imitation wayfarer. White shorts. Beautiful top. Her beautiful eyes. Svelte fingers. I recited a Cesar Vallejo poem in my head. Then one by Jose Garcia Villa. Comma, comma, comma. Girlfriend in a Coma played in my head: Do you really think she’ll pull through? Those clouds, they are beautiful, like cotton candies hanging by invisible strings attached to a dome, I said. Simboryo, I added, convincingly. What? she asked. Simboryo, dome, Tagalog, English—I wanted to answer her, explain, but there was no point in doing so. Her foot on the gas pedal. Glittery TOMS. Turn left, I said; Saglit lang! she shouted in her Assumptionista accent. She apologized, It’s not you, ’twas the auto behind. I smiled. She followed suit. God, she was beautiful. She had been in my dilapidated house. Thirty minutes ago. Or was it twenty? Everything is haphazard, she said. Are you hungry? I asked. No, I had breakfast earlier, some frozen salad, she answered, smiling, sitting in my wool sofa. Imitation wayfarer. White shorts. Her small breasts.  Her porcelain legs. Her beautiful foot. Glittery TOMS. She had not changed at all. But what had been between us had, was—a lot, immensely. I listened to her customary stories. Her dogs have Instagram, which I answered with “my ants should have one, too,” but she did not find it funny. You should go to Caramoan, it’s beautiful there, she interrupted. One thing I realized was that she never called me by my name. She continued: She thinks she is fine, that she’s happy and in love but isn’t sure. That her best friend wants freedom. Freedom. Everybody wants it. Who does not? I pined for everything I considered lost. I pined. I pine. There were a lot of things I wanted to say. To her. That I never stopped writing for her. About her. I wanted to tell her that I still love her. Perhaps, if things change, if time permits, let’s do it again. I am stable now. Or I could be. That each time my friends ask me about marrying or marriage or settling down I think of you—yes, still you, like what I’d told you in my last letters to you. These words were in Filipino, remember? Na ikaw pa rin ang gusto kong makasama hanggang sa pagtanda ko. I wanted to tell her these. But what difference would it make? The only thing changed was she. It’s already one-fifteen; let’s go, she said, sliding down her wayfarer from her almost-auburn hair to her watery eyes, to her beautiful nose. I looked at the wall clock. Hey, Mr. Wall Clock, could you die today so this moment would not end? Corny. I wasn’t in some Lewis Carroll novel where I could talk to inanimate objects or anthropomorphic animals. She went out. Started the engine. And then: images. Images. Images: she, driving; I, sitting ensconced beside her, in the passenger seat. Nothing has changed, I think. I am still the poor unpublished writer who left you. And you are still the happy-go-lucky-whatever-comes-along-I’ll-embrace-it you who wants to get married before hitting thirty. I’ve gotten old. We have. Twenty-six, and, you, turning thirty. I’m the dreamer and you are the simple one. Yes I have, I said when she had asked me if I had a cheap bill since the parking attendant told her that she had no change for her one thousand bill. Pull over, park. We walked, I recited poems in my head. My own ones. I’ll put my hands on your shoulders? I had asked, like asking for permission, yet did it anyway long before she said yes. It’s okay, she answered. I guided her through the narrow pathway. Labyrinthine path? No, too poetic. Serpentine? No. We were in Imus. Market. Fabric, Thread, and RTW section, said the hanging sign. We were looking for the tailor. Two pm. I knew it was over. Wasn’t it? Oh, Mityenka, you knew you would write about her when you get home. I did.
Post scriptum
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Seis, noong buhay ka pa

May lunti, at bughaw.
Kasaliw ang iyong
buhok sa ‘sang sayaw
na s’yang nanghihiram
ng kahel sa araw.
May kamay ang lobo
na sumasagwan sa
tila-balsang ulap,
kumakaway sa’yo.
Dambuhala’ng barkong
naglayag palayo.
sa indayog ng ‘yong
luha’t pagtatampo.
Doon sa malayo,
pagtawid ng batis
ginto ang parang na
iniluwal ng ‘yong
lagalag na spektro.
Dangal at respeto,
ano bang nawala
sa akin at sa’yo?
Ang sagot rito ay
nakalimbag doon
sa braso ng papag
na paborito mo.

 

Mayroong kundiman,
harana at ikaw.
Simboryo ang laman
sa pisngi ng hikaw
na siyang dumadagan
sa’king ‘di bibitaw.

 

Ito na ang buod
ng kwentong marubdob:
Pulang mga tuhod
baba’y nakatukod
dibdib, nakapisil
sa hitang nasikil.
Pagdarahop, oo.
Gutom, siguro nga.
Pag-ibig, marahil.
Walang katapusang
 panata at dahil.

 

May lunti, at bughaw.
Kasaliw ang iyong
buhok sa ‘sang sayaw
na s’yang nanghihiram
ng kahel sa araw.

 

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Dekadensiya

“He cometido el peor de los pecados
que un hombre puede cometer. No he sido
feliz.”

Jorge Luis Borges

 

Hindi ako papasok ngayon
para lang makita ka.
Magpapagupit ako
ayon sa gusto mong istilo
at isusuot ko ang paborito kong paris ng bota.
Nanakawin kita sa opisina mo,
maglalayag tayo pa-timog,
sa kinatitirikan ng
mga kayumangging burol.
Dadamhin natin ang hangin
—ang talas niya’t purol—
sa gitna ng huwad na gubat ng Bohol.
Akong bahala sa manibela,
sasandal ka lang sa balikat ko
at hihinga
hanggang hindi na tayo magkarinigan pa
sa pagsasalita.
At pag napuwing ka’y
pumikit ka,
Dahil mayroon
at mayroon kang
makikita
kapag ang lahat
ay nagdilim na.

 

Kung anuman ang nabasa mo
ay ‘sang pag-anyaya:
Magpakalasing tayo sa tuwa,
hindi na pala ‘ko mamamatay.

 

Ito ang araw na magiging
mag-esposo
ang tulay at lumbay.
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Bughaw raw ang pinakamaligamgam na kulay

Sabi ng isang pelikula, bughaw daw ang pinakamaligamgam na kulay.
Malapit din ako sa pagbibigay-buhay sa mga kulay, ‘di ba?
Bughaw, asul, kahel, luntian—Lila.
At kapag pinapanood ko kayong dalawa mula rito sa barandilya,
naiisip kong maaring totoo nga.
Ikaw si Adèle
Siya si Emma
Dahil kahit sumapit na ang gabi’y
Mainit pa rin ang kinauupuan niyong
Silya.
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11/11/13

Umuwi ka na,
nagaalala na si Nanay.
Pero babalik ka nga ba?
—nakita kita sa sahig, nakaratay.

 

Noon, nawalan din ako.
ng sinisinta sa dagat.
Pero hindi naman dapat.
Kaso di ako ‘tulad mo
kayang yakapin ang alat.

 

Uuwi ka na sana.
Pero kinuha ka na ni Yolanda.

 

 

 

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Mga Tala/Notes

Nakita ko ang mga bala. Ang mga bangkay. Narinig ko ang pagtangis. Nadama ko ang dalamhati. Nasundan ng mga malabong mata ang tila-ugat ng punong-malapot na dugong nagwakas bilang mga linyang bumubuo sa dibuho ng nagdaang digmaan: walang saysay. Ilang kwentista’t makata’t mang-aawit’t pantas na ba ang nagsabi na walang nagwawagi sa kahit anong anyo ng digmaan? Na isang krimen ang kahit anong pakikibakang nilulutas ng armas. Sa pagkakataong ito: bala laban sa bala, gulok sa kris, paniniwala sa relihiyon, Estado sa pinapangarap na autonomiya. Walang katapusang oposisyon, pagkakaiba, at ’di pagkakatugma-tugma. At ngayong pansamantalang natapos ang lahat—armistisyo, sabi nga ng mga madudunong—ano na? Dahil hindi nagtatapos ang lahat sa digmaan. Sumunod sa hindi mabilang na kamatayan ay unos at gutom. Mga nawawalang salapi. Mga bulaang mambabatas. Gumuhong mga lupa. Isinukang mga baha. At nito lang, nagalaw naman ang plato ng mundo at nayanig ang kanlungan ng kayumangging mga burol. Nabulabog ang rustikong buhay sa kalagitnaan, ang payak at katahimikan at halsiyon. At nagalaw din ang malilikot na isip ng mga agnostiko at walang-dios: sa punto de vista nila, sa mga mata raw ng mga Protestante, ang sinapit ng mga simbahang iniluwa ng kasaysayan ay malinaw na simbolismo na ’di na kailangang ipaliwanag pa; sa mga saradong Katoliko, ito ay isang realidad na magpapatatag pa sa kinalakihan nang pananampalataya; sa mga matatalino’t nasyonalistiko, ito ay pagbubukas sa bagong anyo ng turismo.
At sasabihin ng anino ng nagsulat ng piyesang ito: Bakit mo pa ba ito isusulat kung sa una pa lang ay alam mo nang walang magbabasa ng kahit anong nasa Tagalog? Sa Ingles o Kastila o Pranses ka dapat nagsusulat.

Ngunit magpapatuloy pa rin siya, dahil, kahit papaano, naniniwala siyang sa pamamagitan ng kaniyang kinalakihang mga salita, maipipinta niya sa kaniya na nagbabasa nito ang pisonomiya ng bansa. Na maibabalik pa natin ang dati nitong napakayuming mukha. Totoo: may anyo ang pagdurusa, at may presyong kaakibat ang progreso. At may parusa ring inaatang sa piniling manahimik na lang.

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Three things, or among other things

fenderwallYou think the dismal farewell paycheck in your hand is enough to buy yourself Rage. You want to write about it, fight for it, but then you realize that the things that really irk you now are the same things that angered you when you were young: megalomania, abuse, deprivation, iniquity—those things. Those things, and not this petty labor issue. Not the repulsive spineless of a notary and the show she has concocted, not those who live for that trade with unparalleled patriotism. Like you, they are only human. And you know yourself well: you are capable of forgetting, perhaps forgiving transgressions you consider trivial, if not nonsensical. But you do not have to forgive them. What have they done to you? They are just part of the sequence. Space. Thelonius Monk gets riotous with the bassist. Your foot dances with the bass line.  You start lifting your pen to assuage this unnamed feeling, but you put it down at once. Because writing about them, you think, is a mockery to your pen, as though doing such is more humiliating than when you are prostituting it. Pen has to suffer but not to be humiliated. You look back, and wallow in what you call real sources of your anger. But then again you become furious, since you are certain that for you it is over—they are now in the past, and you cannot go back anymore. This is your new life, a more peaceful one. And you open your eyes: perhaps this unnamed feeling is just frustration. Because you chose the wrong path again. Practicality, bills to pay—you opt to stay. Rage and practicality, these two don’t go together well.
The only consolation prize of this is that you’ve gained new friends: the trombonist; the would-be lawyer; the pianist, the travel writer or doctor manqué, the newly ordained journalist; the not-so-secretive couple; the petite Japanese-looking girl whose entirety is shared by the images of people who are important to you. And you value them for reasons, even though you know they might be gone the next day, when your dear friend reality comes to bludgeon you again in the head: you can be yourself in front of them; you feel young each time you listen to their telltale stories; and your heart goes wailing when you read what their hearts hide. Their hearts. To you the trombonist is a loving son, the lawyer wants to prove something, the pianist pines for acceptance, the doctor manqué is anxious of tomorrow, the journalist is an incarnation of a furtive hopeless romantic, the couple has lovely secrets worth writing about, the Japanese girl desires escape but deep inside she’s afraid. Mere guesses. Meeting them is an unearthing: that you are capable of caring for people you barely know, people whose feelings and aspirations you do not really understand. Because you once thought you are selfish. Liar. You still are. Aimlessly, your pen kisses the paper: everything has a price—even opening the windows of your well-kept secrets to what you call the best consolation prize.
The price of each thing. Anger, death, dissidence, ideologies, forgiveness, overwrought images, friendship, life, poetry, yarns, prose, love. And if you are still aware that your acumen for words, letters, and their meanings have long been battered by your dyslexia then you’ll stop looking for answers and look for what is more intelligible instead. By your bed are unread books. Your curtain shouts cleaning; your clothes, folding. Outside your window a lonesome dog basking in the cold-hearted sun, atop an owner-type jeep an orange cat—or perhaps it is just a rag, you are not wearing your glasses, remember. On the lips of your lilac coffee mug is an ant pretending to be the Portuguese conquistador historians painted evil—you look at his circular travail and wish he could find yours, too. The child in you.
You could have written this gibberish in the past tense.
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kung bakit paminsan-minsan pinipilit ko pa ring magsuklay

Tinanong mo ako kung bakit ako nagsusuklay,
kung bakit ako nakabihis, damit na may masayang kulay.
Hindi kita sinagot, kaya sa balikat ko ika’y dumantay,
at nagpatuloy ako sa pagsuklay.

Sabi mo ngayon mo lang ako nakitang magsuklay,
ang makitang lapat ang buhok ko, ‘di ka sanay.
Ang kwelyo ko, pinaghalik ng ‘yong malamyos na mga kamay,
at sabi mo: ‘di pa ito ang gabing ika’y mamamatay.

Inamoy ko ang anit mo.
At nagpatuloy ako sa pagsusuklay.

At ano pa nga ba ang pinta ng madaling araw:
walang iba kundi ang paborito mong kulay.

Laya, muli, para sa’yo, at walang dudang para sa’yo, 2005

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The dripping of a faucet, a never-ending cycle of solitude

I understood a lot of things then, but how could I, a forgetful man, be certain of this? Images. I never really wanted to leave her, but as far as I could remember, it was I who walked away. Muffled sounds. I could hear her voice, she was asking me to stay, but I did not listen. I did not have the capacity to tell her the truth, but how could I, a weak man, protest? Honesty requires heart, cojones maybe, but still I left her that night. Images, sounds—they kept on chasing me. Fait accompli.
In the morning they define you. Superficial, verbose, wordy, a weak writer, someone who can’t manage to retain his style, the only writer who can’t adhere to commercial writing, too literary, somebody who can’t really write, a repulsive dyslexic, the weakest among all scribes bathing in the pool of money-laden pen prostitutes like you. But somehow they listen to you. To your antiquated political acrobatics, to your unrealistic novelistic dreams, to your nonsense countless sidelines, to your shifty voice, to your lisp. To your heart. Perhaps even to your soul. For the first time in your life you become honest, to everyone, to yourself. They are your new good friends. Good, they really are. At least, in your eyes, this is the case. You care for them. At dusk you pine for home. Until you remember that you haven’t got one. As night falls you strive to escape. You try to. Always. Your thumb on the velvety glass face of the scanner, a female voice thanking you for reasons unknown to both of you. Twenty-seven floors down and you are in a transitory freedom. Goodnight faithful turnstile, see you again tomorrow. You walk along the labyrinthine streets and the duplicitous boulevards, borrowing warmth from the mercury lamps and the signboards. You embrace the night, boredom, a boundless solicitude towards the indefinite. There are colourful buses and somber sedans, zooming past you, in their own course of time, in their own conduits. Across the poorly lit street, a phalanx of men in awful pseudo-traffic enforcer uniform. MAPSA. Deep down your silk pocket you know you lack money but you still wait for a taxi, in the hopes of obtaining a short talk from the discontented cab driver; you regale yourself with their stories, the telltale stories of the underprivileged, of the impoverished, of the unhappy, of how they satisfy themselves with pig swill the government call a generous tax rebate. Because you forget when you hear loneliness straight from the mouth of the unknown. Because you are selfish. A momentary stay in the bosom of stupor. A sojourn. And in the backseat you know you’ll go home remembering, for you are alone again in your room, submitting to the arms of a never-ending cycle of solitude.
Lights out. Under your bed is a muffled sound, etched on your ceiling an image. Then you try to remember how to forget. Amidst deafening silence, outside your bedroom, behind the door left ajar, the water drips into the porcelain sink. You forgot to shut it tight—but it is okay, you surmise.  I’m still alive.
Time heals, but it never helps you forget. Never.
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Dearth and Cigarettes | Pagdarahop at mga Sigarilyo

Dearth and Cigarettes

I

Baguio, 2007:

The Years of Dearth

 
While she delighted herself with the promises of their love and with what had made their bed appear like brine recovering from a recently fulfilled tussle between two imaginary battleships that in truth were only two maudlin souls—the first one, lying naked in the bed, smoking a Cuban cigarette, the second, sitting by the table—he thrilled to the vignettes of phrases written in his notebook, stories devoid of fathomable adjectives that would soon complete a yarn that did not involve the two of them, not even what was between their unclad bodies.
 
But the only thing he could do was to close the notebook, for he did not know what to write, inasmuch as his heart, despite being only a few inches away from Mikaela, belonged to something else, or, perhaps, to a space he never thought would haunt him thereafter, to a fissure owned by his unread and unfinished novels.
 
A few drops of rain had begun to fall and they immediately blurred the light that the incandescent, bulbous moon provided for those who were blinded by the jet-black firmament above. The Baguio rainwater had already sketched abstract designs upon the window, and the topiary semicircles and queues of pale pine trees had finally become shadowy in the eyes of their only audience: Mityenka and Mikaela.
 
Five or four long years ago, he had no idea that the spaces, the vacuum, or whatever that was missing from his writings was a question. He loved Mikaela, and life to him was looking for her smell in her nonexistence and death was yearning for her absence. But time is a swindler that tricks actuality better than the ruse’s way itself. It convinces the eyes that what it does is not a form of deception but rather a mere presentation of reality. It turns the imbecile into a dunce who is unmindful of the delightful niceties around him—thus, an empty soul.
 
Mityenka looked at the slope of Mikaela’s legs. From the velvety human skin that wrapped the female thigh he encouraged his eyes to her belly, then to her breasts, to her face that was slowly becoming evident in the blurring cigarette smoke and, finally, to her heart: he had no inkling that they weren’t made for each other—he had thought he had Mikaela in his arms. But everyone knew the sole purpose of two bare souls inside a bleak hotel room. Everyone—the unwelcoming walls, the antiquated body mirror that stood by the space between the window and the door, the dying sunflower inside a grimy transparent flower vase, the taciturn desks, and the aloof cupboards, the useless louver and the German heater, or even the muted TV set and the plump news anchor who spoke in outlandish tongue—understood that they had to unite, for they were lovers, and they needed to explore what was beneath their unclothed fleshes, their weary skins, their yearning spirits, the indescribable state of their bones. Above, the watchful chandelier that firmly clung on the somber ceiling asked: If he could not possess her with his hands, lips, and verses, or with his sacrifices, how could he even possess himself? Below: Atop the russet writing table, beside an empty styro cup, which brim slightly stained by a coagulated coffee, was a manuscript devoid of meaning, of depth, of continuity.

Venice

 

II

 

The Cigarette:

A Memento, A Conduit

 
Humans have the revolting strength to bathe in orgies of self-inflicted pain, yet lack the courage to face the verity of death; ostentatiously, they anesthetized themselves by embracing the specious principle that they are inherently audacious to accept grief, but in truth all they want is to please the invisible spectators before them, waiting for the humans to deteriorate, to break asunder.
 
A fact that remains hitherto unknown to him. Or possibly he just wants to forget the past and indulge himself with more tangible truth: it has been a year since he first experienced his autonomy, and he is now writing as he pleases—incessantly, as though he is a 1920s industrial automaton designed to reconcile the clutters of the past wars with the growing commercial needs of a resurging country.
 
He understands that he is no country, but rather a nameless storyteller whose only pleasure comes from telling stories. Yet, he is aware of the regions etched and carved upon the geometry of his flesh and skin. He knows that the lines that mark the link between his elbows and arms or fingers and hands are not just mere lines or natural creases that let him move or bend: they are, as he feels it, the smudge given by the jumbled wars or vestiges of his past, of dearth, of Mikaela.
 
But the things that humans avoid are the very same things that irk them. These things, nonetheless, would not appear as they were the very first time they met the human in question, but as something slightly inconspicuous, a decipherable metaphor.
 
“So you are Mityenka,” the new girl says. “Nice glasses, by the way.”
 
He smiles, not because the lass before him is undoubtedly attractive, but because under the glass table that separates them is a slender hand whose two fingers are daintily holding a familiar article: a Cuban cigarette.
 
 
 
 
 

Pagdarahop at mga Sigarilyo

 

 

I

Baguio, 2007

Mga Taon ng Pagdarahop

 
 
Habang pinaliligaya niya ang sarili sa mga pangako ng kanilang pag-ibig at sa kung anuman ang nagbigay sa kama nila ng anyong tila tubig-alat na nanunumbalik pa lamang sa katatapos na tunggalian ng dalawang kathang-isip na mga barkong pandigma na sa totoo nama’y di magkatunggali ngunit dalawang sentimental na mga kalul’wa—ang una, nakahubad sa kama, humihithit ng sigarilyong mula sa Cuba, ang pangalawa, nakaupo sa tapat ng lamesa—inaaliw naman niya ang sarili sa mga piraso ng mga parirala na nakasulat sa kaniyang kwaderno, mga kwentong pinagkaitan ng mga pang-uring balang araw, magbibigay kaganapan sa isang kwentong hindi sila nabibilang, maging ang kung anuman ang nasa pagitan ng kanilang walang-saplot na mga katawan.
 
Ngunit sa ngayon, ang ‘sang bagay na maari lang niyang magawa ay isara ang kwaderno, sapagkat ‘di na niya alam ang susunod na isusulat, dahil ang puso niya, bagamat ilang pulgada lamang ang layo mula kay Mikaela, ay nabibilang sa ibang bagay, o, siguro, sa isang espasyo na ‘di niya kailanman natunugang guguluhin siya mula sa panahong ‘yon, sa isang pagitang pagmamay-ari ng kaniyang di-pa-nababasa at natatapos na mga nobela.
 
Nagsimula nang bumuhos ang ulan na mabilis namang pinalabo ang liwanag na ibinibigay ng bumbilyang buwan sa mga binulag ng walang hanggang kadiliman ng kalangitan sa kaitaasan. Nagsimula na ring gumuhit ng mga abstrakong disenyo sa bintana ang tubig ulan ng Baguio, at mga arko at pila ng mga puno ay naging malabo at tila anino na lamang ng kanilang tanging manunuod: si Mityenka at Mikaela.
 
Lima o apat na mahahabang mga taon nang nakararaan, wala siyang muwang na ang mga espasyo, kakulangan, o kung anumang nawawala sa kaniyang mga panulat ay isang tanong. Mahal niya si Mikaela, at ang buhay sa kaniya ay ang paghahanap sa kaniyang samyo sa kaniyang kawalan, at ang kamatayan ay ang pangungulila sa mga panahong wala siya sa kaniyang tabi. Ngunit ang panahon ay mandarambong na niloloko ang realidad higit pa sa kayang gawin ng mismong panlilinlang. Napapaniwala nito ang mga mata na ang mga ito ay hindi anyo ng panloloko, ngunit, sa halip ay isang paglalahad ng katotohanan. Ginagawa nitong mangmang ang isang nilalang na walang-malay sa mga kaakit-akit na kaalaman sa paligid niya—sa makatuwid, kaluluwang lagalag.
 
Tumingin si Mityenka sa hilatsa ng mga hita ni Mikaela. Pinagbigyan niya ang mga mata na tumitig mula sa makinis na balat na bumabalot sa dalagang hita ng pangalawa, patungo sa tiyan nito, sa mga suso, at sa mukha na dahan-dahan nang nagiging bunyag sa lumalabo at nagpapaalam na usok ng sigarilyo at, huli, sa kanyang puso: kailanman, ‘di niya naisip na hindi sila nilikha para sa isa’t isa—inakala niyang matagal na niyang nakulong si Mikaela sa kaniyang mga braso. Ngunit alam ng lahat ang dahilan kung bakit nasa isang silid ng lumbay ang dalawang kalul’wang hubad. Lahat—ng mga di-mapag-anyayayang mga pader, ng antigong salamin sa katawan na nakatayo sa espasyo sa pagitan ng bintana at ng pinto, ng namamatay na sunflower sa loob ng marusing na salamin at pahabang lalagyan nito, sa mapag-isang mga muebles, sa walang sibling siwang at sa makinang tagapag-painit na mula sa Alemanya, at kahit ang telebisyon at ang bilugang tagapag-balita na nagsasalita sa banyagang dila—ay naiintindihan na kailangan ng dalawang mga kalulwang ito na magsama, dahil sila’y nag-iibigan, at kailangan nilang tuklasin ang kung anumang nagkukubli sa ilalim ng kanilang hubad na mga laman, sa kanilang pagal na mga balat, sa nangungulilang mga espiritu, sa hindi-mabigyang kahulugang estado ng mga buto. Sa ibabaw, ang mapagmasid na ilaw na mahigpit na nakakapit sa kisame ay nagtatanong: Kung ‘di niya kayang angkinin ang babae sa harap niya sa pamamagitan ng kaniyang mga kamay, mga labi, ng mga berso, o ng kaniyang mga pagsusumikap, paano niya pa kayang aariing ganap ang kaniyang sarili? Sa ilalim niya: Nakapatong sa kayumangging sulatan, sa tabi ng basong ang labi ay bahagya nang narusingan ng natuyong kape, ay manuskriptong pinagkaitan ng kahulugan, ng lalim, ng pagdaloy.

bridge

 
 

II

 

Ang Sigarilyo:

Isang Patago, Isang Tulay

 
Ang tao ay may nakakasulasok na kakayahang maligo sa walang humpay na pagpapasasa sa pagbibigay sa kaniyang sarili ng hapdi, ngunit kulang siya sa tapang na harapin ang katotohanan ng kamatayan; magpapanggap siyang kaya niyang yakapin ang walang-saysay na prinsipyong sila’y may kakayahang tumanggap ng pagluluksa, ngunit sa totoo nama’y ang gusto lang naman nila’y aliwin ang mga di-nakikitang manunuod sa harap nila, mga manunuod na naghihitay sa kanilang pagkupas, hanggang sila’y magkapira-piraso.
 
 
Isang katotohanang hanggang ngayo’y lihim pa rin sa kaniya. O siguro gusto lang niyang malimot ang nakaraan at lumublob sa mas nahahawakang katotohanan: isang taon na mula nang naranasan niya ang unang dampi ng kanyang autonomiya, at ngayon, nagsusulat siya ayon sa kagustuhan niya—walang humpay, na tila ba isa siyang makina mula sa panahon ng dekada dalawampu na nilikha para pagtagpuin ang mga kalat ng nakalipas at ang lumalaking pangangailangang komersyal ng ‘sang bumabangong bansa.
 
 
Naiintindihan niyang hindi siya ’sang bansa, na isa lamang siyang kwentista na ang tanging ligaya ay nagmumula sa payak na pagkukuwento. Ngunit, hindi lingid sa kaniya ang mga rehiyong naka-ukit sa bawat heometriya ng kaniyang kalamnan at balat. Alam niyang ang mga linya na nagsasaad ng ugnayan sa pagitan ng kaniyang mga siko at braso o mga daliri at mga kamay ay ‘di-lamang mga payak na linya o mga tupi para siya’y makagalaw: Sila, tulad ng nararamdaman niya, sa mga rusing na ibinigay ng mga magulong digmaan at sa mga tira-tira ng nakalipas, ng pagdarahop, ni Mikaela.
 
Ngunit ang mga bagay na iniiwasan ng mga tao ay ang siya ring mga bagay na gumugulo sa kanila. Ang mga ‘to, sa kabilang banda, ay hindi magpapakilala tulad sa una nilang pagtatagpo, ngunit sa anyo ng isang metaporang ‘di na kailangang hukayin pa.
 
“Ikaw pala si Mityenka,” sabi ng bagong binibini. “Gusto ko ‘yung salamin mo—wala lang.”
 
Ngumiti siya, ‘di dahil ang babae sa harap niya ay walang dudang nagtataglay ng ganda, kundi dahil sa ilalim ng salaming lamesa sa pagitan nila ay ‘sang kamay na may dalawang mga daliring maalindog na humahawak sa isang pamilyar na bagay: isang sigarilyo mula Cuba. 
 
 
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