An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

27 September 2006

Forty days and forty nights

A funny thing happened last time the man in my life came to my apartment. At 2 o’clock in the morning, on a Wednesday, he called me up, telling me he was right outside my door. I looked out the window. He was not there. I opened the door and stepped out into the balcony. He was not there. I got my robe and cautiously walked towards the stairs and peered down, but he was not there, either. So I figured he must have meant to say that he had forgotten his key to the downstairs gate and that was where he was instead of actually being outside my door, so I started to go downstairs.

When I got to the second floor, that’s where he was. He was standing right outside the door to the apartment that was right above mine.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” he said, giving me a quick peck on the cheek. He’s always uncomfortable about kissing me on the lips in public, even when there’s no one else around and it’s an ungodly hour of the morning. “Where did you come from?” he asked, putting an arm around my shoulders.

“I came from the third floor.”

“Oh, we have moved to the third floor?”

“No. We have always been on the third floor.”

“Really?” He looked genuinely perplexed.

This is, perhaps, what forty days and forty nights of not being with his girlfriend can do to a man. Also, I suppose, driving for most of the night from the long and winding roads of Baguio to the straight yet just as long roads of Metro Manila can mess with one’s perspective of buildings one has not been in for forty days and forty nights.

It wasn’t really our plan to invest our relationship with this rather biblical detail. It just so happened that life got in the way – he had to continue his training that was getting more demanding every week; I had to finish ten chapters for the commissioned book I am working on, sapping me of much of the energy that I would have needed to drive to Baguio to visit him. Our phone bills have been really high because of the distance, and some nights I had to sleep wearing his sweater. So when one clammy 2 a.m. finally found us together again, he after a long drive and me after a particularly difficult chapter, and after we realized it had been forty days and forty nights since we have been together, we were ready to create overwhelmingly literary and unforgivably corny metaphors for our reunion, since it had also been the rainy season and there had been a particularly vicious typhoon.

But the moment he stepped into my apartment -- on the third floor -- there was no more thought about possible metaphors. It was as if he had never been away, and his presence and proximity has somehow become more real than the biblical, more present than the weather, more pressing than the life that always gets in the way. When something is that real, words, strangely, are irrelevant.

20 September 2006


After years of being on OSX, I’ve finally activated my Mail App. I have never felt the need to use that app before, since I have always gone straight to my freemail server’s main site, but in the strange twists and turns that seem to govern human life, one afternoon I was suddenly and rather forcefuly propelled to activate my mail app, and, with a little help from a Macintosh users forum I frequent, in no time at all my Mail App was up and running, and I, fascinated, watched it while it was in the process of retrieving my entire inbox from my Gmail account.

Naturally, since my Gmail account is almost two years old, I have a massive inbox – almost three thousand messages stored – so it took time for the very first stored incoming mail to pop up in the Mail App inbox window. I was alternately glancing at the tiny spinning rainbow disc that kept reassuring me that my hard disk was working on the retrieval even if nothing seems to be happening on the screen, and checking my text messages on my two cellphones, while basking in the comfort of being completely in the present. Truly there’s nothing like technology to keep us in touch with current concerns

But when the first retrieved message finally showed up, I felt myself hurtled back to when I was a different person living in a different world. November 7, 2004, a man calling me darling, sending me an email from Liberia to confirm that he did get my new email address, and asking me why I abandoned my old email address. I might as well have been sucked back into the ancient sands of Egypt, long before paper had been invented, the emotion intensified by knowledge that this was the exact same man I broke up with a year later. Tentatively, I opened each email labelled with the name of this man who called me darling, and once again read the words I told him when I still loved him, words that now seem so alien to me, words I have written to a man who now felt so far away in both space and time. In my mind I was able to conjure faded visions of myself with this man in a past life, walking with him in malls, driving in cars, eating at restaurants, watching movies, laughing, arguing, but without sound, as if even the very senses of our past selves have also begun to slowly shut down.

When a relationship falls apart, what happens to the pieces? If you never pick them up, do they disintegrate into the earth? Do they stay there for a while until they are completely blown away by the elements? Or do they simply vanish as if they never existed? When love goes, where does it go? If memories are all that remains of people we once loved, what happens to the years lived with that person? It’s not as if the time spent could be kept inside an envelope like old letters, which one can take out and read in their entirety, with not a word missing or added. Memories are very tricky things, and they tend to vanish over time. Or maybe, with the pieces that fall to the ground at the severance of every loving promise, memories gradually disappear from our consciousness and turn into something else. Maybe it becomes ether, so that, unknown to us, all past loves are up there, somewhere above us, swirling in invisible systems that modern reason and technology keep trying to debunk but not quite being able to get rid of them completely. If so, then every new relationship is wrapped in vapors of the past, every present self exists toegther with its past. If so, then every new relationship is loaded with ancient spirits of loves that had taught us the lessons we keep forgetting and thus keep learning over and over and over again.

12 September 2006

The three weeks that were

These days, in a frenzy to complete the first draft of the first ten chapters of the book for the Special Action Force, I wonder how I have ever gotten a word written on the page. The last three spreads of my Moleskine weekly planner is a jumble of tasks and reminders and notes that I don't even remember doing anymore.

Could it really be that three weeks had passed me by? What do I really remember of those three weeks? I remember going to Bicol and staying with my son for a weekend, and interviewing two different people. I remember making two keynote presentations and speaking at a briefing, and missing an opening at an art gallery, and finding a journalist I have been tracking for so long but eventually realizing he won't be any help to my research. I remember watching the last season of Friends and looking for the Davide Report pursuant to Republic Act 6832 but not finding it. I remember putting off converting and digitally archiving an analog recoding of something very important. I remmber making a lot of calls. I remember spending a whole lot of money.

Beyond the memorable, beyond the vague details remembered, and beyond the mutilated pages of our planners, what do we retain of the weeks we spend? Of the things we put off for yet another day, and of the things we do that are uncheduled, which ones really enrich our lives? What judgement do we make of ourselves when we look back on our lives and realize we have been either too busy or too lazy to appreciate the things that matter?

I have grown three weeks older. Aside from having three spreads in my planner completely filled up with lines that have also been duly crossed out, I also have filled up over a hundred pages of my diary about my reflections on the coup-de-etats in the country between 1986 and 1989, and have amassed over twenty pages worth of notes for the chapters that I am building. I have not blogged. I have not written a word of fiction since my work on this book began. I have not joined the Palanca even with an older work, and have not sent in anything for publication.

But something tells me that staying away from writing fiction for now will all be worth it. I will be back, but for now, well, life is just so much in the way.