Saturday, October 28, 2006

Closure, Heartless

VACATIONS and I don’t get along. The relaxation from the silence of no-work eventually screams the deafening cry of reflection. The demons easily suppressed by interviews to be conducted, stories to be written, and philosophy papers to be studied come out of their hiding places.

I become the “me” I hate being; the “me” of unfinished chapters and yesteryears gone unresolved. That “me” is writing this right now.

As I was reading in our living room, something from the past suddenly popped out of nowhere. “Ey Dad, remember when we were stuck in the airport in Jakarta and they gave us free McDo?” Dad nodded while grading papers by his desk. “Was that our evacuation trip or the day we left for good?” Dad forgot as well.

Being stuck in an airport with free McDonald’s. That’s all I could conjure up about my last day in the place of my birth. This was 1998. Indonesia was in complete turmoil. There was no choice but to move to Manila. It was moving back for my parents after 15 years. It was moving away for me; I had known no other home but Jakarta.

Movies depict last days and goodbyes in the most unrealistic way. I learned this that day in 1998. There were no violins in the background, no tears were shed, and I’m certain my heart would’ve been heavier had I actually fully realized the significance of the moment. I was only 12.

Goodbyes to our maids and driver who had been with the family all 15 years were hefty severance packages, mere handshakes, and a picture-taking session.

Goodbye to our old dog who we decided not to bring to Manila was simply a pat on the head before handing him over to our landlord. And to think, that dog was the only one whimpering that day.

Goodbyes to my friends in school never happened; they had all evacuated to their native countries unannounced during the early stages of the rioting. I’d only learn of this through unanswered phone calls to their homes.

Even in those moments, I could tell that I wasn’t feeling the extent of its significance. I knew it. And yet, it’s as if I didn’t want to care. I didn’t want to feel a thing. I didn’t want to hurt. So I didn’t. I should’ve.

Unfinished chapters are seemingly all I’ve known since then. Relationships are always left hanging. Arguments are never resolved. The warmth of a hug is as fleeting as the millisecond I can actually maintain eye contact.

I’m not very good with goodbyes, even of the end-of-the-day-to-your-friends variety. Farewells feel awkward. Something unsettling about a goodbye to someone you’ll see tomorrow, and saying nothing to those who just simply disappear from your life.

Someone I care about once wrote about me: “his bold brows are vectors pointing trespassers / away / they furrow so, to shield the frail petal-lids covering the most / heartbreaking eyes.”

I’ve been thinking; perhaps those brows aren’t pointing trespassers away rather steering me away from them, protecting myself from the possibility of saying goodbye, or from the possibility of my not doing so before they are just suddenly gone.

And those eyes are probably not heartbreaking, rather heartless. They have to be. For my sake.


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