Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jollibee / Dumaguete

We were all there at Jollibee, Tomas Morato: myself, Dr. Wang, Jun Gelle, Elaine, and Doc’s new patient—a year removed from surgery—and her mother.

Jun, forty-something, went on and on with his usual testifying spiel. Elaine, mid-20s, would occasionally drop a line or two. The patient and her mother listened intently. I’ve never been much for inspirational talk so I sat at one end of the table quietly, eating my fries while occasionally nodding and smiling to almost look like I’m involved.

Jun said that his knowing others facing similar situations helped him get well. Elaine said counseling others helped her deal with her own anxieties. I started getting well when I returned to being with persons who couldn’t care less. Obviously, I was the odd survivor out at the table.

Jun was quite entertaining, though—he being a small part of the inspiration for my manifesto against inspiration. I’m sure he has helped many with this spiel. I was just too-arrogant-of-a-fuck to ever latch on to it.

Elaine sat beside me, but with her back turned. She’s probably the one person I ever really wanted to talk about things with. She was 19 when diagnosed, I 13. Other patients were either much older or much younger. She was right there in her teens, and she came with all that immature baggage I was similarly dealing with.

Like myself, she’s well now, and has been working as a writer for ABS-CBN for a couple of years. We only got to talk after brunch was over, outside by the driveway where we accompanied Jun while he waited for his ride. When Jun left, I offered to walk Elaine back to ABS. I think we both felt kind of awkward so we parted ways at the next intersection.

As I was walking away, I found myself occasionally looking back, seeing to where she was walking. Once I turned a corner, I checked my phone, just in case she’d text saying she wanted to talk about stuff. Nothing.

It's beyond who she is. It's what she represents for me. In the loneliness of what I’ve faced from day-to-day during and post- chemo/surgery, she represents experiences that I’ve never really dealt with emotionally. In my brashness of simply wanting to move on, she represents a demon cum angel from the past—one I want to battle then eventually come to love.

I’ve always kind of known that there’s still stuff from yesteryear that I needed to talk about with someone. But I thought it would all just fade away as years pass. Now I find myself searching for the questions I would have asked, insights I would have shared given the right set of ears.


Not knowing what to do afterward, but not wanting to go home, I took the MRT all the way to the last southbound station: Taft. There I saw that most of the jeepneys were headed towards the Mall of Asia. I decided: Why not?

I spent most of my time on the second floor viewing deck overlooking Manila Bay. I realized how pathetic it was that I found a serenity in it all when in a mere two weeks the views will be much more spectacular as I’ll find myself spending hours along the benches of the Boulevard, breathing in the summer breeze from Dumaguete’s waters.

Last Sunday, I discovered that my dreams of a “writerly” May in Dumaguete at the National Writers Workshop were coming true. I found out through a text message from a teacher/friend.

If I remain truthful to my series of thoughts and emotions when I found out, I’d have to say I was/am just as excited (or maybe more so) as I was when I got a letter from Palanca. Then came the second-thoughts: about what made a National Artist like Edith Tiempo think that I deserved her tutelage. I thought about rereading what I submitted as part of my application. Scared of finding flaws one sees only weeks removed from writing them, I kept the files closed, moving them to a subfolder within a subfolder within a main folder—seclusion becoming a menial deterrent.

I’d deny thinking about Sasha, but I’d be lying. Did she get in? Should I tell her? Should I let her find out for herself? I checked Ian Casocot’s site: she’s in! Instinctively I texted her. She replied with an “Oh, crap,” before accusing me of “daydreaming.” I think she believes me now.

(Ey you. We’re on our way now, Sasha. We’re on our way.)

I got my acceptance letter a couple of days back. Having it personally signed “Mom E” was quite a trip. I find myself looking at the second page everyday now, just getting giddy over the signature. It’s in those moments when I think that my life really doesn’t suck.


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