Chasing Buses A Chapbook by FA 102 C
Chasing Buses Copyright ÂŠ 2013 by FA 102 C All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or published without the permission of the copyright holder/s. Editorial Board: Jaclyn Teng Stefani Tran Maxine Trinidad Production Manager: Ariane Lim Cover art by Milena Gamboa Layout and design by Jan-Daniel Belmonte
Foreword According to Jean-Paul Sartre, there exist two types of consciousness, one of which he calls the ‘pre-reflective consciousness,’ and illustrates with the example of chasing a bus. While doing so, one’s consciousness is focused on the bus itself, and not on the act of chasing it. Therefore, one only realizes that they were running when they have already stopped. This consciousness entails being self-aware, and furthermore, aware of our separation from this world, resulting in freedom. This chapbook, “Chasing Buses,” is a collection of existentialist works by the Creative Writing block of 2015 as well as Creative Writing and Interdisciplinary Studies seniors. The majority of the works contained within hold true to Sartre’s notion of chasing buses—focusing on self-awareness, identity and achieving freedom as an individual responsible for one’s own existence. If it is a question of who we are as a block, then we say the most accurate way of measuring us would be not to measure us at all. BFA CW 2015 is a block that cannot possibly be defined, and by no means do we have a jigsaw puzzle fit. On the contrary, from the time we first met in June 2011, this block has been more akin to a wheel and axle. At first glance, there is nothing to indicate that the wheel and the axle go together at all. However, after looking a little closer, you will realize that all that needs to be done is to find that niche in the center of the wheel where the axle can fit. In a lot of ways, this block has been like that: outwardly ill-fitting, but inherently cohesive. And if you’re wondering how any of this is connected to existentialism—well, you know what they say about the wheels of a bus. We hope you enjoy! Jaclyn Teng Stefani Tran Maxine Trinidad Chapbook Editors
Table of Contents Teapot of Names Jong Young Hwan Bald Spot Fe Esperanza Trampe Safekeeping Elijah Pascual Reminders Patricia Cenda単a Safehouse Marian Pacunana Maria Stefani Tran It Flows on End Ronald Panotes Dawn to Dusk Paul Simon Yiu Face Regina Geronimo The Hands of the Clock / The Clock of Hands Andrew Gallardo A 30-Minute Conversation Ramon Domingo On A Piece of Paper, It Read Maxine Trinidad Sa Bingit Ariane Lim The Door is Closed (Excerpt) Arsenio Mari Armas Where Isabela Cuerva K.T. 57 Kristian Alejandro The Sleeping Teddy Guggenheimer (Abridged) by Pramod Gupta, M.D. Jose Miguel Villanueva The Drum's Errand Jaclyn Teng About the Authors Acknowledgements
7 9 15 16 20 23 25 28 29 33 34 38 40 43 53 65 70 75
Teapot of Names Jong Young Hwan
For over forty years, Mr. Riley’s schedule had been the same as the next door neighbor’s, and the neighbor beyond that, and even after his retirement, nothing had changed. He was woken up by the alarm at exactly half past seven. He then had breakfast (toast with egg and a strip of bacon) drank coffee, and read the news. Starting at about 9 o’ clock till lunch time, he would sit in his favorite armchair in the living room, and read. After lunch, (a bowl of choice pasta with perhaps a glass of orange juice) which was about half past one in the afternoon, he would go for a walk and be back home by about a quarter past three. From thence until supper, he would go out into the garden and tend to his flowers and have some small talk with Mr. Miles, his next door neighbor of over forty years. When the sun set and he began to feel a bit peckish, Mr. Riley would leave the house and head for the local pub, where he would be greeted by some of his friends. They would order dinner (fish and chips for Mr. Riley) and beer, and would talk of the old days until the owner would ask them ever so politely to please leave, the pub was now closed. Only then would Mr. Riley part ways with his friends and head back home, arriving home at about 2 o’ clock. Now one day, Mr. Riley got tired of his daily routine. He got tired of sitting in the same armchair, of walking past the same places, and of meeting the same people, who talked about the same things over and over again. He decided to change some things up in his routine. He would not be woken up by his alarm clock at half past seven; instead, the washing machine would take its place by the bed. So Mr. Riley brought up the washing machine and set it by his bedside table, he then brought the alarm clock down to where the washing machine was, and connected it up with the pipes and cords. He was very pleased with this, but decided that he would change some other things as well. He rang up his friends and informed them that since he wanted to some change of routine, they would meet up at the pub around the time for breakfast to have supper, and have a drink or two. They all agreed. He then returned to thinking and decided that instead of reading books as he usually had, he would read the table, and maybe the chairs too if he could get around to it. He set the armchair on the table, and sat down on a book. He rubbed his hands and cracked his knuckles; he was getting excited
now, this was turning out to be more satisfactory than he had imagined, so he decided to go the extra mile. He went out into the garden and replaced all his flowers with silverware, the roses with forks and the rhododendrons with knives. The neighbors looked on with total awe as Mr. Riley painted his house bright purple and kicked the tiles off his roof. He unloaded soap and the toothpaste into the dishwasher, exchanged the bathtub with the television, and replaced the light bulbs with socks. He was satisfied with his work, and took his seat on the book by the armchair in the living room that was now lit up by a sock, and began thinking. With the house being unique as it was, he felt that his life had changed significantly, but he now realized that although the house had changed, he himself still had not, so he decided to add some more changes. He decided to shed his name first, and exchange it with the book. The book decided next that it would call the washing machine, dishwasher, and the alarm clock, a fork. The socks were now bags, and the table, pills. It spent the rest of the day renaming and slept later in the evening. The watermelon rose and shed light to the bin. The dishwasher rang, and the book stirred and lifted itself off the bathtub at about half past seven. It went out to have supper (a delectable meal of shoes and magnets) with its friends at the pub, and later returned to have lunch (a brilliant lunch of needles) then it sat on Mr. Riley sipping on a pillow of glue. It read some pills and soon at about 2 o’ clock went out to tend to its parking lot. It killed some windows and sprinkled milk onto the flowers. By the time the watermelon had set, it had finished its work at the parking lot. It had some breakfast (a well done sponge with a CD and a paper bill) and went out for a walk. It returned at about 9 o’ clock, and went inside to have a bit of a wash in the toilet and go to bathtub. But just as the book was entering the closet, the fire alarm rang, and it went to pick up the keyboard. “Hello? This is Riley speaking.”
Fe Esperanza Trampe My parents sandwich me in between them – my father to my right, tapping his leg incessantly on the floor, and my mother to my left, keeping her posture as upright as she can. A man sits in a big leather chair directly in front of me, a desk serving as a barrier between us. His skin was dark. It popped out against the all-white walls of the clinic. Diplomas accent the otherwise bland paint. One even says “Harvard.” Or so I read. His eyebrows are bushy. The eyes beneath them are big and round, Filipino brown. A stubble stains his chin. The tiny hairs that stick out of it tell me that his beard was freshly shaven. His hands are joined together, resting on top of the wooden table’s glass cover. My father shakes his head. “You have alopecia,” the doctor tells me. The strands of falling hair crowd by the drain. They stand out amidst the white tiles of the bathroom floor. Water floods by the drain as the strands block it. I pick the ball of hair up. I throw it into the trashcan. They lie there exposed. My hand dips into the trashcan, feeling the wooly thickness of hair that gathered at the bottom. I transfer the hair into the toilet bowl. It floats tauntingly, around and around, swirling with the urine. Half-filled, I dump the first bucket of water. The hairs continue to linger come the third. I rest a bucket full of water against my knee, on the rim of the toilet bowl. I empty the contents of the bucket with one go. Water spills over. The strands go up once more. They join the urine into the whirlpool. Clear water rises gradually as the flushing sound of the toilet roars. The bucket is returned to its corner. I dry my hair with a towel. Another is wrapped around my body. Dangling by a rusty screw nailed onto the bathroom wall, the mirror hanging on to a thin rope possessed an unsightly image. A tiny bald patch, no bigger than a one peso coin, of smooth, fair skin peeks out on top of the right side of my head. I part my hair sideways. The patch is gone. I run a comb through my hair. It comes out with clumps of black stuck in between its teeth. I tie my hair up into a ponytail. The band goes around it four times. Twice around it used to suffice. Strands snake on my bare skin, its hue eye-popping against my flesh. More fall with the slightest tug of the hair tie. They parachute down onto the floor, joining
the others that have gone before them already resting on the white tiles. I grab a rather large clip. My ponytail is rolled into a bun. The clip holds together my hair, securing all the flimsy strands firmly on my head. Our car’s horn goes off. My father calls me from outside. “Faster!” I dump the remaining clusters of hair that were on the floor into the trashcan. The tissue holder rolls as I pull out a third of the ply. They lie strategically on top of the garbage, covering any strand of black hair that dared to sneak out. The horn goes off once more. “I’m coming!” I yell out. I rush to my room. My school uniform is readily laid out on top of the bed. “Alopecia areata, specifically,” he expounds. “It occurs in bald patches. There is no certain cause of it. Some says it’s hereditary, some says it’s incurred due to stress.” He takes out a piece of paper. “Some researchers believe it to be white blood cells attacking the hair follicles on the scalp.” He picks out a ball pen from his pencil holder. He draws a head. There are little sperm cell-like doodles inside it, attacking the outline of the head, and arrows pointing away from its lining. My head tilts to the side. He raises it up for us to see. “Some studies have shown that this is what causes alopecia.” He looks at his own drawing. The bushes above his eyes conjoin. “These are but assumptions. No one knows for certain what its true causes are.” “But there is a cure for it, right?” my father asks. “Unfortunately,” he sighs, “there is no exact treatment or medication that could cure alopecia.” My mother sits on a couch by the wall. She smiles at me. I sit on a cold metal chair. The doctor is checking herself in the mirror, measuring the proportions of her eye shadow, studying the redness of her lips. An orange bottle sits by the sink. She turns her attention towards it. My eyes watch her as she puts on a pair of gloves, stretching the material out, flexing them in her hands. She twists the cap off. She plucks a ball of cotton out of a wad. It takes in a few drops of solution, absorbing it. “Stay still,” she instructs. It is cold against my skin. She massages the tiny spot on my head with the cotton. It makes a squeaking sound. “All done,” she tells me. The ball is thrown into the trashcan. She takes off her surgical gloves. They follow in pursuit of the cotton ball. “I’ll see you next week.” “We’re not seeing any improvements,” my mother speaks out, “Her hair is
still falling, the shampoo you prescribed does not work.” “Just give it time,” she says. I stand up from my seat. My mother hands me my green hat. She thanks the doctor as she joins me in standing. I place the hat on top of my head. The fabric touches the bare skin of my head. I cringe a little. “My five hundred peso fee for the procedure is payable at the cashier,” the doctor reminds us. “How come there’s a cure for cancer, but not for this?” my father argues. “There is research being done, and maybe there are more effective treatments and medications abroad,” he answers. “However, there are none so far in the Philippines. I am sorry.” “Then what can we do for my daughter?” “Right now, she needs people around her to support her, friends and family to understand that there’s nothing wrong with her. She’s not sick in the sense that she’s dying, she just so happens to be losing her hair.” He digs in his drawer and lays out a couple of pamphlets on the table. “Peer groups,” he says, “A support group composed of people her age who are going through the same things as she. These are common in other countries. It helps with coping with the disease. I have been lobbying to establish one here, but have not yet been able to.” My mother slips her hand on top of the table and gets one. She unfolds it and reads its contents. The doctor encourages me to take the other one. I try to read the cover from where I sit. I shake my head in refusal. My father takes the other one. The doctor tells my parents to ask him if they have any concerns regarding the information on the pamphlets. He turns to me. “There is a chance that it grows back, and there’s a chance that it won’t. Surround yourself with people who don’t mind either way.” I nod. “Would you like me to conduct a seminar at your school?” he offers. “It will help your classmates in understanding what your condition is.” “Falling hair!” the boy behind me in class screams. His finger points at the strands of hair that surround my chair and now decorate the gravel floor of our classroom. I look at him. He covers his mouth but continues to widen his bugeyes. His seatmate laughs. The boy giggles as well.
I tie my hair. The band goes around the bundle five times. I push it aside. The girl beside me taps me on the shoulder, “You have falling hair on your blouse.” She turns my back toward her and goes on to pick them one by one. “She has cancer,” someone whispers. I turn around to see who it was. The boy’s seatmate has a huge grin on his face. He raises his hand to cover his mouth. He bursts out laughing. The boy joins in with him. “Hold still, there’s still some more.” I return to my former position. The girl brushes away the last few strands off my blouse. “There, all better.” “Excuse me.” My mother speaks gently. “Isn’t there anything we can do to at least cover it, lessen it maybe?” “She can wear a bandana or a wig if she desires,” he answers. I shake my head. “You can try cutting your hair shorter,” the doctor suggests. “If you think that it can prevent your hair from falling by making it lighter.” The hairdresser spins me around in a leather chair. “Do you want me to bob your hair, darling?” he asks as he sprays around to dampen my hair. “Just cut it shorter,” my mother tells him, “But style it in a way that hides her bald spots. “ “What?!” he shrieks. He divides my hair at the center. “Ay!” he shrieks once more at the sight of the bare skin. I can see the expression of his face from the parlor’s mirror in front of me, how his eyes widen. He returns my hair to how I style it, thicker on the right side to cover up that spot. “You’re like a Dalmatian with your patchy-patchy!” he chuckles. “Can you do something about it?” my mother asks. “Why, of course girlfriend!” he says. “I’ll do a side bob to hide the patchypatchy, and I will make your little girl look fabulous!” He puts down the sprayer and gets a sharp pair of scissors. I lift my chin up for him just as he instructs. He starts cutting off the hair above my shoulders. Snip, my hair falls onto my lap, sliding down the white sheet covering me. The cold scissors make contact with the back of my neck. Snip, another mass of hair falls onto the floor. A stack forms beneath my feet. I teeter them atop the elevated seat.
“There!” he declares. I stare at my reflection in the mirror. A bob cut replaced my long, straight hair. The ends gather together at certain parts and create spaces in between them. It is not his fault. My mother thanks the hairdresser and hands him a hundred peso bill. He tells her it’s on the house. I fixate myself on my new look. My hair looks thin. It does not shine like how it did in old pictures. I cannot see the bald patch. The girl in the mirror stares at me. Her lips curve slightly. My mother takes a hold of my hand. She squeezes it ever so tightly. My dad continues to shake his head at every other word that the doctor utters. My mother nods whenever she agrees with the doctor. “I’m incredibly sorry,” he tells my parents. “I can refer you to a colleague of mine that is trying out an experimental procedure that still does not guarantee any results.” “I can’t believe this,” my father scoffs. He locks his eyes on me. “The best thing you can do is pray.” He looks at me as though he is waiting. I catch a glimpse of my father. He is massaging his temples, still shaking his head from left to right. I turn to my mother instead. “Do you hear that?” she says to me. “You have to pray.” She tucks some hair behind my ear. “Ask Papa Lord, and Papa Jesus, and Mama Mary to make you better.” The teacher repeats her lecture from last week. My seatmate is asleep. The whole class goes about with their own respective businesses. I take out the rosary from my bag. I silently pray as I caress its beads. From the corner of my eye, I see one of my classmates. She seats a column and two rows away from me. She taps on the table of the girl behind her. She points at me. Her friend’s eyes look at me as well. They cover their mouths and laugh heartily. Halfway through the first mystery, I stop. The rosary is stuffed once more into my bag. The doctor stands up and offers his hand to my father. “Thank you, doc,” he tells him. He shakes my mother’s hand next. She stuffs the pamphlets he gave to us in her bag. My father pushes himself against the table and rises from his seat. My mother slings the strap of her bag on her shoulder. She stands up as well. I follow them. “Do not lose hope.” The doctor gives me a pep talk before we leave, “Just
keep praying. Put your trust in God and he will make your illness go away, okay?” I raise both my eyebrows in acknowledgement. “Thanks again, doc.” my mother says as she puts her arms around my back, “Baby, say goodbye to the doctor.” “Goodbye,” I say. My father goes out the door almost immediately afterwards. My mother nudges me to follow. I turn around and push the glass door. It is unmoved. My mother pushes it for me, and we go out into the empty hallway.
Safekeeping Elijah Pascual
I have taken my here’s and now’s, packed them into cardboard boxes and stored them in the attic for safekeeping. God spoke once to a servant who only meant the best; He hid his talent in the ground, buried it in a hole where the soil was softest and saved it for his master’s return. Dad, the last time I looked you in the eye, I couldn’t smell the rum in your breath. It wasn’t mid-afternoon, your sobriety a monolith and I the primate still learning to straighten out my backbone and come down from the trees, maybe walk like a man. I didn’t expect to come home from school early that day and spot the Bible upturned on your desk, an empty ashtray on one side and a still corked bottle in the other, underlining the Proverbs. I never learned to work time and space in my favor, nor have I learned to stand tall and speak up, but I have committed the scene to memory for future reference.
She walked towards the jeepney briskly, her black school shoes making clickclack sounds against the concrete pavement. The late afternoon sun was hot and glaring. And the girl could feel the tail of her ponytail clinging on her sweaty nape. She paused at the entrance when she saw that people already occupied the four corner seats of the jeep and the spaces near them. The driver looked at her from his long horizontal mirror attached to his windshield and urged her to get in, just get in, there were many seats, left and right. The girl looked past him to a toy's blinking red light on the dashboard â€“it looked like the whirring red lights of an ambulance. She lowered her eyes and stooped her upper body as she entered. The other passengers stared at her when she sat down at the very middle of the left bench of the jeep where the glaring sunlight was pouring in. Ignoring their gazes, the girl fumbled with the contents of her bag until she found her purse. When someone passed her payment to the driver, she settled back in the hot leather seat, the sun too warm against her back. She jumped in her seat when the driver suddenly blasted music in high volume. The beat of the music pounded in time with her heart while the rapper screamed with words spoken too fast to understand. It rang in her ears. She looked around to see if anyone else was also bothered by the too loud music. But no. Their faces were indifferent, eyes (finally) focused on different directions. She glanced down at the space of the red leather bench. There was a long tear on the leather cover near her, its edges jagged and its threads split and frayed. It looked like an open wound, unwillingly spilling all its contents. She stretched her arm out and tried to push the rough edges together with her hand. The girl withdrew her arm when a little boy sat down beside her and covered the tear. His mother quickly followed behind him, wiping the boy's sweaty face and back. The jeep's engine roared into life and little shudders went through the jeep before moving forward. The boy placed his pudgy arm on the metal rail of the window and tucked his chin at the crook of his elbow. His eyes were wide as he watched the vehicles, the buildings and the people they passed by. He seemed to like hearing the beeping horns, the talking engines and the chattering people. She followed his gaze
and tried to see what was so amazing. But all she saw were the shadows set by the afternoon sun. She checked to see if the boy was still looking outside. But it seemed he had gotten distracted by a wound on his forearm because he was picking on the scab. The boy scratched the scab with his thumb until a little of it was peeled away from the skin, like flaky rust. The skin underneath looked pink and puckered. He continued picking his scab until he reached the deepest part of the wound. He couldn't take it off because it was still attached to his skin. The girl frowned when he started scratching harder. He shouldn't take that off yet because it meant that that part of his skin wasn't fully healed. And the scab would fight to stay and protect that little patch of skin. She glanced at the boy's face. His eyes were furrowed in determination. Didn't he feel the pain? Wasn't it warning enough to stop? When the blood welled up, the boy flicked away the scab sticking to his finger. The mother finally noticed her son and grabbed the boy's hand, scolding him until he was silent in his seat. Then the mother called out for the jeep to stop. The mother held the boy's hand tightly as they stepped out of the jeep. The girl hugged her bag closer to her chest. She was grateful when the jeep moved again because its speed made the air cool and it whipped the tendrils of hair back from her face. Tinkling laughter. The girl looked at the horizontal mirror attached at the windshield. It reflected the driver and the laughing passenger beside him. The passenger was laughing and talking in her phone. She looked like she was just a year or two older than the girl so the laughing passenger must be a sophomore or a junior in college. The girl looked at the lady's tanned glowing face with its natural and subtle make-up, at the large sunglasses that hid the lady's eyes, the dimples that appeared at each side of her pink mouth as she laughed and at the shiny brown hair pulled in a high ponytail that exposed her long neck. The girl looked outside the long window, narrowing her eyes against the wind. She remembered looking at her reflection inside the school bathroom just before she left for the jeep. Her black hair was frizzy and messy so she had tied it back low on her nape. She had grimaced at herself when she saw that the ponytail showed the hollowness in her cheeks and made the dark rings under her eyes more apparent. Her eyes had widened when she saw that the marks on her neck where exposed. She had looked away from herself then, and had adjusted
the collar of her uniform. She glanced at the reflection of the lady again. She had stopped talking to her phone. Now, she was bobbing her head slightly as she listened to the music from her earphones. There was a small smile at the corners of her lips. The girl looked down at the top of her bag and rubbed a hand over her face. It was so tiring. It was tiring to see people like the lady and the boy and his mom everyday. But maybe it was just harder to live like this since she had known what it was like before shadows and silences had settled in her home, before looks should convey the words that can't be said and before locked doors meant good things. The girl grabbed the metal rail above her head when the jeep suddenly stopped. She held her bag closer to her body when a man sat down beside her. She hunched her shoulders and curled her toes in her shoes. He was wearing a white polo with black slacks and shiny black leather shoes. He had a sleek laptop bag over his lap. The girl cringed when the man stretched out his arm. The man gave her a strange look as the passenger beside the girl took his coins. The girl couldn’t take her eyes away from his hand, even as it withdrew and held the metal rail attached to the jeep’s ceiling. He could bruise a face with one swing. He could fracture a rib with one punch with that kind of hand. The girl straightened her back, her breath uneven and shallow. Her mouth was dry and the air that she breathed seemed rough in her throat. She could feel phantom fingers wrapped around her neck, crushing her until black shadows crept up in her vision. She rapped her knuckles against the jeep’s ceiling until the jeep stopped. The cool hard metal against her flesh kept her grounded on reality. And the sharp sound – thunk, thunk, thunk – shook away the memory of last night. No one paid her any attention as she stumbled out of the jeepney. And as the jeep rumbled away, the girl realized that she was just six blocks away from her subdivision. She took out her phone from her pocket and called her sister’s number. “Are you almost home?” her sister demanded. The girl adjusted her knapsack at her back and started walking. “Six blocks away,” she answered. Her voice sounded dry and husky from being quiet for so long. “Is he…” Her sister’s voice was quieter. “He’s asleep.”
“Really?” The girl said in disbelief. “It's kind of early.” Her sister snorted. “He couldn't keep away from his drink. When I got home, he was swaying his way into his room.” “Well,” the girl said quietly. “Do you want to go out?” There was a small pause. “What?” Her sister's voice cracked. She swallowed. “We can eat out for early dinner. I have money. And he won't be up 'till later.” “But what about mom?” “Sis, she doesn't go home until midnight. You know that.” “We can't just leave.” The girl bit her lip. “We'll be back. But we need this,” she said. “We deserve it.” Her sister sighed. But it sounded almost happy. “Okay. Let me just change.” “I'll wait outside.” “Okay. I'll see you,” her sister mumbled. When they hung up, the girl looked down at her shadow. It looked abnormally tall and long. She looked up and saw that the sun was about to set. But that was okay. When she heard her sister's voice call out her name, she tried to smile and found that it wasn't that hard. It meant that the moon and stars would come out soon.
Elephants are trained by mahouts or caretakers as babies especially when born in captivity. A baby elephant is tied or chained to a tree that it may not escape. Again and again, it will try to break free, failing every single try until it has completely resigned. ** Just like Patrick and Spongebob, I used to love playing inside huge cardboard boxes. I still love playing and hiding in them. ** My own pinwheel. Mom returns home with three of them in a plastic bag, and hands one over. With both hands grasping the handle I look at the head: it’s twice as big as my hand. The colors of the rainbow intertwine towards the metal ring at the center blending together as I hold it up, the head stirring in the fan’s artificial wind. ** “Just a sip,” he says, offering the can. Dipping the littlest finger in the cold liquid I taste a drop refusing to do as said. Just a drop of ambrosia causes one to want –need– more. A drop of poison kills. I wonder which one it may be. Alcohol makes me want to hurl. ** Adult elephants are later on bound with weaker strings. **
I walk through the gate of a place where I’ll spend four years of my life. The sharp scent of smoke from the outside is replaced by the gentle aroma of grass. A somewhat narrow stretch of rough cement stands before me. There are cars entering through wider gates. I proceed alongside the whooshing of the vehicles breaking through the warm air, hoping to find what I’m looking for. A mass of people walk by accompanied by mixed high and low pitches of voices and my head starts to hurt as I am drowned in one of those strong smelling body sprays. "Hi baby. R you at school na? Txt me if ur there na. Up to what time are u ba?" "Afternoon pa. I'm at school na." A vague answer. The song "Price Tag" blasts at full volume from the speakers in the area. The gates are opened, there are people everywhere. People start moving into the courts, the smell of sweat and sunlight lingering in the air. Stuffing the phone into my bag, I forget about it. ** The moment I left my room I heard amused voices in the masters' bedroom. They were looking at family pictures saved in a disk. On the huge flat screen television is a captured moment of the time when my mother used to sing me lullabies. The baby slept perfectly at ease. ** 16.7 kilometers: two hours via commute between myself and home every day. People suggest that I go get a dorm room. ** “If your ate were like that then…” It’s those lines again. Parents were talking to my brother and sister about school, particularly grades. No TV, no going out, no computers – nothing I haven’t heard before.
** August 20, 1994: Tyke the elephant had killed her trainer and her groomer, Allen Campbell and Dallas Beckwith in Honolulu, Hawaii. After breaking free and running uncontrolled for around half an hour, she was shot 86 times by police. She died in the streets of Kakaako, a commercial and retail district of Honolulu. ** I hide inside my box from ate. She does not see me, or so I think. I hear her heavy footsteps getting louder and they eventually become birds in flight as I sail away in my own pirate ship. The sunlight gets brighter - I pull my dusty arm away from her grip. I continue to steer the steering wheel of my ship, sailing away to the horizon, refusing to be removed from my safehouse.
Every summer, we drove south to see you from a distance—hair flowing like stone, sleeping mother, beauty untouchable. There were many stories, but the one I knew had you dancing among us, ginger-gold in the folds of your skirt, love in your eyes. I never found your thatched-wall hut, tucked away in the wild green, the watchful cliffs, but this was how I ended the story—I know who you are. You are mine. Once everything borrowed was returned. Words they could not say woven into baskets left at your door— homes for fledgling birds that fit in the nest of your hands, softness feather-white like the crowns of faraway kin. You believed in magic then. Before
I learned to grow up, before we raised our voices and you closed your eyes, before the earthquake cleaved our household in two. Every year, the chickens are bred faithfully— plump and white. They will not bring you back. Our house sits empty in your shadow, and your story has a new ending—you know what it is, to be far from home. To say goodbye to one or the other. No wonder you are beautiful. No wonder your face is stone. There is nothing now that I know, save this—I will be here when you wake. Would you teach me to walk the bridge that cleaves this distance?
It Flows on End Ronald Panotes
Thus flowed the river in all its serenity. Listening to rants from all walks of life, but never bothering to know deeper than life. It hears the voice of those who drift along its many currents, but not once did it stop for anyone. It never needed to, because the river heard it all before: "When all the stars fade into the dark, you will remain wondering about all the good, all the bad, thrown into the void. Wondering where all these went, Wondering if they even meant a thing. To anyone. To someone. To you." Thus spoke the beggar by the river. "All things mean something to everyone, but not one thing sees the same thing the other does. For if all were to see from the same eye, Then who are they? Who are you? Who am I?"
Thus spoke the hermit passing by the river. "We charge the fields of horror and made to believe that a greater cause drives all men to the Truth, but what is the Truth if it can come from anyone? I spoke for the weak and fought for the Truth, but where does it go when one is asked, 'Are you certain?'" Thus spoke the soldier crossing the river. "The ground shakes from the mere utterance of doubt. Doubt, the sword of reason, the bane of Truth, carries with it many a thing that fogs the mind but clears the soul. I am a weary soul, burdened by many a feeble thing that clouds my judgment. Forgive me river, but I see this face in your currents when I weep. When I laugh. When I curse. When I die. The heavier things in life are far from holy. Closer to home, but never found at all." Thus spoke the madman drowning in the river.
--The river, ever-flowing, heard all these in passing. It found no Truth in their words. It kept on flowing to distant lands hearing all, but keeping none. It knew everyone, but not once did it stop for anyone. It did not have to, for it saw its end in sight. "Oh look, the sea." Thus spoke the river.
Dawn to Dusk Paul Simon Yu
Ring. Slam. Crash. Wake. Clock falls off the bed. Right foot first, then the left. Breakfast of milk, bread, and eggs. Mother nags for siblings to wake. Walking, your eyes go droopy again. Stashing things and other books in the bag. Class from seven in the morn to six at night. PhD, MD, MA â€“ all titles of name. Ugh This work Canâ€™t be done In time today Tomorrow for sure Sheets folding and tucking Compelling my eyes to close Only waking to cycle back
Peck. Peck. Peck. A groan escaped my lips as sleep gave way to wakefulness. I stretched; hearing my back crack as feeling once more flowed through my stiff bones. Peck. Peck. Peck. I looked up. A woodpecker was drilling a new hole in the tree I had slept against, paying no attention to me. Slowly, I got up, looking around. Where was I…? All I remember was that I was that was supposed to be at home helping out with chores… Wait…who am I? I wracked my memory for any indication of who I was, but every face was blurred, every speech incoherent, as if I was being held underwater. I was sure I had a family somewhere that was looking for me. But, how would I know them if I couldn’t discern what their features were? They’ll recognize me when they see me, surely! I looked down at my clothes. I was wearing a pair of boots made of rough, brown leather, a tunic made of some coarse material, and a pair of pants. Had I been wearing these before I was knocked unconscious…? I looked around, ignoring the continuous pecking of the woodpecker above me. Beyond a few more trees was a vast expanse of wall that seemed to stretch out in both directions for eternity. A city! Desperate to find someone who could provide me with answers, I ran out of the trees and around the wall, trying to find the gate. The wall seemed to go on for miles and miles until I came upon the towering archway. Inside, I could see the cobblestone streets and shops, adults doing their shopping, children playing tag. A woman was coming out of the gate, carrying a large basket. “Excuse me!” I ran towards her. “Excuse me, can you –” I froze and started at her in horror. Those eyes…those lips…that nose… I was staring at my own face! The woman looked up but once she caught sight of me, she screamed, dropping her basket. Before I could say anything, she turned and ran back into the
city, still screaming. I stared after her, trying to process what I had just seen. Why….why did she look exactly like me? Was I related to her in any way? A twin I couldn’t remember? Who was she?! She had disappeared amongst the crowd when I followed her into the city. The buildings around me were made of stone, the roofs red tiles. Along the wall were men dressed in polished silver armor, holding spears or bows in their hands. Peeking over the roofs of the buildings was a white bell tower. Who could help me find that woman who looked exactly like me? I approached a fruit stall where a group of women dressed in different colored tunics seemed to be haggling the owner. “Excuse me,” I began. “Did you happen to see a –” The women turned to face me and they screamed, clutching at each other. I gasped. Each of them also looked exactly like me, except at varying ages. I pulled one of them and she cried out and called for help from her companions but they kept their distance from me, their eyes filled with fear. “Who are you?!” I demanded shaking her. “What sorcery is this?!” She didn’t answer but began to cry and struggle against my hold. She pushed at me but I held on, trying to peer closely at her face to see if I was wrong. “Why do you look like me?!” I cried out. “Why do all of you look like me?!” Someone grabbed my arms and pulled me back, forcing me to release the woman. She ran back to her companions, where they hugged her close and tried to comfort her, all the while staring at me as if I was a wild animal set loose. “Who do you think you are trying to manhandle a defenseless woman?!” the one holding my arms spun me around. “Oh, dear God!” He released me and I stumbled back into the cobblestones. The man who held me gaped at me in shock, then began to step back slowly. He, too, looked exactly like me. I stood and walked towards him, my hand stretched in pleading, but he turned and ran. “What…what are you?!” he cried out. I looked around at the crowd that had begun to assemble around me. My heart thundered in my chest, and I found it hard to breathe. My legs refused to move, as if vines were rooting me on the spot, forcing me to stop and look at each person that surrounded me. Every feature, every detail, exactly like mine! Even the children that looked at me with more of curiosity than repulsion had my face.
What…what is this city and its inhabitants?! Why do they all look alike, and why did their faces have to be mine?! As if jolted from a dream, I ran. The crowd parted for me, the women giving out cries of shock as they beheld me. Down the streets I ran, bursting into random shops and houses, looking for someone who could help me. But wherever I went, copies of my face would be staring back at me in alarm. Men flung anything they could get their hands on at me, women would bolt from the room, screaming. I ran around the city in a frenzy, my mind no longer focused, looking for a way out, desperate to find someone who did not look like me. Who was I?! Where was I?! Why did everyone look exactly like me?! I needed to get away, I needed to get out of this city! I found myself facing the massive wooden doors of the white cathedral. I looked up, the statue of the Virgin Mary above the door casting her stone cold gaze upon me. Hearing heavy footsteps behind me, I raised a fist and pounded at the door. “Let me in!” I pleaded. “Please let me in!” There was no reply. The doors remained shut. “There!” I was soon surrounded by guards, their spears pointed at me. My face once again stared at me from all directions, fear and anger swirling in their eyes. “Who are you?!” one of them demanded. “I don’t know!” I cried out. “I don’t know!” “All right, all right, break it up people, let the Mayor through!” The guards stepped back and parted, but kept their spears raised. A woman who looked like me in my early fifties stepped before me. She did not gasp or scream or look upon me with terror like the rest, but regarded me with a curious look. “Who are you?” she asked calmly. I shook my head. “I…I don’t remember. I can’t remember my name…or where I came from. Why…why do all of you look like me…?” Her brows furrowed in puzzlement. “Look like you?” “Yes!” I shouted. “All your faces are exactly the same as mine! Same eyes, same nose, same mouth, you all look like me!” “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said, her tone still patient, calm. “Everyone here looks different. We are not the same.”
“Yes, you are! Stop lying! You all look like me! Exactly like me!” “I think we know who we are and what we look like,” she said sternly. “You, on the other hand, I can’t say the same.” The crowds had followed us and now gathered behind her, the children peering through the legs of the adults to look. The guards stayed near the Mayor, gazing at me warily. “That’s why I came here looking for help!” I snapped. “I can’t remember my name or where I came from!” “I’m afraid I can’t help you,” the Mayor said. She pointed to one of the guards, at his polished chest plate. “No one can help you.” I walked towards him, and though he stepped back for a moment in fear, the Mayor pinned him with a look and he stood still. I stared at the chest plate for a few seconds then fell to my knees, shaking my head in disbelief. “No…no…NO!” I stared at the chest plate again, hoping I was wrong. I looked closer, trying to make out the features of my face. Except… …There was no face.
The Hands of the Clock
The Clock of Hands
The morning light Casts The scherzo bright Of the clocks aghast
The lullabies of the clock cries, Silencing The dreams of sleep That teems a welcome and goodbye kiss until
Tick! Tock! Tick! Tock! Tock! Tick! Tock! Tick! And traversals plain Encompasses The hands twain Of the chronograph’s crest
The crest of the chronograph’s Twain hands Encompasses The plain traversals, and
Tick! Tock! Tick! Tock! Tock! Tick! Tock! Tick! Until a kiss goodbye and welcome teems A sleep of dreams, Silencing the cries Of the clock of lullabies
The aghast clock’s Bright scherzo Casts The light of the morning
A 30 Minute Conversation Ramon Domingo
1:22pm The wall clock between Ben and me may have looked ancient and unclean but at least it still kept the time, unlike my two-and-a-half year old wristwatch. I should have known that it was a sign of a bad day; not that I’m superstitious or anything. It’s just that I’ve never been a morning person; they always come too soon after an evening full of late hours and an afternoon made up of upturned coffee mugs and only promise a day filled with more of the same. I guess it’s all standard fare for minimum wage number-cruncher like me. Still, seeing the piece of junk’s hands stuck at 7:30am really did bum me out but I wore it nonetheless. After all, what’s a formal business attire without a chrome-plated, gold-rimmed Timex wristwatch to compliment everything? “Exuding an air of professionalism is everything to you bean-counters,” as dad would often say. He never did approve of my fascination with numbers; sure he knew that I had talent with them and he didn’t stop me from taking Business Economics in college, but he’s made it his personal pastime to talk my ear off about “the problem with you bean-counters.” His favourite topic was always our sense of fashion. According to him, “wearing a fancy suit and tie doesn’t make anyone better at their job.” Unfortunately the corporate world doesn’t see it that way, and as long as they don’t find out that your formal coat and pants are hand-medowns and that your busted wristwatch is a cheap knockoff from a roadside stall in Quiapo, then all the better. “Sure is taking a while,” chirped Ben. “Really? She walked in the office literally just two minutes ago.” “Oh, I didn’t notice.” Ben leaned back on his chair and pulled on his collar nervously. He looks like a model business man today, wearing a slick, black suit complete with a shiny new pair of dress shoes, a navy blue tie and a modest crew cut to match. It seems too much if you ask me but I guess there’s no such thing as overkill, especially when it’s a job interview to get into BPI. 1:31pm I know I have better things to focus on, like my interview for instance, I up
next after ID# 3 or Ms. Helena Lei as the rest of her tag said, but my thoughts kept zoning in on Ben and his fancy suit. I swear, seeing Ben in that getup, if I didn’t know him since high school I would never have thought that he was theatre arts graduate. Back in college, he would wear cargo shorts and sandals whenever he was able too. His T-shirts were always loose and his hair went past his shoulders. He looked so stereotypically “hipster” and everyone teased him for it, me included, but he didn’t care. He liked looking obnoxiously different and going against current. He’d talk about making it on his own in the world of theatre just to prove his father wrong that there was no money in that industry and I’ve got to admit, I really admired his confidence back then. But that was ‘then’ and this is ‘now’ and ‘now’ has Ben sitting next to me, wearing a glossy suit like every other bean-counter here, waiting for their turn to be interviewed. Every now and then he’d shift his weight on his seat, cross and uncross his legs, look at his (legit) Rolex without actually checking the time and tap some random melody with his legs. “Who is interviewing us again?” he asked sheepishly. “Jonathan Velasco.” “Who?” “Jonathan Velasco? You know, the head of Human Resources?” “Oh.” “What do you mean ‘oh’; your father’s been working with him for years.” “Well excuse me but I don’t make it a point to know all of my dad’s associates.” Well now I’m not sure if Ben knows what exactly is happening. He leaned back on his chair and started fidgeting again. What was he so nervous about? It’s not like he’s seriously going to get interviewed. His dad is the senior vice president of BPI and Jonathan Velasco is practically his dad’s right hand man. You don’t need a degree in Business Economics to figure out what you’ll get when you add those two together. 1:44pm Now I really can’t focus on my interview. Not only was Ms. Helena Lei taking forever but thinking about Ben opened a can of worms that I’ve been avoiding since he decided to give up in theatre. I mean he’s just sitting there, trying to look like he’s meant to be here making himself look all the more out of place. And the
rhythm less drumming of his feet weren’t making things any better. “Could you please stop that?” “Stop what?” There are times I wished that Ben and I were not friends. That would have made acting on the urge to scream to his face that he was a clueless failure much easier. “Your damn feet. Stop it.” “Ah, sorry,” he said, taken aback. I might have snapped at him harder than I meant to but I didn’t care. How could he drop his dream just like that after two years? After how he would joke about his father telling him that he would end up crawling back to him, after all the effort and gusto he put in college and his auditions, how could he just deflate and give up in two years? For the near decade that I’ve known him, I always thought that he’d fight harder for his passions but I guess all that bluster about making it big in theatre was all a lie because here he is now, proving his father right and proving all my impressions of him to be wrong. Now that might sound pretty harsh, and I know that he took a lot of minor roles and had even more rejections, but I didn’t expect to make big bucks the moment I stepped out of college. The life of a salary man isn’t glorious. It’s just you bouncing from one internship to the next, carving out a name for yourself until you’ve made enough good will to be recognized and get hired by one of the bigger names out here in the country. There’s no button you can push to make life easy, there are no shortcuts you can take to achieving your dream; my father had the decency to teach me that, at the very least. But what am I saying? Here I am, waiting in line with my dream job right in front of me and next to me is a man who gave up on his dream and is probably going to get mine, not out of his own volition. “Sure is taking a while,” chirped Ben again. “Yes. It sure is.” 1:50pm By now everyone starting to get restless with how long Ms. Helena Lei’s interview was taking, everyone except me and Ben. I’m sagging in my seat, putting even more creases on my coat, while staring aimlessly in front of me with my hands resting behind my head. Ben had quite simply fallen asleep, his head lolling to one side with a stream of saliva coming dangerously close to making
contact with his brand new suit. I heard snickering somewhere down the line of interviewees; no doubt that somebody had made some sort of office sex joke about her “securing” her job to Jonathan Velasco. It could have been true for all I cared. She could have been a really slow talker or they both had simultaneous heart attacks or they really could have been copulating inside the interviewing room. It really didn’t make a difference to me. Ben maybe getting the job but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to fight for it. I’ve worked and dreamed of this opportunity for years and I wasn’t going to let someone who’d ruin a perfectly brand new suit with their spit take it without even trying. All that’s really left now is to wait for my turn on the chopping block. I don’t care if Jonathan Velasco already mad his choice or not, all those sleepless nights and coffee mugs have to account for something, right? That being said though, this Helena Lei woman is really taking her time. I would have checked my wristwatch but then it’s still stuck at 7:30am. Maybe I should have thrown the useless thing away after all. At least that old wall clock is dependable. 1:52pm Well damn. I guess the only thing left to do is to wait.
On a Piece of Paper, It Read: Maxine Trinidad
I had to do it. Your parents told me it would be best if I did. I visited them at their house and in response to my condolences they did nothing but cry and they did nothing but yell. Again and again they would yell at me, how could you let that happen? Your father, he shouted. He kept shouting at me, how dare you come here and show your face to us, how dare you! No matter how hard I tried to explain to them it was an accident, one I could never have foreseen, they showered endless blame upon me. It was my fault, they kept saying. And then your mother she cried and your father he yelled again, it should have been you! I apologized. Profusely, I apologized, again and again, I said, and again I still say, I am sorry! For days on end, every night I would lie in bed and think of that horrible night. I did not see it coming. I looked out that window, and the street was clear, it was safe, goddamn it! I could have sworn it was. I am so sorry. It should have been me. There were so many things I could have done. I should have been more careful. I should have gone first. I should have helped you down that bus. I knew how you were, and I am so sorry, so sorry this happened, I had only wanted you to learn. You were always so afraid, always hiding, never learning how to live in this world by yourself. When I met you, you were like a princess only seeing the world for the first time - innocent, vulnerable, clueless. You were like the princess in those fairytales you loved, cooped up in your mansion till you were all grown up. You never learned and all I wanted was for you to learn how to the ride the bus! I simply wanted you to learn how to explore the world the way you dreamed to without me having to always hold your hand. Without having to rely on anyone else, but yourself. I wanted you to learn, for you
mind to be your own, for your life to be your own. I only wanted you to learn! But I was supposed to keep you safe. Your mother, she slapped me that day. She sobbed and she kept asking me, how could you kill her? Still to this day, I do not know the answer to her question; it happened so fast. Still until tonight, I laid in my bed remembering, you walked off that goddamn bus and I didn't see, I didn't hear, I didn't know! The car came out of nowhereâ€Ś I am sorry. I will make it up to you, I swear it. I will make it up to you and to your parents, I will make things right, and they will stop blaming me, their voices inside my head will stop screaming, monster! Please forgive me. I am sorry. I love you, and know, it will be nice to see you again.
Sa Bingit Ariane Lim
Nagising ang batang lalaki. Nakatigil lang siyang nakadilat sa kanyang kama hanggang sumapit sa kanya ang maraming gawain sa bahay. Wala na siyang maalala pa sa kanyang panaginip kung hindi ang mga naligaw na alaala roon. Hindi na siya bumalik sa pagkakatulog. Almusal na ba? Pinapakita pa lamang ng araw ang kanyang korona. Schpant. Dumating na ang rasyon. Binuksan ng batang lalaki ang buson. Pinalambot ng amoy ng queso ang kanyang sikmura na kanyang binusog sabay ng pagpasok ng sikat ng araw. Batik-batik ang pumuslit na liwanag. Nagliliw-aliw ang mga alikabokâ€” lumiligalig sa bawat pagpagpag, dumarami sa bawat hagupit ng trapo sa hangin. Luluklok ang mga ito sa mga nakausling bloke sa pader, sa mga bintana at sa maraming seramiko na linalatag ng bata. Limang barya na lang ito. Sinuri niya ang isang seramiko. Ding. Ala-sais na. Ding. Binuklat papataas ng bata ang pinto. Ding. Isa siya sa maraming tindahan sa Pansol. Umaalab na ang mga pugon at hurno. Naghalo ang usok mula sa metal, basoâ€™t arnibal. Nakalatag ang mga hinulmang paninda sa harap ng kanikanilang kabahayan. Tereteresa ng tao, karetelaâ€™t tindahan ang kabuuan ng Pansol. Tila sinulid na sinusubukang sulsiin ang kahabaan, kalaliman ng butas ang mga tulay na dumuduktong sa bawat teresa. Pinapatatag ng mga kabahayan ang mga pader ng Pansol, ang pakurbang pader ng Pansol na tatawaging langit kung hindi sa biyak nito. Hindi na ito lalaki pa. Nakatayo sa pinakamalaking tulay ang bulwagan. Nakasemento ang tuktok nito malapit sa biyak. Kaunti lamang ang tao sa bulwagan na tila ginintuan sa rami ng mga dilaw na papel na nakapaskil sa kahabaan ng tulay. May napatigil na bata sa gitna ng tulay. Madadagdagan ang rasyon ng kalahating kaban bawat bahay itong buwan. Ngumiti ang bata. Noong isang buwan pa ang paskil na ito. May dumaan na panday na abala sa paghatak ng metal papunta sa kanyang pagawaan. Hindi man siya lumingon para magbasa ng paskil. Hindi naman talaga lumalaki ang nakalaan na rasyon. Tumuloy ang bata papunta sa sarili niyang pagawaan tulak-tulak ang karetela na mas malaki pa sa kanya; puno ng bubog at buhangin. Sumusulyap ang araw mula sa malaking biyak sa itaas. Pinapakinang ng sikat ng araw ang baso sa buhangin. Pinakinang din nito ang mga seramiko ni Marko at
ilog Pita na lumalagos sa gitna ng Pansol. Humikab ang batang lalaki sa kanyang puwesto. Walang bibili.“Marko!” Nawala ang pagkinang ng mga seramiko. Pinaglalaruan ng mga ito ang aninag ng mama sa harap ng tindahan ng batang lalaki. “Kulang sa tulog?” Tumango ang batang lalaki. Tagilid ang ngiti ng mama dahil sa kagat niyang pipa. “Ikaw ba gumawa?” May pagkaipit din ang kanyang salitang papuri sa mga seramiko. “Iyong iba.” Nakaipit na lang sa gitna ng mga ngipin ng mama ang pipa. “Ito!” Tinanggal niya ang kanyang pipa. “Gawa ‘to siguro ng nanay mo.” May pagkaipit ang ngiti ni Marko. “Kasing swabe ng tubig.” Sa kabilang ibayo, pinintasan ng isang mamimili ang tinitindang pigura ng isang artisano. Tumayo ang artisano’t inakbayan ang mamimili. Ipinakita niya ang mga kurba, ang kagilagilalas na pagkakahulma ng pigura, ang tamang-tamang mga anino nito sa ilalim ng araw. Umiling ang mamimili. Bumalik sa kanyang puwesto ang artisano’t maligalig na inasikaso ang isa pang umaaligidligid na mamimili. Nag-asim ang nananatiling lasa ng queso sa bibig ni Marko. “Ikamusta mo na lang ako sa nanay mo.” Hindi lumunok si Marko. Nanatiling nakadilat lang siya sa kanyang puwesto, nakatitig sa kanyang mga seramiko. Pinagmamasdan niya ang mga dumadaang aninag na pinaglalaruan ng mga hubog ng seramiko. Nalulusaw sa putik ang kanyang mga tatak. Dahan-dahan. Sinusundan ng puting putik ang hawak ni Marko. Mabigat ang pawis sa kanyang kilay. Nakatuon siya sa pagbura ng mabibigat na linya sa hubog. Dwhop. Dwhop. Unti-unting nararamdaman ng kanyang pagyapak ang pagtulak ng bawat ngipin ng gulong. Dwhop. Dwhop. Pakinggan ang pag-inog. Ganoon siya gumawa. Dwhop. Dwhop. Hindi napapagod ang tainga. Sumama ang amoy ng kanyang seramiko sa naghahalong usok sa Pansol. Madadatnan na lamang ang natitirang amoy sa semento’t kahoy ng mga kabahayan sa pagkubli ng araw sa mga pakurbang pader. Nagsarahan ang mga tindahan. Nagkatapyas-tapyas ang nanuyong putik sa mga daliri ni Marko sa kanyang pagkuyom. “Marko!” Dumaan muli ang mama tulak-tulak ang kanyang karetela. “Kumus—.” Lumaylay ang kanyang pipa. Nagparada ang mga kabalyero sa bawat teresa ng Pansol. May mga batang napatigil sa paglalaro, may sapaterong naduruan sa kanyang pananahi, tumingala ang isang manlililok. Lumabas si Marko para lamang mapagmasdan ang parada. “Pasikat.” ngisi ng mama. “Ayaw niyo po
ba sa kanila, tito?” Tumingkad ang asul ng mga ulap sa pagbahid ng pula ng dapithapon. Tinanggal niya ang kanyang pipa. “Gusto kong maging sila...” Napatingala si Marko sa kabalyerong dumaan sa harap ng kanyang tindahan. Kita sa kanyang baluti ang biyak sa Pansol na nagmistulang sugat sa pagkapula ng langit. Abot leeg ang helmet ng mga kabalyero; sarado hanggang sa pisngi. Kung saan dapat makita ang kanilang ilong, bibig at mata, naroon lamang ang kadiliman. Siya kaya? Pareho lang ang kanikanilang baluti. “Gusto mo rin bang maging kalablyero, Marko?” Bumakas sa alaala ni Marko ang sagisag na dala ng mga kalablyero na dala ang kanyang mga naligaw na panaginip. Naligaw na rin ang kanyang tiyak na sagot. Isinara niya ang kanyang tindahan. Bumukas ang mga ilaw sa kahabaan ng Pansol. Itinago niya ang mga seramiko. Magaan. Parang tubig. Ramdam ang pagkakaiba sa paghawak pa lang nito. Walang batik ang seramiko kahit ang humubog nito ang parehong magagaspang na kamay na humahawak sa kanya noon. Patiyad niyang inilagay ang mga seramiko sa istante. Papausug pa. SHCLANG! Nabasag ang seramikong ginawa ng kanyang ina. Hindi niya alam na may pakialam siya noon. Hindi niya alam kung papaano. Kung mas matanda lamang siya ng isang taon, mas napaaga sana ang pag-aaklas laban sa mga kabalyero, laban sa kaharian na sensura. Naibunyag sana ang sabuwatan sa Pansol: ang pagpapatapon ng lahat ng mamamayang may uban. Sakit ito. Nakakapatay. Pinapanatili ang kabataan, karangyaan at kagandahan sa Pansol. Artisano ang lahat ng kanikanilang larangan. Hindi sila nagugutom. Binibigyan sila ng rasyon ng kaharian—rasyon na lumalaki sa bawat nababawasang mamamayan. Walang may alam kung paanong mabahala hanggang sa panahong iyon na lumaki na si Marko. Ngunit sa ngayon, iiyak siya sa tabi ng mga bubog, sa tabi ng isang pares ng bota na masyadong malaki para sa kanyang suotin.
The Door is Closed (excerpt) Arsenio Mari Armas
CHARACTERS SON – 15 years old FATHER – 40 years old LOLA – 70 years old TANOD – 40 years old, male DOCTOR – 25 years old, female SETTING The stage is split into two halves. There is a corridor of a house at stage left. On stage right there is a room containing a bed. One large, closed door separates stage right from stage left. TIME AND PLACE Night in a neighbourhood in Marikina, Metro Manila. THE PLAY (FATHER is seen on stage left banging on the door, trying to get the SON to open the door. The SON is on the other side of the door on stage right, bracing the door with his body. After a while, the Father stops, apparently exhausted.) FATHER Son, talk to me. (SON does not respond) FATHER Son, we can talk about this. Talk to me, I’m your father. Open this door so we
can talk and we can go home. (SON stops trying to call his mother) FATHER Son, we can talk about this. Let’s talk about this so I can take you home. (pause) Why won’t you open this door? (The SON doesn’t respond) Son, open this door. SON Father, Mama told me not to. FATHER You don’t always have to listen to your mother. Open this door. SON Mama told me not to open the door. FATHER Don’t listen to your mother, son. Listen to me. Open this door so we can talk about this. (The SON doesn’t respond) Open this door. (The SON does not respond) Son, open this door now. (The SON does not respond) Open this fucking door! (FATHER starts banging on the door. He kicks the door and punches it. The SON goes to the door and braces it in an attempt to stop FATHER’s violent reactions. FATHER stops banging on the door when he realizes his SON is right behind it.) FATHER Are you hurt?
SON No, Father. FATHER Will you open this door? (The SON doesn’t respond) I’m your father, listen to me and open this door. SON No, Father! (FATHER starts punching the door. SON goes to the door in an attempt to brace it.) FATHER Open the door, putangina! SON Don’t destroy the door, father! (FATHER stops) FATHER I’m only doing what’s best for you, do you not see that? I have done everything I have to do. I have fed you I have clothed you I have provided you with a decent education I have done nothing wrong and this is how you treat me? Don’t be a selfish little bastard and open this fucking door! (FATHER slams himself against the door as the SON braces himself on the door) I have given everything to you! Don’t think that I didn’t know that you preferred your mother over me! I know everything that goes on in my son’s life! Tell me that I did not love you unconditionally tell me that I was not able to provide for you tell me that I did not give you everything you asked tell me that I did not give you a home! (FATHER starts banging on the door once more. SON goes away from the
door and fiddles with his cellphone, attempting to call his mother, but he falters and drops the cellphone) VOICEOVER (simultaneously with FATHER) The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later. The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later. FATHER Open the door! Open the door now! Open the fucking door! (LOLA and TANOD enter from stage left. FATHER stops pounding on the door.) LOLA There! That’s him! Arrest him! He’s a trespasser! Arrest him! Arrest him now! TANOD Is this true? FATHER They took my son! (to LOLA) You took my son! LOLA You’re scaring your child! He won’t come out of his room because you’re there! FATHER Bitch! (TANOD forcefully takes the FATHER away from the door. They exit at stage left.) LOLA Ay Diyos ko! You’ll be fine now, anak. Your father has been like this ever since. Like I’ve been telling you, anak, he once broke into the house just to meet your mother - and without my consent! Diyos ko! And to think that he got your mother pregnant. She had no choice but to marry him, siyempre. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got her pregnant on purpose! Then again he could just be
that much of a demonyo. Ungrateful bastard can’t keep that thing in his pants. Lord knows all those women he used to do would help him learn how to use it properly! (LOLA knocks on the door) Are you still there, anak? SON Opo, Lola. LOLA Let me in, anak. SON Why po, Lola? LOLA Let’s get you out of there, anak. The Tanod is already taking care of your father. LOLA Anak, let’s talk to the barangay together. Tara na. SON I don’t want to, Lola. LOLA Anak, nobody’s going to hurt you anymore. Get out of there. (The SON does not respond) Anak, don’t be afraid. This is your home. Open the door, dali na. (LOLA knocks on the door and grasps the doorknob) Anak? SON I’ll go out later po, Lola.
LOLA Ay bakit? (SON does not respond) LOLA Ay Diyos ko anak. (Frustrated, LOLA goes away from the door) It’s like you’re not a real man. Don’t be like your father! Open the door, anak! (frustrated even more, LOLA goes to the door and knocks violently) Don’t be hard-headed and open the door! SON Don’t break the door po, Lola! LOLA I’m not going to break the door, this is my home! And because this is my home, anak I want you to open this door. (LOLA knocks on the door violently, and then grasps the doorknob and turns it in a just-as-violent (if not more) manner) Open the door for your Lola, anak! (SON once again fiddles with his phone, trying to call his mother unsuccessfully) VOICEOVER (simultaneously with LOLA) The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later. The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later. LOLA Open the door, anak! (SON does not respond) Anak, open the door! (TANOD enters from stage left, LOLA notices him) Ay, ginoo!
TANOD He’s in the car with another officer, we’re ready to take you to City Hall. LOLA He won’t leave his room! Please talk to him, officer. Maybe he’ll listen to you. Try, at least. Diyos ko. (TANOD walks over to the door and knocks on it) TANOD Boy, come out of there. Ito yung barangay. SON What is it? TANOD Your father’s in the car, boy. We’re ready to take him and you to City Hall. (The SON does not respond) SON Why? TANOD So we can help you. SON Help me? TANOD Yes, help you. You’re underage. We have to get you out of there and we need to listen to both sides of the story and we have to make sure your father really is the criminal. SON The criminal?
TANOD Your father barged into your house and tried to break down your door, tama ba? SON Yes. TANOD So, that makes him a criminal. We need you to testify that your father really did break into your home. SON But he didn’t. TANOD Anong he didn’t? I saw the gate open, I saw the mess downstairs, I heard him scream at you, I heard him banging on your door and I saw him try and assault your grandmother and you’re telling me he didn’t? (to LOLA) What is wrong with this boy? LOLA Don’t talk about him like that! Diyos ko. TANOD Boy, we’re going to take you to City Hall. We’re going to get you there to testify about what happened, and we’re going to get you to talk to a doctor. SON A doctor? TANOD Yes, a doctor. Are you listening ba? SON Why?
TANOD To get you checked to see if this event might affect you in any way. SON Why can’t the doctor come here? TANOD What? SON Why can’t the doctor come here? TANOD (to LOLA) Is your boy alright? LOLA Anak, don’t be hard-headed! Listen to the barangay. They know what to do! Diyos ko po. (to LOLA) Can you call the doctor here, ba? TANOD I can. LOLA Please do. (Frustrated, the TANOD exits. LOLA continues pacing around stage left. At times, LOLA will be seen knocking on the door, calling the SON as the SON continues to talk. Ringing is heard in the background as the SON tries to call his mother) SON I sat there, waiting. Answer the phone Mama, please answer the phone. VOICEOVER (simultaneously with the SON) The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later. The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later.
SON Mama needs to know that father tried to take me back to his house; she needs to know that Lola tried to keep me in her house; she needs to know that the barangay tried to take me to City Hall to get me to say that father was a criminal; she needs to know that thereâ€™s a doctor coming to check on me. Why would they send a doctor? She needs to know whatâ€™s happening, my Mama needs to know, please answer the phone Mama please answer the phone. (SON puts phone up to his ear) Mama? VOICEOVER The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later. The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later.
“...there is no there there.” –Gertrude Stein How everything Begins: A grain unfolds Into Everything.
The slightest breeze rends A dandelion. Its seeds Join the oscillating wind Without memory Of ever being whole.
How everything Begins To look: gas And gold. How Everyone begins To see.
The stars we see at night are dead.
Grandmother releases her final breath, joins else things, empty space: From where I am: this smattering of the discreteâ€”father, mother, bed; brother, wallpaper; aunt, she; caretakerâ€”from where I am: father, again, against Doorframe: this smattering, this constellation. We are all lightâ€” Years apart.
The stars we see at night are Dead: the stars we see at night
Here is distance. We have many words for it. I like to call it else. The tiniest fraction of space is our constellation of electrons between palms, or else things, here. Distance. Hairline fracture, sliver of naked skin: tell me you are here. Tell me this distance is but else. Tell me the kerchief peeking from your clenched fist is as blue as I imagine it to be. My eyes no longer gauge things as well. If I close them you might disappear and I will not find you, lost in empty spaces. Hairline fracture, sliver of naked skin: the where where you stand an improbable floorboard creaking counterpoints to the sound of longing.
Or is it— What is it called— Scientifically, I mean.
Instructional: find the star Closest to the tip Of the churchâ€™s cross. Its flickering Is older than the bruise Of memory. What remains Are scars in the sky, Patches of healed Violence scabbing over, Finding their way To sight.
Instructional: Find the dent In the air Where the seed Of a dandelion Imprints its memory.
Counterpoints to the sound of longing: I cannot hold you now, I canâ€™t not hold you now.
The boy in his sandbox scoops heaps into his bucket. A grain unfolds into everything. The seed of a dandelion finds its way home.
Technician’s Log 20|15|113 L.X. Estimated Arrival: 34 Solar Hours Finally entering the Xophylon Prime system, the space pod is on course to reach K.T. 57. There have been no noted irregularities and everything is on schedule as it should be. So I’ve finally gotten to writing in this journal. Though at first I didn’t see why the company had to require us technicians to keep a log (for you boys in the psych department, they said) and we aren’t exactly the emotional type, but I guess it helps pass the time when you’re in deep space travelling by yourself. Travelling alone was a purely economic decision by the company, to cut costs, but I do wish that the trip was long enough to justify having to enter cryostasis. Being alone among the stars and the vast emptiness of space, it is almost unavoidable to start asking questions of where we come from (the company hangar, my head sarcastically replies) or where we’re all headed (to K.T. 57, I answer myself again). Too much heavy thinking, I believe, for a simple job. It almost makes you sorry for the old K.T. 57, having been undisturbed in space for nearly a century. -Technician’s Log 23|15|113 L.X. The space pod had to re-plot its course in order to avoid a Signal 2 meteor storm, delaying arrival by approximately 2 days. However, visual contact with K.T. 57, which the boys back in Quainot have nicknamed MotherBox, has been made. To my surprise, it roughly resembles an old, dilapidated, two-story house. “MotherBox” because, firstly, it had been the original GIPvac, “giving birth” to all of the subsequent GIPVACs, and, secondly, it looked like a giant, metallic box (technicians don’t get paid to be verbose). GIPVACs had been designed as supercomputers capable of immense calculation, data application, and information retrieval, commissioned by the Planetary Council to be launched deep into space in order to collect information on extraterrestrial patterns, celestial body movements, and pertinent galactical trends, and, more importantly, discover new systems for the human population to live in.
Well, in a twist that no one had expected, the Planetary Council actually accomplished what it had set out to do and discovered multiple, far-off solar systems that could support human life. What followed was a mass exodus of the human race from its old planets to new ones. This is also meant that the MotherBox, and every GIPvac like it, no longer had a use with its primary task accomplished. Enormous, self-sustaining thinking machines that could accomplish unimaginable algorithms, finish unending equations, and generate thought power more than the combined ideas, imaginings, and ponderings of the entire humankind, were left just floating about in space, with no particular objective or agenda. For decades now, technicians like myself had been tasked with retrieving whatever data or information these GIPvacs had left and decommissioning them after, cleaning up after humankind had left, as it were. The MotherBox had been the first of its kind and it will soon be the last of it. -Technician’s Log 24|15|113 L.X. Unfortunately, the operational docking system of MotherBox seems to have malfunctioned, making standard entry unfeasible. I managed to find an entrance through manually opening a Utility Hatch with a high-pressure torch and will shortly begin complete Data Retrieval after establishing that the entirety of the MotherBox is fully life-supporting. Fortunately for me, the rest of MotherBox seems to be in working order and I’ve established base in the upper west quadrant of this GIPvac. Its operating system works as smooth as a whistle and, though I’ve only opened the upper west sections of MotherBox since this is all I need to access, I am sure that the rest of it is still in mint-condition; spotless, blemish-free, and even shiny, since MotherBox had been independent of humans and other foreign bodies which might lead to degradation. While opening the Utility Hatch, I was in the open Space for about 8 minutes. The sensation of being out in the open, of being a single dot in the span of the infinity, or at least near-infinity, of the Universe is still as awe-inducing and spine-tingling as it is the first time, even if it has been the fortieth time. For some reason though, while I was opening the hatch, it felt as if someone… or something had been watching me. It just must have been nerves though, because after entering
MotherBox, I checked the Interstellar Travel Logs and, aside from myself, no one has been documented to be even in the same galaxy as Xophylon Prime in more than a decade. -Technician’s Log 28|15|113 L.X. Data Retrieval has been going on for longer than I expected. After locating a console in one of the processing rooms, I realized that, since this was the original GIPvac, for the sake of preservation and on the off chance of making contact with someone other than us, MotherBox had also been given extensive records and documentation on the human race as a whole, including its cultures, histories, and peoples. Initially, I thought it would have been easy to bypass all the data on the human species since it isn’t part of the data that I need to retrieve; however, for some reason, the data about humans and the data MotherBox has collected about nearby galaxies and solar systems have been interwoven in chunks, more or less jumbled up in a mess that I have to sift through. No matter, however, since the data on humans also include a deep library of films, music, and literature that was deemed worthy enough to represent the human race, meaning it would be more than good enough to help me pass the time. I must admit that I have been enjoying Charlie Chaplin’s series of silent films on one of the larger display screens. On a more curious note, the input “STOP” has begun appearing in between masses of data. It initially appeared after I had taken the first sizeable batch of useable data on the neighboring planets, but it has been appearing more and more. Whether this is a command prompt the MotherBox uses to filter information or some kind of warning system to prevent data corruption, I do not know. Aside from that, I also noticed a stray portion of a binary code that, after I put through a translator, spat out a garbled mess of the letters A though G in varying patterns and frequencies. -Technician’s Log 2|16|113 L.X. Approaching the end of the Data Retrieval process and it seems that the research
gathering protocols of MotherBox had been abandoned entirely in the last few years. Once more, for some reason, it seems that the data on human life had been accessed more and more frequently with only specks of space research being recognized. The “STOP” prompt has started to appear even more frequently, and I seem to be unable to circumvent or bypass this despite my best troubleshooting efforts. Probably some glitch or operating failure, I assume. This was the first GIPvac, after all and it would be most prone to defects and malfunctions. However, the most interesting peculiarity was that, according to the MotherBox’s data records, in the past 5 months up to a few days ago when I entered Xophylon Prime, all the data that MotherBox had inputted seemed neither to come from its deep space research or from the human records it contained. Perhaps in relation to that, I’ve managed to come upon a small epiphany as of late. The MotherBox’s sourceless binary code, which had been translated into a mess of letters and symbols, I’ve realized, can be read as music notes. Good music notes, in fact. This cannot be the case however, since even the most advanced of supercomputers are only capable of interpreting and applying existing combinations of data, not generating new ones. For all of their thinking prowess, they could only answer questions they had been asked, not ask questions themselves. -Technician’s Log 3|19|113 L.X. Progress is moving and I’ve gotten the better part of my work behind me. I’ve set up multiple consoles to download the data simultaneously and I’ve made base near the center of the MotherBox in preparation for initiating its shutdown sequence. Why didn’t I use multiple consoles sooner? When this assignment started, I thought that it would have been a nice paid vacation away from the rest of civilization; a few weeks where I could just be with myself and not have to deal with anybody else. A break from humanity. Truth be told, I cannot wait to get this job over and done with. I haven’t had any human contact in weeks and, to be completely frank, I’m developing some sort of space-cabin syndrome. If humans are social animals, and I’ve been the sole living being in this entire solar system, what does that make me? Am I any more human
than the machines that I use (more so than MotherBox which holds much more records and proof of humanity than I do?) I almost feel like I’ve become a part of MotherBox, sorting through data, filtering numbers, and sifting through strands of equations. -Technician’s Log 3|21|113 L.X. I had finally gathered all the data I needed and headed towards the main housing unit of MotherBox’s processors, its “brain” so to speak. With the unsolved mysteries of this entire trip still fresh in my head, I went to the brain room with the intent to finish this job, decommission MotherBox, and head back to the rest humanity as quickly as I can. I had input the appropriate command codes and shut down sequences on the MotherBox’s main display screen, which spanned the dimensions of the entire wall it was on. Before I could finish the sequence however, the screen turned black, only to quickly flash back on, and showed something that sent a chill down my spine and a fear so severe that, in my panic, caused my hand to hastily and without thought initiate the kill sequence that would shut MotherBox off forever. An act I regret deeply and is the very same reason that this technician’s log will be my last because, with it, I sign my resignation. You would have fired me anyway, thinking me to be mad. Because flashing boldly and without mistake or error on MotherBox’s screen was a symbol that it should not have and could not have possibly made. “?”
The Sleeping Teddy Guggenheimer (Abridged) by Pramod Gupta, M.D. Jose Miguel Villanueva
Teddy Guggenheimer is now thirty years old, but there are still too many days when he feels profoundly out of sorts. He doesn’t like being in rooms when the doors were closed. He is afraid of the dark and in the summer, he sleeps out in the garden, where he can look up and see the stars. It all started in 1992. The first real sign that there was anything the matter was when he went to bed at eight o’clock one Friday evening and was still fast asleep at half-past ten the following day. His mother had to sit him up and splash his face with cold water before getting any sense out of him. When he eventually came around, he muttered something about being on a boat on a winding river. An oarless boat that had just been drifting, and drifting, all night long. One Thursday evening, a couple of weeks later, he sat and yawned by the fire for half an hour, before finally getting to his feet and shuffling off up the stairs. As soon as his head hit the pillow, he knew that the most potent sort of sleep was moving in on him. “I could feel its heavy tide tug at my very bones,” Teddy says as he recounts the event. “I had no choice but to surrender to it. My body seemed to sink like stone.” And as he went under, he briefly wondered how long he’d be gone this time. The moment his mother woke the following morning, she knew something was wrong and that her son had slipped from her grasp. She rushed into his room and found him lying with the sheets all neat and flat around him, just the same as when she’d tucked him in the night before. She put her palm against his forehead-- sleepy-warm. His breath was sleepy-sweet. Martha: “I called out to Robert and made him shake him as hard as he could. I lost my father in his sleep and I was scared that my little Teddy would go out the same way his popsy did.” Lunchtime came and went with not the slightest prospect of him stirring. In the afternoon, I gave them a visit. I checked the boy’s pulse and opened up both eyelids, but found no sign of life in either one. In my opinion, there were only two possible explanations. Either the boy had caught sleeping sickness (which was not very likely, as it is a Tropical Disease normally spread by the tsetse fly, which
is not found in Toronto), or the boy was simply sound asleep, in which case, I thought it best just to keep an eye on him and let the sleep run its natural course. I didn’t think it would last as long as it did. After a month, his parents had to accept that this was not just some passing fancy and began to develop a little routine for their sleeping child. In the morning, they rolled him on to the left side and in the afternoon, they rolled him on to his right. Twice a week, they changed his sheets and washed his pyjamas and every evening opened up the window to let some fresh air in. They sat him up, to watch his almost-lifeless body and to spoon some soup into him. And, one way or another, they took care of all his other bodily functions. Martha: “There were times when we just wanted to give up, Robert and I. We considered hiring a nurse but we didn’t have enough money for that at the time. It was just too much for us.” Robert: “Martha had to give up her daytime job as a seamstress and work as a night waitress instead. One of us couldn’t afford to stop working, but at the same time, we needed someone to be there for Teddy at any given time. Between the two of us, Martha sacrificed so much more. And I’m proud of her for that,” says Robert. His mother and father made sure that either one of them was always within earshot, in case he suddenly woke up and called out to them. And at the end of each day they say by his bed and talked, just like any normal family, as if he might open his eyes and join in at any time. Martha: “We just always thought he was in there… somehow. I mean, how much of a drag must it be for him to just lie there, motionless, but remain conscious and able to hear? We wanted him to have a reason to wake up, and we did so by telling him of all the things he’s missing. I know it’s cruel to some extent, but, if it justifies the means, then why not?” As the years crept by, the legend of the sleeping boy from Newcastle spread right across the country and two or three times a week some stranger would turn up on the doorstep asking to have a peek at him or present some home-made remedy which, they assured his parents, would have him back on his feet in no time at all. Robert: “It got ridiculous after awhile. You could tell that most of these people just wanted to be a part of the media circus. At some point, we just had to put a “no gifts allowed” sign on our door because we just had this massive over-
flow of caffeine and cymbals. I don’t know what these people were thinking.” For ten long years, the sleeping boy never left his bedroom. Every morning, his parents rolled him on to his left side and every afternoon, they rolled him on to his right. They fed and bathed him, trimmed his hair and did their best to draw him into conversation. Christmas Days and birthdays crept quietly by. And in all that time, the only thing that ever found its way through to him was his mother’s voice-- just a few words now and again, which sounded muffled and dreadfully distant, as if he was deep inside a whale. Martha: “When he’d let out a few words, Robert and I would always think that he’s close to coming back to us. But after a few minutes, he’d just, be gone again. It was torture for us because we didn’t know if that was already the best that our Teddy could do.” Robert: “For the past few years he’s been asleep, I just filled his room with memorabilia of football seasons gone by. My Teddy and I are rabid Newcastle fans and I’m sure that when he wakes up, the first thing he’ll ask me is, “Dad, have we won a trophy yet?” I’m a bad storyteller so I’ll just let the memorabilia do all the talking.” The rest of time he was blissfully ignorant. He was locked away deep within himself. All except for one solitary occasion when he briefly grasped that he’d somehow muddled up being asleep with being awake. For one awful moment he understood that hew as sleeping, without having the first idea how to bring himself around. He wanted to call out-- to break the spell-- but his cry for help was stuck deep in his sleeping body. Then another dream swept in, embraced him and drew him back into the deeper reaches of unconscious. Teddy: “I don’t remember much of it but all I recall is how heavy I felt while I was in the dream. There were times when I felt like I was about to rouse, about to reach the shore on my little wooden raft-- a strong wave from nowhere would then drive me away a few miles back, far from the shore. It was getting hopeless and I thought that I was already dead and I was in hell. I was a good kid. I don’t know what I did to deserve that.” It was a long, slow hibernation, and it took its toll on the boy’s poor mum and dad, who themselves began to drift around the place in their own half-waking state. Their hair turned grey from all the worry. Their dreams were full of pain and fear. But on one otherwise ordinary Sunday morning, their suffering finally came to an end.
Teddy’s mother was quietly tidying his room around him and sat on the bed for a moment, to catch her breath. She talked to her son, as she’d done a thousand times before, about whatever happened to be on her mind-- all the little jobs that needed doing and how the summer was slowly coming around. She brushed his hair to one side with her fingers, kissed him on the forehead and rested her cheek against his sleeping face. She closed her eyes and whispered a few kind words to him, and she was breathing in the smell of his hair when she thought she felt the flicker of an eyelash against her cheek. And when she sat back, there was her son, with his eyes wide open looking up at her. She called out to Teddy’s father. He got there just in time to see Teddy in the midst of gathering his senses and cobbling together his first words. Teddy opened his mouth, but his throat was as dry as bracken. “I’ve been asleep,” he croaked. Martha: “After awhile, taking care of Teddy just felt like a routine to us. We didn’t really think he’d wake up anymore after all the years have gone by.” Robert: “That’s true. Taking care of him became like an emotionally-draining hobby of sorts to Martha and I. But we just grew used to it. That’s the thing, no matter how sudden a change becomes, it all boils down to how you adjust to it.” Teddy desperately wanted to get up but all his muscles had grown weak and withered. So his father took one arm around his shoulder, his mother took the other and between they, they managed to get him to his feet. As he limped along, he had the most peculiar feeling: either his parents had been busy shrinking, or he’d been busy growing up. Teddy: “I felt like I was dad and he was wearing me [sic] clothes.” In fact, Teddy had grown no more than most boys do between the ages of ten and twenty. When he fell asleep, he was four foot six. When he awoke, he was six foot two. He leant against the window ledge and looked out at the world he’d last seen ten years earlier. The birds were singing. The clouds slowly rolled across the sky. Then he turned and headed back towards his bed. On his way, he passed a mirror and caught sight of some young man resting on the shoulders of his own mother and father. He stood-- quite stunned-- and stared at the young man, who stood and stared right back at him. Robert: “After realizing how much time had gone by Teddy, I wonder if it was even worth waking up at all. I mean, that’s what he told me. Martha and I
wonder if he still has enough time to ease himself into the world of adults. He still thinks and feels like he’s a young lad.” Martha: “You see, he was ten when he slept, but he woke up at twenty-two. You see how strange the change is? He wouldn’t know how it feels like to be a teenager and now, he’s expected to be an adult. How does that even work?” All too often, Teddy felt like a boy trapped inside a man’s body. He could be dreadfully shy and sometimes had terrible trouble finding the right words for what he had to say. And when he closed his eyes at night, he would sometimes wonder if that strange, fathomless sleep was waiting for him and whether he would ever again have to endure that awful feeling of being deep inside a whale.
The Drums Errand Jaclyn Teng
A few days ago, I lost control of my car and drove off the road and onto a lake. I panicked as the car filled with water and soon found myself face to face with the car’s ceiling—short of oxygen. I woke up several hours—or what I thought to be several hours—on a rocky island shore, startled awake by a little voice. “Can you please tell me where I am?” I opened my eyes to find a little drum staring down at me. He had a shiny red shell and a membrane of skin stretched over his head. The skin on his head, pulled taught on the sides, looked like a newly polished ice skating rink—perfect and smooth. “I’m sorry, but I am just as lost as you,” I replied, shaky. “No matter, I’ll find my own way.” “Can I accompany you? I’m afraid I’ve gotten turned around.” “Yes of course, why not come with me on my errands? I was just on my way to a ceremony.” So I followed the little red drum as he made his way around the island until we came upon a cave full of paintings and half-naked men. “Ah. Here it is.” He exclaimed. The little red drum I was with changed his form and shape, from a shiny red shell; he became a hollowed log wrapped in animal hide. He marched to the center of the half-naked men and they began dancing around him, chanting something in a different language. They used the heels of their palms to strike at the drum, making enchanting, haunting sounds. A man that looked like a woman emerged from the smoke of the flames, struck the drum five times and then fainted. The half-naked men, their dark skin shiny with sweat, continued to pound with their palms on the drum’s head until the androgynous man stood up again. They all cheered and, as the men walked away, the drum changed its shape back into his shiny red shell. “What did you think of the ceremony?” asked the drum, returning to me. “It was magical. I have yet seen anything like it.” “Why not follow me some more? I have lots to do. Lots and lots to do.” “What do you have to do?” “Lots and lots.”
I followed him again until we came upon a spiralling tower that looked like a pagoda. He asked me to follow him up. We walked the wooden staircase and braved the bitter snow. When we reached the top, a man dressed in lacquered armor of red and gold looked at us. The little red drum looked at me and once more changed his shape. He turned into a big wooden drum painted in red. His white membranous head, painted over with black calligraphy ink in angular brush strokes. The man stood up suddenly, knocking his chair back, exclaiming in a wild flurry with a language I did not know. He took two heavy sticks and started pounding on the drum. Once, twice, three times—a signal. Men started gathering on the square bellow, each holding weapons of great calibre. “My job here is done,” the drum said to me. He walked away again without turning a glance back at the amassing soldiers. As we descended the staircase, I saw that the once-smooth membrane on his head was starting to sink in the middle like he was battered and punched. “Are you alright my dear drum? There’s a depression on your head.” “What depression my friend?” “The sunken cavity on your forehead.” “It is but a mere dimple, hardly anything to be depressed about.” “But certainly my dear drum, you feel pain when they strike you?” “Do they strike me? I guess they do.” Next, we reached a cobble stoned street damp with rain water. “Ah there they are” the drum exclaimed. He left me and took on another form, one that was made of red wood, with golden trimmings. He even had on thick white straps with buckles on them. A group of men in three columns marched my way, Sounds of cannons in the distance and tattered flags accompanying them. The tallest man of the group lifted my drum onto his belly, securing the white straps over his shoulders. They again walked back the way they came, their black boots and red coats remarkable in the distance. They struck the little drum on his forehead in a rhythm of a battle hymn as I watched. Surely this could not be how the little drum will always be treated? This drum was a drum, but not a drum at all. For several hours—or what I thought to be several hours—I heard cannons and shouts of agony. When the battle had ended, the drum came back to me, a rip on his forehead flapping in the wind. “My dear drum you are hurt. You should take a break with that rip on your forehead.” I said, standing up from where I had taken position on a fallen tree
trunk. “What rip my friend?” “That rip on your forehead.” “Ah this rip. Yes it is unfortunate.” “Then let’s take a vacation. We can go to a different island and maybe watch the seagulls fly.” “But I can’t.” “Why not?” I said, perplexed. “Because I have lots to do.” “But surely you can do other things?” “Can I?” With that the little drum took my hand and dragged me away from the battle field and away from the rain damp cobblestone road. We walked again, in silence. Not long after, the drum stopped outside double doors. There was sound coming from behind them, a strong thudding and a flicker of lights. We walked through the jockeying of people and through tons of sound equipment into a curtained off section where the sound was loudest. He took a look at me, a weary expression in his eyes. “Wait here my friend,” said the little drum, and then shifted into a shiny white drum with black zebra stripes. He walked through the curtains as I peeked through them. There, three men in leather pants and long hair played their guitars in front of the cheering crowd. The drum made his way to the center and placed himself between a lot of wires and cymbals. The man in the middle took a seat behind the drum. I cringed as the drum, in the midst of other drums, was struck with a big foot pedal. The concert went on for hours, every time a beat sounded; it was another blow to the drum. After an hour or so there was a loud boom on stage. It didn’t sound like a beat from a drum. I rushed to see what it was and saw the drum with a big hole on his forehead, the drummer still beating upon the injury. I ran out, oblivious to the crowd and took the drum by the hand and led him backstage. Luckily the concert had come to an end and the drum could finally rest. “Look what has happened to you. This is your own fault.” “What has happened my dear friend?” “There is a hole on your head the size of a baseball.” “Ah this hole. Yes it is unfortunate.” “Then come with me and you will never be hurt again.”
“But what is there for a drum to do but be hurt?” “You are a drum, but not a drum at all.” “I am a drum with lots to do, lots and lots to do.”
About the Authors Kristian Alejandro “Kyle Alejandro is a man of few words. Yun lang” - Ariane Lim Arsenio Mari Armas Arsenio started writing in grade school. He never stopped. Arsenio likes absurd things. He's a double major (BFA CW and AB IS). He likes theatre and writing and stuff. Above all, he likes talking about himself in the third person. Patricia Cendaña Pat is a BFA Creative Writing sophomore who doesn't know what to say in this write-up without sounding awkward. So, instead she would like to thank her mom, for listening to her writing problems and giving her advice. And her sister, who tried to read her piece even when she didn't want to. Isabela Cuerva Isabela Cuerva, 22, is a senior BFA Creative Writing major at the Ateneo de Manila University. She was a fellow for nonfiction at the 16th Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop, and a fellow for poetry at the 11th Ateneo National Writers Workshop. Her work has appeared in the Kritika Kultura Anthology of New Philippine Writing in English (2011), Heights, and Buklod Zine. Most recently, she was a winner of the Loyola Schools Awards for the Arts in the Creative Writing-Literary Essay category. Ramon Domingo For my write-up, I guess I'd like to acknowledge my mom for putting up with all my s*** when I write and just want to say: The most difficult things you encounter in life are usually the ones worth keeping, like a legendary Pokemon.
Andrew Gallardo We exist. And we make the "time" exist. And we make the "time" "immortal". "Eternal". Just as this "poem". Just as my gratitude to all the existent and non-existent beings that supported me, especially my imaginary friends, my family and God. Regina Geronimo Rei started writing when she first wrote about how porcupines came to be (they had evil, poisonous glue stuck on their backs until they bumped into cactuses and the spines stuck to the glue) and soon got hooked. Her stories have now evolved from the evils of poisonous glue and porcupines and make much more sense now. She finds that she writes best while sitting in a boring class and her notebook is propped open in front of her. Currently a BFA CW sophomore student, Rei wants to be a novelist and enjoys playing video games (she is now into the MOBA game League of Legends), board games, and Magic: The Gathering. Her favorite authors include Edgar Allan Poe, Nalini Singh, and Julia Quinn. Also, she’s not that fond of porcupines. Ariane Lim Ariane is grateful to many people and idolizes many people. She's just good at hiding it. She just wishes she can pay back the favor of saving her poetica. Marian Pacunana Marian Gender: Both Origin: Hebrew, English, French Meaning: Variant of Mary: Wished-for child; rebellion; bitter Ronald Panotes Ronald Panotes graduated upon writing this piece. He’s gone far away from his beloved school, and is most likely lost his way in the journey of life. If found, and if you think he’s worthy of your attention, say hi. He’s more than willing to greet back.
Elijah Pascual Pokemon training was the first love, but I guess writing will have to do. Jaclyn Teng "I can't go on, I'll go on."
― Samuel Beckett, I Can't Go On, I'll Go On: A Samuel Beckett Reader
Even when we find no purpose, no meaning, does that justify that we stop looking? Does that mean we ask someone else to look for us? Thank you to my blockmates, classmates, and friends for their time, effort, and sincere comments during workshops and lunch dates. Fe Esperanza Trampe “Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.” – Samuel Butler To my mother, my father, and to everyone who didn’t mind either way. Gracias por darme fe y esperanza. No matter what card life deals us with, there is always a choice. Stefani Tran “And I shall essay to be.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Steftran doesn't know what genres are anymore, but she'll keep on trucking* anyway. She likes ballpens with 1.0 tips and when Masterchef US reruns are on TV. She is not repressed. *(Disclaimer: This truck is purely idiomatic and in no danger whatsoever of colliding with the titular metaphorical bus. I'm looking at you, Ariane Lim.)
Maxine Trinidad Maxine Trinidad started writing when she was a child, after discovering several fantasy novels during elementary school. She began writing together with her friends to make her own stories and since then she hasn't stopped, her works drawing from some of her favorite stories by authors Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami, and Paulo Coelho. Maxine is currently a BFA Creative Writing sophomore at the Ateneo de Manila University. Aside from writing, she enjoys other forms of art such as dancing and drawing. She continues to write fiction, now veering away from fantastical themes and more on to emotionally provoking themes, and occasionally venturing into the world of creative nonfiction. Jose Miguel Villanueva Sleep was something I looked forward to (doing) before writing this piece. But now, I'm not so sure. Paul Simon Yiu Paul Simon Yiu is currently taking up his major in Creative Writing at the Ateneo de Manila University. Aside from having an inclination towards art, he also immerses himself in the world of science. His hobbies include playing the guitar, performing magic, and playing cards. Jong Young Hwan â€œBut her bed was empty. Torolf was gone, escaped out the bedroom window. In the distance, Hilda heard the fading sound of galloping abs.â€? - Sandra Hill, Rough and Ready
Acknowledgements This project could not have been made possible without the following people: Sir Glenn Mas Sir Martin Villanueva Sir Allan Derain The Fine Arts Program Thank you so much!