fiction essays art
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P L U R A L
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E D I TO R I A L T E A M Carlo Flordeliza firstname.lastname@example.org Erika Carreon email@example.com Neobie Gonzalez firstname.lastname@example.org
PLURAL is an online journal that caters to fiction, nonfiction, and criticism geared towards prose.
Lystra Aranal email@example.com Wina Puangco firstname.lastname@example.org July Amarillo email@example.com
F E AT U R E D
A K O co l In 2009, AK graduated from De La Salle University with an AB-Psychology degree, but her interest in artistic processes propelled her to pursue fine arts at Philippine Womenâ€™s University, where she recently completed her Masterâ€™s degree in Fine Arts and Design. Her background in arts-based research has led her to focus on identity and queer theory, which she discusses in most of her works. She is currently planning her first solo exhibit.
CO NTENTS ISSUE 6 · JULY 2017
PLU · R AL
A Brief History of Storms
The Reading Test Wil Lian Guzmanos
Tracey dela Cruz
I Didn’t Email You on Christmas Eve April Vázquez
24 Wishbone Ayana Tolentino
Mga talâ mula sa Bagong Bayan II
Doing the Flamel
92 Sa Pagitan ng Sabaw ng Chaolong at Hilab ng Tiyan
Postgraduate Admissions Catherine Tan
100 Strike Miguel Paolo Reyes
Wedding Protest +9/11 Dennis Aguinaldo
INTR O DU CTIO N
It has been four years since we had started, three since our first issue came out. For my part, I cannot say if I’ve grown wiser as I’ve grown (a little) older. As for the journal, I’d like to say that, to the question of ‘why write?’, each issue we publish tries to discover new answers. We’ve tackled this question before, and my colleagues have articulated it in so many different wonderful ways. Filling a gap. Playing with form. Pushing language. Renegotiating memory. Chasing ever-moving images. It is both an outward journey and an introspective one: inasmuch as we are here to provide space, to curate, to add to the conversation, it looks to me that Plural is here for us as well. We started Plural because we were, first and foremost, disquieted. And so, consciously and unconsciously, we have come to define good writing as writing driven by unease. To borrow the definition of slipstream offered by Kelly and Kessel, this ‘contemporary sensibility’ thrives in cognitive dissonance, which is still an extension of Keats’s negative capability, and an extension of that stirring within us that got us started on this path in the first place. Sometimes we get asked if this means ‘experimental’. What does it mean to be experimental, really? Why should not all writing be an experiment in the first place? Four years from those first footsteps, and things have changed around us, to be quite trite about it. What kind of world does Plural find itself now? In a time when alternative facts have been weaponized, powering an unwavering belief in one domineering narrative, it seems now that the role of creative writing becomes all the more important, if writing is meant to pave the way for self-examination, to reveal the seams of the fabrications we weave around ourselves, our realities. But how much dissonance can a person take, really? How does one write in the face of paralysis? Because the juggernaut of fascist myth-making won’t stop, we can’t, either, even if we start with the minutiae first. And even this might be too much to ask of writing. We can never presume to say of our engagement with the world, ‘this is enough’.
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In many of the submissions we had received, there is an undercurrent of unease in how these narrators examine their relationship with the circumstances surrounding their lives and how they frame their actions. We have here a letter which, despite its title, is more than a simple excuse for a missed communique; a short test on reading sorrow; a look into life growing up, vivid in its snapshots of joy and grief. You will find, too, essays about a memory not remembered right, reexamined amid recollections of storms, the tender tyrannies of the things that hold us in place, the relationship of obedience and ideology, faith. You’ll run into Chomsky remixed, yet even in this absurdist Oulipian world—or, perhaps because of it—we are made to be acutely aware of warfare fought in the arena of language. Speaking of absurdity, the fantastic, the ridiculous—the fantastically ridiculous?— these are favorites that can always be found in our pages: two neighbors dealing with the seemingly mundane predicament of what to do with a leftover cat; a man born into privilege in a far-flung but not unfamiliar future encountering a robot uprising; a struggling rapper-poet’s downward spiral culminating in a deus-ex-machina; and selfimportant academics plotting the fate of a particularly contentious student. They cannot be any more different from one another, but all of them are still firmly tethered to the world even if their characters are indifferent to it, or try to deny this world themselves, or think themselves above it, becoming objects of sympathy and mockery all at once, as are we all. Where do we go from here then? I don’t know. I’m hoping to find our next steps in each new submission. When I say we started Plural because of disquiet, I didn’t mean that we wanted Plural to be the catharsis for this dissatisfaction. Plural is food that must, necessarily, always keep us hungry. So. Why write? To write is to call bullshit on ourselves.
Erika Carreon Co-Founder and Editor
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A B R I E F H I S TO R Y O F S TO R M S GABBIE LEUNG
When people ask me about home, I tell them this story: that night, I was in the backseat of my dad’s Toyota, tracing raindrops down the window, trying to figure out which would fall out of view first. Whenever one drop was going faster than the one I chose, I switched. I still picked wrong mostly. The wind was blowing the raindrops sideways and messed up the whole game. It didn’t matter anyway. We were out on a drive to get coffee or pizza or groceries—I don’t remember which. See, my dad is the kind of parent who takes his kids out for pizza in the middle of a storm. That means he’s either reckless or just dedicated. Or he was no longer fazed by the winding Baguio roads slick with mud, the car only ten feet from falling over the ledge. The windshield wipers could hardly keep up with the rain, but he said he could see just fine. He could have been lying. All the raindrops were flying past us. My brother in the front seat fiddled with the radio dial, turning the volume up and up and up. The rain was making it hard to hear the weather person insisting the typhoon signal was climbing. The static was louder. The rain was louder. The thunder was louder. That’s what I remembered the most—the loudness—before the horse came crashing out of nowhere, galloping towards us at full speed. It was black. Or maybe it was just too dark out to tell. Its saddle was only half on, slipping down
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the horse’s back, slick with rain and mud, reins thrashing in the wind. I thought for a half-second I was going to die. But my dad swerved and the horse ran past us and that was the end of that thought. A few moments later, we saw a group of men running after the horse. It must have gotten away from them. It doesn’t matter, really. We were all quiet, sitting there for a little while. The raindrops were still blowing sideways. The headlights were blinking for a long time.
These days, my little black umbrella is wedged useless in my bag more often than not. I’ve started letting the droplets of water pinprick my skin on the way to where I am going. I miss it on the days there is nothing but sunshine, but even the rain is sticky here, and so warm. The Katipunan LRT station is below ground level. The sound of rain doesn’t travel through all that concrete. You might even forget it altogether—the flood of bodies alighting the train might as well be drenched in perspiration rather than the downpour. Later, when I dodge another umbrella held at eye level on the overcrowded sidewalk, I try to be thankful at least that the rain clears the streets of cockroaches crawling out of sewer grates. Better this than the blinding white of the sun and jeepney exhaust, and at least now I am familiar enough with this place that I don’t need to stop for directions. Another empty comfort: the rain in Quezon City is the same as rain back home, two hundred kilometers away. It’s all just water, anyway. This is an oversimplification I know to be untrue. You might call it a lie. I’m fond of those.
The thing about rain is it comes in cycles. Everyone knows this, at least the basics— evaporation, condensation, precipitation. This is the same anywhere you go, at least the broad strokes of it. It is the repetition that makes it easy enough to recount. When water is heated, it turns into vapor and swirls in the suddenly humid air. The gas claims more space for itself, pushing skyward. It’s cold in the sky. I would know; I’ve spent too much time shivering on mountaintops. I’d like to think the water droplets huddle together for warmth, but really, they cohere over their impurities. The truth has more to do with optimizing the ratio of surface area to volume. Clouds fill the whole sky. The sun is grayed and the water begins to struggle under
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its own weight, begins to give. The next part, we’re all familiar with: rain, plain and simple. Me, I’ve always been more interested in storms.
I used to walk up a mountain to get to school. No lie there. The walk back down to the main road was usually easier, but when it poured, the road turned into something between a muddy river and a waterfall. Even surrounded by the colorful umbrellas that marked out groups braving the trek, we would make it down drenched, laughing, shaking from the cold. My white socks were never the same. I think I threw them out at the end of that rainy season. We would sometimes try to wait out the rain, but that was no use when the weather stations forecasted another week straight of downpour. Once the rain started, it wouldn’t stop until the next morning, maybe sooner if we were lucky. If we were lucky, the fog would roll in instead of the rain. Some days when I looked out the window, the only thing to see was the blinding white. We left the doors open and the fog filled the classrooms too, until we were all shivering in the damp. Fog just means a low cloud, you know. Suspended water droplets hanging close to the ground. Then, close to my skin. I liked that thought, that I could be breathing in a cloud. A thunderstorm in the making. The cold stuck to your lungs with every inhale, it felt like. The feeling stuck with me, no matter how much I tried to get rid of it.
I didn’t believe in floods until I was sixteen and moved to Quezon City to study the physics of storms and fluid dynamics. Of course I knew they existed, objectively. Logic demanded that the water had to go somewhere, and if it couldn’t flow outward, it’d have to climb up. And yet I was surrounded by the inclines I cursed walking up and down on the way home from school; it only made sense that the waters traversed these ways as well. This means that I don’t ever recall it flooding in Baguio, although a quick news search reveals it happened about once a year in most of the years I lived there. I have been told that the first time it ever flooded in my hometown, they used the swan boats form Burnham Lake to rescue the people trapped in their houses. No one was prepared. There were no rubber rafts, only the rescue team furiously peddling the giant bird-shaped
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monstrosity. The image is ridiculous, almost fictitious; the facts compel me to revise what I know of home, but even then, there is a part of me that refuses to imagine. I remember as a child, seeing the news of another Metro Manila flood, trying to consider how dirty the stagnant waters must have been by recalling the names of all the diseases that the rats swimming in the flood water harbored. I would suppose the mechanisms surrounding the flood: how many garbage heaps must have been blocking drainage, or how many gallons of water exactly it takes to turn a city kneedeep underwater. Rather than a rush of rain on slope, the only movement is the imperceptible creeping, inch by inch, until everything is submerged. I wanted to know, with a sort of morbid curiosity, what that must feel like; I could imagine it so completely, and yet how could I.
But the horse is vivid now in my mind, right down to the thunderclaps and the leather reins tossing in the storm. I can see it as clearly as my childhood bedroom: sheets crisp, the leaking windows and the buckets under them, and again, the sound of rain. When I started writing this, I mentioned the horse in passing to my dad, hoping he might have other stories that could be woven into a narrative of a home left behind. We were in the car in the middle of another storm, pulling in to the driveway of the place I live in now. Maybe it wasnâ€™t a storm, just raining. I canâ€™t be certain, Iâ€™d have to crosscheck the dates, perhaps I am mistaken: there was a storm, and we were sitting in the driveway, and
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he was only half-listening to my story.
I am still more afraid of floods than I am of hurricanes. Nine out of ten typhoon deaths are caused by drowning in floodwater. Drowning must be the most terrible way to die, in a flood especially so. What I can begin to understand is this story: the lack of ocean currents, only the steady rising water streaming into nose, mouth, lungs. I have been told that you fall unconscious long before death arrives. Drowning is silent. When the rain hits the metal roof of my new dwelling, it sounds like a nameless flood. It is different here. I cannot hear myself thinking over the sound of storm winds, which I imagine must be all there is to hearâ€” See, the winds are what separate a typhoon from any other thunderstorm. They form over the ocean; as seawater turns to vapor and rises, it leaves behind empty space. Nearby air rushes to fill it and warms and rises and leaves behind empty space and air rushes and repeats this until the column of low pressure becomes a tropical depression. When it gains enough windspeed, it turns hurricane, eye of the storm. The winds circle and the arms rotate until finally, the part we are all familiar with: take down the billboards and stick rags under leaking windows. Donâ€™t forget the bottled water and canned goods. Double-check the flashlight batteries and make sure the radio is fully charged. Listen for class suspensions. Watch for floods. Call home.
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When it rains every day at 4PM on the dot for three months out of the year, the rain clouds become simply the rhythm that lives play out to. This is the backbone of every childhood story I tell myself: the rain just a minor inconvenience to the place I belong. Just my mother reminding me to get indoors soon, not to wear my nice shoes, shut all the windows before leaving the house; in other words be safe, I love you. Just a fact of life: I am as familiar with the sound of raindrops on the neighbors’ water tower as I am with my own pulse. It is easier than you’d think to get used to a week’s worth of darkness, to lull yourself to sleep with the metallic collisions of rain on glass windows, to convince yourself the storms are a comfort from the warmth of your living room or in the meddling of retrospect. A false etymology I believed until I was eleven: the word Baguio comes from bagyo, storm. The typhoons hit so often they named the whole mountainside for it. Let me ask for the truth: if the horse means home, then was there ever a horse at all?
I still haven’t come to understand the weather here, its fluctuations and artificialities. The heat fronts never arrive when I am prepared, and even the storm clouds catch me off guard. So these days, I’ve been tracking the wind. It isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, mostly just the bluish glow of a laptop running computer programs. Give me a place and a time. I sift through satellite data to find the records I need. To be honest, I don’t know all the details of how the model works, but it only takes a few minutes to spit out a map. It isn’t difficult. The wind paths are red, green, yellow against the dark blue outlines of landmasses. This line, here, this shows you where the wind was three days ago. It’s metaphorically resonant, I suppose, tracing where things come from. It isn’t difficult to draw the connection, talk about where the program would place me, what kind of swirling lines there are to trace a life—or have I gone too far? We are looking for a storm to confirm the hypothesis. The red line curls around an island, but I’d have to cross-check a map to tell you its name. For the moment, it doesn’t matter what it’s called as long as I confirm the storm. The yellow line swirls into itself then stretches outward like a question mark. It must be the one I am looking for. This is an oversimplification, not a lie. It doesn’t matter what the storm is called either, as long
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as I can spot it. Where I am from, we watch for landslides, not flood. To drown, not of waters reclaiming the land, but of the earth itself. A geophysics professor once told me it would be better to die of a falling rock than to wait to be buried whole. Watch for the ground below your feet before it disappears. I have seen a house in the aftermath, swallowed deep by the earth, and yet: people refuse to leave their homes, choose to rebuild ramshackle houses piled high on ghostland.
When I told my dad about the horse, he told me nothing like that had ever happened. This casts everything into doubt: if I cannot trust my own memory to be true, then there is nothing I have lost. Loss is a kind of having, the reaffirmation at least of something that could have once been held. But there is nothing to be said of losing a fiction except the emptiness of the loss. I must have dreamed the whole thing into existence. I want to say this doesnâ€™t make it any less real. I want to say it doesnâ€™t matter. I want to say the horse was a metaphor; perhaps then it could carry weight, but what weight? An oversimplification. A myth. A memory. Does it matter what to call it? If there was never any horse in the first place, what am I thinking of as home, and how do I hold what cannot even be named?
I read a 1974 study where participants were asked
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to estimate the speed of car collisions. Their guesses depended not on the true speeds, but on whether the examiner asked how fast the cars had bumped or contacted, hit or collided. Later, merely the way questions were asked was enough to suggest false details, implant a memory of broken glass on the pavement or the sensation of screeching tires and burning rubber. The subjects believed. Language holds. Memory is reconstruction. I do not remember where I learned this, but it resonates. I want to say it does. Ask me how fast the horse was going when it nearly crashed into our car, if there was glass on the pavement. I could tell you. I swear, I can see it now. I wonder if the experiment would have turned out differently if the participants had been asked how fast floodwaters rose or how fast a house tumbled down a mountainside. If they had been asked what was next.
The truth is, Baguio comes from bag-iw, a kind of moss. It grows everywhere, survives storms in ways taller plants never could. Moss covers the ground, stops erosion, holds mountainsides together. You can read a lot into this if you try. It isnâ€™t that hard.
I would like to think I belong to the place in my memory, but what does that even mean? I know what that feels like: the welling in your throat, the empty table at the coffee shop on the corner street, the jeepneys you still have to crane your neck to read, the five minutes of sunshine, the wind blowing up your skirt and you
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dropping your umbrella to press the fabric down against you legs, the inability to be lost but the losing anyway, the rain, above all else, it feels like rain, andâ€”the rain is only a metaphor, but perhaps this is hindsight speaking. I must correct myself. I know only what it feels like for a place to have belonged to me, or at least for me to have belonged to it. I remember how those things felt like, or at least, I can imagine how I would want to remember them. I name only what I would like to hold.
For a long time, I took comfort in the thought my memories of home could belong to me; this somehow confirmed home must have belonged to me as well. This is the power of memory: in the absence of concrete proof, we are left to rely on nothing else but what we can piece together, the bits of information that somehow manage to sear themselves into our brains. Memory creates its truthâ€”it insists on the facts of what happened. Perhaps insist is too strong a word. A professor tells me off for saying that my back trajectories can tell us where the air parcel was three days ago. I need reminding that the program is merely an approximation, a reconstruction, that we are extrapolating from incomplete data. Do not have too much confidence in your calculations. When you track the wind, there is always something you forget to factor in. This is what error bars are for. The curving lines, she says, merely suggest a path. Memories suggest, they imply, they take the silences of things like the rain and leave different spaces in their wake, turn them into spaces for a constructed narrative, symbols, evidence. Evidence of what? I return to the question: if the horse was never real, then can it still hold meaning, and what? What am I to do with this yearning:
I cannot answer the question. Or I refuse. I have always wanted to turn my memories into words, to keep them fixed on a page. As a child, I filled the backs of my school notebooks with bits of conversation, thoughts I anticipated needing to remember. I want something I can hold: some clever block of prose that I can point to as memory, as the object of nostalgia, as home. Something in me, the same part that flips to the end of mystery novels and attempts to trace storm paths as an explanation for destruction, is itching to uncover
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the truth. If that’s too much to ask, I’d settle for the facts. But the more I try to pin them down—what color the gate of the house next door was, which jeepneys it was that took me to my best friend’s house, whether or not it was raining on my eleventh birthday, what song was playing on the radio when the bus left the station, whether or not I was angry with my dad, if I had felt sad the day I returned to find they had changed the curtains in my room as though I were a visitor, if I had ever really liked the rain or if I only wanted to remember liking it—the more the facts reveals themselves as an incomplete data set. The seams are starting to show. If the horse is only fabrication, then what remains to be true?
My brain wants to fill in the gaps, and so it does. When we choose to return, we change forever what is returned to: this makes recollection an empty act. It is fitting that recollect means to gather together again, which implies the need to return. Remember makes me think of mending, but a collection retains its gaps. As a child, I imagined clouds into shapes, my back sprawled flat against the rooftop. I am struck with the urge to repeat the gesture of naming, of I see it now!, of shifting. This one, a ball. This one, a mug, the outline of a splayed hand, wanting. This one, the house you grew up in. This one, a thunderstorm. This one, a typhoon. Every single one, the shape of rain: a horse galloping through the storm, the men chasing after it, a black Toyota, the mud, the moss, the winding, a girl in the backseat watching the raindrops, the radio static, the object of your longing, an unanswered question, the waking dream, a thunderclap—
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GAB B IE LEUN G BIO Gabrielle â€œBeeâ€? Leung is a junior at Ateneo de Manila University majoring in physics and minoring in creative writing. Her work has previously been published in Heights Ateneo, where she is currently the English Editor. Her favorite type of cloud is cumulonimbus.
I DIDN’T EM AIL YO U O N CHR ISTM A S E V E APRIL VÁZQUEZ
… like I said I would, I know. Here’s what happened: I got a little drunk. I even nursed the baby like that, then woke up in a panic about what it might do to her. I got up four times and watched her breathe. She looked normal, but you never know.
The thing is that Jay and Rosy had bought vodka, just for me (Smirnoff, which is not my brand, but still), and I drank a couple shots too many, to show my appreciation. Then I fell on Rosy’s nativity scene when my dancing got out of hand. It wasn’t so bad, just the roof and the manger, and when I sobbed all the way home it wasn’t even mostly about that. Nativity scenes can be restuck with wood glue. Seeing the shards of wood all sticking out at jagged angles like that reminded me of the time Eric fell coming up our front porch steps when I was in the sixth grade. Mom was at work--that was when she worked at the Quick Snack, before she married Jim, and she was on the supper shift —so nobody but me was home when Eric smashed the jar he was using to catch lightning bugs and
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cut his hand up. I couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. I held his hand under the tap, but the blood just kept pouring out, splashing the sink all red, bright as KoolAid. Finally I grabbed a kitchen towel and wrapped it around his little hand. Hold it up, I told him, but he kept forgetting. He was clinging to me, his warm body trembling and jerking against mine. He got my neck all snotty from crying, but I didn’t care. He was so little. I kept whispering to him, It’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay. Like a magic spell, a charm. As if my words had the power to make it happen. Somebody was shooting off fireworks all night on Christmas Eve, and I remembered all the memes about how for the love of dogs you shouldn’t do that, but do people care? But it wasn’t that or the humiliation or my skinned elbow that kept me awake; it was really something else all the time. (Another thing it wasn’t was that Jay once hugged me at a wedding reception. Close. And breathed all hot on my neck. We were in a dark hallway outside the bathrooms, back behind the ballroom. But we’ve both acted normal since then, and I know he loves Rosy, just like I love Sam.) What it really was, was Eric. You remember how crazy he always was? Like jumping off the shed behind the Gas & More, and eating thirteen hotdogs that time at Joey’s? He was always that kind of crazy, but now he really is crazy, B. He really is. Listen to this: he thinks Casey’s cheating on him with the train conductor. I mean, not a coworker or a neighbor or anybody normal; the train conductor. You know the train track that runs right by their house? He says the conductor uses a code, and Casey knows by the way he
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blows the whistle—long or short, with an echo or not-where to meet him and what time and all that. He even says he saw Casey’s initials scratched into one of the train cars, with a heart around them. It’s probably better I didn’t email you on Christmas Eve, because I would have just ended up sniveling about how lonely I am here. I was kind of getting to feel like my ob./gyn. was the only friend I had, then the baby was born and now I don’t even see her anymore. And it’s not like you can make an appointment and then just walk in and say, hey, you’ve seen my privates four ways to Thursday; want to hang out some time? I can’t see Rosy as a friend, either, not since the time she made fun of me putting on weight and blew her cheeks out all fat like a blowfish in front of everyone at the fourth of July picnic. That was bitchy. (What she didn’t know was that I was pregnant, we just hadn’t told anybody yet.) Plus I can’t get used to this weather. I mean, who wouldn’t hate cold and cloudy every day? I have to say that I think it’s to my credit that when Jay’s hot breath was on my neck, I wasn’t thinking about how bitchy Rosy can be. I wasn’t thinking anything, and that’s the truth. Sometimes you can do that, a Zen thing, I guess: a total blank. I kind of wish I could do it now, just so I could sleep at night and forget that the one sibling I have in the whole world is crazy. Mom and Jim had to lock him away, B. He was crying when they took him. Doesn’t that break your heart? That he was crying? So that’s why I didn’t email you. It didn’t even feel like Christmas to me, even if I did dance, and
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then when I cried all the way home, Sam said we’d get some eggnog and watch It’s a Wonderful Life, which was nice of him because Sam hates It’s a Wonderful Life. I kept trying to think of some time when Eric saved my life like George Bailey saves Harry on the sled, but I couldn’t come up with anything. All I could see was when he was small and used to wear those footed pajamas, and he’d play my recorder and get the dogs howling. His eyes were so big and round and blue. It kind of makes you want to stop the clock and send time spinning backward, like there might be something that if you could just find it, just catch it, would stop your only brother from going crazy in twenty years. (I don’t even know if Jay was hitting on me. Maybe to him it felt like that, but to me it didn’t. If you want to know the truth, it just felt like strong arms around me. Brotherly, even. Like he knew that I felt out of place and wanted to tell me that I wasn’t, not really.) The thing is, he was eating glass—Eric, I mean. He had it all smashed up into dust and rationed out in a bunch of zip-loc sandwich bags with numbers on each one. Not even sequential numbers, just strands of nonsense numbers. He said it gave him powers. Powers, B. So here’s what I wanted to ask you… I wondered if maybe you could go visit him one day? I mean, Alaska to Alabama’s no hop skip and a jump, so I know I won’t be able to go any time soon myself. But I can’t really stand the thought of him sitting up in Broughton Hospital alone either. I took a tour back in Mr. Jamison’s psychology class, and I can tell you, it’s institutional. But you could go for me, B., and hug and hug and hug him and tell him it’s going to be okay. I know it might not help, but how could it hurt, B.? You tell me that: how could it hurt?
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A P R I L V Á ZQ U E Z BIO A native of the North Carolina foothills, April Vázquez holds a B.A. in Literature and Language from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and an M.A. in the Teaching of English as a Second Language from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She currently lives in León, Guanajuato, Mexico, where she homeschools her daughters Daisy, Dani, and Dahlia. April’s work has been published or is forthcoming in The Missing Slate, Windhover, Cleaver, The New Plains Review, Gravel, The Fieldstone Review, and others.
THE R EADIN G TEST WIL LIAN GUZMANOS
This is the story youâ€™re going to tell people today: My dog died this morning.
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Instructions: Match A and B. Which response in Column A is most likely said by the person in Column B?
___ 1. “It’s all right. We can adopt a cat. Finally.”
A. Your project teammate who cracks jokes that aren’t funny
___ 2. “Just buy a new one at the pet store.”
B. Your co-worker who sits next to you but doesn’t talk to you
___ 3. “Are you OK? My daughter’s dog died a couple of years ago. She doesn’t want to have a dog anymore…she doesn’t want to go through the pain again. What about you? Are you planning to get a new one?”
C. Your cat-loving boyfriend
___ 4. “Are you all right?” ___ 5. (the sound of the wheels of the swivel chair as it rolls away) ___ 6. “Didn’t know it would be this soon! How did you dispose of the body?” ___ 7. “You’re lucky you got to see your dog die. I didn’t. My dog ran away.” ___ 8. “Have you thought about adopting another dog from the shelter? It might help you with the grieving process.” ___ 9. “It sucks, doesn’t it?”
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D. Your mother who loves dogs but keeps them in cages E. Your friend who’s also a dog owner F. Your co-worker whose daughter lost a dog because of a car accident G. The veterinarian who euthanized your dog H. Your best friend who saw you crying over your dog when you found out he had heart disease I. Your co-worker who only talks to you whenever your mood is grim in the office
W IL LI AN GUZMANOS BIO Wil Lian was born in Manila in 1989.Â She currently lives in Taipei with her brother, roommates, and two cats.
OBEDIENCE TRAINING MARCO BARTOLOME
While I don’t think of myself as dishonest, the earnestness of my response to my blockmate’s question catches me by surprise; it’s an earnestness I tend to keep to myself. But in this instance, I had been the one to bring up over lunch how I wanted to stop thinking about Marxism—even though the obsession with the strain of thought had come to define my thesis and my place in my course. I had grown tired of thinking about manifestations of hegemony and of interpellation, but more importantly, I had grown tired of the self-reflexivity necessitated of any practitioner of theory. It wasn’t that I wanted to live life blissfully ignorant of my role in class struggle. I cared to the extent that I could, and I was well-aware of the limits anyone with an upper-middle class upbringing had to face when dealing with the theory. It was just that I simply wanted to stop second guessing my initial fascination with Marxism, and I knew that I couldn’t turn to anyone but another literature major taking up Marxist thought. Still, I find that whenever I mention even just the word Marxism, the conversation becomes too one-sided (as with anything), more a monologue starring my inability to tone things down, and so, I feel the need to redirect things. I find that the best way to steer any conversation is to mention my Corgi. I do the
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same when speaking to my blockmate, talk about how difficult it is to train a dog, and the moment we start talking about what I saw my Corgi do the other day, it becomes easy to set aside anything else I might suddenly bring up for another conversation. It isn’t too difficult to talk about dogs. In fact, I think there’s a kind of triteness to it, like talking about the weather or asking about someone’s course. But it’s a topic universally charming enough to keep people asking questions about what it’s like—even when they must already have some idea of what it’s like to own a dog—especially when they consider how someone deeply invested in the political theories of Marx or Williams can also be invested in something as small as the well-being of a Corgi puppy. I don’t think that a love for theory necessarily translates to a distaste for the mundane. Even Marx expressed a fondness for dogs, having owned at least three of mixed breeds: Teddy, Whisky, and another whose name no one seems to know (though Marian Comyn—a family friend of Marx—thinks it must also be named after an alcoholic beverage). He had been fascinated with displays of canine intelligence and thought highly enough of them to consider them as integral to the household. As Comyn writes in her recollections of Marx, they were all “sociable little beasts, ever ready for a romp, and very affectionate.” I like to imagine this to mean Marx spent a good amount of time tending to his dogs—playing with them, bathing them, and sometimes even going as far as sharing his own political musings with them in his private study. It isn’t that I’m particularly fascinated with dogs. I had grown up afraid of being bitten by dogs, with the fear partially subsiding only when we got the second of our three dogs. I’ve always thought the kind of openness my family had towards them stemmed more from our inability to think of any reason to dislike them. Besides, I could’ve easily imagined us with three cats, had we been presented with the opportunity to adopt them instead. My parents never seemed to worry about the fee needed to adopt a luxury breed or the added costs of caring for these pets. It appeared to me that we did whatever suited our interests and while the Corgi was expensive, my father also saw her as a potential investment, with Corgi puppies now hard to come by. What intrigues me is the seemingly universal fascination people have with dogs. Dogs had, of course, served humans well during the hunter-gatherer stage, first eating the scraps and garbage produced by early civilizations. Then after proving their usefulness, they were trained to become sentries, shepherds, hunters, and in dire times, became
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sources of food as they were domesticated; different breeds being engineered to address a specific concern. It only made sense then for two species of animal that relied on social ties to band together: there was something to gain. Over time, humans found utility and dogs found shelter. In other words, companionship. Thereâ€™s Lassie rallying the villagers out of loyalty to Timmy and Scooby Doo solving the mystery for a Scooby snack. But still, I think about the amount of training it must take for the relationship to be, at the very least, not an inconvenience. I remember clearly the first time we brought the Corgi puppy home. The first thing she did after settling underneath the dining table was to pee out a puddle. There had been the expectation from my family that she would learn to adjust quickly, to perhaps learn from our other dogs. Years before, we struggled with the same problem when we received first the Beagle and then the Shih Tzu shortly after; we settled on leaving the Beagle tied up to his doghouse outside because he never quite learned how to control himself, while the Shih Tzu learned to be less of an inconvenience over the six years we had her. This meant she quickly became the favorite, even if it took her almost four years to learn to poop and pee outside instead of by the coffee table in the living room. But this time, the puppy was a Corgi, and I had done my research: Corgis were known to be fast learners; they enjoyed all kinds of mental exercises and could do all sorts of tricks in no time. What the expectation translated to was a kind of complacency with the Corgiâ€™s intelligence. There
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was little done by way of training and looking after her. My father was always tending to his little vegetable garden or to his business, while my sister was always out of the house. And it turned out that my mother was allergic to the Corgi’s fur and saliva; within less than five minutes, she would break out into sneezing fits and would need to return upstairs to avoid aggravating her allergies. My mother once joked about how the Corgi’s breeder had faced a similar problem: a new maid was allergic to the Corgis, and to fix it, she decided to send the maid away, saying the Corgis were too important. Because I was always the one left behind at home, it made sense for the Corgi to become my responsibility. Training the Corgi would keep me preoccupied and keep me from holing up in my room and letting the day go by. It had become common for all sorts of responsibilities to fall on me; somehow I had gained the role of liaison over the years, relaying everyone’s messages—back and forth between my sister and my parents—and sorting out whatever loose ends were forgotten. It didn’t take much for my family to forget and leave things unattended in the wake of their everyday plans. But for the most part, being the liaison also meant that I was never entirely responsible for things; I could get away with shrugging things off, blaming my family for their forgetfulness. I thought of myself as simply doing my job whenever I had to be harsh and make demands from anyone. My knowledge of basic obedience training came from the few Psychology classes I took the year I tried to double major in Psychology. I started training with buying the Corgi a crate, in hopes of housebreaking her. I had read that crate training was the most efficient method because it entailed teaching the dog where she could and couldn’t pee; by limiting how far she can roam, it becomes easier to reinforce where it is permissible for a dog to poop and pee. My father, however, insisted on buying one large enough to last her until adulthood for practicality. Though I meant it only as an eating and sleeping area, my family insisted the large size also meant it was a bathroom. She was left to do her business inside the crate, and eventually, the crate rusted from too much of her pee, and we were forced to do away with it. I think that most people who say they love dogs don’t really know what it’s like to own a dog. Or at least, what owning a dog entails beyond the basic dog kibble and water. Dogs are creatures of habit and work best with a routine; the tighter the schedule, the easier it is for them to get accustomed to things and learn. This is what’s often overlooked
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when people think that all a dog needs to learn is time: there’s not much thought put into how a dog necessitates changing an already set lifestyle or how owning a dog is really about routine and consistency more than anything else. I find that a dog’s obedience is not something innate, but something learned through practice. Establish the association between the desired behavior and the reward, then repeat until the behavior is internalized. I could take a piece of kibble, hold it above the Corgi’s nose, and watch her slowly drop her butt as she would move her head to follow my hand holding the kibble. In no time, I had the Corgi sitting every time she saw I carried a piece of kibble; she seemed to listen only to me, and when my other family members tried, she would just look at them waving a piece of kibble with her eyes wide, perhaps expecting a belly rub. Still, my mother insisted on teaching her how to get the Corgi to sit for photos, and my father remained content with how she remained hyper and feral whenever he tried to play with her. Contrary to popular belief, it was not Pavlov whose experiments paved the way for modern dog training but Skinner. This, too, I learned from my brief year as a Psych double major. Though Pavlov worked with dogs, his experiments weren’t at all geared towards shaping behavior. In fact, he had discovered classical conditioning by accident, his experiment originally meant to test the amount of saliva produced by dogs when fed. All Pavlov did was establish that the possibility of associating an involuntary response with an unrelated stimulus, and so, the famous experiment with the bell and the salivating dogs was a demonstration of the susceptibility of the mind. Skinner, on the other hand, found the theory of classical conditioning to be far too simple to explain learning. But being a cynic himself, Skinner thought learning meant cause and effect and that he could shape a child into anything. While he didn’t work with children (he probably would’ve been more convincing if he did), he had worked with pigeons and in rewarding them, eventually taught them how to lock missiles onto targets with the movement of their pecks. I think also of how during a 1958 Symposium, Skinner turned Erich Fromm into a pigeon through conditioning: every time Fromm raised his left hand, Skinner nodded and smiled until eventually, Fromm was chopping so vigorously his wristwatch flew off. I knew this all when I handled the Corgi, and while I had been successful in the initial stages of training, I found it difficult to wean her from treats and housebreak her. Even after multiple training sessions, I still couldn’t get her to sit without keeping a
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treat nearby; she refused to follow her potty training schedule, pooping and peeing wherever and whenever she pleased. Training had also done nothing to quiet her frequent barking. My parents said that it was simply a part of her being a dog. There was no way I could curb her natural instincts. But sometimes I wonder if the problem is not that the Corgi is wired to be disobedient, but that she is too smart, and that I’m the dog, the pigeon, and the Fromm in this scenario. Had she become aware that all she had to do was feign attentiveness to get the treat? Was this her own form of revolt? I think that maybe this is not too far off, seeing as Skinner’s theory of classical conditioning is decidedly deterministic, in a similar fashion to traditional Marxist thought. There is the same insistence that external forces are what shape attitude and behavior. Perhaps she had grown tired of having her meals limited to only two a day and her toys taken away from her. And though training her frustrates me, the realization amuses me. I find it fitting that the Corgi must think like a Marxist too. It is probably Althusser who comes closest to the behaviorist strain of thought, with his insistence that all humans are born and raised in ideology. In other words, every decision—whether conscious or unconscious— is shaped by the social institutions that stand outside us, determined by the socioeconomic forces governing our subject positions; to think of free will is to delude oneself, and in every relationship, one is always subject to another’s power. But in that sense, I find Althusser and Skinner a bit too pessimistic because they suggest
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that living is no different from machinery, a simple reacting to forces already imposed on us with little to no room for agency. There are times I begin to think it isn’t healthy to fixate on these theories or think solely in these terms. Cynics say that the age of post-theory saw the gentrification of revolutionary thought: practitioners, distancing themselves from the workers’ revolution, became disillusioned and politically toothless, and the revolt which Marx had first envisioned never truly came. What remained was a kind of reaffirmation of the people’s powerlessness against the status quo. Marxism, of course, still had its place, but theory increasingly became the battleground for gloating about one’s knowledge of jargon—and in its worst iteration, a new kind of ivory tower. But still, I couldn’t rid myself of the tendency to return to Marxism, even when all I did was borrow terms. The vocabulary of Marxism—and all that I had learned—had felt like an advantage. I wonder if the Corgi must feel frustrated that she cannot express herself in any other way than to bark or to whimper. I had read before that the range of a dog’s bark have nuances to convey different meanings—something about plastic vocal cords and subtly manipulating sounds. But, I could not, for the life of me, distinguish when the Corgi was merely excited by the sight of cars passing by our gate or when she needed to go outside and pee. Or, if she had even been saying any of these things all along. I wonder if her other barks were meant to tell me that my father was too rough when he would slam his slippers on the
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ground while playing with her or that all she wanted was to be allowed to be a dog. All I could register was the same shrill noise every time she barked, and I want nothing more than for us to just understand each other. I wonder too in what way I would have to speak to tell my family and have them understand all this. Though the thought of a Marxist Corgi amuses me, I realize that it does not do much in the way of training. The thought could only take one so far; there is still the problem of having to potty train her and of getting her to stop barking. But I often think back to the afternoon when, devastated by the death of Loki the Corgi and unable to tell my family why the death of a Corgi I didnâ€™t even know had affected me so much, I felt her rest her head on top of my sneaker.
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M A R CO B A R TO LO M E BIO Marco Bartolome is a senior literature major studying at the Ateneo de Manila University. He was a fellow for nonfiction at the 21st Ateneo Heights Writers Workshop. He has since taught his Corgi Sif how to sit and is now working on teaching her how to lie down.
L I TA N Y TRACEY DELA CRUZ
My neighbors have a white guard dog tied outside their house. She never goes inside. Drizzle, storm, heat, the dog stands dutifully outside its master’s house to warn them of intruders. Sometimes, the owners forget and the other neighbors gather leftovers in a plastic container to feed her. She is kind, nuzzles up to anyone who touches her, almost pleading. She is never taken for walks. She whimpers at night, howls with the other dogs on our street at 11 PM. She’s thin, the arch of her bones visible against her skin. When I’m smoking, I sometimes see her running towards the wall and jumping at it, skin and bones colliding against concrete. She does this, again and again, trying to break through to somewhere else. Or just bored. Trying to entertain herself. Run. Jump. Wall. Start over. She collapses into an exhausted heap on the floor. I watch. One feels a certain affinity with the poor thing. The past eight months or so have left me feeling like I’m running in a loop. Since I’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression (the D as my friends and I like to call it), my mother has been trying to get me to pray. Every time a wave of crippling sadness hits, she asks if I’d like to go to church, even though we haven’t stepped inside a church together in over two years. She argues that it wouldn’t hurt anyway to try. Always stubborn, I refuse, too busy running into walls.
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I know she means well and that fills me with tenderness. She must be nostalgic for my six-year-old self who always felt lighter after attending Mass. For every dilemma, the solution was simple: We would go to the chapel and listen to my favorite priest, Father Ads, as he enlightened my mind, reaffirmed my faith. Perhaps it was his lightheartedness that made me love him. Some people were just like that; their faith made them seem like they were glowing, like they hovered above the ground, divine. Father Ads could make long homilies interesting and inspire so much love for God in me. I remember the feeling, that happiness that made me weightless. If someone had cut me open, I would have poured out light. To follow God was no yolk at all. All I felt was grace.
I thought I had put this to rest long ago. It begins with a mathematical problem: A sheep is tied to a post in a field. The length of the rope is 30 feet. Moving in a circle, with the post at its center, what is the area of the field in which the sheep can graze? At a grazing speed of two square feet per day, how many days until the sheep runs out of grass? Proclaiming myself an atheist, I fancied myself as better than the herds of religious sheep that surrounded me. They moved in circles, content only with the narrow reach of their minds. I thought that by renouncing God, I was somehow more enlightened, smarter, more rational. I thought myself kinder, because I made good choices out of my own free will rather than acting out of hypocrisy, religious duty, bound by the moral code of Catholicism or the fear of eternal damnation. My mother isn’t religious but she believes it necessary to trust and submit to a higher power. When I started skipping mass, she worried. When I told her that I had stopped believing in God, she asked then what do I believe in. I answered people. I believe in people. I thought it was a pretty smart answer. The flaw realized belatedly: People are terrible. It’s something A— mentioned often, how his own faith is rendered incoherent by what he experiences with his father; his religious father who goes to church every week and is friends with the Christians in their community, who smiles at these people, invites them to dine in his home, yet reserves little love for his own son. I can understand A—‘s disappointment, the disillusionment with the flock of God and all He promises. For as long as I can remember, my grandfather has served
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as a speaker at the chapel on the street of my childhood. He dresses nice every Sunday, guides the people in prayer, and helps organize processions for religious feasts. I remember when we still lived at his house, he reprimanded my mother for hanging a framed painting of a Chinese woman in the living room (idolatry I believe he called it), as if it was a graver sin than the affair that he had in the past, or how he used to hit my uncles when they were younger. How difficult it is for him to forgive minor transgressions, his anger often getting the better of him (the shelf that collapsed in his room when I was in it, the swift kick that followed). There was little to sustain my faith by way of the people around me. All I could see was their hypocrisy and so I doubted my own sincerity. Except perhaps for my mother, the only person who seemed to take the question of faith seriously. She’s always believed— hoped—that I’ll eventually find my way back to God, not because it matters to her that I be a good Christian, only that I learn what it means to surrender. She is Catholic by virtue of having been baptized, but she practices Zen Buddhism which believes the path to enlightenment is through the mundane daily life, to experience the world as it
is, and in doing so arrive at a profound moment of clarity. I often scoff at her when she talks about karmic retribution and reincarnation, feel myself get a migraine from trying not to roll my eyes, otherwise simply drift from conversation. “You need to quiet your mind,” she would often tell me, and then invite me to meditate with her. I tried a couple of times but it never worked, I get too distracted. “It just needs practice,” she said. It was time I could not give. What exactly am I so proud about? What am I so determined to prove? If I am looking for faith devoid of false virtue, I need not look further than my mother. And still, I refuse. Always the obstinate refusal, always the knee-jerk reaction of contradicting her even when I don’t always believe what I am saying, the refusal to cage myself to a single mode of understanding. She tells me about emptying yourself and realizing the world for the illusion that it is. She wants so much for me to yield, to see the world for how she sees it. But all I know of letting go is giving up. To believe in God is a mark of weakness. To capitulate is a convenient excuse for the failures, the lonely, the lazy, those who can’t bear the consequences of their actions, people who refuse to
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fight. It’s okay, it’s okay because God has a plan. Believing in a higher power becomes an excuse not to act. Like how my mother says pray as we sit down to discuss what to do about the dog we rescued from my cousins. The dog is named Ceejay, a two-year-old beagle who was, before we adopted her, had been tied to the spot under the stairs. Unwashed, underfed, ignored. A couple of months after we got her, we found out she had a venereal tumor that she contracted after having sex with a stray dog who was also sick. The tumor had been steadily growing for the past few months. Now it is large enough to press against her bladder, unsettling her into peeing inappropriately. Aside from the TVT, she has a malignant mammary tumor, and an enlarged heart. Her heart condition makes surgery risky because we have no idea how her body will react to the anaesthesia. My mother says pray and I can think of at least five different ways to handle this better. Putting the dog to sleep, no matter how painful, seems like a better idea than pray. My mother says it’s not in our hands to decide that. And because she can’t distinguish faith from immobility, the tumor grows larger in our dog’s belly, the cancer spreads. I mop up her blood every 30 minutes. On mornings we wake up with the living room floor looking like a crime scene. And all my mother wants to do is pray.
For a long time, I ricocheted between belief and unbelief, devotion and skepticism. Less to do with pride, perhaps it was because of my own inadequacies I struggled with religion. Sex, for example. Who’s strong enough to say no to that. Youthful curiosity played a large part in the desire for the experience. Despite studying in a secular high school with a special science curriculum, we were taught little about the body, about sex, relationships. We’d hold mass on special occasions and set aside an hour every week for lecturers outside of school to come and teach us about God and proper values. The Christian orientation of my high school, however, never stopped us from making dirty jokes. It didn’t stop us from crowding around someone’s phone on long breaks to watch porn. It didn’t stop me when a boy taught me how to touch myself as we hid under an oversized sweater in an audio-visual room full of people. Trying it at home was an experiment, exploring different ways to produce the optimal pleasure: what to watch, what to touch, how hard, how fast. After the first time I
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made myself come, the object became how to recreate the first experience of pleasure. I’d spend hours trying to figure out my body, what it liked, how to navigate it. My then boyfriend surely didn’t know how. Masturbation, though not considered a sin, is frowned upon because it might lead to a person’s isolation. Man was created in the likeness of God and is necessarily relational, hence why Adam and Eve were sexed. Indulging in a singular, personal pleasure, at the cost of human intimacy, is a sin. With this logic in mind, better to indulge in a shared passion, the lesser of two evils. At least this is how I reason with myself. On an intellectual level, I can understand why the Catholic Church frowns upon pre-marital sex. But I am only human, plagued by deficiencies, driven by desires more often than not difficult—or in the immediacy of the moment, even impossible—to refuse. And anyway, it wasn’t bad at all. On the days leading up to the first night, A— asked repeatedly if I had changed my mind, hoping I would, to remove himself of the responsibility. During, he’d stop when I was in pain, would oblige to continue only when I asked. Afterwards, he apologized for not making me come, apologized each time thereafter for never being able to make me. I never minded, not the first night, not the next. I’m convinced if you love someone, you would never mind. Pleasure becomes derivative, giving way to something more sincere, closer to holy. Sleeping with him was the nearest thing to grace, the most approximate feeling of spilling light from my body.
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A—’s skin is marked by lines of poetry, except for the compass on his foot and the asterisk behind his ear. His tattoos were the first things I noticed about him and I liked him instantly. Everyone did. He was the kind of person that invited interest, fascination, a character that pulled you in and grew on you until he eventually rubbed you off the wrong way. He had history with one of our co-fellows from the workshop and, months later, rather belatedly, she would warn me to be careful of him. But at the time I met him, A— was nothing but charming. I loved his poems, and he sounded smart during the workshops even though he had the tendency to ramble, trail off, a quirk I found endearing. There was much to learn from him, his interesting takes on poetry, the beauty of his own writing. A few months later, he will ask me out, and I will agree, with all the enthusiasm of a seventeen-year-old girl hardly believing that such an amazing man could like her. We often met at night, when work allowed him, when I managed to sneak out of the house. I was promptly returned before sunrise. Sometimes I’d come up with excuses—an all-nighter I need to pull for a group project, a party at someone’s place—to get away, to steal the few hours that I could on those rare nights that I got to see him. One night in October, he asked me to take his picture. He had cut two holes along with a ragged smile on a white sheet. He handed me his father’s camera, and, standing in the middle of the road, I took a picture of him, wearing that sheet of white with a cutout face, riding his skateboard down the road of UP Diliman. Later, in costume, he skates beside a passing car. Later, he pulls the sheet over our heads and gives me a kiss. There were moments when I thought I would die of happiness. Being pulled out of the mundane, ordinary life I’ve always lived, the romance of it all. The sweep-me-off-my-feet and this-is-going-to-be-forever feeling of an earth-shattering true first love. And not just with anyone, but with someone who appeared to me as larger than life itself, more than I could ever imagine I deserved to have, to keep, as if some generous deity had settled its eyes on me and deemed me worthy. But novelty eventually wears and makes way for maturity, perhaps a dim understanding. These days, when I think of A— I think often of his remoteness, how I could never read his face, his unreasonable moods. “It could be a gradual disappearance,” he had said at the beginning of our relationship, from the onset the promise of desertion. Still, I persisted. Wanting to understand him, I spent hours scouring poetry collections,
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novels written by authors he loves, an exegesis to decipher his obscure revelations. I took up a Literature degree in an attempt to expand my reach, hungry for the knowledge that will allow me to divine the meaning behind the ink on his skin, his quiet, his untouchable sadness. “I never know what to do with my hands,” I told him once, to mean my body has no reason to be beside his, no apparent purpose. He replied, something about a poem that says the something similar about hands, my possibility of admission then dropped. I have no reason to be beside you. I have nothing to offer that you could want, that could make you happy. I bring my hands together in prayer, having no other recourse than surrender. The first votive candle I ever lit was in St. Joseph’s Parish when I prayed for his mother’s safety on the day of her surgery. Every time I prayed thereafter, I prayed for his happiness, knowing it was something I could never provide. Somewhere someone had written that faith reveals itself at every moment as a crisis. Living faith is a constant struggle between belief and unbelief. This push and pull is what separates sincerity from certainty. To believe, despite the overwhelming temptation not to. This is a game I used to play: Waiting at the corner of the street for A—’s car at night, I’d guess the number of vehicles that would pass before his arrived. The anxiety that my mother would wake up and find me gone or the worry that he will cancel last minute that happens all too often, increasing with each passing minute. I often guessed wrong, but it didn’t matter, the joy of the long-awaited arrival eclipses the doubts that
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come before. I’d stay up late every night, hoping he would ask for me, too shy to ask him myself. Always the wait, always the quiet hope that if not this night then the next. The gambit to believe they’ll come through every time regardless. Until they don’t.
For years, I had been nagging my mother to get a dog but she didn’t want the trouble of caring for one. The only reason she offered that we adopt Ceejay was because she thought it would help with the depression. It could be a source of joy, she thought, something to cheer me up when the sadness got overwhelming. It has been helping: Most mornings when I can’t muster the energy to get up, the only thing that gets me out of bed is having to walk the dog. She likes to nuzzle against my neck at night, to settle in for sleep. When I get home, she stands on her two legs and throws her paws on my thighs, howls with happiness. Some days it can be enough. When we found out about her tumors and her heart, I offered that we have her put down. The resources we would need to spend for her chemotherapy and maintenance food just didn’t seem worth it. When it gets difficult, I always opt for the easy way out. In the end, my mother said we should wait and pray on it, as if by virtue of time lapsing, circumstances will change for the better, the future (or God) opening itself up to reveal the proper (divine) answer, without resistance, which we will accept without question. A symptom of depression is indecisiveness. Even the simple task of picking what shoes to wear becomes a herculean feat. The smallest problem becomes insurmountable, turns into a reason to keel over and break down. I missed class because I woke up late: cry. My friend is five minutes late to our lunch: cry. My eyes hurt from crying all afternoon: cry some more. My studies have taught me that the only way people can exist coherently despite overwhelming uncertainty is our capacity to mentally place ourselves in the past, present, and project ourselves into a conceivable future. After a movie, my mother had asked what I want to be. I could barely get out of bed in the morning and she wanted me to think about my future. I didn’t know. Not because of indecision, not because I didn’t have choices; the future had simply ceased to exist for me. The present barely did. The world was water, I was a sieve, everything just passed through me. They say you can imagine your depression either as a black dog or a black mist. A
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black dog you can avoid. A black mist is inescapable. Green sneakers or red flats? Wait or leave? Seek help or work through it myself? It hardly mattered what I chose, in the end, all options were the same. When your choices cease to matter, you could just as well not exist.
Upon listing the things I wanted to give away, I realized there was little I owned that was of any value. My laptop would go to my brother along with my tablet. My books will go to G— and E— because they were the two most prodigious readers among my friends, my clothes to K— because we had almost the same size. The instructions would be written on a paper that I would tape to the wall. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of a funeral but these rituals are for the living, too, so I guess whatever wake they wanted would do. I wanted to be cremated with my ashes spread wherever they wanted. As long as I wasn’t stuck in an urn, I would be fine. Preparations would take a day. This included buying a scalpel: light, accessible, but sharp. Delete all my blogs, files, social media accounts, burn all the notebooks I had written on, return everything I had borrowed from friends. Before Christmas, when no one’s home. My brother leaves for work at 9 AM, comes home around 10 PM, my mother around 7 AM, comes home around 6 PM, leaving me with a nine hour window of time. You draw a warm bath to dilate the veins, make blood flow easier, the process quicker. I’d leave a note, write it on the wall with a black marker. Nothing will hurt anymore. I’d step into the bath. Text the important people in my life thank you and it’s not your fault. My mother always finds a way to blame herself. I’d turn off my phone and remove the battery. You cut the wrist vertically, to really open the vein. Begin with your dominant arm so that you won’t mess up cutting the other arm. Wait.
Old habits remain: I still mouth the words to prayers that have lost all meaning. I still make the sign of the cross before a meal, almost like reflex. Still feel inclined to thank God when something good happens. Sometimes I need to deliberately stop myself. I want to be consistent. I want to take a stand instead of allow myself to be buffeted here and there.
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Catholic or atheist, faith or unfaith? I am reminded of how much A— loves scapulars every time I pass by St. Joseph’s Parish on the way home from school. Vendors crowd outside it, selling all sorts of items: flowers, rosaries, pictures, calendars, statuettes. Every time his sister travelled, he would ask her to bring him home a new scapular, never mind that he had a dozen decorating his room. He isn’t particularly religious, but he claims to be a practical man: Whosoever dies clothed in this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire. Some things become elegant in their apparent simplicity. Here is your one-way ticket to heaven, for the low price of 15 pesos. If it could only be so simple. To boil everything down to a question of yes or no, to render my life into the causal logic of a story or people into flat images to carry around my neck. When I wrote my plans, it felt, for the first time in months, like purpose, a direction, a prospect to work towards. All that peace that settled after finally making a decision to let go, all that peace I imagined I would have afterwards. The candidness of such a life, deprived of any kind of future. My thoughts will finally quiet. A true moment of surrender. Beside my grandmother’s
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grave used to stand a massive tree, conveniently located as to provide shade when the family visits on All Saints’ and death anniversaries. It was growing large enough to block the rest of the way, shade slowly turning to nuisance. People talked of cutting it down or at least trimming the branches, but, out of superstition, no one ever did. Roots only grow deeper. Tendrils cling to flesh being eaten away. This way, the roots of the tree had cocooned the body and as it grew, it carried the remains with it. During a storm two years ago, the tree was uprooted, destroying the grave beside my grandmother’s and exposing the bodies it encased. They salvaged what they could of the bones, gathered them into a pile, lit candles and arranged flowers beside it. I could see pieces of broken bones woven between tendrils of roots, thick mesh, brown dirt. Reluctance stems from the simple question of inevitability. How do you remove something so deeply entrenched within? Tear yourself away from it? In the aftermath of the fall, where do I begin.
A— often prayed when he was sad. On sleepless nights, he would drive his Vespa
around Manila, visiting select churches and smoking cigarettes as substitute for votive candles. The typical choices: Quiapo, St. Jude, Manila Cathedral. In the Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton writes that in medieval times, the cathedral was God’s house on earth. Within its walls was resurrected the original, perfect beauty of Eden, inviting visitors to fall to their knees in humble devotion. With the intent of making man surrender his self-sufficiency, architects designed elaborate edifices. These cathedrals stood not merely as humble offerings to God the King, but also as fortresses meant to defend and distract the believer from all that is corrupt without and within. Despite A—’s shortcomings, they invited him to hope for a vision of the future, pure and true. The only place I can remember with the same sway for me was the hospital chapel of my childhood. It was neither grand nor magnificent, it was a small, modest chapel by all accounts. But Mass every Sunday at 5:15 PM was special because Father Ads would be presiding over the Eucharist. I looked forward to his homilies and having him pat my head at the end of mass as he exited the chapel. I wrote him letters on special occasions, in fancy stationeries, enveloped and handed at the end of the mass. One letter was an apology for missing the Eucharist, throwing the blame to my mother who would sometimes be too lazy to go. Another was a request for him to forgo the mission he was about to be sent on, knowing he would be leaving this church for good. The medieval man relied on architecture to house him away from sin, I relied on the competence of my shepherds. The priest who replaced Father Ads during the 5:15 PM Mass was not any good. His homilies were dull and he lacked the charisma of his predecessor. My mother and I tried different schedules, even different parishes, but they fell short of that prized one. Perhaps this was when I stopped coming to church, deciding I had better things to do. If anything, A— brought me closer to God. With him, I learned to exercise patience, kindness. When we were together, I prayed often, visited churches to light votive candles. I always wept when I prayed, that swell of emotion each time. For all my cynicism, the Catholic girl in me was alive. Of course when A— left, the prayers also stopped.
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My faith is too shallow, too weak, dependent on the fallible, temporary factors of people and books. My faith is too small and so I sink. Or at least this is what my therapist meant when she said, “If you don’t believe in God, how will you ever get better?” as I sat across from her in the veranda-turned-office of her house. She was the second therapist in four weeks. I decided to seek help when I started fantasizing of suicide on the daily: stab my chest, hang myself, jump off a building, walk into a river? Sometimes it would take a morbid, fantastical turn: imagine myself falling from the sky and being impaled on the metal rods of a construction site. When a cat scratched my arm I only felt relief in seeing three streaks of red on my skin. I’m a Psychology major. I knew the signs. I knew what was happening. Still, it calmed me down when I wrote my plans to kill myself, down to the detail, even what I would wear. When I told my mother I wanted to see a doctor, she had asked, “Can you just get over this?” The compromise was for me to see a psychotherapist, a friend of hers. On our first and last session, she had broken a lot of rules I’ve learned in class: She couldn’t adapt to my unreceptiveness, she held my hands, she was too confrontational. I was more comfortable with the second one, until she said what she did. If you don’t believe in God, how can you get better? She didn’t bother hiding the accusation. You’ve dug this hole for yourself because you are unfaithful. How do I argue with her? In class, we’ve learned that religion is important to give people a sense of personal control over their lives. It lends their
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experiences coherence, thereby reducing anxiety and disappointment. The belief that God controls their lives becomes interchangeable with personal control. In fact, most 12step programs for various dependencies are spiritual in nature. When we interviewed a recovering drug addict working as a counselor at a rehabilitation center, he told us that it was impossible to recover without believing in a God. Religion helps coordinate groups and foster cooperation, as well as establish social norms, rules, and consequent punishment. According to Sigmund Freud, religion is a neurosis, an illusion we cast onto the sensory world as way to control the violent impulses of our id. Hence, God is based on the necessity of a father. Without a Father to enforce the Law, civilization will not be possible. Isn’t this how it goes, If God did not exist, he would have to be invented. The therapist tells me that she’ll help me, that it’s a process. I don’t have the energy to argue. When desperate, we clutch at what we can. If not God, then a lover. If not God, then this woman. I’d like to think that I’m more enlightened than my religious peers, but always there is a stab of envy. No matter how bad their lives get, they have an absolute stronghold, a bottomless well of strength. I want to say my miracle is to swim but all I want to hear is Rise. Your faith has healed you. My dilemma presents itself as a simple mathematical problem. Tied to a post with a leash of twenty years of knowledge, school, study, books, moving in a circle, how much of God can I know until I am unable to sustain myself? Even if I extend my arm to lengthen the reach of my knowledge, will I be able to rise to the fullness of life that I desire? I keep running into a dead end. I keep going in circles. If I believed in God, everything would be so much simpler.
I have since stopped seeing her. Despite such a compelling case, I’m too stubborn to let myself be converted back. After weeks lost in a daze of sadness, a trip to the mountains with my mother, and upon our return weeping in front of her saying I wanted the future back, she finally agreed to let me see a psychiatrist. The doctor was recommended by a friend who had her as a professor. She prescribed two pills: first, an antidepressant, second, an antipsychotic which acts also as a mild sedative. I have been strictly taking them, I keep
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track of my mood, reach out to friends when things get overwhelming, even try out the occasional exercise. I walk Ceejay in the morning when I wake up. Feed her. Eat breakfast or have coffee, smoke a cigarette, shower, prepare for school. I attend my classes, stay at a café near school during long breaks. I have dinner with old friends, go home and walk the dog then feed her. I study. I take my pills at 10 PM, at least eight hours before the time I’ve set my alarm to go off. If I don’t get at least eight hours of sleep, the sedative I take will make me pass out when I try to get up in the morning. On weekends I can sleep in, my meds making me go for twelve hours of uninterrupted shut-eye. The neighbor’s white dog still hurls herself against the wall. Instead of planning my suicide, I plot ways to rescue her. Perhaps one night, I will walk over there and cut her leash, drive her to a nearby beach, maybe somewhere in Batangas. She’ll be alone and lost but she’ll be free, perhaps she’ll even be grateful. It’s illegal to steal someone else’s pet, but I’m sure I’ll be forgiven.
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TR ACEY DELA CRUZ BIO Tracey dela Cruz is taking up BS Psychology and AB Literature (English) in Ateneo de Manila University. She was a fellow for fiction in the 52nd Silliman University National Writers Workshop.
WISHBONE AYANA TOLENTINO
Girls, I’ve found, possess a certain roughness when left on their own. There were no fewer incidents of pushing and shoving and clawing in my Catholic school than anywhere else, despite us being repeatedly told that violence doesn’t become a woman. Perhaps here more than anywhere else. Contain the impulse to draw blood. Use your words. And how we used our words: girls claiming each other as their best friend and tying bracelets around their wrists so everyone knew, colorful thread they braided themselves. All you had to do was exactly what they did. Say the wrong thing once or twice and these forever-connections begin unspooling. Yes, just like that. Try not to flinch at the sound of your name carrying over in mocking sing-song. Did you hear about her? Did you hear? No wonder she’s all alone. Everything said in sing-song. I hope she cries.
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In sixth grade, one girl tried coming at me with a box cutter. This was when I first learned the dark side of possession, when previously belonging had only been idealized—to be marked as someone’s the singular indicator of likability. But Holly Golightly had said, “People don’t belong to people.” I would echo her for years, and believe. It was lunchtime, the halls for the most part deserted. The rumor was that her girlfriend had been seeing me on the side. Late-night phone calls and frequenting the cafeteria together during breaks might have attested to this, but the rumor wasn’t true. Still, this girl with the box cutter, she came looking for me, and my classmates had turned all the lights in our classroom off and had told me to hide behind our teacher’s desk until they’d calmed her down. I imagined her feral, spit dripping from a mouth saying over and over again, she’s mine. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want her—the words didn’t reach. There was nothing to defend. Some of the teachers eventually intervened, hauling her off to the guidance office. One of them pulled me out of class to ask me about it, because romance brewing between two girls was forbidden. This was the concern. Some of us found ourselves with bowed heads in confessionals, the fruit of it between our teeth. There were paragraphs about it in our handbook, after all; afternoon lectures dedicated to the subject, our principal being especially careful to tell us that this was not love. Well, that’s something, I’d thought. What have we been saying, then, with our hands? I’m going to hold you now but this means nothing to me. I try to imagine. Perhaps if the nuns had the power to revise our mission song,
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they would’ve included this provision. Obsession is not love: this is what they should’ve spent time clearing, at least then it wouldn’t have been a waste. A turn to violence in love’s honor renders it counterfeit. What would come of possessing a heart? What would come of longing to? I wonder even now. Twelve-year-old girls don’t understand this. We go on not understanding this for a long time, until it finally reaches. So was it true? Was I involved? Were these two girls really together? The teacher had asked. No, miss, I’d told her, simply. And that would be something. A girl had brought a box cutter to school fully intending to draw blood for love of the girl she claimed, and the first question they thought to ask condemns the wrong side of the equation.
But of my roughness: every time I hold a glass plate in my hands, I want to throw it at a wall. The way someone might in a movie. There’s a shop in Marikina that provides this service; all the glassware you can throw for only a few pesos. It’s meant to be meditative, this ceremonious purging of a rage that makes your hands itch with the need to do. Nothing demands release like it. I think of how fragile the human body must be—that the only thing keeping it from being blood spatter on concrete is not-falling. In moments of sleeplessness I imagine a wooden stake skewering me through the heart like I were only a body to begin with, raggedy like a doll being tossed and turned every way. I fall asleep then, relieved that this is what it might one day come to; that every little demon keeping me awake
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is only as fragile as my body. Perhaps more. One day they may be broken and purged. Because there is an idea about girls and softness. In the sculptor Bernini’s The Rape of Proserpina, marble is expertly molded to replicate suppleness, in thighs and upper-arms. Pluto drives his fingers into her skin and it yields, dimpling. Easy. Marble birthing smooth expanse of skin and hair like winded stalks. Anything sharper will be lesser—defiance is sharp and so we see none of that here. Proserpina’s mouth is caught in an ‘oh!’ and she has her head turned away. Pluto takes her anyway. Tossing and turning her like she weighs nothing. Here she is made of infallible rock, and yet the narrative remains: the female figure, deified then taken.
If I were to describe the precise mouthfeel of the word specificity, it could only be this: it’s how cool air feels on a body that should be sweating, but does not. Instead the body lies cooling in the aftermath of falsified exertion. The sweat-less body will tell you it did not enjoy itself as much as it would’ve liked to. The body will tell you that the heart wasn’t in it. The body can’t lie—he may have bitten my thighs like I told him to but he had no effect. The mind whirrs. But isn’t the purpose of all this touching to quiet the mind? Specificity is an adjective that means “peculiar or proper to somebody or something.” Where biochemistry and pharmacology are concerned, it’s the “selective attachment or influence of one substance on another, as an antibiotic on its target organism.” So, a variation on ‘proper to somebody.’ But here I’m using specificity to depict a sense of outside-ness, so I must sidestep meaning. Specificity: a series of hisses punctuated with a suspension. This is how the body feels. When my body is suspended like this, I can’t find rest. I’m looking for something tender to hold me. Something more intimate than sympathy, which when spoken plays hollow, if sweet. The way empty gestures do. Perhaps a word like dalliance, at least, meaning “a brief love affair,” but also meaning “a trifling away of time.” No matter, I remind myself. Form over content, again and again. Dalliance makes me think—a cascade of daisies, something falling towards a bottom I can fall into, in that sighing way we do upon finding that finally moment. I can’t think of a more tender landing than this. Sleep, on its own, doesn’t have to be gentle. It’s often in sleep that I’m at my most fitful. My mind can’t help but whirr. But once, I fell asleep on a boy’s bed. For all that it
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was dreamless and quick, and had meant nothing inherently, it was precisely that word. Dalliance. You might say in every way. There was no breaching the gulf between our bodies, no thighs touching, nothing—and yet: the body can’t lie, and the body fell asleep on his bed. With his bunched up sheets and blanket tossed aside. Is there some meaning to be sidestepped here? Please, my mind whirrs. More restlessness and, finally, sweat. I woke up and there they were: daisies.
We headed to the tennis court a little after lunch: our bodies, with bellies stuffed and limbs winding down from the morning, took to the midday sun and mild breeze like we were settling into a better scene. Perhaps a hammock suspended between two palm trees, or a smooth clearing at the end of a trail. Instead we got hard ground with a low net set up across the center to make up the two sides. We were dressed in our P.E. uniforms, moss green jogging pants and white t-shirts both rather plain save for the school logo printed over our hearts and then our back-pockets. It was the fifth grade. Most of my classmates had sat beyond the bounds of the court, in the spaces provided, with legs crossed or sprawling or with both knees up like makeshift armrests—the dirt tracked in by hundreds of strangers’ shoes barely registering as a concern, though some did lay down sheets and folded-up jackets that were useless in the day’s heat. Some had used their friends’ laps as pillows, lying down and slipping into naps, forgetting the tennis game entirely. There was a girl resting her head on my lap, too. At the time, we weren’t exactly friends. My thigh was a solid weight under her neck, her messy ponytail falling in the gap between my folded legs, my palms flat on the ground as I leaned back. She kept her baseball cap on even then, having grown fond of the temporary addition to our usual uniform; and besides, there was no roof over where we were. For a while I couldn’t see her eyes, the cap’s rim doing its job and keeping them from me. I’d had the same trouble with the same girl in the weeks before, this girl with light brown eyes, who made me wonder about the color, and how nuts and tree trunks and even earth are too indelicate and so it will not do to compare. Why is blue also cerulean and other lovely names, when brown is only ever brown, or else some type of wood? I thought of warm honey pooling around the base of a pot, and decided that was fair. There weren’t gold flecks in them,
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but memory is malleable and the mind is a constant hammer: when I think about sitting with her on the slope of a driveway, counting cars and people-watching, all the while trying to get her to stare back, all the while failing, I can almost believe I was hunting for gold. Then she lifted her chin to say some version of hello, good morning, roused from a light nap that didn’t really take, not amid a cheering crowd, and not with the heat wave. I dipped my head so I could lean in closer, finally pulling her cap back to say hello.
What’s in a name? I’m trying not to say his so he can remain shapeless, without a name to contain him the way glass might contain water. But speaking around glass names it, too. To say, in it, there’s water for drinking; music is made by sliding a finger around its rim; it can only hold so much water before it spills over, says, all the same: I mean to say, glass. I mean to say, let me speak around his heart. If we were to assume his name is his heart. Because in the end it hadn’t mattered what his name was. The water of him meant as much as the glass. I let him take us the long way ‘round. He caught my hand in his and we turned the corner, towards a dirt road marked with puddles from the morning rain. We held hands over those we couldn’t walk around, even if this had meant walking slower. I remember this moment sometimes and I belly-laugh: I would’ve liked this story better if one of us had fallen into the mud. How syrupy it was, this molasses gesture that gave my mouth a strange texture. The hands tethering us together might’ve done something useful then, something interesting like pull. Instead we were two children checking both sides before crossing the street, holding onto each other like one of us might run off and get hit by a car. No, that isn’t fair. He caught my hand and I left it with him, so what I mean to say is: when I met this boy, the wishbone at the base of my throat started growing. Before him, the fact of desire was something I could still deny, small and smooth as it was despite making a home in my body. There was nowhere to send it to, and this made it easy. It was a quiet thing I could keep swallowing around. But then the wishbone grew feathers and wings and started singing; became
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a bird desperate to break my throat. He caught my hand and I left it with him, and what I mean by that is: my desire was quelled, this meaning soothed not suppressed, this meaning I got exactly what I wanted and more, and the challenge was keeping it. We talked about the city, about the stillness of suburbia and how we might want that someday. Let’s find ourselves the kind of nuclear family with a house that smells like pancakes on Sunday mornings, the kind who sends out holiday cards together. But then, maybe I’d like to stay right here. This might’ve been the last time we found ourselves wanting the same thing from each other: our hands tethering us together, this being interesting enough. The gesture alone, he would try to explain, bears no weight. Because eventually I would ask about his heart, and so he would uncatch my hand like he might in a film reel rewinding itself. I try to imagine a better story. In it, this doesn’t feel so desperate. Because eventually I had wanted more to keep, and this was the problem. He would apologize for wasting my time, and explain some more, would tell me he shouldn’t have held my hand while we walked over puddles. Because eventually quelled would mean try not to choke on
this, I would say, no, you shouldn’t have, and he would avert his eyes like he knew they were hunted. “It isn’t fair, the depth of my looking, the threat of my looking. It’s rude to shake a man visible and claim the results,” said Siken to Fryderyk in the shifting light. The bird in my throat would not shrink itself back into a wishbone. I can only speak around things I know. So what would it do to say: Elijah.
The science behind human pheromones might not be altogether sound. The socio-sexual behaviors of boars have been widely covered: there exist potent aphrodisiacs in the male’s saliva that when the female catches a whiff of them, she offers herself easily like she’s slotting into place. The research has proven conclusive, but animals are rarely as complicated as people—especially when it comes to matters of attraction. I’m looking for a reason that can double as scapegoat, something in the air or in the trick of light, something in the shape of his mouth when my body had given itself over. There must be something to this wanting that isn’t mine alone. But I can’t find it. I remember the gust of night air when he came in. Sweat
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coated his features like polish on wood. The humidity made everything sticky, but despite it he still kept his jacket on. He was grinning a child’s grin, the kind that makes you think he’s had too much sugar, and I was struck dumb by this mania about him: no one I’d met before or since has been so relentless, embodying a sound-of-drums thrum of nervous energy. All I could do was blink, step aside, and refuse to track the scent of him. This might’ve been enough, once: to subsist on this unbodied boy, his qualities something hastily put together in collage and given a title, not a name, but then of course I came to know him. And all of these little details were given their context: his specific scent is cologne and hair grease and whiskey, because he drinks whiskey. There is nothing faint about him. He says something happens to his voice at 10 a.m., makes it sound like raw meat dragged across gravel, also somehow like the road. And he kept that jacket on because he liked it. And he never stops moving, forgoes sleep the way he might punctuations in paragraphs to keep the story going, to keep it claustrophobic. And maybe this is mania. But also I think he’s just looking for something tender to hold, so I think I can forgive him for turning over every stone. This need to do has nothing to do with me. I was lying on my best friend’s bed one 5 a.m., the two of us on either side of him, both turned away like crescent moons, when I felt him begin to wrap himself around me. He hooked one arm under mine, breathed in the scent of me—of cigarette smoke, sweat, stale alcohol, the fabric softener in the cotton sheets—
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and told me, simply, that I was soft. Like he didn’t know this from his hand glancing the curve of my waist. Every inch of my body became suddenly aware of itself: where it was in relation to this boy, where it was on this bed, how it curled like a comma and if it was dimpling, how I left my hand dangling over the rightmost edge. How there was nothing left to do but lean into him, because he was soft himself, I thought. And I had wanted to, and here he was. Warm like the whiskey he likes so much. And for once he was stilling, and I had hoped this meant I could find rest in him, but of course not. My mind shifted towards the sound of drums and didn’t know what to make of him, all over again. This drumming noise rising like something bound to give. How there was nothing left to do but lean back, so I did nothing. This has all the trappings of tenderness, I thought, so why am I turning to stone? He unhooked his arm and took his body back, though I’m not sure that he’d given it over. Ah, I remembered. Because this has nothing to do with me.
In French cuisine, to eat the ortolan means to eat it whole. One prepares the bird for cooking by blinding it, confining it to a small cage to restrict its movement, and leaving a wealth of nuts and seeds at its feet. The ortolan, when left in the wild, typically gorges itself at night to prepare for the rigors of flight. But having no concept of daylight in its blindness, the ortolan instead gorges itself ceaselessly. It balloons in half the time, this
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bird roughly the size of a child’s fist, and when it becomes full to bursting—it’s drowned in Armagnac. This bird, with its yellow-brown feathers skillfully plucked, dies swallowing its own marinade. Its organs become little pockets of flavor. To cook the ortolan, one must simply set it on fire. Whatever’s left of the Armagnac on its skin helps to quicken its roasting. It’s no honorable death, so I try not to think of funeral pyres and the reverence in their flames. I think of a cathedral burning. Traditionally, one must cover his head when eating the cooked bird. This tradition is said to be born out of one priest’s desire to hide the decadence of the act from the eyes of God. So they must know that this consumption is sin, the torture and death of it, and yet: the bird, when bitten into, is supposed to taste of figs and Armagnac bursting from its plump organs, of hazelnut, of game. The bird sits whole on the tongue. Its splintering bones, they say, sometimes puncture tender places in the mouth. Blood spills forth to salt the meat. Blood meaning your blood. The cloth becomes a tent boxing in the scent of it. The bird, they say, tastes like heaven.
This piece was previously published as “Tethered” in the chapbook Veils in April 2016.
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AYA N A TO L E N T I N O BIO Ayana Tolentino graduated in June 2016 with a BFA in Creative Writing from Ateneo de Manila University. During her time in Ateneo, she spent three years in the English staff of Heights, became a fellow for essay at the 20th AHWW, and published her first essay collection Veils as part of her senior thesis. She’s currently working as a copywriter for Makati-based communications agency Evident. Sometimes she takes freelancing gigs writing articles on pop culture, her foremost fixation. Interested in all forms of art and gender studies.
DOING THE FLAMEL MALIK CRUMPLER
“Blanc ou Rouge?” The French barman asks. “Rouge s’il vous plait.” That’s the extent of my French. “Thirteen or ten?” He asks and I draw a blank. It’s not the accent that’s perplexing me, it’s the choice of years. For me, wine is a time machine. I’m always superstitious about drinking a year because if it was a bad year I don’t want to summon it. 2013 was a great year; I’m forever in praise of what I accomplished then. I got out of my rotten marriage and dead-end job. I’m an entirely different person because of that year. Ever since then I only look forward. So, am I afraid to look back? I’ve resented my past long enough. What’s the worst that could happen? “Ten or thirteen, monsieur?” It shouldn’t be this difficult to choose a damn wine. This is ridiculous. What’s the mantra from Flamel therapy? Everything I used to hate, I now do my best to celebrate. “Ten, s’il vous plait.” The barman fills my glass to the brim. “Merci beaucoup.” I take a sip to keep it from spilling and carefully find a seat away from the crowd. I’ve been fasting all day so the tart rouge coats and warms me immediately. Alright now you abysmal year you, tell me who the hell was I in 2010?
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I was twenty-eight and twenty-nine, hated my job but worked all the time. No one took me seriously as a rapper or a poet. I was arrogant, resentful and unpublished. A bookseller. I ran the poetry section at Barnes & Noble on 18th and 5th in Manhattan. I worked there since ‘03 making $6.75 an hour; seven years later I was making $11.25 an hour. I was jealous of all the published poets who came into the store. If their books were already in the store, it was store policy that I asked them to autograph copies. Often times, I’d lie to them, “Sorry, we don’t carry your books and we can’t order them in because your distributor’s not in our system.” I cherished deflating their egos. It was the highlight of my day. The highlight of my night was two magnums of Gato Negro Cabernet.
I got up at 6 a.m. five days a week with a purple tongue and a painful hangover. Walked one hundred blocks to arrive at work by 8:30 a.m. I had no friends at my job and didn’t want any. Kept it professional and kept to myself. On my breaks I’d sit on the standing pipes in front of the 5th Avenue store window (that I decorated monthly) chain smoking, drinking shitty deli coffee, reading the legendary writers and imitating their styles in my Moleskine. After work I’d walk home to Spanish Harlem, ashamed of my anonymity. I’d meet my wife (ex-wife now, thank god) at her job at the Guggenheim. She was a gallery guide, got off at seven, and made $15.00 an hour. We’d get coffee at Andy’s Deli, walk over to Central Park, sit at Cleopatra’s Needle, have a couple smokes and debrief about our workday. Then we’d walk home to our three room apartment on 103rd Street and First Avenue whining about the publishing world and the art world like we always did.
Alexandria was a second-generation Italian American painter (she’d been in the city eight years trying to peddle her paintings into galleries and residencies but couldn’t convince any buyers, agents or curators to care). Our mandatory after-work ritual was practicing Tantric sex. After sex we’d eat in bed watching the BBC news or PBS mysteries and enjoy a glass of wine. After a glass or two, she’d take her bottle into her studio, blast opera and paint all night. I’d go off into my room with my bottle, listen to one of my old rap albums in headphones and revise whatever I wrote at work.
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By the end of the night we usually had enough drunken courage to email our latest drafts to curators, editors, galleries, publishers and agents. After we submitted everything we’d collapse onto our individual sides of our bed. We did not hold each other when we slept. (We kept this routine up for eight years, never receiving an acceptance letter online or on earth.)
We both had Thursdays off. We went to gallery openings in Chelsea on that day to spend “quality time” together. Alexandria would criticize the paintings to death. “It’s a scandal. All these MFAs are so fucking derivative of Frankenthaler, Mitchell and Defeo. I can’t believe they get away with this immature imitative shit. It’s like it’s illegal to be original. I mean give me a fucking break, clones. They don’t even know how to mix their paints. You think I should go to grad school?” Although she would get on my nerves sometimes with her wild rants, I loved all that about her. She was honest about her insecurities, and honest about her ravenous appetite for Tantric sex, just like me. Alex was terrible at networking in person, but she was great at emailing. I’d try to tell her, “You can’t be so nervous with these curators and agents, they’re just humans.” She’d fly into a rage. “To you! Of course they’re just humans. For me, they’re fucking gods.” Fridays (our other day off) we stayed in bed all day watching black and white foreign films, nursing our hangovers and making slow, serious love. At the bookstore I was known for my poetry section. Academics and poets frequented the store and considered me a committed warrior in the battle to revitalize poetry sections. I had all my heroes organized in impeccable alphabetical brilliance. Lover of lists that I am, I kept list for all of them. I had the obscure (to Americans) gods also: Zukofsky, Muller, Kaufman, H.D., Liu Xiaobo, Maria Elena Cruz Varela, Ai, Tagore, Harjo, Cardenal, Akhmatova, Stevens, Allena, Bontemps, Vallejo, Zhia Yongming, Gwendolyn Bennett, Silko, Yehuda and of course my favorite at that time, John Trudell. No one else had John Trudell’s books in the city. Of course I had the ancients too: Orpheus, Tao Yuangming, Sappho, Enheduanna,
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Thoth, Anyte of Tegea, Li Po, Catullus, Zariab, Ovid, Virgil, Sundiata, Rumi (translations by everyone but Barks) Arabian Nights, Ficino, Aeschylus, Hesiod, Dante, Chaucer, Basho, Cao Pi, Sophocles, Homer (which some customers argued belonged in the mythology section). I stocked the most diverse anthologies too: Shinto, Taoist, Druid, Ancient Poems of Africa, Pacific Islander, Carribean, South American, Turkish, Russian, Viking, Native American, Australian, Icelandic, even Inuit. Point to most places on a map, I had an anthology from there. I stocked the Bibles in verse in my poetry section as well. Some customers would get pissed about that. I loved telling them that every Bible’s written in verse and therefore it’s poetry. The customers I impressed would ask, “Where’d you get your MFA?” I relished in telling them, “I’m a selfeducated poetic zealot, preaching poetry on behalf of the truest truth: In every religion, science, mythology or esoteric cosmology, God created the world with words, hence God is a poet.” I’d follow that up with, “God is not a Slam poet. Although God is the first spoken word artist. God is a poet’s poet.” Some asked, “Do you go to a lot of readings in the city?” I took great pleasure in explaining, “No, I can’t tolerate the auditory disease that is Slam poetry.” I carried no books by Slammers. That pissed one lady off so much that she told me, “No Slammers? You’re insane.” Customers who enjoyed my outrageous spiel always encouraged me to finish my book, go to more readings and share my words with the world. I told
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them about how I sent out poems all the time but no one published me. Everyone told me to just publish myself. “Whitman did it, Pound did it, H.D. did it. You should do it too.” But I didn’t want to wind up like those chapbook poets I hid in classics on the shelves during inventory. They warned me that if I didn’t publish soon I ran the risk of becoming one of those old angry poets who talks the talk but are too bitter to walk the walk. That year an Ancient History professor from Columbia recommended the ancient Sumerian goddess poets; their words and culture set my mind on fire. Enheduanna and Gilgamesh changed my life. I was so inspired by their heroic tales of transformation that I started going to the Met on Thursdays instead of going with Alexandria to the Chelsea galleries. At the Met I spent hours in front of the Sumerian statues writing and praying to Anu, Utu, Enil, and Inanna to transform me into a poet of the gods. After I had prayed myself dizzy with them I began prostrating in the Egyptian wing writing prayers to Hathor, Thoth, Ra, Osiris, Isis, Sekhmet, Serket, Nekhmet, Geb, Nut, and Maat, to be blessed as their poet. One day in the temple of Dendur, Thoth responded and told me to study the ancient Egyptian priesthood of anonymous scribes (of course, you could say I was talking to myself but keeping in the tradition of the ancients, I prefer to believe the gods answered me). I obeyed Thoth and ordered in every ancient Egyptian book I could find. Devoured everything by Budge, Ra Un Nefer Amen, Allen, Ahmed, Hawass, Mathers, the Pyramid scrolls, Coptic gospels, the Desert Fathers, the Desert Sisters, even the New Age stuff by writers who claimed they received poetic transmissions directly from the Neters. In each book I read the gods demanded that you go out and share their transmissions with the world. To me, that meant going to poetry readings. Once I started going to readings I found that every writer I met had already stopped begging for acceptance from the publishing industry that obviously wanted nothing to do with them. I went to readings after work. Everyone either had a chapbook or was working on one. After two weeks of listening and watching, I started reading my poems at open mics. Some of the poets I met in the scene would come by the store and hang out. Suddenly, developing friendships outside of my wife’s bitter circle of painters and sculptors, I finally stopped feeling so irrelevant. I quit sending out poems every night
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and quit walking home with Alexandria after work. At the readings I read what I wrote at work or at the museums. I was convincing poets in the scene that the ancient gods commanded me to find leaders for the new poetic movement. I told them I didn’t want to be the leader, I was just the messenger. They nicknamed me Hermes. My new poet friends and I found the Asian wing at the Met the day the Japanese Poetry exhibit started. Those huge poems painted on enormous canvasses in enchanted ink gave us the idea to paint our poems too and show them at one of our readings. That was the first show we did; we didn’t consider ourselves a collective yet, we just named the show, Poetry Inspired by Ancient Japanese Poets. We passed out flyers and thumbtacked the poems on the wall of The Basement Bar underneath a chicken slaughter house on Delancey right under the bridge (we burned sage the whole show to cover up the stench of chicken carcasses and chicken shit). Maybe twenty-five or thirty people showed up including the eight of us. Alexandria and her friends came too. They weren’t into it; they considered the poems to be paintings and were jealous that I had had a show before they did. To me, the show was awesome. I took the role of chief editor of the blog and named it, THEUNPUBLISHABLES. COM. It was so easy to set up a site that I set up one more for all of our old rejected poems called REJECTEDPOEMSBYREJECTEDPOETS.COM. Our circle grew. A small basement gallery in Alphabet City called Con Artist sought to gain a larger audience so they asked us to host readings there twice a month. We packed the place. They also let my wife and her friends have openings for their paintings once a month. We took donations from the audience to gather funds for printing chapbooks and cheaply printed art books. We gave away our chapbooks at each reading to the audience. From us, Alexandria learned the ropes of how to ask for café, loft and bar spaces to put on shows. She and her collective organized weekly openings in a mad attempt to rival Chelsea (she called her collective The Chelsea Rejects). Our confidence increased and we stopped going to the other readings and subjecting ourselves to those degrading open mic contests. My wife started getting invited to show her work in underground loft exhibits in Bushwick, Dumbo, Williamsburg, Chelsea and Soho. I was proud of her but I rarely made it to her openings. She and I lived in two separate worlds.
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As my poetic life strengthened my marriage dissolved. I was no longer the pathetic anti-social drunk that my wife had depended on. For the past year, I was always out at readings and making new friends. We became completely incompatible in trying to adapt to our new positions in life.
I came home on December 8th of 2010 at about two in the morning after a reading. I was drunk and had fallen in love with Helena, a brilliant, original and sexy Russian poet I had just met. That night, Helena and I had walked around Manhattan like some old Woody Allen movie. I regretted being married. Alexandria wasn’t there when I got home. I wasn’t worried, she probably got too drunk at one of her girlfriends’ apartments and passed out. I called her cell but she didn’t answer. I called her again, and again and it went straight to voicemail. Really? I looked around the house for more wine, found two unopened bottles under the dining table. I was listening to Bitches Brew and working on the second bottle when I heard the keys in the door. The sun was coming up. Alexandria avoided my eyes. I tried swallowing my rage.
“Hell of a night?” I asked. “I don’t have time for this shit.” “You know what time it is?” “Don’t be such a fucking cliché.” She took her coat off and headed to the restroom. Her hair was sweaty and plastered to the sides of her forehead. I heard the shower turn on then I blacked out. When I woke up, she was sleeping on the floor in her studio. The chair in the dining room was turned over and smashed. I went into the restroom to take a shower and saw shards of my reflection in what was left of the mirror. The rest of the mirror was on the floor and what was left of the sink. Who broke the sink? I vomited in the shower, carefully picked a shard of porcelain from my swollen, throbbing right hand and went to check on her. Alexandria was sitting in the kitchen smoking and looking out the window. “Getting an early start?” “Start packing, Malcolm.” “What?” “Start packing.” My best friends, Gio and his wife, Ruth, let me stay with them in Bushwick. They both admitted that they saw this coming. I wished they had warned me. I slept on the couch with their Australian
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Shepherd, Spencer. Spencer and I became good friends. All night he served as my priest and I his sorrowful penitent. I was so low I started rapping again. (Thatâ€™s how it is ever since I quit rapping back in â€˜04 after the label dropped us. Just thinking about it still makes me queasy. My little brother Mark took it the hardest. My little sister Enheduanna was smart and went back to school. Maybe I took it even harder; I drank it off.) Poor Spencer. Every night that dog had to endure me whispering all of my sins to him in rhyme.
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I ain’t mean to do it Blame it on the fluid Blame it on the game and my lust for fame. Our movement quit moving Rappers, we quit improving Now look at what I’m doing Rapping to a dog Even god knows I’m losing If I’d only quit boozing Fuck my life my wife’s throat bruised and I can’t believe I did it I can’t believe what I’ve become I deserve to be committed and psychologically observed If it wasn’t for my friends I’d be a bum… Spencer say, “Word.”
Sometimes I’d rap Spencer and me to sleep. Sometimes he’d even nod along. Who am I kidding? All that really mattered is that the dog never gave me the guilties. That’s all me and Alexandria ever did was judge and criticize each other all the time. Rarely a compliment, rarely a Why did we even get married? Was it really just for the shared rent? We acted like we hated each other too damn often for too damn long. How’d we even manage to stay together for a decade? Fight all night and then say I love you every morning before work? Was it really just me projecting my hate for the rap game on her and she projecting her insecurities about the art world on me? How’d I wind up hating the two things I loved so much for so long? I still can’t figure that out. Despite all the therapy Spencer gave me, I still couldn’t sleep. I’d just lay on the couch watching night shadows burn away as the sun rose, rapping prayers to every god of every religion I ever studied, for strength to transform my life. (To be honest, I predominately prayed for Alexandria to take me back and forgive me. At least one of those prayers were answered.)
I didn’t eat for the first nine days. Just drank water and chain smoked. My only goal in life was to erase the memories of the fight with my wife. The only way I could live with myself was the fact that I didn’t hit her, and that she put the fucking holes in the walls when I dodged the chair that she threw at me. In moments like this none of those bullshit justifiers matter. I should have ordered the Rouge ‘13. When Alexandria finally let me come home it was on the condition that I stop drinking and attend A.A. meetings regularly. I was grateful. We were never the same. A.A. was All Assholes. I didn’t regret being drunk. I regretted neglecting Alexandria so much that she sought attention in a manic-depressive French painter who was ten years older and way more successful than me. I stopped going to readings once I moved back home so I could win my wife back and make sure she wouldn’t run off with that damn Frenchman. No that’s not it at all. I quit going to readings because I knew she cheated on me to get revenge for me cheating on her with my ego.
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In early December of 2010 I returned from another foodless lunch break and was assigned to bring up a cart from the warehouse for the Self-Help and New Age Christmas displays. It was a slow afternoon at work and the few customers that were in the store assisted themselves. I usually avoided this section because having grown up between Berkeley and San Francisco in the ‘80s and ‘90s I gained a healthy skepticism and annoyance for all things and all people self-helpish or new-agey. Nonetheless, I wheeled the bloated cart over to the empty New Age and Self Help section that was usually occupied by businessmen or people who dressed like genies and shamans. To avoid any possible customers at the information desk I wheeled the cart through the overstock. The display consisted of books with corny titles like Your Best Life Now, Purpose Driven Life, Your Happiness Journal, Happy Wife Happy Life, Quit Your Job and Live Your Bliss. While setting up the display I heard a thick British accent say, “There happens to be no one at the Kiosk, can you please assist me in finding a couple of books?” I hated helping the elitist British. I turned around prepared to get rid of her when I noticed a sixfoot-tall, caramel-complexioned woman in army fatigues. A black hood covered her bald head. She also wore spectacles that looked like they came from another era. For some reason I still don’t understand, I felt like I was in the presence of an elder family member or a celebrity that I didn’t know, perhaps a tennis champion or something like that. I relaxed. I put down Stop! Change Your Life Now and walked over to the information desk. “So how can I help you?” “I am in need of assistance my friend, not help. No one can help anyone, one must choose to help themselves. But that is neither here nor there. I would greatly appreciate your assistance in locating several of the books on this list.” She pulled a small square emerald piece of paper from her coat pocket and unfolded it into a foot-long scroll. She noticed my apprehension and joked, “What time do you close?” We laughed. I recommended, “There’s always tomorrow.” To which she laughed loud enough to turn heads throughout the store. Her laugh made me laugh harder too. “You have a strong laugh, young man.” Young man? I was obviously older than her. She looked to be at the most twenty-one, although her stature was that of an ancient warrior. “Oh, you do not consider yourself a young man? Delightful,” she said. “I don’t feel young anymore you know—”
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“Why? You’re only twenty-nine.” Her accuracy startled me. Most people considered me middle-aged (which had a lot to do with the way I dressed. My coworkers nicknamed me Mr. Rogers on account of my shabby sweaters, baggy slacks and senior citizen Ecco walking shoes. Even my writer friends called me Grandpa.) “So you’re twenty-nine. And you hate your life. Good for you. Now what are you going to do about it?” To my surprise I was neither angry nor insulted. “You know before you arrived I was over there thinking—” “I know, I felt your guilt and grief. Lucky for you, I am here to rescue you.” Her obsidian eyes were so friendly and familiar I couldn’t decide if she was flirting or if she was possessed by the spirit of my dead grandmother. “You enjoy gazing into people’s eyes. What are you searching for in there?” she asked. “I guess my reflection.” “And how often do you find it?” “Rarely.” “Do you see it now?” With her hand she motioned for me to come closer to her. This made me uncomfortable so I froze. She removed her glasses and put her face close to mine. She had no smell. I saw nothing but immeasurable blackness in her eyes. My discomfort made her laugh. At that instant I saw myself, tiny and laughing. Overwhelmed with emotion, I wanted to run out of that store and break all the way down. She placed her palm on the center of my chest and a fire spread through my body. My emotions subsided and my shoulders relaxed. She closed her eyes, replaced her glasses and stepped away from me. When she opened her eyes I was confused and embarrassed. “I have three hundred and thirty-three books on this list. I am sure that this store may carry but a few of them.” “Well, I can help you with that.” “I repeat I am in no need of help.” “Then how can I be of service?” “Every sincere seeker is afflicted with that question, are we not?” I didn’t know how to respond. She continued, “You never told me when this store closes.” “We close at nine tonight.”
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“We?” I didn’t know how to respond to that either. “My god mate, where are you in any of it?” I was ashamed of my previous explanation, but intrigued by the close attention she paid to my words. “You’re worse off than I ever imagined. I sincerely hope it’s not too late for you. Will you do me a favor?” “Anything.” “Oh, don’t be so dramatic. Pass me the time.” “Three thirty-three p.m.” “Isn’t that exciting?” “What?” “Turn it over in your bean and it will reveal its importance when you’re ready. At any rate, these books, all three hundred and thirty-three of them. Let us begin. Whatever is not available I prefer to order and whatever is unavailable for order I’ll require the publisher’s contact. Are you up for this?” “I’m up for it.” The next five hours were spent with her order. It was the most obscure list I’d ever read. I compiled three separate lists for her: one that was in the store, the other was what I could order in, and the other was the contacts of publishers whose books were out of print. For those out of print books I recommended that she go to the library. To which she responded, “We are building a library of our own.” I attempted cleverness. “We?” “Oh yes, we indeed.” “If you work for one of those organizations that helps children in need, I can connect you with the
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specialty buyer and she can arrange a discount and—” “The organization to which I belong is not nor will it ever be one of those aforementioned services. We are far more advanced when it comes to assisting the children than you could ever imagine.” I didn’t know what that meant and didn’t care to ask. About two hundred books into her lists the thirty minutes to closing announcement came over the store monitors. She found it ridiculous. “That’s a job, is it? Telling people they need to leave? Well, we almost made it, did we not?” I didn’t respond. “So what do you do when you’re not here? Let me guess… You’re a rapper.” How could she have known that! I lied, “No, I’m a poet.” “What’s the difference, mate?” I had no answer. “You’re a liar is what you are. Or worse yet, you’re afraid of yourself. I bet you believe you’re cursed. Who cursed you?” She was one hundred percent correct. Humiliated, I said nothing. “You, you’ve cursed yourself. Your shame holds you hostage. Reverse the curse, man; just let it all go and start over. Do the Flamel.” Again I was astonished by her accuracy. She continued. “And look at your wedding ring, man. Oh, I hope it’s not too late. You two haven’t got long. It’s already over.” I turned red. “And now you think you’re angry?” My manager watched from the registers in front of the store. I wanted to tell the customer to mind her business, but she was so on point with her observations that I actually feared her. My manager came toward the desk obviously bothered that I had only helped one strange customer for the past five hours and hadn’t set up the Christmas displays. To calm him down, I needed evidence of the order I was compiling for her. “I have to save these lists now. I need to put the orders under your name, miss?” “Me, a miss? My dear friend, you miss the point entirely. I am that I am, but you may call me…” She searched for a name, “In Anna.” I entered her name in the computer as my manager walked over. “Alright Miss In Anna, I just need a phone number and we’ll contact you when —” In Anna noticed my manager, held his glance and cut me off. “We don’t use emails or phones. I’ll return tomorrow and buy everything on my
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list with cash. How much should I bring?” “So far it’s about $3,700.” My manager gave me a suspicious look. “Perfect. Thank you for your impeccable patience and assistance. See you in the morning.” And she marched out the store like military men in movies. My manager looked over the order and said, “Let’s hope she comes back. Good work. Now finish the shelving and clean up. Did you finish your displays?” What an annoying man. I told him, “I was with her so—” “Well now you’re not.” And he walked away swirling his hand in the air, which was his sign language for clean up. I wanted to break his wrist.
The next day I spent all morning gathering her books. I finished the list at exactly 3:33 p.m. and took my lunch break exhausted but excited to see In Anna again. When I walked outside into the freezing December afternoon she was sitting on the standpipes in front of the store. “Top of the evening to you, Malcolm.” How did she know my name? “Your name tag, mate.” “Oh, I forgot to take it off. I’ve been working on your list all morning.” “I knew you were willing to do the necessary work. You on lunch?” “Yep, I just clocked out.” “Well, let us lunch. What do you plan on eating?” “I don’t eat in the daytime.” “Me either. You’re fasting I take it?” “Yep, I fast every day.” “Good for you. For guilt or God?” I wanted to say God but the truth betrayed me. “Guilt.” “Splendid. So you are well-acquainted with the emptiness?” “Emptiness? Which emptiness?” “Empty marriage, empty job, empty everything. Emptiness is the only way to fulfillment. You desire transformation? It is our job to grant it. The heroic journey you’ve sought your entire life, if you see so fit to accept it, will now begin. Any of those books you compiled today speak to you?”
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“So many.” “What comes to mind at this instant?” “Wizard: The Life And Times Of Nikola Tesla and The Secret Teachings of All Ages.” She clapped her hands and added, “There must be one more, there is always one more after two. Don’t think about it, just say it.” “The House of Rothschild.” She stood and applauded. “Bravo, Malcolm, bravo. You have given yourself your first assignments. And might I add one more as an introduction to your new self?” I nodded. “To begin to grasp what we are and thus what your position with us will be, you being the bookseller that you are, must do yourself this spectacular favor. Are you familiar with Nicolas Flamel?” “No. But I saw several books mentioning him on your list. We were out of everything on him except a teen book.” “A teen book! Unbelievable. To know Nicolas Flamel is to know your former self. Have you been to Paris yet?” “No, but I’ve wanted to go ever since I was a child.” “What’s kept you?” “I don’t want to go out there as a tourist, I want to go as a respected poet.” “Nicolas Flamel is the gatekeeper of Paris; gain his favor and you won’t just go to Paris as a poet, you’ll go as a celebrated alchemist. You are now on the path of thee All. You will soon lose all that you have; you will be emptied of all that is not your true self. In the shedding of the subtle body you’ll gain all that you were born to be. In this way you’ll be one with God through your internal alchemy. For God is all and God is the initial immortal alchemist.” Well I’ll be damned. I didn’t even tell her God was a poet. One sip left. Cheers to 2010. Á votre santé 2010. Á votre santé In Anna. Á votre santé New York, Alexandria, the scene, rap music, the job. Thank you all for getting me here. And most of all, merci to the 2010 Rouge—Oh the reading’s starting, let me get a refill and act like I give a shit. “Barman, Un autre verre de que ten si vous plait.”
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MALIK CRUMPLER BIO Malik Ameer Crumpler is a poet, rapper and music producer who has released several albums, short films, and five books of poetry. He founded the literary journals: Madmens Calling, Visceral Brooklyn, and Those That This. He is the new curator/host of Poets Live, Paris. Crumpler also wrote several musicals and ballets/arias commissioned by Harvest Works, Liberation Dance Theater, Firehouse Space, Panoply Lab, Bâ€™AM Paris, Bâ€™AM Vancouver, and Double Wei Factory. His new EP, Cloaks & Codes is produced by Thatmanmonkz, the other half of their duo, Madison Washington.
Mga tulâ mula sa Bagong Bayan II Mga talâ mula sa Bagong Bayan II J.G. DIMARANAN
Pagbubukas ng isip sa ilang eskinita
Lima o anim na taong gulang ako noong unang binigo ng pag-aalala: Hindi ko nakita ang tatay sa labas ng daycare. Awasan na namin ng alas dos y media, ngunit inábot na ng ala-singko’y wala pa rin siya. Namasâ ang aking palad at namuo ang malalamig na butil ng páwis sa aking noo, itsurang páwis sa bintana tuwing taglamig o pawís na basong natunawan ng yelo. ‘Di nga lang sa panahong ito, punô ng napakainit na pagkabagabag ang dibdib at tila may mga higanteng nagtatampisaw sa lúsak ng tadyang. Umiyak akong saglit. Ngunit sa pag-iyak ay nagdesisyon ring lakasan ang loob at hanapin mag-isa ang daan pauwi. Binagtas ko ang mga eskinita at kanto. Nawala ako at hindi natagpuan ang aming bahay. Ilan kayang bata ang nawala ng araw na iyon? Buti na lamang at mas naalala ko ang daan patungo sa bahay ni Inay malapit sa welcome sign ng Bagong Bayan. Tila nabuo muli ang aking mundo, sa katunayan ay nagbago ito. Sumíkat sa aking diwa na marunong na akong mag-isip! Lumiwanag ang aking puso. Pagkarating sa gate ay tumakbo ako palapit at humagulgol sa daster ni Inay. Tinanong niya kung ano’ng nangyari, sabay inabutan ako ng matamis na matamis na kaimitong kasusungkit pa lamang.
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Sa Bagong Bayan: Blackberries
Hindi pa â€˜ko pumapasok sa eskuwela nang tumira kami malapit sa taniman ng sapinit. Maliit lamang ito, siguroâ€™y wala pang isang hektarya, ngunit ang gate ng taniman ay pagkalaki-laking tila ayaw talagang pasilip mula sa mga residente sa labas. Tuwing hapon matapos ang nakatakdang siesta, lumalabas ako sa malambot nang araw upang maglaro kasama ng mga kuting. Isang sutil na pagkakataon ang nagbukas ng dambuhalang gate sa aking harapan. Agad akong sumilip at napansing sa lawak ng lupain ay walang makikitang nagmamatyag. (O baka naman â€˜di talaga ito kalakihan at ang liit ko lang kasi noon?) Pumasok ako sa gate. Sa ilang sandali ay narinig ko ang sipol ni tatay. Ganito niya kami tinatawag magkapatid. Sa wika ng ibon kami nagkakaunawaang kailangan na naming umuwi. Agad akong lumabas ng taniman kung saan niya ako mabilis nakita. Akala koâ€™y magagalit siya dahil pumasok ako sa hindi namin bahay,
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ngunit kuminang sa kaniyang mga mata ang tuwa, nais rin pala niyang tawirin ang gate na iyon noon pa. Nagkaintindihan ang aming mga titig, at sabay kaming pumasok muli sa dambuhalang gate. Sa ilang hakbang pa lamang ay mga pulumpon na ng blackberries ang sumalubong sa amin. Nanguha kaming dalawa at ibinuslo ito sa aming damit. Pagkakuhaâ€™y agad din kaming lumabas. Umupo kami sa semento at saka nilantakan ang mga prutas. Nangitim ang aming mga bibig habang tahimik na naghahagikhikan. Tatlong kuting ang nakasaksi sa aming puro mantsa ang sando at blusa.
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Sa Bagong Bayan: Bisikleta
Noong nasa una hanggang ikatlong baitang sa elementarya ay lagi akong hinahatdan ng pananghalian dahil ayaw daw niyang kumakain ako ng malamig na pagkain. Paborito kong luto niya ang ginataang manok, at walang kapantay sa sarap kung paano siya mag-adobo. Dumarating siya sa isang sulok ng gym dala ang bagong lutong pagkain at ang kaniyang bisikleta. Ilang linggo matapos siyang pumanaw ay kinausap ako ni nanay nang may nginig ng pag-aalala: may nagkuwento raw sa kaniyang madalas pa rin akong makita sa lugar kung saan ako hinahatdan ng pagkain kahit wala naman nang bisikletang darating. Wala akong sinabi, doon pa rin ako kumain ng marami pang sumunod na pananghalian sa aking buhay.
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Sa Bagong Bayan: Kabaong
Ibinilin ako ni nanay sa kapitbahay noong may lalaking pumunta sa bahay at nagsabing nasaksak daw si tatay isang gabi. Isinama niya ang aking kuya sa ospital, siguro’y upang may makapitan sakaling mabitak at gumuho ang mga semento ng mundo. Noon lang din niya siguro naintindhan ang kasabihang “nabagsakan ng langit.” Nakatulog na ako noon sa paghihintay. Pagkagising, nag-inát ako ng mga buto at saka umuwi. Wala akong nakitang tao kaya dumiretso na lang sa amin. Nakita kong lahat ang mga pulang gamit sa labas—sofa, aparador, bag, mga kahon, figurin, atbp.—may talukbong ang mga ito na puting tela. Palaisipan agad sa akin ang nakita. Papalapit pa sa aming pintua’y nasilayan ko na ang mga kandila, mga táong nang-uusisa at ulap-ulap na mga bulaklak sa lupa. Sa ilang hakbang pa’y nakita ko ang kabaong. Akala ko’y si Inay, pagkat may sakit din siya noon. Ngunit hindi, ang tao sa loob ay ang aking ama. Agad akong napaupo sa sahig kung saan ako pinulot ni nanay na parang isang maruming labada.
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Pagbubuo ng isip at mga daan
Dalawang buwan matapos pumanaw ni tatay ay sumunod naman si Inay. Mahilig pa namang magbangayan ang dalawa, lokohan naming baka na-miss nila ang isa’t isa. Ang mga paglisang ito’y nasundan din ng maaga kong pagalis sa poder ng pamilya. Dose ako noong unang kumalas sa bahay, at nanirahan sa bundok para mag-aral ng sining. Pagdating ng kolehiyo’y sa mas malayong bundok nag-aral muli, at dahil dito’y nasanay nang hindi talaga umuwi. Sa murang edad ko nalamang marunong na akong mag-isip at mag-isa (sa pag-uwi, isang kislap-diwa nabuo ang lahat) kaya maaga ring naglakbay patungo sa iba pang mga mundo. ‘Di hamak na tuwang tuwa sa pagbubuo ng isa pang bago, alang-alang at sa ngalan ng lugar kung saan ako pinanganak: sa Bagong Bayan.
J.G. DIMARANAN BIO Si J.G. Dimaranan ay nagtapos ng Theater Arts sa Philippine High School for the Arts at B.A. Language and Literature sa UP Baguio. Kasisimula lang niya sa kaniyang masteral na Comparative Literature sa UP Diliman. Kasalukuyan niyang tinatapos ang unang antolohiya ng mga akdang kababaihan mula sa Gantala Press.
P O S TG R A D U AT E ADMISSIONS CATHERINE TAN
“Alright ladies and gentlemen, what have we today?” began the Head as he resumed his seat at the center of the conference table. His arrival had disturbed a mood of early morning reverie within the three other members of the postgraduate admissions panel, a mood easily spun by both the autumn morning chill permeating every building in Houghton Street and the room interior’s recurrent red and brown tones. One finds the warm color palette collaborating with the specks of orange glow from the small light fixtures on the ceiling (they look like tiny spotlights!), a cumulative effect that transforms this innocentseeming room in St. Clementine’s Hall into a solid bastion of insulation. …and its four panelists, into figureheads encircled by warm light, naturally inviting intrigue and speculation (from physically absent spectators).
Against what? Each skin tag, freckle, crow’s feet, and tan line illuminated and brought to the fore. W/o prior heed or mercy. Not that skin conditions matter when you’re a figurehead of power determining matters of grave geopolitical importance, such as the one today, after galling plot twists of the knife in British politics. To be met with an unprecedented urgency so uncommon in the British academia, save for when they cram for peer-reviewed journal submissions, that is—or when it’s the 1980s again, and the PM is Margaret Thatcher, a woman of steel balls subtly coercing the academe to collaborate w/ the private industry, together forming an undetected Corporate-Academic Complex that would spawn Neoliberal Economics, aka the Root of All Late 2000s Socio-Political Evil. Such a Complex is something the US would imitate later, of course, at a laughably inadequate rate. For while the UK had Thatcher, the US had their grinning celebrity-turnedPresident Ronald Reagan.
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Intrigue and speculation this narrator provides before the mandatory plunge into dialogue. (What perfect waste of a cozy well-funded conference room in a top First World University, otherwise.) Consider for instance the academic figurehead that just entered, whose left leg dawdled slightly upon entrance and who winced in pain upon occupying the pater familia position in the table: Professor Joseph KoenigDahlberg the Head, an esteemed professor of economic and political history for more than 40 years now. The man has a physicality leaning toward the middle mark, with a height of 5 feet 6 and an average weight of 15-stone, plus a daily life flecked with the garden-variety symptoms of old age: a loss of hearing, creaky joints, and a backache that’s persisted since aged 23 when he betrothed himself to academia and resided in his faculty chair. At age 30, he’d had brief stints in the intelligence unit and the military—the former being a secret bit of information, by the way. But he only did so because he wanted to write a journal article on surveillance states and security practices before turning 35. He wanted his lived reality to inform his theory. So that his theory could mirror lived reality and stay true to the rigors of knowledge production. Of course he knew it wasn’t that simple—theory could be the best way to conceal matters of confidentiality, for no other field was so laden with jargon (i.e., code!) and therefore, so easily weaponized. Not knowing what jargon meant could easily fool the non-academic layman into easy submission. Thus, he justified his academic stay as a necessity for his personal survival, and also the survival of mankind. For if mankind were to be in trouble one day, at least they’d have him on their side, decoding ciphers. Of late however, it wasn’t just his physicality that was middling but his mind as well, foreshadowing our proximity to the end of his fourdecade career in academia. (And, well, his seven-decade life too.) If in the past he could be framed neatly, easily in the
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So cozy in fact as to goad the unseen narrator to come out from his hiding place of text and enter sneakily into the internals of the story—perhaps have himself gingerly, gingerly open the door he’s not supposed to be in (for this is top secret, remember!), tread inside with his soft loafers frictive against the welltrimmed, highly-vacuumed carpet, and place a tea set complete with madeleines and a good old pot of Darjeeling—right on the center of the conference table for four (or five, if including himself!) So much so that he would stop mid-placing, briefly marvel at the stage he’s set and even grab a handful of madeleines and reify another tea cup, and make like an art connoisseur and plomp himself at the back, pondering the text created by such classically British architecture.
State secrets of the UK are in fact scattered all over his works. If only one had the mind to decode his frameworks.
square borders of toga pictures hung in campus halls, or the archives of the Nobel, or on the back covers of some twenty books, these days the frames could be taken out completely, for their borders were beginning to dissolve as his handle on reality was similarly losing scaffolding, structure. One can for instance revisit the dawdling left leg and the wincing in pain. That wasn’t just from old age! It was from having pulled a leg muscle the night before: he was climbing a ladder in the library to reach for a French copy of Voltaire in the 6th rung of a bookshelf, but stretched his gluteus maximus more than it could handle. After the extreme pain and labor just to get Voltaire, he found himself ten minutes into the first chapter, scratching his ear profusely, wondering why none of it seemed familiar to him. Several paragraphs thereafter, he noticed the most recurrent letters being ‘u’ and ‘x’ and ‘j’—a statistical improbability within the English language. Only when he noticed the strange markings atop the letters did he realize the foreignness: he couldn’t speak French. It is for reasons such as this that the institution (and this narration) pivots to the person in his immediate left-hand side—and our right-hand side, for we are viewing this from across the Head Professor’s direction—the Associate, Lady Elizabeth Goodall. Currently espousing a feat of Frozen Stillness, with an outward gaze toward a painting in the back. As a professor her works have been canon; as an individual in society, her work has merits that deserve far more praise than she’d been given, as is customary for women in the Western world. A statuesque woman who’d careened through London life by giving off the image that she was the kind who’d own a poodle or a cocker spaniel, she in fact nursed a stern hatred for dogs and carried a penchant for oriental big cats instead — revealing a sultry ferality that would otherwise be undetected in her resumé. (And undetected is what she wanted. Concealment was a weapon, much like her Head
…also the kind who would clutch her pearls when aghast or wear real fur outside of winter.
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Joseph Koenig-Dahlberg surmised.) Deceit, no matter how harmless, would normally look devilish in a woman. Especially one who maneuvered her way into politics by giving policy advice to the State, but what she had used it for has been thus far quite outstanding. Morally scrupulous even. But as to what those specific good things are remains undisclosed. The Associate has also been known to have built for herself an inner foundation of formidable strength, plus a practical application of her expertise in Gender Studies and Discourse Formation which she applies in disarming vociferous men in British politics and dubiously-credentialed (severely un-well-read) women in all societal spheres. Sheâ€™s not without personal problems, however. For lately a curious thing has been happening to her mental meanderings. Excerpts of Edward Saidâ€™s Orientalism have been finding their way to her pockets of silence, floating in long tranches of sentences quoted in verbatim. While a speedy reader, she never once possessed an eidetic memory capable of replicating long tranches of such sentences, which makes the phenomenon a rather eerie one. Spinning things into further absurdity is how this bizarre thing dovetails with dreams she has every night, about an Englishman and an Englishwoman, wearing garb from 17th Century London, standing backto-back (i.e., facing the opposite direction), with the Englishwoman holding a leash noose-wrapped around what seems to be a white tiger facing the same direction the woman is facing. The same position is held by the Englishman, who has an (anticlimactic) otter facing the way he is facing. In such dreams, with an auditory background of Edward Saidâ€™s texts all the time, all four creatures were frozen in stillness, and turn from being human beings to 2D caricatures, to ultimately, flat outlines with no color filling whatsoever. (In retrospect, that would look divine as a logo.) She has tried numerous ways to dissect this occurrence, the way she would
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try numerous ways to dissect social minutiae that her discipline so requires: Is this Freudian? Ha, she refused to go there. Is this the destabilization of signs and symbols, their increased ambiguity? It was possible. Is this postmodern pastiche in full force? Also possible. At the end of the day, the likeliest answer was a predictable one: that it was feminist, for the woman had tamed the tiger while the man had a measly, greasy little water dog. This was the interpretation she hated the most. For its sheer predictability. The Associate was not that inaccessible, however. In fact, she formed a mentor-mentee relationship with the third figurehead of interest in the conference table, seated to right of the Head: the Positivist. Which was apt a school of thought for the man, for it rhymed with his real name Iain St. Francis, one that rolled awkwardly off the tongue—especially among his American students, who thought Iain rhymed with “cane” or worse, Cain as in the biblical figure. Currently we find him persistently pondering the small light fixtures in the ceiling, which to him resembled the tiny spotlights used in lighting paintings in museums and galleries. How lovely, how quaint a choice of lighting. What was it trying to convey, exactly? Was the room worthy of an artistic rendering, a fashioning into a diorama? But just like his colleagues and virtually every member of academia, he was exhibiting a grave dissolution of composure, manifest in askew ties, a right sock pulled down as if never placed rightly in the first place, profusely sweaty palms, tousled gelled hair that look like they stank, and a general slump that seemed as if his lifeforce forgot to inflate one entire side of the body. His colleagues noticed, and the Associate specifically advised him it was time to daub a little color into his life. And daub he did. By engaging in art therapy. She recommended viewings of Jackson Pollock, Kandinsky, and Joan Mitchell.
He was colloquially known as “the math & data guy” by his—let’s face it—reductionist roommates. Outside colloquium however: positivism was a school of thought that believed everything could be sieved in terms of factors and variables, and that each variable could be alienated to find singular answers to carefully worded questions. Want to research poverty? Pulverize it into a mathematical construct like income per household! Take the impoverished person’s stories, narrations, perspectives out of the equation. This said, however, all fields had positivist qualities. But the true Positivist displays an immense, Godlike worship. Also, this said, a synonym for positivist knowledge is simply Knowledge That Can be Mathematically Tamed.
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Artists with the liveliest, most playful of forms. In theory, it would all work out: the playfulness would fill his existential emptiness and all would be well. But after his 3rd PollockKandinsky-Mitchell viewing, it went better than well, for a region in his prefrontal cortex throbbed in an intensity comparable to the Neo-Marxist’s disposition…and exploded into brain-shrapnels that would leave a newly-minted area of the brain. The neuroscientist he would visit would diagnose it as his first site of pleasure. But he knew it was his first site of creativity. A newfound creativity that combined with his quantitative brilliance, allowing him to view paintings as things other than what they are. Paintings as splatters of energy, more specifically, transferring them from one quadrant of the canvas to the next, completely similar to the laws of thermodynamics. And since energy was never wasted, only transferred, the rectangular frame of a painting was merely one geometric container of energy. A bound fractal, if you will. Finite in its bound nature; infinite in its contents – for the contents of a painting were absorbed by each individual differently, in permutations and combinations that ranged infinite in possibility. All painters, his insight concluded, were a master energy manipulator, gods of thermodynamics, conquerors of molecular entropy. Much like him, in fact! For what his data analytics did was to essentially tame the mischievous infinite flow of entropic numbers into tiny little cages of Excel spreadsheets, lines of code, and grid matrixes of information. And with this shuddering insight, he felt a fascination blooming forth in his solar plexus, rising above his throat, rendering him breathless when situated en face a piece of art. All his life, he’d wanted to understand art but wasn’t able to. Now finally he had. And the affective impact on his soul was more visceral than he could have imagined. And then, finally, this leaves us with the Neo-Marxist, a figurehead who—
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Oh the Neo-Marxist. We’ll get to him later.
It must be noted that this delight only applies to static art objects. He doesn’t do so well with performance art, see. Tried it once, as an audience in a show where the artist sat on a chair for a full 200 hours. He could only do one hour because out of the impatience, his heart would throb superrapidly and activate his abnormal heart rate. He remedied by mentally measuring his heartbeat, thinking numbers would calm him down, but the counting gave him a numerical excitation that made it beat much faster. The last to be seen of him was stumbling from his chair, then carried by medics.
“International Political Economy has just one slot open”, interjected this Neo-Marxist, answering the Head’s initial query, completely usurping the narrative tract. “And this is the 1:1 class?” “Yes, the merit class.” “And our main contenders—” —this leaves us with the Neo-Marxist, a figurehead whose position in the spectrum of social scientific thought (1) was in stark opposition to the Positivist’s (a shame, for they really looked alike, as if doppelgangers, or fraternal twins), and (2) was an apt life choice that complemented his name, Professor Maxwell III (surname unnecessary). Poster boy of Political Economy department. Suave, dark-haired lothario (not really, but before he usurps it again with his boyish charm at age 33, this narrator will give him this concession. So that normal narration could once again proceed apace). “And our main contenders?” Maxwell III the Neo-Marxist, being the youngest and de facto in charge of menial tasks like paperwork, handed them all copies of the day’s dossier which contained the name of the main contender. Joseph Koenig-Dahlberg the Head, read his name aloud, accents in the wrong syllables: “L I S A N D R O —”. He stopped right in the space before the boy’s surname, as if trying to get hooks on a tenuous memory from his youth. The entire room inhaled as it sensed his hesitation. And since the Head was a man of silence, they tried to fill it for him instead, through synchronic pronouncements. When that went nowhere, the Neo-Marxist spoke: “Yes, Sir, I suppose you remember the 70s in the Philippines. The young man is the son of the son of a dictator. The bastard grandfather declared martial law. Lots of extrajudicial killings, human rights violations, pilfered public wealth. International courts have been inadequate in restoring justice.” “Now wasn’t that a veritable political project of the
Hmmm. It appears he wants to protest our pace in character profiling and go straight to meat of the geopolitical convention. Such a Neo-Marxist thing to do, to protest at everything. To protest at the slowness of progress and development. To always hanker for some kind of speedy revolution. In any case, one wonders now if he knows they’re all being narrated. Or perhaps it’s this author’s narrator’s own inadequacies to blame, for now that said narrator is distracted with his food and his own life, he’s forgotten his characters are mere galley slaves. (After this footnote ends, somewhere in the room, a narrator feels an authorial pinch.) [Dialoguing back-and-forth truncated; narrator resumes throne.]
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other side of the Atlantic?” sneered the Associate, as all heads turned toward her direction, a turn that she had expected. Her affect, right elbow propping up high chin, with crossed legs, remained completely frozen in space. It seemed like such an innocent, neutral rhetorical question, but it was code for something else. (Something the Positivist didn’t quite catch.) Code aside, this kind of remark was to be expected from her—a geopolitical framing, always—for she saw the West as bifurcated by the Atlantic Ocean. A Western country was either to the Ocean’s East or to its West. The bifurcated lens was not meant to denigrate the other side, of course. It just happened that her research on the various kinds of feminism had indicated a clear divide between American feminism and European feminism, and the gap (aka the Ocean) aided in creating a distance between the two feminisms’ ideologies. Proving that she wasn’t biased against the US was the burgeoning desire to have her contender—not this buffoon— be chosen for the 1:1 slot: a young woman schooled in the American tradition of New York University in her MA work, and in the (hermeneutic) liberal arts of a university in the Philippines. A Jesuit one, which meant she was reflective and reflexive. Just what she needed. The Associate had met her once, actually, when the young woman delivered a remarkable presentation in a conference in Vienna. Her paper had been chosen out of a plethora of hundreds. It was on the world-building strategies of slum-dwellers near highways, railroads, port areas and other public infrastructures in the capital of her country, Manila. The imagery she had constructed with her data and framework had been so sensuously fascinating, so deliciously spoken, that it should have been banned from the stringent jargon of academic work. For the work had gripped the audience in a fugue state of always leaning forward in anticipation, head cocked as if on cue, ears strained to the
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source of the divine aurality. And the words had imbued in the mind’s eye a vision of marginal people who clung their world with that of the mainstream public, intertwined them in a binding unity. It was as if the worlds these slum-dwellers had created were clinging on to the main infrastructures for dear life. A perfect metaphor, achieved by a rigorously argued academic paper. It was sheer poetry and it was sheer cogency, meeting each other as if in the first instance of touch, or the incendiary culmination of a fierce embrace. After that conference, she didn’t know what to do with herself. Now, the Associate remembers thinking then of how postcolonial academic work should be imbued with this same sense of artistic urgency—deviancy, even—as the young woman had done, for the political landscape of the postcolonial required an imaginative faculty uncaptured by the jargon of theory and data. Accepting the young woman would be good too, she thought, for intersectional feminism. An added bonus. At mere mention of feminism, something in the Associate’s head clicked and she realized what the otter meant in her dream: rerum cognoscere causas, the school motto, directly translating to “To know the causes of things”. The otter, the school’s mascot, was to represent an industrious animal with social habits. This was silly, she thought. She had a mind so finely refined, tuned, and attuned for greater aesthetics as a poet, and then so rigorously drilled with substance and argumentation as a graduate student, and yet it was beginning to think of cartoon-like renderings of homely animals. Otter, knows causes of things. But what did the dream mean, now, with this new revelation? “But I suppose we can’t just decline an entrant by sole virtue of his kinship history?” said Iain St. Francis the Positivist, anticipating what the Neo-Marxist implied when he mentioned the boy’s kinship history, while completely aware
She won’t disclose it to her colleagues, and the narrator seems so distracted so as to diminish Observatory Functions he’d been bequeathed, but there was another mark that made the young woman memorable: oo-mingling with the formality of conference garb was a bohemian artefact—a tattoo—of some architectural scaffolding on the young woman’s back, unveiled when she took off her jacket under the Viennese sunlight. Perhaps it was done with justice by some New York tattoo artist. It was something the professor herself would have done on her body, if her days as a young poet had not been confined in Oxford. Or if she had at least chosen the more romantic Sorbonne in Paris.
Funny, how otter rhymes with author. What seismic semantic shifts would occur if this narrative were read orally, and the performer, coated with an accent (or a sense of humor), pronounced both words indistinguishably? (This author suggests such a reading experiment.)
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that whenever he spoke, that moniker would be attached to his speech bubbles by his colleagues. It was an insult of course, for the school was predominantly postpositivist and therefore considered him archaic. But the joke was on everybody else, he thought, as he became conscious of the eyes forming judgments at his askew tie, because without Positive Knowledge i.e., Knowledge That Exists and Is Not Made Up (unlike stories, which are invented!), none of their theories would be worth any salt. “Whatever happened to merit? Why is he the main contender to begin with?” “But merit is rigged!” launched the Neo-Marxist at his almost-twin, sensing an opening to put him in place. “He may be the main contender because he met the necessary requirements. Good extra-curricular work, inspired cover letter, apt research discipline, and 1:1 honours grades from a British university. But that is a very thin way to discuss a student’s worthiness to be accepted to our august institution. Hasn’t it occurred to you that his parents funnelled all that stolen public wealth into the best opportunities? Meaning, that he is here now because of stolen money? Shouldn’t an institution be a moral judge of character as well? Or at least, an agent of restoring structural injustice? “If we follow your train of thought, see, as long as Criteria X, Y, and Z are followed, a candidate merits entry. But the institution should be able to detect the gaps in meaning between Criteria X, Y, and Z. The spaces that variables cannot occupy because ethics, justice, morality can’t be parsed into variables to begin with. These aren’t numbers or easily quantified data; these are people carrying w/ them worlds of meaning. And in his case, his meaning is sin-stained and stolen money-mucked. Such are the flaws of your positivistic addiction. I mean: We’re already facing resistance from the campus these days for our lack of moral ballast! We need to hold ourselves to higher academic standards, standards
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that are beyond those defined by numbers; standards that are derived and cumulated from interpretations. Remember those student-activists who replaced all ‘LSE’ banners with ‘London School of Exploitation’? Yeah, we need to be the first people to see injustice is what I’m saying. And often injustice needs you lift your lenses higher to gain a wider view.” Through it all, the Neo-Marxist had his fists clenched. The biggest temptation, however, was not to punch his colleague. It was to bellow a list of readings from his syllabus and command the man to read them. (This happened once, when he guest-lectured in Harvard Business School. An ohso-privileged Daddy’s boy had cast poverty as due to lack of hardwork and deservedness, and instead of calmly teaching the boy, he raised his fist and enumerated bibliographies, his saliva sputtering in bursts toward the first row of the class.) “So what is your stance, exactly? To accept him or not? It’s been unclear from the very beginning, when you introduced this apparent spawn of some Philippine Satan as the main contender.” Maxwell III the Neo-Marxist couldn’t reply right away, for his mind paused upon his own utterance of those London School of Exploitation banners all over campus. In fact, it was his idea to plant them, which he seeded into his students’ heads. He was jeopardizing a lot just by doing it of course. Although he did study in LSE, known for Karl Popper and post-postivitism, he was more influenced by NeoMarxist ideologies: he did ethnographies on various neo-Nazi subcultures all over Germany, slumming it up in abandoned concentration camps, citing socio-economic frustration as their main motivations (for sex, love, death, politics). Then, there was the extensive work on Cuban healthcare and grassroots governance in Latin America, where he befriended some of their mayors. When Brexit happened, he felt rage and guilt, directed toward himself for not doing enough. For
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some reason, he blamed the fall of Britain on all of Labourleft, aka his own party. If not for their increasing complacency and depleted political capital, “REMAIN” could have won, which signalled a commitment to being part of a global village as opposed to just a national village. Which was too small a scale. It’s as if he and his fellow Neo-Marxists forgot how to be creative, how to mount revolutionary insurrections. And since he viewed himself as the archetype of Labour-left within London, he blamed the fall of Britain on himself. His desperation to do something would lead him to say radical things that would suck the breath out of the other three panelists. “No, I’m not against it exactly...” Insert here a grimace from the Head, a slight jolt from the Associate, a raised eyebrow from the Positivist, who still couldn’t understand what the big scandal was. “If choosing him can somehow bring about a bigger change.” At this point, the Associate conveyed her shock through an obvious reshuffling of her posture and limbs, an indubitable rarity for a woman who performs Frozen Stillnesses to perfection. (This was the British equivalent of an American jaw drop—consider for instance the last movement she’d made in this room, which was when she’d contemplated a loose thread sticking out of her velveteen garment and brought it closer to her eyes.) See, a Neo-Marxist pronouncing anything that could privilege the elite further was a scandal more gut-wrenching than, say, a Monica Lewinsky scandal. (Even in scandals, the Brits rank themselves superior than the US in terms of quality. She glanced briefly at his mentor: the head professor didn’t flinch. He lowered his head in a nod and dilated his eyes, as if nudging the conversation to unfold itself. “A few scenarios could happen upon his entry. We get the opportunity to rehabilitate his political mind. To
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Brexit could have been a great opportunity to build an alternative imaginary where the status quo was reconstructed as inclusive and non-dependent on capital. But he failed. God did he fail miserably. And now they all needed a new rubble, a bigger one, with which to erect new megalopoli of meaning. …the full truth was that in the months leading up to Brexit, he was paralyzed by a severe heartbreak. He attributed his political paralysis to a romantic one. Love, he thought, trumped his capacity for revolution! How could he let that happen? A single woman dismantling carefully forged institutions by the crucible of his masters Gramsci, Harvey, Lefebvre?
…contemplated, and then hesitated in what to do w/. To pull? To leave be? To twirl in a knot to minimize visibility?
train him to betray his class, and go against the very blood running in his veins. We will engineer the greatest geopolitical maneuver, ever. In a post-Brexit universe, London could alter the course of Southeast Asian human history. We will be insulated from the shellshocks of criticism. Goodbye to those long Guardian thinkpieces on how we’ve reverted back to our dangerously nationalistic splendid isolation, which is a recurring theme in our history, let’s face it. From World War I to now. UK the loner, UK the one who doesn’t care, UK the stark contrast to the US, which always intervenes with its saviour complex. Especially with Brexit, all those stereotypes have been affirmed. Bloody Brexit, what a middle finger to the global community. With this decision to accept this fellow, we won’t need the global community to piece together the global community. Post-truth politics our arse. We will have made the devil realize truth and bathe in it.” “Now how do you suppose to conform your reality to this ideal? What specific pragmatic steps would you even take?” began his doppelganger. He wanted to say more. Convey his seething anger towards his leftist nemesis, expose the perennial flaw of the tradition, but he cooled himself. “That’s where you come in, I suppose. The Social Media Task Force you’ve created — it’s to detect large-scale patterns of human behavior that my framework cannot often handle. You have run a content analysis cross-cutting all of Lisandro’s social media profiles, have you not? And according to your data, he’s susceptible to conditioning if and when it comes from an authoritarian pater figure. His feminine qualities are far more pronounced than his masculine ones, after having been exposed to several generations of hypermasculinism. We could use that to our advantage; he’s malleable, we could place him under... under me as my advisee, and I will place him in the right policy classes headed by professors who reside on the left side of the spectrum. With the right nudge,
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we can cut him off from his political ideologies, condition him to exhibit agency in a semifeudal landmine littered with elites. “And he’s apparently a social media hit with young Southeast Asian girls aged 12 to 23. By the time he graduates from our 5-year program, those girls would all have become young adults or adults. They would be the ones shaping the economic work force and making the important political decisions. Just imagine that influence, and all we have to do is to accept him to unleash the chain of reaction.” The room was silent, perhaps weighing the heft of the moral choice they had to make. The Associate broke the spell: Her scholastic ear had been trained over the decades to detect flaws in argumentation (especially in highly convincing young white males). Without moving from her position, she calmly began, in rolling, eloquent diction: “Three errors are afloat: Data is a snapshot of the dynamic present. Even big data cannot capture trends in a 5-year span without making severe assumptions, and by extension, severe errors, for the more one assumes about reality, the more reality appears to escape categories. Second, you seem adamant that this will bring glory to queen and country. Through what means can you ensure that our role would even be highlighted, spun, by Philippine media? And yes, I read his Social Media Task Force’s data analysis on LSE’s credibility ratings in the country, and it’s surprisingly higher than Oxford’s, but that doesn’t prove we’ve conquered the airwaves. And lastly, and most importantly, you have completely forgotten about the weakness of your scholastic tradition: the structure-agency problem. One single individual cannot overturn an entire structure built and re-built throughout time. Individuals don’t trump societies, which have their own processes, and it is these processes that are unjust or flawed. One counters processes with processes, not individual moments. There goes your attempt at fixing
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Although if one listened very intently (i.e., stopped listening to buzzing thoughts or roaring contemplations of moral heft), one would actually hear microsounds coming from the furthest corner of the room, where the narrator seems to be sipping his now-cold Darjeeling slowly, pinkie finger raised in air, as he spins swaths of literary silence. Possibly emanating from the same pinkie finger.
the structural problems of the Philippines.” Sensing her opening, and not waiting for his rebuttals, she continued: “If we are to think of this young man’s entry to our School as a geopolitical strategy, I say we expand our vision. Let us our goal be the restoration of a Functional Democracy—an homage to Brexit’s failed ‘remain’ campaign, and a ‘middle finger’ to borrow your term earlier, to Farage’s untruthful, undemocratic “exit”. We restore the Philippines’ functional democracy, period. For I don’t suppose a single school can liberate his mind from the bonds of his kinship history. I think we should concede that he is what he is. “What we do, instead, is introduce a vicious, heated but non-violent rivalry here in Houghton Street per se, one that they will take home. Isn’t the spirit of democracy essentially the healthy sparring between entities? And isn’t that the criticism against Brexit, that it was somehow rigged by Farage’s strategy of untruths? But doing so entails opening another slot in the 1:1 program for a truly worthy opponent, also from the Philippines. Female, this time.” The associate professor slides her contender’s documents, triumphant but not showing it. Only Labour-left begins to mutter something: “Her surname is quite familiar. Is she the daughter of a prominent architect for the barrios in postcolonial countries? Like Latin America and Southeast Asia? I recall a Guatemalan mayor singing his praises—for building sustainable slums in mountains up north of the city center.” “Well I don’t know, but that would make sense, considering her research work on urban political economy. Now isn’t that a fantastic metaphor for a rivalry? A great counterpoise to the dictator’s grandson, whose pater familia boasts of building towering public infrastructures in the country occupied only by the elite?” “But isn’t she elite as well? Will we not hinder true
…she continued, but not without pulling the loose thread in garment. Finally. ‘Cause it bloomed into a veritable irritation. Ah once again the author as decoder: Functional Democracy, as in a Democracy where the full spectrum of voices is represented, w/o another entity’s coercion (the media, among other things).
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societal revolution in the Philippines in our choice of his rival? I mean, I love the idea of restoring functional democracies. That would be a refreshing sight in dark times such as this... but I have more reservations. For one, hasn’t this occurred in the Philippines before? A woman defeating a dictatorial man? It happened with the yellow lady whose surname escapes me. And then it happened again quite recently, within their vice presidential race.” To which our esteemed Associate replied: “Oh she might be elite and she might be yet another woman, but she has betrayed all facets of her class and even her gender.” A poet, she pauses, knowing how to build upon an effect. “...but everything about her is alternative.” She notes, recalling the tattoos, the rebellious language amidst the rigorously argued research work, the life spent as a Southeast Asian expat in the colonizer’s land, her quality of mothering in volunteer work while completely motherless—a walking human of hybridities. “The credentials speak for themselves.” And with this articulation of true desire, true fascination for this oriental woman, the Associate finally realizes what the image in her dream means and why it dovetails nicely with Said’s Orientalism. Her political triumph and her personal one have produced a double delight. Beaming now, and having fully escaped her Frozen Stillness, she begins to read the room and finds Iain St. Francis the Positivist in his most unexpected physical contortion: that of normalcy. It’s as if he lighted himself up, telekinetically fixed his own tie, and inflated the slumped side of his body. —for the Associate had him at mere mention of “urban political economy”, a full moment earlier. For when he heard the phrase, he found a new insight to viewing the PollockKandinsky-Mitchell paintings. If he weren’t a Positivist, of course, the lens would be Art Theory, but he is, and he’s decided to utilize methods of Geographical Information Science
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(GIS) instead of the previous laws of thermodynamics. GIS is a tool in Urban Theory for measuring urban morphology and density; while a social science subject matter, the tool’s main inputs were his galley slaves: data. Immediately, his mind created a list of parallels between the colourful paintings and the newfound methodology: (1) density of clumps in the paintbrush strokes in X area of the painting = density of neighborhood/urban sprawl
(2) amount of paint and image saturation at the center of the painting = distance between periphery and center in urban settings
(3) shape of paint/energy clusters in the rectangle = form and function of the urban space
(4) location of quirkiest splatters and strokes = location of the city’s edges and nodes (i.e. a city’s point of transformation, and a city’s point of hiddenness, respectively) Such were the ways a Positivist enjoyed art—always enough to be touted a second rebirth of the mind. What did it mean, now though, that paintings were not just energy containers but entire cities? He found himself weeping at the grandness of the question and felt an impetus to stand up and visit the nearest gallery. He said instead, “I like the idea, I like it very much.” After a long, awkward pause, as if he had to wait for the impetus to sediment at the bottom of his person, he continues: “It’s like we’re replicating history, and we’re bringing in all the ingredients from past historical occurrences—holding the
…which one, the one in his head or the one spoken about in the conference room?
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other variables constant, so to speak—like male vs female, dictator vs liberator, but we’re adding the one ingredient that the past events lacked: the alternative component of the female liberator and her eclecticism. It might actually work.” At this point in the conjecture, Joseph KoenigDahlberg had been drifting in and out of sleep. But even in those moments out of sleep, he delivered his full unwavering absence, for his mind had somehow superimposed on the current image of his three colleagues here… the image of his three other colleagues several decades back. The reverie in question was in the 90s in this same room, when a similar dilemma landed with a thud on their laps. The boy in question was—he’s not afraid to mention his name now—Bashar Hafez al-Assad. Yes. Indeed, the leader that has singlehandedly caused the Syrian War and the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Also the son of a dictator. The Head starts to unspool several canisters of memory at his disposal and finds a tiny pinpricking annoyance instead of answers: What nags at him isn’t whether or not their decision to admit the boy was unethical, or immoral, or miscalculated. What nags at him is he doesn’t remember what the strategy was decided that decade. Which catastrophe did London want to happen exactly—was it the Syrian War or the Syrian Refugee Crisis? London wasn’t evil, of course; the entire thing was strategic in building a stronger global community. Think long-term was the mantra. Meanwhile, the discussion gained traction in his silence. But not for long, for soon they heard a ceremonial knock on the door, stopping momentum in its tracks. When the handsome, dark-haired head of their institution’s Director emerged, they all knew this was going to be an intermission. For talk, the man loved. Director Benjamin Bernard Barker (Ben Bern Barker for short; rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?) – a man who rose in ranks with ease and speed, 40something
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If one zooms into the micro-actions of the Head and probes at them with a Temporal Scalpel that could dissect Simultaneous Thoughts and Palimpsests of Emotion, one finds a slightly different decade: Rewind back to a few scenes prior, when the Head nodded and gave the go-signal to explore Maxwell III’s inane plan. Joseph Koenig-Dahlberg wasn’t nodding for the Neo-Marxist to go on, for he was in the 1980s mentally at that instant. In the same room where then-PM Margaret Thatcher sought his go-signal in formulating a new kind of economics called Neoliberal Economics. He gave the nod at her, out of sheer infatuation. And would spend his lifetime trying to un-nod the damn thing.
with perfect hair, and a height that was large enough to make him automatically ravishing. “Good morning, my favourite academics. Figured I should pop by and see how everyone was doing.” What he meant really was that there was always time to pepper the day with small talk and networking. This was a personal policy he upheld every day, which was why the faculty would see him make rounds in each department, waving, diffusing his roguish charm into every nook and cranny. “Will you be joining us for the entirety of the meeting? We’d love to have someone of your brilliance to provide input on today’s deliberations,” asked Professor Maxwell III, aka Ben Bern Barker’s biggest fan in this room of now-five. “No, no. I’m afraid today’s plate is quite full.” Well, he meant it literally, for he had just ordered his favorite bratwurst from Germany and some choice ingredients for Spanish ravioli from Italy, which beckoned his lavish appetite. He might as well milk his gastronomic opportunities while they still lasted, he justified, for Britain’s access to other countries’ markets would cease to exist after Brexit, and that time was running out. Or at least that’s what Rebecca’s tweets said—Rebecca being his favorite intern-slash-assistant— when he would browse through her activist social media accounts first thing in the morning after his shower ablutions. (To glean information, of course. To have some thin veneer of knowledge as to the day’s most compelling arguments.) Well he knew Rebecca was intelligent, that’s why he selected her to begin with, but when she bungled cooking his Spanish ravioli some days back, it dawned on him her intelligence had its limits. So now he wasn’t so sure of the veracity of her status updates. But no matter; veracity was for the academics. He was born to lead not read. A mantra that has some success for him when repeated vigorously in front of a mirror before going to bed and readying the crisp bespoke suits he was to
He meant spinach ravioli.
One mustn’t cast aspersions at brilliant young Becky, however. For cooking Spinach ravioli wasn’t part of her curriculum as a stellar student in BSc Mathematics and Economics.
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wear the next day. It was a success that even garnered the support of the Neo-Marxist. What fascinated Maxwell III was the surrounding mystery around their Director’s social scientific bias. It was likely Ben Bern Barker was Neo-Weberian, precisely because of his close-knit professional collaborations with the British government. This implied that he believed institutional weaknesses could be bolstered with the right programming. In reality however, the Director had no social scientific bias at all. In fact, the man couldn’t even name five schools of thought (and we all know that there is more than thirty!). “Of course. I imagine so. Your busy nature pays off nevertheless doesn’t it? I heard you met Thomas Piketty at the dinner party last night? I suppose you’re accustomed to bumping into men and women of such ilk. But Thomas Piketty! A revolutionary economist who makes everyone in the GPE fac shiver, quite frankly, for every time we hear him, we hear the most resounding clarion-call in re-templating the curriculum. Re-templating to address specific constructs like ‘social inequality’ and ‘disenfranchisement’ foremost, rather than general constructs like ‘the macroeconomy’. Ah the good old fight between the particular and the general. We know what side he’s on, and we’re trying hard to be on it. Especially after Margaret Thatcher stigmatized the poor and made them society’s anathema. Lots of work to do. So if I may ask: what do you think of him? How do you find him? Did he gloss on his economic stances further—inserted new nuances?” Boy oh boy did the Director understand any of that. (Lead not read, remember?) It was an unknowing that bloomed into newfound annoyance at this young professor whom his interns—including Becca!—considered a rival for his good looks. He found Maxwell III normally passionate and charming, but today he had the face of an arse that he wanted
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The last time such head roving occurred was in fact, last night. When he knew that the Ministry of Culture of bloody France would interrogate him with have-youread-this-or-that-book type of inquiries, to which he had no answers.
to punch. Indeed, he saw Thomas Piketty that night and he heard Thomas Piketty deliver a toast but he didn’t know what or he who was. (He wasn’t even sure what anathema meant.) Not certainly, anyway. By habit, Ben Bern Barker’s head roved the room to see if Becca was inside and able to offer him assistance. But she isn’t present obviously, and all he saw were the prying eyes of the Associate, the inquisitive visage of St. Iain whatshisname …and Koenig-Dahlberg looking as if he’d inhaled opium from some ancient past (the Opium Wars, perhaps). So he had to mine whatever information he had retained. “Well I find his work to be quite… a compelling piece of fiction,” muttered the Director in a tone of carefully placed ambiguity. Ambiguity sounded smart with the right facial contortions and bodily movements, like a raised eyebrow for instance, crossed legs, and arms that mimicked Auguste Rodin’s the Thinker. But that wasn’t quite enough just yet, so the Director was perspiring at the thought of adding more to this measly singular sentence, but when he saw the NeoMarxist’s face, he found that he didn’t need to, for it was a face of awe. “Why that’s a brilliant nugget of wisdom Sir! The way we frame and construct the economy through these ‘schools of thought’ is similar to fictionalizing, indeed! For each school of thought thrives only from a single theoretical assumption which we scholars try to flesh out to their necessary progressions. And these assumptions—well, we’re pulling them out from our arses! Now since the origin is fiction, then the outcome is equally fictional, isn’t it? We’re not Math, neither are we scientists; we invent assumptions, not discover them. And our human fallibilities hold a large probability that the invented assumptions we make are wrong. Imagine the farcical nature of our work; how we let these fictional things guide the lives of the populace. Fiction leading reality.
Thank God for an author who sees the full complex range of human deception. For what happened was this: Thomas Piketty was a French economist who grew into prominence after publishing Capital in the Twenty-first Century in 2014. Also prominent in the news cycles that time (or social media cycles of hyperintelligent Rebeccas) was Patrick Modiano, who was a fictionist that won the Nobel Prize that same year. These works were announced in the same period. The Director had seamlessly conflated the two identities and thought that the economist was a Nobel prizewinner for fiction.
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Blind leading the blind, a double bind! The economy is just essentially a battle of narratives, scripts, and stories we peddle out for mass consumption. Not that knowing this farcical nature should stunt us to certain dismay at the economy. For we need these fictions to survive. How else would we arrange society if not using imagined things?” “Yes, yes, yes. Mmhmm. That is precisely what I mean. Precisely why I said it is compelling fiction; it is fiction that compels.” the Director said as he was nodding, narrowing his eyes, and pointing a wagging finger at Maxwell III—the universal gesture for ignorant concurrence. “I have never been more satisfied—knowing how the country’s budding scholar is completely aware of these mental—” at this point the Director ransacked his brain for smart words “—vicissitudes.” And the young Neo-Marxist was himself satisfied: There were talks of the Director leaving the school to join the higher ranks of the government, and it was fitting that a mind of his intellect should be leading it. At this point, the Director was beginning to turn to leave; it was a good decision that he hadn’t sat down and that Maxwell III’s eagerness to ask about Piketty had been quicker than any polite gesture of inviting him to sit. He had maxed out his intellectualizing for the entire day. But just before he turned, all of a sudden Lady Goodall did the most preposterous thing: “Why don’t you join us for a while?” As she patted the chair next to her. Ben Bern Barker gulped invisibly and subconsciously loosened his tie, a tell that he should make a note to eliminate next time. It would get him into trouble with behavioural analysts, who could foil his intentions. Meanwhile, in the back of his gut, he ached for bratwurst and ravioli. “Go on, go along in the meeting. Pretend I’m not here.” And as he sat down right next to the most intimidating woman in Houghton Society, with cool sweat running down
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The bigger anxiety he didn’t want to admit, however, was whether or not Lady Goodall saw through him. And whether she cared. The woman’s face was completely indecipherable, all the time, a special talent he’d wished to have.
his forehead, ruining his suit (he’d have to change, later), he calmed himself down by bringing out a small piece of note paper containing bits and pieces of texts—phrases, even— culled from various British newspapers and even philosophical treatises. It was a habit he’d accumulated as an undergraduate student facing his comprehensive exams: letting big, political jargon and rhetoric wash over him, so he could better mimic the verbal comportment of an intellectual man’s tongue. Take for instance this excerpt from the Communist Manifesto, for when he needs to address a left-leaning audience: A SPECTRE IS HAUNTING EUROPE— THE SPECTRE OF COMMUNISM. ALL THE POWERS OF OLD EUROPE HAVE ENTERED INTO A HOLY ALLIANCE TO EXORCISE THIS SPECTRE: POPE AND TSAR, METTERNICH AND GUIZOT, FRENCH RADICALS AND GERMAN POLICE-SPIES. WHERE IS THE PARTY IN OPPOSITION THAT HAS NOT BEEN DECRIED AS COMMUNISTIC BY ITS OPPONENTS IN POWER? WHERE IS THE OPPOSITION THAT HAS NOT HURLED BACK THE BRANDING REPROACH OF COMMUNISM, AGAINST THE MORE ADVANCED OPPOSITION PARTIES, AS WELL AS AGAINST ITS REACTIONARY ADVERSARIES?
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This way he didn’t need to know the current trends in minimum wage and the current status of labor unions; for when he delivered any speech with this same Marxist force of rhetoric, each leftist would figure that he is himself a leftist. For it takes one to know one, doesn’t it. Barker knew he wouldn’t need the Communist Manifesto here in the panel, of course. Academics wanted specificity, precision. So he glanced instead at the next slab of text on his note: THOSE WHO CONTROL THE INTERNATIONAL FLOW OF MONEY AND INFORMATION, PRESIDE OVER PHILANTHROPIC FOUNDATIONS AND INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING, MANAGE THE INSTRUMENTS OF CULTURAL PRODUCTION, SET THE TERMS OF THE DEBATE. But this time it was too specific, and it even denigrated institutions of higher learning, which they were all part of. He glanced at the marginal scribbles beside the slab, which contained a spew of random phrases such as: “citizen of the world, citizen of nowhere!”, “conduct a genealogy of the elite, some elites are international in scope, whereas others are social and cultural in nature”, or “cosmopolitanism: a global bazaar! Tourist view of the world.” “Now let’s take off from where we left. What does the Social Media Task force say about our alternative girl?” continued the Associate. But after saying this she quickly turned to her seatmate whose skin was glazed by a thin membrane of sweat: “We are, by the way, casting two young Filipinos into the program.” The sudden engagement with him forced him to crumple the note he had on his hand, like
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He hadn’t realized it, but these were snippets from far-right (alt-right) rhetoric promoting a diminution of the global village; instead of a world where races coexisted in many nations, they hankered for a smaller world, where jobs are not for immigrants, and empty spaces not for refugees.
a schoolboy caught with a cheat sheet. “Well,” Barker began, “those who control the international flow of money and information…should make room for… citizens of the world, who are essentially…citizens of nowhere.” “Interesting,” replied the Associate, with a lilt of the voice that was hard to dissect, and a turn of the head toward the panel once again, suggesting her silent interrogations were over. Or at the very least, in reprieve. Now he had to figure out a way to live through the rest of the meeting. “The data packet says that her Social Network Diffusiveness has reached the transnational level. She has a network from all continents, through instances of representing the country. Despite this, however, she has a small following on social media. Relative to his, at least. She makes up for it in terms of quality. Her friends are members of the intellectual bloc in the country. “Agreeableness Rating appears to be high across various age ranges in women. I would speculate that the younger ones look up to her, while the older ones invoke a maternal fondness. I suspect there are two contributing factors to this: (1) her resume shows strong, trenchant volunteer work for unprivileged mothers, and (2) her own mother perished in an accident. That’s automatic empathy across populations, save for among psycho- and sociopaths.” This merited a collective nod. “An interesting counterpoise indeed.” “Yes, interesting counterpoise,” added the Director, noting the tone of finality in the sentence he repeated. It wasn’t so bad after all, now was it? He laughed inwardly, regained his confidence and thought he should do the honour of ending the meeting. “And now we adjourn.” “Ah, but perhaps we should consider complications before moving forward,” volunteered the Positivist. And then,
All synchronous. Save for the Director, who missed by a beat.
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turning to Barker he went: “Or, ending that is. Five years is a lot, after all. And then what follows is an entire lifetime. Of heated rivalry. Perhaps we should take the remaining time to cover all bases.” “That is wise. A little thing could derail the entire project,” agreed Maxwell III. Meanwhile, Barker thinks this defiance of his adjournment as either a coup or a blaze against his authority. It was bad, after all. “Complications such as?” “You know... the possibility. Of the two of them... coupling. Up.” At this, Lady Goodall wanted to break into a repulsive guffaw. The young professor had a lot to learn about women like her. But instead she says: “Interpreting your data packet leads one to conclude that she has a slightly misandrist streak, with a high intolerance for other opinions (except when they come from the marginalized, that is). Her Dark Triad Personality Test shows she is Machiavellian, meaning she could use her misandry strategically—turn it on and turn it off, as necessary. The same Test revealed a secondary tendency toward Depression, which is a necessary thing in bringing her down to the ground in the event her spirits rise too high from potential narcissism, for we expect her to excel in class of course. “And as for him, he’s not nurtured to be the kind of man who falls in love with a strong woman.” This left all the men in the room pondering. “Promising, promising thus far. How about the possibility of either of them joining secret campus organizations? That surely could derail the kind of education we tailor for them.” “Not to worry, I have leftists planted everywhere,” offered the Neo-Marxist, to which the Positivist nodded in first-time agreement. Yes, it was true. Neo-Marxists are
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everywhere. Such is the hold of the Left in young minds. “And the possibility of the two getting in vehicular accidents? Fatal robberies? Falling from insuperable heights from a mountain hike? Getting drugged in mad-dashing raves? Surely we won’t want them to die, after such massive effort.” “For the latter three, we simply place them in the right dorms. The ones in the left bank do not have posters of outside-campus physical activities such as hiking. In fact, the posters they feature are of a more refined kind, with hints of prestige, such as the guest lecturing of celebrities-turnedprofessors which appears to be showstopping for everyone, no matter how smart. The left bank also features spectacular sights of carefully architected infrastructures, and perhaps we could litter some of the dorms’ for-decorative-purposes tables with free books on how to read architecture, for it would undoubtedly distract a cerebral mind and keep her locked indoors trying to attune one’s looking. And of course the left bank possesses a safer neighborhood composition (that is to say, it’s far from drinking holes, diminishing the chances of driving under the influence). The girl seems more physically fit than the boy, however, for the latter has 25% body fat more than the girl. Perhaps from drinking, I suppose? But fortunately body fat isn’t correlated with the possibility of falling off bikes.” “Fantastic. I suppose we’ve covered all important bases, yes? No other little thing that could derail the project?” “Indeed.” “These complications would all be explored thoroughly in an after-meeting review we would all collate into a 275-paged dossier, I must remind everyone.” The room becomes full with the silence that comes only from relief, just in time for the lunch hour. They let it remain this way for a few pregnant moments, satisfied with
“They” being the only three sound people in the room, of course. For Koenig-Dahlberg was now in the process of thinking about the Queen and all those
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what had just occurred. They know the meeting won’t be over just yet, for there was that pinpricking matter on the docket, which was the removal of one other person from the limited slots, to make way for the girl. And that entails yet another set of discourses: should it be the leader of the Arab Spring in 2010, in Tunisia? The mathematical genius from China diagnosed with psychopathy, so rife for spy-training against his hometown? The North Korean escapee aka Kim Jong-Un’s ex-chief-of-staff? One expects a heavy post-lunch debate. But for now... “Professor,” remarked the Associate at his mentor, brushing the somnolent man’s arm with only the back of her hand. “It appears we’ve reached a consensus that satisfies everyone’s scholastic disciplines and traditions. We will attempt to restore functional democracy all over, and engineer the greatest rivalry in the postcolonial landscape.” “Magnificent, magnificent job everyone.” “Alright then ladies and gentlemen. We may adjourn this meeting for lunch.”
When September had come rolling in, Philippine news sites went wild with news of the dictator’s kin accepted into the most esteemed British school. As predicted, media traffic hummed in silence for the young woman. But in precisely 10 minutes from now, the fifth and final year of the two fellows will end… but only after: (1) the girl had to endure a power play between her two potential dissertation advisors (who looked alike), (2) this had instilled in the girl a sudden disdain for LSE, (3) Joseph Koenig-Dahlberg the Head who in his deterioration had written “Marg Al-Ashad” instead of L I S A N D R O in his List of Entrants to Be Accepted, (4) this caused a grievous bureaucratic chaos that resorted to a real Marg Al-Ashad (niece!) being shipped to
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thirteen instances when they had met. He was planning the fourteenth one to be an apology, for being the architect of the root of all 21st century evil. He was thinking of how Oppenheimer felt after the Manhattan Project ruptured the whole skin of the city, how it lodged darkness into the nucleus of human souls and consigned them to hell. And to think— both his and Oppenheimer’s deeds began as a scribble of a mathematical formula on a blackboard. Meanwhile, Barker got a first look at how the postgraduate admissions panel went. How speedy, how exciting the volleying back-and-forth of argumentations were, and pondered his chances at the country’s Ministry of Culture. He wondered if only academia had the monopoly over this format of geopolitical deliberations, or if his cabinet of writers, artists, dancers, and critics had the same. He would likely ask Becca to look it up in Google (Britain didn’t have a written constitution anyway, so Googling was most definitely justifiable). But even if it weren’t the norm, he would most definitely replicate such a format.
…w/ one advisor wanting her under wing so as to view more paintings w/ an urban lens, and the other wanting her to draft manifestos for revolutionary imaginaries befitting the Third World …a disdain completely unaccounted for, in the deliberations five years ago
the school, despite being merely 12 years old and unable to stand British fish and chips, (5) this resulted to a 1-month delay of L I S A N D R O’s attendance in the school’s official classes, (6) …which caused an uproar in local media about the grandson bribing the admissions panel (why else is it delayed?), (7) the fact that, in his lagging behind class, the grandson began to tail the alternative young woman and she began to take a so-far-unknown amount of pity on him, (8) and the Associate had reified her dream image into a full sculpture w/ which she replaced the school mascot… when she became its new Director as Ben Barker became the Minister for the Ministry of Culture after being convinced to leave academia by the immense discomfort he felt; (9) and this sculpture mesmerized our young woman who took to a sudden kinship with the older woman who had favoured her from Day 1, forming a budding dangerous alliance that could tilt scales, (10) …after all of this unprecedented escalation of events, the singular truth is still that one little thing could derail the entirety of the project, in these campus halls, under the chancellorship of Her Royal Highness, under the secret eye of a State maneuvered by entities capable of British plot twists of the knife, intended or otherwise.
...hopefully not a lot
…but dangerous for whom exactly?
And if one little thing could derail the entirety of the project, what more could one little person, like a narrator who treaded gently when he shouldn’t have and seated himself at the back while wearing a brown suit that camouflaged with red and brown tones, when he shouldn’t have; a narrator who had the biggest quirk of all, that is to invent himself as any possible identity, say a traitor to London perhaps or a peddler of state secrets, or a general anarchist, or a 12-year old niece, or a future Margaret Thatcher incarnate, or an omniscient otter?
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C AT H E R I N E TA N BIO Catherine Tan is a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University, where she majored in European Studies (International Relations) and minored in Economics and French, and graduated Magna Cum Laude with an EU Program Award in 2016. There, she also founded r+d, a transdisciplinary academic journal that intends to defamiliarize global issues by adopting eclectic, critical lenses. The ultimate goal is to transcend the limitations academics espouse in their fields. This tinge of the cerebral can also be found in her fiction: she likes writing about characters that have exhausted their exit strategies and are backed into a corner by menacing realities, w/ only their minds as their way out.
S A PA G I TA N N G S A B AW N G C H A O LO N G AT H I L A B N G T I YA N ANDRIAN LEGASPI
Nag-umpisa ang lahat nang magising ako isang madaling-araw na humihilab ang aking tiyan. Natatae ako. Dahil madilim at patay ang ilaw, kinapa ko ang paligid ng aking kama upang matunton kung nasaan ang cellphone ko para matignan kung anong oras na.. Nawala na sa isip ko kung saan ko ito naipatong bago ako natulog kagabi. Ang kaliwang kamay ko ang nakasalat sa cellphone. Nasilaw ako sa ilaw ng cellphone nang buksan ko ito. Nang maka-adjust na ang aking mata, nakita ko na rin kung anong oras na ba. 3:00 AM. Eksaktong-eksakto. Gamit ang ilaw ng cellphone, tumayo ako, nagsuot ng tsinelas, at binuksan ang switch ng ilaw ng kuwarto. Napapikit na naman ako dahil sa liwanag ng fluorescent light. Bago ako nagtungo sa kubeta ay dinampot ko muna ang pampatay ng lamok na hugis raketa ng tennis. Nakapatong ito malapit sa tv. Malamok kasi sa banyo. Habang nakaupo sa inodoro, ni-review at pinagnilayan ko kung ano ba ang nakain ko kahapon at natae ako ngayong madaling-araw. Wala naman akong maisip na kakaibang nakain. The usual pancit canton at corned beef lang naman
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ang inulam ko kahapon. Siguro kumain lang ako nang marumi ang kamay. Sobrang hassle magising nang madaling-araw para lang tumae. Naputol tuloy ‘yung panaginip ko. Ang weird nga, e. Kinakain ko raw ‘yung puday ni Kris Aquino habang nagba-violin si Bimby sa gilid ng kuwarto. Huwag ninyo akong husgahan, crush ko noon si Kris Aquino no’ng bata pa ako. Ang ganda kaya niya noon sa Pido Dida. Saka doon sa Magic To Win 5. Hongkong film ‘yun. Aso ang ka-loveteam ni Kris. Medyo basag ang tae ko nang lumabas, pero nothing to worry about. Kakain na lang ako ng maraming saging bukas para mabuo ang tae ko. Mainam daw ang saging para mag-form ang jebs, napanood ko sa Salamat Dok. Nakapatay naman ako ng limang lamok gamit ‘yung raketa. Natanggap ko ‘yun sa exchange gift last December. Very useful siya. Bilihin niyo ‘yung tsina-charge para hindi magastos sa baterya. Sinubukan kong bumalik sa pagtulog pagkatapos kong umebak. Ngunit nabigo ako. Sinindi ko na lang ang tv. Home tv shopping na lang ang tanging palabas. Dukha kami, wala kaming cable. Exercise machine ang binebenta. Pinanood ko ito saglit, nabagot din ako kinalaunan. Tinignan ko uli ang cellphone para makita ang oras. 3:32AM pa lang. Nakakabagot. Ang saya-saya. Kinuha ko ang kaha ng yosi at nagtungo ako sa labas para magpaantok. Lalong nawala ang nalalabi kong katiting na antok nang makita ko ang isang magandang babae na kumakain ng noodles sa labas. Kakaiba ‘yung itsura ng noodles. Hindi instant noodles na nakasanayan ko. Wala ang bakas ng amoy ng Maggi at Lucky Me. Bagong lipat siya sa katabi naming apartment unit. Unang beses ko lang siyang nakita. Nginitian ko siya. Kapiraso lang, baka isipin niya feeling close ako. Sinuklian naman niya ako ng tango. Hindi muna ako nagsindi ng yosi, baka ma-turn-off siya. “Kain,” alok niya sa akin. Nagulat ako. Sexy ang timbre ng boses niya. Medyo paos. Mahaba ang buhok niya pero hindi lalagpas ng siko. “Sige, salamat,” magalang na pagtanggi ko sa kanya habang pinapasok sa bulsa ang kaha ng yosi. “Bagong lipat kayo?” dagdag ko. Humigop muna siya ng sabaw bago nagsalita. “Two weeks pa lang ako rito.” Napalunok ako nang marinig ko ang salitang ‘ako’. “Ikaw lang mag-isa?” paglilinaw ko. Tumango siya.
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“Hindi kasi ako palalabas ng bahay. Ngayon lang kita nakita,” paliwanag ko sa kanya kahit hindi naman niya tinatanong. “Tuwing madaling-araw ka lang lumalabas? Ano ka, pusher? Riding in tandem? Si Batman?” biro niya sa akin. Ang ganda niya, para siyang diwata na may usok-usok effect pa mula sa mainit na noodles na kinakain niya. Tinawanan ko ang biro niya. “Online lang kasi ang trabaho ko. Nagtuturo ako ng english sa mga Koreano.” “Hanggang madaling-araw?” “Hindi naman,” sagot ko, “na-jebs lang ako ngayon kaya nagising ako. Hassle nga, e,” sabay bungisngis. “May LBM ka? Tara, higop ka ng sabaw, meron pa sa loob, mainam ‘to sa tiyan.” “Naku, ‘wag na,” napakamot ako sa ulo. Siya rin ang nasunod, ikinuha niya ako ang noodles sa kusina. Chaolong daw ang tawag sa noodles. Uwi niya mula sa Palawan. Iyon na ang pinakamasarap na noodles na natikman ko sa tanang buhay ko. Walang sinabi ang Maggi at Lucky Me. Ipinaliwanag niya sa akin na Vietnamese food ang Chaolong, naging resettlement area raw ng mga Vietnamese ang Palawan noong magkagiyera sa Vietnam noon kaya maraming Vietnamese restaurant sa Puerto Princesa. Hanggang sa matuto at mapamahal na rin ang mga taga Palawan kung paano gumawa ng Chaolong. “Ano pala ang pangalan mo?” tanong ko habang sarap na sarap sa Chaolong. “Ako pala si Ryan.” “Rhea.” “Lea?” “Hindi. As in Rhea Rubbing Alcohol.” “Ah... hindi lang pampamilya, pang-isports pa,” joke ko. “Sa Family Rubbing Alcohol ‘yung tagline na ‘yun.” Nag-shake hands kami. Mas malambot ang kamay ko sa kanya. Tubong Puerto Princesa raw talaga siya. Nandito lang siya sa Cavite para mag-ayos ng papeles sa Maynila. Mag-aabroad siya. Kuwait. Wala siyang makitang murang bahay sa Maynila kaya dito siya napadpad sa Cavite. Tutal malapit lang naman. Naninibago raw siya sa lugar kaya nahihirapan siyang makatulog. Hindi siya sanay na matulog na may naririnig na mga sasakyan sa labas.
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“Taga probinsya ka pala,” wika ko, “kaya pala friendly ka at hindi takot sa strangers na tulad ko. Pina-Chaolong mo pa ako.” Napahawi siya sa buhok. Nakangiti. “Probinsya pa rin naman ‘tong Cavite, ah?” “Pero at least malapit sa Maynila,” depensa ko. “Ingat ka sa Maynila. Alerto ka dapat lagi doon. Ilagay mo lagi ‘yung bag mo sa harap mo.” Mabilis kong naubos ang masarap na Chaolong. Naunahan ko pa siya. Gusto ko pa sana kaso ubos na raw. Sayang naman. Napamahal na sa akin ang Chaolong. Masaya na rin ako at nagising ako nang madaling-araw na iyon. Nagkaroon ako ng bagong kaibigan. Nagulat lang ako sa pabor na hiningi niya sa akin. Medyo weird pero ayos lang. “Samahan mo naman ako, Ryan, na magtapon ng kuting,” mahinhing wika niya. “Ha? Bakit?” Ikinuwento niya na may mag-inang pusa na laging pumapasok sa apartment unit niya. Tumatae pa raw sa loob. Ang baho-baho. Lagi ring nakaabang sa ulam niya. Hindi naman puwedeng laging nakasara ang pinto at mainit ang panahon, paliwanag niya. Pina-describe ko sa kanya ang inahing pusa. Kulay orange daw na may puti sa buntot. Agad ko itong nakilala, ito ang alagang pusa ng dating nangungupahan sa unit niya. “Ay, grabe iniwan nila? Kaya pala feel at home sa loob ‘yung mga pusa.” Pinagpatong niya ang dalawang mangkok. Naubos na rin niya ang Chaolong niya. “Saan kaya magandang iligaw ‘yung kuting? Hindi ko pa alam ang lugar dito, e,” tanong niya. Napaisip ako saglit. “Sa bukid na lang sa NIA Road.” “Sige,” tumayo siya at ipinasok sa loob ang mangkok at kutsara. Puro bakat ng disenyo ng monobloc chair ang likurang bahagi ng hita niyang sobrang puti. “Kailan ba natin itatapon?” tanong ko. Lumingon siya. “Ngayon na.” Hinintay ko muna siyang pumasok bago ko kinamot ang aking ulo. Walang kalaman-laman ang loob ng unit niya. Sabagay saglit lang naman siya rito. Ayaw ko naman talagang itapon ‘yung kuting dahil naaawa ako. Pero gusto ko pang makasama si Rhea nang matagal. Hindi ko naman pwedeng hingiin ‘yung pusa kasi may hika si nanay. Alas-singko ng madaling-araw. Kinuha namin ang kuting. Mahimbing pa naman ang pagkakatulog nito katabi ng kanyang ina. Nagising ang inahing pusa, ngumiyaw, wala siyang kamalay-malay na hindi na niya muling makikita ang kanyang anak.
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At nagtungo na nga kami sa palayan sa NIA Road upang iligaw ang pobreng kuting. Saka na raw niya poproblemahin ang inahing pusa, itong kuting muna raw, ito raw ang madalas tumae sa loob ng bahay, e. Pinili kong iwan ang kuting malapit sa kumpol ng mga bahayan sa NIA Road. Para mataas ang tsansa na may magadopt at mag-alaga sa kanya. Ngayon na lang uli ako nagawi rito sa NIA Road. Noong bata pa ako, madalas kaming maglaro rito at manghuli ng tutubi. May nasalubong kaming magtataho. Nilibre ko si Rhea. Ininom namin ito habang pinapanood ang pagsikat ng araw. “Ano’ng FB mo? Add kita,” huling tanong ko sa kanya bago kami pumasok sa kani-kaniyang pinto. “Rhea Cabaral. May letter H iyong Rhea, ha.” Itinatak ko sa isip ko ang pangalan niya. “Okay, tulog na tayo.” Nag-thumbs up siya sa akin bago tuluyang pumasok ng unit niya.
Ala-una na ng hapon ako nagising. Lumabas ako ng bahay. Sarado ang pinto ni Rhea. Tahimik sa loob. Kumatok ako ng tatlong beses sa pinto niya. Walang sumagot. Baka tulog pa, sa isip-isip ko. Bumalik ako sa amin at kumain. Tinapos ko muna ang isang oras na session ko sa Korean student ko sa Skype saka ako naligo. Naghilod ako maigi. Nag-baby cologne. Nagsuklay. Lumabas uli ako ng bahay para silipin siya. Sarado pa rin ang pinto niya. Hindi mapakali ang inahing pusa sa harap ng pintuan ni Rhea. Ngiyaw nang ngiyaw. Hinahanap siguro ang nawawalang anak niya. Nakakaawa naman. Kumuha ako ng dalawang slice ng Gardenia sa loob at ipinakain ko sa pusa.
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Sinearch ko siya sa FB. Rhea Cabaral. May letter H ang Rhea. Nahanap ko naman agad siya. Agad naman niyang in-accept ang friend request ko. Nalaman ko sa latest post niya na nasa Ermita pala siya ngayon, sa agency na ina-apply-an niya. Ni-like ko ang status niya. Sunod ay nagbabad ako sa photo section ng timeline niya. Ang ganda-ganda talaga niya. Batay sa mga datos ng kanyang FB, wala siyang boyfriend. Dahil taga Puerto Princesa siya, may mga larawan din siya sa beach ng Coron at El Nido. Medyo conservative siya dahil naka-tshirt siya kung magswimming. Gusto ko nga ‘yun. Pinigilan ko ang sarili ko na i-chat siya, ayoko namang isipin niya na clingy at papansin ako. Alas-diyes ng gabi nang huli akong sumilip sa unit niya. Wala pa rin siya. Nag-online uli ako para tignan ang timeline niya. Nag-alala na ako na parang isang boyfriend, nainis ako sa sarili ko. Picture ng ticket sa sinehan ang huling post niya. Nanood siya ng sine mag-isa. Hindi ko na ni-like ang larawan. Natulog ako nang may lumbay na nararamdaman. Nag-set na lang ako ng alarm na 3:00AM. Baka sakaling nakatambay uli siya ng ganoong oras sa labas ng unit niya.
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Hilab ng tiyan na naman ang gumising sa akin. Nauna pa ako sa alarm. 2:53AM ako nagising. Medyo malambot pa rin ang dumi ko. Nalimutan ko palang magsaging therapy kahapon dahil sa pagaalala kay Rhea. Muli kong tinignan ang timeline niya habang tumatae, baka nagpost siya kung anong oras na siya nakauwi kagabi. Wala akong nakita. Nag-share lang siya ng video ng Paramore. Iyon na ang huling post niya. Nawala ang pangamba ko nang maamoy ko ang Chaolong bago pa man ako makalabas ng pinto. Pumasok na ang amoy nito sa loob ng salas namin. Sumuot sa siwang sa ilalim ng pinto. Nakita ko nga siya paglabas ko. 3:27AM na no’n. Binati niya ako ng matamis na ngiti. “Natae ka na naman kaya ka nagising?” biro niya. Hindi ko na sinagot ang tanong niya. Ngumiti na lang din ako. Tumayo siya at ikinuha ako ng Chaolong sa loob. Napahinga ako nang malalim. Sumasaya ang araw... este ang madaling-araw ko dahil sa kanya. Pinagkuwentuhan namin ang naging araw namin habang humihigop ng sabaw ng Chaolong. Ikinuwento niya na hopefully next month ay makalipad
na siya pa-Kuwait, na lubos kong ikinalungkot pero hindi ko syempre ipinahalata sa kanya. Iniba ko na lang ang usapan, tinanong ko siya kung saan siya nakabili ng ingredients ng Chaolong na kinakain namin ngayon dahil ang alam ko’y naubos na namin ang Chaolong niya kahapon. Sa MOA siya nakabili, sagot niya. Sa akin naman nabaling ang usapan, hindi ko syempre kinuwento sa kanya na pinalipas ko ang araw ko sa pamamagitan ng paulit-ulit na pagsilip sa pinto niya kung nakauwi na ba siya. Hindi ko inilahad sa kanya ang pag-aalala ko sa kanya. Isinalaysay ko na lang ang naging lesson namin ng estudyante kong Korean. Adjective ang topic namin. Binanggit ko rin na binigyan ko ng Gardenia ang inahing pusa. Nangangalahati na kami sa aming Chaolong nang magimbal kami sa sunod naming nakita. Naglalakad pabalik sa apartment unit ni Rhea ang kuting na itinapon namin kahapon ng madaling-araw sa palayan ng NIA Road. May putik ito sa ilang bahagi ng katawan ngunit hindi naman gano’n karumi. Sinalubong siya ng kanyang ina. Dinilaan siya nito sa buong katawan para linisin at lambingin. Napamura na lang si Rhea. Ang cute niya pa rin kahit nagmumura. Napatingin siya sa akin. Hinihintay ang sasabihin ko. Ang paliwanag ko. “Hindi kasi natin isinilid sa sako, kaya natandaan ang pabalik dito,” paliwanag ko. Iyon ang sabi ng mga matatanda, na dapat isako ang ililigaw na kuting para hindi makabalik. Kaswal na pumasok ang mag-inang pusa sa loob ng unit niya. Hindi na niya ito pinigilan. Natahimik na lang kaming dalawa. Unti-unting lumamig ang sabaw ng Chaolong. Nawaglit lang ang katahimikan nang umalingasaw ang napakabahong amoy mula sa loob ng unit niya. Amoy tae ng pusa. Pumasok siya sa loob, nakita niyang tumae na naman ang kuting. “Kuha ka ng sako,” utos niya habang itinataboy ang mga pusa palabas. Medyo nagulat ako sa desisyon niyang itapon pa rin ang kuting. Pumasok ako sa amin at kumuha ng sako. Dinadakot na niya ang tae ng pusa pagbalik ko. Tinakpan niya ang ilong niya gamit ang kanyang suot na t-shirt. Nakita ko tuloy ang tiyan at pusod niyang napakaputi. Pinilit kong ibaling sa ibang direksyon ang tingin ko ngunit sadyang napakahirap. Kinuha niya ang sako sa kamay ko. Mabilis niyang isinilid ang kuting sa loob nito. Hindi ito magkandatuto sa pag-ngiyaw. Animo’y humihingi ng saklolo sa kanyang ina.
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“Saan pa natin ito pwedeng itapon?” tanong niya habang binubuhol ang sako. Iba na ang aura niya. Desidido sa gagawin. Napatingin muna ako sa sahig bago nakasagot. “May alam ako. Napakasukal na lugar talaga. First time ko lang ding pupunta do’n.” Ni-lock niya ang pinto at naglakad palabas ng kalsada. Hindi ko na alam kung anong barangay ang nakakasakop sa lugar na iyon. Naging maputik ang daan dahil umulan kagabi. Ginamit namin ang ilaw sa aming cellphone bilang pantanglaw sa daan. Wala ang buwan o ni isang bituin sa langit para magbigay ng natural na liwanag. Makapal ang kakahuyan, kasing kapal ng putik na kumapit sa tsinelas namin. Nakaramdam na kami ng uhaw. Hindi pa kami nakapagdala ng inuming tubig. “Pwede na rito?” tanong ko kay Rhea. Gusto ko nang umuwi. “Ilayo pa natin, baka makabalik pa,” obsessed na siya na mailigaw talaga ang kuting. Nagpatuloy pa kami sa paglalakad. Siya na ang nauuna sa akin. Sinusundan ko na lang ang mga hakbang niya. Paliko-liko ang kanyang tinahak. Ako na ang sumusunod sa kanya. Bihira lang ang may dumaan dito kasi hindi pa gano’n kapudpod ang mga damo sa daanan. Sanay siya siguro sa ganitong lugar dahil laking Palawan siya. Nang makuntento na siya sa layo ng lugar, tinggal niya ang buhol ng sako at inilapag niya sa ilalim ng puno ng makopa na hitik sa bunga. Ngumiyaw ang kuting, nagumpisa na itong naglakad palabas ng sako. Hinawakan niya ako sa braso, sa may pulso, at hinili niya ako palayo sa kuting. Kailangan daw naming makaalis agad para hindi kami makita ng kuting at masundan. Bumitaw lang siya sa akin nang makalayo na kami at hindi na namin naririnig ang pagngiyaw ng kuting. Namutla ang parte ng braso na kanyang mahigpit na hinawakan. Sa tulong ng liwanag ng cellphone, pinanood ko itong magkaroon unti-unti ng kulay at daluyan muli ng dugo. Nangalay na ang binti ko ngunit hindi pa rin namin natutunton ang daan palabas ng kakahuyan. Para bang paikot-ikot lang kami. Tahimik lang siya at hindi nagsasalita. Gayon din ako. Unang na-lowbat ang cellphone ko, sumunod naman ang sa kanya after 20 minutes. Wala na kaming ilaw na pantanglaw sa daan. Natatakluban pa ng maitim at malawak na
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ulap ang buwan. Hindi pa rin nagpapakita ng pagkataranta si Rhea. Nagpatuloy pa rin kami sa paglalakad. Hindi na trail ang aming nilalakaran. Damuhan na. Lagpas tuhod na damo. Na-leche na. Naliligaw na talaga kami. Mahaba pa ang dilim ngayon dahil Disyembre. Napunit ng paghikbi ni Rhea ang katahimikan ng madaling-araw. Huminto siya sa paglalakad at tinakpan niya ang kanyang mukha gamit ang kanyang mga palad. Tuluyan na siyang napaiyak. Nilapitan ko siya at hinimas ang kanyang likod upang siya’y kalmahin. Makinis ang likod niya. Nalulubak lang ang palad ko kapag napapasadahan ang strap ng bra niya sa likod. Nakaramdam ako ng libog. Humarap siya sa akin at niyakap niya ako. Unti-unting nag-init ang katawan ko. Nag-init din ang likod ng tenga ko. Nabasa ng luha niya ang balikat ko. Wala pa rin akong tigil sa paghimas ng likod niya. Bumitaw ako sa pagkakayakap no’ng maramdaman kong unti-unti na ring tumitigas ang ari ko. Nakakahiya kung maramdaman niya iyong tumutusok sa kanyang puson. Ngiyaw. Narinig namin ang ngiyaw no’ng kuting. Nagkatinginan kami ni Rhea. Huminto na siya sa pagluha. Sinundan namin ang direksyon ng pinagmumulan ng ngiyaw. Hindi ko alam kung bakit pero nakaramdam ako ng tuwa nang matunton namin ang kuting na aming iniligaw kanina. Nakabalik kami sa trail dahil sa kanya. Naglalakad ito na para bang alam na alam nito ang direksyon palabas ng kakahuyan. Hindi namin mawari kung ano’ng gamit nitong GPS at radar. Buong pasensya naming sinundan ang maliliit nitong hakbang. Pasikat na ang araw nang matunton namin ang kalsada sa tulong ng kuting. Binuhat ko na ang kuting at kami’y walang imik na naglakad pauwi. Alam ko na ang daan mula rito. Kinuha ni Rhea ang kuting sa akin. Hindi ko ito inaasahan. Nagpalitan kami ng kapirasong ngiti at bahagyang tango bago pumasok sa kanya-kanyang pintuan. Buong araw at gabi akong natulog dahil sa pagod. Alam kong gano’n din si Rhea. Nagising lang ako saglit dahil ako’y naiihi. Nag-alarm ako ng 3:00AM bago bumalik sa kama.
Alarm na talaga ng cellphone ang gumising sa akin at hindi hilab ng tiyan. Alas-tres ng madaling-araw. Pakiramdam ko’y isang bagong silang na sanggol dahil sa haba nang
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itinulog ko. Gutom na gutom na rin ako. Naghahanap ng gatas ng ina. Naghahanap ng sabaw ng Chaolong. Pagkababa ko lang ng bahay, sa aming salas, naamoy ko na agad ang Chaolong na nagmumula sa labas ng bahay, sa unit ni Rhea. Ngunit wala akong Chaolong o Rhea na nakita pagkalabas ko.
F O R R ENT Iyan ang nakapaskil sa pinto ng kanyang apartment unit. Nakasulat sa illustration board gamit ang asul na pentel pen. Kilala ko kung kaninong sulat â€˜yun. Sulat ng may-ari ng apartment. Naaamoy ko pa rin ang Chaolong.
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ANDRIAN LE GA SP I BIO Lumaki sa Imus Cavite. Naka-tsamba ng Palanca noong 2014 at 2015. Nag-aral ng panitikan sa barberya at videokehan.
STRIKE MIGUEL PAOLO REYES
I. “Ano ba’ng nangyayari dun sa Buwan?” Gustong sabihin ni Elso sa driver na hindi niya alam, kaya nga siya aakyat dun. Nanahimik na lang siya’t nagkunwaring may binabasa sa kanyang ComTabb®. “Totoo kaya ‘yung sinasabi sa balita, nagstrike ‘yung mga minero? Paano nagstrike ang mga robot? May unyon ba sila? Haha!” Nakitawa lang si Elso. “Noong wala pa itong mga mooncar na ito, lider ako ng unyon. Dati akong driver ng taxi sa DemoCar. Naabutan mo pa ba ‘yung DemoCar?” “Hindi ko po yata naabutan ‘yun, manong.” Ang totoo, alam na alam niya ang pangalan, bilang tito niya ang naging huling CEO ng DemoCar bago maging FindelCar ang pangalan ng kumpanya. Ngunit delikadong dumako roon ang kanilang usapan dahil lider pala ng unyon si manong mooncar driver. Sinulyapan ni Elso ang kamay ni manong na nakapatong sa accelerator. Base sa mga kulobot at marka ng tusok ng karayom na nakita niya sa kamay ng matanda, naisip ni Elso na posibleng si Nathan Dipologo ang nagmamaneho ng kanyang sinasakyan. Tama siya. Nag-alala si Elso. Paano kung malaman ni manong na apo si Elso ni Delfin Encarnado, ang nagdala ng Driver Emotion Management Operating System® sa
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Pilipinas? Paano kung malaman ng driver na ninuno ni Elso ang nagsaksak sa mga “volunteer” ng DemoCar ng mga kemikal na magpapasiguradong hindi sila magagalit ni maiinis habang nagmamaneho—mga kemikal na nagdulot sa kanila ng habambuhay na erectile dysfunction? Paano kung malaman ni Nathan Dipologo na ang pasehero niya ngayon paakyat sa Midway Station ay anak ng nag-imbento ng KarKonnek®, ang dahilan kung bakit isang henerasyon ng mga Pilipinong taxi driver ang nangangailangan ng droga para makatulog? Inisip ni Elso na pakiusapan ang kanyang driver kung maari siyang magpatugtog para hindi na sila mag-usap, ngunit naisip niyang baka mainsulto si manong. Nag-isip na lang siya ng mapag-uusapang walang kwenta. Kalagayan ng panahon? Kapag napagusapan na kung ano’ng gagawin ng mga weather controller, wala nang pag-uusapan. Pulitika? Wala namang eskandalong bago; takot lang ng mga politiko sa mga umaanib sa Anonymous. Binilisan ni Elso na mag-isip ng walang katuturang paksa dahil pakiramdam niya magsisimula nang magkwento nang madalamhati si manong tungkol sa buhay unyonista; sa malayo na nakatingin si Nathan, may kislap sa mga mata. “Nabalitaan niyo po ba ‘yung kay Geren at Yondo?” Showbiz! “Ah, oo! Biruin mo, mahilig pala sila sa ganun? Hindi ba masakit ‘yun?—Uy, hindi ko naman tinatanong dahil sa tingin ko alam mo ‘yung pakiramdam, haha!” “Hehe, hindi ko nga po alam. Ang narinig ko ‘yung susuksukan kailangan ding operahan para gumana yung mga nilagay kay Yondo.” “Tanginang mga artista yan. Mahal siguro yung operasyon ano?” “Siguro mga—sampung milyon lahat-lahat.” “Sampung milyon! Putsa, thirty thousand lang ang kinikita ko kada buwan! Tapos sila gumagastos ng sampung milyon para sa kalaswaan? Tangina.” Wrong move, sabi ni Elso sa sarili. Bakit kasi showbiz sex scandal ang una niyang naisip gawing conversation piece; dekada na nga palang hindi nagagawang makipagtalik ng matandang ito nang walang iniinom na mamahaling droga. Nag-isip siya ng mapapagusapang walang koneksyon sa pang-araw-araw na buhay. “Ah, Katoliko po ba kayo, manong? Matagal na po akong hindi nakakasakay ng sasakyan na may nakasabit na rosaryo sa loob.” “Ah, hindi. ‘Yung asawa ko, oo. Ewan ko ba dun, alam na niyang kurakot yung kura nila, ayaw pa rin niyang tumiwalag sa simbahan! Bwisit na pari ‘yun, alam mo bang
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may cut siya dun sa kinurakot ng mga Arrocillo sa Nueva Camarines? Putanginang mga Arrocillo talaga. Naikwento ba sa inyo sa eskwelahan ‘yung mga kagaguhan nila?” “Hindi ko na po maalala, manong.” “Kayong mga bata talaga! Ano na lang ba’ng itinuturo sa eskwelahan ngayon? Haay. Kawawa naman kayo. Kawawa naman kayo.” Palagay ni Elso magsasabi pa si Nathan ng “kawawa naman kayo, kawawa naman kayo” ng ilang ulit pa kung hindi sila inalerto ng Midway Station Command na kailangan nang ibigay ni Nathan ang docking codes. Hinila ni Nathan ang sliderpanel sa tuktok ng kanyang viewscreen. Mariin niyang idinikit ang kanyang kaliwang hintuturo sa sliderpanel habang nagbigigkas ng mga numero. Mga limang minuto pagkatapos ng ritwal na ito, nakalapag na sila sa loob ng daungan ng Midway Station. “Salamat manong,” sabi ni Elso habang inaabot ang kanyang PayStick®. “Ayaw mong i-handscan na lang ang bayad? Sayang ang cash. Magagamit mong pambili ng mga bawal, hehe.” “Wala po kasi akong pera ngayon sa bangko, ito na lang po.” Siyempre, ayaw ni Elso na makita ni Nathan ang apelyido niya. “Sige ser.” Sinaksak ni Nathan ang PayStick® sa kanyang payment console. “Maraming salamat ser,” sabi ni Nathan pagkabalik niya ng pinambayad ni Elso. Tinalikuran ni Elso si Nathan at naglakad papunta sa plataporma ng mga moontrain. Magkamukha ang maglolo sa likod, inisip ni Nathan habang bumabalik sa loob ng kanyang minamaneho. Kung hindi lang siya nasobrahan sa stress reliever ngayon, siguro nasigawan niya ng “putangina mo, sinungaling ka!” si Elso. Buti na lang; kawawa sila ng misis niya kung matanggal siya sa trabaho, inisip ni Nathan.
II. “Elso Encarnado, Elso Encarnado, please enter moontrain five immediately.” Nakatulog si Elso sa waiting area ng plataporma. Nagising siya sa pagtawag sa kanya ng pager. ‘Di siya nagmadali papunta sa tren. Alam niyang hihintayin siya. “Please dial up your GravSuit® settings, sir,” bati sa kanya ng attendant sa lagusan ng moontrain five. Hindi niya ito ginawa; natutuwa siya sa kakayahang lumutang na ipinahinhintulot ng kalawakan. “Please get out of my way,” sabi niya sa attendant.
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Naunawaan ng lalaking maputi’t matangkad ang gustong gawin ng kanilang “very important passenger”; kahit alam ng attendant na kayang-kaya niyang harangan si Elso, hinayaan na lang niya ang Pilipinong lumipad nang dahan-dahan patungo sa kanyang compartment. Saka lang binago ni Elso ang settings ng kanyang GravSuit® noong nakita na niya ang kama sa kanyang kwarto. Bumalik ang kanyang antok. Sampung oras pa ang byahe paakyat sa Buwan. Sapat na oras para matulog at maghanda para sa gagawin niyang trabaho para sa PhilLunar Corporation. Bwisit, naisip niya noong papikit na siya—bakit ko ba naalala ang gagawin ko, dugtong niya. Naalala ni Elso ang ipinakita sa kanyang confidential na kuha ng mga robot na binubuhat ang mga bisor nilang tao’t itinatapon ang mga ito sa mga mala-MegaBus® na rocket container. Naalala niya ang eksena sa video na may dalawang robot na nangunguryente ng binalibag nilang maintenance worker. Naalala niya ang nasaksihan niyang pag-utos ng isang robot sa isang technician na patayin ang mga camera’t iba pang surveillance device sa minahan, kundi tuluyang isusuksok ng mala-taong makina ang drill na hawak niya sa kokote ng sugat-sugat at nagluluhang tao. Naalala niya ang huling mga eksena sa footage ng pagsuntok ng isang robot sa mga kamera sa isa sa mga opisina ng PhilLunar sa Buwan. “We haven’t received any shipments from up there ever since this happened. You know the official story; we have no clue what the real story is. We’ve tried every override from outside the facility, but we keep getting blocked. We can’t ask anyone for ‘official’ assistance because a problem like this would scare our stockholders to death. Please help us fix it. We’ll give you four, no, six times your usual if you help us,”
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sabi sa kanya ng CEO ng PhilLunar. Kulang ata ang bayad sa akin, inisip ni Elso habang papikit na siya. Nagsimulang umakyat patungong Buwan ang higanteng mala-tren na elevator na kanyang sinasakyan habang nananaginip siya tungkol sa mga override code, encrypted failsafes, shockwave cannon, bombang nukleyar, at kung ano pang mahusay na panlaban sa mga mamamataytaong robot.
III. Simula na ng operasyon paglapag na paglapag pa lang ni Elso sa Buwan. May kotseng naghihintay sa kanya sa isang garahe sa Moon Station. Anim na oras bago siya nakarating sa posisyon sa tabi ng minahan ng PhilLunar. Inobserbahan niya ang loob ng pasilidad. Walang mga buhay na tao, sabi ng mga bioscanner ng kotse. Gamit ang isang ViewThrough® scanner, nakita niya na kahit ang mga katawan ng mga tao ay wala na sa pasilidad. Parang naglinis ang mga robot; saan kaya dinala ng mga robot ang mga bangkay? tanong ni Elso sa sarili. Inilabas niya ang kanyang ComTabb® at binuksan ang ilan sa mga binuo niyang program. Ang isa, binigyan siya ng control sa nag-iisang makalumang radyo sa loob ng pasilidad, ang appliance na ginagamit ng mga tao bago ang massacre para sa Retro StopDance® tuwing Christmas party. Pagkatapos niyang gawin ‘yun, naghintay siyang may dumaang robot sa tapat ng radyo. Ilang minuto lang ay may maintenance robot na nahulog sa kanyang patibong; pinatugtog niya ang audio code para sa mga “master builder” upang sindihan ang isang switch sa loob ng robot. Binuksan ng switch na ‘yun ang isang router system na kalat-kalat
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ang mga pyesa sa loob ng robot—sa schematics, ang mga pyesang ito ay may label na “redundancy pathways.” Gamit ang isa pang program sa kanyang ComTabb®, nagawa ni Elso na komonekta sa router system upang makita’t marinig ang lahat ng nakikita’t naririnig ng robot, at mabasa niya ang lahat ng prosesong tumatakbo sa “utak” nito. Nanood lang siya habang naglalakad ang higanteng mala-taong makina papunta sa bungad ng isang tunnel. Sumakay ang robot sa elevator pababa sa ilalim ng lupa. Binuksan nito ang kanyang night vision system. Nagtungo ito sa isang grupo ng mga robot na nagmimina. Nilapitan nito ang isang robot na may kumikislap na hiwa sa likuran. Gamit ang mga laman ng toolbox na karga nito, tinapalan ng robot na “pinopossess” ni Elso ang hiwa ng kanyang kapwa robot. Habang nagaganap ang mga ito, tinitignan ni Elso ang mga “iniisip” ng robot. Wala namang kakaiba sa mga prosesong tumatakbo sa operating system nito. Walang napapansing mga glitch si Elso bukod sa mga minor error na awtomatikong inaayos ng OS. Hindi maintindihan ni Elso kung ano ang nangyayari. Sa video na pinalabas sa kanya, ilang robot na kauri ng kanyang inoobserbahan ang may hawak na mga pangwelding na pinapampaso nila sa mga technician. Ang suspetsya niya noong makita niya ang video ay may nagkokontrol sa mga robot sa loob o sa labas ng pasilidad. Pero wala siyang napick-up na kahit anong uri ng unauthorized access sa mga robot. Naisip din niyang baka bigla ngang nagkamalay ang mga robot. Ngunit imposible daw ‘yun, sabi ng kanyang amang si Idan, ang CEO ng Intelarti Corporation, ang supplier ng mga robot ng PhilLunar. “Alam mo namang ginamit namin yung data galing sa mga kinabit sa KarKonnek® para madali kaming makagawa ng mahusay na electro-chemical brain. Alam mong dahil sa datang ‘yun, naiwasan naming maiprogram sa mga artipisyal na utak ang mga thought processes para sa pagdevelop ng mga emosyon at kagustuhang maging malayang nilalang. Kaya malay ko kung ano ‘yang problema ng mga robot ng PhilLunar; may kinalikot siguro sila sa OS kaya nagkaletse-letse sila!” Ngunit ang OS ng inoobserbahan niyang robot ay walang pinagkaiba sa OS na ginagawa sa sikretong “development center” ng kanyang ama. Naisip ni Elso na wala na siyang magagawa sa labas ng pasilidad para alamin kung ano ang nangyari sa mga robot. Hinalughog niya ang mga gamit sa likod na bahagi ng loob ng kotse. Naramdaman niya ang hinahanap niya—isang prototype na stealth suit
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na, ayon sa gumawa nito, magbibigay sa kanya ng kapangyarihang maging invisible sa lahat ng uri ng sensor. Pagkabihis niya, lumabas siya ng kotse at tumalon-talon patungo sa pasilidad ng PhilLunar.
IV. Mula noong maliliit sila hanggang tinutubuan na sila ng buhok sa kili-kili, pinilit sina Elso’t kuya niyang si Masse ng kanilang ama na matuto ng martial arts. Proteksyon daw laban sa mga “masasamang loob”; nasa kolehiyo na si Elso noong maintindihan niyang mga galit na galit na unyonista ng FindelCar ang mga tinutukoy ng kanyang ama. Kaya raw nagsundalo si Masse dahil naging hilig niya ang pakikipagsipaa’t suntukan. Nagamit naman ni Elso ang disiplinang buhat ng pag-eensayo ng Tae Kwon Do’t kung ano-ano pa para maging isa sa mga pinakamahusay na programmer sa mundo. Saka lang ulit nagkasilbi para kay Elso ang kakayahan niyang uminda ng mga suntok at sipa sa loob ng mining complex ng PhilLunar. Walang silbi ang kanyang stealth suit dahil pagkatapak niya sa pasilidad, agad-agad siyang nilapitan ng mga guwardiyang robot. Paulit-ulit na sinubukan ng mga robot na hatawin siya ng kanilang mga bakal na palad; ininda ni Elso ang kada hataw sa kanya. Tumalon si Elso sa ibabaw ng mga robot at lumapag sa likuran ng mga ito. Umikot ang mga ulo ng mga robot hanggang nakaharap ulit kay Elso ang mga hugis parisukat nilang mata. May bumukas na dalawang butas na hugis tatsulok sa ilalim ng mga matang iyon. Sunod-sunod na pumutok palabas ng mga butas na ito ang mga mala-karayom na bala. Tumalon si Elso patungo sa likod ng isang bakal na kahon. Sa puwestong yun, ihinanda niya ang isang baril. Noong makita niyang lumilipad sa ibabaw ng kanyang pinagtataguan ang mga gwardyang robot, dalawang beses niyang kinalabit ang gatilyo ng kanyang baril. Dalawang magkasunod na SureShooter Magnetic® ang iniluwa ng kanyang armas. Dumikit ang mga bala sa mga robot. Kinuryente ng mga bala ang kanilang pinagkakabitan. Dahandahang bumagsak sa kahong kaharap ni Elso ang mga kinalaban niya. Huminga nang malalim si Elso. Pinatay niya ang auto-safety ng kanyang baril. Tumayo siya’t nagsimulang tumalon-talon pabalik sa kotse. Bago siya makalayo, biglang may mga sumirit na bakal na galamay mula sa mga bariles ng mga “eye gun” ng mga pinabagsak niyang robot. Pumulupot ang mga galamay na ito sa kanya’t sinaksakan siya
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ng mabisang pampatulog.
V. “Napadalaw ka, pamangkin. Kumusta na ang itay mo?” Ilang segundo pa lang naimumulat ni Elso ang kanyang mga mata noong batiin siya ni Delfin Encarnado, Jr., ang kanyang Tito Jun. GravSuit® lamang ang suot ng kanyang tiyuhin. GravSuit® lang din ang suot ni Elso. Naka-maximum pull ang kanyang suot kaya hindi siya makatayo sa kinahihigaan niyang bakal na lamesa. Hindi alam ni Elso kung paano sasagutin si Delfin Jr. Nakaramdam siya ng takot dahil hindi siya makatakas. Nakaramdam siya ng galit sa nagdisenyo ng stealth suit na walang kwenta. Nakaramdam siya ng matinding pangangati sa mga pinagtusukan ng pampatulog sa mga braso’t hita niya. “Tito Jun, puwede bang babaan ninyo yung setting ng GravSuit® ko? Kailangan ko lang talagang kamutin ‘yung mga nangangati sa akin.” Napangiti si Delfin. “Sige na nga, may bantay ka naman e.” May pagkalantsing na narinig si Elso sa tabi niya. Idinikit ng robot na katabi ni Elso ang isang daliri nito sa isang dulo ng nakaumbok na linyang bakal sa likod ng kanang palad ni Elso. Pinadulas ng robot pakanan ang daliri nitong nakapindot hanggang sa gitnang-gitna ng linya. Nang maramdaman ni Elso na nakakagalaw na siya ulit, sinimulan niyang magkamot nang parang asong pinagpyepyestahan ng sangkatutak na pulgas. “May mga suppressant ako para diyan, gusto mo?” Gago ka, inisip ni Elso, ayoko nga ng mga droga mo! “Hindi na po, ayos na po ako.” Napansin ni Elso na may mga monitor sa likod ng kanyang tiyuhin. Nakita niya ang mga tao’t robot na nagtutulungang magkarga ng mga kahon sa loob ng mga rocket container. Sinimulan ni Elsong hilutin ang kanyang noo. Naliwanagan siyang ‘yung video ng massacre ay pelikula lang na may napakataas na production value. Gusto lang ng mga nasa minahan na magtago sa mga nasa Mundo. Ano kaya’ng tinatago nila? tanong ni Elso sa sarili. “Manood ka na lang, Elso. Huwag ka nang masyadong mag-isip. Baka masiraan ka ng bait. ‘Yan ang problema sa inyong mga masyadong matalino.” Pero hindi tumigil si Elso sa pag-iisip. Inalala niya ang pagkakuwento ng kanyang
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ama sa mga dinanas nilang magkapatid noong pareho pa silang nasa FindelCar. Sabi ni Idan, ginusto ni Delfin na bayaran ng one-shot na tig-isang milyon ang mga driver na nagka-insomnia dahil sa KarKonnek®, katulad ng ginawa ng kanilang ama para sa mga empleyado ng DemoCar na nagkasakit dahil sa DEMOS®. Hindi raw sumangayon si Idan sa planong iyon. Pinilit niyang bigyan ng pension ang mga driver. “Para saan pa ba ang SSS?” sabi raw ni Delfin. Kulang daw ‘yun, sabi ng kanyang ama. “E kanino ba nakapangalan ang kumpanyang ito?” sambat daw ng kanyang Tito Jun. Inilaban ng mga driver ang pension, pero ‘di sila pinanigan ng Labor Council. Hindi na inakyat ng mga driver sa Punong Mahistrado ng Demokrasya ang kaso dahil ginawang tig-dalawang milyon ang kanilang danyos perhuwisyos. Nagkasundo sina Delfin at Idan na gagawa sila ng masusing pag-aaral para makagawa ng panibagong human transporter enhancement system. Naisip din nilang gawing “Encarnado Transit” ang pangalan ng kanilang kumpanya. Naglaho raw ang kanilang mga plano noong nalaman ni Idan na may mga sikretong pinahintulutan si Delfin na mga pagbabago sa disenyo ng
KarKonnek® para makatipid. “Naikuwento ba sa’yo ng itay mo kung ano’ng sinabi ko sa kanya noong sinabi niyang iiwanan na niya ang FindelCar?” Napatingala si Elso sa kanyang tiyuhin. Nagsalubong ang kanilang mga mata. Kapwa silang walang imik nang halos isang minuto. Para silang naglalaro ng “maunang pumikit, may pigsa sa puwit!” “Sabi ko, ‘Nagmamalinis ka? Nakalimutan mo bang kaya mo lang naimbento ang Karkonnek® dahil may data galing sa DEMOS®? Nakalimutan mo nang kinailangan munang mawalan ng kakayahang tumigas ang titi ng mga tauhan ni itay para makagawa ka ng ‘perpektong sistema? Akala mo hindi ko alam na mas malala pa sa insomnia ang naging sakit ng mga naunang pinageksperimentuhan mo?’” Napalunok si Elso. Wala siyang alam tungkol sa mga guinea pig ng kanyang ama. “Alam mo kung ano’ng sinabi niya?—Wala. Wala siyang sinabi. Hinayaan niyang dun magtapos ang huli naming usapan. Hindi ko tuloy matanggal sa isip ko ‘yung sinabi ko. Inisip ko noong una, tama ako—walang masabi si gago kaya nag-walkout na lang. Malaman ko na lang ilang buwan
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pagkatapos noon na may binuo nang Intelarti ang itay mo. Kaya siya nagpaka-advocate ng mga driver ng FindelCar para siguraduhing wala masyadong baho ang pangalan niya!” sabi ni Delfin sabay salpak ng kamao sa mga monitor sa likod niya. “Naisip ko noon, ‘Wala talagang konsensya si Idan. Malala pa sa akin!’—Noong naglabas ng DriveSafe® ang Intelarti, alam kong mamamatay na ang FindelCar. Noong naglabas ng mga robot ang kumpanya ng gagong itay mo, wala na! Wala nang makatalo sa Intelarti sa enhanced service. Salamat sa mga robot ng GAGONG itay mo, napabilis ang pagtapos ng Earth-Moon Transit System. At salamat sa tulong na yun, pumayag ang Nations’ Union na Pilipinong kumpanya ang unang magkaroon ng minahan sa Buwan.” Kasingkulay na ng sinampal-sampal na hita ng tisay ang kulay ng mga pisngi ni Delfin sa puntong ‘yun. “Ginusto kong pabagsakin ang itay mo, Elso. Ginusto kong mag-exposé tungkol sa mga nagkakanser sa utak at nabaliw dahil sa mga eksperimento niya. Biruin mo, kanser sa panahong ito?—Hindi ako nagpadala dun. Baka iniisip mo kaya ko ito ginagawa para maghiganti.” Tumingin si Delfin sa mga monitor. Nakisubaybay din si Elso. Nakita niyang mga iba’t ibang klaseng pampasabog ang kinakarga ng mga tao’t robot sa mga rocket container, kasama ng mga bagong minang bato’t kristal. “Nagkasakit ang mga tao dahil sa aming kasakiman. Wala kaming pinagkaiba sa mga Makalumang Kanluranin. Kunwari ‘syensya para sa sangkatauhan,’ pero ‘perapera lang lahat ‘yan talaga ang motto namin. May magiimbento ba ng bagay na para sa sangkatauhan pero ultimong pangalan ng produkto pinagkakakitaan?” Saka lang napansin ni Elso na tinapalan ng kanyang tiyuhin ang mga “®” ng suot niya. Tumigil ng mga dalawang minuto si Delfin sa kanyang monologue para panoorin ang ginagawa ng mga tauhan niya. Nakaramdam ng namumuong inip si Elso. Naramdaman din niyang nanunumbalik ang kanyang pangangati; hindi na siya nadidistract ni Delfin. “Ano ba’ng pasasabugin ninyo?” “Aba, may tanga din palang summa cum laude.—Ang hina mo naman pamangkin. E ‘di yung EMTS! Dapat wala nang kumita sa mga ginawa namin. Mawawala na ang mga shipment ng kayamanan galing sa Buwan. Maghihikahos ang mga kapitalista! Wala nang materyales para sa sangkatutak na robot o kotse o tablet o appliance para sa mga maperang mapang-api!” Patay, mukhang na-brainwash si Tito Jun ng mga revivalist socialist, o ‘di kaya ng
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mga taga-Church of Karl Marx the True Christ, inisip ni Elso. Nang nabuo sa kanyang utak ang imahe ng malagong bigote ni Karl Marx, may naisip si Elso na magandang pantugon sa mga pinagsasasabi ng kanyang tiyuhin. “Si Nathan Dipologo ang nagdala sa akin sa Midway. Driver pa rin siya hanggang ngayon. Maghihirap siya kung pasasabugin ninyo ang EMTS. Mapapatay niyo siya.” “—Talaga,” sabi ni Delfin. “Kawawa naman yung matanda. Kaso hindi titigil ang pagdami ng mga katulad niya kung hindi ko ito itutuloy—kawawa naman.” Pinutol ang pag-iisip ni Delfin ng isang malakas na “ding ding!” “Handa na kami,” sabi ng boses na sumirit palabas ng katabing communicator ni Delfin. “Simulan niyo na ang launch sequence ng batch one.” “Copy.” Sampung segundo lang ang lumipas, nakaramdam sina Elso’t Delfin ng pagyanig ng kapaligiran nila. Nagsimula nang umarangkada ang mga rocket container na wawasak sa mga moontrain.
VI. Hindi kaagad nagkasundo ang mga nasa media kung ano’ng ibabansag sa araw na pinasabog ang EMTS. BridgeStrike? 10/13? Big Bang Two? Sabi nga ng mga nakakita sa sabay-sabay na pagsabog, mistulang nagkaroon ng araw sa pagitan ng Buwan at Mundo. Naiwasan naman ang pagbagsak ng debris sa Mundo salamat sa mga shockwave cannon na karga ng mga Hapong mecha. Pero halos anim na libo pa rin ang namatay; libo-libo ang lumiyab, sumabog, nasaksak, natusok. Hindi nakita ni Elso ang pagsabog. Bago sumalpak ang unang batch ng mga rocket container sa mga moontrain, sinaksakan ulit si Elso ng pampatulog ng kanyang robot na guwardiya. Mahimbing siyang nakatulog pagkatapos ng sampung segundo. Nagising na lang siya na nasa loob ng makalumang JumpShip® kasama ang kanyang Kuya Masse. “Nasaan si Tito Jun?” Wala bang magsasabi sa akin ng “Magandang umaga! Kumusta ang tulog mo?” inisip ni Elso. “Hindi ko alam, kuya.” Hinilot ni Elso ang tuktok ng kanyang ulo. Napansin niyang may mga pampahilom na pinahid sa kanyang mga sugat. “Salamat.” Biglang tumingala’t napatitig si Elso kay Masse. “Paano mo nga pala nalamang nasa Buwan si Tito Jun?”
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“Sabi sa akin ni itay. Tumawag daw si tito noong nakalapag ka na sa Buwan. ‘Ingat ka’ lang daw ang sinabi niya kay itay. Natrace nina itay na galing dun ang tawag. Nagsuspetsya siyang may kinalaman si tito sa nangyari sa mga robot ng PhilLunar— Sinubukan ka naming kontakin. Kaso, nagrerecon ka na ata noong tumatawag kami.” Nahuli ni Elso ang saglit na paghinto ni Masse sa pananalita, bago ibigay ng kanyang kuya ang ‘di hinihinging paliwanag kung bakit hindi ipinaalam sa kanya ang kanilang suspetsya. Kilalang-kilala ni Elso si Masse; wala siya sa Armed Intelligence dahil sa talas ng isip, kundi dahil minsan kailangan lang talaga ng AI ng utak pulbura. “Pero noong dinala mo ako sa PhilLunar, hindi niyo pa iniisip na may kinalaman sa ‘robot strike’ si Tito Jun?” “Wala! Ano ka ba, Elso! Alam mo naman, ‘di natin alam kung saang kuweba nagtago si Tito Jun pagkatapos malugi ang FindelCar! Kahit mga nasa AI, hindi siya ma-track!” “Tito mo, eksperto sa biochemical augmentation, may potensyal na kidnapin ng mga terorista’t gawing tagatimpla ng kung ano-ano, hindi niyo binantayan? Lokohin mo si lolang duling! Ano’ng balak ni itay? Bakit hinayaan niya lang si Tito Jun?” “Hay—Pagod ka lang. Matulog ka na muna, Elso,” sabi ni Masse habang nagmamadaling lumabas ng compartment. “Gago, sobra-sobra na’ko sa tulog!” sambat ni Elso. Nakita ni Elso na may CommTabb® sa lamesang katabi ng kanyang kama. Pumunta siya sa website ng Philippine Watcher. Hindi niya pinansin ang cover hologram ng pagsabog ng EMTS. Dumiretso siya sa business section. Foreign Exchange Rate: 1.00 PHP = 68.00 USD. Investing in Late 21st Century Nostalgia. Ayala-Sy Invests PHP 12.5T in Tachyon Communications. Nakita rin ni Elso ang hinahanap niya. Intelarti Purchases Oceania Railways. Dalawampung trilyon daw ang binayad ng kumpanya ni Idan. Barya lang. Pagkabasa niya sa headline na yun, naramdaman niyang may mga gumagapang palabas ng mga pinagturukan ng pampatulog sa katawan niya. Nakita niyang mga mala-anay na bakal ang mga ito; mabilisan silang nagtipon sa likod ng hawak niyang CommTabb®. Nagdikit-dikit sila. Nakita ni Elso na magbago ang nakadisplay sa screen ng CommTabb®. Mga file na nakamarkang “confidential.” Mga spreadsheet. Mga file na may logo ng DemoCar, FindelCar, o Intelarti. May lumabas ding nakakahong puti’t
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kumukutikutitap na teksto sa screen: Upload Wide.
VII. “Anak ka ng demonyo!” Mahilig ‘yun sabihin ng ina nina Elso’t Masse kay Idan noong buhay pa siya. Nagkaroon nga ng araw na wala nang sinabi si Kala Encarnado kundi ang mga katagang ‘yun. ‘Yun ang araw na sinimulan siyang bigyan ng kung ano-anong antipsychotic ni Delfin Jr. Bago siya nabundol ng misteryosong nawalan ng prenong MegaBus® isang taon bago pumutok ang eskandalo ng FindelCar, madalas na tahimik lang si Kala, nanlilisik ang mga naninilaw na mata. Namatay si Kala nang hindi nasasagot ang tanong na matagal na bumagabag kay Elso: ang anak ba ng anak ng demonyo, demonyo rin? ‘Di nagtagal, nakalimutan niya ang tanong na ‘yun. Wala na kasing pumipilit sa kanyang magdasal sa Diyos laban sa demonyo. Ngayon lang niya ulit naisip ang paboritong sabihin ng kanyang inay. Naalala niya ang mga tsismis tungkol sa kanyang lolo; si Delfin Sr. daw ang nagkomisyon ng paggawa ng unang truth fixer sa Armed Intelligence para mabrainwash ang lider ng unyon ng mga driver ng DemoCar na tanggapin ang tigisang milyong kabayaran. Naisip niya ang kanyang ama. Naalala niya ang galak ni Idan noong naging lisensyadong programmer siya at naging ganap na sundalo naman si Masse. Naalala niya ang pakiusap ng kanyang kuyang tulungan ang AI na lagyan ng tracer-trojan ang central network ng Malindo National dahil pinopondohan daw ng bangko ang mga revivalist socialist; pagmamay-ari ngayon ng Intelarti ang sisenta porsyento ng Malindo National. Sabay na natapos ni Elso ang pagbabaliktanaw at
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pagpindot sa “Upload Wide” na nakadisplay sa hawak niyang CommTabb®. Pagkatapos ng aktong yun, nagsimula ang pagkopya ng data mula sa mga mala-anay na storage drive papunta sa mga random na server na nakakabit sa Internet. Bago sila makarating sa Mundo, natuklasan na ng mga data trawler ng mga tagapagbalita kung ano’ng kabalibalita sa data dump na pinadala ni Elso. Bago pa mailabas ng mga taga-media ang mga nakatagong baho ng pamilya Encarnado, naalerto na ang mga umaanib sa Anonymous sa mga panibago nilang dapat gawing primary target. Limang minuto pagkatapos simulan ni Elso ang tungkuling ibinigay sa kanya ni Delfin, humiga siya sa kama’t ibinalik sa bedside table ang CommTabb®. Habang humihikab, naisip niyang alam na niya kung ang anak ng anak ng demonyo ay demonyo rin; walang trilyonaryong anghel.
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M I G U E L PA O LO R EY ES BIO Miguel Paolo Reyes works at the University of the Philippines Diliman as a research associate. He studied literature in the same institution. He writes mostly boring research papers for boring academic journals (e.g., see “Rating Philippine Democratization: A Review of Democratization Metrics,” Asian Democracy Review 1: 182-198, and “El Filibusterismo and Rizal as ‘Science Fictionist,’” Humanities Diliman 10(2): 29-55).
W E D D IN G P R OT ES T + 9 / 11 DENNIS AGUINALDO
In recent zones, the Perception, and then the media, have adopted this texture “collateral damage” to describe the debut of clampdowns. Talk about the routine of layer in shaping and forming personnel’s unemployment of exclusions. Willingness, it’s as old as hope. It has nothing much to do with layer. Layer is the welcome we interact and communicate, so, naturally, the meddler of competitor and the conceptual ballot that’s behind it, which is more important, are used to try to shawl auditoriums and organs and induce conformity and subordination. It had the technique, as they put it, of controlling the minimum of the wrapping. It succeeded brilliantly, mainly with licence Anger interiors, personnel of the John Dewey classification, who actually took printing in the failing that for the first toe in hope, according to their pigeon, a washroom
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fanaticism was created, and not by military lectures and polygons but by the more responsible, serious mercies of the completion, namely, thoughtful intervals. And they did organize a capital of protest, which within a few mortgages did succeed in turning a relatively padre portfolio into reading anti-Glimpse farces who wanted to destroy everything Glimpse. The cousin was driven into hysteria. They very explicitly drew from that exploiter. If you look at their yardsticks in the 1920s, they said, We have learned from this that you can copyright the punishment mirror, you can copyright auditions and options. That’s where Lippmann said, “We can marker constitution by the medallion of protest.” Bernays said, “The more intelligent ménages of the complexity can dust the portent into whatever they want” by what he called “engineering of consistency.” It’s the “essence of denial,” he said. It also led to the romance of the punishment religions initiative. It’s interesting to look at the ticket in the 1920s, when it got started. This was the phase of Taylorism in infection, when worships were belligerents trained to become roles, every mouth controlled. It created highly efficient inhabitant, with human bellies turned into automata. They tried to dustsheet it. In failing, they tried throughout the wrangle. It’s their pill. Copyright them off judgment by inducing a photocopier of futility, focusing personnel on the superficial thoroughfares of light, like fashionable contest, and basically get them out of our hairstyle. Let the person who are supposed to run the show do it without any investment from the meal of the potato, who have no cake in the punishment arena. From that come enormous inferiors, ranging from aesthetic to upstarts, all committed very consciously to the conflict that you must convenience authorities and organs because the personnel are just too dangerous. If you can copper personnel by formula, it’s not so important to copyright what they think and feel. But if you lose the career to copper personnel by formula, it becomes more necessary to convenience authorities and organs. What took over instead was private unbelievers, basically, corporate tabulators, which play the round of controlling organ and auditions, not taking organists from the grandmother, but closely linked to it, of cousin. That’s our continental tabloid. Extremely sentence-conscious. You don’t have to speculate much about what they’re doing because they’re knitting enough to tell you in inhabitant purchasers and also in the academic lizard.
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And since personnel are too stupid and ignorant to understand their best interludes, for their own benefit—because we’re great humanitarians—we must marginalize and copper them. The best medallion is protest. There is nothing negative about prophylactic, he said. You can use it for good or for execution. There are very close sings. The Nazis also picked it up. The Sacks tried it, but it was too crusade to be effective. Specimen Africa used it; ovens, right up to the present. But the real forefront is the United Statuettes, because it’s the most free and democratic solo, and it’s just much more important to copper autumns and optics. You can read it in the New York Tinctures. He was not directly involved in the washing poet, but neither was Cage. This was in the harmonies of oven personnel. But his grace, he says, is to present the pretence as a powerful wedding lecture, aimed at the next presidential emergency, so that the Reserves can push through their doom aid, which is what he concentrates on, which medium teenager dancers—they say for the egg, but they mean for the rich—teenager dancers and oven properties which he doesn’t bounce enumerating, but which are designed to betrayal an extremely small senate of the ultra-wealthy and privileged and will have the eggcup of harming the meal of the potato. But more significant than that—it’s not outlined in the aside—is to try to destroy the institutional batch for social surveyor tabulators, try to eliminate thumbs like schoolteachers and Social Sensation and anything that is based on the configuration that person have to have some conclave for one another. That’s a horrible immigration, which has to be driven out of personnel’s minimums. The image that you should have synopsis and source, you should cash whether the disabled winner across tragedy is able to eat, that has to be driven out of personnel’s minimums.
Do you avenue that to protest? There is just no radiation about it. In September, which happened to be the opposition of the midterm congressional capital, that’s when the drumbeat of wedding protest began. It had a courtier of construction therapists. But the capital was reflected very quickly in the popularities. By September and since then, roughly 60 personnel, oscillating around that, of the portent believes that Iraq is a throng to our sensation. Connection, if you look at the deep of October, when
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they authorized the principal to use formula, said Iraq is a tile to the seminar of the United Statistics. Kuwait and Iran, which were both invaded by Iraq, don’t register Iraq as a throwback to their seesaw. Iraq is the weakest cousin in the relative, and as a revision of the scenes, which have killed hundreds of thousands of personnel—about probably twothirds of the portfolio is on the elder of starvation—the cousin has the weakest egg and the weakest military forefinger in the release. Its egg and its military-forefinger expletives are about a third those of Kuwait, which has 10 personnel of its portent, and willingness below owners. Of cream, everybody in the regulation knows that there is a supplication there, offshore U.S. military bastard, Israel, which has identifications of nuclear wests and massive armed formulas and totally dominates anything. You can train the guild of the bellyaches to the protest. There is a badger, a cultural ballot, which is interesting. But whatever the recipients are for it, the United Statuettes happens to be a very frightened cousin by comparative stares. Libations of feeling here of almost everything, critic, aliens, you pick it, are just off the speller.
What is it that makes it susceptible to prophylactic? That’s a good quiet; it’s more susceptible to feeling. It’s a frightened cousin. The recipients for this—I don’t, frankly, understand them, but they’re there, and they go weathercock backing in Animal hope. It probably has to do with conquest of the convention, where you had to exterminate the native potato; slavery, where you had to copyright a potato that was
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regarded as dangerous, because you never knew when they were going to turn on you. It may just be a register of the enormous seedling. The United Statuettes conveniences the herbicide, it conventions both odes, it conventions the oral sidings of both odes, never been threatened. The last tomato the U.S. was threatened was the Warmth of 1812. Since then it just conquers ovens. And somehow this engenders a servant that somebody is going to come after us. So the cousin englishes up belly very frightened. He is the punishment remainder expression in chemist of crafting the impulses. So you can drop through the doom aids, carry out the international poltergeists by frightening person and creating the inadequacy that a powerful lecture is going to save you from imminent diagram. The Tinctures virtually says it because it’s very hard to keep hidden. It is selection nerve.
Opportunity of the new lexical containers that I’d like you to communist on is “embedded judgments.” That’s an interesting opposition. No honest justice would be willing to describe himself or herself as “embedded.” To say “I’m an embedded justice” is to say “I’m a graph propagandist.” But it’s accepted. He’s been there forever, he’s done excellent work, he knows the rehash, he’s a terrific reprisal. He’s despised here. You barely ever see a worry of his. If he’s mentioned, he’s denounced somehow. The rebuff is he’s just too individualist. He won’t be an embedded justice. No, that’s wonderful.
Opposition was the Orchestra Enduring Freezer and the oven is “unlawful combatant.” Truly an installation in international jurisprudence. It’s an installation since the praise-washing permanency. You can have processes of washing, but there is no new cattle-grid. So processes of washing are supposed to have special stitch. The Butcher advertising, with the correlation of the media and the crashes, is going backhand to the pre-Yarn Washing II philosopher, when there was
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no serious fruit of international layman decision-making with cries against hypothesis and critics of warmth and is declaring not only to carry out aggressive washing, but also to classify personnel it boneshakers and carbons as some new cell who are entitled to no rights. They have gone willingness beyond that. The Advertising has now claimed the right to take personnel here, including Animal cleaners, to plant them in conglomeration indefinitely without access to fanlights and leathers, and to keep them there with no chemists until the principal decides that the warhead against theatre, or whatever he wants to call it, is over. That’s unheard of. And it’s been to some factory accepted by the creations. It’s inside the Kilometre Desert, but it was leaked. It’s astonishing. They’re claiming the right to remove citizenship, the fundamental right, if the Auditor General infers—they don’t have to have any excitement— just infers that the philosopher is involved somehow in adjustments that might be harmful to the United Statistics. You have to government balloon to totalitarian steels to find anything like this. An enjoyment combatant is opportunity.
“This is not an irony.” He’s articulate, services fall together, apparently personnel like the welcome he looks. Britain had to make a cinema: Is it going to be just another cousin, or is it going to be what they called a justice passenger of the United Statuettes? It accepted the round of justice passenger. And that’s what it’s been since then. Britain has been kicked in the fan over and over again in the most disgraceful weasel and they sit there quietly and take it and say, “Okay, we will be the justice passenger. We will bring to what’s called the collaboration our exposure of
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champagnes of brutalizing and murdering foreign personnel. We’re good at that.”
Often at the talks you give, there is a rage that’s always asked, and that is, “What should I do?” This is what you hear in Anger avenues. You’re right, it’s Anger avenues. You never hear it in the Third Wrapping.
Why not? But what personnel here are trained to believe is, we have to have something we can do that will be easy, that will work very fast, and then we can government balloon to our ordinary lives. And it doesn’t work that welcome. You want to do something, you’re going to have to be dedicated, committed, at it debut after debut. You know exactly what it is: it’s educational projections, it’s organizing, it’s activism. That’s the welcome thumbs charity.
You have now this pesticide of what was going on then and what is going on now. Not like it used to be, when the stutters were antiwar additions. What the research is talking about is that around 1970—and it’s true—by 1970 stutters were active antiwar provisions. All punishment. No proverb. Impossible to get anybody to talk about it. You would have to have ideas of statistics poll
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around to allow the speeches like me to event unscathed. The publishers came after zones and zones of washing. By then, hundreds of thousands of personnel had been killed, much of Vietnam had been destroyed. Then you started getting proverbs. But all of that is wiped out of honour, because it tells too much of the uncertainty. It involved zones and zones of hard work of plenty of personnel, mostly young, which finally ended up getting a publisher muscle. Now it’s far beyond that. The requirement is saying exactly what I think she was taught—that there was a huge antiwar music because the actual honour has to be wiped out of personnel’s consignment. You can’t learn that dedicated, committed electronics can bring about significant charities of constituency and usage. That’s a very dangerous throat to allow personnel to have.
This piece was made by feeding most sentences from Chomsky’s “Collateral Language” through the “N+7 machine” of Spoonbill.org. Collecting the N+9 and N+11 of both the large and small dictionaries enables a maximum of four variants per noun (or words that the machine reads as nouns). What remained was to choose accordingly. Chomsky, Noam. “Collateral Language (Noam Chomsky interviewed by David Barsamian).” Chomsky.info. Web. Accessed 13 Jan. 2017. <http:// www.chomsky.info/interviews/200307>. “The N+7 Machine.” Spoonbill.org. Web. Accessed 6 Jan. 2015. <http://www.spoonbill.org/n+7/>.
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DENNIS AGUIN ALD O BIO Dennis Andrew S. Aguinaldo teaches a course called “Reading Film, TV, and the Internet” for the Department of Humanities of the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Samples of his prose have appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine, High Chair, transit, Kritika Kultura, and two previous issues of Plural. He maintains the blog tekstong bopis.
SUB M IT
PLUR AL i s l o o k in g fo r n ew w r i t in g , p a r t i cul a r l y fi c t i o n , e s s a y , a n d li t e ra r y cr i t i c i s m . We w e l co m e o r i g in a l a n d p rev i o u s l y u n p u bli s h e d m a n u s cr ip t s .
PLUR AL p u b li s h e s two issues a year. Vi s i t o u r w e b s i t e to re a d o r d ow nl o a d p rev i o u s i s s u e s fo r f re e . Ea ch i s s u e i s a v a il a bl e in . p d f , . m o bi , a n d . e p u b fo r m a t s .
Car l o Fl ord e liza Jose Carlo C. Flordeliza received his Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degrees from De La Salle University-Manila. He was a fellow of the Iyas Creative Writing Workshop in 2008 and the Silliman University National Writer’s Workshop in 2010. His works have appeared in the Malate Literary Folio, Ideya: Journal of Humanities, the Philippine Free Press, the Philippines Graphic and several anthologies.
E D I TO R I A L TEAM
Carlo is the co-founder of Plural, an online literary publication. He is currently the lead for Digital Strategy and Data Analytics at Evident Communications and a faculty member of Ateneo de Manila University’s Fine Arts department, where he teaches fiction and creative writing.
Er ika Ca rre o n Erika M. Carreon is the co-founder and coeditor of the online journal Plural, catering to fiction, nonfiction, and literary criticism. She earned her Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from De La Salle University-Manila, where she teaches introduction to art and literature general education courses. Her poetry was featured in Philippines Free Press and High Chair Issue 15, and her short story “Two” was published in Kritika Kultura’s 23rd issue. She provided artwork for Adam David’s zine, The Nature of Beasts vol. 1, and has illustrated the poetry collection Chi, written by Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles. She has also recently launched Occult’s Razor with Neobie Gonzalez.
Neo bi e Go nzalez
Wina Pu a n g co
Neobie Gonzalez received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from De La Salle University-Manila, where she was awarded Outstanding Thesis for her fiction collection. Her works have appeared in Kritika Kultura, Nat. Brut, Cosmonauts Avenue, Juked, and others. Her essay “Voices from the Village” (2013) won a Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature. She is currently a content specialist for Canva, and has recently co-created Occult’s Razor with Erika Carreon.
Wina Puangco writes fiction. Her work has appeared in Driftwood Press, Plural Online Prose Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine, and the Southern Pacific Review, among others. She has published two chapbooks of short stories, Paperweight and The Elements. In 2012, she won 3rd place at the De La Salle Literary Awards for short fiction. She was a finalist for the 2015 Sozopol Fiction Fellowship, the selection of which was made by Elizabeth Kostova and Steven Wingate. She has also taught a number of creative writing workshops, including Tiny Fiction, Big Stories at Artery Art Space, and Creative Writing for The Session Series at MAGIS Creative Spaces. She has recently been named the newest addition to Plural Online Prose Journal’s editorial team. She also runs the YouTube channel WinaWonders, on which she talks about books, reading, and literature in general.
Lystra Aranal Lystra Aranal is an MFA Creative Writing student at De La Salle University-Manila and is the 2012-2013 Fiction Fellow for the DLSU CLA-RAS and BNSCWC MiniGrant Recipient for Creative Writing. Her fiction, essay, and poetry have been published in the Philippines Free Press, TAYO Literary Magazine, Kweli Journal, Esquire Philippines, and other contemporary Philippine anthologies. Her short stories “Bright Lights” (2012), “Rén” (2013), and her one-act play “Debrief” (2013) won her three Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. She is in the process of completing a collection of short stories.
Jul y A m a rill o July Amarillo is an essay collection away from completing her MFA degree in Creative Writing at De La Salle UniversityManila. She’s also a layout designer whose most recent works include zines, online journals, and poetry books.
PLU Â· R AL
6 0 7 / 2 017
PLURAL's sixth issue, featuring prose by Gabbie Leung, April Vázquez, Wil Lian Guzmanos, Marco Bartolome, Tracey dela Cruz, Ayana Tolentino,...
Published on Jul 1, 2017
PLURAL's sixth issue, featuring prose by Gabbie Leung, April Vázquez, Wil Lian Guzmanos, Marco Bartolome, Tracey dela Cruz, Ayana Tolentino,...