We drive around town in the big gray car and it starts to rain, Hendri says, That’s why we write about cities, he says, eyes on the road. He never wrote about Porto. Or New York. Or Bali, Manila, for that matter, and you don’t think he’ll get to start anywhere but here. We sit in his kitchen and offers me tea, (that’s chinese of you and racist of me) offers to give me a book as a pasalubong from an 8-month trip. Here’s a book about a trash man, an odd job and lots crosshatches and all the dead dreams about writing and drawing. Thanks, Hend, appreciate it and you read it on the bus ride home after Indian.
Sandra had her house on Mango Street, Junot has New Jersey, a mythology. An education with Carver and the whys of short stories- (you figured you were more or less the same). You can’t quit your job, can’t stop doing design work for clients, you trudge through the drudgery (but it aint that bad), since you get beer on the weekends and gin and tonic if you felt fancier in a crisp white shirt.
On sunday nights you read the New Yorker till you run out of free articles (5 per month) that’s the fucking quota, it’s hilarious. You skip reading Amundsen an all the cold-ass stories that start with a train or a station or a below 20 temperature, since the closest you got was the fridge freezer. Or that one particular January where everyone back in college put on their boots, ‘The Fall’ by Rhye, and a girl with the same name as the immediate ex.
You guess it’s a lot warmer here, more passion than the Old World and less explosive than the New World. What are we? What do we sound? You’ve been asking that yourself for years but you’ve found that there are only few who sit on the eggs these cities on the east lay. We’re not too worried about it since it’s always going to be sunny tomorrow. Or maybe the next. Or after the monsoons pass.
Came home to a cockroach on the wall beneath the stairs today. The fat, flying kind. You know one from the way it’s trying to adjust its TV reception on its head.
On the way home mama sent you a message, ‘There’s chicke in the fridge, your favorite’. You thought she was talking about a check or a bunch of money you thought you lost the day before, slip of the eye, (typos) but (you think) you spent it on cabs here and there and a massage. You politely asked the lady if they offer extra service. They didn’t. Massage wasn’t that good.
Anyhow the chicken was cold and wasn’t your favorite. Trying to make good with this dinner at 10 in the evening is ok, and there’s been a lot of these kinds of days lately- you told Wyn at the office earlier today – “Thursday again?” A week just flies. Then it’s the weekend, get drunk, try to have fun, and have peace on Sunday. The sound of it all speeding by is the plastic flutter of roach wings at 10 in the evening.
I wonder if it really goes like this, life. I wonder if I’m doing it right sometimes. If there’s anything, my manager looks like she’s got it figured out. Seems to be in tip-top shape physically and emotionally and has all her markers on one side of the table and her laptop is clean. She reminds me to do things (which is an indicator of a healthy, working mind) that kind of irks me a bit since I like to be left alone, but in your bathroom breaks you tell yourself “This is building your character”. I wonder what she does on the weekends, or if she really is happy, like the other officemates who are older and have families and all. I worry too much for a 22-year-old, some older people say, maybe you should get some sleep. I worry about doing it right. But maybe it isn’t about doing it right, maybe it’s just living it out and being human and all. I was never one for perfect marks and I don’t mind a bit of rough and tumble, so there goes my straight lines.
It’s like they’ve seen a ghost when you arrive home, papa froze for a sec. The dinner table is cleared of flipped plates on top of plates, no kaldero for rice or bowls of sud-an. Uncle claps as he walks up from the basement room. Early today! Are you sick? You laugh, but don’t look at their eyes- it’s a bad habit – especially if they know you smoke pot. It could be worse, yes, but you still feel guilty about it that you keep your head down in the living room. Walking up to the room and dropping the backpack never felt like home (lately) until today.
What brings you here? Jorge asks, eyes on the paper and etching out black-ink sketches, shapley, on a faint ghost of a floor plan. I don’t know, I just had it in me, you said, maybe it’s all the jeepneys I see everyday. I’m not sure what Mobil1 means, or Pennzoil too- but those were the words I drew on the newsprint, first thing when I get home. You’re clicking through the folders and waiting for them to load, the previews on the icons. I was about 7 when I saw a rendering of a building we had designed. It was in monochrome ink, black and white. Like the pictures you’re drawing now- you said to yourself in the head.
The principal architect comes in the room and the both of you shut up.
Smokes six-packs and spitting gum to cheat quick kisses because he has to walk her just outside the gate, after the first date by the sea, revealing secrets of circumcision and why she said yesses and why he stayed, after apparent losses. They hung along the rocks like how the past few ones were as rocky, but he found that having her around felt right and she was somehow a lighthouse to the stormy waves of his everydays.
And he loved her more than any torrid kiss can afford.
Years later, if I lost you, I’d write you off as sublime; not beautiful:
She was an idea too real to accept in skin and flesh,
Too real, you held and had her,
and she knew-
That she had the power to break you.