July 16, 2007

the art of after

it’s unusually quiet where i’m seated now.

not that having ate chona and ate maricar around usually adds to the decibels, really. most of the time, they’re pretty quiet too.

but i guess, there’s just a certain “noise” that a warm body adds to a cold office this small. could it be the breathing, or the shuffling of feet, or the rustling of papers between fingers, hands? the occasional laugh, the creak of seats rolling on floors, the sound of skin being slapped or hit, the shriek, the groan after?

perhaps.

there’s just something. there’s the way this office around us has become unusually larger, like it’s expanding underneath our soles, the aircon extra cold. i removed my corkboard last friday, as if to emphasize, when i look a little to the right there’s nobody there.

of course, this is heartbreaking, but what else is there to do? i remember that night they told me they were leaving - the saturday group’s going to be dissolved, was how they phrased it. i had said, “i don’t think i get what you’re trying to tell me.”

i did - deep inside, i did, but then, the first defense is denial. and then, “how can you do this to me? this is so much for a single heart to handle.”

but then, you know how it goes - you do it day by day, the accepting.

we had ate maricar’s despedida two weeks before she left, in time for her birthday. we called it a holiday, we partied all day and stopped taking calls. i think the editors got the point.

she stopped showing up for work on a wednesday. on her last night she handed me a collage of photos she took of me from a group photo shoot session we had on lawrence’s last day. (that day, too, we stopped taking calls and camwhored till we were sore.) and then a letter. we barely really talked, save for the times we needed to about work, and sometimes, about things we both liked and had in common (among other things) but then, save for those small select moments i felt i was worth her honesty, that was about it, and then there was a letter. it nearly killed me, actually, and the postcard. i think i have that post card somewhere inside my closet this very moment.

on her first day gone, i barely recognized it because i was drugged and sick and maybe that was my body telling me of an absence. or maybe it was a warning that the tiny veins that made up my heart would not be able to wrap themselves around the concept that is her gone and then. and then.

and then last friday, we did something hilarious, and there were photographs. i consented to be confined in a torture implement called a corset and dressed up as a debutante, fully dolled up like fuck. it was embarrassing, but then it was worth it.

it was worth every single thing because Friday was ate chona’s last day. it was happy and food was great and the camwhorage and the crowd was awesome. honestly, had it not been *that* busy, i would’ve spent a large percentage of that day absolutely deflated. ate chona and i were close in ways i could not really pinpoint, exactly. it’s just…. there, like most things. she was a mother, an older sister, someone who knew better. you don’t come across people like that everyday.

and now singapore is officially breaking my heart.

so the office is quiet now, save for cy’s hirits or the boss' random story or the keyboard keys. (and now, josh groban on cy’s phone.)

now there’s no one on the other side.

sabi ni boss kanina, more like by way of thinking aloud: “chona’s not really coming back, is she.” and i answered with my best, strongest, “ganyan talaga ma’am.” sagot ni ma’am, “buti pa si kate, di masyadong…” then trails off as if to suggest the plethora of terms that could fill the blank — affected? sad?

believe me i think i’m a little more wrecked inside than i initially estimated i would be the morning after.

*

postcript. the immediate post, initially locked.

Of parting
@ May 23, 2007

This is what I would remember, after hearing you tell me this was all coming to an end:

An afternoon in September, I had sent word that I was drowning at 4 in the afternoon, cigarette and beer in hand, all cried out.

“Come on over, no use moping alone.”

It was my day off but it wasn’t the best day to be alone, and so I came, arriving in my almost empty shell-self. You handed me a beer and said “Drink,” and technically you were still working but I drank anyway.

Drunk even before 9 p.m., you proceeded to sober me up with hard coffee, the cool night breeze and the quiet of a park I know I’d never be able to visit for months after this ends.

I’d remember how I had looked up and stared at the blankness of the night sky, drawing my tears back in. And how you’d said, “You really love her, don’t you?”

Looking back, that night meant more to me than I’d ever let you in on.

*

This is what I would remember, after hearing you tell me this was all coming to an end:

There are days we don’t even say a word to each other, much less catch each other’s eye, all those eight hours – but at the end of the night, the message is: “Careful on your way home now.”

I would remember how you’d said, the day after you broke my heart, casually as if you’d be coming home in three weeks anyway: “I’m leaving you my DVDs; if you already have some of them, feel free to give them away.”

In so many ways, you were the start of my community, my signal that it’s okay to be who I was, to like what I do, who I want to, and though I may not look it, you are, in so many ways, who I soon want to turn out to be: strong-willed and smart and, as shady as you were, ultimately sexy.

I’d wanted to say then, ‘Stop acting like this is a real goodbye,’ but for some reason it never made it out, so I just said, “Where’s that smiley, the one that bawls uncontrollably?”

And how you had laughed (of course you would, someday I hope I could grin and bear things like this too), “Soon you won’t even notice we’re not here.”

‘Soon’ feels like such a long wait.

*

This is what I would remember, after hearing you tell me this was all coming to an end:

The pounding music against my ear, that grin you had on, that first time you took me with you to Malate.

“I’m sorry I’m such a dork,” I’d said.

To which you just replied, “That makes two of us.”

I’d remember the way I thought that wasn’t at all supposed to make me feel better – but how it really did.

I’d remember your friends who, for a while, were also mine. Perhaps I’d stay away from the bar you’d introduced me to for the meantime.

*

This is what I would remember, after hearing you tell me this was all coming to an end:

You painstakingly reminding me what inflation really meant.

“I really feel like hitting you now,” you had said in jest, and I had laughed despite my fear of your hands, determined and *functional*.

“Please don’t.” And you didn’t.

Some moments feel like I was too much of an imbecile to be occupying a fraction of your time; other moments, like I was worth certain bursts of honesty.

I’d remember how there had been a time I’d looked at you differently through the small space between us, and how now I am thankful it didn’t turn into anything else.

(or am I, or didn’t it, really)

*

This is what I would remember, at parting:

The way you’ll look at the turnover, at the last day, at the edge.

And how I will not cry. Of course, neither of us would.