In my senior years in law school, an old friend, Aziz Mustafa called me up and inquired if I needed a job. The offer was like that of Marlon Brando's, it was hard to refuse. Working for a foreign-funded institution is like a baptism of fire, threading another dimension of existence. My hands were so full I choke on paperwork virtually. There is this braggadocio in me that always get me into the prying pan. I never learned it seemed. Serving the second half of my presidency, tackling the end years of my law school, and eating up paper at work—all of them almost at the same time—stretched me up like a rubber band in order to clip bundles and bundles of papers. I was always up and about, always on the run it seemed. If I find myself sitting in a corner at that time, that would have been a minor miracle. Even at home, I would take work and finish it there because there was a time that regular office time could not accommodate them. There was madness in activity, so much activity it seemed that you could imagine me like a crazy wheel rolling and rolling until nothing is there to roll for. My nerves were full but it did not snapped because somehow, I felt at ease with furious activity that inactivity was then a hellish idea. I bet when the juices gets going, work becomes more and more palatable.
The money was so good that I stayed in my job even if I had consequently has to take the bar examinations to gain my lawyering license. And besides I was married already then.
I did not last in my work. There was a parting that was both hurtful but at the same time relieving. For almost two years, office work had gotten so flat that with more personnel coming, the load got lighter and lighter until there is nothing more to do except watch for the clock's small hand to approach five o' clock. And the days grew longer that we always joke around that somehow there must be some fantasy company we could work in that every day was salary day. At the beginning of the day, we wished it were already twilight. At the beginning of the month, we would wish it were nearly halfway through. At least not all of us felt that way. Or perhaps some were just not as honest about being disturbed of the almost fatal routinariness of day jobs, especially government jobs.
But work is work and a job is a job. Without it, there is no sense that you find yourself suddenly idle and not earning the usual things. Besides, who could go against that unwritten rule where it seems that humans were created merely for the purpose of growing up until you could work and then die? There were times when I was too uncomfortably busy that I used to daydream how my world could be so wonderful if I could spend every day of my life just sitting around in front of my computer and make that proverbial "great Filipino novel" and watch over my kids when I am not scribbling anything. Alas, writing a novel was so much easier to imagine than do. It was like putting up a rocket ship or assembling a nuclear bomb. I tried to make some upstarts but nothing came about not until years later.
Delusion I had hoped then could propel me towards success in literature. I had believed that my intellect was adequate to harbor such ambition, sadly, intellect and grammatical skills were not enough to get me going towards endless and lonely nights by myself, writing and imagining, the sort fiction demands. I had fully realized then that there is more to me that writing demands, something ethereal and incorporeal, one that could not be seen; some call it inspiration and it was inspiration that I lacked then.
I tried giving life to an otherworldly tale of two-lovers separated by time. I called it "Black Sea, Dark Night", the way old writers thought of fancy but concise titles like "My Brother, The Executioner" of F.Sionil Jose or "The Joy Luck Club" of Amy Tan. More of it, it was a title that came to my mind whenever I pondered upon the darkness of depression. I had learned so well that writing from the heart is the sole highway towards affective writing and I could not be genuine I would not find no parallel in my life to the things I write. It was about Peter, an adolescent struggling with the same depression problems I had who suddenly saw a creature of the night, a vision of an old man with a decrepit hat. The spirit would talk to him and proposed that he do some favor for a task only he could do. Peter would not know how to tackle this quandary at first for no one would believe his tales, when almost everyone he knows he had this mental or behavioral problems; until someone did and the story goes on and on until the final journey into the spirit world and back and the final task accomplished to appeased the spirit. What task was this did not materialized in the story, I could not even invent one until now that it is such of essence that a spirit would go to the extent of contacting a half-deranged boy. Although the tale would take me into the ancient warrior days of Zamboanga, towards the colonial days of Spanish Conquistadors, it stopped when the tribal chieftain was about to declare war upon the much stronger Spanish soldiers and I left it at that. Until now, Black Sea, dark Night is still yearning for its ending but you would learn later on why It remains eating dust somewhere in one of my attaché cases.
Stephen King might have invaded the crevices of my veins that I had this inclination to write about the things that feeds our fears. There is something delicious in testing the limits of our nerves. The more we fear the more we scurry for the mysterious. Like eating pepper; the more it stings the more we crave.
I remember that before there was "Black Sea, Dark Night", I had this short story, again with a fancy title. I called it "The Southbound City of Iceberg", a tale of an imaginary beast lounging beneath the city under ways, in sewages and giant canals, pulling down each victim one after another, one by one that as the disappearances became more frequent, the "beast" would go on a very lengthy guilt-trip. What if men finally knew about his existence? And although it was merely a beast it had the proper intelligence to regulate its mayhem. It ended just that way, although every possible circumstances was scrutinized by the "beast", to the worse where mankind would pour all its resources, the fighter planes of America, the satellites of China, the tanks of Great Britain—all at once coming to the city of Zamboanga hunting for its own mischief and blasting it towards perdition, turning into pulp or pulverized like crisp biscuits.
The "beast" would stare upward the sky and got disturbed by the moving starlights that it did not suspected at once to be man-made, until later on it surmised that men had invented eyes in the sky in order to hunt it. It had surmised that before, man had no such equipments to search for misfits of nature now it has meteor-like gadgets to roam the sky as searchlights. The "beast" was an ancient creature that slumbered for thousand of years, only to wake up to a cacophony of downtown lights, rock music, honking jitneys and television. The world was never the same it had determined. Even at night, the streets were brimming with clarity making its haunting all the more difficult.
And yet, despite this difficulty, the thirst for flesh and blood was overpowering that day in and day out, it would peer from the dark crevices of the street, in some isolated nook or corner of the city, finding out if it could be lucky at any time, that someone had drunken too much or got too much honked by drugs in the head, to walk alone by some abandoned alleyways, and then go for the kill. It could get luckier it thought, if some lovers who lacked patience would abuse the darkness of bushes and wayward trees, to do the unthinkable, where the beast could go for a double kill.
As days went by, newspapers started to report these mysterious disappearances and so the "beast" finally went into the guilt tripping I mentioned earlier. Men are now more sensitive to this untoward incidence, that every crime has its record and every sin has its public board. The "beast" hated the modern man all the more. It had delusions of murdering the city inhabitants all at once, wrecking havoc like a crazy evil god, flooding the ground with flood. Luckily for the city, it inhibited itself. Thanks to the things it sees on television. Those weapons of the modern man were so different than those it had seen before—those spears and daggers—even those catapults were no matches.
It ended when it decided not to devour as much in order that it would not be indicted by man that in my fantastic mind, the "beast" is still out there, pulling down its victim one by one.
The "beast" story was somewhat lyrical and honest. It was then the first and only tale that I had completed. It was flowing since it was all about my struggle against "Satan", that beast of a menace that keeps pulling down young men and women, leading them into some dirty and stinking abysses of life, and never to get out again.
I simply lost my manuscript that was why it did not go all the way to the papers.
But material things are not to be fret up, especially when these things could be created. If I lost it, I thought I would just make another one then. A better one, it must be.
This better one did not materialize and the tale of that doggone "beast" is like a lost child whom I wish to be reunited in the future.
Oh, I lied about completing just a single work. Remember the dream of the pond? The moment I woke up from that dream, I could not stop the itch to write and document it for I had no such other dream that could be so vivid at that. I remember so well the caking red clay to where the dancing old woman floated above. Even the color of the dewy water was stained like rust in my mind that every time I think about it, I could feel the sharp and crispy coolness it brought my skin. I documented every moment, every emotion and every color of the environment. The sky was red, bleeding towards horizon and the air was heavy and so still, and that my breathing was the only sound I heard most of the time. In fact there was that conversations with the other two men present that I forgot to mention. As I came out from the water, I remember being a little aghast at the interferences of the men who looked like me.
"Why don't you leave me alone", I almost shouted at their faces.
"You could not go deeper. You would not be able to come out", one of them said, with a worried look in his face that tells some grave worry or concern.
I looked at them and hissed and I almost sneered. What could have gotten in their heads that they burden themselves the issue of my well-being? These were very particular dialogues and emotions that I have captured in writing "The Pond" then. I remember how surreal was the world that I painted in that story, responsibly truthful to the happenstance in my dream of the pond.
Then perhaps by now we recognize that my dreams, my memories and my fiction had a heavy thread on them; all are surreal. Perhaps, we could add my life to that.