February 23, 2015

Caveman Revisited

By tomorrow or a day after, as I am estimating in my mind, I might be packing my bags and bundle some important things as I would be heading for some place else, somewhere that I have been to before but somewhere not many have seen yet or have been to previously.
I have decided to leave the city for good. This plan had been in my mind for sometime now and I must assure you that this very drastic move on my part is far from being hasty—-in fact it is to be done with very deep contemplation and scheming that I have etched in my mind for so long now.
I have learned before how to drive nails effectively into wood and I reckon now that I have learned such task fairly well. My grandfather used to do some carpentry work and I used to have observed him so closely doing woodwork when I was so little, putting in mind every phase of the activity, from handling so tightly the wood to be nailed and towards the part when finally the nail is about to be hammered with reasonable precision, or else the hands would be greatly harmed.
Some of my uncles are pretty good too at this kind of work that I would have no doubt that I could do it by myself, hammering nails into wood. By that, I can safely assume that I’d be able to put up a small wooden shelter all by my lonesome when I get to the place that I am planning to go as of this moment. I’ll have thatches as roofs because many have opined how it would help ensure a cooler indoor environement, especially in rural environment. Having thatches as roofs is also one situation that I have been in before, right about the time while I was so young and our family could not then afford a better place to live in, as my father then was just earning his take as a humble mailman. My mother used to tell us stories how my father—-who is a native of the far away Province of Tawi-Tawi—-couldn’t articulate so effectively the local chavacano (a broken Spanish) dialect being spoken here that in some days, while he was still learning the tricks of delivering somebody else’s letter to somebody else’s house, my mother would come along with him for she was far more proficient in the tongue spoken here and therefore could communicate more easily with the mail recipients and also was more familiar with streets names and baranggay locations here.
Now let us go back to this plan I am presently having in my mind—-no reminiscing for now. I really do have a particular place in my mind, one that is far from the honky-tonky noise of the city streets. It is a place near or at the heel of a very prominent mountain known here as the Pulongbato, a stony mountain whose fa├žade is so majestic that it could be seen from any point in the city, from east coast and west coast, from south side and perhaps in some part of north side. It is so strong and mighty like an honorable beast that have decided to sleep for a thousand years and still sleeping as I write now.
Below this mountain is a gushing river and a forest so lush that when years ago I was trekking this area with a number of friends from college, I have almost stepped over a striped multi-colored snake, climbed two small waterfalls, fell from a low cave wall and fell into cool river water, trotted into knee deep gushing water to reach a giant stone in the middle of the river and smoked to my heart’s delight as twilight had enveloped the forest, while the trees slept humming like old warriors, and had even eaten eels we caught from a calmer area of the river. Nature is so varied there, and so abundant too.

I have reckoned that while I am there, I would ensconce myself in the warm embrace of Nature as Nature would show me a beauty that I have seen before but still looking for since then. I won’t go thirst there for the river that runs through it is so crystalline like diamonds in our hands. And I won’t go hungry either for even sweet bananas—-as I remember all too well now—-grow so wildly and I bet the rich river-ways contains fishes that becomes so scrumptious as roasted on a brimming campfire, and the smell coming from it would just be gorgeously sublime. Out there, there’d be no time to keep up and catch up with. Industrial fumes are of no issue and the crazy sound of rushing vehicles won’t bother me no more. Could this plan of mind work? What do you think?
I had wondered deeply if ever my family would follow me there even if things wouldn't be as easy in a sense that there’d be no school there, no fast food to drive-by and order hamburgers and fried chickens. There’d be no education to attain there, and then no occupation to profess. And there’d be no roads to where we could drive our humble car. So perhaps, that small car would have to stay undriven for so long, or for eternity most possibly.
Could I say to them that we could have our own education there? That we can be teachers and students by ourselves? Nature is by itself an education and I can sense that it’d be an education that is similarly worthwhile, if not more propound. But I don’t think I could explain this to them efficiently and sell them the wisdom hidden beneath this idea.
And the air, yes the air there is so fresh that once I had thought of putting them in a bottle and sell it as pure purified mountain air, just like what they do to water nowadays. I have read once or had seen in a television show how in some part of Japan, air or the purified version of it had been contained by some enterprising souls there and had raked in some money for it.
The noise there could be so minimal that often, the chirping of birds and the momentary shrieks of monkeys coming from tall shrubberies far beyond becomes calming to the senses and it is certainly the best anti-dote for stress and worry that most urban dwellers suffer and that for sure, it is a situation so ideal for those who long for peace of mind so desperately and to those who seek ultimate freedom from anxiety. Long walks in the mountain side would be a luxuriant activity and sipping hot coffee beside a cool rushing water, while the sun is just about to set into the horizon, is not a far-off idea anymore.
Ooops, I just heard City Hall’s siren wailing and it’s about time for me to go and bring my third son Yuri to school. And by the way, I was just daydreaming a while ago and none of the plans narrated here is to be carried out any time soon.(A story from 2007)

February 03, 2015

The Alligator River

I didn’t know what the dream meant exactly and what it tried to convey to me. My dream last night was as surreal as the paintings of Picasso, full of abstract images, those surprising angles and unexpected curves. Wait, I may be speaking to soon. I think there’s a clear story in that dream of mine and I can remember too well how the story in that dream went. I may be able to relate to you that story, if only you’d be patient enough with my narration, which at times struggles for the right words to use.*

The Alligator River
At the beginning of that dream, I was walking through a dark alley, along an unpaved road and muddied ground where banana trees and huge plants lined the passageway. I knew immediately that I was in some faraway barrio when I could not see any electric post that usually decorates every urban street. At the start of the dream, the afternoon was becoming darker and darker but it wasn’t so dark yet like nighttime but a shade of darkness whenever twilight is fast nearing its end. I went on walking as my surrounding became darker and darker and all I could hear was deep silence and the crooning of crickets in the foreground; the gentle slap of the wind against the bushes along the road reminded me that the weather was a little hazy then. I was completely alone and the dimness had stirred some fear in me that I started to take hurried steps, as my feet felt the stony hard ground below. After some brisk walking, I finally reached a wooden house with bamboo fences and for some reason; I knocked on the sliding wooden door. The house was of fair size and a little bit aged, the sort of dwelling place many wealthier farmers have in the barrios.

A middle-aged man wearing no shirt on him came to meet me and opened the door. He threw a squinting look at me as if he knew that I was arriving at exactly the time that he went to open the door and that he had indeed expected me to come. “She is not here,” the man said while he held a plow in one of his soiled hands. Apparently in the dream, I was looking for a certain woman.

“It couldn’t be,” I told the man. “She should be here”.

“You are wasting your time,” the man retorted although his tone was not at all dire but a little welcoming, as if to console me for not meeting the person I was looking for. “Better yet, you just have to buy this,” the man continued as he handed me a small plastic package that contains some matter that I have no knowledge of. I examined the object that the man tried to sell to me and I said I am not interested in them and I do not have any use for it. The man said “Come on. Buy it and I’ll tell you where she is,” the man insisted as I could see his face frown from the initial setback of his sales pitch. That seems to be a good deal I had reckoned then because I had the feeling that I would even give away my house just to see that woman. Before I could ask how much the plastic object was, I saw the woman appeared through the main door of the wooden house and I was jolted suddenly. Perhaps she had noticed me so she hurried towards the back of the house by passing through a narrow passageway. All I saw was her back and her long black hair bobbing up and down as I tried to run after her. When I reached the back of the house, she wasn’t there anymore. The house was actually standing beside a flowing river with water that was brown as mud.

“She just took the boat with the boy,” the man with the plow informed me and I was a little infuriated at him for not telling me the truth of her being in the house all along.

“Who was the boy that went with him?” I asked.

“He is one among many of her companions,” the man said. “She needs more companion nowadays. At times she had three and at some other time she had seven. Nobody knows exactly but there is no moment that she is alone.”

“How can I reach her?” I asked the man again almost shouting at him.

“You have to ride the boat of course,” the man said in a hushed tone, like he was a murderer running away from his captors.

“How much for a boat,” I pleaded to him and I could feel that time was running out on me and that she might go farther and farther away that I wouldn’t be able to reach her.

“You do not have to pay,” said the man with a crazy grin now pasted on her oily dark skin. He had narrow eyes like he was a Chinese man but his skin is dark as the soil we see on the ground. He continued, “I’ll give you the boat if you agree to swim in that river”. And he pointed towards the area of the river where the water was deeper and the flow of water was continuously moving in a circling motion. As I watch the water more closely, I noticed that alligators started to appear one by one until they dotted the river to the hilt.

Since I was so desperate to find that woman, I agreed to dive into the river and the man brought out a wooden raft from where I would be jumping off. I took a very long pole and started to paddle the raft into the middle of the river. When I reached the point where the water was at its deepest, I closed my eyes and jumped into the river while some people appeared out of nowhere in order to watch me swim in that alligator-infested waters. To my amazement, none of the alligators harmed me as they proceeded to swim away from me and I could even notice some that were biting and wrestling at each other instead of going after me. I felt the coolness of the waters and as I rose from it, I felt so refreshed and invigorated like a newborn child. The middle-aged man offered me a white towel and I hurriedly dried myself. The man said, “The alligators have accepted you as a kindred soul and so therefore, you will gain now the boat that will bring you to her.” I was a little ecstatic but as I tried to board the boat, my wife suddenly appeared in that dream and called upon me. She said to me: “Do not go after that woman! There might be danger. Don’t go now! The waters have dangers!” My wife repeatedly shouted at me and I called back at her and told her in a loud voice as the boat was slowly heading towards the deeper area of the waters, that: “It is in the dream! I have to go after her! The dream said I must find her! I’ll come back soon!”

The wooden boat that the man gave me to ride upon was so large that there were wide spaces between the navigator and me. It was a motorized banca and as we threaded through the snaking contours of the river, I could hear almost nothing except the sound of the motor and the heavy silence of the forest that lies at both side of the flowing river. As we floated along, I could feel the warm breeze hitting my face as I briefly reexamined the journey I had taken just in order to find her. Was it worth it? Is she worth fighting and struggling for? What form of malady that had ensconced upon me that she had taken a clamping hold on my person; a hold so tight that I could not flee from it. Down below, I could feel the river breathing and heaving like a giant monster, carrying me through it while my mind was heavy with worry and anxiety.

The motor of the banca hummed steadily and the humming sound had calmed my early worries and I was almost lulled to sleep. Farther down the river, I soon notice from afar a cornucopia of wooden houses and the navigator said that it was the place where we were heading for. We reached the place and many had come to meet us as if once more, they knew that was I coming at exactly the right time. There was a commotion when finally I asked in a loud voice “Where is she?!!!”. Nobody answered my query but everyone was pointing at each other. I started to plead to them one by one until someone presented to me a woman whom at first I thought was the woman that I was looking for. I examined her features slowly, from head to foot, touching her hair and viewing in close range the color of the irises of her eyes. I said to them, “This is not her. This woman is an impostor! I want to see her!” Someone insisted that the woman they presented to me was really the woman I have come looking for. I stomped my feet and there was even more commotions and everyone seemed to be afraid of me and scurried towards different direction.

Finally, a group of men appeared through a wide entrance and one of them was holding a woman by the arms. My heart stopped a bit and a sudden gush of excitement came into me. I tried to meet the group of men headway but they started to turn away. “I wanted to see her,” I said to them as they tried to get away from me. I insisted in following them and they stopped suddenly, including the woman that they were clutching by the arms. As she turned around, I finally saw her face, a face that I could not forget even for a second and never had forgotten even for a single moment in the past. I had known her so well, even the contours of her face, all the angles right to the minutest of details, the very cleavage of her chin and the very shade of her teeth; even though the last time I saw her was three years ago. Tears flowed from my eyes, tears that came perhaps from so much joy upon seeing her for the first time after a very long while. But later I am to be tearful for the cause of sadness and desperation.

I said to the woman: “You have to go with me. Come with me now.”

The woman shook her head and started crying also and told me that she could not come with me. “You have to come back later,” the woman kept on telling me. “Go away now” she continued. “I could not go with you right now”.

I said “You have to come with me now for there may be no next time for us”. I pleaded to her again and again until the dream was starting to fade away. I was so aware that the dream was fading away as I was being slowly siphoned off into some form of darkness. The dream went away while I was shouting at her, pleading again and again for her to come with me. “Come with me!” were my last words to her as I saw her gradually fading away from me and then I saw her face for the very last time in that dream; ever beautiful and gentle, like a calm sea under a bleeding moon, the way that I had always remembered her.

I woke up suddenly and then soon I realized that I just had a vivid dream once more. I felt some immediate sadness upon waking up for the dream had some kind of an unfinished and gloomy ending. I wanted the dream to continue and so I tried my best to gain sleep but sleep would not come anymore. I went down and prepared myself some black tea and sipped the hot condiment beside the window and I saw the stars in the night and wondered if they are so far away that no man could ever reach them, and wondered out loud if ever I’d be seeing her again.

(A post from 2006)