Friday, 4 April 2014

Little Red

For Mycah, because I miss you.
Once upon a November morning, there was a little girl who walked through the woods.

She had on her shiny black shoes that Mother polished. She had a black ribbon on her hair that Mother tied with two square knots, one to bind and one to lock. She had a clean white apron that Mother bleached in the sun yesterday.

Pretty little girl she was, with dark round curls and a sweet, sweet smile. She walked through the woods, and she shivered in the dress and cloak that Mother sewed that summer: to warm her precious daughter's back, keep the chill from her bones when winter came. She carried a basket that Mother wove, to bear all the sweet things her daughter could ever want.

Little feet walked over dried leaves, over cold streams, one little foot in front of the other, one little foot in front of the other in a pace that was like the tick tock of the grandfather clock that Mother loved. And then stopped. Stop.

Stopped, the little girl did and she knelt on the ground that she found to be soft. Soft warm earth while the ground should be frozen. She took out a silver spoon from her apron's pocket and began to dig a hole in the soft soft ground. Dark like the chocolate cake that Mother baked this morning. Little hands moved to the beat of an unseen drummer.

Dum dum dum dum.
Dig big dig deep dig big dig deep.

And the chanting grew louder in the little girl's head. In the little girl's head with dark round curls...and a sweet, sweet smile.

Stopped, the little girl did and laid down the silver spoon beside the basket that Mother wove. Sweet things in this basket, only the sweetest things in the world. She opened the lid and took a piece of the chocolate cake that Mother made that morning.

Into the hole it went.

She took a flower that Mother saved from the frost.

Into the hole it went.

She took Mother out of the basket, with the same dark round curls on her head.

Into the hole it went after a little goodbye kiss on Mother's cold cheek.

 As published in the 2010 Banaag Diwa of Ateneo de Davao University. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Girl Talk

“I’d like to meet a man who can write. Hopeless romantic, starving artist type, you know.”, the girl with the hair dyed blonde said.

“What, like a, Shakespeare In Love kind of thing?” asked her friend. She was digging into her plate of fish and capers.

“Yes, I suppose.”

“Men like that need muses, you know.”

“What?” Blondie has finished her meager salad, and is now trying to light a thin cigarette with her Zippo lighter, but it must almost be out of lighter fluid. It takes her five clicks before a small tongue of flame, bright and hot, comes dancing out. She takes her first short drag. “A what?”

“A muse. Not amuse ha-ha. A muse.” says her friend, who is now eyeing the lit cigarette with apprehension. She has asthma. “You have to inspire the hell out of a guy. Be, like, his fuel and his finish line.”

“Ha! You ought to be a writer.”

“Seriously, if you want a guy like that, you’ve gotta be inspiring as hell. Same goes with painters, musicians—“ she stops and puts her finger on her chin. Thoughtful. Deciding. “And architects.”

Blondie considers this piece of information with her elbow propped up on the table, a long thin cigarette held at the end of a long thin hand. “But weren’t they already born like this, you know, like, don’t these guys have talent already. To begin with and all.”

A heartbeat. Two. “No, they’ve gotta have muses. Every great writer had a muse. Every great painter.”

“I’m sure some of them just had a lot of ideas. Wasn’t Leonardo gay?” Blondie chuckles.

“I had a boyfriend in college who used to write me poems.”

“No kidding?” Blondie said. She turns her head only slightly to the left, keeping her eyes on her friend.

“Yeah. No. Yeah no kidding. We’d make out in an empty lecture hall and the next day he’d have a sonnet or something. I don’t think he even broke a sweat over them or anything. He was a natural.” Blondie’s friend smiles at her glass of sweet tea and shrugs. “He was a natural.” She finishes what’s left of her fish, and she stabs the last caper.

“But you needed to make out first.” Blondie says.

“Yeah, whatever, I still have those poems somewhere if my dad didn’t already throw them out. He hated that guy.”

Blondie finishes her cigarette with a sigh and drops the stub into a yellow porcelain ash tray. “Where is he now?” asks Blondie.

“My dad?”

“No, William Shakespeare.”

“Oh. He works for Nestle now.”

“Advertising? Creative writing?”

“No, he’s an accountant.”

“Oh,” Blondie says. “Men don’t have a flair for anything like that anymore.” She takes a sip of her coffee, taking in as little as possible. She does not want to leave yet. “You know, they’re all about just getting your number and Facebook adding and Twitter following and picking you up at 8 o’clock sharp—“ she takes a breath “—and knowing what series you watch and if you’ve ever been to Boracay or Singapore.”

“We call that dating.”

“Eh.” Blondie shrugs. Unconvinced. Unmoved.

“It’s called dating. It’s how you get to know someone and confirm he’s not a psycho killer loser.”

“Doesn’t cut it for me.”

“So you want to be wooed. You don’t wanna date, you wanna be wooed.”


“Wooed. Not knock on wood. Wooed.”

“What the hell is that?”

“It’s when a guy chases you. No, wait, chase is too aggressive. Sort of like, he dances after you. He sweeps you off your feet.“ To this, Blondie rolls her eyes. Her friend laughs and throws a balled-up paper napkin at her.

“Come on, I don’t want the cheesy stuff,” Blondie rolls her eyes again. Her watch, leather and steel, says it’s 12:34pm. They should be getting back by now. Not yet.

Blondie continues. “I just don’t want to be looked at like some kind of—I dunno—list.” She sighs a deep, tired sigh. Her friend nods gravely, then furrows her brow.

Blondie sees this and explains further. “Like, you know. When a man asks you if you like Anthony Bourdain. He’s not asking you that because he wants to know if you actually like Anthony Bourdain. He’s asking because he wants you to know that he likes Anthony Bourdain and he’s checking if you’re a girl he can watch No Reservations with next Thursday night. He wants to know if his requirement—being interested in food—is met.”

“That’s a very stupid assumption.”

“Just listen to me a second, yeah?”

Blondie’s friend nods, waves at the passing waitress and asks for a glass of cold water. No ice. And with a straw, please. “Go on, Casanova.”

“The movies you watch on your second date? He’s judging you. Every side comment you made, every punchline you didn’t get, every yawn. Hell, maybe even the flavor of popcorn you bought. He has a list in his head of the things he hopes you to be.” Blondie is saying all of this with gusto now, with no regard for the time (12:45pm) or for her friend’s mood (somewhat interested but itching to go back to work).

“To be fair, we have our lists too.” she tells Blondie defensively. Or perhaps accusingly.

“Then we’re just as bad as they are. Can’t we just like someone for the way her fingers twitch in the air when she’s hailing a cab, or how her hair wafts around her head when a train zooms by, or how her lipstick is sort of just smudged in one corner, or how she bites her nails to the quick when she’s nervous. You know, throw away the list. Then write about how wonderful she is.”

“Wow. And you said I should be a writer. Jeez. Hey, it’s almost 1pm. We really have to go.” she tells Blondie with a frown.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll get the bill.”

“We already paid when we ordered.” 

“Oh. Alright. Let’s go get a cab.” Blondie says.

They grab their handbags and walk out the front door in silence, hand in hand. Blondie’s friend hails a cab, raises her arm to wave and twitches her fingers just the slightest bit.