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Women Loving

Last week, I went to Davao City to visit my Friends and partly to attend my thesis adviser's book launching. It was fun since I got to meet some (inter)nationally acclaimed writers like Isagani Cruz, Tita Lacambra Ayala, Aida Rivera Ford, Margot Marfori and Ricky De Ungria. Below are random pictures taken during the said event and a short story from the collection which I like the most. Enjoy reading!

Ms. Cruz as she reads an excerpt from one of her short stories

The author with the literary giants

Bests with the goddess

with best and my college batchmates Joy, Arian & Roselle

CIELO
by Jhoanna Lynn Cruz

"Anyway, we started saying goodbye the moment we agreed to have this… this relationship," she will say, on the day you decide to finally let her go. The problem is, how do you give up somebody who laughed con brio at all your jokes --- throwing back her head and shaking all over even if it was the sixth time she had seen your impersonation of Inday Badiday? Somebody whose face reminds you of Kitagawa Utamaro's women, making you realize why, years before, you had begged your Japayuki cousin to send you old calendars with ukiyo-e reproductions which you had carefully cut and framed. Even though you had long ago given up your belief in soulmate-ism because of your various ill-fated relationships, being with her will convince you that you had once loved her, in the time of Genji - when you wrote her poems on paper fans which you had to throw into her window before dawn because even then, she was married. It was the Golden Age and folks were poetic, so you embraced the potential of possibilities.

Now, facing the impossibilities once again, you will convince yourself that you will love her in spite of. Maybe you'll think that this time she will give up her marriage to be with you. After all, in our time, such things happen everyday. Yours is not an extraordinary case. Or maybe you will hope, in vain, that she would realize how much better you are than her husband. Sometimes the thrill of the contest can make us lose perspective.

Having an illicit affair, you will realize, is one of the most exciting things in this world. It will quicken you, make you feel alive. You will want to look delicious all the time, scrub yourself more meticulously, brush your teeth more carefully. You will even floss when you know you are going to see her. Anybody would have been terrified of the idea that the crevices of one's teeth are the toilet bowls of bacteria, but you had always refused to heed your dentist. You will only start flossing when you realize that she would run her tongue over your teeth when you kissed and you will want to be worthy. Shame on you. All of a sudden you will understand why your mother stocks up on Massengill douche when she has a lover. Still you admit that it is difficult for you to imagine your mother having oral sex. She is your mother, after all. Nevertheless, you will purchase your own bottle of Lactacyd, for good measure.

You will teach yourself to be discreet if you want to keep her for an extended period of time. When you want to touch her in public, out of desire or vanity, you will learn to check yourself. You wouldn't even allow yourself to look at her the way you really want to because people would notice your goo-goo eyes. You will teach yourself how to wait for her to call you up because if you can't help but call, she will only say, "Wrong number", and hang up. She could pretend that you are one of her amigas and chat for a while to make you feel better about yourself, but no. Or worse, someone else will answer the phone: "Hello? Hello? Puñeta!" and even though you've always though it rude, you will hang up. Besides, you would not like the clammy hands and the palpitations that go with confronting the "enemy". And so you will buy yourself a pager. You will want her to be able to reach you when she could. Besides, you will think it romantic to receive messages at 3 a.m., telling you that you are missed - never mind what she was probably doing before she paged you. Somebody who empathizes with you will suggest that you avail of the "buy one, take one" cellular phone promo, but she will refuse, saying that it is too bourgeois. As if. Imagine the bills you could run up. The Ilocano in you just wouldn't let it happen. As the months wear on, you will notice that cell phone or no, having an affair is the ultimate bourgeois activity. You will take to wearing shades when you meet in the daytime; you will have to take cabs when you go out because her car (which was a gift) could be recognized; you have to go to dark, out-of-the-way restaurants with silly names like Crossing the Bar to have dinner even when all you want is a Big Mac meal that comes with a free Sharon Cuneta calendar. The worst thing (not that you're a prude) is having to check-in at motels in order to be alone. Yes, the sex will always be astounding, as it often is with affairs, because it is so sad. But you will eventually long to come home with her, to see her room. You will want to watch her go through her routines, walk around in hair rollers and slippers. You could, of course, manage to figure out a way to do this since she has no kids, but she will not be interested.

One day you will find yourselves brushing your teeth together and she will laugh when you try to talk with your mouth full of froth. You've often wondered why it didn't look as gross in Frankie and Johnny or any other movie, for that matter. You will be preoccupied for a while, with the techniques of cinematic toothbrushing, but you will realize, at that point, how much you want to be a real part of her life, not just someone coiffed and exciting. You will want to spend nights looking at her photo albums, smelling the musty odor of old pictures, listening to the stories behind them. Most of all, you will realize how much you want to be able to love her in the light.

At this point, you will start wanting to do reckless things. Like going to the mall with her, walking hand in hand, watching a movie. How she will laugh when you suggest this to her. "You are so cute," she will say, and before you can say anything else, she will plunge her tongue deep into your mouth. The way she usually does when she doesn't like the topic. The worst part is when you take her to your house; worst, because you still live with your mother. Now your mother always has something bad to say about the women you bring home. She is convinced that she has psychic powers that enable her to know things. At first you though she was just jealous, but since she had always been right about them, you learned to take her impressions seriously. How surprised you will be when at dinner, your mother, who is not particularly courteous, will offer her the bowl of rice before taking her share. And then tell the story of how your grandmother had pushed her into marrying your father because his family owned a row of apartments two blocks from your house. "Look where that got me," she will end, staring into her glass of water. You will wish that the message won't be lost on her, but she will only reply: "You have a lovely house, Tita."

That night, as she sleeps in your arms (because her big shot husband is in New York for a conference), you will marvel again at how perfectly your bodies fit and how beautiful she is even with her mouth hanging open. Hoping she is asleep, you will bury your face in her hair and whisper, "I wish you were mine, Cielo, to have and to hold." Then, with your fingers still slightly damp from being inside her, you will snuff the scented candle you always use for ambience and try to sleep, knowing that it is time to face the truth.

You have always believed that people only have affairs when there is a void in their relationships, waiting to be filled. But with Cielo, you will not be quite sure what it is because she never mentions her husband when she is with you. You may thing, "Oh how considerate of her," but then you will soon notice that she never removes her wedding band, even when you are making love. That monstrous platinum right with the heart shaped rock embedded in it, designed to last forever. You will even have nightmares about it, that ring, getting lost somewhere inside you and growing larger and larger until your body explodes. And you are left with only the image of this gigantic thing, the glare of the flawless diamond blinding you.

So, in the morning, when you ask her to leave her husband, you shouldn't be surprised at her reply. "There is nothing about my marriage that I need complain about. I don't see why I should give it up." And you will thing, "Me. Give it up for me." But you will be too proud to hear her say no, and so you will say instead, "Then perhaps we should stop seeing each other. There is no reason you should keep risking your perfect marriage to be with me." Even at that moment you will be waiting for her to choose you, but there will only be the alarm clock ticking incessantly and the terrible thunder of Cielo's voice saying, "Right".

The right thing to do.

You will not let her see you cry. Even though at that point you will want to clutch her shoulders and shake her violently, the way an earthquake could change the landscape of a town. You will want to beg her, strike a deal, but you know you are not in a bargaining position. There is really nothing you could offer her that she would prefer over everything that he marriage stands for. You don't even have a car. And would your mother approve? You will wonder then, why you had even loved this woman. But it is too late for sentiments like that.

This is the way to say goodbye when every fiber and filament of your being is howling "No no no." First, pick a perfectly fine summer day (because rain always makes you sad) and drive to the beach. The nearest one because you will not want to endure a drive too long with a woman you have already lost. If you don't have a car, take the bus --- but be warned: the radio station will surely play songs that will make you weep: somewheredowntheroadsadtobelongwhatmattersmost. Don't fret, it is the destination that matters.

By the sea, you will look at the horizon and say romantic things like, Si tu veux savoir combien je t'aime, compte les vagues." Never mind that you only got that from a chocolate wrapper, it may appropriate at this time. If you don't speak French, or prefer prose, say, "I will never regret all that we shared; it was worth it." It is okay to be maudlin, this is after all, your last chance.

As the sun sets, you mar recite some poetry that you have memorized especially for the occasion."Landscape II" by Carlos Angeles will do well: ""Sun in the knifed horizon bleeds the sky…"Try not to look at her when you do this, because in sunset light, she will look more beautiful than she really is and this might weaken your resolve.

It goes without saying that your last meal should be extravagant. Your relationship is going to the gallows, after all. But it's fine if you can't really eat what is served. How could you? Anyway, this dinner is only standard bourgeois operating procedure.

Of course you will make final gifts of self to each other. One more, for the road. Remind yourself constantly, as you touch each other, that you are saying goodbye - you are not trying to make her stay. As you share your bodies, say her name. Over and over. Say it like a prayer because, yes, you are desperate. Make love with reverence, with the passion of worship. Listen carefully too, because if she really cares (which I doubt), she might speak in her native tongue. In moments like this, the language we first learned may be the only one capable of saying what we really mean. There is no poetry equal to the simplest truths: For example, Kaluguran da ka. My lover, my friend - in the same breath.

Then you will hold each other close. This is the best time to cry, to mourn. Because, yes, you are dying. Press your ear over where her heart might be and joke, "Hey, it's saying my name." She might retort, "Of course, there's no one else in there." You don't have to believe it, but its nice to hear.Consuelo de bobo.

When you leave the room, do a Queen Christina and memorize it. It is finished. Promise yourself that you will never try to see her again. Everything will turn into a metaphor for goodbye. Especially the rising of the sun. Tomorrow you will realize that the ritual of goodbye is the easiest part. That is why people always find comfort in religion. Rituals, like funerals, help take the mind off the things that really matter.

This is the price for loving what is not yours. But, as writers always say, it is not over until you are able to write stories like this. Then maybe you can say that it was worth it.

I am only now beginning to understand it myself.

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3 endeavored to criticize:

SOIEBEANS said...

inggit much. i didn't know about this jud. tae. congrats, maam jho! nice pics van. nice cam! hehe

Gerry Boyd said...

thanks for sharing this wonderful story.

Damsel said...

@ Gerry: You're Welcome! Hope u like it (despite the theme) :)

@ Vince: Hinanap ka ni Josh, Vince. Bakit wala ka daw... :(