Saturday, March 5, 2011

Without the Sun

[Submitted for and published in UP Portia Sorority's Literary Folio, "Eden (Parole 2011): Art, Poems, Essays & Short Stories"]

If there are seven years in a week, it was Monday when I first met her. Soon, my life revolved around the sun.

On their first night as husband and wife, Elohim said let there be light, and there was light. Before entering the room, Ryne’s mind was already pregnant with ideas. Thirteen minutes before midnight, she began to undress. Elohim thought he could see her idea clearly. He thought Ryne’s body was the very corpus delicti of her mind’s conspiracy with the flesh. In fact, he thought the idea was clearer than the vague outline of the goldfish swimming inside the fishbowl, the only glass apparatus inside the room that reflected the light from the flickering bulb on the ceiling. Five floors below the apartment, Mahogany Drive was nearly silent and empty.

Ryne finally stripped the last fabric that shielded her body from Elohim’s inquisitive stare. The thong flew out the open window, like Icarus gaining altitude for a few seconds only to have its wings melted by the light not of the fiery sun but of the moon on the first month of spring. It fell on the concrete pavement with a very faint thud that the rest of the world will never hear.

Barely a few minutes later, the small alarm clock at the bedside rang, signaling that it was already twelve and that, by force of an unspoken agreement, it was Elohim’s turn to have his orgasm. He failed, though.

“It must be the wine at the reception,” Elohim said to his defense and continued to pump his way to the lovely heights of nirvana. Ryne could only moan while her eyes squinted as if she was going through a painful labor—perhaps a false genesis of the cosmos.

I knew Ryne since first year. College life was promising then and I was single. I tried every possible way to talk to her for at least three minutes but she was excellent at being evasive on many occasions. For a woman her size and age, it was not surprising. She was slender at five feet and four inches, with bosoms that curve like a perfect parabola. The shape of her impressive legs partly reveals stories of countless jogs on afternoons lovelier than any summer sunset I have ever witnessed. Her hips were like a machina animata calibrated to surpass the rudimentary tests of aesthetics. She was beautiful then and, perhaps, she still is. Our undergraduate degrees share nothing in common; she engineered and I philosophized. In a way, we were opposite charges that can create a massive lightning storm. Differences make a subtle prognosis for the course of a chronic disease that can kill. In each attempt to bridge the divide, there are dangers. There is one way to let you know how much she meant to me in the past: compress the rest of the universe in a single human body, a divine creation that no god can ever shape, let the weight of every atom there is collapse in a single quantum, and you have your answer.

On their second day, Elohim said let a firmament be, and the sky soon cut across the waters above and below. It did not take long before Elohim could finish in the shower. Ryne was waiting outside the door, eyes fixed on the distant shore that filled the view of the window across the bedroom, like a painting of a still morning after the storm. The towel in her hands was pink; small white roses were embroidered on its every square inch. Elohim gently pushed the door from inside and found Ryne unmoved at the doorstep of the bathroom.

“Hey beautiful, it’s your turn now,” Elohim whispered to her ears. She nodded and went inside. Turning the knob clockwise, cold sprinkles of water gushed through the holes of the shower and landed on her body. Her supple skin was a tender barrier from the intrusion but it was a barrier nevertheless. For some reason, Ryne could not imagine herself sharing a bath with Elohim although she can perfectly see herself commune with his body, which in fact they did on their honeymoon escape at the apartment.

I think I know why. When people make love, two bodies become united. While in full submission to that epic display of passion, one can no longer distinguish which body belongs to whom, or who belongs to which body. The skin is dissolved and every intruder is granted permission. This rarely happens during showers, unless the couple decides to convene themselves into a single body just as before, by which time it becomes more than a mere shower of water. It will be a deluge of passion. This is what Ryne desires. All her life she has waited for her love—not necessarily for Elohim—to be consummated by marriage and not the other way around. A college diploma, a rank in the civil engineering national board examinations, a master’s degree, a stable job and seven years after, she knows she has waited long enough.

On the third day, Elohim created earth, separated it from water, and decreed flora to flourish. The park had the pleasant scent of flowers that day and the lawns were greener than usual. The first month of spring radiated life everywhere. Ryne sat on the mat while Elohim went back to the car to fetch the basket of food they took with them. By the time he returned, she was still contemplating. The sound of the flutter of the birds in the middle of flight failed to distract her.

“Is everything fine?” Elohim asked as he sat beside Ryne. His tone was crisp but she did not notice. Her mind was preoccupied. She thought her abrupt decision to marry him after six months of having been engaged was like the Big Bang Theory; it began with a big bang but has now somehow reduced itself into just another theory. It all looked so good on paper, she lightly mumbled, herself not knowing if she was referring to the marriage contract or a clandestine memory she yearns to hold by her gentle hands. The brisk idea of having committed a mistake, momentary as it was, sprung to her senses.

But revolutionary theories—some akin to inciting to sedition more than others—are oftentimes nipped at their bud. Aristarchus proposed that the Earth revolved around the Sun at a time when everybody else levied the contrary principle. Through dissent either by force or by silence, maybe even both—silence by force and force by silence—his proposition was nullified. Thereafter, the world believed as it wanted to believe for another two thousand years or so, until the genius of Nicolaus Copernicus proved the world wrong. When the head of the monster shows itself the very first time, the authority must swing his sword against the neck of the creature with as much zeal and emergency as reviving a patient who lost a vital sign. I think Ryne hardly brushed off the idea of the mistake even as soon as she realized Elohim was making his fingers run the course of her brown hair. It brought her back to life, a resurrection from a brief death, a death through silence by force and force by silence.

“I rarely make mistakes, and when I do, I do them on purpose,” Ryne said which left Elohim perplexed, unable to squeeze a word out of his lungs, as if for the first time in his life he was gazing at a revolution of parabolani monks against god, marching down the horizon lines and not knowing how to confront it.

On the fourth day, Elohim separated light from darkness to mark the seasons, to have a sense of time, like putting on a wristwatch over his coat by accident because he was in a hurry for an early meeting with a Chinese contractor. Ryne had to stay at home for the next three weeks. She was on leave but she was being paid for it. It is one of the few rewards that a wife can have for having the owner of the company as her husband’s high school chum. The company ordered the steel frames from Britain and all the rest were made in China.

Elohim was an ambitious man and he wanted to give the world to Ryne, all the while forgetting to give his self, the only thing she learned to want. She learned it after she saw him standing with her before the altar and the priest, exchanging vows that capture an eternal promise in two words of three letters. Doubtless, he gave his body but she is yet to receive his soul. Maybe he has been working too much lately, to the point that he sees everything as payment by installments. He must have been willing to give his soul by fractions.

I offered my soul, every sprite and form of it, but lost it as early as Monday. I told her I love her but she only walked away. By Tuesday, she transferred to another campus, a hundred miles from where I spent my lifeless days until Saturday, the sixth day.

On the fifth day, Elohim commanded the seas and skies to have fauna—animals of shapes and sizes, swimming and flying in all directions—and his word was given flesh. Sitting by the porch of their house, Ryne remembered the vague outline of the goldfish swimming inside the fishbowl, the only glass apparatus inside the apartment that reflected the light from the flickering bulb on the ceiling. It was in the apartment where she and Elohim had their literal honeymoon escape. They were supposed to proceed to their hotel room by night after the wedding reception but Ryne had another thing in mind. She wanted a different place, somewhere nobody would expect them to stay. It was her way to test her own limits.

“The apartment at Mahogany Drive will be a fine substitute,” Ryne said.

“Are you serious? It’s not in any way as comfortable as the room I reserved at the Grand Hotel for our honeymoon,” Elohim spoke with a hint of partly restrained surprise. Unfortunately, there was nothing that Elohim could do to convince Ryne. She was now his wife for the last seven hours. She has decided and her decision is not to be taken as a suggestion, even if it had the consequence of forfeiting a thousand dollars spent on a large mattress in a quaint hotel room that will certainly be one of the emptiest beds in the city come late evening.

Marriage is a strange creature. I have never been married but I have seen how it has domesticated some people and how it has liberated some others. It operates with precision in its inconsistency. This is not a secret. Many novelists and journalists have written about the subject decades ago, only that very few dared to read thoroughly. I wonder what is so attractive about a sanctified union or a civil matrimony that men and women rush to it as if they have rediscovered a lost limb that will complete them again. Perhaps, I am old and have not grown any wiser.

On the sixth day, Elohim ordered the land to be filled with more living creatures, including humans. Their wedding was as grand as a royal ceremony. Prominent people were invited and the receipts for the bills piled faster than they can say “I do.” Elohim fancied a lush matrimonial celebration since day one and simply cared less about the price he had to pay. After all, Ryne was about to be his queen for the rest of his life and he her king, or slave, whichever she preferred at any given time.

When the exchange of vows was over, they became the better half of one another, at least on paper where it all looked so good. But what if she pledged to be his wife only for better and not for worse, for richer and not for poorer, in health but never in sickness, until death finally liberates either one of them from the onerous obligation of fidelity? I cannot impose an answer on her behalf.

When it was time to settle the place for their honeymoon, it was clear: she was the empress and he was her slave whose vote she may consider but which will never count in the end. They drove to Mahogany Drive in the evening.

On the last day, a Sunday as it is called, Elohim rested. He rested a bit earlier, at about thirteen minutes before midnight. That is, he rested his body on top of Ryne’s. Midnight struck and it was already Sunday. Contrary to his expectations, he failed to have an orgasm first thing in the morning, or by twelve. Ryne could only moan while her eyes squinted, as if she was going through a painful labor—perhaps a false genesis for the cosmos—while Elohim continued to make a man of himself.

The word “Sunday” takes its origin from countless languages, all ancient, but they all mean the same thing—day of the sun. It does not require an explanation that carries the depth of a critical essay to understand the etymology. As you would know by now, the sun is at the center of the solar system and that the Earth revolves around it. Aristarchus was right. Copernicus was right. With the sun at the heart of everything in the solar system, it deserves the attention of the world for a whole day each week, no matter how meaningless it has become for an old man.

I spent my lifeless days a hundred miles away from her until Saturday, the sixth day, which is the day I decided to live where she was staying. It was somewhere in that city which I do not know exactly where. I stayed at a room in an apartment along Mahogany Drive. Five floors below, the street was empty most of the time. There was not much to do except to find her. I think I had a dream once. In that dream, Ryne was there.

“I found you,” I said, standing outside the door of my apartment unit. My clothes were wet and the storm that night felt the least ominous of previous weather disturbances.

“But you already lost your self. You are no longer the same. You are empty.”

“Because I offered you my self that Monday and I came to the city to look for it.”

“You don’t remember,” she said, mocking my presence with the smile I have not seen in almost seven years. She looked like a wisp standing by the window. I went in and shut the door. The next thing I know, I could no longer tell whose body belonged to whom. Ryne was a part of me as much as I was a part of her. We did it in the shower that evening, and the bed was not spared from our tryst. I think our bodies were one—opposite charges liable for a massive lightning storm, suddenly reunited—until the morning sun broke through the fading nimbus, but I cannot be certain. Sometimes I have the same memory as that of the goldfish I had in my room fifty years ago. I was twenty-three at the time. I do not even recall if the building still stands today. Old age has a way of terrifying human memory.

And then I remember I was told that she was about to get married by spring. So I went away, far from Mahogany Drive, knowing fully well that the day she marries will be the death of all possibilities. It will be irreversible and unbearable. But I have lived since the end of Sunday, the seventh year of the week, which was the last time she was at the center of the solar system. Since then, life has been dark but beautiful.

I now live in a hospice waiting to die on a Sunday and hoping to be proven wrong at the last minute.


Dani said...

Wow. I can only wish to write as well as you. Grabe ang ganda, promise. I don't normally read through looong texts on the internet pero natapos ko, in fairness, haha. I'm a fan! Your writing style is beautiful...parang familiar pero new. Haha I don't know if that makes sense. Basta, ang galing nito =)

SPLICE said...

Before, I was hesitating to post the piece here since it was quite longer than my usual posts. I thought the short story would have been a drag. But I'm glad you liked it. Maraming salamat Dani! :)

sub said...

wooot wooot!

i would really love to read more of your stories - and soon, a novel! i felt every possible emotion i can feel while reading this piece.

ryne is definitely special than caprice and roxane, right? oh well, how can i know it :)

once again im captivated. kumakabog ang dibdib ko pagkabasa nito. ang galing!

keep it up, buddy!

SPLICE said...

Hi Sub! :)

There's truth to what you said. Ryne is definitely more special than Caprice and Roxanne. But sometimes I get the strangest feeling that they are just one and the same flesh and soul :)

Maraming salamat sa muling pagbisita Sub! Send my regards to Gayla! hehehe :D

Anonymous said...

Fantabulous ..

Well i can go on saying such words .. though in true sense , your story left em speechless and full of emotions .. An amazing write !

Kudos for this !

sub said...

wag naman magtampo splice, busy lang sa work. yung laptop ko naman, naiwan ko sa laguna...hindi ko pwedeng kalimutan ang isang tulad mo :) ang lalim! malay mo sumikat ka, at least ngayong hindi pa ehh close na tayo hehe

sana isang araw makwentuhan ako ni herson, namimiss ko na sya kamo. hindi ko na kasi sya nakakausap lately ehh. give my tighest hug to him :)

kae said...

So you've been writing since preschool? :) I wish I could write like you. Maybe someday I would be able to imitate your style. Maybe lang naman. But you're the best writer I've ever encountered all over the web.