Thursday, May 31, 2012

Case 3: The Hooligan

[Part 3 of the "Fiction Rebel" series]


I WANTED to wring my heart dry after I read the note Jane taped on my mirror the following morning:

“I dream of writing about a love that is so old yet so alive I can almost smell the fragrance of the words that give it life and immortality. I want to write it as if the story is ours, each day a page to see us through, pen in my hand inking our lives in this delicate dance of paper and poetry where the rules are never clear and the music is always changing. I want to write it with verbs that will make the world sail away from its axis because the universe has no shoreline where we can dock a ship as big and as restless as the earth, or perhaps our hearts. I want to write it with nouns that can name all that is yet to be known so that we may never claim innocence again. I want to write it with adjectives that will bless our days with the hand of a merciful god. I want to write it.

But ours is none of it. All we’ve had is a relationship so young but so dead it begs for the shovel, the casket, and the grave — assuming it even deserves a funeral. I’d rather let it waste like a corpse under the sun. So I will not bother. Like cold water is to raging fire, so is this note for the last day of what could have been the rest of our lives. Goodbye is too kind a word. It gives hope for a possible return when there will never be one. Consider this our death certificate. Congratulations, and may you live old enough to wallow in misery for a lifetime.”

That was it, all thirteen months squeezed down to a single note. On that bright Sunday, the crumpled linen sheet on the mattress was the only evidence that another warm body slept there with me for the last of all wonderful nights and the first of all cold summer evenings that will surely follow. For the first time, breakfast was a date with an empty chair and three slices of bread.


They say that the folly of humanity is that we always try to find meaning in words we do not even understand — like love. We want to feel it, touch it, and taste every letter of the word as if that is all there is to do in life, a last supper we all desire to have, and yet we fail to notice it when it hits us the first time. We think we know love, but truth be told, we have no idea. Sometimes we assume that it’s not there, only to find out when it has already slipped through our fingers like water that it was there all along. And when we suppose that it is there, that all signs point to it, we make a fatal mistake. All of a sudden, our ego turns flat, like a deflated wheel rubbing hard against concrete, possibly bemoaning its existence if it had life. It’s horrendous. It’s embarrassing. It’s like a nightmare that some of us will take days, weeks, and even years, to awaken from. Some have even been known to have never opened their eyes again.

When I first met Jane, I was twenty-three with eight stitches across my shoulders, and she was twenty with five published short stories listed in her résumé, three at a nondescript magazine, and two in her blog. A common friend, Monica — well, we’ve had sex once, but that was it — introduced us to one another at the restaurant where she was working. Monica had the impression that my meeting with Jane was part of a grand scheme, like intelligent design. I never cared. The hell do I care? Jane was hot, and that’s all that mattered at the time.

On the second week, I told her I love her and asked her if she loves me just the same. “I think I do,” she said. She thought she did, but she had no idea.

The feeling was mutual, though.


I couldn’t count the number of times I lied to her. If I had to pay her a hundred pesos for each lie that I said, she would have probably been rich by then and she would no longer have to wait for the names of the dead each day just for her to write obituaries for a living. I told her once that I do not own a gun, that I have never been to prison because of theft, and that I have never killed a young man in my life. When she was about to leave me on the fifth month that we were living together, I told her that I love her, and I said it with conviction that I cried and cried until I fell asleep in her arms, the moon my silent witness to a great hoax, the truth of which will hardly climb from my heart and find its way to my lips.

Except that, the morning after, she told me the one phrase I kept on mumbling the whole time I was asleep, dreaming.

“What did I say?” I asked.

“What a pain in the ass.”


Once we were in bed completely naked. “The only thing now standing between you and me is your erection,” she said, coyly. I smiled and gave her a gentle thrust. I felt her nails dig against my back with each push that I gave. She locked her legs around my hips, our eyes squinting, our bodies moving in unison with only the sound from the radio to muffle all the ceremonial noise. Suddenly, I moaned another woman’s name while she simultaneously moaned another man’s name. We stopped moving as we found our selves consumed by our silence and the music from the radio. It was probably the longest moment of quiet between us since the invention of verbal language. But we pretended not to care and went on with dinner.

From that day, it became our habit to hold our mouth shut and keep our moans to our selves lest we ruin our orgasm. Soon, it became our routine to close our eyes and act as if we were having sex in the dark, completely unaware of the face of the one we were actually making love with, and imagining it was someone else. Later, we decided to just switch the lights off so that we can have sex with our eyes open.


It was on the twelfth month when our relationship barely had a vital sign. It was in comatose. Not even a million prayers could have lifted it away from its impending demise. Kisses were no longer given as if it was the last thing one can expect from our lips, and sex became a tedious task, like office work that pays spare change. She slept on the couch, I slept on the floor, and nobody slept on the bed, except for the neighbor’s cat from time to time. But even life breeds on death. Plants grow on dead wood, maggots mature with the help of rotten flesh, and many carnivores that roam the earth feed on their lifeless prey. If what we had was dead, whatever it was, I began to found renewed strength in it, something I couldn’t quite explain well. I wanted to feel it, touch it, and taste it as if that is all there is to do in life, a last supper I desire to have.

But she wrote her note by the thirteenth month and life was never the same again.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Monday, May 14, 2012

Case 2: Monica

[Part 2 of the "Fiction Rebel" series]

MONICA BELIEVES that there is intelligent design in everything. Take for example the napkin conspicuously wedged between her vagina and underwear just two days ago. Its design prevents blood from seeping out sideways, especially when she has to scuttle clearing one table to another so that more people could pretend to enjoy the steak severed from the rib of a malnourished cow that was rarely given the chance to munch grass when it still had a pulse. For a Hindu like Monica, the sacrilege is unforgivable. But dead livestock aside, the napkin is almost godsend for a waitress like her. It’s a divine creation meant to comfort every woman where she is most vulnerable and strongest at the same time, which, of course, is the vagina, except for one curiosity: unless she sends her napkin flying straight to the garbage bin like a shuttle that carries the weight of her menstruation, its wings, though, just won’t make it airborne. One might even say it’s a fatal flaw for an object that was never intended for sustained flight in the first place.

But Monica firmly believes in intelligent design, and at the exact moment she flung the bloody napkin across Dick’s living room, which eventually landed squarely on his face with an auspicious splat, she anticipated that it was also designed to end their quarrel and, ultimately, their relationship. She was right. She drew the first blood, and it was the last time Dick would ever claim proximity to her vaginal discharge. If anger had a scent, a color, a taste, that was it, a month’s worth of frustrated egg cell together with its fluids tucked in a disposable sheet, and Dick was in the right place and time to receive that final touchdown.

The day Monica first met Dick she instantly knew that the world is unfair, unkind, that God or Krishna is bent on playing divine jokes by giving a man a nose so flat you’ll hardly know it’s there on his face unless you press your thumb against it the way you earnestly stamp your thumb mark on paper. She looked at him and thought: that face is too ugly. It’s too damn awful whoever owns it probably doesn’t deserve a name. But she called him by his name anyway because of two things. One, she can’t bear the incorrigible humor of God, or Krishna, at the expense of a mortal who only wants to have steak for lunch. And two, he deserves his name.

Here’s your steak, Dick. Enjoy your meal. The name on his ID is a dead giveaway. That was the first time she called him by his name, and it felt like she just mouthed a word she’ll someday regret saying. The second to the tenth time she called him by his name was when they were in bed on a late Tuesday night somewhere in Quezon City, a place so clean and so good you don’t have to wear anything other than your skin and a slippery piece of rubber that you put on like a diving suit during bouts of either anxiety or infidelity. Oh God, Dick, harder! She would issue her moans like a virgin too tight for anything that occupies space and has weight. Of course, she was deflowered years before she met him. Her acrobatics and moans were simply for the show, for that dosage of mercy fuck she was willing to give him, the poor bastard with almost a nose, so that he can finally call himself a man who no longer uses his right hand for an improvised vagina. She was his dream made flesh, the redemption for his restless manhood, and he was her reality check.

For three months, they lived together in his apartment, a room too small for a man with a huge ego and a woman with an insatiable fetish for the backdoor. But theirs was the proof that domesticating a Hindu and a Grammar Nazi under the same roof can be done amicably. It was the closest to polite society they can get. Without sounding too pedantic Monica declared that these things easily qualify for intelligent design. There is a God out there whose name is Krishna or Jesus or whatever, and that this omnipotent deity can make India and Germany look like husband and wife blessed in matrimonial union by the church of scientology or whatever you call organized mafias that have money in banks and want more of it out of your pocket because they know heaven is on their side and hell is just below your feet.

On the fifth day of their fourth month, Monica realized that hell was no longer below her feet. When Dick came home drunk that evening with kiss marks on his neck and a missing condom in his wallet, Monica herself raised hell right inside their room, or what will soon no longer become their room, for she was determined to abandon this wretched foggy once and for all but not without a fight, or probably not without sending him first to his sarcophagus after slitting his belly open with a penknife so that his innards can finally inherit the warmth of the earth together with the maggots, for that was how much she wanted him dead just by screaming at him: Go to hell! Never mind the neighbors; they have their turn to go to hell one of these days, or nights.

Enough is enough, Monica thought. Thank God for bloody napkins with wings. She put her hands inside her shorts, fished out her napkin, and turned it into a projectile. Before Dick could dodge, it was already touchdown.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Case 1: Dick

[Part 1 of the "Fiction Rebel" series]

AT TWO in the afternoon, he is at his watering hole. Three sips after and the beer still tastes nothing magical, nothing exciting. It’s like the usual drink of the pub overlord sitting at the bar, he who is too obese you wish he’s kind enough to donate a plate of his fat to Nicole Richie for the benefit of mankind, the suicidal creep at the corner offering a toast with the perennial hipster whose idea of fashion is wearing a thick jacket whenever the weather is too hot we might as well complain about having a sun in our solar system, the posh Strunks and Whites at the long table who think that grammar is everything and that thinking about it goes well with fancy cookies and fancier coffees and teas that need to be immortalized in pictures because let’s face it people want to let other people know that they are the shit who make other people look like they are in a state of eternal poverty with their Rambbo slippers, they who wear the Grammar Nazi insignia as though Hitler will be smiling from his grave, or whatever you call people who scribble words on just about anything that looks and feels like paper, even on the one they use to wipe their ass with not quite like sandpaper, perhaps the Philippine Daily Inquirer, particularly the obituaries because the dead can kiss my ass and never complain.

He is one of them, the Aryans of the written world. Let’s give him a name. Let’s give him a name because pronouns are gender insensitive and overrated, like religion. Let’s call him Dick. So Dick chugs his beer and strikes a matchstick on a summer day. He believes that the first step to end all of the world’s problems is to light his cigarette. All the rest will simply follow. But the wind is strong. Now if only he could light that fucking cigarette at two in the afternoon in that watering hole.

Dick gets a book from his bag but closes it even before he could finish leafing through the third page. Dick will think. He will think hard, too hard. He will device the postulate of perfection. He starts by striking a pose — chin resting on left hand, his stare lost somewhere in the distance as his head is tilted just a little bit to the left as if someone nudged his nape with a loaf of freshly baked bread — then takes a picture of his gesture and uploads it on mobile Facebook. This becomes his profile picture. He will label it “the postulate of perfection personified” and hit the like button three times to make sure that he gets his point across the internet. A thought comes to his mind: I’m too perfect even my balls dangle at a right angle. He returns to his book.

Dick thinks that the novel is not impressive, not knowing that it was not really made to impress anyone, him most of all, simply because it’s not a novel. It’s a thesaurus, the bible and Achilles’ heel of the inner synonym freaks among the Grammar Nazis who walk the plains of the earth in their hunt for that wild species of beast called the “passivius sentencius,” more commonly known to your average high school student as the passive sentence. It’s too late for Dick to realize this. His thickly framed eyeglasses with no grade offered no succor to his severely deflated ego. He tries to wash away the pain with beer but he only gets to release a shrill burp that rippled across the room as if all his pent-up angst suddenly found the missing hole in his body — his mouth, the other end of that physiological brook that is forever linked with the asshole.

Dick overhears the conversation at the next table. They are talking about his favorite book of all time, Ricky Martin’s Youth, Career, and the Whole Shebang. His thought bubble: finally, vengeance is mine! But Dick starts to lose his patience. It’s not what the book is about, cretins, Dick surmised. He has this delusion that he always knows better, or that he is never wrong. Having read a hundred or so books in a year, his brain already has the weight of an obscure library where obscure writers go in order to write obscure shit nobody really reads, not even obscurely. Still, Dick may have a point: what’s the use of being the postulate of perfection if you can’t even correct strangers within the reach of an uppercut? So our hero decides to straighten their shibboleth, their raucous drivel, by writing them a note.

Dick writes in posthaste, polishes his lead sentence like a shoe that will somehow in some way fit a foot somewhere, and wraps his literary diarrhea with a title that really says what he does not mean. But he stops no sooner than after he began for he knows that even verbosity is always at the mercy of a humble punctuation mark. He stands and makes his exit, each stride as heavy as the mass of Hitler’s mustache set aside throughout his lifetime.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5