Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Caught Between Summer and Autumn

[Part 2 of 6 of "Once There Was Anne"]

SHE SAID IT WAS only after she walked past Todai gate did she realize that she was finally at the place where she always wanted to be. Ginkgo trees flanked the path that led straight to the Yasuda auditorium, and they wore different colors at such an auspicious moment in her life. To her left, everything seemed green, and to her right the view was golden, as though the sun melted on the plush leaves and spilled itself on earth and concrete. The first day she was at the University of Tokyo, she said it felt like she was caught between summer and autumn. “But somehow,” she continued, “moving forward along that path made little sense. I’m not sure how to explain it.”

I’ve always wondered how it is to live in a country ruled by all four seasons instead of just one long summer that is broken every once in a while by the occasional rain. The day between summer and autumn must be a confusing but lovely time of the year. I can imagine the countless trees shedding off their leaves in anticipation of the promise of winter, as though being completely naked under the sky is the only way to get dressed for the upcoming snow, and the cool breeze insisting itself upon a thousand itinerants who have their own reasons why they are where they are. I can think of a million flowers about to sacrifice their hues and petals to the shifting of the seasons, and a million other shops blooming under the full moon, ready to receive their patrons and guests for another night of commerce. And in the haze and daze of it all, they tell me the same thing in my mind: once there was Anne, as though I was a day too late for the transition of the seasons, for summer is gone and it is already autumn. Or in everyday parlance: Anne has moved on, and of all the things in the world that make sense it is not one of them.

A week after she left for Tokyo, I wrote her a letter. Looking back, there wasn’t much in that missive. I told her I miss her, plain and simple, apart from what seems to me now as the common courtesies one is allowed to ink on paper because, perhaps, distance is always a good excuse to put your life at the mercy of snail mail. I guess there wasn’t really anything of particular significance that I needed to tell her at the time. I waited for her reply. One week. Two weeks. A month. Three months. Nothing. Everyday I’d ask the mailman if there was any letter for me, and each time he’d say “It seems no one writes to you” it always felt like I wrote to someone from another universe and that it will probably take countless light years before I get to hear from her, by which time we’d both be long dead.

On the third month, I sent her another letter, with it a photo of us together in Rizal Park when we were still freshmen in college. “Just in case you miss me, too,” I wrote, “and, of course, the day when we decided to skip our boring lecture class and spend the rest of the afternoon in a place where you thought no one knew us, although you were wrong because, as it turned out, your cousin was there and, surprised that you were with a boy she doesn’t recognize, she asked you if I was your boyfriend and all you could say was I don’t know, I don’t know, and I was too shy to say anything because I was just as confused as you were, and since that day we never looked at each other’s eyes the same way again.” After another three months of waiting, the mailman told me again, “It seems no one writes to you.” I said, “You can be wrong one of these days,” though somehow I was not convinced of what I said myself.

One rainy afternoon in December 1991, I sent her another letter. “I wish it would also begin to snow here like in Tokyo,” I wrote, “though most days Diliman feels just as cold.” By March, I’ve sent her the fourth. “It’s almost summer here,” I said, “but maybe I can live without the sun for another month.” June and the fifth letter was on its way. “It’s been a year. How are you?” In two years I wrote her a dozen letters or so. “It seems no one writes to you,” the mailman said, as always, his smile now replaced by the look of pity. I lost count by the third year. In August 1995 I was ready to tell Anne that I’ve already saved enough money and that I’d soon be able to visit her in a month or two. My hopes were so high I could already see myself in an airplane a thousand feet above the earth, across the sea, with a week’s worth of clothes, four years’ worth of waiting, and a heart I’d rather carry by hand.

But fate had another plan. Giddy with anticipation, I almost had to carry my heart by hand when I suffered from a stroke, the kind that took my father’s life when I was barely ten. The doctor said I was lucky I was still alive. “Yeah, doc,” I said, “fuck my life.” I had to settle the hospital bills, the medicine expenses notwithstanding. It felt like a plane steered off course, saw me as a blip in its radar, and decided to crash, of all places, right smack into my heart. I couldn’t sleep for days. By the time I’ve slept, I dreamed of Anne and Tokyo. Eventually, I had to wake up.

I must have slept for six long years and have only woken up when Anne returned to the Philippines.

“As the days went by, Hongō campus felt more and more like UP Diliman. The buildings, the classrooms, the trees, the people. It’s as if I haven’t left at all,” she said. “Which probably explains why only once did I forgot about y- ” but she stopped there.

“D-Did you receive my letters? Did you... Did you even read them?”

Silence. Then, “Yes and yes,” she said.

“W-Was I not worthy of... of a response? N-Not even one le- one letter, a postcard... a postcard perhaps?”

“I was busy Herson.”

“But of course, Anne! Of course you were!” I felt my blood rush throughout my body, as though another airplane was on its way to my heart.

She bowed her head. Her hands were on her face.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6


kae said...

Oh. Herson is the guy's name. :)) }

SPLICE said...