Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Collision of Worlds

[Part 3 of 6 of "Once There Was Anne"]

IT BREAKS MY HEART to see Anne that way. “I’m sorry,” I said. I sat closer to her, tried to wipe her eyes with my handkerchief, but she brushed my hand away, as though I had no right to undo my mistake. “Tell me, Herson,” she said, “who are you supposed to be in my life anyway?” It felt like I was sucker punched. I thought about her question for a while, not knowing what to say. Under the majestic acacia, sunlight broke through the leaves like a thousand bright needles supporting the weight of the tangerine sky, and somehow I wished they’d disappear and let heaven and all of its saints fall so that they could understand how it is to be a mortal in the presence of someone whose divinity is put into question by her own tears. There was a faint chill in the January air, but the people strolling along the university oval didn’t seem to notice. Then I remembered the day we were in Rizal Park, and to her question I couldn’t help but finally say, as if to recall an ancient memory that just won’t die a forgettable death, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Except that I knew, or I knew who I was not. I was not the one who broke her heart at the age of eighteen, two years into college, though on bitter days I wish I was the one. And boy did I break his nose when I learned that he dumped Anne just like that, changing women as frequent as he changes his clothes. “The fuck is your problem?” I said, confronting him with an inexplicable rage forming in my hands like molten iron, as though I was some kind of a hero out for sheer vengeance, and when he stared down at me, just as he was about to spit on my eyes I threw my fist on his face, another on his left eye for good measure, and then a few more, the sound of bones breaking, the world around me a wild blur, until he fell flat on the floor like a vegetable I could have scooped him up, served him on a plate, and quickly finished him off like soup.

I didn’t tell Anne about the incident, though she looked a bit worried when she noticed that I had bruises on my fingers that looked like they’d never heal again. “What happened to your hands?” she said. “It’s nothing,” I said, “I fell from the stairs at home.” I took her out for a movie later that night, if only to console her. But in her silence she kept crying from the start until the credits rolled, and I was powerless, barely able to think of any way to comfort her at that moment. When we were about to part ways, she said “I don’t want to go home yet,” so I asked her if she wanted to stay at my place for the rest of the evening. “OK,” she said. When we got to my apartment, she stopped at the door to my room, looked around, probably wondering. She gave me a curious look. I knew what she was thinking: but there are no stairs. A little later, she slept. I was awake until sunrise, watching over her.

And I was also not the one who introduced Anne to my mother. My mother did that for me, because the following day she paid me a surprise visit, and I wasn’t quite exactly sure what to say when, returning to my apartment after class and upon opening the door, I found her talking to Anne in my room, sitting side by side on my bed where Anne slept overnight and probably half of the day. “Hello ladies, did I miss anything?” I said, proceeding to take a seat by the table, somehow still able to walk across the room in the most normal way I can despite being sleepless with weak knees, aching hands, and a trembling heart. Anne smiled. She said, “I’ve explained everything to Tita, don’t worry.” “She’s beautiful,” my mother said, “I wonder who in god’s name would make the fatal mistake of dumping someone like her.” Anne was blushing.

When Anne went home a little later, my mother said “I won’t be surprised at all if you happen to like her and good lord what happened to your hands?” “It’s nothing, ma,” I said, “someone just made a fatal mistake, I suppose.” Arms akimbo, my mother shook her head in disbelief.

“She didn’t tell me about th - ”

“Because she doesn’t know, ma,” I said. She doesn’t know about the bruises in my hands, the same way that she still doesn’t know who I am supposed to be in her life the day she returned from Tokyo after six years. Or perhaps she only pretends not to know, feigning innocence behind her tears, posing the question so that I can give her the answer that she already knows.

“Or maybe I’m not sure, Anne,” I continued, my eyes to the edge of the shade beneath the acacia, myself imagining where things should begin and where they should end, “but if I tell you anyway, will you believe me?”

She looked at me, wiping her eyes with her hands. With a faint quiver in her voice, she said, “I will, by the dignity of this woman’s heart.”

I held her hands. They still had that characteristic feel that I have grown accustomed to whenever Anne is extremely worried, or very happy, or some other kind of emotion that she finds hard to contain, as though she was a balloon about to burst. Her palms and fingers felt moist, and I have long known that they are neither sweat nor tears. They were tasteless, without any scent, more like water, pure water, as though she was melting and becoming one.

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

1 comment:

kae said...

Sometimes, we find it easier to determine what we are not versus what we are. I'm 100% certain Anne knows what Herson is to her. But I'm not sure if she likes it or not, she's so hard to read.. Perhaps she has surpassed the need for someone's affection, or pretending to. Or maybe she's waiting for I-don't-know-what. I really don't know. She seems so stoic she couldn't care less whether Herson stops loving her or not..