Friday, June 6, 2014

I Told Them So

[Part 5 of 6 of "Once There Was Anne"]


That was the first thing my mother said when I told her about it.

“Anne,” I said, “the girl you first met in my apartment back in college, remember her?” She placed my slippers on the floor by my feet, and said “I don’t know who you’re talking about. Now put these on before you dirty the carpet with the sand on your shoes. And don’t forget to put those clothes in the laundry basket.” My mother returned to the kitchen where she was preparing lunch, as though the momentary interruption of having been placed at the receiving end of a silly story was the least of her concerns at that hour. I sat on the couch. Confused. Holding Anne’s clothes.

I spent the previous night by the beach until sunrise, leaving my spot only once, at around midnight, to swim to the lonely island, my body against the current as the tide rolled in with the strength and haste of a restless man chasing a seemingly familiar shoreline under a full moon, a man navigating the darkness with his memory for his guide. Reaching the island, I fell on my back. Small waves, these remnants of the vast ocean where they came from, they lapped at my feet, and as I lied beneath the starry sky I couldn’t help myself but say, “Well, here I am, Anne. I’m crazy, sure, but aren’t we all,” and I thought I heard Anne whisper in my ear, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

For many years I’ve been to different places, and each time I’d ask I’d be told the same thing, as though someone set the answer to my question in eternal playback: “I don’t know who you’re talking about.” Like Nathan, the boy, now a man, whose nose got a good beating from my fists, though on the day I met him again the scar was no longer on his face, as though it has been wiped clean by the same skin that I bruised and broke a long time ago. “Anne? I don’t know who you’re talking about,” he said as we stood by the exit door of the mall. When he said what he said, I was almost tempted to break his face again for forgetting not only his sin that wore down a girl’s heart but also and above all the girl herself no less, as if she never existed. What appeared to me then as his wife and two children soon emerged from the sliding glass doors, so I let the subject go and bid him goodbye, his nose intact.

Then there was Jennifer, Anne’s cousin whose eyes reminded me of Anne’s, though it was only when Jennifer removed her sunglasses did I realize the stark resemblance, as if all of a sudden I was looking at the same eyes that saw Tokyo for a day until the city itself became just like the one Anne left behind for the rest of the six years that she was overseas. “Anne? I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Jennifer said, and no matter how much I wanted to make her remember the day she found Anne and I at Rizal Park when we were supposed to be attending our classes, the same day Jennifer asked if I was Anne’s boyfriend, to which I became as confused as Anne was, muted by a question that was loaded enough to change the course of our lives forever, no matter how brazen I wanted to make Jennifer recall she just shook her head. I left with a heavy heart and an even more baffled conscience.

The last seventeen years have been a long and tiring chase, and it seemed to me like an unending affair of approaching and talking to people Anne and I have met once or many times: former professors, friends, librarians, acquaintances, and the countless faces whose names I can now barely remember. They would all say, as though there was a conspiracy: “Anne? I don’t know who you’re talking about.” It felt like I was chronicling the lost years of my life, searching far and wide for the stray pieces that will at last justify my nostalgia and confirm my hope that, even to the last of my days, once there was Anne. Many times I’ve been called a fool, but not once did I entertain the thought that I was one, for if I ever was a fool I do not know the kind of insanity that they have acquired for failing to understand that it is incumbent upon those who have been left behind to search for the missing ones and only them, never those who are as present in real life as the mortal coil they present before the world as the sum of their lives thus far. I’m crazy, sure, but I’m no fool.

I’m afraid I’ve suffered long enough to warrant the liberty that my heart so desires, but in the back of my mind I know that the rest of this lonely life is just about to begin.

And I was right, because all the same, I knew I was born to prove everyone wrong, and quite certainly because an hour ago a letter from Tokyo arrived. “It seems someone writes to you, after all,” the mailman said, surprised at his discovery, belated as it now were, his forehead visibly aged by the years of tending to letters waiting to be sorted and delivered to their intended recipients, until the birth of the internet began to show him, without the slightest hint of remorse, that nothing in this world lasts, that the time has come for the old to give way to the new at such a delicate chapter in his life when there are only so few things left for him to do during his waking hours. “I told you so,” I said.

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


kae said...

OK. There was Anne after all. :)

SPLICE said...

Perhaps there was. :)