Sunday, August 17, 2003

human condition

This past 24 hours have been a rollercoaster for me, leaving me feeling like a character in some fiction author’s work – and that author was given the task of making up a story that would run me through the gamut of human experience.

Sounds too much? Read on.

pride: pantene pro-v

The day began at Ateneo, with a triple talk by Budj, Zach and I. I think that our love for writing (and writing comics in particular) was very clear, and we consumed the time given by expressing our views on craft.

I spoke about some of the stuff I’ve written in earlier blog posts and wrapped up my share of the time with a product endorsement for Pantene Pro-V, a hair conditioner.

This hair care product, you see, claims to fight the 5 signs of unhealthy hair: weakness, split ends, dryness, dullness and lack of manageability. I drew comparison between bad hair and bad writing and defined those traits in the context of craft. It went swimmingly well, though I think I traumatized poor Charles because I used his hair as an example several times (and no, there is really nothing wrong with the condition of his hair).

The good thing about having the three of speak is that none of us are particularly stressed about speaking before an audience. Budj came with pages of notes. I came with a little piece of notebook paper tucked into the cuff of a pant leg. Zach spoke from memory.

But we all spoke with obvious love and positive pride about craft. Pride in what you do is very important, because you must tie in a sense of achievement and worth to what you do – you need to make it count.

Thanks to El, again, for the opportunity. Next month, I’ll be Carl’s assistant (clicking on Powerpoint) which will definitely be a blast.

avarice: cchq

Nikki experienced the same reaction – “oh my” – when she finally got to go to CCHQ, happily browsing through the shops indie trade offerings.

As usual, I wanted a ton of things, but given budgetary constraints (damn it, I want more) we ended up buying two books: Van Meter’s hilarious Hopeless Savages for her, and Ware’s beautifully designed and written Quimby the Mouse for me.

Last time I was here, I got some incredible reading – Pop Gun War, Project Telstar, the 2002 and 2003 SPX anthologies (the earlier one just won an Eisner for best anthology), the first volume of Courtney and the lovely Sandwalk Adventures.

I appreciate CCHQ’s style and model and wish them more success in the future. Part of what they do figures in an “I wish” scenario that I share with Carl.

anger: stupid restaurant

Stupid restaurants and I go back a long way, and my impatience with inefficiency and lack of customer service reared its ugly head at Encomnium (sp?) or Gaci or whatever that horrible restaurant was called.

The food took hours to arrive if it did at all. And it tasted like crap.

The owners should close down and reassess what they want to do with their lives. If they continue as they are operating they deserve only the most relentless of bad reviews.

The business consultant part of me was appalled at the horrors we were subjected to.

shock: a death foretold

After “lunch” I rushed to my food client meeting. I needed to present the final art and copy for the range of materials we were commissioned to do.

Just before we started, I got a call from one of my closest friends, Juancho, one of Sage’s godfathers, telling me that his mom was in hospital and at death’s door.

My heart twisted inside even as I helplessly continued with my presentation, going on autopilot and letting my mouth and hands handle the meeting. My mind was back ten, eleven, twelve years back in time, remembering how much I owed Tita Baby, how much love she gave me when I had no where to go, how she gave me a home and fed me for two years as I tried to get my life back from the chaos that engulfed me.

I have three surrogate mothers. Juris, my mother’s sister, took me as her own when my mother was unable to be a mother to me. Mina, my mother-in-law, loved and still loves me as one of her own children. Baby, Juancho’s mom, all but adopted me – a stranger – at the point in my life when I had hit rock bottom.

grief: the shape of a body bag

I didn’t get to hospital in time to say goodbye.

After my meeting, I rushed as fast as humanly possibly through the sudden torrent of rain and inevitable traffic to the hospital in Quezon City.

When I got to her room, the first thing I saw was a blue body bag.

Grief is powerful and it was as if the earth just swallowed me up. I was only dimly aware of Nikki (who had gone there earlier), Juancho who embraced me, and the other people in the room.

I could not believe that all that she was, physically, all that was left of her, was inside that body bag. I was outraged at the banality of it all, at how a receptacle could so conveniently, so casually, so completely envelop a person I loved.

“You cannot imagine the pain of losing your wife,” Tito Johnny, her husband, whispered to me, as I wept without regard next to him.

“She always went out of the house on Saturdays,” Millie, her daughter told us. “She was true to form until the very end.”

Tita Baby is gone.

Nikki and I left after a while, after I stopped physically crying, after I managed to say all the words I needed to say (autopilot helps me in more situations than I can count).

And as we waited for a ride to take us away, my mind vainly tried to fill the emptiness she left behind, that particular shape she left in my heart, but memory is a poor replacement and will never get the dimensions exactly right.

I didn’t arrive in time to say goodbye.

Goodbye, Tita Baby. And thank you.

Your other son, Dean.

inertia: the pull of the rest of life

Because that’s the way it is.

Just go on.

With life, with schedules, with dinner, with a movie.

Grief need not be worn outside.

Not when part of you can go on autopilot.

At least for a time.



Should we who remain feel guilt about still being here?


But it feels like we ought to.

escape: lxg

Three words: I loved it.

More than I expected, so much more. Despite all the flaws, it was a good film. It is pointless to compare it to Moore’s original work – one is not the other. But in terms of experience, let me go out on a limb and say that I enjoyed Robinson’s script treatment more than Moore’s book.

And that’s saying something right there.

Believe me, I’m as shocked as you are. Did my grief weaken my critical will? No, I don’t think so.

People who know me well know how snooty I am with films, how my critical faculty usually dooms almost everything to a low grade.

But it was lovely, lovely – flaws and all.

comfort: conversations with friends

Sometimes, you need to talk and ask questions and expect answers to the odd scenarios running your brain.

Sometimes, you need to hear opinions, you need to see other perspectives, you need to know how other people would deal with the situations you find yourself in.

Sometimes, the human condition becomes so pronounced that you cannot help but feel its presence, like a garish clown sitting at a restaurant table across from you, and its there, it’s there but it’s not polite to stare.

Sometimes, the comfort of friends is in words, in dialogue, in conversations that go everywhere and nowhere.

Sometimes, all that matters is being in a living circle, drinking indifferent coffee.

Sometimes, you need to remind yourself to breathe. Or for others to gently point out that you need to.

love and hope: wife and daughter

Sage, sleeping like the baby that she is. Small and big, growing so fast, so soon, so wonderfully soon, the expression of all my hopes.

Nikki, washing her face, getting ready for bed, so beautiful, so tender, the reality of love and passion and joy.

I sleep and, like a character in one of my own sad stories, sleep without dreaming, without meaning, without epiphany.

There. That’s all there is.


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