Precious Fathers

My greatest fear is my father's death.

Well, I don't know how I came to this conclusion. Two years ago my cousin had lost his father (my father's younger brother) and though it must have hurt him, it didn't show. Life goes on. Now I couldn't bear to think of that moment when my father dies and I have to deal with it.

Maybe it's with all the articles I've been reading, just like this article from the New Yorker, Why? by James Wood. Here's a snippet I've been meaning to send to a friend, this friend from college whose father had died just recently of prostate cancer:

The novel often gives us that formal insight into the shape of someone’s life: we can see the beginning and the end of many fictional lives; their developments and errors; stasis and drift. Fiction does this in many ways—by sheer scope and size (the long, peopled novel, full of many lives, many beginnings and endings) but also by compression and brevity (the novella that radically compacts a single life, from start to finish, as in “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” or Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams”). And partly by turning the present into the past: although we move forward through a story, the entire story is already complete—we hold it in our hands. In this sense, fiction, the great life-giver, also kills, not just because people often die in novels and stories but, more important, because, even if they don’t die, they have already happened. Fictional form is always a kind of death, in the way that Blanchot described actual life. “Was. We say he is, then suddenly he was, this terrible was.”

My wife dismissed this (or maybe my condensed retelling of the essay is to blame) as an idea that has been around us for ages; ony this was eloquent and well-written that elevated it to something that can be regarded as highly philosophical. I guess it is, but it made great sense.

Until recently, death strikes me as something to be bothered about. I was anxious and worried about it. Partly my being a nonbeliever of the afterlife is to blame. Once I told my wife maybe we should have a Buddhist wedding, since Buddhism is, for the lack of a better term, interesting. Pretentious, even! Maybe I just need something to believe in--not mankind, not critical theory. ("I'm sick of theory," I once retorted to my wife.)

One cultivates certain smells

Flanking on both sides of the building are two dump trucks hunched by garbage bags. The rain felt like needles. Behind the desk, a security guard sat still, head bobbing from sleep. Then the smell wafted in waves. It took me back to my elementary school right next to a church, in an old building rumored to be an old cemetery. It had brick columns. In between the segregated restrooms was a bulletin board with tacked notes about the Marianettes Club, among other clubs. Situated nearby were benches smothered with those beady black pebbles, and a tiny sink jammed against one of those brick columns, probably built for hand washing. The boys' restroom smelled like grouts turned yellow-green by moss and urine; the dampness of a mop which never saw the light of the day, that mop leaning against the wall of the farthest of cubicles; and polished marble tiles, pale and wet and gleaming from the light that made its way in through a small window. Now I can hear my school shoes squeak against the slippery floor. I can hear the tap water running, echoing from the farthest cubicle, where the janitor, Mang Domeng, squeezes the mop tight with his hands, the way we squeeze sponges while washing the dishes. Outside, the afternoon light; the flagpole flanked by two towering Indian trees, a basketball court, the entire quadrangle and the stage and the grotto framed with birds of paradise and other flowers. In my school uniform I would grab the familiar grooved handle of my stroller, the kind of handle which always twists and wobbles and disintegrates so often. I would drag my stroller across the quadrangle towards the entrance of the school, where our tricycle driver, Mang Gil, is waiting to fetch us home.

Grace Paley

Whereas other authors within her age / generation thrive in expanded narratives, in highlighting history and the passage of time, Grace Paley thrives in omission, in skipping and fast-forwarding the tape recorder, and writes it without remorse. Despite the miserable state of her characters, the tone is matter-of-factly. Her stories are brief, leaving out the bulk of what's important but repeatedly tells you that one story about the war, her parents, or a joke from childhood. A story called Living revealed this last night. Maybe one of the surest ways to know an author's style is to read the shortest pieces (of which I am very fond of) since reading these is a lot like looking over their shoulder, the best perspective to note how they started the scaffolding and eventually decided to own the story with an ending. It's as if the style of writing fiction is much like the way signatures can be shortened, as long as its essence remains.

I imagine her as an eighty-year old woman who doesn't have any difficulty in her daily tasks. She opens up easily, smoking a cigarette on a table in the garden she just trimmed the day before. And she likes to dine alfresco.


Ernesto Bazan / Dog & Hawk, Viñales, 2002

T-shirt reads

by Jeremy Enecio

A teenage girl's shirt says Same Is Lame. Enjambed are two small words: Think and Other. Both underlined.

A woman's shirt says Poetry Is A Way Of Taking Life By The Throat. It had blurred graphics at the background. 

An old man with white hair boarded from the bus to Paseo de Roxas Avenue. His t-shirt quotes the Dalai Lama: The mind is like a parachute. It works best when it’s open.