Showing posts from November, 2016

The writer who left me his novel

Many years ago, when I was a creative writing major, I became friends with another writer from another school over the telephone. I can no longer remember how it happened, but people passed along phone numbers back then.

We spoke a couple of times, then he asked if we could meet. He wanted me to read his life's work: a fantasy novel. I never could write fantasy, though I read some, and I didn't think I would be able to give valuable feedback, but he was insistent, so I said yes.

I can't remember how and where we met, but it would have been at McDonald's Philcoa. I imagine we told ourselves what we color shirt we would be wearing -- no cellphones back then -- and we sat in one of the booths. We must have not talked much, but long enough for him to hand me a brown envelope filled with his work.

I never got around to reading the entire manuscript (it is handwritten, in different notebooks and pads, in poor penmanship) but I still keep it in a special box on my bookshelf.

I wish I could return it, but he didn't write his full name and contact number on the draft and I've forgotten those as well.

I wonder where he is now, and what he does for a living. I wonder, does he still write?

I don't remember anything else about him. It is such a huge blank that we may as well not have met. Except for one thing: I still have the only copy of his first novel.

"When I couldn't sleep I learned to write"

The Only Poem
By Leonard Cohen

This is the only poem
I can read
I am the only one
can write it
I didn’t kill myself
when things went wrong
I didn’t turn
to drugs or teaching
I tried to sleep
but when I couldn’t sleep
I learned to write
I learned to write
what might be read
on nights like this
by one like me

Thank you, Leonard Cohen

Screenshot from YouTube

Sept. 21, 1934 – Nov. 7, 2016

"And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah."

Like endless rain into a paper cup

I was reading an article on why introverts (INFJs like me, specifically) love the rain when one of the few memories I have of the years I was struggling with learning Filipino and English popped up. 

I was in a car with the family of my father's colleague. I was probably five or six at the time. I'm not sure why, but I was going home to Manila with them by myself. I don't remember where the rest of my family were. Maybe we were in convoy, but they had put me in the car with another little girl.

She was my age, pretty, extroverted and English-speaking. Maybe we had appeared to be friendly with each other so our parents thought that we would have a fun time during the road trip from Zambales to Manila.

The problem was, I didn't even speak Filipino and English was a whole other universe. I understood both languages a little, yes, but I couldn't speak at all. I was five years old when we moved to Manila; Cebuano is my mother tongue.

The girl was very friendly and she tried to talk to me. I never said a word from Zambales to Manila. I wanted to say something back, to be nice, but I was endlessly testing my lovely replies inside my terrified mind.

The girl's mom turned around and said to her daughter, "Talk to Althea. Be friendly."

The daughter replied in a whiny voice, "I've been trying, but she's not talking."

From Zambales to Manila, I sat in the strange car, looking out the window. I remember that it rained most of the trip, but not too hard. For most of the trip, too, I had to pee, but I didn't have the words to tell them to make a pit stop.

I survived by staring at the raindrops on the window, watching them drip down the glass and form occasional magical shapes. Once, there was a unicorn. Then a star. A heart. A rainbow. A flower. Everything I wanted to see. And each time, I wanted to turn to her and say, "Look at this wonderful thing!" But I never could, so I never did. I decided to save everything for later.

I think that was how I started to become a writer.