“And to your right you’ll see two of our professors engaged in a heated gangsta rap battle.”
Where are you Meow-meow. Where are you now. I wouldn’t say I miss you, it’s just I feel slightly melancholic recalling all those times, which feels so ancient now, that we had. There is nothing special about this either. It’s more of a personal selfish thing, if anything. I keep pulling out fragments of memories so I could re-arrange them into something useful for my narratives. It’s very practical, exploitative even. But can you really exploit yourself? Am I using this word correctly? Probably not. Well Meow-meow, just so you know, I started calling you thus in order to protect your identity. It intrigued my friends. They ask, ‘why do you call her Meow-meow?’ I reply, ‘because her name is Kat.’ Short for Katherine. Where are you now, Katherine? I hope you are doing fine.
We speculated you must be a tomboy. And that, I added, you must be struggling within the confines of your faith with this confused feelings of yours. I imagined you having feelings with this girl in our class. A beautiful girl. Very what they would call, ‘kikay.’ Really smart too. She studies chemical engineering. Years later, I would find out she passed the board exams in that field with great marks. You had the macho vocabulary to go with the attitude: ‘tol, tsong, pare, bro.’ What I gathered from local sources was that you were very religious. You were a member of this ultra-hardcore religious youth group in the campus. So in my imaginary fictional world I see you struggling with this feelings that you have because it is wrong, they say, it must not be, it is the ‘love that dare not speak its name.’ Speculations, speculations Meow-meow, please forgive me. We were bored and trying to pass the time making up stories in between moments of intense study sessions for quizzes and exams.
One of these stories involved you developing a robot to fight the forces of evil. The evil is vague. It could be something like ‘the postmodern condition.’ Or ‘the creeping secularism that is eroding away the Christian core of our nation.’ The people are powerless to stop the onslaught of all these evils. They have gone lazy and weak through watching noontime television shows featuring semi-naked dancing voluptuous nubile young women. They have turned their brains into pink jelly listening to celebrities who can’t sing blunt-force their way into the collective eardrums. Super Meow-meow beam to all these people. Ultra-electromagnetic meow-meow yo-yo to counter the forces of oppression. It always ends with your triumph for I have always believed in you. Meow-meow-bot standing triumphant atop the bloodied forces of evil. Sun shining behind her, the yellow-orange rays radiating outwards filling the spaces of the world.
You remind me of this girl I used to follow on the internet. She was funny, bubbly and smart. She died two years ago from osteosarcoma, which is a bone cancer. Nostalgia hurts. It opens up floodgates of memories and the emotions associated with those memories. Nietzsche said forgetful people are lucky because they can enjoy the same things many times, and also that they are the only people who can truly forgive. But when someone with a bad memory all of a sudden recalls something, probably triggered by a sound, a sight or a smell, then the nostalgia really hits like a ton of bricks.
So you remind me of this girl. You have the same hair, facial structure, you smile the same way. You don’t know her. She wasn’t anybody famous. She was just normal and ordinary. She wanted to be famous for her art, but her illness struck that dream down. She made movies, small daily slice-of-life types. There was one where she was dancing in her backyard, jumping and doing somersaults. Another one was just her in her room talking about her favorite movies and directors. She really liked Quentin Tarantino movies. She did a few videos re-enacting famous scenes from his movies. She also liked to draw. A video showed a time-lapse of her sketching in pencil on paper a profile of Willem Dafoe. It wasn’t bad. She can definitely draw. She could have improved.
I sit here on a faraway table from you inside this badly-lit cafe, thinking if the similarities between you and her go beyond the appearance. I wonder about what kind of books you read, what movies you watch, what you like, what you hate, what you fear. What makes you laugh? I am thinking if you meet her in person what would you two do? What kind of things would you talk about? Maybe you two wouldn’t like each other. Maybe you two would be best friends. Who knows.
She has black hair. It is always very straight and she grows it now only up to her neck. If it grows too long, I overheard her saying to her friends, she has her mother cut it. She does not like it longer because it is a pain to take care of. She is such a lazy person, she told them.
“I remember it used to reach up to my back.”
“Yes. You were watching me then?”
“Yes.” Not only her. I watched everyone. Intense physical exertion, dust and smoke induce my asthma, so the teachers often just told me to stay inside the classroom and sit while outside my classmates sweeped the school grounds or pulled weeds, or arranged the stones lining both sides of the pathways. I always insisted on joining them, the teachers always said no. So alone inside the classroom, I gazed at them through the slats of the window. This has been my situation since third grade.
She is one of the taller girls in our class. There are five of them. They’ve been friends since third grade. They are all taller than the boys. They go everywhere together. Talk, laugh, play together.
She was absent for a few days. We heard she had chickenpox. When she came back today she was wearing a hooded jacket colored blue. She walked everywhere the whole day wearing it. The teachers told her to stay in the classroom with me.
“You had a crush on me didn’t you?”
I smile, slight wheezing as I inhaled and exhaled. I did not reply. “Can you show me your arms?” I said.
“I want to see.”
“Aren’t you hot?”
“I already had chickenpox back in third grade, remember?”
“You can’t see it from where you’re sitting, but I have a scar from the chickenpox in my forehead, right in the very center. Want to see?”
She stands up and sits beside me. I touch the spot. “See? Here.”
She pulls down the hood from her head. I could see the pustules have dried. They were small and black-brownish and were scattered mostly in her lower jaw and neck. She edges closer to me and touches the pit of scar on my forehead. “Okay,” she said, then proceeds to roll up the right sleeve of her jacket up to her bicep. She has pale skin and you could see the bluish-green veins underneath the surface. Scattered all over her arm are the pustules. She raises her arm to my face. I take her upturned hand with both of mine. I lick her wrist.
This girl is taken to staring down from a high vantage point. She says she feels like a goddess when she does this. Like a goddess of the sky, the air, everything. When it becomes windy, she becomes more happy. It’s cool and relaxing and the world smells so clean and fresh. Perfect, she says, it’s perfect like that. Only problem is that there are people below. The people must be eliminated. She is not a kind goddess. She’s thinking of tornadoes rampaging across the land, mowing down skyscrapers, people running and looking at her asking whatever did we do to you, oh great sky goddess. But she would just look and reply you people are like dirtying the environment with your factory smoke and pollution. She sends more tornadoes. People are killed. A child is crushed underneath a chunk of a cement wall. An old lady is screaming help because her leg broke because a huge trunk has fallen on it. But the people don’t hear the old lady. They’re too busy running away, escaping. The leaders of the world then took to unity because they have no other choice against this disaster goddess. They send all their airplanes and soldiers and bombs, but they fail. The goddess is all-powerful. Five feet two and angry and black-haired and with bloodshot eyes because she can’t get enough sleep because of the noise of her neighbours at night. When finally all the people are dead, she yawns, prepares her sleeping mat, and goes to sleep.
She dreams that she’s a college student studying anthropology. She’s also a student-activist. She read Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed.’ She is a fixture of student protests. She was elected President of the National Student Union, a left-wing organization. Her speeches are recorded by the media and is broadcast throughout the nation. The problem, she says, is the commercialization of education. The state has relinquished its role as the supporter of knowledge production. Private corporations must not take over this role because then it would only be a for-profit activity. Corporations always put profits before people, and that is the problem. Environmental degradation, social and political and economic inequality, everything boils down to the relentless and conscienceless pursuit of profits. A crackdown by the government. Soldiers were brought down in trucks to put the students in their place. The students fought back. She was somewhere in the middle of all these. Tear gas clouds everywhere. Cracks from guns of the soldiers, and firecrackers and homemade bombs from the students. At the end of the day, three students and one soldier were killed. The students posted to their social media accounts photos of what happened. They gathered the empty canisters of tear gas and arranged it into a large heart shape. In the middle we see her, the girl, the President of the National Student Union, lying on the ground, sleeping.
“I don’t believe in chairs.”
“So what do you believe in, if not chairs.”