About the Girl
We went to Quiapo and looked at all these pirated DVDs and VCD stalls. It was a whole building just filled with stalls of pirated shows. There were movies from Hollywood, anime from Japan, documentaries, etc. etc. There were softwares too.
It rained the day we decided to go to Quiapo. I waited for her in McDonald’s Philcoa. I ordered then drank hot chocolate while waiting for her. Inside behind the glass wall, I stared at her as she walked towards where I was. We waited inside for the rain to subside. We talked, I can’t recall what we talked about. We’ve been to several dates before that. We watched movies, we ate, we went to this cafe once where we drank cold expensive frothy coffee. She invited me there because she said it’s where she often worked with her classmates on their projects. All I got from that experience was that it was cold and that you’d have to take a tricycle to get there. I think I was reading something about Rizal. I looked at her handwriting. She has beautiful, clean, precise handwriting. She is very organized. My mind was frozen inside that place. I couldn’t think.
I was at the back because I always sit at the back. She was at the back because she was always late. She talks to me when I only wanted to listen to the lecture. So I listen to her. I listen to the lecture too. The professor does not see us because we are at the back. She likes to eat sometimes during class. One time she bought a Baby Ruth candy bar. She rarely takes notes. She asks for my notes after class. She has shoulder length black hair. She always wears shorts. She always wears t-shirts with words on them. Org shirts. Event shirts. Commemoration shirts. High school reunion shirts. She has a Lacoste shirt colored purple. She wears glasses. She wears flip-flops. The only time I saw her wearing jeans she was also wearing sneakers. The sneakers were white. She tells me about her favorite professors, her favorite topics, her favorite movies, her favorite shows (she really likes Glee). I tell her my favorite movie is Fight Club. I like reading funny stories. I like making people laugh. She likes making people laugh too. She once won an essay-writing contest. I was awarded once by the principal back when I was in high school for being the most active library user. She asked me to watch a movie with her sometime. There were free movie screenings in the University Film Theatre. I said okay. It was a lesbian film. From what I could make out of the darkness, there were not much people in the theatre. We sat side by side. She was texting someone. I could see the blue light from the cellphone screen reflected on her face in the darkness. We went out several times after that. We watched a movie. We watched a play. We watched more movies. I lent her some of my DVD’s. I never got any of them back. We went out to the old part of the city. We walked the streets and looked at the stalls, the people and the architecture. We looked at the house of Gregoria de Jesus. She took photos. It was raining earlier that day but it later subsided. We got wet on the way to the old city because water from the puddles splashed inside the vehicle we were in. It was cold.
In the reception area of the dormitory, we sat and ate while watching television. There were a lot of people gathered in front of the tv screen because it was the Miss Universe finals. We ate spaghetti. A short news update that day: a young rising star was found dead inside his apartment. This young rising actor was well-loved. I was surprised with her comment that the young actor committed suicide. She has inside information because she has worked with entertainment industry people and that was that filtered through the grapevine. What struck me was the way she said this, like his suicide wasn’t such a big deal really. And in a sense it really wasn’t such a big deal in her world, and in mine too.
I always sat at the back because that’s how I usually sit. I have a strategic position in every classroom that I maintain: at the backrow, second chair to the right. She always sat at the back near me because she’s always late. That class was twice a week, and I looked forward to that class after befriending her. I recall the first times she went to class she sat at the row ahead of me. But then she sat by my side the rest of that semester.
Our class went to see a play. I kept the half of the ticket in my wallet for a long time after that. I also kept the ticket they gave us in the lesbian film festival. I think I paid five pesos for that ticket.
It was fun. The atmosphere was carnival-like – lots of people, groups carrying flags, there were people who sold stuff like Che Guevara t-shirts, punk shirts, etc. She let me use one of her cameras and I basically followed her around like a puppy. When the protesters burned this effigy, the smoke billowed around us and I wet my handkerchief and gave it to her to wipe her eyes with. She wore a purple Lacoste shirt and jean shorts which showed her white legs. People talked to her in English, thinking she’s American. We saw a busload of delegates from other countries pass by. It rained later that day.
We were in the mall, talking. I don’t remember now what we were talking about. It must have been historical, since we stopped for a long time watching this display of historical things. Inside the mall, on the ground floor, in the center of the wide immaculate expanse, were set-up these display booths showcasing large tarpaulins with images and text printed on them. One that caught my eye was the display on the revolutionary-dubbed-bandit Macario Sakay. In the accompanying image, it shows him having long hair and sitting along with other uniformed officers of the Revolution. In a separate and smaller tarpaulin, there was an article and image detailing the amulet used by Macario Sakay. It was a small, white jacket, I surmised must be worn behind the shirt, in contact with the skin. It had Latin words written all over it, and images such as an all-seeing eye, a pyramid, a cross, and I think I also saw a heart. Not the emoticon kind of heart, but the semi-anatomically correct heart one often sees on old antique statuettes of Christ.
In another earlier time in a similar place, we watched a movie together. In this movie, insectoid aliens have landed on earth. Years pass and we find that they are being contained in this ghetto/camp. I have watched the movie already before with friends. She said she has not seen the movie, so I thought we should go and watch it. I remember the blue light of her cellphone screen, illuminating her face in the darkness of the theatre. She was staring at her phone. I was looking at her. Later, we went out to the open space outside the mall where she could smoke. She was telling me about this professor of hers, a favorite of hers. We talked of the future. I told her of a dream of mine to open a cafe inside a library where I would support all artistic people in their activities. I would support, because I would be very rich in that future time, various cultural endeavours. Paintings. Books. She said she has a similar plan. But foremost in her mind is to have her own house. She would then decorate its walls with framed artworks made by her and her sister. We sat and talked and I watched the white smoke she has exhaled as it rose up and dissolved into the air.
Alone, I stood behind the clear plexiglass wall. I looked below at the people. They were so small and busy, going on to work or school, underneath the heat. It was very cool inside the mall. The white square tiles were clean and shiny, reflecting the flourescent lights on the ceiling. The atmosphere reminded me of a hospital room I was in before, only without the smell of antiseptic alcohol, bleach and medicine, and also without the constant but subdued hum of people talking and walking. I sent her a message on the phone asking how she’s been doing lately. We haven’t seen each other for almost a whole semester. I’ve had some personal issues to deal with the months before and was unable to summon the right mindset to reply to her messages. She replied that she’s in the hospital, just some gastroenteritis.
I recite her name like a mantra to drive away all the sufferings. It doesn’t work, but subjectively, inside my head, it works. It doesn’t make sense I know. I thought of methods, techniques. One is I flood my head with memories of her. I recall details about her and then hold on to them as long as I can. She had curly black hair. One time she showed up to our date with frizzled unkempt hair. She wore black-rimmed glasses. She has thick, constantly chapped lips. That day inside the airconditioned fastfood place where we were eating and studying, she smelled like milk – sour and sweet. She does not paint her nails, they are always clean and short. She has the most delicate-looking fingers.
The first and only time I saw her wearing jeans, she wore a green polo shirt. I don’t know whether this was before the fastfood episode or after. So she wore blue jeans, shoes (running shoes. it surprised me how small and dainty those shoes were. she usually wears flip-flops around the campus), and most importantly, her hair was short. It was also straight. We were in the library that time and I promised her I would help her with an assigment or something. I had nothing to do that day. I finished all my requirements already. I waited hours. She’s usually late.
One time in the library of her college, she showed up wearing jeans and a shirt probably of purple color. Every time I think of her, I think of her wearing that shirt. It was thick T-shirt with a green Lacoste alligator logo on the left breast. I remember her eyelashes – so thick. I remember her teeth, not so good, kinda yellowish and one has a bit of discoloration from cavities I think. She has a dainty nose. She always wore glasses. She has black and long and wiry hair. Sometimes she doesn’t comb them so you could see the split-ends. The last time we met I think she had it cut off to just about neck-length. It looked good on her.
We visited the house of Gregoria de Jesus. It was an old building and badly -maintained. You could still see the old architectural details, like the balustrades and the windows. There was a historical marker there saying that Gregoria de Jesus, the wife of Bonifacio remarried after he was killed. Her next husband was an architect.
We went inside the Quiapo Church. We saw one of the old ladies by the entrance of the church, the ones who will pray for you if you pay them. We saw one knee-walking the aisle from the back towards the altar. I wore my Buddha shirt.
She took photos. We talked about her favorite professors on the way back from Quiapo.
I can’t recall the last time I saw her. I can’t recall what happened during the last time we met. I can’t recall what the last words were that we exchanged. I do remember that I sent her a message saying I wanted to kiss her. I did not get a reply immediately. I was particulary overbold that time (early morning) because I was slightly drunk. I got very little sleep. That was the context of that message. And her reply was an apology. In the text message I got near the afternoon, she said she was sorry she was unable to reply because she was already asleep.