Saturday, February 14, 2009
11:45 AM |
Departures, and All Beautiful Arrivals
I will confess to you now, how I have a strange affection for airports.
This one fact about what makes me, only a few people know. I simply don’t go around telling others, “I love
airports.” (Or more specifically, airport lounges.) That I am telling you this means that I feel you have the heart to understand the certainty that comes with that statement.
What does that mean? Perhaps that I am asking you to stay close, to listen to my secret heart, to know a part of what makes me tick, simply because only those who truly know me—or deign to want to know me—can understand why there can be such an urgency when I make that declaration, almost as if I have pronounced the name of some place restful, some place that binds the loose threads of who I am.Airports?
those who don’t really know me would ask, perhaps not aloud. But sometimes a wry, bemused smile would be enough to betray their unsecret thoughts, their question marks laden with unwelcome amusement, bordering on scorn, something small and vicious. When I feel like it, I do try to accommodate their refusal to believe that there is a vast seriousness to what I have said. But I imagine what they must think—how
do you love being lost or adrift in the din of people and baggage pushing each other? how
do you love the long lines? how
do you love the savage and thorough security checks, the frightfully expensive food in the kiosks, or the cold disembodied voices of announcers reminding harried passengers what flights were boarding, what gates to rush to, what time it was to make everybody’s pulse race with the terrifying tick-tock of schedules and duties?
I understand that. But what most people do not understand about my affinity for airports is how I can find and
thrive in a shell of exquisite solitariness in the midst of all this chaos, a paradise of control and sweetness seized and tamed from the abandon and hectic race that pervades everything in an airport. The shell requires the din, the way light becomes because it is not
darkness. Perhaps what I love is the irony of having comfort and a kind of quiet grace in the middle of too much bustle. Perhaps for me it captures the universal human want for repose in the middle of the chaos of all our lives.
Certainly perhaps all these parades of people and things remind me that life is just a series of arrivals and departures—which are what constitute the drama of all our human existence, and the gamut of emotions that lay bare our strengths and frailties: nervousness, expectations, tiredness, hopes, fears, boredom, feeling lost, feeling found, feeling home.
Today, I leave Manila for Dumaguete—a journey for home from a week of traipsing through the great asphalt jungle, which has a geography unknown and foreign to me even though I have thrived and navigated through its traffic and rudeness for days now. (So how come I do not feel like I am headed for home at all? Perhaps it is because I already miss you.)
I am in the new domestic airport, all chrome and glass and grey marble. There is the usual airport bustle: people mill about negotiating space and luggage—and because the place is barely half-full, the flow reassures and does not stifle or stress-out. My flight calls for boarding at 2:25 in the afternoon, but I have been here since mid-morning. It is almost noon, and there is still time to kill. I have chosen to spend it writing to you. Imagine me now tucked in one corner of a little café-Délifrance—beside the departure lounge. A glass pane stands between me and a garden oasis in the middle of Terminal 2. I have coffee. A cup of cappuccino first, and then a cup of café latte. The minutes rush by. Between words as I type, I pick up your book of poetry, and read at random. I am finding much that I love in your verses, in your confessions—and I finally text you: “It is as if you have managed to sift through my secret thoughts and found the heart that pounds and throbs inside all that expectation and all that pain.” You reply with such thanks, and I sink into my easy chair warming with a familiar glow. I simply don’t question the universe anymore why it does what happens—it has proven it knows more than I do, or can, about how my heart can beat and be broken and be healed.
The hours pass. Soon it will be boarding time, and I only know that I do not want to go home yet, to all that is overly familiar, and sometimes breaking, in Dumaguete. There are too many ghosts and pressing things in Dumaguete. I crave for the newness you promise. But how does this go?
I cannot call what I feel now as sadness, because every inch of me declares that I am happy, and content. I have a new life after all, and all the sunshine that it brings. If I try to form it now in this airport in words you and I can understand, I can only describe the feeling as a wavering (or a flickering?) sense of nostalgic loss and warmth, the way one misses a wonderful kiss: how it can remain for days as a phantom pressure on your lips, and you know there can only be a profound sense of bittersweetness in the very act of recollection.
Such is what happens when you don’t expect what you think is deep, surprising affection to walk in. Such is what happens when circumstances dictate that you must only have furtive, stolen moments to acknowledge a sudden intimacy, a want to know more—you and I—before acknowledging there will also be a wrenching away. I am Dumaguete, after all, and you are Manila. So what I feel right now is a nod to arrivals and departures.
And yet I feel brave enough to think distance cannot matter now, and that I must try. You once wrote, after all, when you first felt love stirring a long time ago, that “it was either this train or never.” Planes, trains… the point is to risk all and to move towards the direction the heart dictates.
Departures have other meaning, too, especially in this spot of—and in this moment in—the airport lounge I cocoon myself in now. You already know how recently my heart has been broken—and yet how in our last meeting you were kind enough to tell me that things like breaking up is part of the flows of our lives. You told me that I did not have to apologize that this might be too soon, this thing strangely happening between us. I go back to reading your book, and how strange it now seems to me that you are the one to provide me with the words for my grief in another poem you’ve written for somebody else. You wrote:
Tonight you are walking
In another world.
I press my hand to my face,
My arms and armpits, knees
And legs, hoping to find
Traces of you in my body.
But you have been gone
For months and countless
Showers have expunged you
From my body.
I look all around me—
The books, the pillows,
The tapes, our pictures—
And the room can only declare
With such clarity your absence.
Perhaps you too are alone
In a solitary room
Too big for one person,
Dreaming of the voice
That has kept you warm
For many years, or the face
You have memorized
Constantly with your fingers.
Perhaps truth is not that sweet:
You are in a bar to small for fifty,
Your lips pressed against
The cold mouth of a glass
Of beer, and you have ordered
Another one for the man
Sitting just across the bar
And his grin says he likes you.
In my mind, you are present
In all things. But the bed
Betrays me: It remains half-full.
The quilt of your voice
Stretches across the continents
But it cannot keep me warm enough.
Love is all proximity
And nothing, not even the thought
You are thinking of me, can
Equal your return.
I have felt the same way for a former lover, and you gave me, however belatedly, the words to encapsulate, poetically, the unsaid words in the hidden torrents of the grief I had felt the past two months. But I know also that I have moved on.
And I must. Because if moving on means that I will arrive at
you, I know no other action except to hurry.
Labels: life, love, poetry, travel
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