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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Friday, December 11, 2009

entry arrow4:49 PM | A Christmas Conversation in Oxen Time

We—a scribe with a broken heart, a butterfly in a lingering emotional standoff, a dentist in tired repose, and the glue that is Moses Joshua Atega—gather in a restaurant called Casablanca, off Real Street, somewhere near the bowels of the city. It is almost late at night. Ten-ish. But there we are around a table near the window, which looks out into the darkening streets as the December night deepens. Around us, the creaking sounds of the long year keep sighing into our consciousness.

The evening is extraordinary only in the sense that we have not done this exercise in a long while, each of us having been too busy surfing and surviving the tumult of our every day. None of that you will see, however, in the surface of things, in the fabulous impeccability of the company.

Still, there is the performance of fine dining and good conversation to accomplish. And there is the bottle of red wine to loosen ourselves up. And the four of us are nothing but experts in this kind of social traffic. This is what you finally call a civilization: people of a perfectly honed skill of treading and tackling the cracks of lives through graceful chit-chat, angst and everything else, channeled through artful deflection, vaguely worded but precisely observed admissions, and mango crepe.

“I have eaten better steak—“ one of us says.

“And better mango crepe—“

“—But given the days, I pronounce the entire thing delicious.”

“It has been a while since we’ve done this, no?”

Ako, I’m always doing these. There’s another dinner I’ve been invited to tomorrow, but I can’t go. I have to leave.”

“Again?”

“You’re always leaving.”

“That’s his job, to wander the earth till he makes everybody a Sillimanian.”

Haha. No, uy. I’m going with the Silliman Band, on their concert tour.”

“They’re having another tour?”

“They’re always on tour. You’re always on tour. But sometimes I think that’s how you try to escape Dumaguete.”

“Escape is the perfect antidote to standing still.”

“I wish I could escape. I can’t bear another minute in this stupid city full of memories.”

“Do you want more wine? I don’t want to hear another word of that affair.”

“I’m so sorry. Not too much, please. There, enough. Is it me just me, or is this house wine a little too … sour?”

“I love the house wine in Italiana.”

“And then, what happens after the tour?”

“And then there’s Davao. I have to be with family for the 25th. It’s to celebrate Christmas, and everybody else’s wedding anniversaries.”

“On the 25th?”

“My mom always believed in Christmas weddings kasi.”

“How convenient for everybody.”

“It has been a while since we’ve done this, no?”

“You’ve been busy.”

“We’ve all been busy.”

“We only meet each other in Facebook these days.”

“You have not posted your travel pictures in Facebook yet.”

“It takes too long to upload.”

“It must be a Java problem.”

“I don’t think it’s a Java problem.”

“Your connection then?”

“Where did you go ba?”

“How do you not know anything?”

“I don’t know. You haven’t accepted my friend request is what I think.”

“Your status updates scare me.”

“I’m a reality show in Facebook. Only more fabulous. I heard you were in Europe?”

“In the U.S.”

“Did you see my brother?”

“I was too busy shopping to see anybody else’s brother.”

“You went shopping with Al de las Armas.”

“Honestly, dearest, you can’t be in L.A. and not shop with Al de las Armas.”

“Which reminds me, there’s something almost mercenary about Christmas shopping this year. I can’t put my fingers on it but—“

“You just like receiving gifts, that’s all.”

“What can I say? I’m cheap.”

“Will you be in Manila for good very soon?”

“That boat has sailed, dearie.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means that you should try stocking up on fruit cake soon.”

“But fruit cakes are so … pedestrian. It’s the Christmas equivalent of jologs.”

“I have a new kind of dessert you might want to try. It’s my version of Food for the Gods. Only more sinful.”

“Food for the Devil, then.”

“I think you’re drinking too much wine.”

“Here, here’s more.”

“I miss my better Christmasses.”

“There’re still a few days left till Christmas, you must know.”

“But I can feel it in my bones. I dread it.”

“That’s sad.”

“You choose to be happy or unhappy every day, sweetie.”

“Sometimes though, unhappiness just chooses me, for sport.”

“That’s sad.”

“And Santa should know. I’ve been a good boy all year. Well, sometimes anyway. Effort should count, right?”

“Dearest, there’s no Santa Claus.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“I feel this: it takes more than Herculean effort to feel Christmas this year. I need divine intervention just to feel it.”

“All I need is Karen Carpenter singing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.’”

“But this year has been so hard, no?”

“Is it the year of the oxen?”

“Yes.”

“The year of the oxen was hard on everybody.”

“It was grueling.”

“And punishing.”

“And challenging.”

“And yet, also profoundly illuminating.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, I think it taught us a lot about ourselves. That despite its many tragedies, it was strangely a good year.”

We all fall silent.

And then somebody asks: “So how was your year?”

“We need another bottle of wine.”

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