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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, February 10, 2012

entry arrow5:26 PM | Love and the Writer

My friend, the young film critic Don Jaucian, posted this not too long in his Tumblr, and I thought it best to share it in the eve of Valentines week: “Writers are straight up, batshit insane people. You should never fall in love with them.”

He means to be cheeky, of course, himself being a writer. I found myself laughing at this because, in all honesty—and I’m probably kissing goodbye to my career as an earnest searcher for true love in Dumaguete—every bit of Don’s pronouncement is true. One can define this “insanity” of writers in so many different ways, but there are aspects to this truthiness, especially in that claim about loving them. When a writer loves you, worry: you will get immortalized as literature. If he doesn’t immortalize you, worry: you don’t move him enough for him to see a poem in you. If there are broken hearts involved, worry: you get immortalized in literature, warts and all. (Emphasis on warts.)

I think film director Marc Webb captured it best when he commandeered a quote attributed to the writer Henry Miller, and gave it to one of the characters in his film 500 Days of Summer as a piece of advice to its lovelorn hero, Tom: “The best way to get over a woman [or a man] is to turn her [or him] into literature.”

Because God know I have.

(And not always successfully.)

Once, many years ago, I had this terrible quarrel with Mark, someone I used to love and live with. We just had dinner with my ex who had decided to come back to Dumaguete to set up a restaurant. The dinner went well, but soon—on the way home—jealousy reared its ugly head. We found ourselves soon parked in a spot along Escaño Boulevard on a Monday night. Inside that green Pajero on that slow night, we had a row that was so dramatic, complete with earth-shattering dialogue, that I couldn’t help but think, in the middle of a fierce rebuttal: “I must remember this night. It sounds like a short story.”

And I did write about it, in a short story titled “Tell Him.”

Why do writers do this? Is it nothing short of airing our dirty laundry in public? Not quite. I guess one just follows the creative writing maxim of “writing what you know”—and sometimes the affairs of the hearts, compounded by its fierceness and more than considerable drama, is too compelling to refuse being set down to writing. I think of the exercise as something of a catharsis: in writing about the loves of our lives, we are somehow trying to find answers to our own unsettled questions. It also helps that in formulating the motivations for every character, especially the one clearly based on the lover, one is compelled to think of the situation from a point of view that is not yours, but theirs. You come to embody them—and in many ways, you see yourself through their eyes. Their pain also becomes your pain, and it helps in the act of moving on. Literature as psychoanalysis, if one must label it.

This may be why in all of my books, I could not seem to stop myself from dedicating each one to someone I’ve once dearly loved. If I may make a confession, in those books, I may have inscribed my own history of loving. They may be attempts to immortalize those fleeting days when love was all that seems real.

A young writer named Mik—and that is all the name I know—once wrote something wonderful in her Tumblr blog about what happens when a writer loves you. What she wrote was the most honest, most damning, most funny revelation in answer to that question. It is something I wish I had written myself. So, what happens when a writer loves you? Mik writes:

Lots of things might happen. That’s the thing about writers. They’re unpredictable. They might bring you eggs in bed for breakfast, or they might all but ignore you for days. They might bring you eggs in bed at three in the morning. Or they might wake you up for sex at three in the morning. Or make love at four in the afternoon. They might not sleep at all. Or they might sleep right through the alarm and forget to get you up for work. Or call you home from work to kill a spider. Or refuse to speak to you after finding out you’ve never seen To Kill a Mockingbird. Or spend the last of the rent money on five kinds of soap. Or sell your textbooks for cash halfway through the semester. Or leave you love notes in your pockets. Or wash you pants with Post-It notes in the pockets so your laundry comes out covered in bits of wet paper. They might cry if the Post-It notes are unread all over your pants. It’s an unpredictable life.

But what happens if a writer falls in love with you?

This is a little more predictable. You will find your hemp necklace with the glass mushroom pendant around the neck of someone at a bus stop in a short story. Your favorite shoes will mysteriously disappear, and show up in a poem. The watch you always wear, the watch you own but never wear, the fact that you’ve never worn a watch: they suddenly belong to characters you’ve never known. And yet they’re you. They’re not you; they’re someone else entirely, but they toss their hair like you. They use the same colloquialisms as you. They scratch their nose when they lie like you. Sometimes they will be narrators; sometimes protagonists, sometimes villains. Sometimes they will be nobodies, an unimportant, static prop. This might amuse you at first. Or confuse you. You might be bewildered when books turn into mirrors. You might try to see yourself how your beloved writer sees you when you read a poem about someone who has your middle name or prose about someone who has never seen To Kill a Mockingbird. These poems and novels and short stories, they will scatter into the wind. You will wonder if you’re wandering through the pages of some story you’ve never even read. There’s no way to know. And no way to erase it. Even if you leave, a part of you will always be left behind.

If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die.

Ponder on that. And Happy Valentines to one and all.

[photo still from Shakespeare in Love]

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