Thursday, December 20, 2012
7:56 PM |
It Has Been Swell Knowing You
“’Begin at the beginning,’ the King said, very gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’” ~ LEWIS CARROLL, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
If you are reading this on a Sunday morning, hot coffee on hand, the birds chirping outside your window on what is hopefully a gloriously chilly December day, that will mean only one thing: the world never ended, the days go on in an unapocalyptic torpor, and we were wrong about what the Mayans were trying to say with their calendar.
If this is the case, consider me happy: we get to live, and life must always be celebrated. Which does not deny also the tiny fact of disappointment. The hype of 2012 has been with us for much too long, and if only for morbid reasons, a lot of us were quite eager to get a first-row view of universal cataclysm. We thought: it would be extremely painful—we die!
—but what a show that would be. (Some of us have Hollywood disaster movies in our brains.)
For personal reasons only I understand, I’ve been more than excited all throughout the year to see December 21st come to light. Perhaps it is the sense of a fictionist imagining a fantasy playing out: the world ending in a bang and a blaze of light, grander and more terrible than any novel can ever describe. It is also the sense of a man coming to selfish terms with the increasing ravages of the middle years: I believe I have lived a fantastic life—I have lived and I have loved fabulously—and for this, I am more than ready to accept an end that has been, in a way, “foreseen.” I like the romance of the inevitable. And lastly, it is the sense of a record-keeper with a bucket list, pegging a certain finish to all things undone, and keeping score as a way to measure life.
In a final note, I must say I remain unsuccessful in that last consideration. More than a year ago, I had sat down one night with a good friend, in Qyosko, and both of us started contemplating the mortal predictions of the Mayans. We were drinking coffee, eating arroz balao
, listening to the music of Adele, and trying to determine in uncertain terms the vagaries of life and love, given the business of heartbreaks and all sorts of foolish things.
“Do you really think the world will end in December 21 next year?” Anna Espino asked me—she of the rational debater’s mind.
“It is not that I believe that it will happen,” I slowly replied, balancing out rationality and my romantic need to believe in magic and foolish things. “Nobody can know for sure, and for all we know the world will end any time, any day now, and not necessarily on 21 December 2012. Or perhaps the world will last forever until our sun burns out. But I do like that the tail end of 2012 beckons to me like a deadline. So I will believe in December 21 only in that consideration: as a finish line of sorts by which I can measure out the efforts of my days, my life. The thing is, not all of us know how to live. We dole out a semblance of living and comfort ourselves with the illusion that someday our dreams will come true without exactly doing anything about it. We are tied down by the comforts of our uneventful, unrealized existences. So I might as well use this ‘end of the world’ nonsense to start living the life I want before it’s too late.”
Or something of that sort.
I believe my rhetoric on paper sounds so much grander than the speech I must have stammered out that night in Qyosko. But the spirit of the conversation remains the same. And from what I remember, Anna had nodded her agreement, and off we went to our corners of the table in Qyosko—if round tables had corners—trying to come up with a list of ten “doable” things we must promise to accomplish before 21 December 2012. By “doable” we meant something that could, with some certainty, be accomplished given the context of our lives and our fervent wishes. No items listing down “flying to the moon,” for example, or “marrying Joseph Gordon-Levitt.” The list was meant for fulfillment, an end to the common nightmares of pipe dreams.
I’ve since lost my bucket list—I’m not sure if that itself is a sign—but I remember most of the things I wrote down that night the way our hearts keep the etchings of things it refuses to forget: to learn to drive a car, to publish a book of stories and finish my novel, to spend vacation time in Bukidnon and Batanes, to finally finish my MA, to travel to Europe or Argentina, to go back to Sagada to give thanksgiving to the spirits who carried me at the most crucial time in my life, to build a house, to spend more time with Mother. And this, I remember most: to tell the person that I love that I love him without regrets, hopes, or recrimination.
I have not been entirely successful with many of the things on that list. Travel has eluded me because of responsibilities suddenly thrust on me. Life, as the cliché goes, happened. And I don’t have my own house yet, nor a car—forever deluding myself in the belief that I was born a pedestrian. But I have two books of stories out, and I have an MA diploma. For these, I am indeed grateful. Life has a way of making us thankful for things we have somehow accomplished, barring the noisy reminders of those we have yet to claim. But in the final analysis, I can’t consider the list as a definition for my life: fulfillment has its own language undictated by stupid lists. And I believe I have lived truly, even if I have missed out on some markers of accomplishments.
It will be Christmas soon—and I do hope there will be Christmas. But the last thing on that list winks at me with the perversion of a thing wanting fulfillment.
And so, to you whom I love, by the grace of a world ending, I’ll take this chance to tell you what you must have always known anyway: “I love you.” And that’s it. Just three words, and nothing more—those words contain universes anyway.
That, and merry Christmas and a happy new year, if there will be a new year, to one and all.
Labels: disasters, end of the world, life, love
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