Monday, April 23, 2012

The Damsel, a Mistress?


It was the big night. I was finally going to tell my friends about Jeremy and I was dreading their reactions. We were drinking, catching up and after the usual chit chat, I cleared my throat to begin.

"So, I 'm ... well ... I'm sort of involved with someone," I announced. "His name is J. He's …" I trailed off and shook my head, smiling as I remembered him. I still couldn't believe it.

"He's amazing. He's beautiful, intelligent, passionate, hard working. He's also a blogger. He's tall, and really well-built and … he has a wife and three kids," I said hurrying the last few words.

The room exploded.

"Oh my God! You mean he's married?" Vackie said.

"Oh my God! Go!! Guapo naman pala!" Carlo said.

"Oh my God! Don't tell me querida ka na rin?" Fran said.

But nothing could top Arlan's reaction.

"Honey … ," he slowly said. "Baka lasing ka lang. (Maybe you're just drunk)"

"Gaga! (Fucker!)" I said laughing. "I am not … was not drunk! Grabeeeeeee … I'm so in love," I squealed in delight. "I am."

The room exploded. Again.

"In love na agad?" V said in disbelief.

"Ayyyy! Happy! Finally!" C screamed.

"OMG!!! The L word!" F cried out.

"Honey … sigurado ka ba?" A asked.

After we all quieted down, Vackie proceeded to interrogate me. 

"So what happened to the guy who once said 'I'll never ever ever ever ever ever ever …. ever ever …. ever everrrrrrrrrr go for someone who's in a relationship?'" he asked disapprovingly.

"I know! I know," I admitted. Not so long ago, I did say those words. I had vowed I will never again engage in extra marital affairs. I was, in fact, adamant. How could I ... after what I went through with my ex? I knew all too well the pain it causes and I didn't want to cause that much pain to someone else.

"Kung makapag sermon ka sa akin dati!" V said. "Pina guilty mo ako ng sobrang sobra yun pala ikaw rin!"

"But honey, he's just so fucking amazing. I mean, he gets me," I tried to explain. "He gets my stories, my work. I can talk to him about interest rates, debt restructuring. I can read to him Updike, we can talk poetry …"

"Pero may asawa," V interrupted.

"And he's finishing a degree in econometrics. He's studied in the U.S. He runs his own empire, he's very affluent," I continued.

"Pero may asawa."

"And he's hot. Sobrang guapo! As in!! The kind of guy we've always wanted."

"Pero may asawa."

"Fine! Yes, may asawa siya. And I'm not saying I'll be a mistress forever. But honey, I haven't been this happy in a long time."

It has been awhile. Though I have had encounters with countless men, no one had made my heart race like Jeremy does. Our affinity for each other had grown deeper with every passing week, as we discover common interests and passions in life. We argue and discuss and fight and make up. He is so willful I had to learn to be more patient. He drives me crazy. I had forgotten how it felt like; to feel so much it overwhelms you. 

And maybe … I just want to be selfish for now. Jeremy makes me happy. Sometimes, I wonder why the heavens sent him. A gift or ... a curse? He's almost everything I ever wanted. But the gods can play cruel tricks.

"So when do we meet this mysterious guy of yours?" my friends asked.

"When he comes back sometime before my birthday," I replied. "And oh, I forgot to tell you we're planning a trip. Somewhere I've always wanted," I said grinning.

"Hay ... basta ako, nung sinabi mo pa lang guapo, check na agad!" Carlo said, giving his approval. "Bonus na lang na matalino, masipag. You know me, I'm superficial."

"Hay naku. Ikaw talaga Carlo, pasaway ka! Basta ako ... I'm still studying the morality clause," Vackie said.

"Hahahaha. Morality clause talaga??? Hindi ba puedeng hot okay na?" I said. "Pero God … grabe naloloka ako kay J minsan. Imagine, he once asked me for my bank account."

"Ha? Bakit?" Carlo said.

"He wanted to transfer some money to me raw," I replied. "For our quote unquote ... love nest ... raw."

The room exploded. Again.

"OMG!!!!! Nakakalokaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" everybody screamed at once.

"And take note: dollar account," I added. "So ladies, pop quiz on this lovely summer evening: Is it okay to accept money from your married lover? And, how much … is too much?"

The room exploded. Again.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gossip Girl: Truth and Consequences


Previously on Gossip Girl:
Gossip Girl: The Games We Play (VI)

"It started out innocently at first. A simple comment which led to small talk. In his stories, Jeremy comes across as obnoxious, arrogant, at times condescending and I always thought we probably had little in common."


DISCLAIMER: Although some things were borne out of the writer's imagination, certain events did transpire and resemblances to actual events, people, and places can and do exist.

Rise and shine Upper East Siders. I see all of you took no time in accumulating enough sins during the Holy Week that just passed. What with the massive dose of sex, drugs and alcohol that flowed in all the infamous islands, I almost thought the world would end. Lucky for us, it didn't. 

It appears summer's no time to be pure. Temptations are all around. And we all know how weak we all can be. So don't be surprised by this latest piece of gossip. We hear one it-girl's about to commit the biggest sin of all. Breaking one of the ten commandments, to say the least. Now: which one?

"I'm going to be away for a couple of months on business," J told me over lunch. We were seated at a table in the outdoor section of an expensive restaurant on the outskirts of Manila, surrounded by flowers and foliage. J leaned across the table towards me and gave a small sad face. A waiter set down a glass of water; in its gently stirring reflection a tiny image of Jeremy trembled against the curve of the glass.

"Ahhhh … that long huh."

"Yeah, it's a good time because school is out rin (too)."

"Wait, you're a student?" I said sitting up expectantly.

"Ahhh … I teach part-time," J replied.

"What do you teach?"


Wow. Never figured this guy for an economist. "Keynesian?" I asked.

"A little of everything, actually. How do you know of Keynes?" he replied, baffled.

"Well, I read a lot," I explained. 

"Oooohhhhh ... Hahahaha ... Akala ko kasi puro Gossip Girl lang alam mo," he said grinning. 

"Kainis ka!" I said. In delighted outrage, I squirmed and bucked in my chair. "I happen to know of many things. I just don't get to write about them."

"So you have a PhD?" I continued. "Almost," he said. "I still need to finish my dissertation."

"What's your field?"


"Ahhh … then you must be familiar with Levitt and Dubner of the Freakonomics phenomenon?"

"Wow. You do know of many things," J said, shaking his head. "You amaze me."

The waiter arrived with our dishes of food, chicken and fish stripped from the grill paired with bountiful colorful vegetables.  I stared at the food, feeling funny.  I had spent years hoping some crummy old boyfriend or date would say something like that to me. And now here it was, right in front of me, in a fancy restaurant no less.

J and I chatted over many things; that was one of the things I like most about him. That he can be so smart; that he can listen to my stories, that we can be silly and laugh so much at each others' jokes. I looked at him, noticing his beautiful face and the way his eyes sparkled. He was gorgeous and … I was getting enamored.

I stared at him as he spoke and talked about his mom, how much he loved her. He was worried because her eyesight was failing and she had diabetes. Listening to J, I suddenly felt something stir within me, something I haven't felt in a long time. Everything just feels better.

"I have to tell you something," he suddenly said, his voice turning serious. 

"What?" I said, noticing the abrupt change in his stance. He grew morose, looked worried.

"Later na lang. Before we say goodbye." I nodded. I was curious and wondered what it could be. Why all the secrecy?

It grew dark and cold. J and I were the only diners left on the patio. The restaurant's paper lanterns bobbed in the darkness.

"Come on, let's get out of here," J said. "It's fucking late." We finished the remainder of our food and stood up. We left the restaurant and drove home. 

After a while, I saw Manila's familiar skyline against the dark summer sky. I knew I would miss J when he leaves. We stopped the car in front of my house and we both got out. He couldn't stay, he had to leave early the next day and it was late.

"Well ... I suppose this is it," I said smiling at him. "Have a safe trip and call me?"

J pulled me in for an embrace and while we were locked together, he suddenly whispered, "Kane ... I have a wife … and kids."

He quickly let me go and we both stood silently facing each other. I was stunned. My mind was whirling, what did it mean? J looked at me with his eyes so soft and so sad.

"Usap na lang tayo pagbalik ko ha. (Let's just talk when I get back.)"

I slowly nodded.

"Goodbye K," he whispered. Jeremy drove away, leaving me behind in the deserted street. As I stared at his receding image, the beauty of the pale moon hit me squarely in the eye.

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that there would be no gossip without secrets. You might be brave enough to reveal your secret only to have it used against you. Or someone else's secret might affect you in unexpected ways. 

There are some secrets you're only too happy to keep. Others surface only to be buried away deeper than they were before. But the most powerful secrets are the truths you thought you could never reveal. That once spoken changes everything.

Careful K. They say the roles we play in life are given to us, but I'd like to think that more often than not, we choose them. So choose wisely. You know everyone's watching.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

In The Name of the Holy


In my father's home, we hardly spoke of painters, any more than we did of writers and poets. Painting seemed an abstract activity to me when I was young. Nobody in our little town dabbled with art; people were more concerned with trying to make a living and such activities were considered frivolous.

My first real encounter with paintings took place in the Musée d'Orsay during a summer trip to Europe when I was 19. I stared in amazement at Édouard Manet's Déjeuner sur l’Herbe.The plump female nude at the heart of the canvas, who so scandalized 19th-century opinion in the Paris Salon, could still stop visitors in their tracks more than a hundred years later.

Over the years, I had gotten acquainted with more artists and their works. One of those who fascinated me was Eugène Delacroix. Delacroix, the painter of pleasure and pain. The creator of The Barque of Dante repeatedly depicted the first sin, and his paintings present man's savagery; they show his cursed side. He sizes up the disaster of the world, and through some act of grace, manages to save it from destruction.

From the story You’re Ugly, Too by Lorrie Moore

Another time, he described to her his recent trip to the Louvre. “And there I was in front of Delacroix’s The Barque of Dante, and everyone else had wandered off, so I had my own private audience with it, all those agonized shades splayed in every direction, and there’s this motion in that painting that starts at the bottom, swirling and building up into the red fabric of Dante’s hood, swirling out into the distance, where you see these orange flames —” 

He was breathless in the telling. She found this touching, and smiled in encouragement. “A painting like that,” he said, shaking his head. “It just makes you shit.”

I had not known it then but the bodies shown in Delacroix's paintings, submitting to the fury of cruelty and love, were already familiar to me. Injury and ecstacy, bestiality and rupture, the fusion of pain and bliss was the very story of the saints, mystics and martyrs the Catholic religion I grew up in extolled. 

I struggled a lot with the concept of flesh; and its supposed weakness and its goading. It had to be mortified, which was a huge challenge, the flesh being omnipresent. In the ninth commandment, the union of man and woman was described using the words "the work of the flesh". The mystical body of Christ, the body of the Church --- this religion certainly used a lot of physiology even in its most spiritual aspect.

We were told repeatedly to subdue our senses, to conquer them. the wretchedness of man redeemed by love; these were the woes sung in tales of salvation. To me, they seemed like exquisite agony.

My existence was bound by all these prohibitions. The division between Good and Evil was clear. Remorse accompanied sin, confession went with repentance, and then comes the happy end of forgiveness. What other belief could compete with such a merciful religion?

At the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, visitors can see murals painted by Delacroix including his provoking Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. Delacroix depicted one of the most puzzling passages in Genesis. Who is this adversary Jacob is fighting so intensely? Is he an angel? Not only does the stranger refuse to defend himself, he also faces the son of Isaac with disarming calm. He looks and acts like the victor. Yet Jacob prevailed, but he is wounded for life.

In his invitation to inspect his work at the church of Saint-Sulpice in July 1861, Delacroix wrote:

"Jacob is travelling with the flocks and other gifts he is taking to his brother Esau in the hope of appeasing his anger. A stranger appears, blocking his path, and engages him in a fierce struggle which ends when Jacob is struck on the nerve of his thigh by his adversary, rendering him powerless.
The holy book see this struggle as a symbol of the trials God sometimes sends His chosen ones."

Sometimes, when I lie awake at night, I think about my own salvation. I think about my lifelong struggle to be good; I wonder if others ever have it easy. I think of Jacob as he fought. Must every victory come with a price? Must we really walk across the valley of death before we are given life?

So many questions. So little time. Perhaps the answers lie in these paintings. So let me look. Let me look.