Retropost: I hope the kids are all right

A warm memory from an IG post dated 4 November 2016:

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At the end of my last class today, I found one of my students from another section waiting outside the classroom. Turns out, he’d been there for the past hour.

“Why’re you here, Chico?” I asked. “We don’t have class today.”

“I saw you from outside,” he said. “You looked stressed, so I wanted to wave to you and say hi!” He added, brightly, “Nice dress!”

I wear plain black dresses to school. Aside from the cut, they basically all look the same.

“As always,” I smiled, and he took his leave.

I find that Fine Arts freshie quite a unicorn. I mean that I find his aspect strange, more akin to a seven- than a seventeen-year-old. (That is a compliment, from a Wordsworthian point of view.) He exhibits none of the angst I would expect from someone his age (and at his age I was so angsty I Iistened to hardly anything but Evanescence, Emilie Autumn, and Lacuna Coil). He seems to take it for granted that I care about him and his classmates as persons, and not just as agents I have to work with, or manage. He took it for granted that his greeting would brighten my mood (I didn’t think it would, but it did). He applies himself to tasks with determination to do his best.

He emanates an air of quiet warmth and sincerity–no tortured artist, but no glare of fucking sunshine either–that seems to come from a place of trust in the goodness of the world. He strikes me as the kind of person who means it when he says, “It’s okay,” the kind of person who has faith that in the end, everything will be alright. I don’t know whether that trust has mettle, whether it has triumphed over challenges posed by the vagaries of life, but I hope he keeps it whatever happens. Trust in life, in the world, is such a rare thing, no? And so important, if one were not to devolve to apathy, nastiness, cynicism.

My mind is a funny thing; I tend to remember the things that I read (information, ideas, plot points, striking turns of phrase, lines of poetry), but my autobiographical memory–of past experiences and situations and conversations, of people once known, of emotions felt in particular times and places–is spotty. This gap in the capaciousness, precision, and associative powers of my semantic and episodic memories means that I tend toward intellection rather than empathy or nostalgia. This is one of the reasons that I write–to collect and recollect, to turn and return to episodes I would otherwise forget, to try to capture how I feel, what insights I stumble upon, in certain, unrepeatable moments. To relive lessons in pleasure and pain, because no past is ever past, in that what is experienced continues to color the present, to constitute, consciously or not, the manifold structures of our being, and being in the world.

I don’t know if I should email Chico. It seems weird to write out of the blue. Still, today, I remembered that student, and by extension, his class, and many other classes I’ve been privileged (and pained and felt inspired, this complex of feelings, hahaha) to teach, and I hope to the universe that they are all alright.

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Matapos basahin ang isang tula ni Richard Siken

Anong ninanasa? Pagsintang may lalim, lawak, lawig, at gaan, sapat para hikapin ang kalooban, lumangoy papalapit at papalayo, magbalik nang alam na may babalikan, at lumutang sa mga tingin at ngiti nang may kumpiyansang hindi pababayaang malunod.
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May mga gabing bumabaling ang aking pansin sa aking pulso, at nadarama ko muli ang sakit ng ilang taon.
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Isang araw aking nabatid na sa aming dalawa, ako lang ang kumakapit, kumapit, nang may pagtangi at pag-asa, sa kabila ng lahat ng pagod at lungkot, ilang beses mang mangawit. Bakit? Hindi kailangang parusahan ang sarili nang ganito. Isang araw, may masasakyang pag-ibig na maglalaan ng upuan, at hindi ako hahayaang sumabit lang.
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Kung ako ay kanyang minahal, hindi ko alam.
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Hanggang kailan ako magsusulat nang ganito?
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Lagi kang mag-iisa, tapos ikaw ay mamamatay.” Ganoon lang ba ang buhay?
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Kaginhawaan: paulit-ulit na uliting, “Ang lahat ay lumilipas, ang lahat ay may hangganan.”
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Patawarin ang sariling labis na nagmahal. Patawarin siyang hinayaan kang magpatuloy nang ganito sa mahabang panahon. Damhin ang sakit nang hindi iniisip na ikaw lang ang nasasaktan, o na walang puwang para sa iyong kalungkutan sa mundong ito, kung saan nag-uumapaw ang hinagpis, walang kabuluhang dalamhati.
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Pagbitaw bilang paglaya. Pag-iyak bilang paglaya. Maniwalang ang kinabukasan ay magdadala ng saya at hinahon.
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Masyadong madamdamin ang tunog nitong mga pangungusap sa tabas ng sariling wika.

I came here in the last week of August

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and just like that, a month has passed, quicker than I can think to say “dōjeh” instead of “mh’goi.” There remains not much to tell except that I am well — that nothing’s up, I’ve little progress to report, but I am managing the quotidian in a way that gives me little reason to welcome disruptions to my everyday. I wear this new life like a skin by slipping into a mantle of old habits: buying the same kinds of goods off supermarket shelves, making coffee with a French press in the morning, practicing yoga when I can, wearing black to work. I have been making friends and learning how to swim and how not anxiously to be in the water, or in love. I try not to stay in the office too late, to wake up with the rising of the sun and to sleep before midnight, but in these I have been failing. There is always so much to do. I read too slowly and squander minutes, and feel always at a loss over lost time. Elsewhere, autumn colors the trees and the pavements in fire; this morning my view from the window was sleet gray with residential towers and rain. Still, there are spaces for joy–as when I dive into the pool and lose sense of sound and see only refractions of light in the blue water. When I take my washing from the tumble dryer and feel my clothes clean and warm in my arms. When I walk back to the dorm late at night, bopping to The 1975. When I think of him smiling as he opens a book or a door, when I hear his voice, smooth and mellow, like milk tea, calling my name.

 

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