and I told him about that night during finals week years ago when I stood for two hours some yards away from my tent, in a forest clearing, up a mountain, freezing underneath two layers of clothing and my jacket, clutching my friend’s BlackBerry, trying to find a stable mobile signal so I could email my professor the graduate paper on postcolonial feminism I started writing in my head that morning while hiking and started typing with a borrowed smartphone at the first campsite we reached before nightfall. Were you able to send it, he asked, and I said yes. And how did it go, he asked again, and I said, I got a 1.0, of course.
Then I told him about the tattoo on my right arm, which may look like a three-year-old’s study of an anchor or a crossbow, but is actually a hawk, flying far overhead, which I got from a journey to a mountain tribe in Kalinga to visit the country’s last traditional tattoo artist. The symbol is not of the Kalinga tribes, but of the Ifugao, who considered the hawk a messenger or an omen from the spiritual realm; head hunters, back when head hunting was allowed, followed it to the kill. A hawk on the right side bodes good fortune and victory. The Ifugao believed that the body is duality, like yin and yang. The right side is masculine—courageous, strong.
Tell me one last thing, he said, and I told him about the sky runner that I once hiked with for two days, who pointed to the stars and told me the names of the constellations from a rock ledge atop the region’s most prominent peak at 4000 MASL, the man who warmed my hands with his steady grasp and amber eyes, who flew a thousand miles to see me. Whoa whoa whoa, he said, that is romantic, there’s no way I could top that. Well, I said, turned out he was already engaged to some girl, and he didn’t tell me. We met in February and he got hitched in May. That is how I learned the true meaning of romance.
You could write an autobiography with these stories, he said, and I disagreed with him quietly. Because these stories are not important, or are no longer important. The really interesting, significant things to me lie dormant, remain bare of expression.