The FX I was riding from Fairview to Philcoa hit a woman. The impact was so great the front-end bumper of the van crumpled, the windshield cracked, the woman’s body flew three meters from the vehicle. I was in the passenger seat. The driver looked crazed. The first thing I did was get out of the van. I wanted to remove myself from the site of death. I walked to the side of the road. The only other passenger wanted to leave immediately. I said, Ate, let’s stay and wait for the police. People surrounded the body and didn’t let the driver get away. There was much shouting and honking. Somebody said the woman’s skull was cracked. Somebody else said she still had a pulse. I am trained in basic life support and first aid but I didn’t touch the body. I didn’t want to gaze at the body. I held the shoulder of the other passenger, who looked like she was about to cry. The police arrived. They took some pictures. They made some calls. They didn’t mind us. Ate said, let’s ask them if we can leave. I said, maybe they need our testimonies. We walked towards the police. I did the talking. The woman had sprinted across a part of the road no pedestrian should cross. The traffic light was green. The driver had been driving too fast. He had been pushing almost 120 kilometers per hour in a road that allowed only sixty. But it was a quarter to eleven and the road was dark and relatively clear. The driver had been hunched over the wheel and looked only at the road. The driver looked manic, crazed, and he had been driving too fast, so fast I was conscious of my body in the vehicle speeding. The moment I looked at the speedometer and saw that we were going over 100kph was the moment I realized we were going to hit a woman. Her body suddenly in front of the vehicle, the green light still bright, the vehicle going too fast to stop. Her body flinging. The policeman said, even if she jaywalked, it was still the driver’s fault. He had his eyes on the road. The policeman told us, you’re free to go. Ate and I rode another FX to our stops, but I haven’t gone home. I keep thinking of the speeding van, the body sprinting across the road, the body illuminated by the car lights a split-second before she hit the van or the van hit her, the body twisting, splayed facedown on the asphalt, illuminated by a street lamp, a sari-sari store’s fluorescent bulb, Christmas lights, LED from smartphones filming the body, and above the din, the sin, everything, the moon, full, too bright. If only the van or the body weren’t moving so fast, if only the driver or the woman didn’t only look ahead, at one point in the road, maybe we could have avoided a collision. It was such a meaningless death, such a stupid way to kill and to die. We say “Ingat” to each other all the time, but why are we still so careless?
I read this blog to catch up with the persons that I have been. Sometimes I do not recognize my voice in what I have written. There are essays I wrote two or three or five years ago that still make me cry. There are one or two things I wish I had done differently. There are persons I can remember only in my words. There are certain sorrows I should not like to forget. My feelings in the morning are often different from my feelings before bed, generally I feel sadder upon waking, though I find that it is more convenient to weep at night. This morning I thought it would be best for me to live in seclusion and alone, but tonight I thought how wonderful it was to come home to a house lit with people. I like that I have a room which only I enter. I like the notes, tables, and diagrams taped to my walls. I like that no one can tell me what to do or how to live my life, even if that also means I am seldom asked how I really am, or if I have already eaten. I write because nobody asks, sometimes I prefer it this way and sometimes I do not. I am an excellent listener, but I am not a very good friend. I expend so much energy caring for myself that often I have little left with which to comfort other people. The company I keep is small. Noise in every form appalls me. I have to remind myself to be kind. Sometimes I feel like I have more thoughts in a day than some people have in a month. I wonder if I live too much inside my head. Some nights I am convinced that no one is going to love me, sometimes this alarms me and sometimes it does not. I know that I am getting older, but still I get reminders that this is so. I want a love built like a shelter, a favorite hiding place. I want a love I can sleep with beneath the covers of a book. I want a love I can hold by the hand and walk with for hours under the sun, rain, trees, and tears. I want a love that is constant and fervent and sure, not the kind that makes me feel like a dog begging for scraps at a table. Maybe I am not lovable, or maybe I have not met someone who would consider me enduringly so. There is someone I should want to forget. There is someone to whom I would like to say, Forget me, even if it seems the forgetting is done. I keep misremembering my age, I think it’s because I am unsatisfied with what I have accomplished. There are things I would like to change in the world. There are very many things I wish I could be better at, even if I like the person I am becoming now. If I should die tomorrow, I would like to say that I am at peace with how I have lived my life, though I find nothing admirable about it. I worry that perhaps I forgive myself too often. I know that I forget too easily, because I do not have any regrets.
“I am unhappy. Father,” I said. “I have loved this town and the people in it. I have drunk them down with delight. But they have some poison in them which I cannot stand. If I think of them now, I vomit up my soul. Do you know of a cure for me?”
“Why yes,” he said, “I know a cure for everything. Salt water.”
“Salt water?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said, “in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”
– Isak Dinesen, from “The Deluge at Norderney” in Seven Gothic Tales (1934)
In mid-February I traveled eight hours to sit by the sea, hoping to float, baggage-free, along the horizon. Instead, I spent that weekend reading books and articles on wasted lives, the politics of disposability, human rights, and the death zones of humanity. I read up on the Ampatuan Massacre, I read up on the killings of the Davao Death Squad. I wound up V-Day singing saksak-puso-senti songs on karaoke with strangers at midnight in a hipster pasta place in a gentrified surf town.
I have run the gamut of saline solutions. But sadness, like seawater, is a renewable resource.
Lessons from my early twenties: Never assign a central position in your emotional life to someone who treats you as if you were dispensable. It takes a while to arrive back to where you were, and distance to see clearly through saltwater.