Monday, March 01, 2010

normalcy, overdue

I open the ref we brought from his apartment, way over a year ago.

The stickers he stuck on the door are still there—Fujitake mineral water delivery, Dial 1898 Singtel to call overseas, OCBC Rewards. The Elvis magnets, I moved to the bigger ref downstairs, thinking he’d get a kick out of seeing them holding up drawings my kids made in school.

Inside, his pepperoncinis—almost gone—are still marinating in their brine. There’s the chorizo he promised he would cook someday; bottled herring from Finland; tabletas from Christmas gift baskets long past. I remember the first Christmas I actually got to know him. I wanted to buy him a jar of Tita Muning’s famous pudding. I texted him if he liked those things. “No,” he replied. “Not into sweets.”

A week or two later, after Christmas, he texted me the lyrics to A Hard Day’s Night. When I asked him about it, he answered, “because life is easier lived when one’s eyes are closed.” Never got to ask him what he meant by that.

I kept the ref and its contents in this state, this stasis, hoping – knowing – that he would come home someday and would want to touch base with the past. A past where midnight snacks, after several rounds of drinks at The Oar, would consist of Nissins Ramen and egg. He hated it when I broke the yolk. He would get so angry he would storm out of the room. Another fight we had about food was when I was so hungry, I didn’t wait for the adobo sauce to reduce; he said he was experimenting with rum as a base. He didn’t talk to me for a day. I spent the day in the garage, furtively chain smoking and gulping down San Mig Lite. Sometimes, after The Oar, we would stop by that greasy spoon before the alley that turns into Mabini, and I would order an ultra el cheapo tocilog. On better nights, no fights would break out between us. I would wash the smoke out of my hair so he could smell only Kerastase as he buried his face in my nape as we slept.

That was so long ago.

I remember the time we had no money, and we had to take Gizzard to the vet. I paid for his check up, and later treated him and Jimmy to lunch. But it was ok. “Are we still ok?” he would ask, beating himself up because he knew we weren’t, financially.  “Yes, we’re ok,” I would answer. “Don’t worry.”

And really, I never did.

There was this summer when we didn’t know where to take the kids for holiday. He suggested we bring them to the Greenpeace hangout in Batangas, because we could get a credit on the accommodations, and we could buy food from the market and cook it ourselves. It wasn’t much of a vacation, and we hightailed it out of there before the karaoke crowd came blasting through, but he tried. He really did. I could see all he wanted was a sense of normalcy.

This is what I think about when I look at that ref. At the cigar boxes he likes to collect, and which I display. I used to keep his diving and darkroom equipment out in the open, too, as if expecting him to come home any moment, and asking where they were; he might need them.

He won't, of course. Making money can negate the importance of time and touch. The memories I wanted to preserve seem more like fossils than foundations.

“Normal” is over a year overdue.

I should pack things up now. Really, I should.

March 1

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