Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Decade Later

4:00 pm
LRT 2 Pureza Station

Hey Jay,

How does it feel like turning a decade older?

I'm off to Santa Clara to give thanks for a meaningful and blessed year. While waiting for the train to come, I thought of walking down the memory lane, hoping I could get in touch with you again. And you know what, I vaguely remember how your birthday was ten years ago. Was it the one you got so drunk and made mom and dad upset?

You caught them by surprise, kid. They don't know you already sleep with alcohol at such age.

Besides, you never had plans that day. Because a few days later, your class will hold a Christmas Party. You took great pains for it to happen.

You said, "kahit pa-birthday niyo na lang." Since its your last year in school, you want everyone to show up and enjoy.

I'm sure you had thoughts of how your life is ten years after turning twenty.

You ask:

Did you succeed your dad and became a tabloid publisher?

Did you run your family's security agency business and made it prosper?

Did you marry your girl and became a "trendy millionaire by 27" like what was written on your college yearbook.

Big plans eh?

You saw life through a rose-colored stained glass window. The future maybe unseen, but you know it will be good!

I remember even before, you don't throw a party on your birthday. Not even a tagayan session at home. A quick trip to the Santissimo Rosario parish with your girlfriend for a quiet reflection and your day is done.

But your tropa - the PGC - had insisted to have a drink after your class was dismissed. "Birthday mo naman eh," they cheered. "Minsan lang to," said another. You first turned down the idea, but eventually you gave in.

Now that I see it through the train window - as it crosses Edsa, you had a choice of stomping it down - and get on with your solitude. That moment of giving-in, somehow, put in front of the mirror your ways of coming up with decisions. You played passive as default. Seldom did you make choices and when you do, it is laced with doubts and hesitations.

But you made very good ones too!

Going back to the evening of December 15, 2002, your childhood friend gatecrashed your little drinking session. He presented himself as an expert tanggero and after countless shots of Ginebra San Miguel, you lost track of time and the next thing I remember, you were slumped on the ground.

After being carted off to Neverland, I'm sure you had twisted dreams of becoming the undisputed sovereign of your family business. Though you know within that you never like being surrounded with hot, sexy starlets, it doesn't hurt to know that your coffers never get empty.

Sadly kid, I'm afraid your fantasies never took place. In less than a year after leaving college, a series of tragedies struck your family. First was your dad going into hiding. He was accused of sending someone to his death. Next, the business had its computers and printing machines taken away by the authorities. It was too obscene for the prudish and was thought of corrupting the minors - when they get their hands on them. We will never able to rise up after that raid. And when dad was able to breathe new life into the newspaper, he said bye-bye to this world a week after it resumed operations.

He died just when your cold war was beginning to thaw.

There was no choice but to sit on his broken throne. You were plucked from another company (you abandoned your post at your dad's company after some disagreements made you realize you cannot work for free.) and found the once mighty tabloid now swimming in debt. All it took for the newspaper to sink was one summer, and then its over.

The tabloid may have had several comebacks, but never will it be yours again.

As for matters of the heart, you began crossing fences shortly after turning twenty. Blame the Internet for the Lavender Spring, but you saw it coming way way back. You will have three boy relationships. You will spend five years with one of them. The third will make a phone call and say "Happy Birthday" exactly a minute after you've turned thirty.

You will discover what contentment means with him.

Returning to that fateful night, as you tried to get up and meet your parents waiting at the dining table, the next ten years will replay the scenes of the struggle.

Your savings was almost wiped out during the first five years of the decade. You jumped from one job to another, only to settle in a career not far from the one you were groomed to take. You were accepted in UP Diliman, and was able to join their Creative Writing program.

Short of thesis, you decided to put your academics on hold while you sorted out the other realms of your life.

I remember, dad always tells us to stay healthy. We were blessed with faulty genes that no matter how we aspire for good health, heart ailments and diabetes trail not far behind.

It's a good thing you thought of enrolling in a gym at 26. More than reasons of vanity, the long and fruitful fitness tradition has allowed you to stay out of reach of our ancient maladies.

Even though you know, they are catching up.

Well Jay, these sums up your life. I could have said more, but this piece is getting lengthy. Besides, its getting more difficult to ruminate especially when you're walking along White Plains avenue with cars facing head on.

To be fair, the decade wasn't that bad. As I said earlier, though seldom did you make you own decisions, the ones you did are the finest. First, you may have inadvertently liberated so many other guys in the closet when you accepted your absolute attraction with boys. I will not go into details, but surely you know how sharp your pen is. (no pun intended)

You might not earn much (and you seem lagging behind the career race) but at least, you get to lead and look after a dozen people at work. You are also under the good graces of the boss.

Lastly, you may not have found a career in the newspaper industry. But at least, you have a very strong, quasi-anonymous online presence. And you get to write science articles for small children too!

I don't know any loftier accomplishment than that.

What I'm telling you Jay is that no matter how you see your last ten years as a glass half-full, it doesn't look that worse than showing up at the dining table drunk and wasted. Your mom and dad bought food pa naman for you to feast.

But let me stop reminding you of what happened that evening and focus on why there's a need to reach out.

I guess writing back is my way of telling, of telling my future self my state of mind on a breezy, late afternoon of December 15, 2011.

Sure, my accomplishments were modest and I got slightly piqued having to walk all the way from Santa Clara to Ortigas just to hear myself talk.

But this act of walking, of this silly writing to a boy who was intoxicated on his twentieth birthday, if it carries any weight, is my way of telling the future that I'm willing to take long journeys on foot to get there.

To my destination.

For when you sum our lives from that night of worthless abandon to where I stand today, the wind tells me, I'm back from where I started.

Only now, I'm fully aware of my senses.

I hope, the next time I will write this way, Jay, you will find yourself on top of a scenic vista overlooking a breathtaking landscape. Better if you remain alone, as long as you're well-accomplished in ways you have dreamed of.

I hope you will get to finish your masters, and stay fit. May you never give up the Olympic Bars and Steel plates all because you thought, you had enough of weightlifting.

And I sincerely wish that even though you never get to see your teenage dreams fulfilled, may your sublime aspirations of becoming a teacher, a crusader of the planet, a devoted and supportive partner be realized.

May you succeed in putting your house in order.

Just so you know, I kept the bottle as souvenir.

Because despite failing miserably in laying down and showing off your earthly feats, I can tell deep down that you have served your Creator well.

In the silence of Baaspace.

Happy Birthday...  Joms.