Carlo Rey Lacsamana
In exchange for fixing the power switch, the bar owner offered him a month of free breakfast of cappuccino and a sandwich of his choice, since the owner knew he would not accept money as payment. He would rather trade his talents and capacities with other people’s talents and capacities than sell them. Never let money be the mediator between man and man. He didn’t work. Work in the normal sense of its worldly engagement: being employed, contracts, salary, routine, etc. All these things he found extraordinarily tedious, rigid, and too artificial. To work is a form of bondage; no animal wants to be in chains. His ex-girlfriend saw this evasion as living a wayward life. Despite his intelligence, his knowledge of things, and his artistic nature, she dreaded his lack of concern for the future. Of course, she wanted security! Who doesn’t? Future and security: nothing could be more ambivalent. She thought he was charmingly vague.
His vagueness—that is his refusal to be part of universal conformity and standardized living inspired disgust and admiration. Friends laughed behind his back, his family considered him a kind of failure. On the other hand, people who really knew him admired his will, imagination, idealism, and improvisational skills. He was never tempted to pursue the countless, dazzling diversions that lure young men. He took seriously the simple pleasures of life. The simple attracted him for they were striking; simple yet high minded, dangerous, and exciting. This irrepressible feeling for the simple was, perhaps, the secret of joy.
What is the charm and logic of spending the glorious days of one’s unrepeatable life inside the dusty office room staring at a lifeless immobile screen making abstract figures, writing dull notes, sitting on a helpless stool for hours and eternity, waiting, till the judicious hand of the wall clock startles you: ‘It’s six, you can go home,’ he said eloquently to a curiously sympathetic friend. ‘And have faith that tomorrow will be as saturnine as yesterday and all the other tomorrows, going about again and again in this lifeless, lugubrious repetition.’
‘What a shame! What a shame!’ he exclaimed. He had naturally a plentiful stream of exuberance and humour. To embrace the world, to smell a strange flower, to get drunk with a stranger, to read a wise book, to squeeze the breasts of your lover, to sit in a corner to listen to a street musician, to defecate in the morning, to escape to the sea, ah! The sea!… to… to… love! He thought out loud these simple longings of life. ‘To!’ he cried as if referring to an invisible lover with tormented cheerfulness and passion. ‘Life must triumph against ennui!’ One must stretch this victory to the end. Indeed, his charming vagueness puzzled the people around him.
The warm, sweet, foamy cappuccino mingled delightfully with tobacco. He devoured it up to the last drop. It tasted essentially good because it was free. He put out his notepad and pen: two indispensable instruments which served as mediator between his ideas and the marvellous world. They made thinking something light. On the blank page fell waves of sunlight: warm, tender, golden, like daffodils, solid light he could touch and feel. What was he thinking? There was something godly about the sun, the sheer warmth, the unknown power which stirred the heart with a hot, furious impulse of becoming. The sun was both calm and careless, patient and reckless. This contagious influence of the sun violated his bounds of reason. Like the wild animals his heart was possessed with that impulse for serious playfulness. One must explore the possibilities within one’s self and their painful limits to one’s transformation. In the grandness of the universe, he felt he was a fragmentary piece of something incomprehensible, terrifying beauty. And that strange feeling was enough a design to live wholly for the moment’s sake. He wandered and wondered out loud.
And observed the world around him. The pretty young students walking their way to school, the fruits at the fruit stand, the pigeons drinking in the fountain pool, the bicycles peacefully parked on the corner. One could write epic stories about these things, he thought. He observed and wrote the hours of the morning, the pages bursting like pomegranates: poems, thoughts, ideas, soiled with wandering cigarette ashes and petals of divine sunlight.
Midday. The restless city was hidden under the blinding lustre of the midday sun. The city. Land of insatiable desires, of open secrets, of crowded ambitions, of petty crimes, of active limbs and confused minds. A world where the power of the screen creates distracted men; and man, obscure, faceless among other men, always at the mercy of want.
He came to the food market at the busiest hour of the day. To buy food? Absolutely not! Watch how he spy and prey upon the train of fruit and vegetable stalls. To thieve? He could; but he believed in the kindness of man so he asked; besides asking was less risky. The customers wandered in search of the most brilliant red tomatoes, the most-slender bananas, the most electric bundle of spinach, the most seductive eggplant. They paid for what they got. He foraged for free.
Fruits and vegetables which couldn’t be sold: the leftovers, the physically “unmarketable” food like odd-shaped potatoes, wrinkled lettuces, pillow-soft tomatoes, slightly withered cabbages; unattractive to the sophisticated eyes of urban consumers. Even in flea markets the instinctive obsession with outward appearance reigns supreme. What was deemed as “trash” he recouped and eat.
At the end of the day massive quantities of food enough to feed a whole starving city went to landfills. What a mountain of waste we create every day! The very fact was sheer agony to him. How could one submit to this logic of waste? So much waste. The blindness! But he saw the wealth that lie hidden in those heaps of brilliant fruits and flocks of greens about to be thrown. Rummage.
Politely he expressed his reasonable concern to the vendors and they in return listened and with the innate sympathy that tied all human beings had warmed up to his buoyant and sensible proposition. Before the garbage collector cleared the whole place, they put aside the leftovers for him. And there he was: choosing and picking: the variety of colours and textures of fruits excited his senses; the lusciousness of the greens delighted his appetite. He came and went without fear of necessity. The waste could always feed him.
The perfect full moon had arrived. He stopped, took a deep breath then climbed the fence covered with thick passion vines. Ah! The moonlight was full at the back garden of the church; flowers brimmed: poppies, daffodils, nasturtiums, hyacinths, primroses, scillas, pussy willows. Whatever they shut the door for? he wondered.
Thanks to the choir girl who sang in the church he had discovered this majestic spot. And it was on this freshly cut lawn surrounded by magnolia, apple and lime trees where they both discovered the ecstasy of making love out door. It made him sad to look back. Last summer! Memories however happy are still sad.
‘Isn’t bad for you, smoking cannabis?’ he asked ridiculously.
‘Are you really that annoying?’ said the choir girl. She thrust the filter away and lifted her bare arms to embrace him. ‘Love me’.
‘What if I don’t Ave Maria?’, he said jokingly, imitating the voice of the priest. ‘Of course, I’m kidding!’
And then they began, slowly and delicately, to undress…
‘They gasped between kisses. Swung back and forth. They laughed like little kids while they lay there in each other’s arms.
But tonight, he was alone. And the moon that distant white body of fire that mystified the minds of lonely poets and desperate lovers shone with ominous intensity. It seemed the whole tremendous Creation improbable without that radiant little pebble hanging about the pressing darkness of the wide boundless sky. He could not express his curious, admiring affinity with the moon; he felt a pain of joy running through the space, racing through light years in his blood. He was alone. Why some people are afraid to be alone at night? When one is alone at night the senses become magnetic. The ears hear the breath of things, the eyes see the soul of things, the nose smells the stench of the past and the sweetness of the future, the mouth imbibes the darkness—the intoxicating darkness like wine. Alone at night you are one with everything, and the terrifying feeling of getting closer shoulder to shoulder with silence itself. Alone at night you are quite sad.
He stretched his arms and legs like a crucifix. The silver moonbeams nailed his young pale body on the soft grass; the brittle yellow flowers cracked beneath his back. The hollow church and the trees watched him as he penetrated the grandeur of the space above him. He opened his mouth wide like a dark well. ‘Light years,’ he whispered. He wanted to swallow the moon like a host. To be distant, far, far away, remote but blindingly bright. Light years. He tried to measure the distance of the moon. Mouth wide open as if to swallow the light of the stars, the odour of flowers and trees, the lost memories, the awakened dreams, the entire history of his insignificant being. Quietly his soul screamed. Guilty of living; without resistance, without fight, he surrendered to the celestial prison of the sky. ‘Oh, terrifying beauty!’ he screamed and slept like a free man. AQ