I am enraged that the right to enjoy coming home at night is so easily snatched from us, that we are robbed four hours of our day by being in transit, contemplating choked roads, enduring way too much physical contact with strangers, being motion-dizzy as we stare into tiny screens, being forced to think way too long about our day, about our lack of money, about our government’s lack of so many things, and conversely, about our own individual lack of control.
Over the weekend, a religious group pitched camp in the busiest thoroughfare in Metro Manila. They were angry about something and they wanted to show it. In doing so, they inconvenienced the daytime and nighttime population of office workers who were already being robbed of precious hours because of perennial traffic. So they made everyone else much, much angrier. Rage is such a prevalent sentiment in my generation. To be an aware adult Filipino now is to know how to complain. I think it’s really not just because of Facebook. We think it’s our right to complain. But, the fact that we rant means something is being taken from us.
But see, there are other things to think about aside from rage at the world: in the van, tonight, I was thinking of writing about some pithy but important realization about my life and relationships, but I was on the road and my hands were occupied with keeping my bag from sliding onto the person squished beside me. How could I write my great, Palanca-winning thoughts (if diaries will ever make the cut) if I am always on the road thinking them, and too tired when I get home (and even tonight, overdue work awaits, hay). Or else I’m thinking about work. I’m trying to think of what that thought was. But now I have too little time to think about it, and too little money, and too little work.
OK, I remembered what I was thinking of now (actually, I took a dinner break, I ate the pasta I was supposed to have for lunch, but my boss treated the team to Locavore’s sizzling sinigang and lechon pork belly) — I’m reading The Folded Clock, and the writer, once again, is an old woman, and it’s her diary written in a span of two years. I am in a streak of reading old women and I love them, as I have loved them ever since I wrote (crammed) my anthology undergraduate thesis in UPLB. I want nothing more than to be an old woman with nothing to be preoccupied with but her thoughts and memories. Anyway, this writer, she is talking about meeting eleven year olds and feeling inadequate and feeling that they are more privileged than they deserve to be. I found myself highlighting the passage. Increasingly, I am aware that I am now in my ‘late twenties.’ that 17 and 18 year olds and 13 year olds know and obsess about things that have passed my “radar of awareness” that I had been so proud of. They’re riding the wave, I’ve stayed fixated on things I ended up falling in love with. Books nothwithstanding I’ve lost the general desire to just prefer what’s latest. I’ve grown to love certain things and people, in spite of myself. But these kids are at it, and enjoying it. And it’s so effortless for them – they have unlimited Internet, they have no problem wearing the same crop tops and high waisted shorts, they are being driven around by the 70s kids who bought their first houses – with lots! – at 30, they can call themselves panromantic asexuals because they are allowed to know and to appropriate things like that, they are allowed – forced? – to be adults in their teenage years. Every adult, upon being aware of teenagers as aside from them for the first time, are shocked by their confidence. Are forced to question if they had the same kind of swag. I’m not yet that adult, even, but I questioned myself nevertheless: ten years (!) ago – yes, I definitely had more swag. But it was a very aware swag. I was aware that I could get away with a lot of things then and there. But I was also very insecure, and aware that I wasn’t swagging as well as my more moneyed contemporaries were. Still kind of in the same boat. Still maximing and pretending that having a “radar of awareness” could help things along. Like in the elevator. We were talking luxury bags. That’s an alma, I told the owner, rather obnoxiously, in conversation. I sort of know bags. I can tell them apart. I couldn’t help it. I know them, I know what I love among them (Alexander Wang everythings, no logos, black, things with long detachable handles too) but I don’t have the power to buy them. ‘Just yet,’ everyone usually adds. But I can never add that line, just yet. At the back of my head, I know that I might never indulge myself in that way, whether or not I could. I think it seriously could be a turning point in my psyche and in how I view myself, if I allow such considerations.
Last Saturday, I showed my writing to more than the usual people. It was an internal workshop. I wrote the first draft in first person, or at least in the first 5 paragraphs. I was asked, “Are you really needed here?” What she meant was the presence of the “I” all over the first page of one of the longest pieces I had written for what is essentially advertorial fodder. I remembered, again, my college thesis. My critic then pointed out that my first-person “breaks” (the one-page stories in between the first and 2nd halves) were indulgences I deserved. Those 600-word stories were actually my favorites. And so I kind of always thought about that indulgence, when I thought I would deserve it again, when I thought I could bring it up again. I thought, with this story, it was the time, I was so immersed in the story of who I was writing about, so affected and so in the narrative, I thought I literally should be in the narrative. I wanted to try my hand at something more literary than the usual. It needed work. That does not mean it failed, our facilitator (one of the best writers in our organization), explained. But it needed the most work in order to be full. And I had to get myself out of it in order to write it properly.