Sunday, June 19, 2005

I, DO, STILL by Rica Bolipata-Santos

I saw this article today at the Philippine Star. I painstakingly typed it from scratch because it's not available in their website. It's one of those rare times that we got the Philippine Star instead of the Philippine Daily Inquirer which I regularly read.

Anyway, hope you'll enjoy this article written by Rica Bolipata-Santos. It talks about marriage and the little things that somehow make it work.

I hope someday, I'll be able to experience those little things as well.


by Rica Bolipata-Santos

I wake up and sense that the morning is still. Outside our bedroom window, nothing moves. Today is my ninth wedding anniversary. It feels very much like an in-between year. It is not the seventh, which saw us surviving the seven-year itch. And neither is it the tenth, the milestone of the first decade shared together.

I turn to my husband beside me. We sleep every night with our backs to each other. This is not something I worry about. Sleep is one of the reasons I believe in God. It is an ingenious invention. I don't like being disturbed so I don't like being held. After sex, I anticipate being taken by sleep, a different kind of orgasm.

I kiss his warm cheek and he smells like soap. He has faint stubble. He turns to me, opens his eyes and his arms and welcomes me in.

"Happy anniversary, dear," he says.

"Happy. Happy." I reply.

"Are the kids up yet?"

"Probably, it's already seven," I say, winding my legs around his. "The boys should be having breakfast by now. Mang Felix is taking them to school today."

"And you? What's your schedule?" he asks me.

"Just have class until four. I'll meet you for dinner at Shangri-La."

He kisses me on my temple, my eyes, my lips, and my necks, unwinds our legs and starts to go. "I should go to work soon so I can meet you early."

As I hear him prepare his morning ablutions, I am amazed at how the dynamics of our marriage have changed. Our anniversries have always been one-sided battlefields where I practiced psychological games and guerrilla tactics. Wars from past anniversaries would commence with me whining and demanding. I would plead and plead for him to take the day of, to go shopping, to cuddle all day. When I don't get what I want, I take out my secret weapon and launch a tantrum. I make a mental list of the trantrums I've had for each anniversary.

Year 1 - Tagaytay - Tantrum because he had an asthma attack and we couldn't have sex.

Year 2 - Shangri-La overnight - Tantrum because we couldn't afford to stay an extra night.

Year 3 - Home - Tantrum because we couldn't afford anything.

Year 4 - Manila Hotel dinner - Tantrum because I wanted to go home to breastfeed.

Year 5 - Via Mare - Tantrum because he was 30 minutes late.

Year 6 - Ilustrado - Tantrum because he had no love letter.

Year 7 - Philippine Plaza - Tantrum because I was pregnant.

Year 8 - Bangkok - Tantrum because he had a business meeting in the middle of our trip.

I accept with quiet grace that the need for romance was the culprit for all these tantrums.

I hear him in the bathroom and begin to identify sounds and patterns. Heavy shuffling on the floor means he's collecting water in the basin for heating. Clicking sounds signify flossing has commenced. Ragged coughing means he had a small asthma attack the night before (continuous coughing with chest thumping, however, would mean antibiotics at the end of the week). The water running at a steady pace tells me there is no rush. He can afford to take his time. He is certain to open the closet door three times (I sing to myself, one for the outfit, two for the socks, three for the tie and four to go, let's rock!). Tsk-tsking is a sign that there are no fresh hankies in supply.

He comes out of the bathroom and asks me what I'm thinking. I tell him the truth with a smile: "Nothing," He smiles back warmly and kisses me goodbye, "Enjoy the day. Don't be too hard on your freshmen! I'll see you tonight." He finally knows what "nothing" truly means. Now that romance has run out of fresh ideas, marriage has become a place of profound acceptance.

I hear the car back out of the garage. I remember how he used to speed away in anger at the end of a date gone awry. There is a certain stupidity to the equation of love plus youth. Threatening to walk away and driving away and speeding away and banging doors add to the drama and intensity of love. I am certain from where I am lying down that he is backing away calmly, careful that there are no children crossing our busy street. Becoming a father has taught him this.

And yet, I yearn for the roar of our younger years. I still want to be surprised by love sometimes. The steady rhythm of our days is filled with a love so quiet it is easy to miss. I know I am being foolish. His back turned to me at night completes my sleep. My quiet husband has taught me stillness.

My thoughts fly to the week before we were married. The thought comes to me quickly and without prodding. It is early evening and I am sitting in my mother's terrace in a blue skirt and a white blouse. This is my favorite skirt as it has tassels with small gold balls. It is silk as well, so it makes me feel very grown-up. In the garden, my fiance is with my nephew. He is identifying an airplane in he sky, something he can do even at night. He is an airline employee and knows flight schedules and patterns by heart. My family is amazed at his knowledge of airplanes. Then and there, I make a fool's bargain. I will not marry him until I see a falling star. He turns to look at me, and I am slightly heady with this sudden decision of mine.

"Rica, come here!" he says.

"Hurry, I have something to show you." I am not at all thrilled by the prospect of seeing Lufthansa Flight 745 on its way to Germany. My imagination is busy conjuring scenarious of betrayal. Phrasing lines, "Ma, I have to cancel the wedding." "It wasn't in the stars."

He lifts his arm towards me pleadingly, and I am not at all gracious when I finally stand. I walk to him slowly, enjoying the secret that I have the last card - that I can still walk away. He smiles at me indulgently and puts his arms around me. He lifts my chin to the sky and says, "The night is filled with falling stars." I see three that night.

I am hungry for such a moment. I do not know what is more grown up -- the knowledge that it is futile to ask for such things or the gratefulness that I no longer ask for such things.

In class today we talk about modes of exposition. My students report about love using different modes. Group one uses cause and effect. The title of their piece is "Love Really? What Effect Do it Have?" I am angered by the slip in subject-verb agreement. The rest of the essay is sullied by this mistake. I tell them their title is a metaphor for the ineffectiveness of their work. Group two uses classification and division. There is love for self, love for family and love for God. Jeesh...

I spend 30 minutes lecturing on the importance of development. How it can be used to twist an old topic. How, as a device, it allows the rader to see more. A student bravely asks me, "Ma'm, how do we know which mode of development to use?" The shadow in me wishes to answer, "Because if you're smart, you just know!" I find myself using my love story to answer this question.

"In the beginning my husband used definition to win me over. He said, 'This is not love, just a compelling need to be with you.' Later on he used comparison and contrast to explore this feeling. 'It's not the same feeling as my feeling for Maria when I was in high school.' The he used cause and effect with great impact. 'When I am not with you I cannot concentrate. But when I am with you all the more I cannot concentrate.'"

And finally, the piece de resistance! He used exposition with a dash of exaggeration! "Be my girlfriend or I shall die." The lecture ends with thunderous applause! Now we understand.

I walk back to my office with a stupid half-smile. Maybe romance lies in remembering. I take comfort in that and am even satisfied to be romanced by memory. The sea of students switching buildings is mesmerizing. I stand still and enjoy the invisible air moving around me. I allow myself a moment of reverence - for what, I do not know. Far away, I see a familiar figure but it is hazy as students cross my vision. It moves closer to me and I see it is my husband. There is both recognition and surpirse. He walks towards me with a bouquet in his hands. The crowd disappears just like in the movies.

"Nine sunflowers for my sun." The silence breaks as I hear the roar of my love.


Editor's note: Rica Bolipata-Santos is a faculty member of the English department of the Ateneo. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines.


rmacapobre said...

OCR - object character recognition. you can scan the printed article and an OCR engine interprets the scan to text.

(lexmark printers have accompanying softwares that does it for you) .. ^_^ advertising ..

tia barretto said...

hey, ma'am rica was a teacher of mine in college, and one of my favorites too. she's an amazing writer... she's launching her first book today, actually. just in case you're interested: kuguada, marikina shoe expo, cubao. december 3 at 4:30 pm. cocktails will be served...

Tahn said...

Maam Rica is one of those candid teachers who simply spoke what was on her mind. I loved the fact that she would just talk about sex with absolutely no malice simply because there really is no malice when talking about sex. I love this article....Thanks for posting