Smoke and veranda and a clock saying its 06:44 and a frame of sky welcoming blackness. There’s this chubby girl who’s holding a pack of Marlboro green and wiping her eyeglasses and calmly getting her lighter from her faded jean’s pocket and I — we were so fond of evenings that just got started.
“So how do you do?” It was me, painless and pretentious. We always start with this, instead of getting to the point right away, our fondness of alibis and metaphors.
A slow sigh, a puff actually, and then a gaze on the houses outside, “I’m pretty cool — doing great; you?”
“Fine, terribly fine.” A sheer monotony.
“You not smoking?” That was her, giving me a second or two of a stare, a minute offering of warm, placid eyes I strongly like.
“Later. I don’t want doing it while others do it with me.”
“But you like doing it with someone.” She has this knack for quick retorts, answers that would be impressive if they were numbers or equations to a complex math problem. I guess that is part of her cunning which I find charming.
“I guess it should be like ‘I like smoking while with someone,’ not exactly, ‘I like smoking while someone does too.’”
She made a bashful nod, I catch her looking at my lips, perhaps memorizing the way my mouth moves as I sort of passionately try to drive home a point. Her response was oblique.
“Well, I am more after solemn conversations and what, obvious frankness and gritty revelations.”
A pause allowed me to think, allowed her to mildly kiss her yosi stick again.
“Me? I am more after silence and ashes and more ashes and more sticks of yosi.”
“That was long, and redundancy in disguise. And I hate long lists and enumerations. That is a terrible thing, I think, spewing locutions when one word will do, only letting them muddle up and die as we utter them.”
“But language always fails.”
Her twitched brows and suddenly famous wrinkles hinted that I did not make sense to her.
“So your point is?”
“Ahm, my point, what’s my point? Overlocutions are forgivable because they are more beautiful. They show how language can be exhausted, or rather, tried to be exhausted. And they are closer to poetry.”
“Ah, poetry and lengthy words, lengthy, unwieldy words.”
She was smiling, mockingly I can tell. She’s about to tell me how wrong I was.
“That’s funny. Language fails and we cannot exhaust it, take full control of it. We humans are in a sorry, sorry state. So what degree of linkage do we have with our world when we rely on language in describing it? A very tenuous link? Precisely, I guess.”
I drew back. Drawing back means lying low for a while, thinking of a relevant response. And then she goes with it again.
“Funny how people condemn the very things that they employ. Marxists and Mcdo. Gretchen and her rich husband, You and language.”
Mine. “But language is all I have, but is there something else which I can use instead? Nothing. So even though I am saying that language always fails, I am still for it, still with it. There is nothing else for me to use.”
She gave me this sharp look, like a the way a teen in Armani would look at the church beggar pleading for coins, holding at his shirt, or the way a pretentious religious would look at dogs mating on the streets. And then she asked for a cigarette. I halt too, took a puff and make myself more impurified. At her first puff of her new stick, I felt her becoming more deliberate.
“I guess we’ll never agree on things. You’re forgetting your community integrations.”
“Well, I guess so, too.”
Before the minute of no talking, I had the last say. I guess she was getting bored.
Our stints together were always married to silence; extreme, long silences. Winds slyly scampering through our bodies, muffled voices from the TV inside intruding our privacy, neon lights, orange city lights begging for us to make poems about them.
“I have this poem, I wrote it just last night, about the tricky gap between knowing and acting on what you know. It made me feel proud after doing it.”
This time, she was calmer, I was more agitated.
“Pride is very deceptive. It is like RH Bill in relation to the Filipino poverty, a tiny sliver of goodness that haunts us and makes us blind to the larger picture, the larger sore. In that sense, the goodness can be fake, propounded only to hide an adjacent muck.”
“I envy your knowledge, but your actions make me still proud of myself. For instance, your manner of talking with poor people as if making clear that you are not only cleaner, richer, and more refined, but smarter too. You know I have tried Wittgenstein and Derrida and more but I have always felt obstinate for clinging on some dead German’s manifesto.”
“Can I problematize you and your employment of language?”
“You’re being too overwhelmed again, my friend. Why dispose of the simpler terms when they still work, and work better? Why fool yourself with the idiocy of big words, why let them govern you?
“Okay, okay. Be still. I’m sorry and I’m beginning now, I trust what I know and I feel offended by you saying that you have this negative something about my actions. But you, what do you get from Marx any better than Wittgenstein’s genius? We do not need to kill one another, we just need to change the way we relate to our world and others, which is negotiated by our language…”
“”Wait, I’m pleading now for you to stop. Wala na ’kong yosi. Mukhang hinihintay na ‘ko ni Mike. Babalik na ‘ata kami sa area. Kakausap uli ng mga magsasaka. Ikaw din, tapos na lunch break, bumalik ka na sa mit nyo.”