(Feeling Like Nothing)
Someone was taking gentle swipes at her head. That’s what woke her up; she was being pawed. She reached for her cell phone on the nightstand by her bed. It was 330am, December 21. She closed her eyes shut, but it was no use. Blessed sleep escaped her.
She turned to her bedmate. He stretched and looked at her with content, as if he didn’t have anything to do with her being wide awake.
“Silly kitty, just because you can’t sleep, doesn’t mean you have to disturb my slumber.
“Just as well,” she said, getting up. “ C’mon fur ball, let’s go make coffee.”
‘Konstant Kitty’ sprinted from the bed and followed her into the tiny kitchen of her mother’s dollhouse. It was just the two of them, alone in the house.
She turned on her Ipod and Joni Mitchell came on.
The way I see it, he said
You just can’t win it . . .
Everybody’s in it for their own gain
You can’t please them all
There’s always somebody calling you down . . .
I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody calling me up for favors
And no one’s future to decide
You know I’d go back there tomorrow
But for the work I’ve taken on
Stoking the star maker machinery
Behind the popular song
“My exact sentiments, Joni,” she said. “Masochistic is a term I would use in my case.”
It had been two and a half years since she moved back here. The newness and rediscovery of her place of birth dissipated with each stumbling block that came with the job she took on.
Words of warning and contradiction prior to making the decision to return home seemed to resonate and filter through the walls of her mother’s kitchen, taunting her:
Why go back? You can do more good here, even better.
You know your mission is hopeless.
Take it from me, I tried to give back but ‘they’ bit my hand and infected it with contempt for my own kind.
The work standards there suck; you pay your workers and they disappear for days or weeks at a time, and if and when they do return, they’re severely lacking in productivity. You’re gonna be bled dry to the bone; physically, mentally and especially your wallet.
You’ll regret it.
What’s with this nationalistic and patriotic thing?
Why give up all this? You’ve got a good thing going here. You’ll be inconvenienced more often than not. Your lifestyle will drastically change.
Don’t go . . . stay.
To which she had a reply for each:
I’m going back because it’s where I was born, you know? As to the mission being hopeless, you don’t know that.
Your goals were different and not in line with mine.
So, fine, the work standards suck and it’s not what I’m used to, but maybe I can introduce a new way of doing things, maybe give people an incentive to do a good job, I don’t know yet.
How can I regret anything when I haven’t even tried it?
You say nationalistic and patriotic as if they were cuss words. Maybe the ghosts of my history’s past are beckoning to me to come home? Maybe I’m tired of being an alien in the land of plenty and would like to get to know my country and my kind? I don’t know.
Maybe I want to change the bad rep and how the global community views my third world country. Maybe I want to shout out that we have a rich cultural heritage, brilliant and talented people, beautiful landscape and so much more. We’re not just about crime, poverty, illegal logging and fast disappearing natural resources, dirty politics and corruption. We’re not all gloom and doom, you know?
I’m not giving up anything, I’m going back to try to do whatever good I can contribute. I’ll deal with the inconvenience and I’m sure there won’t be many.
But one thing I do know . . . my writing belongs there. The people are my characters and the landscapes are the settings and scenes of my stories. That much is for certain.
Wish me luck.
“So off I went, cat,” she said, pouring the remains of non-fat yogurt in her furry roommate’s bowl. “Leaving behind the comfort of home, experiences and everything else I’ve amassed for the last 30 years. So far, nothing has panned out.
“Go figure that one out, cat.” She picked up the protesting furry bundle. “You’re going outside, and we’re going to sit on the bench in my mother’s garden, indoor kitty.”
The cathedral bells clanged, beckoning churchgoers to celebrate mass. People went to Simbang Gabi mass bleary-eyed at 4am every morning for 9 days in anticipation of the birth of the infant Jesus. She remembered a time — way back when — she and her siblings were roused from their deep slumber, made to dress and grudgingly followed their parents to church. Of course, they were wide awake by the time mass was nearly over, raring to sample the delicious steaming bibingka and puto bumbong peddled outside the cathedral.
“We don’t do that anymore, do we? But I can still hear mass from where we’re sitting, cat. Aside from the Bishop’s residence, this is the only house located on the grounds of the cathedral.”
She heard car doors slam and people talking on their way to mass.
Neil Young’s whine came on and made her cry.
Hello woman of my dreams
This is not
The way it seems
On a grey background
To be a woman
And to be turned down
Old enough now
To change your name . . .
The words that mattered were words that shattered. She looked at the sky and barely heard the mass begin. She spoke to her mother’s spirit somewhere in the cosmos.
Ma, who do I blame for my situation? You? No, of course not. You wanted what was best for your children so you sent us out there to learn to fend for ourselves. We turned out fine. So, why am I not in sync with my people, as in why aren’t things copacetic?
A friend of yours remarked that I had too much outside exposure and forgot how to be a Filipino. That is true.
I’ve been accused of having demons to deal with by a woman who thought she knew me, because she felt I slighted her. And all I tried to do was help her cause and she grossly misunderstood where I was coming from. She once jokingly called me a foreigner.
I am known as the bitch editor/writer in these parts; I don’t know when to keep my mouth shut, am seditious (I kinda like that), and no one seems to last around me. I have a suspicious mind and I dish out accusations via cell phone or email. I bitterly regret losing a precious friendship because of the latter.
I can’t undo or correct my mistakes, anymore than I can pluck the moon from up there. I have apologized ten thousand times over to the friend I lost, but my words fell on deaf ears. I am a monster.
The thing is, I’d give the shirt off my back if I could, but it’s a tall order I can’t fill. Another thing is this: people seem to avoid face-to-face, one-on-one talk to clear the air of bad vibes. They tend to beat around the proverbial bush here which is probably the reason I’m not doing well here.
I miss you something terrible, Ma. Sorry for venting. Kiss Pappy for me. Merry Christmas.
She petted the fur ball on her lap. “It’s hell living with songs in your head, kitty.
“The words get to me, you know, and I relate this and that experience to this and that song. How frigging asinine is that? Jesus, I need to get a grip!”
She hugged her cat tightly. “You are my Christmas present and I do believe my lifesaver. You kept me from losing my sanity and made me happy by being here for me.”
She gathered the cat in her arms and got up from the bench just as mass was letting out. She looked up at the sky and saw the copper full moon. The last time she saw a lunar eclipse that resembled a copper penny was in Hawaii, but this one was special. It was occurring during the winter solstice. She only read about it the day before.
Make a wish and see what happens. Solo used to say that to tourists in Honolulu about the green flash right before the sun sank into the ocean. And they totally bought it. What a great guy. Mele Kalikimaka, Solo Mahoe.
“Well, konstant kitty, we’ll make a wish and see. Just maybe things will start looking up,” she said. “Maybe your friend here will reacquaint herself with her people, go with the flow of how things are and learn to get along and play nice with others.
“Wow, cat! Two Christmas presents that money didn’t buy; you and the copper moon at winter’s solstice. How cool is that?”
In response, Neil Young once again belted out his song.
Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin’
We could dream this night away
But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playing
Let’s go out and feel the night
Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon . . .
She stood there for a while and watched the copper shade recede and the full moon shone bright again.
“C’mon, konstant kitty. Let’s go back to bed and see if I can sleep off the blahs. It will be a new day tomorrow, and a new year in no time at all. Maybe the winter solstice copper moon is a harbinger of good things to come.”
Tis’ the season, after all.