Friday, April 20, 2007

Soup Stain

Five summers ago today you fed the potted cacti with tap and a fertile stream of apologetic goodbyes.

I was observing you, half-trance, as I emerge from the burial of crisp white linens and downy dreams. Your words were bounced in soft thuds, inaudible, like quiet murmurs, floating like indistinct adagios from neighborhood recitals. There was nothing but transparent windows isolating us: you innocently enraptured with foliage conversation in that little balcony; me hesitating to climb out of familiar consolations of a snug bed.

If I choose to honor certain memories, that precious image of you noshing the plants with sweet, tender adieu, will come rushing in. I remember visibly that calm April morning as adolescent sunlight sieving through disarray of your tousled hair. An evening later we will barter choked farewells in the airport; a cheerless affair but the precious plants will not be there to bear witness.

In the same vein as the optimistic cacti I was bespoken with a pledge of your much-anticipated homecoming. New York is just a two-year shift, a partial severance from uncomplicated things we have accustomed to like daily aroma of coffee boiling over or the weekend extravagance of oversleeping, sushi and white wine. New York, we rationalized, is nothing but seventeen thousand five hundred twenty hours of transient absence as you hone your aptitude in four hundred ways to slice tomatoes, or the multiple permutations of roe, salmon and wheat bran.

Two years dissolved to three and three years melted to four, drifting into marriage for convenience in quest for much desired assurances of green cards and much greener meadows to build a life.

I now look into that inauspicious morning five summers ago with no smattering of bitterness but a lingering twinge of sadness. Somewhere caved inside me is the inflamed heroic struggle to comprehend, to empathize, and to unshackle you from the obligations of a certain fondness we halved between us.

We can deny the aches and slowly move on but you cannot confine the persistence of certain reminiscences. Waking up today my thoughts raced back to you and all the nuances of three years preceding your departure five years ago. Remember that first meeting in Hong Kong? Emerging from clumsy cyberconversations we finally shared our first cappuccino and mutual fables of homesickness and alienation. I remember you giggling a lot, how you tormented the surly Cantonese boutique girls by feverishly rummaging through racks and not buying a thing, much to their crabby annoyances. I would remember the many nighttime geometries as our bodies explore the variables of physical intimacy.

Moving back home in Manila two years later I cannot precisely bear in mind how we settled for me to neglect a muddled studio and charter an airy, pristinely white tidy bedroom, possessed with windows that funnels the sunrise into the heart of the room.

You remembered I love windows.

If I allow bruising remembrances to flood out unhindered, then I’d spoil myself with another fond memory.

Soup stain.

It happened after V and C, over dinner, sprang upon friends an announcement of their engagement. Another excitable friend L, unheeding of consequential poverty that will follow, chucked all temperance and bought two bottles of obscenely expensive sparkling wine and raised a clever toast that elicited a great deal mirth. We went home at three in the morning, tipsy, laughing silly, our spirits as buoyant as champagne.

That’s when you had that brilliant euphoria to work your magic and like Botecilli drifting in the kitchen you whipped up with grace and determined lunacy that unusual bouillabaisse that will haunt me forever.

The humble grapes, coated with tempura crumbs hover elegantly in a rich mélange of cream of cheese. It was the most exquisite thing. As my teeth minced the crisp crumbs and crush the ingrained grape, its syrupy juices dissipating into the rich tang of blue cheese chowder, I was spellbound, at a loss for proper words.

And you sat there across my ravenous self, your eyes beaming with a smile reminding me of elegant curves of gondolas in Venice. We hallucinated of Venice.

Five Aprils later I surface from unremembered nocturnal reveries and my thoughts race back into that little balcony, the thirsty cacti and the soup stains. I would remember you in much more poignant ways but it would stir buried bruises into wakefulness. Perhaps it is wise to constrain the degree of loss in tolerable measurements.

Somewhere in New York you’re probably deep in slumber as I slide out of bed here on the other side of the earth, stirring my first mug of coffee, soaking in slivers of sunrise as stubborn, indulgent splinters of faint memories of you from five years ago break loose from the recesses of my keepsake drawers and waft drowsily to liquefy with the moist summer breeze.