Frequently I am accused of being unpatriotic. That I do not do my share in hearting the motherland amidst the discouraging realities and all the rhetorical bullshit. I used to dismiss this accusation with a detached shrug of someone who couldn't be bothered.
I am not vocal about my fondness for this country, more so for this maddening city, but here's a fact: I left my lucrative expatriate post in another country and still refuses to show up at immigration counters for a reason. Amidst the face of disheartening adversities like idiotic uprisings and common national burdens, I'd like to believe that home is not a country but a feeling.
Which brings me to an old essay I wrote seven years ago for an online journal challenge: “Describe your world.”
Rereading it today it seems nothing much has changed. Sentiments included.
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in an ideal world, i would be luxuriating in a private island, baking my buns under the tropical sun, sipping tropical daiquiris and getting soothing back rubs from babes whose vocabulary do not include commitment, relationships and marriage. in my most vivid daydreams, i visualize myself in this island, detached from the madness of urban life with steady supply of good books to read, excellent CDs to sing along to at the top of my lungs and endless stock of art materials. yes, pure escapism. but who isn’t prone to it especially if you consider how depressing the landscape of reality that i am besieged with.
for anyone unfamiliar with existentialism, i offer my world as a convenient road map. confusion clamps my mind the moment my eyes flutter into consciousness; the remnant of forgotten dreams leaves an acrid, stale taste in my tongue. for a brief disturbing silence i would be wondering if i woke up in a wrong dimension, displaced into another body with nothing but vague memory of who i am.
then my eyes would meet the mocking face of the clock, taunting me with declarations of time and the second existentialist premise, disorder, would jolt me into hysterical panic. i would snap out of semi-consciousness, spewing major expletives that would make the extremely pious faint at the potency of my language. i would hurtle towards accomplishing a morning constitutional, tacking myself together into something recognizably human. this should all be accomplished in a span of a couple of minutes, leaving an unflattering trail of mess behind. my mind would race into pressing concerns for the day; the word 'deadline' would pulsate in my head like amplified tickings of a bomb three point five seconds before detonation.
on my way to work i would be plagued by the next existentialist axiom: chaos. the soundtrack of screeching tires would blend with unsynchronized symphony of blasting horns. amidst the agitated clenching of palms and nervous taps of fingers on the steering wheels irate people would barter pungent oaths to each other and the two hour traffic jam would be reported by the traffic control helicopter hovering over the city as ‘moderate’. my stomach would clasp like an anxious fist, my lungs would inhale septic air, and my nerves would be grated like a rusty fork ripping its way across the blackboard. i would turn the radio on and get assaulted by hanson crooning the nerve-shredding mmmmmmmbop. as a reflex i would switch the dial to another station and would be greeted by celine dion, moaning like she just dislocated her vagina to her throat. another switch of the channel and the backstreet boys would educate me on the 'meaning of being lonely'. and it’s not noontime yet.
emerging from the chaos of the highways, i would negotiate the opulent lobby of a high rise, with it’s gleaming steel and glass structures that gloriously impaled themselves to the earth. the mammoth building, proud and tall, boasting in the skyscape of corporate wealth—a striking contrast to the shanties of the poor and underprivileged in a not so distant areas. in this corporate ghetto i would associate another existentialist manifesto: absurdity. this is the ghetto of greed, ambition, power and bold, cunning abilities. well dressed, sweet smelling rats would parade the hallways weaving dreams for the obsessed. these are highly-capable people seeing themselves wasted for the quest of personal dreams in the name of professional and intellectual whoring. among these rooms, the talented, the wicked, the bright and the jerk would scheme, collaborate, coexist into a common goal, which is to amass something more of what already is in excess.
this is my adopted world. an appalling domain so different from the pristine landscapes of my childhood. i become the embraced spawn of this city with it’s heavily desecrated air, it’s gaping manholes, it’s clogged sewers, it’s beaming commercial edifices. i am the child of this metropolis with it’s raging clashes between the gluttonous elite and the riotous poor. i stroll the dirty avenues and see diminishing traces of hope in the ignored faces who hug themselves on newspaper-matted pavements as they sleep in the bitter cold nights of homelessness. and my heart would bleed. occasionally i would stuck a few crumpled bills into the empty cans next to these people, walking away feeling depressed. i am a hapless pawn in this city surviving bombings of public places, natural catastrophe, bureaucratic and terroristic unrest and the shameless grandstanding of political sleazoids who would kiss asses on their way to public office only to be unmasked later as scumbags that they are.
some evenings i would commune with my favorite human beings into watering holes and places flooded by trendoids, wannabees, social climbers and the glamorous citizens whose eyes are as empty as their laughter. i would smile wryly at the absurdity of all these social pomposity, instantly slapping my forehead with a flashing neon sign that read 'cynic'.
from one madness to another, i would go home and be welcomed by familiarity of disorder left earlier. my eyes would feel the warmth of romantic pandemonium of littered books, disorganized CDs, unfinished canvasses, crumpled printouts of an optimistic attempt to writing a novel. on my way to the bathroom i would trip towards the hamper brimming with laundry, some of them developing an independent lifestyle by now, giving new definition to the word 'biohazard'. then i would start missing my mom. i would open the refrigerator and wolf on anything that isn’t two days past its labeled expiry date.
in this flat, i would slump into the couch and recall into mind everything that happen during the day. i would be once more reminded of assorted regrets, guilt, hope, fondness, frustration, anger and all things that lead me back into myself. in the moment of solitude i would realize that the real me is a big survivor in the world i cohabit with millions of people with other stories to tell. then i would realize the romance of this world — the dynamics of life seeking for itself in a maddening landscape that provides a challenging backdraft to one’s existence. at night i would sleep rocked by the clanking sounds of metals in nearby construction areas, the steady hum of a city catching it’s breath for the night or the melodramatic overtures of imported soap operas dubbed in local dialect emanating from neighborhood television sets.
proponents of the existentialist manifesto postulate that nothingness is a requisite for being. amongst the confusion , the chaos and the absurdity of it all you begin to be, to define yourself. out of nothingness you give meaning to your existence.
my world isn’t flattering in many respects, but i have found romance in it. i am one of the hopefuls in this wild metropolis. my real and ideal world is romantically bisected by the scorching dry and rainy seasons as i traverse the roads of dreamers and survivors.
held hostage in this quixotic hellhole, dreaming and hoping make this metropolitan abyss almost paradise.