05 August 2012

In between a wake and being awake

It's a few minutes before one in the morning as I type this, currently slumped on the floor of my girlfriend's bedroom in the house where she grew up. I am looking over her as she catches some much-needed sleep during this time. The lights are on and so is that electric fan than takes ten thousand years to start. She's still wearing the jeans she wore since arriving in the country earlier, when I picked her up at the airport for the early morning flight arrival. Her shirt still the one she wore the whole evening. Times like these, comfort and vanity are thrown out the window for momentary rest and recharge. I'm glad she's resting.

My mind is flying, a-flurry with a million thoughts. To sit here and absorb the memories this room contains. It's strange, I admit. No stranger than the first time she entered my condo and exclaimed in disbelief that I lived in a place like that, that I must be a player because I had such a pad. What amazing thoughts. Makes me smile right now to compare notes in my head. I glance at her and I am glad she is still in deep slumber.

I don't want to leave her alone right now. I know how this feels, this grief from a huge loss, like it's heavy and empty inside at the same time. In the living room, her dear mother lies, ready to be taken to her final resting place twelve hours from now. She has been suffering from cancer and she lost the fight. But she looks so peaceful now, a far cry from when I first met her at the hospital, when, after leaving, she asked my girl's sister the million dollar question: "Boyfriend ba 'yun ng ate mo?" Funny. From their stories of her, she must be one fierce, fiesty and fun person to have around. Too bad I wasn't able to experience that for myself. I think we would have clicked. Mothers and grandparents of my partners at least those I met -- tend to love me. It's automatic.

So many people still outside chatting, playing bingo, drinking bottomless instant coffee, chatting. Kids of guests still up past their bedtime as their elders try to keep the wake awake. Such is the tradition we uphold in this country full of rituals. They say the dead still needs to be guarded, not to be left alone. Funny how we interpret the concept of loneliness in this context. The dead cannot be lonely, yet we feel lonely because we were already left alone by the dearly departed.

Yes, I think too much. Also, I haven't had much sleep today, just the three hours I was able to manage going home earlier to change clothes after picking her up, in preparation for tonight's last night of vigil, or lamay as we call it in the Philippines. And this gets me thinking of past events, related events, that makes me feel emotional here for another reason.

Earlier, my girl and her longtime bestfriend were talking about some friends of theirs who kept on promising to visit but didn't. It was also a topic at the "tibs table" earlier where I saw and heard her laugh so hard for the first time since coming back home again during conversations with her butchy friends and their femmey girlfriends. I swear, almost seven months of being with her and I still feel uncomfortable that she is surrounded by such strong dichotomies. Anyway that's for another blogpost. What I want to focus on is the "test of true friendship" discourse we had at that table. We all felt like it was such a bummer to have this kind of unnatural selection of friendships, to weed out those who are only there during the good times but when happy hour fades, they, too, fade.

That was my biggest heartache last year, perhaps even bigger than the heartache of losing my lolo, himself suffering from diabetes complications for months already. I so wanted to go to Canada then but financial constraints didn't permit me to attend his wake and see him for the last time. Even if I was a lola's girl, lolo's presence in my life was equally important.

Come to think of it, as I was listening to the priest's sermon tonight during the mass, it got me thinking that I still don't have closure from when I lost my lola. It was 2000 then, I think, when my mom called me and said "Wala na si Lola." Wala na. That easily someone you love is gone. I was younger then and of course a bit penniless, being in between fulltime jobs and only freelancing, and studying my masters. So of course I couldn't go to Toronto for her wake. I was 27 then, a time I was starting to love my new life as a lesbian, but also suffering from it the year lola died. I remember the heaviness of that relationship with the devastation of that loss, and my great friends had one quick but reckless solution for a temporary escape: meth. What I've learned from my favorite gay show Queer As Folk I enacted then: you only do drugs with your friends. I swear, the moment the stuff touched my being, happiness. But of course after the hit, back to reality. I never touched the stuff again after that episode. And yes, more than a decade later, I still need closure.

Told you my mind's entertaining a million thoughts right now. Sorry for the segues. But going back to that friendship thing, it's just too bad that my great friends aren't here in the country to console me in person last year, but they still did virtually. Now I have two souls I've been relying on for deep friendship these past years, and lo and behold, I never heard a peep from either of them when lolo died. Not a single word. Not even a stupid comment on Facebook. It also complicates things to consider that they also had some money or work-related conflicts around that time, things that broke my heart anew, but that I already talked about in this space before. So my bottomline is, during times of grief, you really discover who your real friends are. Theory of unnatural selection.

I've always liked that quote I've been reading on the interwebs, the one attributed to Oprah. It says something about the people who ride with you in the limo and the people who are willing to ride with you when the limo breaks down and you have to take the bus. Something like that. Last year, I realized who those bus people are in my life and who are those limo ones. All these decades I've been cherishing friendships with limo riders. I never realized. I wish I realized this sooner. Could have evaded me this heaps upon heaps of heartache from people who never truly saw me as a friend, but a direct competitor. A fucking competition. I didn' t know friendships also have olympic categories. I missed that memo. A good friend contextualized that for me early this week. I am just happy that I have such friends around me still, those bus riders I never realized were willing to ride the bus with me. This, too, I wish I realized earlier. But all good lessons come in the end, my friend. All in the end.

I'll be turning 40 next year. Who knew there are still a lot to learn about life, about yourself, about relationships. Who knew. Sitting here amidst people suffering from a loss, sometimes all we need is another perspective to realize that some losses are actually gains. We just have to let the sadness pass, try harder to fight off melancholy, and try our darnedest to move on. Because we do, we really do, closure or no closure. What we have is perhaps better than closure: coping. And now, we know who the people are who will supply us some of that when needed. If needed.

Rest in peace Nanay. And thank you. Like what she said after singing, they're okay. And I'll see to it that she will be. Promise po.

1 comment:

  1. YIKES, recently lang ba ito?...twistedhalo