The stench of cigarette smoke hung heavily in the air. I took a sip of my latte, trying to fan away the clouds of death as I did. The man with the beautiful raspy voice was singing about green fields and blooming red roses, as the rain poured and the wind howled. Over cigarettes and sips of espresso we talked.
This was the kind of scene I lived for. Rains and coffee make a potent combination for me; the cold and the soothing wisps of slowly rising steam have a way of making you think. The wind continued to blow, and I zipped up my jacket and took a long sip. I want a small paved space in my backyard, I said, surrounded by shrub walls and furnished with a simple wooden table and chair. In the afternoon I could settle down, armed with a fountain pen, and write; in the evening, I would light the gas lamp and go on. If it rained I could bring my notebook, pen, and cup of coffee inside, and continue my writing in a desk by the window, where I would allow the sweet drops of rain pelting on and rolling down the glass to do the arduous task of courting my muse for me.
The music continued, to hell with the raging sky. Shit, the trumpet, it was romantic, it was beautiful, and although I’d spent almost 300 pesos that night, it was bliss.
Love, I said, as the raindrops kept falling, and with them nostalgia. Love’s a bitch.
Did I tell you I find bliss in rain? The water cascading down to the ground, it’s glorious, the way it falls, beautiful, divine. I love the rain.
Rain makes me think of Hemingway. Old man and the sea. Famished fisherman in a rowboat all alone in the open water, with a massive fish he caught that’s still struggling to pull away. It’s an exquisite scene to behold in the theater of your mind, especially at night, when the moon is full and its reflection glowing in the water. I am all alone in the world, as are we all.
I don’t know why I connect rain to sweet, sweet writing, and sweet, sweet writing to Hemingway. He was introduced to me by a mentor, and I fell in love with his writing. Ernest had a gift: no one could say so much as simply as he did.
He shot himself in the head. Probably overburdened by the thought that we’re all going to die someday. You can’t fire me, he must have yelled at the heavens with a raised fist, I quit.
Coffee. The aroma is erotic to the sentimental nose. The assault to your lungs is so full it’s indescribable. Much better than a cigarette. The puffs of smoke continued to billow towards my face. I continued to try to blow them away.
Raspy-voiced man was no longer singing; it was now tender woman, but we continued to drown in the music that I can only describe as harrowingly humanizing—a term no one apart from myself will be able to understand in the context in which I mean it. Harrowingly humanizing. There are certain things in life, such as sips of caramel latte, ceaseless rain, and Hemingway’s style, that are so enchanting that all you can do is close your eyes and let the feeling smother you. They make you feel human, if to be human is to feel.
Favorite movies. I say Notting Hill. Maybe because I haven’t seen enough movies yet to make an informed decision as to which one is the absolute best ever, but Notting Hill is definitely up there. In Bruges is good, too, probably because Bruges is just so damned pretty, like caramel latte and Hemingway.
Katy Perry sang something about men reading Hemingway under the rain. “You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys.” Fuck Katy Perry.
Romance. Romance is silly. Sometimes I think life would be a whole lot better if romance didn’t exist. Granted, it is part of what makes life worth living, but I think it’s more the pain and anguish than the euphoria of raging hormones that makes that so.
One of the things that happens to you when you enter the University of the Philippines in Diliman is that your sense of space-time becomes distorted. The jeepney drivers are the agents of this change. The Ikot jeepney can be filled to the brim, have students tied to the roof and the hood, be so packed it comes close to violating the fundamental laws of matter, and the driver will always say there’s space for two more, “umayos lang tayo sa pagkakaupo,” goddamit, Mister Driver, I would sit more properly if I could, but I don’t even think anyone is seated anymore. Maybe this is why we have the best Physics program in the country: we’re challenging norms, not only in our theories, but in real life.
Another thing that happens is you become given to participating in deep conversations about nothing in particular. You kind of have to wonder whether your thinking has become esoteric beyond belief, or so shallow it’s ridiculous. Everyone in UP is high—on the spirit of enigma. Duuuuude.
Back in the dorm, on the short walk back to my room, there was nothing but silence. The noise of the outside world is what is normal to us, but in utter silence only your thoughts chatter away, and there is nothing noisier than that blaring in your head.
There is only one way I know to shut my mind up: sit Indian-style in front of my laptop and listen to music as I write.