I. This is how you forget: you let the blank spaces speak for themselves. You don’t fill them in. The possibilities, you have been warned, are dangerous. Matter always takes up space and labels the acres free-for-all when it decides to be someplace else, but this one, after leaving, had the audacity to mark his territory so no one else, at least for a while, a while being weeks or months or years you don’t know now, you lost count, you never started, because absence dragged on and on so what is there to quantify anyway, can take his place. What was it to him, you ask. You don’t answer because it’s against your rules. Your days have been like this, a steady stream of questions you call rhetorical because the one who always had a knack of answering your real ones upped and left. Abandonment issues. But abandonment is a big word, used for great dramatic exits from one life to, to another, you heard. So it begins. We used to sit in public benches because you said you met the most interesting people in bus terminals, and at one, we met. You were always the interesting one. I listened while you talked. My mom liked how you made me “mellow.” Actually I was just eating a sandwich that day waiting for a ride home but you called it fate. I called it ham. You were always melodramatic like that. Public benches. I never liked them. You who fancy Manila to be New York brought books and read sitting on them. I called you pretentious. You inched away, slowly, and then left. Where are you now. Again, I don’t answer.
II. This is how I forgot you: on a Sunday, after a mass. In the middle of which I decided I lost my faith in God. I lighted one last candle for ghosts and global warming. I liked how matchsticks consume themselves and die. I blew and smoke rose to my nostrils and I forgot. And then remembered. (You brought home Chinese, fried siomai and noodles. When I got home you were there, like you never left. Kain, you said. I nodded before I had time to digest.)
II. This is how I forgot again: Crossing a footbridge in my hometown — Valenzuela now has two — a beggar tugged at my right leg and asked for, of all things, a cigarette. I had a pack of Marlboro Lights, which I tried because it was a stupid brand but you loved it. Love didn’t have to make sense. I tapped the box and retrieved two sticks. He threw his and said someone will find it and believe its their lucky day. What a gracious guy, I thought. I lighted one for luck, too. I exhaled and walked home.
III. Your unfinished stories still clutter my desktop. There is one about Plutarch, your cat. Another about your mother. Some are re-imaginings of historical events, one where Caesar stabs Brutus instead. One about us. You always wrote an ellipsis on the last page. Show, don’t tell.
I select all and delete.
IV. The minutes “pass us by” unnoticed because we don’t hear. The voices blaring from all directions drown the hours away. When you left I lost track of years because I went deaf. I thought about all things that remained unsaid. Emptiness hummed me to sleep, hummed me into wakefulness, not awake. And then suddenly, something, someone. A syllable, as in uh.
It’s time. Fill in the blanks, then.
(Exercise: Write non-stop for twenty minutes. Don’t delete. Minor grammatical edits after.)