Saturday, October 23, 2010

Athena


The story is airing tonight on Midnight DJ over at TV5, after Talentadong Pinoy. It’s called “Mga Pamahiin sa Patay” and you have to watch it or else you’ll grow a third nipple on your forehead. Really.

At any rate, it was a story I was having a bit of difficulty writing because, well, it was such a long time since I’ve been to anyone’s funeral. And I’m not superstitious. I’m actually the biggest skeptic I personally know. And my real-life name is Randy. Which sounds like Randi. You know, James Randi. Google him up if you don’t know him because I don’t have the patience to explain who he is and what he stands for.

Now right smack in the middle of that great godawful writer’s block, I got a call from a college buddy who said one of our teachers had died from breast cancer and she was in so-and-so funeral home. So off we went to view the corpse and partake of the memento mori.

Her name was Jean Claire and she was awfully pretty and when I was a freshman in UP Los Baños back in 1992, I saw a poster calling for auditions for a production of Oedipus Rex and I auditioned and I got called back and I got a part as one of the Chorus dudes who seem to be made of 100% self-pity and she was the director and she was about thirty-five years old then, the same age as I am now, and the play was great and she was never my teacher but I had fond memories of that play and how she handled the production and some years later I made an asstastic prank on posters for a play, not-so-cleverly hiding invectives against other theater organizations in the campus, including her organization, and as our play was running, there were dozens of students calling for my blood outside the auditorium and that fed my ego and I got suspended for an entire week for that and some years later I started writing for mainstream television and the point came when I didn’t remember anymore how many scripts I’ve already written and I forgot all about her and when I do remember her, it’s just a dim memory of a young woman wearing early 90s fashion, which was terrible, of course, but I still remembered how pretty she was and how terribly unapproachable, like a marble statue of Athena, and then I got a call from my buddy saying she was dead and I was already thirty-five and it’s the same age she was when I first met her and now she’s dead.

As I stood there, looking down at her corpse, the first thing I could think of was that it didn’t look like it was once alive. It looked dead. Really dead. It didn’t look like she was just sleeping. It looked like she’s not in there anymore. Call it a soul. I won’t. I don’t think I believe in an immortal soul anyway. Talk to me again after a week, maybe I’ve changed my mind. Again. But there was no awfully pretty teacher there. That thing was a fucking corpse. And I had no love for it.

Memento mori.

The only thing that dead slab of flesh gave me by way of insight is that we’re all fucked. And I hated that corpse. I hated it not because I hated the woman who once wore it when it was still vibrant and full of unapproachable, Athena-like power. I didn’t hate the woman. Even when she caught me trying to break into an air-conditioned classroom because, goddammit, it was hot! No, I didn’t hate her. I didn’t love her either. But I didn’t hate her. What I love about her (and here I reveal to you my ego once again) is how the memory of her put me back to those times in college when I thought I knew everything. I was seventeen, Jayzus Crust. At seventeen you’re the king of the universe. You’re a beast with a bottle of cheap rum in one fist and a loaded gun in the other. At seventeen you’re a pornstar with a handful of titties and a cockful of style. At seventeen you’re Buddha on meth.

But this isn’t about me. This is about Jean Claire. The Jean Claire I didn’t know very well. The one that was as unapproachable as a statue of Athena. And the one I wish I got to know more. Because when I first met her, she was about thirty-five, the same age as I am now.

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