May isang gabing
tinanong ko sa ’yo kung para saan ang pulang tuldok
ng liwanag sa tuktok ng mga tore.
Para makita kamo
ng mga eroplanong lumilipad kung gabi. Pag’tapos
ay nagpaliwanag tungkol
sa mga kalkuladong pundasyon, mga kahingiang sukat
ng mga kable.
Naulinigan ko na lamang ang bahaging ito dahil
nakatitig ako noon sa kampanaryo
na mula rito ay parang kasingtaas ng mga tore.
Walang nagkusang magsabit ng ilaw dito pero
maririnig ang kalatong tuwing kukumpas
ang alas-sais. Alam mong madalas kong malimutan
kung anong mas mabilis maglakbay—liwanag
ngunit mas gusto ko ang pagkabuo ng huli:
ang nagmamadaling pag-akyat ng mga palapag maabot lamang
ang takdang oras,
ang pagkiskis ng palad
sa hinihilang lubid, ang pahinga
para sa alingawngaw at marahil
ang pag-uwi ng maraming kalyo sa kamay.
Kanina may nakita akong hilera
ng mga ilaw na sumisingit sa pagitan ng mga gusali
at paglaon ay maglalaho.
Inakala ko itong MRT at inasahan
ang iyong boses na magsabing maghahatinggabi na,
o isang paliwanag.
Nang huli kitang nakita ay hindi talaga kita nakita.
Nakatayo ako noon sa isang dako kung saan
maririnig ang langitngit ng pinto at puwede pang
na ito’y dahil sa isang pag-alis
o isang pagdating. Naintindihan kong sa tamang pusisyon
na may tamang anggulo,
maaring magparaya ang katahimikan
ng ilang daplis na segundo—tatlo, dalawa
—na maaari pang magtangan ng ilang yapak, ilang salita—
bago maging ganap na totoo.
Alan, hinahanap kita sa mga kalsada ng Timog.
Kung saan ang mga ilaw ay hindi umiiwas kundi
malugod sa mga katawang bumabangga,
at napakaraming mga tore.
Kung sakaling masyado ka nang malayo, lumingon ka.
Kung sakaling maulap,
binabanggit ko ngayon sa tula ang iyong pangalan
at mas tapat ang tinig.
Unang inilathala ng UP Quill noong 2009 sa Ganito Kami Umibig: Sitting Amok XVII
The ride attendant unclasps the metal chain four people ahead of Lisa. Loud, dull thuds from the wooden platform as dozens of people scramble towards the train. Lisa sits behind the two teenage boys who beat her to the very front seats. She is riding alone.
You know I can’t see you on Sundays, he told her, you know that’s when I take the kids out. He liked to begin his reasons with “you know” when turning down dates with her, as though what he was telling her were facts and she should have known better before asking.
“You know she has friends in that part of town.”
“You know that’s one of her favorite restaurants.”
These were his reasons, and these were also facts. Like gravity. Like his marriage. It was in the nature of these facts to have existed long before her. It was also in their nature to require adjustments from her. A different restaurant then, in a different part of town. At heart, all facts are instructions.
She knew, for instance, that he would be taking them to this theme park and she was indirectly instructed not to be there. Yet here she was—partly because she had nothing to do and mostly because they had a fight and she was tired of going home to her cat while he goes home to be conveniently distracted by a home-cooked meal, preschool gold stars and sex that, although obligatory and routine, might still be fun.
A middle-aged woman gets on the seat beside her, barking out instructions to the car behind so Lisa knows the woman is not alone but merely an odd number. The safety harnesses automatically come down, pressing hard against Lisa’s chest. The attendant goes through the routine of checking each harness is firmly in place, not bothering to look at the passengers strapped in them.
The steel chain lift growls from beneath Lisa’s seat and the train begins to inch backward. Yelps and screams from the back. Someone jokes about wanting to get off. Lisa takes an audible deep breath and suddenly fears for her life. She wants to get off but knows it is no longer possible now that the train is slowly moving backward up the steep slope to gather momentum. The wooden platform and the people in line grow smaller and the landscape grows large. From this height, she could see the other rides in the park—the carousel, the dinosaur kiddie train, the Ferris wheel where she saw him earlier, helping the wife and the kids carefully into a car.
The train is near the top of the slope now. All that could be heard from this height was the wind, the occasional yells from behind and the metallic clunk-clunk-clunk of the chain lift pulling them up toward the vertex. Each silence between the clunks could be the one before the release. Lisa could see the crowds below milling about, envies them for having solid ground beneath their feet. She remembers a slogan about gravity being an idea but couldn’t remember how it went. Is he still down there or are they now driving home? It’s a long way back to the city. She imagines snacks from a drive-through, naps in the car and his wife on the passenger seat playing back the day’s pictures on the camera with a laugh.
Another clunk, another pause. The train stops moving.
Lisa hears the chain lift let go and she is falling—past the platform, past the people in line. The train rushes through three consecutive loops at 47 meters per hour. Images of steel tracks, the sky, the highway outside the park flash and tumble before her eyes and are quickly snatched away. Somewhere between the first and second loop, the light from the setting sun hits her squarely in the eyes, blinding her. She might tell him about this day. He might leave her.
She will think about this later; right now the only thing that made sense was to ride the Space Shuttle until the sun went down.
The train slows down as it climbs the second slope, inch by inch again, readying for the second round down the same track. This time the train will hurtle backwards, this time Lisa is only two teenage boys away from where the track ends, this time she could see no landscape, no rides, no crowds. This time she is face to face with the sky. She takes a deep breath and waits for the drop.
Everything is borrowed space, the space I occupy the space left behind. Who was here before? Who had a similar view of the garden?
The house is in another part of the city, with a nearly identical room that can contain the both of us. Inside are objects that can be used in our own murder: a pair of scissors on a stack of folded napkins, the knives in the kitchen, a spool of floss in the downstairs bathroom, the poison under the sink. Inside, the living says, I woke up and saw a stranger standing at the foot of my bed.
We leave the couch and make plans for dinner, surrounded by the things that belong to us. Here, a window, a lace curtain. Here a table, a chair, a view of the garden. A plate of apples, a cup of coffee heavy with our reflection. Outside, night falls, and I touch your hand, and we believe we are safe, we believe we have all the time in the world.
From the collection Maps, first-prize winner for poetry in the 61st Palanca Awards; first published in 2011 in Blinds: PANTAS Tomo IX