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He gestures to the magazine covers. The bleach-blonde in a red and blue bikini on Gorgeous Says doesn’t even look human. And the one with an unfinished perm on Sid’s Picks appears white. Papery white.
Call this, continues Sid David, Post-Postcolonial Mentality. In fact, it’s not even a mentality. It’s simply the way. And even that’s a passing trend. We move fast. Filipinos are the new thing. Like CV here.
Filipino Americans, I say.
Sounds like a good idea, says Chazrick, his eyes glossy with excitement. Sounds perfect.
This is it, I think to myself. Because of the hope in his face, this is it. I love Chazrick Villarosa when he’s right.
What you’re hearing, says Sid David, is perfection. In three weeks you’ll understand the perfection of God’s timing.
7. waiting and waiting and waiting
Week one. Manila is the bastard child of Hollywood. It’s where superstars morph into politicians. As Morgan Renoir says, all it takes is a smile.
Since my cousin works in the States, she’s letting us stay at her house in Pasig City. A massive concrete wall splits the one-story right up the center. The other half was her ex-husband’s. Not long after their divorce, he died from a freak poisoning accident. Our half is furnished with a mattress and the watery smell of sand.
While the people outside fight and laugh and sing karaoke all day long, I write. My stories are in English with moments of broken Tagalog. I hear beautiful Tagalog that I understand but cannot write. The people of this barangay may not be my target audience. I’ve never known who I write for.
But I’ve never been more productive. I submit unfinished drafts to film companies. The response time is quick. Just the other day a representative from Soap Films Inc. called and asked if I was American. I said yes, to which she replied, I see. Sorry. Your script is a failure. And before I could defend the thematic concerns of my work, Etcetera Unacceptable Here Studios cut me off with a simple nope, nope, sorry.
Chazrick thinks I need my privacy when I write so he leaves me at home when he travels to the province for auditions. A typical conversation when he returns:
Just came from Batangas, he says.
Where’s that? I ask.
Out in the green. The air is fresher. Come next time.
How was the audition?
Don’t like their writing. Hurry up, he encourages, and then kisses me.
You think you’ll find work before the show starts?
Normally a question like this would make him feel incompetent but lately he responds, Reese says I shouldn’t give up. Reese says I’m new. Reese says no one knows me yet.
But you’re talented.
They don’t know that. Reese says—
Reese De Verdad. Chazrick came here for us. I never let Reese De Verdad enter the house.
Dear Mother, I write, Reese De Verdad almost came into the house today.
Week two. I hate writing and I wish the store owners would stop arguing about who sells the fattest fish in the barangay. The house is still empty and I refuse to shower because the pipes like to regurgitate. This morning a large ipis corpse appeared in the sink. Add the smell of sizzling pork to sand and this place just is. These may be the symptoms of a bad idea.
Earlier, Chazrick came home between auditions.
What did Reese De Verdad say today? I asked.
He kissed my temple, then nibbled my cheek and said, I’m not jealous of your writing.
And out the door and down the stairs and through the alley he went.
Jealous? I wonder if he’s plotting to leave me. I wonder why he tolerates me. Each day, he needs me less and less. I think about telling him the truth about the miscarriage. But this isn’t about me.
I fold our laundry. The soap here is different. If you wait long enough, clothes start to sour and smell like spoiled rice. This country seems to be infatuated with waiting.
Soon enough, someone shows interest in my work. Tak Takahashi of the Anti-Metropolis Film Collective calls me and is intrigued by my story about a junkie’s unremorseful son who kills his mother to end her suffering.
It’s a compelling coming-of-age narrative, comments Tak Takahashi. I’d love to meet you.
Week three. Tak Takahashi is a chubby blonde Japanese man with no facial hair. We meet on a province-bound bus. It’s packed with provincianos and their boxes of goodies: fishing line, knives, necklaces, bullets, pirated movies. If they’re not provincianos, they’re musty European backpackers or nuns in jeans and habits.
I dig your style, says Tak Takahashi as we sit too close to each other. He spits thickness out of the window and offers me some chewing tobacco.
I kindly decline.
What’s your modus operandi? he asks.
I live in half a house in Pasig City, write first drafts, and fold laundry.
Why the infatuation with junkies?
My boyfriend isn’t one.
He shoves more tobacco in his mouth and asks, What does the BF do?
I wait for the bus to stop so I can head back. This guy obviously isn’t going to purchase the script. He asks too many questions. I don’t like answering them; I like posing them. I’m a writer, not God.
The traffic becomes lighter. The construction workers masked in T-shirts disappear. Chazrick must love leaving the city for this: no buildings, no colorful billboards, a makeshift home made of tin and bricks every now and then but otherwise, it’s barren, undistracted, lifeless.
There’s never a good reason to look out there, says Tak Takahashi. It’s all in our heads anyway.
Maybe it is all in my head: Manila, Chazrick, who I am without Chazrick. I’m stable when he’s not and he’s stable when I no longer wish to be. I love my work regardless. I’ll hate my work regardless. I love Chazrick. It’s how we balance. He needs to love me.