Words
Twink Macaraig (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2016 - 12:00am

Dear Twink,

Hope you will forgive this intrusion into your day, but I felt impelled to write you after I read Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala’s post on your article for PhilStar while I was abroad.  I’m also a member of ICanServe, but I don’t really follow the e-digests since I find difficulty greeting people I’ve never met, what more writing them back at length. 

So this is the very first time that I’m writing someone from the e-group from out of the blue. Maybe it’s because you’re not an absolute stranger since you are “a public personality” —although the reverse is true, i.e. that I’m an absolute stranger to you.

Your article resonated so much and although I don’t dare say, “Want to meet sometime and have coffee?” I do want to ask if you are familiar with the book Late Fragments: Everything I Want to Tell You (About this Magnificent Life) by Kate Gross.

I got it over a year ago while in London and I couldn’t put it down. Neither could Alya Honasan when I lent it to her.

But many may not like reading books that deal with facing the D that comes after the C, so I’ve not offered it to anyone else. But I find myself writing you about it because there were at least two parts in your article that echoed what she wrote: 
“I have stage four cancer. All this cancer-speak is new to me, but I do know there isn’t a stage five.”

And your last paragraph about being able to tap on your keyboard reminded me about her being able to write as “...a gift to myself, a reminder that I could create, even as my body tried to self-destruct.”

And I figured you love the written word, so I feel a second kind of sisterhood there. Anyway, enough rambling before you think I’m kinda nuts saying I don’t email strangers and yet here I am unleashing a barrage of words! The point was to ask you if you’d be interested in reading the book. Let me know and it’s easy for me to have it delivered to you somewhere.

And if ever you feel like having coffee, just let me know!

Oh, and mine was 10 years ago, and my mother died (of peritoneal cancer) exactly 10 years before that, at the age I am now, 62 (…oh, sorry, I just turned 63 pala) so I know what you mean when you wrote about filling up the questionnaire about “any family members with cancer.”

“These last years have been so strangely luminous, full of exploration, wonder and love. I’m not sure if this adds up to a silver lining, whether it amounts to enough to balance the loss of a future I should have had … But at least it makes the scales more even.”
My wish and prayer for you is to have many, many years ahead that will be such.

Warmest regards,

Libet

Dear Libet,

I’m so glad you overcame your scruples to write me. If I knew how to use emoticons properly, I might better express how kilig I am.

What more gratifying thing can there be than to know that something you wrote moved someone else to do something so totally out of character?   (Granted, John Lennon probably felt no such thing about Mark David Chapman.)

Yes, I would love to read the Kate Gross book. Even though the passages you quoted make me ask myself if I’d inadvertently plagiarized it.

I will read it before or after Vince Perez’s recommendation, Chasing Daylight by Eugene O’Kelly (not O’Neill, Vince, Eugene O’Neill did not write creative non-fiction), Maria Ressa’s The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (she wasn’t pacified by my telling her that I’d watched it on YouTube), my sister Nina’s A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, Quintin Pastrana’s The Red Devil by Katherine Russell Rich.

I will read it before or after I take another crack at Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, which I found barely endurable but which won the Booker of Bookers, and so gahdamet-I-will-discover-the-sublime-in-this-novel-if it-kills-me.

I will read it before or after The Winds of Winter by George RR Martin, if it’s released before the seventh season of Game of Thrones. I’m not averse to reading about the D that comes after the C.  I’m just really also into the finding out how the S hits the F now that we know R + L = J.

Oh, and can we not do the coffee? I don’t drink coffee; it gives me the shakes. So, in lieu of the coffee I’ll end up wolfing down a giant éclair instead and you’ll wonder at the way I was raised that I wasn’t taught to properly use a dessert fork.

And that goes to the heart of my real problem with coffee; what do I say while we’re doing it?

See, Libet, I’m not good with words.

I can put them together to formulate a four- sentence distillation of the history of Isis. I can explain to you how China’s new military drills pose a pre-emptive threat ahead of the expected Hague Tribunal ruling for the Philippines; in active, present tense.

You want me to make you cry? I can make you cry. If I thought that that would provide the crux of an over-produced personality piece you commissioned depicting what broke you before you found the resolve to rebuild, I can make you cry.

You want me to make you confess to plunder? I’ve been known to do that, too.

But I don’t know how to use words to fill silences in a coffee shop.  I have no repertoire of heartwarming anecdotes or existential platitudes to exchange.  They just don’t fly when they’re said in my man’s voice, with my habitually deadpan delivery. The words don’t come out right from the downturned mouth of the Resting Bitch Face sitting atop a blouse stained with éclair custard.

You’ll think oh-she’s-nasty-pala, or oh-she’s-angry-pala, or oh-she’s-morose-pala.  You’ll think she’s not at all that brave/funny person who wrote those articles.

But, I am that, as well as nasty, angry and morose. I just can’t be brave/funny on command. I need some time to maneuver past the nasty, angry and morose that are my first impulse, to unearth the brave/funny somewhere deep from among my tightly-wound intestines.

Libet, it takes a whole week to come up with my column.   During that period, there are moments when the brave/funny words come easily, and I barely need to look at the keyboard as I type.  Then, those moments pass and darkness sets in.  Thank God for the miracle of IT that the brave/funny is saved up in my word file because there’s no way I could finish a column in time without it.   It’s there, though I struggle to find the brave/funny in me; despite my bile-enveloped tongue saying screw the brave/funny. (Also, thank God for the online thesaurus and deadline-bending editors). If only face-to-face conversations worked that way.

What say, instead of coffee, we meet up at the Leon Gallery in Legaspi Village? My friends, Lizza Nakpil and Tats Manahan, want to give a guided tour (talaga naman, the perks of being a PWD) of an exhibit they co-curated, “Filipinos In the Gilded Age.” I understand the place has been made up to look like a salon from Downton Abbey. That means, after we’ve sat through their valiant attempts to illuminate me on the finer points of Fine Art, we can re-enact that lovely final confrontation scene between Lady Mary and Lady Edith. Jack en poy nalang tayo for who gets to play the ugly sister.

Or how about we try this place I’ve heard about — Sip and Gogh?  We can chat as we paint and our amateur daubing will cover up the gaps in our chatter. The wine we imbibe as we paint and chat will ensure that our finished products are beautiful to our eyes.

Libet, you may have other suggestions — hopefully not involving karaoke — but my point is: let’s share experiences beyond having C.  How about we take off from our mutual love of words and build a vocabulary of our own? That way, we’ll eventually be able to talk about anything, over coffee (and an éclair), even about facing D, even without words, and we’ll understand each other perfectly.

Love,

Twink

* * *

For feedback, pls email t.mac2303@gmail.com.

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