A few days ago I approached a stranger to ask for directions. (Yes, I still get lost in my own hometown sometimes.) The stranger, as if by instinct, backed up a few meters away from me before entertaining my question. I can barely hear her talk behind the mask but I understood as she pointed with her hands.
As I walked to my destination, I thought about proximity and the many times I took it for granted in a pre-pandemic world. How, in the few months into this crisis, we move more awkwardly around strangers. And as desire only heightens when deferred, in that moment, I wanted to hurl my body into a nameless person.
What were these little pleasures that I miss? Sharing a cigarette during a smoke break (although, I’ve stopped smoking.), cruising in a place that smells like piss, fucking someone who gave away a fake name.
Tonight after you told me you’ll sleep ahead, I googled pictures of the SONA that began the First Quarter Storm. I felt envy. A mass of bodies with barely any space between them: a monolith of rage and sweat and defiant chants. Impossible during this crisis.
I refuse to believe the youth aren’t going out because they are apathetic. The youth are angry and outspoken and clamoring for change. But why doesn’t it translate to warm bodies on the streets?
If there wasn’t a pandemic, will we have stormed the streets as big as when they ousted Marcos? Or has the internet tricked us into believing its own illusory form of proximity? Is it possible to say I miss you when I haven’t even met you in the flesh?
Rage online is real and valid, as these words I send you through social media is real and palpable. But we have to take the streets, as a mass of warm bodies, as I have to meet you where you are: in the flesh. Someday, somehow.
Earlier, I woke up from my nap because of the boisterous children outside my window. For a moment I thought the pandemic was over. (How dare they be happy.) I had a headache and I remember I was trying to write. I’m writing about an aging aesthete, bored out of his wits, alone in his condominium unit.
I’m trying to think large, to say something sharp about history, but my ideas seem always scaled down into a miniature. Instead, I write about little rooms, small hands, someone’s sweaty forehead, a man’s flaccid dick. I am irked at this limitation, but I resign to it. Perhaps I persist in the hopes that this smallness is a portal to something more profound.
I am trying to finish this story about this old man obsessed with beauty. He is looking for something luminous in the plainness of his disgusting privilege. Do you write about characters you hate? Does it make the task any easier?
The children, they are still playing outside. Don’t they have modules to answer?
This fixation on smallness — is it an unspoken consequence of the pandemic?
When was the last time you’ve been touched tenderly?
It’s been months since I had been touched tenderly, and the yearning does not scale down as days go by. And I despair, too, that art can never pierce through skin. All those poets lied.
I, too, want to play outside, like a stubborn child. I’m afraid I worry too much about trivial things, like art and romantic love. Those kids know more about life than I do. They wouldn’t want to grow up, but they can’t articulate that yet.
Articulation is a curse.