In the e-group: Past Permutations

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There’s been a recent flurry
of postings at my high school batch e-group. Mails have flown back and forth riddled with teasing, silly sentiments, and—aha!—ancient histories and little known secrets!

High school, if my shameful math skills add up right, is what, 15–16 years ago? I’ll bet that in the passage of years, some memories have gotten more than just a little bit warped. It’s fun guessing which ones are true, though.

But it has certainly been interesting, the strange patterns, permutations, and imagined (or maybe real—who knows now?) pairings that we are starting to uncover. Unrequited love? Lost (more likely confused) love? Which teacher had a crush on which student? What food was banned from the classroom in third year? Who blew up the toilet bowl in the men’s room when we were in freshmen year? Or exactly what color was that old bike, Franz? The photos hardly dislodge a clue.

I opened a few boxes over the weekend in search of high school photos to post, and I found two rather interesting ones. The first was a snapshot taken at a beach of the boys from my batch, how young they looked, and how cocky, and carefree. The other photograph was a rare one, showing my old group—all smiles and huddled together as only high school girls can well, huddle. The photos documented the friendships, groupings and ungroupings, some migratory, some lasting until now.

Years later, distance, a few deaths, and lives that have gone a thousand different ways finds us scouring our collective memory for good times, purer spirits, kinder hearts, happier days.



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This weekend—on Sunday to be exact—I will turn 33.

The age Jesus Christ was said to have died.

I trust I’ll be alive to see my 33rd birthday. Hey that’s a morbid thought. I am not sentimental. All I want for my birthday is a pedicure. Or maybe a nice long massage and sleep afterwards.

Well, let’s see… this should be a good time to do some accounting. In my thirty-three years on this planet, I have:

Lived in 3 cities, 2 towns, 7 apartments, a dorm, 2 houses, and for six months, in a hotel.

I have seen the planets aligned in a row.

When I went on a long vacation one summer, I inadvertently killed my pet turtle Gigabyte, because of neglect.

Two of my dearest friends died of the same illness. I was only able to attend one funeral.

For almost 2 years, I was a functioning drunk, but I quit smoking after more than 10 years.

In one year, I quit my job, went full freelance for months, then packed up my life in one city and moved to another. I traveled by bus at 2AM on a Friday and landed a job after the weekend.

Sometime this year, I started wearing skirts.

One time, after watching a movie, I emerged outside into a raging typhoon and walked thigh-high waters. Adroitly avoiding flying tin sheets, broken plastic signs, and floating vehicles, I was able to check into a small hotel and pass the night away from danger.

One summer, I stayed up most of the night and well into the early morning hours kissing a guy with sea-green eyes.

In Manila, while on board a speeding in a taxi on the way to a drinking party I was banged up in the backseat when the taxi swerved on two wheels to avoid an oncoming motorcycle. The biker dude was drunk/stoned, the taxi driver was kind, my stockings were ruined. I had bruises for days, but I was able to make it to the party.

I have held a writhing, live python in my arms for a good 10 minutes.

When we were kids, my older sister and I would climb up the roof of our one-storey house and jump feet-first, laughing, onto the grass in our front yard.

After giving birth to my son, I passed the time reading Hannibal while waiting in the recovery room.

And on Sunday I will be 33. Jesus.

Dying For A Laugh

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Q: How do crazy people go through the forest?
A: They take the psycho path.

Har har har.

I have been saving this little bitty joke for some time now, I don’t know why. I forgot who sent it to me, but my friend—whoever you are—thank you. Yes, I know it’s not laugh-’til-you-pee funny, but it does merit a chuckle or two. Humor is a weapon that’s easier to wield than anger, but one so seldom used.

Humor readily transforms dismal into droll.

Sometime ago P, who is very dear to me, had a quintuple bypass. While he was at the hospital, a lot us—friends, family, and fond acquaintances were worrying about him making it through the operation.

P is a truly funny man, with a sense of humor that’s dark and oftentimes off-kilter. Hours after coming out of the recovery room, he was texting, “Hi friends! I’m dying to see all of you again.”

Har har har.

Lusting After Books

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For me, reading is not just a pleasure; it’s more of an escape. Immersed in a book I can leave behind the ordinariness of days and travel to places, ideas, and imaginings more exotic, more exciting. I have an almost erotic affinity for words. I like the way they look strung together in lines that weave across the page. I like touching them and seeing the smudged ink on my fingers. I like the way they sound when bounced off one another, or when laid out in subtle rhymes that coyly invite you to read aloud—or to savor in silence, pure pleasure to the inner ear. I consider books an aphrodisiac, so I seldom ask for them as gifts so as not to be tasked to return the favor in the form of amorous quiescence (ha!).

This is my current wish list of books.

1) Her Husband: Hughes and Plath: Portrait of a Marriage by Diane Middlebrook
2) The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton Foreword by Maxine Kumin, Anne Sexton
3) Anne Sexton: A Biography by Diane Wood Middlebrook
4) The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings by Amy Tan
5) The Writer’s Desk by Jill Krementz, John Updike (Introduction)
6) Broken Music by Sting

I hope to get my hands on at least two or three of those books soon. Lately the space I inhabit is feeling a little claustrophobic. What better way to escape than to lose myself in one of these titles, eh? Two of those titles are about/by poets who kept me awake through college, had me prowling the dusty shelves of the library–places away from the fiction (novels) section, where people seldom browse. What can I say, I confess I tried to steal Plath’s Collected Poems, but as fate would have it, that day I wasn’t wearing a roomy enough jacket to hide the book in. My fashion sense saved me from expulsion, I guess.

I read some reviews of Her Husband, a dissection of the goings-on in the tumultuous marriage of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. What can I say; they feed the voyeur in me. Plath is one of my first (and constant) favorite poets. Though it is convenient to label her as a confessional poet, I feel that her work is more than that.

Consider these lines:

The woman is perfected./Her dead/Body wears the smile of accomplishment.

How appropriate to sum up a life somehow. In the spring of 1963, Plath put her two young children to bed, left bread and milk for them, stuffed the cracks of their bedroom door with rags, and then went down to the kitchen to gas herself to death. Sylvia Plath has been dead some 40 years, yet her words still resonate with us. Her poetry is strong, haunting, and still very much vital. And yes, this is the Sylvia that will be portrayed soon by Gwyneth Paltrow in that movie that’s much detested by Plath’s daughter, Frieda.

What is it with this fascination for women poets who end up killing themselves?

My other favorite, Anne Sexton is also an accomplished poet, a contemporary of Plath’s. Sexton too, took her own life, but left behind poems of such strange beauty.

In Wanting to Die, she declares,

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,

raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,

leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,

something unsaid, the phone off the hook

and the love, whatever it was, an infection.

As for that book by Sting being on the list, well, that’s almost self-explanatory. Pop may be mind candy, but this one’s still a good chew.