This story is a story of return, or perhaps of many returnings.
Can she write this story? She wants to; it exhausts her.
It is not a story about revenge (though, to be completely honest, there’s a little of that, too. That, and anger. Yes, those feelings are always in self, even in each and every bite of a crumbly piyaya)
Strangely, it also turned into a story about becoming American, about a person who knows her rights and doesn’t have to kowtow to anyone.
As an American, self returned to this island and to Bacolod, her father’s hometown. She saw the wonder of the people (who she thought were the kindest people in the whole world, especially after self experienced the grief of her Manila family). She made it her purpose to traverse every inch of this island, and to treat her experiences with the same respect with which a museum curator treats a priceless artifact.
Emotions — ah, emotions. They directed her gaze, always.
In her latest message, self’s Burmese friend Kyi says “people in Rangoon imported a lot of flowers from the Philippines, including the double bougainvillea Million Dollar.” What a fantastic name for a flower! Self has never seen a bougainvillea with that name, certainly not in California. And she is suddenly reminded that she has, growing in her Redwood City backyard, a bougainvillea “Purple Queen” that she managed to coax to life after six months of anxious coddling, and was just starting to flower when she left for Bacolod, in early October.
She loves this island. Her eyes ache, just to look at it. Her room looks out over the rooftops of Bacolod. Her gaze always ends at the sea. There was where the ships came: first, pirates. Then, Spanish missionaries. Then, French engineers. Then, American soldiers. Followed, at last, by the Japanese Imperial Army.
Like son, self loves the sea. Or water of any kind.
In self’s room, she now has five copies of The Lost Language. She bought them at National Bookstore in Greenbelt One. She has never given a reading in Bacolod, not in all her years of being a writer, and wonders if she ever will. Here’s a passage from a story in the collection, “Dust”:
It was sunny, a glorious day. April was sometimes cold, but Jocelyn thought she could sense summer coming, just around the corner.
The girl who clipped them, that afternoon in April, was just 18. Driving her red Ford Mustang at a speed that was just short of criminal, she’d gotten her driver’s license only that month.
The Ford Explorer rolled over and over and over — for almost two years she kept seeing the image. It would flash into her mind, often just before she lay her head down to sleep. Then she had to get up and pace the bedroom, or take two Ambien if there was something important she wanted to do the next day.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.