Cleaning out a black leather handbag, sturdy of structure, much like that which a postman would use, I wondered a bit about the weight, and Nick Joaquin’s Collected Verses fell out of the outside pocket.
Oh that’s what he was last reading before he died,I thought to myself reflexively, thinking of his books, his music collection in 80s-circa cassette tapes, his papers, his work, his life. Then I think, perhaps this is the son’s – and Joaquin was what he was last reading before he made that hurried journey away, why so hurried, I still don’t know.
It’s the last batch of things to clean. I’m done. I’ve been through everything, systematically filing, sorting, putting away, partly in an obsessive crusade against the cockroaches – how I hate those crawling creatures, I imagine I can smell them meters away – but the task, which has taken weeks, has never been unpleasant. Always a new discovery, always a fresh temptation to dig, resisted successfully by a decade or so of self-denial. Eraserheads in the dad’s collection? James Ingram among the son’s CDs? A lot of duplication in both (am I surprised?).
Poems. Letters. Scribbles. Sketches. The native carabao whip. Historic porn. The red papers. Reader’s Digest. National Geographic. i magazine. Books. Books. Books. Ishiguro. Dostoyevsky. Norman Mailer. Joyce Carol Oats. Erica Jong. Vonnegut. Garcia-Marquez. A. S. Byatt. Umberto Eco. Filipiniana. Documents. Documents. Documents. Candle covers. Masks. Incense among his things, loving brought back from a memorable trip to the Holy Land. Incense among the father’s things.
The music, the books, the love of learning. The sensual nature. The immense and melancholy longing, stoically suffered in silence, the great talent, the tumultuous journey. A touch of bitterness, too, I share with the father for a potential never fully realized. His early death is a constant reminder to seize the day, squeeze the lemon dry, savor the lemonade if lemons are all life has to offer. Yes, I will suck the marrow of life, I say. But I am speaking to ghosts. One so far away, the other so far gone.
Photograph of the southern Milky Way over the Owachomo Bridge, Utah, by Jim Richardson.
I would like to say that my love for you is as eternal as the stars…however, as we both know, many of the stars we see now have long been dead… But you should know that you will always be the man whom I love unconditionally (yes, it’s possible). Happy Valentine’s Day.