Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Valentine Post-mortem

VALENTINE'S DAY 2011--It's Monday, a fact which slides my mood from indifferent to ever so slightly dejected. Couples are walking past us hand in hand, the girls cradling bouquets of roses, and--in some cases--stuffed animals. I scoff at the latter--twenty-something couples who still regularly give each other stuffed animals are just odd. We're walking in the midday heat to the nearby Robinson's, where in a few minutes we will try, and subsequently fail, at trying to interview random students for a documentary on good government. That's as romantic as this day will get for me, apparently.
* * *
I sit through a class which I don't really want to be in, all the time willing my eyes to stay open (and even when I succeed, I think I still fall asleep while staring blankly at my socks). At the end of the class, a classmate gets the university actors' guild to surprise serenade his girlfriend. I troop out of class and end up singing Aegis songs and Zsa Zsa Padilla's Hiram with my friend Grace at the Oblation garden. We both crave for a karaoke night out, which unfortunately doesn't materialize at the moment.
* * *
I'm squeezed in on a jeepney that looks like a tetanus trap, between the sweaty, mean-looking kind of men who would make you pretty apprehensive of being held up. Thankfully, my judgmental sense is mistaken, and they turn out to be harmless. Five minutes in, I bring out my new and cherished copy of Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado. My sister--a high school senior--bought it for me yesterday. I had accompanied her to Greenbelt to take pictures for her visual arts elective, and we dropped by the nearby Powerbooks. I was browsing the General Fiction aisle, when the stacked copies caught my eye. I'd been wanting to buy it for weeks, but lacked the money to do so. She insisted on buying me one. Today I gave her a pack of giant marshmallows (her favorite). It might seem unfair, but that's how we work--I give her time which I actually shouldn't have the leisure of spending; she gives me money for books which we both doubt she'll ever want to read. Sweetest thing anyone has done for me this week.
* * *
Second ride on the way home. I'm squinting in the corner of a red-lit jeep, still stubbornly reading my book. It takes a while to read this one--I'm not a huge fan of vocabulary words learned past the sixth grade--but I like it a lot. Across me, a woman carefully holds two long-stemmed roses slightly wedged in her shoulder bag. The perpetual traffic jam drags the evening on. 

Ilustrado makes me think of how much I actually love Manila, despite the traffic, the trash, and the trash talking we Pinoys often describe it with. Earlier during the afternoon heat wave, I commented: "If I would ever leave the Philippines, it probably wouldn't be because of the political situation, or the economy--it would be because of the weather." While reading though, I think I still I wouldn't leave. Or if I would have to, I'd miss it terribly.

From time to time, I get completely lost in my book, only to look up and remember where I actually am; it's hard not to be reminded with the rumble of a dozen jeepney and tricycle engines, and the pungent smell of fish wafting from the Pasay City Market. I look down again, my eyes straining to make out the relatively tiny text; my mind straining to be distracted from the thirty minutes that still remain on my ride (should've been just ten minutes, but that's Metro Manila for you). Distraction has always been my cure for disappointment.
* * *
Valentine's Day has always been a curious day for me. I see it as a day of expectations--as Grace said, guys are expected to spend for girls, and girls are expected to appreciate whatever their boyfriends give (and that translates to all relationships). This is the one day--even more than Christmas, or their birthdays--that people all over the world feel entitled to some form of affection.

My relationship with the universe has been pretty similar these few days. I've been a having a good yet very stressful time. I do (school)work I enjoy; I'm getting along okay with my parents; and my love life is good too. But somehow I'm not as contented as I am some days. There's a tinge of disappointment at the back of my throat. I feel entitled to something else--something more; something grand. 

I don't know why, but these days I feel like the universe forgot to give me flowers on Valentine's Day, like an otherwise loving significant other who let me down this one tiny time. But I'm pretty sure we'll patch things up soon. After all, it's been so good to me.

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