A heart is to be spent.

28 November 2013
9:17 PM
Manila

M.–

Here is something I wrote sometime in 2008:

…There’ll be time for crying later. So, a list:

1. Pack bags. Take only the stuff that you bought with your own money. Leave everything behind that was provided for since birth, because your parents demand it. It’s a good thing that you have the presence of mind to buy your own clothes over the years, else you’ll be leaving your house naked.

2. Take all your books. Put in boxes. Contact friends who can keep these for you until you find a decent place to stay. If worse comes to worst, you will have to sell them if you need to get by and stay alive. Divide those that you can’t give away against those that you can let go. And among those that you swear you’ll keep forever, pick one book. It must be That One Book that will provide some measure of spirit to keep you going, just in case it comes to that point.

3. Save a copy of all your contacts. You will have to let go of your mobile phone.

4. Save a copy of all your files onto your external hard disk. This is very important. You knew there was a reason why you insisted that you buy that external hard disk out of your own money. If ever you can’t bring your laptop with you, at least you have a copy of everything that you need.

5. Steal your laptop. Yes it’s your parents’ graduation gift to you, but the fact still remains that they bought it. So most likely they will demand that you leave it behind. Put up a big fight over this (since you’re leaving anyway), and if that doesn’t work out, steal it.

6. Pack your cameras. They’re all yours. If you work harder, you can make a living out of it, too.

7. Look for a place to stay. There are transient houses, rooms for rent, bedspacers, dormitories, and all that. Start calling.

8. Look for a job (if you can’t steal your laptop). Your freelance thing (and your dreams) might have to be postponed again. Indefinitely. Try looking for a job that does not require corporate clothing, because you don’t own that many clothes.

9. Stack up on ulcer medicines. Be prepared to go hungry.

10. Be strong. You have spent the last twenty-two years surviving. You can do this.

This is a story that I haven’t shared with you yet. Consider the list above part of the narrative.

My life is a bit different now, of course, though not that far away. Every time a desert island challenge comes into a conversation (if you were stuck on an island, what would you bring), I remember that list. It’s The One Book that have always bugged me, I think, because I never was able to pick just the one. What I did was stuff my bags with as much books as I can carry, and figured out the rest as I went along.

To be honest, if I was left alone to myself I would probably be fine. I would probably have days when all I do is work, and I would probably have days when all I do is read and sleep and think. I would be rough around the edges when it comes to talking with people, because I am sure I would forget how it is to be with someone. I wouldn’t know what to do with intimacy or tenderness, though I think I would be vulnerable, as the time to myself was spent opening doors instead of building barriers.

That being said, the latter half—or quarter—of this year has been very good to me. Incredible, even. I mean—grief played a huge part, something I didn’t expect, but that has only made my experience more profound. I’m talking about people, M., and you, and all of this—

I go back to Dunn:

Sixty
Stephen Dunn

Because in my family the heart goes first
and hardly anybody makes it out of his fifties,
I think I’ll stay up late with a few bandits
of my choice and resist good advice.
I’ll invent a secret scroll lost by Egyptians
and reveal its contents: the directions
to your house, recipes for forgiveness.
History says that my ventricles are stone alleys,
my heart itself a city with a terrorist
holed up in the mayor’s office.
I’m in the mood to punctuate
only with that maker of promises, the colon:
next, next, next, it says, God bless it.
As Garcia Lorca may have written: some people
forget to live as if a great arsenic lobster
could fall on their heads at any moment.
My sixtieth birthday is tomorrow.
Come, play poker with me,
I want to be taken to the cleaners.
I’ve had it with all stingy-hearted sons of bitches.
A heart is to be spent. As for me, I’ll share
my mulcher with anyone who needs to mulch.
It’s time to give up search for the invisible.
On the best of days there’s little more
than the faintest intimations. The millenium,
my dear, is sure to disappoint us.
I think I’ll keep on describing things
to ensure that they really happened.

Goodnight,
T.

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