Let’s get out of this country
I’ll admit I am bored with me
I drowned my sorrows and slept around
When not in body at least in mind
What does this city have to offer me?
Everyone else thinks it’s the bee’s knees
What does this city have to offer me?
I just can’t see
I can’t see what they see…
– Let’s Get Out of This Country, Camera Obscura
Maybe you should read this first.
Everything’s different in the city. Especially this one. The personas get too big, and the animas get too small.
The Filipino culture is derivative of American culture. Filipinos are always trying to appropriate American tastes, American politics, American heuristics, American psychoses… always just one step behind and warped, perhaps by the tremendous heat in the air over here.
It’s an awed insecurity that never went away, kind of like how I felt about my cousin for most of my childhood, except she was good and beautiful, and I grew out of that to become her equal. We never grew out of it. It’s been half a century of an abusive relationship. The Spanish-American
War Charade, Benevolent Assimilation, the fatherless children in Subic with mysteriously fair hair and blue eyes, Jennifer Laude, the APEC agreements.
Do you know why most abuse victims love their abusers? Because the abuser has taken over their entire identity. It’s this – the pain, the exploitation, the sweet words – or nothing.
In fully modernized Arabian nations, people still own and wear desert robes along with jeans and t-shirts because it’s hot as fuck. When was the last time you saw someone traipsing along Espana in anything resembling climate-appropriate wear? Pants and shirts that cling to their bodies. Tight bras, tight shoes. Clothes for a cold or temperate climate. Hardly anyone wearing hats, just squinting in the sun. Americans don’t wear loose robes or headdresses, why should we? After all, skin cancer and optic damage is a fair price to pay to look just like them.
“But officials wear barongs…” For the look of it. Not because they work better. Certainly nobody wears those every day, to run down to the store or whatever. Bayo’t sara at school dances. I have no idea who I am, but I think this is what I used to wear… says the country whose last independent moment was more than hundreds of years ago.
Everything’s different in the city. There are so many choices. It’s harder to choose, and harder to be happy with whatever you choose. Always the what-ifs, lurking in the back of your mind without reasons to push them away. What if I’d taken that other job? What if I hadn’t married so young? What if I had children later? What if I had children earlier? What if…
In the absence of objective evidence that, no, this was the right choice, you have to learn to push them away yourself if you ever want to be happy.
There are so many choices. Why didn’t she choose to stay with me? I’m beautiful, kind and smart. Well, guess what – out there is a girl who’s also beautiful, kind and smart – and she has her own place, she has more in common with her, she makes her own money, and she won’t complain about canceled dates, which I’ll just go ahead and pretend is not the reason why we broke up. No, she might not have met this girl yet when she left me. But it is a fact that she exists. When someone effectively says to you that you’re not right for each other, what they’re really saying is: There is someone more right for me than you.
It’s true. It always is, in the city.
I’m not saying this hypothetical girl who definitely exists is better than me, because… I’m just so damn good in bed. (Ladies.) Well, no actually, I’ve met some women who more than matched me, sex-wise. No one’s better than me because no one’s better than anyone. Some people are just better for other people. Hypothetical Girl may not be better than me, but she’s better than me for her.
I used to think it was a crazy game. This wasn’t conscious back then, but I think now it was a deliberate act of defiance that I would choose partners who were much less pretty than me. I still kind of think it’s a crazy game, but one I’ve decided to play nevertheless. Right now I don’t think I could be with someone that isn’t pretty. I don’t really know why.
Beauty is such a huge part of the persona. I’ve always been torn about its role in my identity.
Right after the cosmetic surgery I had as a teenager, gurgling blood and woozy from anesthesia, I looked up at one of the assisting surgeons and mumbled, “I didn’t think I would do this when I was younger. I thought looks didn’t matter -” She interrupted: “Oh, they do.”
Sometimes I get so tired, but not very often. Just now. Just tonight. When I’m too tired to be angry, I become melancholy. I wish she did not look at the stars with me. It was too precious a moment to share with someone who would not stay. Of everything that happened, I regret the stars the most.
This is what L.B. was talking about – this ether of infinite choices and indecision and aimlessness – she was so sure of someone, and that someone was not sure at all – “There’s so much more I haven’t seen yet…”
I am looking for a wordless certainty. A certainty not based on reason, and thus cannot be reasoned with. Is that possible at all in the city?