Dear Luis

*For Luis Katigbak, from an accidental fan, now indebted to you for always.
Dear Luis,

Your death came at a time when I felt that some things in me were dying too. My fire was burning out, I was growing tired, a phase that had probably been the tenth of its kind in my 25-year lifetime. So I decided on a drastic change, but one that still reeked of uncertainties.

I was going to leave the Philippines in months time, rejoining the tumultuous arcade of dysfunctional relationships and migration issues. I was desperate for an escape, but my only choice came in the form of another country where I was going to be broke and probably unhappy with strangers that happened to be my family.

On the night you died, someone posted on Facebook a never-before published short story you wrote about a hotel, a prom, a boy and the girl who never got to be his.

Your ending was a killer: “That’s the beauty of it, something that never properly began, never ends.”

Things in my life were ending. A six-year job, probably a career, premature (or just generally weak) friendships that wouldn’t endure distance.

Then, as the girl in your story came into a door in a strapless white prom dress, a boy came dashing into my life too, but likewise, a boy who would probably never be mine.

I thought that maybe as I prepared to leave, he could be my something that never begins that would also never end.

Fortunately, he was a fan of stories too. And like the digital kids we are nowadays, we don’t talk in person, in our case, we vibered.

And we don’t use our own words, too. We send links to songs on Spotify, or videos on Youtube, or a snap of a book we’re reading, or in my case, a copy-pasted text of your story.

The poster said he believed he was committing copyright infringement by publishing your story without your permission or your family’s, and there I was, a willing accessory to a crime, spreading stolen content.

But I thought you would probably forgive me because Luis, this boy was my girl in a white prom dress, and that viber chatbox was my bar at a hotel.

I waited on the other side of the screen as the ‘seen’ mark indicated he was reading your story. At the time I didn’t know what I would like for him to respond with, just that sharing that story was a breather from everything else in the world that seemed not to matter.

Just read, I thought, just read and let us be visitors in an imagined place that as far as I was concerned was reserved for just the two of us that night.

“It’s beautiful, and it inspired me to write again,” he chatted.

That night, I dug up my old copies of Esquire, and in only my iphone light attempted to type into my email “Sabado 1995,” a short story you wrote for the Eraserheads issue about the inevitable process of life — change. It’s an issue I reread often, whenever I get to a low point.

Then I said why not, why not just haul my treasured issue into my bag, along with the rest of the issues with your short stories from your last years on earth, and give them all to him.

Your stories were slowly becoming our connection — that if words were immortal, then they could be our something that forever lives, whatever that means to him, and even to me.

However unsure I was of my feelings, I knew that they were different. I only ever gave books — or stories this instance — to someone special.

How our story unfolded is something I reserve for when I learn to become a better writer, but suffice to say Luis that I failed, because my something that shouldn’t have began so it never ends quickly spiraled into a lot of beginnings.

Beginnings that were dizzying, and exciting, and intoxicating and confusing at many times.

I tried to use my own words to make my promises, to make something out of what we were doing in the hope to convince us both that something which began is also capable of never ending, or can at least continue long enough to be remembered as fondly as you do your girl in a white prom dress.

But I couldn’t do it without you Luis. So I bought your book.

“Happy Endings,” you called it, ironic I thought, but apt. Once again, you killed us with how you closed it. An apocalypse of some sort with your quintessential lost boy and the girl he’d eventually find just as the world was about to end.

“We laugh and kiss again and embrace each other and wait for the end,” you wrote.

Just so you know, we did exactly those while waiting for our version of an ending: one where I would board a plane and the prospect of a “Happy Ending” is but a gamble.

But what can I do Luis, not everyone is brave enough to walk away from a good thing to preserve the beauty of it, the poetry of it, and the very existence of it.

Some of us are weak, we can’t help but run after it, chase it, and expose it to vulnerabilities that can obliterate everything that is good, even memories.

I’ve always been the chasing kind, Luis. I’ve been chasing a dream ever since I was ten and learned there was nothing else I wanted to do but write, and that it was the only way that living would be less difficult and Luis, I have chased love, too.

And happiness. I have been chasing happiness since I can remember.

So how can you not begin another chase when someone is willing to run with you.

Maybe I’ll get left behind, maybe I’d have to run after him, maybe I’d have to keep running and maybe I’ll do that because maybe, Luis, something that started has to keep going.

And that maybe to keep going is to have a happy ending.

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