I have been working so hard lately that for the past few nights, I fall asleep in a snap when I only intend to lie down for a minute, to rest a bit before I do my chores. I have been ending up sleeping with my contact lenses and work clothes on.
I have been dreaming weird dreams too. Last night, I dreamt I was wading through a shallow pool in a sunlit room, looking for my contact lenses in the water. I saw some lenses and tried them on, but only one seemed to fit, the left. So as I went on through the dream, I had only my left eye seeing clearly.
But I do not want to tell you about weird dreams right now, reader. I want to tell you about a fact. A fact that just hit me yet again, yesterday, as I lay down on my bed, reluctant to get up out of uncured fatigue, despite the sleep.
I remembered my poetry teacher, The Baptist, all of a sudden. I have been wanting to visit him since November last year. I just might this February. It will be Valentine’s soon, anyway. Must bring something nice for The Baptist and his Rose.
That’s when the fact hit me. My teacher, through the life he is living, has proven to us all that a poet can live a happy life. With his life, he is showing that it is possible for a poet to live in comfort, and with love. My teacher came out of the slums, defying poverty. He won the heart of his best friend, another artist, and by this defied beliefs that two artists cannot live happily ever after because, as some would put it, something must be sacrificed. All I know is, while he has been living quietly in love and graciously, he has always been giving us good work. Masterworks. Both tackling light and dark, without having himself suffer in the dark anymore, as he who has known real hardship and has risen from it should know better than play with one’s life by deliberately going back to the things that hurt, just for the heck of it. My teacher may have been the first person to show me how it is to be truly creative. His life is a life of good defiance. It is a life triumphant.
And all of a sudden, all of my doubts and fears were just washed away. Not that I was thinking I’ll have it exactly as he has now, though I’d love that, but a blanket of reassurance just braced me. If my teacher is victorious, I can be too.
Actually, to a degree, I already am. The mere fact that I am fully sustained by writing, and by kinds of writing that I love (for the earth, and through travel), is a triumph.
The only thing within my power that I have not accomplished yet is the 30 poems. And hopefully there’ll be more after them.
Considering everything that I have gone through – years of hopelessness in the bureaucracy, numerous rejections from men, problems about my health, the long and hard fight for freedom – I am still here, unbelievably alive. And not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I’ll ever be where I am now, seeing the seas I have seen, meeting gracious people on the road, working with the kind and generous men and women I work with now.
And all the while, back in my twisted angsty youth, I thought I’d just slip away into oblivion. I was actually prepping up for the possibility that I would just collect all my verses once I feel that the end is near, and ask a nephew or niece to dispose them, as I fade away. I was all set to be my own version of Emily Dickinson.
My teacher once said in class, to address questions on obscurity in meaning, after a classmate jokingly pointed out the mystique in Dickinson’s obscurity, “nag-iisa lang si Emily Dickinson.” Tough words from a man toughened up by life. But ever gentle, ever kind. Besides, our class was a class of hardheads. We needed ‘tough’.
And between a Dickinson and a Bautista, I’d take the latter kind of life. Apologies for the preference, I just love my teacher. That man who was kind to me at a time when other men were either hurting me or running away from me. That good man who treated our class as if we were his own children, welcoming us in his home, sharing the love of his Rose to us. The man who, to this day, is teaching me, more than just through poems, but through his life, a good life.
Grace. Real. Here. It hit me warm against the chilly morning. I got up and set out working.