Today is one of those days where comfort simply can’t replace home. Spain has definitely provided me great comfort in my day to day businesses for the past two years. The simple comfort of a decent pavement, a proper place for walking; the scheduled transportation; the lucrative sidelines that pay the bills; and the comfort of the Bear.
However, comfort is a long way from being home. Not to say that I miss the traffic and the chaos of CDO, honestly, I don’t think I’d ever will. But it’s the other kind of comfort that isn’t caused by money, something one cannot purchase off a store: the comfort of flavors and memories.
I’ve just successfully written and defended a master’s thesis on gender and food. Like all things academia, I hardly want to have another go on reading the final product. What with the technical construction and the theoretical jargon that make any humanistic topic seem mechanical. (Now I may be digressing a bit.) So my hardbound book has been standing on the shelf at the exact spot I left it after unloading my luggage upon arrival.
Yes, I wrote about food because once, on a time like this, I’ve missed the comfort of Filipino flavors and the memories that are served with it. The idea of writing my thesis on food was in fact inspired by a desire to eat adobong Pinoy during my first year in Madrid and not by any insights from some highly reviewed academic journal nor by any other doctorate or master’s research. My soon to be paper was born out of the pot one Friday evening when my palate, before my soul, had suffered from homesickness. I had to sedate it so I cooked. And it was during cooking, slowly and carefully attempting to copy my mother’s recipe, that I felt powerful. A sense of power that brings sustenance, a power that creates, and a power that enables me to travel back to our kitchen in Cagayan de Oro. Oh, and the adobo dish satisfied my soul.
Today is one of those days that I simply crave the flavors of home. Not that I’m hungry, I just had a three-course meal for lunch: buttery roasted chicken, baked creamy lasagna, and roasted vegetables glazed with olive oil. It was overwhelmingly creamy and, if I may be honest, a bit bland (they don’t add much salt here for health reasons). So after a long day’s toil, I scoured the kitchen with anything that can give me the flavor of home. I haven’t done my grocery yet but I luckily ended with a packet of Knorr sinigang sa sampalok mix and a piece of tomato. I grabbed a cauldron and set the water to boil, chopped the last remaining tomato and mixed my way into a sinigang soup. It was a delight and I don’t even mind its simplicity. Yes, even in Mang Inasal I’d still ask for my second of their famous sabaw.
We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!
We have performed greatly the roles we choose for ourselves: perfect strangers turned lovers, consumed of passions and set out against the world on a series of adventures. We even have extended our run, where we can both say “It was a good show.” Now, there couldn’t be a more fitting time to bow to the audience, wave our hands here and there while receiving some last-minute tokens: the little things we will tuck in an old luggage or in the secret corner of a wardrobe we would soon surprisingly discover. Let’s close the curtain.
We were a hit.
Writing about not being able to write for more than a month. Make that a decade. What is it about breathing? If I am inhaling my life then I’ve been doing it for so long. Too many episodes contract my lungs and I haven’t got the discipline to exhale. I forgot who said that about writing being first and foremost a process of breathing in and out. I have a good memory of Sir Tony mentioning it.
That a writer can still be in the process of writing even if she isn’t scribbling in her journal. The act can still be performed with daily routines inhaled deeply, the constant observation of the mundane, seeking insights from day-to-day humdrum.
My friends said that I’ll surely find the inspiration to pick the pen again when I get to Madrid. The atmosphere alone ought to be enough to get me into a romanticized image of an artist in a café, indulged in her craft. Cue in the midday rays and the crisp of autumn. Instagram worthy, right?
Unfortunately, the writing part hasn’t transpired yet.
Instead, I’ve been spending my free time visiting museums, expositions, local festivals, parks, and Madrid’s neighboring cities and districts. Lately, I’ve been drawn to cooking Filipino meals. A sign that homesickness is just around the corner. I’ve also been making acquaintances. I’ve shared cañas with a few of them, exploring different cerveceras while enjoying their respective tapas. The beer here is divine.
There are many things to write about but I am procrastinating. For better or for worse, I don’t really care. I do care about cooking adobong pusit later, reading the next story in Kristine Ong Muslim’s collection, finishing Stranger Things 2, taking my pills daily, wearing my winter clothes like a pro, and most importantly, trying to be happy. I guess these excuses will have to do. These ought to give me an extension for inhaling.
Ground control to Major Tom: 4th of October, Wednesday.
It is quite usual for me to skip two pages before writing my first journal entry. It is quite usual to start with this stream of consciousness indulgence. But I will allow myself these usual behaviors, for everything else is unusual and unfamiliar in this big city. I’m still called Christine here, like how they call me back in Cagayan de Oro. Yet even my name doesn’t sound familiar to me anymore.
I’ve done nothing for these past two weeks but to recreate my usual routines. Fortunately, I’m unable to do so. I say fortunately because I promised myself this exile. I promised myself this adventure. So far, it has been a wonderful series of strangeness.
Off to Toulouse, France.
We were holding on to a crossword puzzle as if it were our last salvation. Digging clues with each solitary letter standing across or below, some of our intended answers didn’t fit.
Now I want you to solve this:
One day I will vanish from your world. Like an extra letter that did not make the last box. The blank black boxes will be my only options. I will leave everything: my books, my Chucks, even my cats. All these I will selflessly leave behind except a single letter. I won’t leave you any clue to decipher. I will just be gone.
However, some things will always be with me. Like this torn-out crossword puzzle from that morning paper, you were reading in a café. I couldn’t stand the news so you offered me that part, knowing that I have always loved puzzles. Sure. I will bring this. We didn’t get to finish it, after all.
I will fold and tuck this pastiche of words in the crevice of our time. In between the shaded boxes, I will take our unspoken silence, the hemorrhaging expectations, and the wounded self that was meant to be with you.
Have I got another good fight in me?
I haven’t even mastered the d i s t a n c e.
I pretended but I haven’t really. All play
pretend – the bittersweet tease of letting go and holding on to
lovers that keep on leaving. The call
has to be answered: a career, a lifestyle,
a dream. One heart needs
to be whole, it has been beating from the beginning
with a hole that has grown overtime.
Shall I say I’m through and it’s no use?
Or have I got another good fight in me?