Saturday, May 12, 2007

Xman redux

CHEAPSKATE that I am, the first thing I bought when I had something left over from my salary was this mobile phone.

Inexpensive and simple, the new phone fit me, down to the longish time it took to unlock and the limited memory of my ancient SIM card.

As far as coexistence anxieties went, this new phone and I settled down in no time, except for a few days ago, when this infernal gadget went crazy.

Fumbling with the keypad, I panicked every time the phone tone indicated an incoming message. Each time, I feared the worst: my younger son finally swallowed his older brother and was regurgitating him out, with the pieces in odd order.

Every time, it was this and that writer asking if Myke was gone, had gone, was really, really gone.

Texting is really ideal only for thumbs that fly over the keypad and eviscerate nimbly the rules of English writing. It is not for technophobes that feel they have to use the shift key every time to begin a sentence with a capital letter; or leave a space after punctuations (two if a period).

Also, texting is just too bloody for explaining to the young, the heartbroken, the dreamers that the mentor they wrote for, imitated, drank with—heck, loved—had, as of 3 PM last Friday, taken off for an 18-hour flight with his two young sons and a pocket full of finger puppets to go home to his beloved Arlaine.

Thanks to Myke, my editor-on-leave, I discovered a facet of the phone I thought I knew: push the buttons too quickly and this unremarkable piece of plastic will rear its spirit and refuse to execute a command.

Toxic, my editor would have said, nodding his bangs sagely while smiling roguishly.

Yeah, everything’s toxic alright, Xman. Some just use the poison to make poetry.

I first worked with Myke U. Obenieta in 2000. Our group of writers and photographers were prowling in the firecracker-making countryside of Babag, Lapu-Lapu to catch children and minors assembling in the illegal trade.

It was my first special report but my heart was not in it. Why punish the victims? For Myke, his interest was not to expose and investigate; he wanted to listen to the stories woven by those small, nimble fingers before an accidental spark sent them flying all over the countryside.

In the exacting world of journalism, Myke and I felt, more often than not, like mutants. In the backyards of Babag, we took to calling each other Xman, or “X-Man,” if according to Myke, as he was more straitlaced about grammar than I.

Over the years, in the newsroom or during coverage, we bumped into each other desultorily. I knew him better though as one of the most graceful editors to light up a classroom or a young writer’s dreams.

Some students stumble into writing because, caught between the devil and professors who believe in “publish or perish,” they have nowhere to go but into the roiling waters of the publishing world.

But the ones that grow into their craft have, hovering over their pens, not just Muses but angst-ministering angels and nurturing mutants. Until he finally made good on his travel plans last Friday, the Xman did not assign writers as go off with them on rambling, irreverent, offbeat, funny explorations of language, the movies, drinking, poetry, parenting, loving and other digressions that inexplicably fed the Craft.

For those unable to believe he has left, let me comfort you with Epictetus.

It’s not only because quoting some long-dead Greek confers the proper gravitas on leave-takings. The fellow is in one of the books left behind in the normal clutter of my editor’s desk.

This, as well as an oil-and-pastel painting of a ballet dancer, the communities of writers woven around his four scrupulously updated blogs, and the unfinished series of despedidas requiring at least half-a-year to complete, are portents that Myke has just stepped out and will, one afternoon, pop up to declare to us, day-shift stiffs: “Hi, beautiful people!” 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s May 13, 2007 issue


janet said...

Hi Mayette! :) Can I link your blog to mine?

Maria said...

Hi, Janet. Yes! Salamat kaayo :-) I just noticed today that I forgot to post this comment--or more likely, did not know how to post this comment. Sheesh :-)