Saturday, January 12, 2008

Queer fish

BIZARRE is just a view. For a yearend assignment, my editors gave me a compilation of archived stories on events that went beyond the ordinary in 2007.

While the rest of our household had meatballs and Parmesan in the hours leading to the new year, I was rereading and spending time with the man in Alcoy who, in a drunken fit, beheaded his friend and was caught later in his house, chewing on his late, unlamented companion's ear.

So, even though bizarre is just a view, happenstance like this makes one re-evaluate a steaming ball of meat swimming in pulpy red sauce with flecks of melted white.

Sight and insight. Thanks to newspaper work, I'm on the front row, most days, watching life flash forward, move back or stall. It beats a movie ticket: life is a narrative that's rarely causal, linear or predictable. A few months before, the Alcoy fisherman had opened his home to a friend who was fleeing his past, the law or both. What were the odds that he would breach, after a few bottles, the seemingly endless gap between savior and cannibal?

More than history, literature has shaped in me a lifetime habit of solitude and reflection. I want to hear myself, is a reason why I rarely chat with fellow travelers, like eating alone after writing, or hole up in our household's single toilet, deaf to the furious knocking and hollering of a desperate world.

But how much of insight is prescient, if at all useful? If I had foreseen the meatballs' congealed state on my plate, would I have stopped the boys from methodically eating the bread crumbs we toasted that afternoon? My husband, the chef, had instructed that any bread leftovers were to be diced and toasted for mixing with the meatballs.

When my sons seemed to be dipping too often in the bread crumb bowl, I asked them to desist as we had no buns left. Our village's favorite baker had gone home to await the New Year. This meant either buying bread at the nearest mall, clogged with last-minute buyers, or buying pan de sal from a corner panaderia that had only a few flies tending the empty shelves after a dog was seen defecating near its sacks of flour.

On the other hand, the reader may not see at all the line drawn from the bakery jinx of a dog with a poor sense of hygiene to the bizarre gourmand nibbling on his dainty in Alcoy.

With apologies to literature, insight may just be a figment of one's pretence. It's probably more "out" than "in" sight, at least for healthy, ravenous boys who can't see why one's mother has to be stingy with stale dry bread when she has obviously lapsed in stocking up on snacks.

Reading too many newspapers does pose a bit of danger beyond the usual smudged fingers and heightened paranoia. Woozy after one dawntime rereading of online news stories, I stepped out of my classroom one rainy morning.

The balcony overlooked a pond. As raindrops hit the water, the fishes moved under a decorative column of rocks arranged in the pond.

Were the fishes taking shelter from the rain? As I watched, the grey crescent forms retreated. Diamond heads emerged from under the rocks. Contrary to the philosophical musing, do fish in water notice after all that their world is not just wet but bizarrely wet, as when rain falls into their pond universe?

I can still hear myself, as a child, ask: can fish hear? With a head full of news, a 42-year-old addressed a school of fish in rain-with-the-pond one morning: sight, insight, out of sight, earsight. mayettetabada/ 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Jan. 13, 2008 issue


Salve said...

hi mayette, i stumbled on your blog today and wanted you to know it was an engaging read. it was refreshing to see a journalist without fear of words. will visit regularly from now on :).

balma said...

"The balcony overlooked a pond. As raindrops hit the water, the fishes moved under a decorative column of rocks arranged in the pond."

hmmm, familiar school. ;-)

Mayette Q. Tabada said...

Hi, Salve

Daghang salamat for the visit :-)

Despite the deadlines and deskwork, journalism is indulgent about wordplay. I just wish it paid a little better :-)

Mayette Q. Tabada said...

Hi, Balma

Pit Senyor!

I think St. Theresa's College has one of the most beautiful and restful campuses in Cebu. And the view beyond Room 201 is one of my perks as a teacher (should I count the students, hmmm... :-)

Amping ug ayu-ayo!