by Will Liangco
By the time the semester was winding down one thing was becoming apparent: Anna Marie, our block president, feminist to the core, University Scholar, Gabriella member, is fucking Mr. Julian Dimatulac, Jr. in his room in the faculty center. There is absolutely no judgment on my part, as we have all been assuming that the hallowed halls of the Faculty Center is hanky panky central. I, for one, have had my episodes of hurried unbuttoning and frantic unzipping in one of the professors’ rooms. At one point my dick almost got lacerated when I rapidly zipped up my pants, as a student, Tufu, knocked at the ungodly time of 8pm to protest the 2.5 he got—that grade-conscious cunt. I would never be able to justify to Tufu why I was inside a teacher’s room, drenched and panting, so I hid under the table and you would not believe the amount of unchecked essays, bluebooks, and other useless crap piling up under those tables.
The point of contention, then, is not that Anna Marie is having sex with our creative writing professor, but how her lewd, disgusting actions are utterly incongruent with her 90’s angry womyn feminist views. No Eleanor Roosevelt slash Lualhati Bautista slash Alanis Morissette-quoting factory will so unabashedly lust over a total loser.
That total loser being “Joolez” Dimatulac. The first day he walked in I have already noticed the slobber, the flush, the dilated pupils of the smitten Anna Marie. She has decidedly ignored all the boys in our block—all of us well-built, chinito, Lacoste T-shirt wearing, basketball-playing former Ateneans who drive our dads’ spare, dilapidated Honda Civic’s on our way home to White Plains or Valle Verde after spending our parents’ money in Jazz Rhythms. In the few semesters that I’ve known her I have judged her to be a lesbian, so it was quite fascinating that she has been all googly-eyes at “Joolez”.
“Joolez”—the nickname alone makes my skin crawl—is a notorious character this side of the university. The way he massages his moustache as he listens to our compositions, or how he smiles and shows-off his nicotine-stained teeth to charm my vulnerable jailbait classmates, or grunts to express annoyance at the cheap twist at the end of a short story. He likes wearing a thin, fitting, green polo every day, making no effort to hide the beer belly and the beginning gynecomastia of a middle-aged professor. Two things disqualify him, though, from being a total gin-guzzling, gun-waving kontrabida side kick caricature—he speaks perfect English in a soothing, almost hypnotic voice, and he doesn’t wear Saudi-gold jewelry around his neck.
“Joolez obviously reminds her of her father,” Tom—one of my chinito, Lacoste-T-shirt wearing, etc etc blockmates once told me as we were queuing for isaw near Ilang-Ilang dormitory. “She obviously misses her father back in Naga. She must have never left town before going to college, so he could be playing her unhealthy cathexis-tether object of fascination encroaching on…”– Tom is a psychology major, and he really takes these terms to heart. “All these activisms,” Tom continued, “these memberships in cultural organizations, these participations in street children, stray animals, and battered women fund-raising events; all those books she lugs around with the cover on display for everyone to see, faux-academic literature about martial law and the suppression of the freedom of the press, all those….” Presently Tom is still in that isaw line ranting and spewing his psychological anamnesis of Anna Marie for anyone interested to listen, while I am finishing this cigarette on the terrace of Kalayaan Dorm, alone, wracking my brain, and asking why, on three separate occasions, at 6 pm, I’ve seen Anna Marie Delos Santos—precocious, beautiful, strong—walking up the stairs of the Faculty Center to enter the room of one greasy, fetid-breathed Joolez Dimatulac.
“My short story is called ‘The Whimsicalization of Ever: In Praise of the Burning Bush’ ’’, Anna Marie starts to recite. It is the final session of the semester, with each student unveiling to the class the story he or she has been working on while the audience bares their fangs to tear at it. Anna Marie drags her chair towards the middle of the room, looking all nonchalant. “PUTA!” Trinia cries as she inadvertently drops her tin pencil case, and a bunch of pens and pencils start rolling on the floor. “Sorry, sorry, thank you, thank you,” she whispers to everyone scampering to run for the pencils.
“You guys better listen,” Joolez exclaims. “I’ve read The Whimsicalization of Ever: In Praise of the Burning Bush, and Anna Marie’s baby is fantastic!” Ten pairs of eyeballs make all sorts of calisthenics, ten eye brows shoot into outer space.
So we listen to the story and it is by no means fantastic. It is about a provincial girl who goes to Manila to get a job, gets into prostitution, and discovers true love in the arms of a drug lord who is keeping a deadly secret—and that deadly secret is that he has a heart of gold. In terms of quality I would probably give it an “OK LANG!” rating, but as something to feed inquiring minds it is indeed… horrific. I shoot a glance at Tom and hear the clunky Freudian gears in his head going into overdrive.
“Just what is whimsicalization, who the heck is Ever, and what sort of sexual innuendo is praising the burning bush?” Pocholo, chinito Lacoste-wearing Atenean baskeball player blockmate # 8, asks. Anna Marie is about to respond when Joolez suddenly taps her on the shoulder and tells the class, stammering for the first time, “The title is obviously a reference to the underrated 80’s Hungarian novel…”
“I got this, Joolez,” Anna Marie calmly interrupts as she lightly taps his hand resting on her shoulder.
NOW TELL ME THESE TWO ARE NOT FUCKING!
“Joolez is obviously gay and they hang out in the faculty center, maybe they watch chick flicks together, give each other a pedicure, and rave about Patricia Highsmith novels over pearl shakes,” Christina Dimaculangan had declared a few days ago as we were sitting on the Sunken Garden working on our short stories. With us were Troy Del Mundo, who found it offensive that Christina could spew so many gay stereotypes in one sentence, and Ian Salas—Lacoste-wearing chinito #14. I was with Ian putting up a fraternity exhibit late at night the first time we saw Anna Marie sheepishly crawling towards FC room 304. We’ve never given it much thought at first, until she emerged from the room an hour later, and her breath smelled of cigarette smoke. We never noticed any missing buttons, disheveled hair, or weird stains, but she had that distinctive post-coital look—the flushed cheeks, the exhausted and mysterious smile, the absent stares of rumination or guilt. “He is so not gay and not all gays give each other a pedicure,” Troy said, not intent on letting the homosexual-typecasting issue go, “What, nobody noticed her shiny new Easy Call Pager? Or her new Tretorn’s? She is ooooobviously a pokpok! I’ve heard that they are poor. Her parents are farmers in Bicol. Her older sisters are working in Manila as katulong.”
And now Anna Marie telling this kind of story is not helping anybody’s cause except Troy’s with his College Prostitution Theory.
It is now Troy’s turn to have his short story mangled.
“Good morning classmates,” Troy exclaims. “I hope you enjoy my story, it is called “The Death of Feminism”.
Troy starts to read with gusto. “The Death of Feminism, by Troy De Silva. Kimberly knew that within her is a sacred portal. And the only way to access this portal is through her vagina.”
Dusk is setting in on the sunken garden as I sit alone working on my story which has been happily mauled, battered, and skewered. My classmates did not hold back, they have pointed out quite fairly that the lead was not fully fleshed out, that some events didn’t transition properly, that some belabored descriptions bored them to sleep. At some point they were all just competing on who could be more caustic, and when everyone ran out of superlatives Trinia, the last to give a comment, just said, “THIS IS BORING SHIT, PACO!” which is funny because the characters in her political thriller can be substituted with broomsticks and no one will notice. I light a cigarette, and my excuse this time is: I AM WRITING.
“I thought you’ve quit, Paco.” I turn around and it is Anna Marie holding a cup of isaw and a cup of gulaman. “Hello,” I stammer.
Against the fading light she looks quite pretty, wearing her favorite maroon UP shirt and munching at the roasted chicken innards as the orange vinegar drips and runs along her forearm. She offers me one. I shrug and put the cigarette I’ve been nursing back into my mouth. Instinctively I look for who is with her. But behind her is just a bunch of Metro Manila Christian Church fellowship members recruiting students. From the far end I see a sweaty girl on the ground stretching her legs from what seemed like a very long run.
“I would like to apologize,” I finally say, “on behalf of our classmates.”
“Nah,” Anna Marie shrugs.
I turn my back on her to blow a final gratifying smoke, then flick the cigarette butt away. Anna Marie is on her last stick of chicken gizzard, and upon finishing it she drinks the remaining vinegar from the cup. It is getting darker and I am dreading the traffic along Katipunan. I need to buy something from National Bookstore. And while I’m there maybe, you know, I can get a cup of coffee. “Hey if you’re not doing anything, have you tried the coffee shop Starbucks in Katipunan it’s new and a bit sosyal but…” I blurt out.
“I’m just waiting for… an org mate,” Anna Marie says. “She has one last class then we’re probably eating dinner in Mc Donald’s Philcoa.”
I remind her that she needs to go home, she needs to revise her short story. She tells me she will no longer touch it, and will submit the carcass as it is. The bulbs on the lamp posts flicker on as night completely sets in and we part ways. The cacophony of chirping crickets, zooming Ikot jeeps, and the laughter of the night joggers swirl around in my head as I say my goodbye and pretend to walk to the jeepney stop along Vinzon’s.
Standing in line I furtively look towards her general direction and see her crossing the street towards Palma Hall. There is no female org mate, there won’t be a dinner in Mc Donald’s Philcoa—I know, Anna Marie, everybody knows. Now that I am out of her sight I quickly follow her, hiding behind the shadows of the trees, tiptoeing on the creaky staircase of the faculty center, because I need to end this, Anna Marie, I really, really need to put an end to this. #