When the Heart Flies from Its Place by Eric Gamalinda
It’s almost February, and moments like these are ones that I’d like to forget. Oh, February. Stop. It’s been more than a year. I’d like to think that this is just because I haven’t slept right in the past three days, and thesis is running me to the ground, and I haven’t smoked since I watched Perfume at E.’s house, and I had my heart broken a little after watching that, and I had my thesis groupmates over for the first time in my house (which was more than unsettling), and I’m listening to Joni Mitchell, making me write loopy run-on sentences like these.
It also doesn’t help that I cry for no reason at all in the past few days, and I can’t even explain to myself why this is happening. Is it because of how petty I feel worrying about my future? But I love this fact, this nearing towards the end. I am grateful, most of all, that there is an end.
Anyhow, it’s all the same now: I wake up, and then the next thing I know, I’m back in my room, climbing into bed, falling asleep. And then I wake up.
It’s almost the last leg of my thesis. The financial plan’s been done, and I’m crossing my fingers that we won’t get too fucked with this one. So far the past five passes have been great. I’ve never worked this hard in my entire college life, and I’m stupid if I let this business idea go once we all graduate.
These past few days I was thinking that it wasn’t too bad, this, studying a course I never wanted in the first place, but learned to like a little, in the end. I marveled at the resiliency I had, no matter how little, how I managed to crawl through the four years studying about things that I’d rather trade for something else, how I managed to find other ways to keep on doing what I really loved, and defying forces, even if it hurts so bad sometimes.
Maybe it’s how things are meant to be. Maybe things had to happen this way. I’m beginning to believe that now.
I realized that I love to look at people reading. My younger sister used to do that, sit in front of me while I’m reading some book. She’d get close to my face, sit very still, and I wouldn’t notice. Sometimes I’d read for hours, and she’d be there. When I happen to look up accidentally, I’d lurch back in surprise. I asked her why she does this, and she says she likes to look at my eyes move from side to side. She says sometimes my eyes would move very slowly, and then very fast, and sometimes I blink too much, and then sometimes I don’t blink at all. This fascinates her to no end.
I guess I caught the habit. When I’m at cafes, or odd restaurants, bookstores, trains – I noticed that I can’t help but look. It’s not only the eyes that I notice, but their expressions while they read. They’re so naked, their faces.
My friends slept over at my house to slave away for our thesis last weekend. I enjoyed their stay. It’s been awhile since I last had someone in my room, try four years ago, there, an abandoned friendship. The day after that was the beginning of the end, the cliche. I’ll tell you all about it over coffee, it’s not that painful now, today.
After all it’s different than the last time, and I’m happy for that. It’s been awhile since I’ve willingly let people in my personal space. And it was a big step for me. Four years of having this room all to myself was quite long. And that was important. And after this weekend I still had my friends. I’ve never been more apprehensive to go to school than today, I was afraid it would be like the last time, and how I couldn’t handle that.
But I’m still on my feet. No nightmare whatsoever that has happened. Except for missing the deadline. Trivial. I still have trust issues, I still can’t tell everything to everyone, still can’t give more of myself to friends who’ve welcomed me to their lives, but I’m getting there. Getting there. It’s just hard, you know. Still there are people in my life now, who wait, who never ask questions, and I’m thankful.
I can’t believe I’m looking for a job. And my life, swept around somewhere, in the corner of my room, maybe hanging like my bra on the bedpost, maybe in the bottom of my waste basket, maybe tucked between Roubaud and the Travel Guide to Switzerland. And there is a poem somewhere that I can’t write:
When the Heart Flies from Its Place
The names are the first to go,
then the dates of births and deaths.
It’s as if everything moves on another,
esoteric level, here among the gravestones
where the elements collude so we don’t realize
how we succumb to forgetting. The milkweed unfolds
its damascened leaves and monarch caterpillars
devour them scrupulously, and out of this simple act
something marvelous is already happening,
the promise of a massive and silent migration.
Order is natural progression: a century from now
the sugar maples planted by the pioneers
will still be growing, too ancient to remember
everyone who’s seen them here. This once
was a church, where now two benches meet
in mute conviviality, and this a pound for stray sheep;
one village will be mowed over by another,
one more road will cut through the forest here.
A tractor roars to say the conquest is complete:
we tame the land until it accepts
our habits, our fear of need. When I hear these sounds,
says Stansik, age five, my heart flies from its place.
Just eight months in the country, he is learning
the landscape of language where there is no
fixed geography, and everything
still evokes another memory: cowdung is
smell of village, a pond is primal, rippling
with translucent newts. The stones
say little of these former lives, just that
they once were valiantly loved;
you can almost hear them calling the roll:
Thompson, Merritt, Thayer, each a perfect
solitude, a stilled comet. Stansik again:
Why are there no blacks in Massachusetts?
And: You are not black but gray. Pretty soon he’ll forget
his Russian, the language he is slowly
inventing, the man from whom his mother
had to run away. I wonder if he will remember
this summer, and how the heart feels
when it flies for no reason other than
—what was it? I didn’t know, I had never learned
the word for it, and to this day I walk
the unspeakable territories.
I think I need more Brubeck now, and less of Nina Simone.
My heart’s too full.
From Zero Gravity by Eric Gamalinda, published by Alice James Books, 1999.