September 22, 2010
I don’t usually eat at McDo but it was a Saturday night full of mishaps. Law professor who likes to terrorize everyone seems to make it a point never to call me for recitation when in fact I spent the whole day preparing. I set a gimik date with friends and it gets canceled. A friend sets a date and I cancel. Girlfriend is away and I miss her. Feeling tired and hungry I head for McDo, the undying symbol of American pop culture.
Eight or nine years ago, I was at McDo at Philcoa. I was young and hungry. Suzette had been meaning to treat me for some squidballs, but somehow she sensed I was hungrier than that and brought me to McDo instead. She told me she had a new corporate job and it was her way of celebrating. She ordered Big Mac for me. I don’t remember anymore what she ordered for herself.
Somehow when we talked, I could see that her eyes were giving her away. She was smiling yet her eyes would not sparkle. I took note of that and I felt bad about myself, in fact I felt bad about everything. She had warned me about that girl.
Earlier we would spend long hours over the phone. She would ask how everything was, making sure to remind me of my household chores and meal schedule. Even her mom knew me like a constant visitor, expecting my calls all the time. Suzette lived with her mom.
They once invited me for New Year’s Eve back in 2002 when I failed to secure a ticket for Bicol. I never made it to their house for I preferred the company of Weng, a young lady I knew back in college who brought me wine and promised to come back later in the night. I was staying in my aunt’s flat in Imus. Weng failed to come back for the countdown so I spent New Year making noise, overdriving my guitar. I really should have spent my time with Suzette and her mom. I did call them before I left my dorm for Imus, telling them that I was expecting one of my poems to appear in Philippine Panorama. That it was a real end of the year treat for me.
I knew she had asthma. And much as she liked cats, she had asthma. We both liked cats. Since I was a kid, I could relate to cats. I like their non-apologetic attitude, their solitary nature, smooth moves. Suzette loved feeding stray cats, and she would describe them to me one by one. I did warn her about cats, that they induce asthma attacks. But she was okay with it and was not worried at all.
She also told me about Maningning. How they used to watch films at CCP. How the late painter-poet would call her often, and how depressive she was, forgetting an award she got the day before and choosing a reason to be sad. How she had called her a few days before she jumped. She told me about Koyang Mike, how they were all so shocked because of his sudden death. She told me about his zen-like calmness and samurai-like philosophy.
It was more than a year already when I learned that Suzette had a severe asthma attack and died. I was at Imus then, and I texted a fellow writer to ask about her contact info. That’s how I got the late sad news. Before she passed away, The Ubod Writer’s series had come out already. At least she left a book. She called it “Patay Malisya”.