It was only on Saturday that I felt that the first week of working as an intern was over. Six days ago, it was Sunday then, I was swimming in panic at the seemingly trivial question as to what the dress code was at the office. The issue of a necktie was of paramount importance at the time. Aside from the dress code, there was also the matter of parking, of travel time, of food and water supply, and of parking fees. Sure, it wasn’t like I was going on Man vs. Wild, but I guess we can bend the notion of what “the wild” is with a little imagination. With all that I just ended up sleeping it off.
When Monday finally came, I was lucky there was no catastrophic event like getting pulled over for a traffic violation in Makati or bursting a tire along EDSA. Things were surprisingly smooth with only an orientation during the morning and a whole afternoon of intense sitting. It was the deep breath before the plunge I suppose. True enough, all the work came in the following days. Tasks were assigned and I, along with the other interns, did our tasks in silence like monks in an abbey. Monday was also the day when the LocGov grades were released. It was also the time I found out that three people in our class did not make the passing mark. After that, the rest of the day just crashed.
Indeed, the first week was full of surprises. One of them was picking up the parking bill as I left work on the first day. I scrolled my eyes down to the bottom: P175.00. There would have been tears if weren’t for the magic words from the HR – “reimbursable parking expense.” Gotta love perks. The drive back home after work was a tough one. There’s always the traffic and the usual jerks on the road. Long drives going home always remind me of that first job at Red Cross near the North Harbor. Driving for almost two hours every day. I couldn’t take it and left after two weeks. It seems EDSA was the real test for ideals.
The days went by quickly. As soon as the work came falling on my lap, the hours just kept burning. Time-out was at 6 o’clock and the drive back home took around an hour. Back home there was just enough time for a meal, a shower, and (if I’m lucky) an hour for personal reading, and then sleep. The day began at half past five in the morning or a quarter to six due to the snooze function. Shower. Breakfast. Change. Drive back to the office and the cycle continues. The only relief is the return of friday nights. For a change, I don’t have anything to worry about on saturdays. Weekends were what they were before law school – ends of the week. My bag stayed zipped throughout saturday and sunday and it felt great. Such is life for the next five weeks.
The subject that ate up close to 80% of my time this semester just ended regular classes yesterday. I have been expecting it for weeks now – that we would be done early with the course that was the plague of my semester. Back then the feeling of it all ending was pure happiness. Yet as the days passed, it was not the clarity of happiness that filled me but the darker shades of some kind of ambivalent bittersweetness. That class has always been a love and hate relationship for me. It began with hate, but with enough time the two just flow into each other. Either way, the hours I lost from the toil of handwriting notes cannot but take pieces of me along with the ink left behind on the paper. A man’s work cannot but take part of the man with it I suppose.
During the first weeks, I would complain and complain at the amount of time spent on a class such as this. It was an ordeal, no doubt, and one that was in every sense of the word – painstaking. Pain always steals the show because most of the time I was too close to it to see anything else. Maybe I had to go through these 300 or so cases to learn about the class. (Then again maybe I did not have to go through 300…but that’s moot now). Yet at the end of it, all that work could be summed up with a strained, fatigued laugh. A laugh at having made it through. A laugh at past pains that had been overcome. A laugh at those times I almost thought about giving up.
The sudden and violent liberation of my free time has a deafening silence to it. There was a gap that opened – much more like a vacuum caused by the end of that class. At any rate, with no more handwritten notes to worry about I think I can actually attempt to be human again.
Well, here’s to trying.
Only three weeks to go before school starts. It’s almost unreal – like some bad dream that you just want to wake up from. Since UP had the academic calendar shift, the summer of 2014 had an extra two months of vacation. Imagine vacationing for a third of a year. This is the year of The Long Summer. Freshman year now seems like an eternity ago. I could remember how in The Two Towers when Gandalf the White’s response to hearing his name again, “Gandalf? Oh yes. Gandalf the Grey. That was what you used to call me.” Law student – yes that was what I used to be. In many ways this long summer comes as a blessing and a curse. It was a much needed break from school but four months is quite a lot of time almost an unnatural amount of time. The habits are actually what concerns me. All those habits forged out of the furnaces of freshman year might well have dulled and rusted throughout the four months. All I’m hoping for is that all the bad habits have gone out too.
Three weeks. The days leading up to the first day of class are always mixed with excitement and fear. We should have been desensitized already after how many recitations we have been through. It takes some strange mix of recklessness, brilliance, and insanity to remain calm in the face of class and meeting the new professors. They are the enemy. I can picture them sharpening the edges of their swords to hack us into pieces and impale us on spikes during class time. Yet, we respond in our usual fashion as law students:
During all those last weeks I spent there, there was a peculiar evil feeling in the air — an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, uncertainty, and veiled hatred. Nothing was happening as yet, I myself had not even any mental picture of what was going to happen; and yet there was a perpetual vague sense of danger, a consciousness of some evil thing that was impending. However little you were actually conspiring, the atmosphere forced you to feel like a conspirator. You seemed to spend all your time holding whispered conversations in corners of cafes and wondering whether that person at the next table was a police spy.” -George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia
“Do you trust me?” Shogo asked.
Trust: such a tricky issue. I was going over the opening quotations of Takami’s Battle Royale and two of them made it to this entry. Battle Royale always gets me – classmates, friends, students all thrown into an island with random weapons and told to kill each other. Would you do it? The question always pops up as I read and it stretches my imagination. Would you trust him? Who can you trust these days? On Boys Night Out a few days ago, the topic was about cheating (as if TV and film have not exhausted it enough already). Do you believe in second chances? Some answered yes, no, or the interesting qualified yes (yes but only for one time! No 3rd chances). But if second chances were all right, what makes the third chance any different? Sometimes I’m amazed at how ready some callers were with their 3rd chance cut-off policy. It seems rational but I have my doubts that cold rationality is what is at its core. Maybe it is just easier to trust people when we are ignorant of their real flaws. And the more people fail, the more real their flaws become. So every successive chance becomes a bigger risk…and what is the reward? Good question. Would you trust him? Doubt can crop up like weeds and what was once the rock of certainty turns to shifting sands. If only we were like Shogo, Shuya, and Noriko. Tramps like us, baby we were born to run. ~
It rained today. It was a bit strange at first to watch rain falling from my window on the 10th floor. The strange part was having to look down just to see the splashes of the raindrops on the asphalt. In Cebu the road outside my home would already be dotted with puddles of brown, murky water growing larger by the minute as the rain kept falling. There were trees too with their branches bent and weighed down by their leaves soaked in rainwater. From the 10th floor, there is only the streak of water running across the glass window to tell if there is rain. Twenty six days into June and here come the rains like every year. The days, however, still linger longer than most times of the year. So this is the way summer gives out its last breath: dying with heavy rains and late sunsets.
The cold has also been coming in lately. For the past two months, all I could complain about was the heat. After two days of rain, I could scarcely remember how the summer’s heat felt like. That was always how summer was, now that I think about it. It reminds me of wasabi: how it burns you up in its intensity and just vanishes like some ghost right after. What it leaves in its wake is just what is outside my window now – the contemplative sight of rain falling down on the pavement. Tennis got called off. Studying got called off. Heck, call everything off. All that there was to do was to lie in bed, nap, or just mull over existence while listening to the rain fall. Maybe the mind is the proper refuge in times like these. Times when the view outside drawls on in a gray, contemplative state with a melancholic hue for whatever reason.
When the sun went down, I thought it was time for a walk. It was a long walk but it passed by unnoticed in the cool, night air. The puddles on the road were motionless. In their stillness, they were reflecting either starlight or the fluorescent lights from the office windows. My compact umbrella was dangling by its string on my thumb while I spun it around from time to time. It was nine in the evening and most of the cars were out of the road. There was only a long stretch of asphalt and a restless mind spitting out all kinds of thoughts and emotions. Strange how the rains can bring all of them out. Have they all been hiding in the summer? Just thinking about some can cut you like a knife. But you bring them back into memory anyway: a scene in the past, an act done, a word said or unsaid. Remembering can be such a guilty pleasure, maybe even a masochistic one. Then you take a breath and remember that it probably is just nothing. When it rains, it pours that’s all.
When it rains, it pours.
The rains have stopped now. There is nothing outside but the puddles, the cold, and the black night. And tomorrow I know the days will be shorter.