Nasubukan na ngayong araw na ito nina Bert na makipag-usap sa kapatid nila mula Amerika, na nakikita ang isa't isa. Galing ako ng gym nang maabutan ko sila. I assumed na wala na siguro akong maabutan sa kanilang pag-uusap kasi galing pa akong North Edsa. But I was right on time. Pinaupo na ako ni Bert dito, sa harap ng computer, at 'yun na nga, nakita ko na rin finally si Nick. A few days ago, the brothers were conversing through speakers. Kahapon nga, tinapat na lang ni Bert ang speaker ng headphone sa bibig para magkarinigan sila kasi damaged ang cord ng headset. There was something about the set-up that suggested a wwII setting. Para silang may walkie talkie. Nag-uusap sa bandidong radyo. Pero noong nakabili na kami ng webcamera, hands free na ang pag-uusap. Medyo kakaiba 'yung pakiramdam na may kausap ka na alam mong milya milya ang layo. Sa background ng image ni Nick, may plasma TV, isang seven foot Christmas tree. Yellowish ang pinta ng pader, I don't know if it is because of the twilight or the camera's setting. Nick looked a lot like Bert, except that his skin is of a paler tone, and his hair is wavy. Both of them are now in their 50s. Bert will turn 50 this March 27. Nick didn't deny the family resemblance and dismissed my observation by saying, "e magkapatid kami, e." I could see Nick was drinking vodka. He seemed drunk. Masayang masaya daw siya noong kausap niya sina Ex. But when it was my turn, medyo seryoso na rin 'yung usapan. He told me Al Santos is in Manila. He said Al was able to get a scholarship from Harvard just by surfing the net. Nick is encouraging me to go there. Finish the damn degree and visit him, with Bert and Amado, at his Nevada home. At one point in our conversation he accidentally kicked the bottle under the table and he had to pause for a few minutes to clean it up. I appreciated the pause. Napapaisip ako sa mga implications ng sinasabi niya, ng scenario na kinapapalooban ko. Puwede rin daw namin subukan ang Canada. HIndi ko siya maderecho na hindi lang naman ang dissertation ko ang sagabal, I am simply not prepared to leave.
Primary 'yung fear ko na maiiwanan ko ang aking pagsusulat dito, baka mas lalo akong hindi makasulat. Baka mas lalong maging mahirap na ipagpatuloy ang pagsusulat. Sa ibang bansa, kailangang hasain ko na ang pagsusulat sa Ingles. I could do that. Kaya lang tumigas na rin ang wika sa aking mga kamay. I'm not as dexterous in writing in English as I am in writing in Filipino. There is always this discomfort that maybe my grammar is wrong or my idioms are mixed. And if there's anything that I have learned in writing, you have to have a good, if not, an excellent command of language.
"Sa Pilipinas, gutom ang papatay sa 'yo. Dito, kung ano ang kinakain ng taong nakaupo sa White House, kayang kainin at bilhin ng ordinaryong tao." To prove this, he said a regular steak costs 4 dollars. At the hotel where he works, anyone can sit down for a feast at breaktime. The other day he was telling Bert that sweeping dried leaves on the street is not as tedious as the process we know here. Dito, talagang winawalis. Nakakatatlo, dalawang oras ka sa pagwawalis ng tapat. Sa kanila, blinoblower na lang ang kalat. Noong Bagong Taon, ang kalat sa kalsada'y ibloblower ng madaling araw, at paggising na ng mga residente, wala na silang makikitang kalat. It is as if the event never happened, it is as if the clutter was not there at all.
Sabi ko sa kanya, maganda sigurong isulat niya ang mga karanasan niya sa America. He scoffed at my idea -- "ano, parang I will write my America is in the Heart?"
"Why not? You don't have to repeat what Bulosan already said."
"My own adventure in America?"
He was rambling off his own imagined book titles. "I've realized, coming here and being in this country, you realize...it's over."
"What do you mean over?"
"You know I studied writing under Franklin. At some point Franklin could not even write a single sentence, it takes him three, four hours to come up with a single sentence...mas mataas ang pressure sa kanya kasi he was teaching us." There was this long pause after he said that. That pause spoke for him, the silence told me he had no interest in writing what could be a great work.
The conversation did not pick up again after he told me "it's over...". I could sense his deep depression. It's not coming from lack of self esteem or whatever. "Me I just drink. I'm a drunk and I offer no apologies..." he was saying in between gulps of vodka. Bert said, "unfair ka yata, tagay ka ng tagay diyan, wala naman akong natitikman dito."
"Matulog ka na, magpahinga ka na balong," Des said.
Des sat in front of the computer and talked with Nick. He took out his dog, a stuffed toy that could "talk". It was lipsynching a disco song, "You're My Everything".
"Magpahinga ka na Nick, may trabaho ka pa bukas..."
"Usap na lang tayo ulit," sumingit si Bert. "May lunch kami bukas sa bahay nina Meong. Usap tayo doon."
"May camera ba siya doon?"
"Siguro..." napatingin si Bert kay Des, at tumango naman 'yung isa.
Naglog off na rin si Nick. Kami naman, tinapos na ang pananghalian ng inabraw na gulay, corned beef omelette.