You thought the sun would fail you today.
In the east coast, friends email you, the weather is plain whether-whether.
Or the Erapistic term weder-weder to mean the politics of the sun and the moon and the stars in the home country, with the sun and the moon and the stars the powerholders who come into our lives like storms even when it is not yet the storm season.
As you wake up and go to your window to greet the melancholic morning, the rains greet you first with their rhythm of water on cemented pavements, on the bodies of cars that seem to keep on absorbing all the cold the rains bring, on the shingles of apartment buildings that block your view from the Normandie Avenue where, in the middle of the night, some ambulance and fire trucks and police cars would blare their wang-wangs so they can claim the road: Tabi, tabi, tabi!
You remember that even after three years of driving in the big city, you are still jolted by these sirens each time the triumvirate of police cars, ambulance, and fire trucks would bring a patient or victim to the UCLA Harbor emergency ward.
These rituals remind you of finitude: how finite man is.
They remind you of the meaning of mortality the way the lesson on the death of your nephew has given, he who carries the bloodline because of his patriarchal privilege but is now dead.
Because Ronnie, who has not seen it all, in fact, who has not seen anything at all, is just plain dead.
Killed--or murdered, I do not know.
He is in his 20s and he is going to be another waste, he who has not lived life to the full, well, not yet, well, not anymore.
I remember him one day before I left for America.
I told him: You go find your way, hijo. I cannot promise you much at this time because I am tying to find my way as well. But when I get to find something, I will help you out. You will get to become a mechanic, a good one at that. I will send you to a mechanic school.
He said, Wen, angkel. Yes, uncle.
He said it with that grin that was so much alive but had so much fear. Or so I thought.
And now this young man is dead. Dead.
Killed or murdered--and he is dead.
The father, my brother, is a broken man.
My brother, oh, he had always been broken, and he never had the chance to repair himself, to work through the rituals of healing, to work through acceptance and resignation.
My brother is always silent because silenced by the powerful forces of life, the forces you can never have full control of.
And so in the middle of a storm, I called him overseas: I am so sorry, manong. I am so sorry.
He simply says, Napanen iti sabali a biag. He has gone to another life.
I tell him, in between the gusts of wind as I close my window, Accept, accept, manong, you have other children.
He says, Yes, that is what I will do. But you can never understand how sad I am.
I tell him, I know that I will never know. But let me say that I pray that you will come to terms with it.
Even as I said that, I remembered one scene in the novel I wrote, that scene in Dangadang.
The father was crying, carrying his son murdered by the vicious soldiers of a vicious regime.
The father said, This is not right, this is not right.
The father said some more in between sobs, I should not bury you, you should bury me. I am your father, remember? Fathers are not to bury their sons. Sons are to bury their fathers!
The father, of course, was talking to his murdered son.
I look out the window now.
The storm has gone and the swollen Los Angeles river is now beginning to subside.
It is like the quicksilver life of a nephew, he who never knew what life is all about.
Because he was deprived.
Because he was denied.
He searched and searched but never found anything except that chaos within.
He sought and sought but there was never a refuge he could find, never a solace, never a haven.
I light an incense stick. It is sandalwood, the scent to ward off the spirit of the storm.
I look at the lighted incense again before I extinguish its fire. I tell myself, This is for a nephew who never knew the meaning of life.
Goodbye, Ronnie. Pray for all of us, anak.
Say our hello to your grandfather, our father, your father's father.
Tell your grandfather to pray for us. Tell him to guide us.
You go now with the wind.
You go now with the storm.
You go now with the currents of the swollen river.
You go now to the beyond.
But please pray for us--and ask God to bless us.
Rest, rest, rest in the bosom of the good God.
A. S. Agcaoili
May 23, 2006