It’s that time of year whenever I’m waiting for a ride to my office and usually get caught in a downpour. Water pummeled my umbrella and poured by the gallons, drenching my shoes and trousers. I could almost feel the tiny specks of dirt that had found their way to stick on the inner sides of my shoes as the rest of them were quickly washed away by the cascading rain. The air diffused with a mossy scent giving me a fit of nostalgia, because not far away from where I stand is my old High School. I turned to its direction, hoping to catch a glimpse of it but found my visibility was limited by a good five-yard-span. Wind blew impetuously ramming the droplets against my lens, further decreasing my vision to almost zero. I shifted my gaze and found that passengers who were queuing for a taxi had already piled up on the opposite street, and I think they’ve been there longer than I was. This is not a good sign.
At any rate, passenger vehicles meant like gold at this period, since they are a rare occurrence, and they denote one thing that I fear most: I’m gonna be late for work. I drew my coat. Shoved my left hand into my pocket and let my heart sank. I felt quite pathetic.
I thought it couldn’t get any worse. Usually, I like the rain for the simple reason that it alleviates my dread of the hot summers in Manila. I call it a reprieve from the blistering heat. But just this once, I’ll make an exception. For three consecutive days, my fever turns on and off, resetting my core temperature hurling it into fever-pitched, causing me to suffer a splitting headache, eyes burning like it was constantly on fire, nauseated and dizzy, and joints that ache all over places where you previously thought you don’t have. I let out a deep sigh. Maybe this is one way to have a break from my novel albeit a peculiar one, and an opportunity to learn how to write on the first person narrative for its sequel (if I’m lucky to finish this on time). And hopefully it won’t be a long writing hiatus that would eventually lead to missing my own deadline.
So much for finding time.
I wish the above paragraph was part of my story that I’m writing about. But nay, it is not. As what I’ve already said a long time ago, there are instances when torrents of ideas flow, ravaging the pages like there is no tomorrow, and there are times when it’s like a stream, trickling away during the summer.
Okay, a break then. Anyway, my mind is screaming for it since I’ve been encountering an unexplained writer’s block that had put me on the plot’s dead-end. And after suffering a few setbacks that wiped my thumb-drive of the dreaded “rootkit” virus (or is it a worm?) that lead to the deletion of the whole novel from chapter one to eight, I prodded myself to keep a level head albeit I could already feel the throes of panic and pangs of despair. Another lesson learned: never back up your files using the computer in the office because the antivirus is out of date and the system is completely unreliable. I will not elaborate for the simple reason that talking about it only brings feelings of anxiety, irritation, and at the risk of aggravating my ulcer and blood pressure.
Now for our little story. I’ll give you a brief overview on how I ended writing a novel, and the caveat, since I’m in the mood of taunting my critics and detractors who are, as always, desperate to be included in my memoirs, I won’t mention any names here whether they are my long time friends, allies or in good faith, the template(s) of my novel’s characters. It’s time for their neurons (if they do have any neurons) to fire up and think who I’m talking about in this article.
And no, I’m not going to give the tiniest hint about my novel’s plot. That is under lock and key. Now, let’s put that good old literary reception theory to work, shall we?
October 2008, I was busy honing my writing skills in the form of a blog when a website known as redroom.com sent me an invitation via email saying if I could blog about novel writing. They were, as always annually, celebrating the upcoming National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo – in November that’s why they were encouraging writers from different fields to blog about it, or to the extreme, write a novel. After a couple of days or weeks, there were dozens of writers and bloggers expressing their hearts’ contents in the cyber space. They were so passionate how their novels would reach its climax by its short deadline, and some were giving their vantage point on how they came about in writing a story equivalent to a walloping 50,000 words or more within a month. Yep, you’ve read it right. In a month! Sounds hard to believe, isn’t it? Of course, the whole exercise is not without a reward. I’ve forgotten the exact figures, but those guys were going to give whoever gave their best a hefty sum amount of money, if I remember it right. It was an incentive, an inspiration to keep you motivated.
Me, on the other hand, was left in the dust because it never crossed my mind to write a novel. Sure, I was writing a script and even though the whole project is also classified as a novel, being the word graphic comes before it. My point is mine is entirely different in such a way the whole thing is customized to have illustrations and usually have lesser dialogues and no descriptive words. Another question that kept howling in my head: How can I tell a story with 50,000 words without using any illustrations? Then there is another question of what would I write about? I rested my head on my palm as if it was gaining weight with all the unanswered questions.
Then, it struck me. I would write something about one of my characters in my original story, and the format would be like a prequel where everything had begun. With a balled-fist, I struck the air and screamed, “Let’s do this thing!” I hunkered down on my laptop and opened a blank page of Microsoft word. Now, this is the part where, if the whole exercise was a movie, the director would move to a far shot and focus on me, with the background silent and some crow passing by, squawking. And believe me that is the only sound you would hear.
Anyway, I began to round up the characters to form the cast. W.E. was of course, without any doubt in my mind would be the protagonist. I looked for other characters that would make up the prequel and was looking for an inspiration on how his office or environment would feel, smell or look like. That was the easy part. Adding some adversary to the story is a must, so I added a few and again, that was the easiest. I got plenty of those in where I work. Ha! I could feel the corners of my lips draw upward.
The cast, however, would be different from the cast of J.E.M. and J.A.R. in a way that I had kept the female actors to a minimum. Not for anything else, but I just wanted to keep myself from writing from the perspective of a woman because the initials J.A.R. is, you’ve guessed it, a young adult female created way back in 1994. It was fun writing and conceiving her story. So I went to add characters on the list of PDPC staff, and among them is A.V.H. I fell in love with the meaning of her name that’s why I created her. By the way, her middle name is one of the names on my list that never found its way in my story arc.
Segue to the present; and now, this is where everything begins to be pretty interesting.
You see, when I was writing A.V.H., I strangely found myself running out of steam. Her dialogues were dull, her body language and mannerisms were flat, and everything about her was as dry as saw dust. Time was wasted whenever I’m writing a perfect and attractive description of A.V.H. because I don’t have any “handles” on her, and worse I cannot hold a firm image of her in my mind. How she would look like, move, talk or anything. She was, in a word, a two-dimensional cardboard. Lackadaisical, weak, lifeless. Not worthy to be a female detective that claims to be aspiring to work with the NCIS, NSA, CIA or any initials in the alphabet in the U.S. Not to mention as a young lass who graduated as one of the top in her class with flying colors.
Wow, this is hard. I thought. How can I write about someone who, in a way, I feel absolutely detached with? Because plain and simple, I cannot relate with her. Worse, I don’t care about her. My mind was beginning to think about hundreds of reason why she was part of the story, but I can only think of one: My sleuth needed a sounding board. No more, no less.
I pulled out her profile and her brief career in the story has to end. I guess I would just have to re-write the whole thing and eliminate her from the ensemble. But somehow, that didn’t quite felt right. Have you ever read a story without a female character? Or is it because the whole damn thing is burning with testosterone fuel that a love story can’t possibly squeeze in because of some chauvinistic d#*@ was so adamant not to include a woman so as to make the story appear different?
Chauvinistic d#*@. Hey, that’s a good idea! Maybe we can find a way where that obscene expression can land a part in the story.
Then it dawned on me. I have someone who is quite perfect for the role.How shall I describe her? Lemme see… She is a woman who can send a thousand ships sailing and an army marching. Nah, that’s too romantic. I’ve never been known to be a romantic guy.
She is a woman who is a constellation of attributes. Nope. That’s not original, either. I’ve seen it spoken in a movie once.
The way she moves, the way she glides across the room she’s like an angel. Wait a minute. I think this is hyperbole and I may in turn get sued for plagiarizing the band Fralipolippi.
Okay. In my own words, a woman of superlatives. Falling short of superlative, that is. Well, that’s up to you if you see her or know her, but for the sake of argument let’s just stick with the word superlative.
During my stay on a particular, uh, group, she unintentionally caught my eyes. The happenstance never crossed my mind either, for the simple reason she was the least candidate at the time. It was just like you were holding up an audition and looking for a street-wise-ambitious-driven-see-aye-ei-wannabe that she inadvertently landed for the role. Okay, now I’m being silly. I’ll move to strike and avoid the fallacy of begging the question.
At that time, the simple reason why she was the least candidate is that she was being abrasive, annoying, and quite a pain in the butt. Day in and day out, she would dished out her abrasive tongue and irritating witty comebacks whenever our paths would cross, and send me to a frenzy of vex and anxiety. So I kept asking myself, “What did I ever do to this woman that she hated me so much?” And I told myself, “Let it go, Israel, let it go. Just turn your other cheek and move along.”
Still giving her the benefit of the doubt, I extended an open hand and gave her a cordial mien. Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned her birthday and birth year from a very reliable source, her herself.
Thinking it is a good opportunity, not to mention a very good way to mollify her, I pounced on the opening. “You’re the same age as my brother,” I began.
“Why?” she said. Her tone was indignant. Her finely sculpted brow furrowed deeply and with a curled lip she said, “What happened to your brother that I could possibly have anything to do with it?”
I clammed up. I was chagrined. I was not expecting she would react that way. I shifted on my seat and shrunk. I’m sure she made a follow up on that statement but I was already busy sulking on my counter. I wanted to lash back and tell her that my brother I’m talking about died almost twenty years ago, but I was already weary by her sting. But I tell you, that was the beginning when I never wanted to speak with her. No pleasantries, no trivial conversations, nothing. Whenever she’s talking to me, whatever she may say, my reply would always be short. Maybe I got my message across. I guess she felt that in a way or did she? From where I stand, she’s probably too dense to realize that.
In the same vein, that’s also the reason why my attention shifted to her. For the simple fact her presence was like an issue of survival for me, more like of a matter of life and death. I have to stay alert and always be on my guard if she’s heading my way. I even memorized her perfume because that signals me if she’s coming or she’s nearby. I wanted to keep her in arm’s length. Somewhere along that period, between petty conversations and her cheap shots, I came to be very observant of her and her actions.
How’s that, you say? Simply because I have to know if she’s within my perimeter or if I’m still on a safe distance, away from harm’s way figuratively speaking. And more importantly, if I still have ample time to avoid any conversation with her and if worse comes to worse that I can’t avoid her, at least I could prepare for whatever she may be scheming or willing to dish out. So began the seemingly never-ending charade of observation and avoidance. Albeit in the course of a year and a half, not everything she says was meant to ruffle one’s feather. She is a nice person when you’ve come to know her, and quite attractive in a very strange way. But still, I have to be on the safe side just in case.
By that time, I have observed a lot of things about her, like for instance; she holds her coffee mug with both hands, as if absorbing the warmth with her palms. She likes her coffee mug to have a design, from a simple logo to a branded one. She sips her coffee leisurely. She has the habit of flicking her hair whenever it gets in her vision, especially when she’s taking a sip of her coffee. She has white, even teeth whenever her lips parted, giving an impression of a very sweet smile. Every time she walks, each step she makes denotes assertiveness, confident that she knows her ropes. Her head is slightly tilted back as she perched on her seat. By the same token, she has the habit of perching herself on the edge of the table. Her mane slowly moves from side to side whenever she shakes her head in disagreement, and in which she always ran her finger to clear or expose her ear.
Am I keeping notes on her? Nope, not really. I just happened to memorize every curve, contours and features of her image. And mind you, if I could draw like the artists that make impromptu sketches, I would already have because her image is deeply engrained in my mind. Ha! If I have a USB port, you can hook me up into a CPU and you can browse, resize, and print her image.
Now, writing A.V.H. became a breeze because I have a template, so to speak, to have something to work on for her descriptions and mannerisms. When I’m writing a scene and the character is there doing her job, all I have to do is think about the real person whom I patterned her to and write away. Don’t get me wrong, A.V.H. is not entirely based on my officemate. To put it simply, it’s like three-fourths of her physical appearance, mannerisms, body language then one-eights of fiction and one-fifth of imagination. In a way, I’m just burrowing her face, mannerisms or attributes.
I enjoy writing about her and I was so elated with A.V.H. that I told her to one of my high school classmates. I told her the whole ensalada, and showed her a picture of my officemate. Yes, I do have a picture of her. I took it when she was perching on a desk and told her I’m going to use it to Photoshop her head against a known sexy actress named P.A. Now, hold your horses and stop shooting from the hip! It’s not what you think. Read along and you’ll find out.
It was a sort of pun because she was, as usual teasing me during one of our office meetings, but I never got around with it since writing is already a full time job. So my classmate, W.L. said, “Hey, bro, she looks exactly like M.K.”
“Really?” I said.
“Funny, I never noticed the resemblance.” I decided to change the topic. “Do you know that she was born on this month and this day?” Wrong move. Hardly an effort to change anything at all.
“No kidding!” W.L. said, her brow danced up. “My gosh, that’s the same date M.K. was born.”
“Really now.” I exited the image in my cell phone and stashed it in my pocket. When I turned to my classmate, she was already grinning from ear to ear.
“Are you sure it’s not because M.K. was your crush back in high school?” she said.
I did not answer. I have the right to remain silent, I prodded.
Now, only one question remains. Should I tell her? Is that simple? I mean, should I just march up toward her and say “hey, I’m writing a story and I loosely based the character on you” with just a short notice, without explaining from beginning to end? Ha! Tough luck, kiddo. She may take the whole thing wrong. Maybe I should set up a little meeting and invite her so I could explain the whole idea and what it’s all about, and at the same time interview her on what’s her stand on certain issues to get a better perspective on how she deals with things and to get a better handle on A.V.H.
Not a good idea. She may misconstrue the gesture. At any rate, she would be howling for my blood when she learns about this. I guess if that happens, all I can tell her is she’ll have to wait in line and join the rest of those people that yell “arm yourselves with pitchforks and torches” and wanted to burn me alive on a stake. Or worse, they’ll make a massive manhunt and I’ll be hunted down like an ogre.
She has the right to know. But, and that is a big BUT. What for what? To make her proud? To please her? To give her a chance to be immortalized? To pay homage? Or just like what J.M. once said, spice of life that is a part of your journey and makes your life interesting (if I got her phrase right)? And what do I really want to accomplish on this end? If I do tell her, what would be her reaction? Will she appreciate it? Will she get mad? Will she frown on me? Or eschew on my direction like I have a disease or something?
Hey, maybe after a decade on its first issue, I will personally tell her. But then again, maybe it’s much better to let her know when we’re all dead, because I’m keeping some journals in my study that hopefully, my children (or grand children) would publish someday. By then, I’m already on the safe side. Safe from the all the misinterpretations and misunderstanding of those idiots whose neurons’ primary purpose it to wag their tongue and spread idiotic rumors.
For now, I’ll just stick with Darrell Hall and John Oats’ advice which they had spoken (more appropriately sung) succinctly:
Some words are better left unsaid.
All Rights Reserved © 2010 by Israel Miguel G. Biscarra No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, digital or otherwise or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author.