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joanna carlos
joanna carlos I WAS already quite old when I decided with vigor that I name "Freedom" as the ultimate definer of my life, despite never really having felt that it was and being more in line with the fact that I lied just as much as everyone did, slave or freeman; I wanted people to sympathize with me in an increasing way, love me more as the wacky person that they all knew since a child living in the desert monarchy. Was it like the War of 2 Worlds that I spent my childhood sequestered predominantly from boys due in this time to my aversion to the way they smelled after an afternoon playing basketball, my own self-preservation or understandable disgust, kooties, they would say, wedgies, and the fact that they all used to shut up in my presence, never without a malicious twinkle in their eye as I had fallen a besotted captive under one of theirs’ spell. Immediately disregarding any hope that I have a future (for I had usually lived in the present), I manipulated each second until my temporary slumber from the days previous. I woke up doing the exact same things I did before, with impossible fearless attacks and outpourings of deliberation until I fell exhausted on 1 of the twin beds in my room, by the window with the grilled bars, winking away the beginning of tears as a sandstorm brewed poetically and intruded into the open glass slides, sand landing on my personal computer and ruining for the time being the keyboard, before it was to be cleaned by me, before I learned not to do foolish, curiosity-killed the-cat things like waiting and watching.

I was always in Love as I had nothing else but myself and the rainbow mes that everyone else thought I was; the freest things that I ever did were open windows where, in my pink and white room, they slid obligingly underneath my touch and a gust of warm wind and the smell of sprinkled grass refreshed my senses and beckoned me to pack a large mountaineering bag with Mountain Dew, deli sandwiches and a variety of small chocolates, "travel" and come home to the apartment, having missed dinner while I lost track of the setting sun, faintly aware of the sala at 4 pm in the compound mosque. The song we Filipino students had been accustomed to sounded simultaneously from large distances of holy institutions and was also overheard around lunch time. Everything in Saudi converged for an hour while they prayed and I never wondered who they were praying to. I had camped out languorously by the mosque and eyed each person entering the building, while I waited with admirable training for the commissary to be opened again that I may feed my somewhat starry appetite. Now? I was free because I was ignorant and had I known all along, I would have been stoppered from bubbling over as a teenager by the miserable corruption of my youth. Youth without Youth deprives you of the simple memories untainted with Original Sin, and it takes curiosity to kill the blind joy of looking at the sky, and of wanting to live forever for no other reason than to continue the childish act of bothering to look at the sky, without images of it ever being inhabited. It took me 5 years to accept my weaknesses, my regrets. It took me 18 years to want to fall on my knees and pray.

I live everyday like I want to die, philosopher that I am, in love with Life and Death and leaning towards an existence of perpetual arousal, undying curiosity, disappointment and a shyness that dominates my affairs to the extent of me simply having nothing to say even to my friends. I knew about Death, surely I did, having had grown up in a hospital in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. How many times I had heard stories about their patients which galvanized simple dinners, disarming us of our appetites or how could I not perform a breast augmentation when it was so minutely described to us? I chose Freedom as the word that was most important for me, despite this being a frank, curt wellspring of falsehood, with obvious things such as Love and Education careening for first place in my heart; I chose Freedom simply because I am on a quest to decorate my life and make it ready for the great Philippine biography.

It was in Manila that I continued my notorious lifestyle of recklessness which continued stolidly like the lengths of pavements from my growing up days until my magnum opus, my Life, was one for the books and in this illuminated manuscript one could read off, "she valued Freedom most of all," not because it was true, but because I decided it should be, and when asked before, I replied that it was what I valued the most. To intensify my apparent uniqueness to the crowd present, I declared that I was from a stringent country and many who had never come from the Middle East would somewhat decipher my own crippling guardedness as an offspring of such a culture, as though it was not common that people dated at all, or that there was no such thing as classroom rumors and hijinks, as though I never had a life.

Some there were “bibo” kids and were currently living superstar-like in our Filipino neighborhood, where they dominated our buffet gatherings, restaurant eat-outs until they trickled their magic poison into academics, where they proved grudgingly respectable. I warily watched them weave their stupendous superheroism in our school in a sandy cradle of Saudi and I found them unsettling. Many people believed that this was what their kids should be like and with not much surprise, comparisons became inevitable yet did not last, as their popularity waned as they aged, due only principally to Time and the fact that what struck everyone as impressive was not enough in its nature and essence to last them a lifetime of godliness. I did not think of them as alive in the way that my pre-pubescent self was, but everyone else loved the new kids in our town for their American yes-we-can attitude so prevalent in the Kingdom, applauded them with exuberant standing ovations after the siblings performed to the latest in music or when they arrived at our school with fancy outfits that Saudi Filipinos whipped up from shopping in the neighborhood mall. Whatever bothered me about their presence in my life, so unwanted as it was, faded into nothing, enhancing even my own already high regard of myself as an unstoppable force, with no enemies as of yet and in charge of my short-term goals, achieving left and right not because I could but because I wanted to.

In the summertime, you get the rare notion that my replication was impossible. “All I loved, I loved alone.” (–Alone, Edgar Allan Poe) It came to me in fragments that I had already committed to recount as I would promise myself to think back on my past that I may divine the future, however stupid that was, however far from what I would characteristically do (how I hate those untalented fictionists) and however dangerous it was for me to know everything, such as the temptible universe beyond. I instead chose to move the other half of my closet into my Pampanga bedroom, vow not ot touch anything, stare at the ceiling like I always have since childhood, and since the age of 22, think. Oh dear, now look what you’ve done. It wasn’t my intention to wreak a war missus, but this novel idea sure inspires me to love myself more and continue grinning like at my reflection every chance that I get to check on an acne scar that took 9 years to elevate and which never looked the same since with great horror, I first encountered it and I wished for nothing more than for it to disappear.

In the freedom that you notice from others you see in yourself where the term’s meaning expands into its true form and defines you the way an animal is defined by its habitat. I cannot bring myself to abuse what has been so generously given to me and so with great care and the necessary “mistakes” (“I do not like the word mistake,” I once told Maetrix, “it’s wrong.”), I handle the time and blessings and wonder what it ever was that made me special as those autobiographers know themselves. I thought of the Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson and the random coming of age novels that would inspire me to plagiarize some plots early on in my life when I dabbled somewhat with great hilarity and epic failure in Children’s Fiction, Poetry and Fantasy. Shrugging off any humiliating possibilities that these interests posed on me, I figured I could say that I was young for the first time in my life, unnervingly alone, literally hungry and eager for stability; this shaken state was what impelled me to order my life with the governing institution of my own until like they say, “you make sense of it.” To know who you really are at the end of the day is the most a person can achieve in his lifetime and it is better that this happens, but I always knew myself; I was self-involved and like Narcissus of the waters, I was very much in love. I was not wasting that much time yet 4 years was too long to get over the aches in my heart; I had to find out why I would lie for my unwritten Biography, and why I was the person who would even dream such a cheapening of World Literature would ever have to happen. Readers deserve better than my new stylistics, my teenaged manifestoes and domestic Fiction with dialog unnaturally harrowing, no semblance of climax, no form, no value.

"The Key to it All" - Herman Melville

Then again, I did not really want perfection in all things; I wanted flawed-ness, I craved the tension and I anticipated the obstacles because it was in the light after the darkness that you grow to love even the darkness as a bringer of light. They cannot exist without each other, like the oncoming train’s halting, screeching stop or the tunnel white flash before it.You appreciate the light only after being in the dark.

Biting down the misconceptions that strangers considered me different after discovering that I was from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and having detected their reasonable opinion that I was shy because of the regulations was a pride pill I had to swallow every time but I could not help the fact that I had lived and now I died each time whenever people thought so. But they are not wrong. It was an inevitable conclusion, but I myself go on. In my entrapment-like dance with a million ideas, I sometimes devise imagination over memory because I want to look good when I die, because I had been looking at mirrors since childhood, but feared their death-like sheen in the crack of light the unclosed door let in, because I seldom lie and I do not understand why after telling them everything they would think that I do.

[About the author. Joanna Carlos considers herself Kapampangan, having grown up in an atmosphere in which the dialect was distributed freely among locals and expatriates here and abroad; thereby she ingested it like the smell of dying sampaguitas, the sound of cicadas by moonlight, and the sight of lanterns, ablaze in the sun, that decorate the city. She is dedicated and compassionate, and is interested in many things. After leaving the KSA, she has then immersed herself in the folkloric society of Pampanga. Joan is kindhearted and generous. Yet she has her pet peeves, her Lilith moments, so don't be a "cold-hearted capitalist" and irritate her, because even then you wouldn't realize who you are up against. Her writing was honed throughout the years and so has she. Joanna, then, is an amalgam of the child and the present, accepting, just..]

-Posted: 6:30 PM 11/4/14 | More of this author on eK!