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papa osmubal
oscar balajadia WHAT IS the matter with all these people around me? I just can't dig what they are up to. It is tendonitis, alright. Admittedly, high blood pressure adds up gravity to the inconvenience. But, by the Jumping Jesus, why can't we just treat and cure these with diplomacy, with gentleness, with all razor-sharp objects and ammunitions down?

These people around me, I mean my wife, her parents, her siblings, her colleagues, her acquaintances, her friends, and then there is this army of doctors, some of whom practice Chinese medicine, some practice occidental medicine, and some practice both, so there is no room for escape and explanations. These people (from hereon will be referred to as "they" or "them") are a tribe, and sadistic one at that. Their sheer number alone is larger than China's and India's populations combined, in a peak travel season, mind you. Thus comes this uneasy feeling that you are being watched 24/7.

They just don't know how to focus on the real problem. You talk to them and they sound like as though it was entirely my fault that I have got this bloody tendonitis. They sound as though tendonitis was a vice I enjoy having and doing. They don't know there is a galactic difference between smoking cannabis and having tendonitis. One is pleasure and the other is hell incarnate. They just don't know that. They nag around sounding as though my thoughts, feelings, deeds and plans caused this tendonitis. And their pet peeves are my wines, beers and endless love affair with meats, especially those gloriously oozing with sweet fat when fried or grilled medium rare.

They have already done all things possible to torture me for having this tendonitis. They never get contented and happy with making me drink those stinking, bitter herbal juices that look, taste and smell like sticky effluent from a sewer in Chernobyl. When you talk to them their sentences start either with the word "stop" or "don't." "Stop this… Stop that… so that your blood pressure will stabilize… blah, blah, blah ad infinitum." "Don't do this… Don't do that… so that your tendonitis won't flare up again…. In secula seculorum, amen…."

Recently, they swung and dropped a big axe that threatened to sever my entire life system—"Eat vegetarian foods." And then there was the much sharper axe that sent me into a coma and got me declared clinically dead—"No more beers and wines."

How did these happen? And why me? I will tell you. It is a very long story. I will make it short, but as sad and poignant as the long version.

It all started with them secretly having something like a kind of a general assembly called on, convened and presided by—who else?—the usual suspect: my wife. And she did it just by sitting there in our living room one searing summer afternoon with her cell phone and laptop on. Ah, technology and the ever-notorious Big Brother! With the doctors' blessing they coerced me to become a sort of vegetarian, or something that others call semi-vegetarian, and yet others have an exact term to it—pescetarian. "That is not exactly vegetarian, mister! That is like vegetarian and yet you can still eat fish and sometimes eggs and dairy goods, sometimes, yes you heard it loud and clear, sometimes—not always," explained my wife. "In fact you are allowed to eat fish only because you need them for your tendonitis and they are good for your heart."

Then her endless lecture continued on and on and on. "Fish," she said with an air of authority, "have oils that are anti-inflammatory and help the cardiovascular system by softening the hard fats that are bad for us and thus the body can eliminate them. And when you get totally better and healthy as a horse, we can get rid of the fish altogether and make your diet strictly vegan." I hope a medical department of a well-known university will give her a Ph.D. honoris causa in medicine.

Ever the negotiator, I asked for a possible peaceful approach to the problem. "Can't we find some other ways? Like letting me enjoy my beer and whiskey and my pizza thick with Italian prosciutto (ham) and Portuguese chouriço (salty sausage), while we battle tendonitis and high blood pressure in some friendlier or civilized ways?" I haggled with my wife. And, of course, she did not concur, because her main purpose is to get rid of my beers and wines and break my habit of eating meats like a maniac. She will find all feasible means to sever those off of my life, high blood pressure or no high blood pressure, tendonitis or no tendonitis. "Vegetables, fruits, and no beers and wines," she said carefully so I could not misinterpret the message, shaking her head violently as though it would fall off from where it was on.

What have I done to deserve all these? How can a tyrannosaurus rex like me feed on creatures without senses and blood flowing in their veins? I was born a cold-blooded carnivore! I can still remember threatening to eat those playmates of mine who would not stop annoying me. Every time I opened my mouth and showed my teeth bullies would start behaving like lovely dolls. I am a product of my own evolution: look at the way my teeth are formed and designed. There is a big difference between my dental formation and a caribou's or a goat's. I have these set of sharp teeth naturally engineered for biting, tearing and grinding meats.

"No more meats from now on, especially red meats, until the doctors tell otherwise," said my wife while putting her mobile phone on the coffee table. "Your blood pressure is running sky high, making it quite difficult for them to do something to the tendonitis."

And then I saw the blazing devil in her eyes when she said, "no more beer and anything alcoholic."

All I knew it was for real when at suppertime that very day my wife dumped a mountain of uncooked celery on my plate. I was looking blankly at the thing and did not exactly know what to do with it. Then I managed to usher a little courage to speak my soul out, "What do you think of me? A rabbit?" She stood up and said, "Yeah, which is why rabbits don't have to suffer with high blood pressure and they don't get tendonitis." She rushed out to the kitchen and came back to the dining table with a tray of condiments. She showered a generous amount of virgin olive oil on my celery and sprinkled it with a wee pinch of salt that you needed to use an electron microscope to verify the bloody salt was even there. After thanking her, I cocked my head to her and said, "So there is a soft spot in that ticker of yours, is there?"

How could Revelation—Parousia, Judgement Day, Armageddon, or whatchamacallit—happen this early, and it involves me! This is a total conspiracy! The doctors gave me a list of foods that I need to take, how much and how many times a week I can take them. It was the most boring list of foods one could have. At first glance, it is a list of foods that will make one commit suicide; at second look, it will surely make one curse the gods and deities. I am not undermining my doctors, considering the universities where they studied had spawned the science that put Taikonauts or Taihungyan (spaceman) in space, making China one of the only three countries to do so. But then, I should say they have gone too far as to say their actions and decisions make them more like dictators than doctors. "Why is there no cyanide and toadstools on this list?" I asked my wife, annoyingly wagging that glossy piece of paper in front of her. Not a single word came out her mouth. She just looked at me with those burning feline eyes and I was suddenly rendered speechless and silent like a dry tree stump.

This health-and-medical row finally turned literary. I mean literally literary. It was a Kafkaesque type of conversation. The question—Why do you have to drink?—was too surreal. It was quite difficult to answer because, in the first place, it should not have been asked at all. But these interrogators needed an answer. It was not the most logical answer, but I said my beer enhances my imagination and my creativity. As I was explaining, my wife was shaking her head, as if my situation was the worst in the universe. Then the doctors enumerated the possible things that can or will happen to me if I didn't stop drinking. This was followed by the expected verdict: no more alcohol, mild or strong. "Like a dog," I told myself while imagining how awkward and queer it would be like with me sipping juices when putting pen to paper whatever my muse whispers to me.

But then, there is a solution to everything. If they don't give it to you, you steal it. Eureka! The brightest of ideas exploded in my mind, so bright it almost blinded me with happiness. When the cat is away, the mice play. Who first said that? I will kiss him and canonize him a saint! Voila! My wife is a diurnal animal like a chicken; she can't stay awake later than 11 o'clock at night. Now you can picture me smirking. What I mean is, I own my world at night. I am nocturnal. Just connect the dots. Come to think of it—I need beer and wine when I write, and I write at night when everybody else is tight asleep. I don't think my beer or whiskey would just mysteriously turn into juice or holy water or something worse than those if I hide it under my socks and underwears in my wardrobe. And, mind you, Pizza Hut has 24-hour delivery service and their delivery men don't crack fireworks and beat drums when they give you your purchases. Nights, so they say, are full of secrets and mysteries. At night the T-Rex in me can resurrect and roam this earth and the poet in me can write. Never mind the tendonitis and high blood pressure. There are people dealing with those in the mornings.

[About the author. Papa Osmubal is Oscar Balajadia of Magalang (Well, don't get fooled by that name), now a Macau resident (Sorry, where?) and married to a Chinese local (How? How come? Why?). He has been a Catholic seminarian (OK, he once opened a book at an exam in Latin and Romance Languages---but who in frigging hell did not?), a Catholic missionary (Oh, the rosary is the answer to our country's economic problems and to your alcoholism and addiction to nicotine!), a bookstore staffer (Yes, sir, listen here, we know it is urgent, so your book is on its way from Guangzhou and will be here in 8 months!), a librarian (Oh, it's Friday the 13th and I am not putting 666 as Dewey call number on this bloody book!), and a teaching assistant (OK, pal, I know you prepared for the exams so I will check and mark them!). He is currently a teacher (yawn) and has an M.A. in English Studies (yawn even more, nod off, and then snore) from the University of Macau (sorry again, where?).]

-Posted: 2:36 PM 9/7/09 | More of this author on eK!