By: N. Mozart Diaz
Sigwa; n., Filipino, a strong storm/typhoon also known as ‘bagyo’
It’s 10 AM and I’m already drunk.
Can you blame me? The weather’s damned cold and this storm won’t pass anytime soon. Plus, brandy tastes better when it’s cold and rainy — like every other kind of liquor.
The power’s gone too — God, I love the Philippines; Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang imprastraktura ng Inang Bayan, Mabuhay! Mabuhay!
I struggle to stand and browse through my bookshelf and pick out a Hemingway novel — pretty appropriate, I guess, all his characters are drunk, I’d fit right in.
My eyes dart through the pages of The Sun Also Rises, I’m convinced that it’s all making sense, that I’m really just a fast reader, but I can’t remember anything from the last chapter: Lady Ashley what? Christ, Cohn is such a prick. Bill’s pretty cool, I guess.
I’ve kept away from drinking for a while now, I swore I wouldn’t get drunk. But what the hell am I supposed to do? What am I doing now? Making excuses. Why am I drunk? Because you couldn’t control yourself. Dammit. Did I have to? No.
They’re in Spain now and the fiesta is about to explode; I’m here at home cock-eyed and waiting for a storm to pass. Nothing’s making sense and the world’s already too bright. I lay in my bed. I can feel my heartbeat against the sheets slowly drowning in my sweat. I’m trying to control my breathing — I think I’ve drunk too much; the hell I did. I lay in my sweat and fall into a sudden sleep.
It’s 12 PM and I swear that the storm’s gotten stronger.
My head isn’t throbbing like I expected, but my stomach hurts like hell and my grandmother’s calling me for lunch.
Lunch is fish, and grandmother knows how to really cook fish. She grew up in Cavite, by the shore — how the hell did we end up in the mountains. I climb the stairs back to my room and put off Hemingway for a while. I pick out a collection of short stories and flip through the book.
We Filipinos are Mild Drinkers. The hell we are, but really, who could handle lambanog on their first go? I sure as hell didn’t, and neither did that American G.I. in the story. I place the short stories back and pick up The Sun and actually attempt to finish the novel in a few hours.
The wind whips hard against the window panes and even harder against the trees surrounding the house. I put the novel down and stare at the white abyss right outside my window. I take off my glasses and head to the balcony. Why? Why not?
I’m wearing a loose shirt and a pair of shorts — am I still drunk? No, the Spanish have a word for it: aburrimiento — que aburrimiento. The cold wind floods the room once I opened the door followed by sprays of water from the unrelenting storm. I step out and immediately get slapped by a wall of water. I just stand there for a few more seconds before finally deciding to come back in.
I wipe myself dry and stare at the novel, I put it off for later and decide to sleep again. 2 PM, 3 PM, 4 PM, it’s all just a procession of numbers — the world looks the same now as it did at 10 AM. The monotony is maddening. I pick up the novel again — deciding to finish it. The world begins to turn dark at 5:30, and I’m nearly finished. I light some candles and read on while the storm wavers. The storm’s nearly out of here — isn’t it nice to think so?
I finish the book and stare onto the blank wall where shadows play by candlelight. I stand and return the book to the shelf, lie on my bed, and stare at the ceiling. The storm’s lost power and only the wind’s left. I listen to the relentless battering of the wind against windowpanes and the rustle of leaves and the howls of dogs. I listen to the sound of my grandmother cooking dinner and the smell of Tinola filling the house. I’m completely sober now, I guess.
I drift to sleep once more and wake up to the bright shine of a cold, artificial light and the sounds of TV’s and an unmistakable orange glow of a streetlight against my windowpane.