Winter break has become the epitome of continuous travels for me. Ever since my last final exams, I’ve traveled to Orlando, Florida for a week to meet some friends and friends of family, and then had Christmas Eve in Rockland, Massachusetts (35 mins south of Boston) to celebrate Noche Buena before heading to Bedford, New Hampshire, a town near the border of the two states, to celebrate three Christmases and a wedding anniversary dinner. Needless to say, I’ve had a good time so far.
More and more I’ve tried to read up new essays and brush up on old ones. I ordered a couple of books from Barnes and Noble (which includes Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential), plus a battered copy of Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not the Mood. The irony is this: less and less I’ve satisfied my restlessness I cannot seem to articulate precisely because I am not trying hard enough to do so.
I cannot reason why despite having partially accomplished some sort of list of to-do’s: I was able to get–not one, but two–internships for the spring, was able to get in touch with a couple of hiring managers and recruiters, was able to attend some gatherings and parties from invitations (knowing me, you would need a lot of convincing just to have me RSVP, let alone actually attend one), was able to pay bills and buy gifts on time. In short, I was able to function properly in the midst of winter.
Perhaps it is really just a matter of pinpointing what kind of pain/fear/restlessness that I’m entering right now, rather than articulating how this pain/fear/restlessness is manifesting in me nowadays. I should probably boil it down to literary hunger, a pang for writing, that recurring ache of not being able to recall how I managed to write those literary essays, or even start a good sentence or paragraph in praise of prose. This is not a mere case of winter blues or homesickness. In the words of Joan Didion, sans context: “There was nothing that made sense.” Once I retreat to my room, what would usually happen is this: I would force myself to shut down my laptop, grab a pen and my good old journal, write a narrative of my day in short, painful declaratives like the following:
“A– fetched me at the Park and Ride on the last good day. It was warm; weather was about 70F. We went to the beach after having breakfast at Panera Bread. We shared a salad with lime and vinaigrette. For lunch he took me to Petey’s and spent $150 on both of us. ‘We make poor life decisions, A–,’ I told him. A– didn’t care. We hung out at nearby boulders near the shore, overlooking the light blue sea and the pinkish skies. The sunset was beautiful at that moment.”
My friends have been sending me their manuscripts for feedback; we had a habit of sharing unpublished works to each other to show that writers actually have enough trust, maybe just not to themselves. I have not returned a single one. And this is the only reason I can think of: I do not see myself anymore as a literary figure with the authority to actually critique works of others. Call this humility or cowardliness–whichever it is, I have somehow retreated into this world of “unliterary.” Maybe deep inside me, I’m still trying to clamber back into that world of attempts, of figuring-outs, of wonderings and wanderings. I want to relive it once this winter is over but I’m not sure how.
Here are my December reads:
Haruki Murakami’s short story, On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One April Morning (I know, the title’s a mouthful): I’ve read this back as an undergrad in one sitting and then completely buried it in my memory. Murakami was mentioned in a conversation with a friend and then I found myself trying to recall the title of this piece, and now we’re here.
If You are What You Eat, then What am I? by Geetha Kothari: Traditional Indian cuisine and the fusion of Western/American food in the eyes of an immigrant. Somehow I can relate to this, being a Filipina who terribly misses her home cuisine, having to acquire the Western taste (which is not a bad thing at all; just something unsettling at first).
The Santa Ana, an essay by Joan Didion. My OG and kween of the essay. I remember passing by the very places that Didion happened to mentioned in her books–Haight-Ashbury, The Golden Gate Bridge, Downtown Sacramento and Davis, California, and of course, Las Vegas. I remember being mesmerized by that particular moment of matching the literary with the real, the actual. That sudden spark in me that words can actually do so much in making a reader believe that these are not just the writer’s imagination but are, in fact, the very premise that made the writer ruminate about her experiences during that period of time. It was like some sort of pilgrimage, having arrived at those spots, both a literal, space-and-time-occupied concept, and somehow a heartwarming one.