She thought of every reason to delay their meeting, or her buying the book.
“I’m her fan… I would blush… I wouldn’t know what to say…” are just three of her excuses.
I couldn’t understand the fidgeting, the suspense that only my friend was aware of. I looked at the woman in a black dress, manning the table that offers the books that she was selling including hers. A book of poems my friend said. The poet wore a medium black hair, a pale complexion, small eyes, a timid smile. I’ve dissected the features but altogether a word came to my head, “pretty,” the woman is pretty. My friend asked me to guess the poet’s age. I didn’t reply but in my head I said, somewhere in her 30s.
My friend answered as if she read my thoughts, “She’s in her 40s.”
I raised my brows in surprise; the woman defies time.
“She writes poems? Like Lang Leav?” I asked, referring to the poet that gained popularity writing broken love stories in verses.
“Nope, she is not emo,” replied my friend.
Not emo? What in the world does that mean?
The courage that was missing in my friend was supplemented by her other friend, who out of nowhere, talked to the poet and said, “Have you met Diwa?”
Next thing I knew my friend and her favorite poet posed for a photo. They were soon engaged in a conversation and as I looked on I felt an inspiration rising within me. I could be this woman, I thought to myself. I could have my veiled thoughts, my unrequited love, my despair, and my devils published.
The event is what I could only describe as a melting pot for hipsters, or what Wikipedia describes as middle-class young bohemians. In my word, people who reject the concept of commonality or the mainstream. I looked about and saw self-published Filipino writers, whose books and names you wouldn’t normally see in bookstores.
One of them asked me who my favorite Filipino author is and I felt ashamed because I didn’t have a ready answer. If he didn’t specify a nationality I would have answered Pat Conroy, but the Filipino part gave me pause.
“I’m afraid my exposure on Filipino authors is quite limited,” I started to say, “But I would have to say Jose Rizal, at least I’ve read his books in high school and those were some of the best I’ve ever read in my life.”
The man nodded in agreement and I felt relieved that I found no trace of judgment on his face. When I asked him back he said, Nick Joaquin.
It was my turn to nod my head in agreement, “Oh yes how could I forget Nick Joaquin. I loved his short story, May Day Eve.”
He called out another guy and together they tried to convince me to attend the walking tour for Dog Eater, a book I happened to have read. I listened to their conversation and realized how different they are from the people I usually hang out with. My people like to do “normal things,” such as food trips, coffee, movies, and sometimes, drinking. These “book hipsters” on the other hand conduct poetry reading, write and publish their own book, hold a bazaar to sell them, and do a walking tour, like a book club of some sort but instead of getting together in a house to discuss book over tea or coffee, they go to every location mentioned in the book that they are reading. I put on my poker face and hoped to god they weren’t the wiser to my bewilderment. I knew in the real world these people are branded as the outsiders, for having interests that disregard the norm. In that moment though, I realized I was the misfit.
As the hours passed, with nothing else to do, I regaled myself by observing the crowd. Most of them are young people, I’d guess somewhere between early 20s to mid-30s. One stall sells postcards bearing the illustrations that they made themselves. There’s one that sells old vinyl records turned into wall clocks. In a corner is a little bookstore that boasts of a collection penned by Filipino authors. Some of them can be read for free and so to kill time I grabbed one that I could finish in one sitting; a book of poetry. Sadly, I found the book to be too pretentious, like it wasn’t supposed to be liked by people like me who is not exposed to this kind of literature. Which begs the question, what is the intention of an author when he publishes his work. Does he want to be recognized for his genius? Does he want to be praised or known by people? Or is the intention, just to exorcise his demons and it’s just a bonus if people like his work.
If you ask me though, I’d rather affect people. What is a book if it becomes nothing but a blot in a person’s memory.
But I left the event with a book from Diwa’s favorite poet and even had a photo with her. The book is called Dark Hours. Unlike the other book of poetry, this one toured me around the cities, seduced me with words that didn’t even rhyme, challenged my memory, stirred my feelings, and induced several reflective pauses. And I was curious about the stories; my mind begged for details. It had me so invested, it felt like the author owed me the truth.
The poet is Conchitina Cruz and somewhere in the book she wrote,
“I cannot forgive you. That day, if you had not refused, I would have given you a present. I would have carved my love in stone.”