it was a full moon. no clouds, a silver sea. the beach was littered with people. marijuana smoke instead of air. we breathed deeply, wanting it to last, getting contact highs. the puerto galera arts and music festival culminated with this: a concert featuring Razorback, Wolfgang, Spy, Cocojam, Tropical Dep, and lovebigotslove. the music throbbed, drove us to act as if we were part of a music video. we ran around and danced, we drank beer while staring at the sky. bathing in the silver light, we were pale as ghosts. but drumbeats made our hearts feel like they were going to burst out of our chests.
me, my sister, and my father have been here for four days.we shared a cabin over-looking the beach. it was just a little bigger than my room at home, but in it were three bunks and a tiny bathroom. my consolation was the little balcony facing the sea. i wrote in my journal and tried to free myself from my fatherâ€™s snores. i watched the sunsets alone. the skyÂ floating down in an orange and purple haze. blue black gray chasing the pink light away. the constancy was maddening–it was always the same, yet different, everyday.
we always woke up early to not miss anything. noons were spent hanging out at the beach getting our tans. artsy people buzzed around; i envied their preoccupations. everybody had something to do: make a backdrop for the concert, practice their sets, feed the freeloaders. i remember bencab gathering material for his rock sessions here; he drew sammy from spy and rolly from cocojam. i hung out with jasmine, his daughter from london. i hated her. my father the artist and bencab go from way back. therefore: jasmine and i were expected to be together. her sister was a famous model and jasmine suffered from a badÂ inferiority complex. but then again boys are such suckers for an english accent, nevermind if she looked like a glamorous boy. her front upper teeth were gapped. she was always leaving me behind, to be with guys we met on the beach. i hated her. my my father was doing an installation piece to highlight the concert. he brought us along for â€œfamily bondingâ€.
the most interesting people on the beach: dennis, who was arranging the concert with his cousin jamie, taught me backgammon. a beautiful black boy with dreadlocks. jayjayÂ who was 6 feet and ++++ inches tall. he was joey marquezâ€™ son. all these white rockstar cono boys. miguel ortigas and basti of the beautiful gray-green eyes. enrique francia, luigiâ€™s nephew, slept in a sleeping bag on the beach and had breakfast with us at mornings. it was the aesthetic experience of the supremest kind: I have never seen so many cute guys who were totally my type all in one place before. even eric fructuoso was there. hard to write this without name-dropping.
i met windy, a semi-roadie from the up mountaineers. we hit it off instantly: our parents were hippies, and we were both born in baguio, in the same hospital on the same hill. she was born on a windy day, which inspired her mother so much, hence the name. my name literally means â€œlily of the hill,â€ in memory of the lilies that my mom received after she gave birth to me. we were soul sisses. martha was jamieâ€™s girlfriend. she was beautiful uncomplicated and free. leigh was this small married lady we had dinner with once: she clung to the artists to legitimize her self.
she told me, â€œyou handle your chopsticks beautifullyâ€.
stairway, a vacation house for the streetchildren of manila, is funded by the dutch. or the danish, i donâ€™t know. artists manage it and give the children workshops over the year. but for the festival month all the kids are away and it is a commune for the artists. here they sleep jam smoke talk and eat. there is free food and good conversation at all times.
in stairway someone passes me a joint and my father sees.
so he asks me in front of everybody else, â€œhave you found your center yet?â€ meaning, have i given you permission to smoke?
all the artists pause and are quiet: the tension in the air is so thick. will The Dad win over The Free Liberal Artist?
i whine, â€œyeah, what is the problem?â€ and he leaves me alone.
but that night: me. and a boy with a mohawk, by the tattoo stand. iâ€™m smiling in awe, his name etched in my 17-year-old head. he is bemused by the attention; first rock star experience.
cold shaking fingers for me. i puffed a cigarette and he noticed.
â€œdo you know what youâ€™re doing? thatâ€™s bad for your health,â€ he says.
i push it by asking for wrapping paper. â€œiâ€™ve dope but no wrapping paper,â€ trying to sound experienced. which i am, for seventeen-turning-eighteen. but not for twenty-five. mohawk boy is twenty-five, and talk is all i want to do, obviously.
he says, â€œI must be growing old. we used to call it rolling paper, in my time.â€
which is what i meant. strangely not mortified.
they have just finished their set and i ask him where else they play. he rattles off club names and dates and i try to keep them all in my head, forgetting anyway. iâ€™m delighted to hear of a gig near my house. â€œhey, cool,â€ i say. â€œI just got my license–i can drive to atrium and see you play.â€
he stares at me. â€œhow old are you anyway?â€
moment of truth. or did i want him to know all along?
â€œaw… jailbait,â€ he groans.
â€œwhat?â€ i ask, not understanding.
nothing, he mutters. nothing.
no, really, i insist.
â€œjailbait. you know, statutory rape.â€
oh. thrilled to death secretly , not knowing how NOT to make a big deal out of it.
â€œthat doesnâ€™t happen,â€ finally, out of my mouth.
we are not alone, by the way. there is des, who is 26, and jackie, who is 40 yet looks 26. she looks like jamie lee curtis. friends of my father. we do not talk deferentially, from adult to kid. in fact, we all huddle together and boywatch.
right now the boy is asking jackie what era she grew up in, the seventies? and what kind of drugs she did. they talk with their heads close together, being nearly the same tall skinny height. later they disappear.
that night i am happy-hazed-out, like i have never been before. a guy i have never met hands me a fistful of dope and i take it, smiling. i feel like a seventies movie. everyone is toking out, and we sit under a coconut tree to smoke it. fearing that coconuts would fall on us and kill us. afterwards i skinny-dip with jasmine and desiree, who does not take off her panties because she has her period. i am serene and calm, at peace with everybody.
but the next day has a feeling of unbrushed teeth, like you forgot to do something. and it has a consequence you will not like. it sticks out like a cavity edge.
sunset at the coolest bar on the beach. i go there to look for him. i see the boy with the mohawk and jackie sitting together. i do not draw conclusions. i share a pizza with mohawk boy, then i walk to my cottage alone, after he and jackie swim off. together. my heart caving into my chest.
i noticed that his gums are gray and he has crooked nicotine stained teeth. he is white, skin as translucent as the moon. and skinny. needle track on his arms. he has a wart, tiny, on his left elbow. his veins are blue to me, but when he saw me coming, his face lit up and he waved hi although i doubt that he remembered my name. he didnâ€™t. he mustâ€™ve asked me for my name three separate times.
night is silver and gold. moonlight filters through the clouds, and i sit on the beach alone. listening toÂ classical music. cymbals and violins crash and clash, making my stomach clench with wanting. i think of jackie and my mohawk boy. tomorrow we all go home.
the boat ride home slow and rocking. two days after we met. i get on with a feeling of dread, justified. mohawk boy and jackie on the top deck together, entwined. i sit with them ostensibly, trying to be as invisible as i feel.
i try not to notice them kissing, but i have to talk. i squeeze a few words out of my mouth–mohawk boy now knows my name. we are seated on the drizzling deck at the side of the boat. i know the two have slept together. fucked.
the boat moves and moves, making me feel queasy. we are drinking beer, and i notice that when i spill it, it looks like horse piss. yellow with white bubbles. beside me, mohawk boy and jackie kiss. i try not to look. not succeeding. the rain making me feel miserable. the couple beside me doesnâ€™t care, and i wants to cry.
mohawk boy touches jackieâ€™s legs, saying, â€œiâ€™m getting excited,â€ and i see leg hairs, longer than half an inch, on jackieâ€™s tanned legs. i vow never to shave again.
i write letters to my friend on my journal, making sure not to open it too wide because his name is written all over it.
on my white sneaker sole i put the words I (heart) Hank!!! ages and ages ago, before today, and i am horrified that mohawk boy will see his name on my sneaker. but they are too drunk and horny to notice anyway and after maybe the tenth kiss i announce , â€œi feel sickâ€, getÂ up, and walkÂ downstairs to throw up in the bathroom.
but i donâ€™t quite reach it. the sea churning out frothy waves from the boat motor.
april 19, 1995
after the end (liner notes)
a little less than a year later, hank and jackie are still solid. i thought that sort of thing only happened in the movies. but iâ€™ve stopped believing so damn much. iâ€™m not so naive. my heart still caves in my chest but for different reasons. different boys. iâ€™m not so innocent and not so attached, anymore. lovebigotslove broke up, too. their lead singer went to rehab. i saw them perform just before they called it quits. he still doesnâ€™t remember my name.