Writing and I, we have a looong past together, in fact, she is my ex and my wife at the same time.
The first time we met was when I cried as a pre-schooler because during my first day of school my aunt Carolina had to leave me. It was my first flight as a little chick leaving the nest. It was a shameful moment, but one of the most cherished ones and one I still can’t figure out how I can vividly see it.
Then came the days when I had to hold a pencil and was so allured to the lines of the paper. There were guides in the paper for different grade levels and notebooks had those too. I don’t know how other kids experienced it but we were told to “write Blue to red…”
Those moments form part of the fondest memories of recognizing colors and words and all the new things this earth
had to offer.
Holding the pencil soon evolved to much more complex writing instruments. The lines in papers soon widened their spaces. Red lines soon disappeared and later during that time, I was writing from “blue to blue”. Also, the sharpening of Mongol 2 pencils caught the updraft of planned obsolescence which ushered the names of the ballpoint pens Panda and Apache.
Soon I discovered that writing had risks. There were pens that would bleed in your pocket and when you are in primary school, this was not a pleasant experience – maybe similar to having a menstruation while wearing your short grade school shorts. It was indelible and yucky. Your pocket was bleeding and so, the children’s’ consortium would hold a picket against a pen brand and soon you catch yourself asking your parents to buy a certain pen brand that doesn’t shit in your pants (in Filipino, “bolpen na hindi nagtatae”). Oh, the memories.
I cannot remember the first poems that I wrote nor for what motive I wrote them about. But if I remember it right, my English teachers and Filipino teachers taught us the idea that poems and being poetic was a romantic flare – they were not lying, they were just not telling the truth.
So, there I was, finding the first loves of my life. With whom did my pen-bleed first? Kim.
She was the apple of my eye, the one with which my pen-bleeding were offered to. Kim was my grade school MU (Mutual love – yeah it was prohibited by the Children’s Constitution to have a bf/gf at grade 2 – it was deadly). Oh yes, we were holding hands, and I had pen tattoos in my palms at grade 2 yet we never admitted we were a couple maybe up until now that she is married, sorry Kim.
Anyway, it was always this thought of writing to be romantic and all, it was fed to kids like me; it was easy to do that, love makes the world go ‘round they say. I am grateful, because with this, I started forming clauses, reading between the lines, metering my syllables, crossing out bad words, throwing paper in the garbage, etc etc.
When high school came, the romantic poems grew ever more passionate – specially because puberty was at a bullish period. I have seen love letters by the thousands given on Valentines day, Christmas or teen-lovers’ anniversaries. Poets walked around targeting the most beautiful girl who just recently discovered the new ordinance that with the poems had to come together with milk chocolate and flowers; I hated that universal teenage ordinance. I had no money to buy flowers so, if I liked someone, I wondered if words were sweeter or more fragrant than that of their material counterparts.
My theory was wrong, at that moment. My words could giggle one girl or two, but chocolates, chocolates, chocolates were like the currency of my High School and flowers were like the Blue-chip stocks or bonds or equity to make every girl’s eye glisten with tears of joy!
Words were sweet but tasteless. Bland. Mushy.
So, with this disadvantaged position, I sought out more use for the pen and words.
Aaaaaahhhh, came in all the contests and all the term papers. It was renaissance for me. Though I still loved poetry; I had to park it at the corner of my brain.
Then came more technical words, that had to match research papers and technical shit.
When college came, words became more and more serious, up until I had a breather – Literature 1. In that class, I was allowed again to write from red to blue, my red thoughts to my blue thoughts, my feelings to my reality. It gave me a very strong sensation of freedom and I needed that a lot. But still, I was a lazy writer.
Writing can be like winter clothes you keep in the closet. When you need to warm up your brain, you open the closet. Although not true to all writers, it was to me, also because in college, winter was a fantasy – I live in a tropically warm country that has adhered to Spanish siestas after lunch – oh the worst time to write.
Writing however paid some dates, I won some writing contests and because I had to read my write-ups, it was an automatic bonus that my speech skills improved, so I won some impromptu speaking contests as well and that afforded me lunch dates with some few very attractive members of the opposite sex. Lucky.
I never really took writing and literature seriously, it was for me, a cathartic experience – a relief. It was addictive to read the compositions of several literary giants, specially the Filipino ones. My professors in Literature were also skilled and gifted. One went to Hedgebrook, one had several Palanca awards.
What was so distinct about our mentors were their grace in writing and their passion that exudes from the words they wrote, poetry they recited and stories they read. Moments with them were like bedtime storytelling; so relaxing and frightening.
I soon found myself writing like 12 poems and giving it to one professor, of which he liked only one and that was the one I didn’t like much. It was weird, and it was my last attempt. After that, I gave up. I lost a lover as well, and so I easily sank to the brink of dark words and oh, the emo genre was born soooo it was a desperate tone always for me.
When I finished university, I had no more time to write, I had to feed myself and survive day in and day out. However, I believe that writing went into my backpack and disguised itself with photography. With photography I was able to captures stanzas of thought in one image. The colors, the feeling, the memory, the orgasmic thrill, all of them in one moment that was solidified in a photo.
As the years went by, I restarted reading books that interest me, and through that, writing caught back to my wings. I was never able to shoo it away, it always found its way to me. One definite moment that manifested and effect of the law of attraction was when I travelled to Koblenz, Germany.
One of the writers I love so much is Heinrich Heine. I like his satirical way of writing and his very profound criticisms. One day I was walking beside the Rhein in Koblenz just enjoyin’ the view when from the souvenir stands popped out a poem named “The Lorely”. My eyes almost fell to the ground realizing that Heinrich Heine wrote it and I was near the place where he was inspired to write The Loreley. It still brings goose bumps ‘til now but I very well attributed it to the belief that poetry seems to haunt me.
The backstory why I believe that is because I was offered to shift courses to Communication Arts Major in Literature with the seductive words uttered to me I was passing the library during a CommArts exam and Professor Alunan gazed at me and said: “Mr. Piastro, why haven’t you shifted yet to CommArts? It will be the best decision of your life.”
I guess I am paying for that refusal ‘til now, and I guess it was better this way, I have no grades to run after and I can write here, now, while a family screams their lungs out over karaoke.
I appreciate the musical background af.