How To Edit A Flashback

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I’m an editor. U-hu. A common reply when people ask me what I do. A video editor. I would elaborate. And again. A-ha. They would hide their confusions by this curt reply. I am prompted to explain. I work for TV. Their eyes would lit up. TV. Finally, a word they can relate to. ” For ABS- CBN.” Their eyes would show interest. Really? Is Piolo Pascual gay? I would try not to roll my eyes. I will not reply so they would ask, ” Yes, but what, exactly do you do there?

What exactly do I do? I edit. I cut. I paste. I fast forward. I rewind. I can slow down time. I can freeze a moment. I can play a song while a woman jilted by her lover sobs in utter desolation. I can put laughter when a boy trips over a wire. I’m a mini-god over the lives of those who inhabit my sequences. That is when my director leaves me alone. If not, he then plays god over me. Continue reading

Anecdotes From Home: The Tale of The Two Starving American Soldiers

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Most of the time my father is a tight lipped man but since this summer all of his kids were together again under his roof out comes pouring his jovial nature. He has been telling my husband and I that in the recent years flashbacks of his younger mischievous days plague him constantly. Some he regrets, some he revels upon.

My husband shares my enthusiasm in listening to old people’s tales. Their stories are goldmines for those who want to write novels with a magic realism genre since sometimes the sequence of events does not make sense at all as memories blur over time. What they remembered might not be what actually happened giving the tale a fantastical flavor. Plus the stories are likely to have happened around a historically significant period. Like one particular anecdote he told us which easily became our favorite. The incident happened during World War II when the Japanese army occupied the country (he was just a very young boy then but he has lots of colorful stories about that period.) Continue reading

Temporary Insanity: Junstine’s Heart Breaks

If nothing is sweeter than first love then nothing hurts like the first time a heart gets broken. Though by the time I met Liam’s father my heart had been broken and mended a few times already. The scabs had gotten thicker and thicker that over time it feels nothing more than a dull pain every time a relationship ends.

I still I feel a little pinch in my heart every time I remember Ian, my first love. What a mess it was. It took a few years before I could get over the humiliation I felt after dating him. Looking back now, I am not even sure if we were in any kind of relationship at all.

Come to think of it, Ian was also a product of two races. His mother a young Filipina, worked in Japan as an entertainer and then later on married a Japanese man. These entertainers were called Japayuki, though I think it sort of demeaning to call them that. As I mentioned previously most of the Filipinos were leaving the country at that time and besides being domestic helpers this was the most popular choice of occupation abroad.

Unlike me though being a biracial didn’t affect Ian much for he was popular and was considered good looking. I guess his facial features were still similar to that of a typical Filipino, chinky black eyes and brown skinned. Sometimes I wonder what a native Filipino really looks like. I mean, since Magellan landed in the shores of Cebu, the natives have been inter marrying or having relations with every colonizer who ever step foot in the country. With the Spanish, the Japanese and Americans and even with the Chinese who later migrated there. I do not think any single Filipino has a pure blood in him. No wonder the Philippines itself, like me feels at odds with its neighbors in South East Asia. In terms of religion for example, we are the only majorly Catholic nation in the region.

I guess you can call it a cute meet, how I met Ian. He and his popular friends were playing volleyball in a small yard near the classroom where I was going to that day. I was lost in my thoughts and hugging a couple of thick books when the ball hit me. He came running towards me to apologize and help pick up my books which had fallen on the ground. Our eyes met and I thought sparks flew. Well at least on my side. I could not hide my embarrassment as my otherwise pale cheeks became tomato red. I was speechless and ran towards the room while Ian’s friends laughed and hooted. After that incident every time I pass Ian’s group of friends, they would heckle and tease Ian.

” Uy Ian! si tisay! Go on ask her name! ” Tisay is a slang for the word mestiza meaning a girl of mixed race with one part Filipina.

Ian would then walk beside me and ask me if he can help me carry my books. I was not immune to his charm as he would smile sweetly but I did not know how to respond as I was used to shying away from any unwanted attention. His friends would laugh loudly when again I would run away from them.

Ian was flirtatious with me when he was with his friends but every time I ran into him while he was walking with his girlfriend, Juliet he would pretend not see me. I think now that was the lure that got me entangled in a web. I was in that phase of my young adolescent life where I have already concluded that being a wife is the most boring thing a woman can be. I was then living inside the novel Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I was obssesed with Countess Olenska. She was so mysterious, enigmatic compared to May the colorless wife of Newland. Countess Olenska and Newland’s hopeless and unfilled love made me toss and turn a few nights. And in most of my days I day dreamed about them. I begun to think I was Countess Olenska, Ian was Newland and Juliet, was May. In my own twisted mind we were in a love triangle.

It was a few weeks before Prom, I was a junior and Ian was a Senior, when I received a letter from him, handed to me by one of his noisy friends. It was tucked inside of a slum book which he asked me to fill up. Slumbooks were wildly popular then. You have to answers cheesy questions such as ” What is your motto?” or ” What is the name of your crush?” it was a really subtle way of getting someone to reveal which boy or girl they like.

To be continued…

Copyright 2013 JMKhapra

*This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Temporary Insanity: Justine’s Love Affair With Literature

When you think of yourself as character in a film or in a book how do you cast yourself in the story of your life? Are you the hero? The side kick or the villain? As long as I could remember I have always carried on an aura of a tragic anti hero bent on sabotaging herself until she drinks herself to death or something. Liam provided a climax for my story. Her mother putting the tip of a knife in her throat became the final straw to my then disintegrating life. Spiraling me down to that bottomless abyss where I plunged endlessly into the darkness.

Is the tendency to lean towards a melancholic existence part of my genetic inheritance or is it the kind of books I read which influenced my maudlin moods and disposition? My mother was a reticent woman but not pessimistic. She was a pragmatic woman who cared more about how to survive this life with dignity than indulge in romantic musings about life. I didn’t know my father so I have no way of knowing what the other half of my DNA might be like.

So I blame books. The tales of suffering and tragedies found in those wonderful novels filled my young mind with a skewed perception of life too early. My mother was an English literature teacher and it was her book of poems and short stories which lured me into the seductive and bittersweet world of literature. It started on that fateful day when I had grown tall enough able to reach the high shelf where those precious books were kept.

I opened a page and my life was never the same again. Neglected were my picture books. My Hardy Boys paper backs, even my Nancy Drews. As soon I had read these following verses there was no turning back.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach,

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height and my soul can reach! My God. I thought. To be so passionately in love! This was how I wanted to feel and nothing less. And I didn’t stop there. Being deeply in love was not enough it had to unrequited too. Nothing less than what Cathy and Heathcliff suffered in Wuthering Heights. I also fantasized of being magnanimous on my time of death and this would be the poem I would have send my lover as a farewell:

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

So you see early on I was set to screw my life.

Copyright 2013 JMKhapra

Poem 1 by Elizabeth Browning
How Do I Love Thee

Poem 2 by Christina Georgina Rossetti
When I am Dead, My Dearest

Temporary Insanity: Justine’s Lonely Childhood

Why do we choose the path we had taken? Why do we become the way we are? Are we truly only “nothing more than the sum of our memories and experiences” as Michael Scott has stated? I did the things I did because of what I became over the years. My childhood had greatly affected Liam’s childhood. What kind of person had I become that I could do such a thing? I would say I became who I was without resistance. I never felt I belong to the world I was born into, so I hid.I retreated.

When I was two years old my mother married a co teacher from the school where she was teaching. Out came three of my step siblings from that union. Of course I looked nothing like them. My step father was a good man though and I was not wanting in love and attention from the parents I came to know but even at a young age I know something was not quite right.

I got a lot of unwanted attention because of the color of my hair and of my eyes which was in that small town unlike anyone else. Although most people were curios about me I didn’t feel I was truly welcome among them. It didn’t help that the teachers who were working for that school on top of the mountain were also living inside the campus. I was already different but also isolated from the lively town below.

After classes were over during my primary years in school, my classmates would be walking down towards their homes in a bustling community at the foot of hill .These afternoon walks at the end of the day at school were very crucial in forming friendship. I missed out in a lot of gossiping, chit chat and fun because I had to stay behind the gates of the school compound where our house was. I often wondered if this was among the reasons why my group of friends never really regarded me as one them. Because of this I became fond of taking solitary afternoon walks in the nearby forest surrounding the school. Since solitude was my only friend I begun to cherish it. Once I would reach home in the early evenings the feeling of being the odd man out only resonates more as I walk towards the dining room where my three siblings, all heads bent over their books were, doing their homework with both of my parents helping them. They always made a lovely picture of the perfect family that I always prefered not to disturb their cozy circle. Retreating to my room, I would sought my favorite book to comfort me in my loneliness and there I escaped to a world where I felt I truly belong.

Copyright 2013 JMKhapra

* once again, this is a work of fiction only.

Temporary Insanity: Justine’s Mother

I know I said I am going to write about Liam today but first I want to rant about the shitty state of my country’s economy. I am not trying to make excuses but I guess the whole situation back home is partly to blame for what had happened.

Even after a decade of dramatic change of hands in the country’s governance nothing changed the plight of the Filipino people. Despite revolution after revolution, EDSA, EDSA dos, A failed coup de etat, impeachment dramas, the majority of the citizens still found themselves jobless and hopeless for the future.Forcing an exodus of workers from the Philippines to leave their own families and scatter globally to earn a living. Leaving damaged broken families and confused children in their wake. What is the relevance of this in my story you asked? Confused children grow up as restless adults and cause some damage along the way in the process of growing up. Sadly the cast of characters in this tale belong to this group. For I myself was an interracial baby. Liam’s father was an interracial baby.

My mother was a teacher who left for the United States to take care of American babies when she was 25 years old. Teachers were poorly paid in the country. Whatever she was earning was not enough to support a family of eight. Her five siblings, her mother who was a housewife and her father. Her father retired early from the military before achieving any significant rank due to a mishap in the field. Soldiers are also grossly underpaid and his pension was barely enough to pay for his medication. It was her firm belief that education will save their family from further poverty so bravely she left her homeland so she can send her brothers and sisters to college. But fate intervened. I can only surmise for she kept this part of her life untold even now, that during those lonely years abroad she had fallen in love with a white man. I suspected, a married man. She returned home in the 70s with a protruding belly. Her parents and her five siblings whom she supported while slaving away in a foreign household disowned her. It was a big scandal for a devout Catholic family like them to have a child out of wedlock at that time. My grandfathers and the society were less forgiving then unlike now when overtime raising babies without a father is met with just a nonchalant shrug . Ganyan talaga ang buhay. Life is like that. What can you do. My mother went to live with my aunt who was nurse in a government school in the province of Rizal. After giving birth to me she started teaching in the same school. And there I was born and there I grew up.


* this is a work of fiction and purely an invention of the writer’s imaginative mind. The characters in this story do not exist and any similarities to anyone is purely coincidental.

– copyright 2013 JMKhapra

Might Be Time To Park My Pen

Each time I attempt to write a tale
A paralyzingly doubt comes over me
Are there more stories to tell
Why would anyone want to hear it from me

I lay awake at night
Thoughts chasing each other
Reviewing what I have written so far
All of them rubbish
not worth anybody’s time

There is one half written novel
Of two friends cruel to each other
In my mind I reviewed the first chapter
And cringed at the sentimentality
Soaking the first paragraph

The male protagonist’s characterization is so wrong
For a reticent man why did I make him squeeze
The heroine’s arm every so often?

And why did Abigail, the narrator of the story
Sounds like a walking Wikipedia
Every time she offers an information
About a place with historical significance?

What is even the point I was trying to make
With this coming of age story?
That even the smartest man will always
Pick a pretty face over an intelligent mind?

If I really think about it
That is not always true
Though not short of suitors
It can also be difficult for a pretty girl
To find a love that is true

Either I re write the whole damned thing
Or it is ending in the bin

The Chilling Incident of The Clock

The past few years leading to that night had been kind of a blurry, hazy, marijuana induced days. Jessica did not smoke pot herself as she felt it did nothing to her but who knew she might have gotten high after all from the smoke that filled her living room every time Carlos, her boyfriend, visited. He became addicted to a frightening degree. He stopped going to work or even to bathe but just went on playing video games while smoking pot.

Carlos had a lot of anger in him. He was angry at the injustice he thought life had given him. Though in her opinion he had led a more decent life compared to a lot of people she knew. His anger, Jessica thought sprung, from his boredom and confusion on what to do with his life. He was born into a rich family but when his father lost his fortune Carlos could not deal living like the rest of the common people. Still he owns a car provided by his father and small unit in one of the posh condominium in the city. Jessica could not see what he was complaining about. It was more than someone like her could ever hope for.

On that particular night when Carlos visited her, he was filled with a lot more rage than usual and he was so high he begun cursing Jesus for all the ills that was plaguing his being. He shouted loudly, with raised fists, challenging the Almighty and daring Him to strike him down at that very moment to prove His existence. Jessica was stunned speechless. It was too surreal for her. She prayed under her breath for forgiveness over and over for her boyfriend’s blasphemies. But Carlos would not shut up.

After sometime she noticed the hands of a quartz mechanical clock rotating backwards. It was almost 9 pm but the hands of the clock were pointing and turning towards 3 pm. Jessica asked Carlos to look at the clock. He stared at it stupefied. He became very quite. She thought she saw him shuddered a little. He left her apartment without a word. She felt a chill down her spine. Carlos crossed some kind of line. Her deeply-Catholic-upbringing instincts were telling her. She did not know if it was some kind warming from the heavens but days after that incident Carlos’ life went into a downward spiral that she seriously thought he had gone insane. He was hearing voices and was having hallucinations. He told her one day he went inside a church, talked to God and he heard God talking back to him, literally. A week after that incident she did not hear from Carlos again. Nor did his family. A month later they found his body inside his car in a parking lot. He died from a cocaine overdose.

JMKhapra

Life Without The Sun

It was already very dark when Sandra woke up. She missed the daylight again. She checked her watch and saw it was already seven o clock. Only two hours left before her shift starts. She opened the water heater while brushing her teeth and prepared the clothes she was going to wear afterwards. She turned on the tv and changed the channel to the station she works for. The evening soap opera which she edits would start as soon as the evening news finishes. She felt the same anxiety every time the program was about to go on air. Worrying if she forgot anything crucial. Sometimes no matter how many times she reviewed the finished product some glitches still get overlooked. She cringed to think of seeing even one error on her work.

She checked the water in the shower. It was warm enough. The same feeling of depression sinked into her again as soon as she stepped under the spray of water from the shower. One year of spending her waking hours at night had distorted her psyche and plunged her existence into a surreal reality. Her life felt like a long dream. Perpetually dark without color. Everything that happens to her, occurs in the shadows or under the bright offending florescent lights.

Going down from her apartment she came across her neighbors who was just getting back from work. She knew none of them. Still, she politely nodded her head in greeting. Their work weary expressions a stark contrast to her freshly scrubbed glowing face. Stepping out of the condominium and into her car, she felt her days constantly moving in reverse. Even as she drives to work numerous cars always filled the other side of the road, all of them rushing to reach their houses in time for dinner. Sarah sighed. One by one she saw the lights in the offices she was passing, turning off. The night street vendors carrying baskets filled with balut, penoy and boiled quail eggs standing in street corners also ready for their graveyard shifts.

Her routine at five o’ clock in the morning after her shift was over also went in reverse against everyone elses. As the rest of the population wake up she would be punching out from work trying hard to shake off her drowsiness. And on the road again while she drives back home the other side would be busier with different vehicles on their way to work or towards what ever errands demanded their attention for the day. Wearily, sticky from midnight sweat she would get off the elevator and bumps into her freshly bathed neighbors. Coffee in hand and chattering cheerfully. She would always feel too morose at this time of the morning to greet anyone.

The sun barely showing its bright happy face as she hurls her exhausted body to bed plunging into a dreamless unsatisfying sleep. Waking up eight hours later the cycle begins again.

Sometimes she thinks she would go mad. She could not shake off the feeling of gloom that follows her everywhere. Day offs were especially hard. When she would wake up almost at midnight, not knowing what to do. Nowhere to go. Restaurants and shops already closed except for a 7 eleven or mini stop.

Going to a bar to drink with friends only aggravates the onset of depression spreading in her whole being. Her boyfriend had left her when she refused to give up her job. Her supervisor had begged her to stay on with the night shift for another year since she was the only one who was still single and had no family to go home too.

She never knew how essential the sun and the bright daylight are for her happiness and vitality until loneliness settled into her being permanently and she found herself crying for no apparent reason. Until she drowned in unknown sorrows just by listening to some random sad songs. Until reason left her and made her act erratically. Until one day she loss the will to leave her bed.
©JMKhapra

The Siren and The Water Dog

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Cleansing, calming, purifying water I cannot live without. Under the shower or the falling rain what pleasure it gives me. When I left the rainforest where I grew up I would run as fast as I could, whenever I could towards the sea.

Now trapped in a landlocked city for five years I am parched longing for the sea, thirsty for the rain that falls sparingly. Luckily numerous rivers flow snaking and branching endlessly around and along the states.

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We followed one up north and reached a river bank with sandy shores. What delight to step barefoot on the sand after a long time! The eager canine, gaga over water like me jumped on the raft with immense enthusiasm, stared at the water with longing and awe.

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Unable to contain his excitement a few feet before we reached the shore on the other side he jumped and swam.

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His joyful gallop along the river, dipping in the water every now and then, mirrored my own happiness of being near the water again though it is a river not the sea my tense muscles relaxed instantly.The stillness of that reflective surface infecting me. I drew a deep breath and surrendered to serenity. This where I want to be.

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