Wednesday, September 01, 2004



I got this idea from Nikki, Dean, and Rei. It’s pretty interesting, actually.

If you call me…

Gabriela Alejandra Dans Lee, you’re my mother in foul mood and about to berate me for something, in which case I will run to the nearest rock and hide underneath until the storm has safely passed. Either that, or you’re my teacher doing the roll call on the first day of class.

Ms. Lee, you’re a very helpful person who thinks I’m either (a) a teacher, (b) older than you, or (c) can’t remember my first name. Or you’re very respectful and probably talking to me over the phone.

Gabby Girl, then you’re probably a relative from my mother’s side, more often than not an aunt or uncle who still cannot differentiate me from my older boy cousin Gabby – even though he’s now married and with a child along the way, while I have breasts that can poke you in the eye.

Ella, then you’re my maternal grandmother who somehow got it into her head to call me by a French nickname to make me sound more sophisticated that I really am.

Gabby, then that means you’re a good friend of mine, or that I’ve been introduced to you as such, or you’re a barista at Seattle’s Best Coffee when I’m giving my order for coffee. Whatever’s the case, I’m happy with my name, even though people sometimes mistake me as a boy if they’ve never met me personally or heard me speak.

Gabriela Lee, then you’re probably my editor at whichever magazine I’m working for as of the moment, and the one writing down my checks. Which is a good thing, since you remember that my first name only has one “L”. Or you’re one of those people from the literary circles who goes, “Oh, I’ve read your poem somewhere…” whenever I am introduced to you.

Gabs or Gab, that means you’re a college friend, or you believe that I have the gift of...*sigh* Bad joke. I used to hate this shortening of my name even more, but then I’ve realized that people are like Pringles: once they pop, they can’t stop.

Mother Hen, you're from GRAIL and I call you "chicklet" in return.

MyGabs, then you’re my ex-boyfriend, when we were still going out. (And yeah, I’m still yours.)

Gabo, then dammit you’re Kristin Atienza although that was way back in high school and while you might have thought you were being cute, I was ready to chase you around with a pitchfork for mangling my name.

Gabe, that means you’re Sir Del Valle (second year high school Math) and you were still unmarried. And I only allowed you to call me that because you offered to tutor me one Saturday afternoon and bought me a strawberry ice cream cone.

Froda, that means you’re Gandalf, and that’s what we call each other because of the Lord of the Rings references, and because you’re the coolest older brother and mentor that I have. Or you're one of those people I've actually given an LotR nickname, and we still call each other by those names just because.

Alex, that means you’re my cousin Betong, and this nickname goes way back when I was 12 and you were 16, and you insisted that I call you RJ and we were all in a band.

Miswa, that means you're my parents when they're feeling kinda cute and call me by my baby name, which also happens to be the name of a soup dish. (But hey, it's better than my brother, who was used to be called Tutuli by my maternal grandfather.)

Ate or Ate Gabs or Ate Gabby, that means you’re my younger brother or sister, and it’s pretty cool. Or that you’re one of my students at Miriam when I taught Creative Writing. Or you’re that new GRAIL member Aprille, who’s really sweet and strange.

Squishy, that means you're Bea when you're glomping my leg, and honestly, that's disturbing.

Dugong or Seacow, that means you're my cousins from the Dans side, and honestly, it's insulting and I wish you'd stop it because we're all grown-up now so can we stop it with the name calling?

Gabriela, that means you're Ma'am Cruz, my Poetry teacher, and that you're asking me to recite when there's a lull in class.

Gabbyela, then you're Kara de Dios and I find this name pretty cool.

Gabby Lee, that means you’re either Marvi when in a strange mood, or someone who has met me but doesn’t know me that well yet – which is pretty cool, if you think about it, since the possibilities are always endless.

What's Left of This World

She writes a couple of lines of supposed poetry in her small universe between a cast-iron chair and the airconditioning unit. (The process of writing poetry - She is searching for a metaphor for forgiveness) She wishes that she was somewhere else right now, and yet she knows she can't be anywhere else. In this place saturated with the remnants of the evening's rainshowers and words, she looks at the people around her and wonders if they wanted to be here, too. The little boy at Table 2 is alreayd half-asleep, and his father is already shaking him awake, Come on son, we're already leaving.

She is already claustrophobic, her feet aching in her boots, and she wants to have some space to breathe. Stepping outside, the evening air reminds her of other nights, other events such as this when she was younger, quieter. She will always have the memory of color and music and candlelight, of friends passing ragged pieces of paper and a pen in an attempt to make a rengga while the night is young and they are in that zone between drunkenness and genius. She remembers other early morning conversations over pulutan and empty amber bottles surrounding her like crushed flower petals. She remembers walking, always walking, always feeling empty and numb while everyone around her glowed and vibrated with their own light.

She keeps on telling people she's okay. She is, after a fashion, slowly returning to the place she left behind for that brief shining moment. She isn't even sure of what she wants anymore - all she is aware of is what she's lost, and the husk she is quietly returning to. She is starting to empty herself of him already, of everything she was when she was with him. If strength is this, she tells herself, then she is made of strong glass - transparent, empty, not-there. Leaving is easier said than done. You know what distance is? she asks herself before going to sleep every night. Distance is that black void that she stares into every night, every day, every moment - knowing that she is not who she was anymore.

She knows what will happen when she heals. She will forget. She will become blank, a still pool of water that is only able to reflect moonshine, or to drown a child, swallowing flesh completely that it seems as though it was never there in the first place. She has already accepted this. There is no other choice. There was never a choice in the matter. This is me, she tells the world, holding her cupped hands out, watching the sand trickle down between her fingers and into the shadows. This is me.

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