27 Hulyo 2014

Space between stories 1

The slump between one story and the next is probably the hardest to overcome. I keep thinking if  doubt that I have any words left. Surely that is also a finite resource, although one that we haven't yet designated the limit of. How many words does an average woman speak (in an hour, a year, a lifetime)?

I found borrowed with no intention of returning several early photographs of my paternal grandmother and her husband whom I had never met. In 1961, Lola Gloria favored a plain button-down dress with modest sleeves, a choker of black pearls, a pair of rings, and heavy gold bangles around her wrists. My grandmother's angular face is smooth but her expression isn't calm. Far from it. She is stiff, perhaps unused to sitting still or posing (how often do they go to these studios and to how many different studios did they go? The photos were stamped differently). Lolo Basilio has the fish-lips and the wide brows of my own father. High cheekbones taper into a delicate, almost feminine, jaw. His ears were huge. His features seemed too large for his face and it was this discrepancy and his slim shoulders that made him look even smaller within his barong Tagalog. In both photos, the stiff garments were ill-fitting, at once too long and too large. He swam in them, the sleeves falling past his wrists. In these photographs, my father, the eldest of the three siblings, was three years old. 

One boasts of an inscription in an unfamiliar penmanship:
To Mr. and Mrs. Mercado,

Remembrances during our three year anniversary.

Mr. and Mrs. Ballesteros
Lola had been a secretary. It requires no great stretch of imagination to convince myself she had written the note. In the twenty-four years I shared with her, I had never heard her speak any language other than Tagalog or Spanish, and if she did it was in the broken, cackling comedy that she used to make fun or humiliate. How many words does an average woman speak? If you plotted it out into an infographic, did my grandmother grow tight-lipped or did she simply run out? Did she reach her quota, was she careful to budget the vocabulary left to her? 

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