Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I Can't Say This Enough Right Now...

I miss you, Jay. I know I'm not the only one. I know you wouldn't want me to be all sad and mopey, but here I am.

My friend says you're in a better place, and I know this to be true, but just as I knew there was a very real chance that you wouldn't survive your transplant for very long yet refused to believe it, so I feel terrible about your being gone even though I know you're in a place where nothing can harm you anymore, where all you'll ever feel is joy and God's loving embrace.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

John Julian M. Tan III

He went by a lot of names: J.J., Jay, Budoy and the Bounce. I called him friend. For the longest time my best friend, but never anything less than one of my closest friends in this life, the kind of friend a lot of people go through their whole lives without ever having.

Last Monday, he died. On Tuesday, I eulogized him on our barkada's blog. It was unrelentingly maudlin, which made sense, but what annoyed me upon re-reading it was how it read like some kind of posthumous resume, like I was making some lame attempt to endorse Jay to the Big Guy upstairs. Of course it was all about praise and his legacy and his contribution to society in such a short span of time on top of being a great friend, son, brother, uncle and all of that feel-good, bittersweet dreck, and it may all have been true, but it didn't stop me from feeling that I had written something utterly puerile.

The death of someone this important in my life deserves something much more than I can put into words. This much grief can't simply be the subject of sound bytes like "he lived well" or "he was a good man" without profoundly insulting the deceased. It's like I said to another of my close friends and my kumare when Jay's family was reduced to tears again after last night's mass: with so much love comes so much pain.

I'm living out that particular truism right now. I cried at breakfast this morning. I've never, in my entire thirty-two years of living, cried at breakfast, not even when I was a whiny, spoiled kid. In my adult life I can count on my hands the number of times I've really cried (excluding tearing up at sappy movies, which doesn't even happen that often). I cried after being on either end of a "this relationship isn't going to happen" speech. I cried when I failed the bar exams after my first attempt. I cried on other occasions I don't care to name, but in no instance did I weep during breakfast. None. Oh, and since Jay died, I've lost count of the times I've cried as an adult.

Oddly enough, I find myself laughing maniacally when I think of all the times I spent with Jay. There's no shortage of anecdotes, whether it's the sight of him dressed up as steel-bra era Madonna during our class's Halloween Party back in 2006 or the time he and I were in the back of a pickup, I started choking on a chunk of ice cream, at which point he looked at me nonchalantly and said "Jim, if you die, can I have your comic books?" or any of the bazillions of times I called him up or visited him at home and shot the breeze over everything from comic books to politics to his massive collection (just under 1,000 I think) of bootleg DVDs. I loved having discovered Will Ferrell with him in A Night At the Roxbury, to which there should definitely be a sequel considering how huge Ferrell is now. Any and every Will Ferrell movie I enjoy henceforth will always remind me of Jay.

Recently, I had what I thought was a keeper of a friendship go sour, and although at no point was I about to trade up my real friends for this new one (hey, one cannot have too many friends), the first person to whom I expressed my disappointment was Jay. He didn't hit me with "I told you so" (that was my wife's job), but did what he did best; he reminded me, through his gentle words and reassurance, of how, in a world where things and people are too often not what they seem to be, our friendship was the real deal, and would last till the end.

I didn't figure that, scant weeks after, the end would come.

Even though the chain of events that led to his eventual passing began as early as last May 2007 and there were red flags galore all throughout the ordeal, and even though someone who had buried two loved ones, a mother and a brother, who had expired from kidney failure told me, in no uncertain terms, not to get my hopes up, I hoped against all hope that Jay would make it through. Even when my brain was telling me he was a goner, even when the Saturday before he died he looked like a corpse-in-waiting with his face blackened from the drugs they were pumping into him, ironically enough, to keep him alive, I was still hoping.

Irony seems to be the order of the day here. Though the magnanimity of Jay's spirit was unparalleled, he didn't really live the healthiest lifestyle around. He sort of embodied the credo of one of his favorite films, if not his all-time favorite, Dead Poets Society: Carpe Diem, or seize the day. He seized the day, all right, and scarfed it down with a side order of fries. Oh yeah, he was a big eater, and a big guy as a result. He smoked like a chimney when he started working in advertising nearly a decade or so ago. He worked really late, always consumed with the passion of coming up with some truly magnificent copy. And yet...and yet...what actually took out his kidneys and resulted in the transplant and the anti-rejection medication which left him vulnerable to the infection that ultimately took his life was a virus he had had the misfortune of not having developed an immunity to, unlike 90% of the Filipino population. In short, it had absolutely nothing to do with the way he had lived his life. To put it glibly, a statistical aberration killed my friend. Before I understood this, I remember how, when I was sitting right next to him during one of his dialysis sessions, I chewed him out for the way he had lived his life. I felt like such an asshole afterwards. I can't say with one hundred per cent certainty if, had it been up to him, Jay would have made the sacrifices necessary to basically save his own life, but I do know that leading up to and after his operation, he managed to shed at least over twenty kilos of body weight. The will to live was definitely there.

The irony of how he died is part of what fuels my rage. Yes, I'm going through the whole "stages of loss" cliche, but what's particularly painful is how I seem to be feeling everything at once. Every time the denial instinct kicks in my mind instantly flashes the image of Jay's inert body lying on the hospital bed where he breathed his last, an image that will probably haunt me for quite a while.

The rage part, though, is surprisingly easy. I feel rage, first and foremost, at myself, for feeling sorry for myself for the better part of last year without appreciating nearly as much as I should have how precious and magnificent the gift of life is. I feel rage at how, on top of everything else, Jay managed to pull a Cyrano De Bergerac and die without letting the object of his affection really know how he felt. She was there last night, and for some reason I thought of Penelope Cruz in the last few scenes of Vanilla Sky, where it is revealed that she looked for Tom Cruise's character, interested in him, but upon failing to find him left with a vague sense of regret, a sense of 'now I'll never know what could have been.'

Thoughts and emotions are colliding in my mind and heart every nanosecond. I gagged on the cup of water I was drinking just now while my head was swirling with all of these emotions. How prosaic: I'm choking on my grief.

I would love to end this post with some uplifting reflection like "rather than dwell on the pain of his loss; I should think how lucky I was to have him in my life as long as I did," but it would feel altogether insincere and, in a word, saccharine.

I'm selfish. I'm small. I'm low on emotional quotient. I want my friend back against all logic and rationality. Of course, not in a George Romero kind of way (haha, see Jay? Another movie reference!).

What hurts the most of all is that the guy who was best at comforting me in times like this... is the guy I'm now mourning.

I know you probably hate what I'm doing right now, Jay, and I may well have to watch myself every time I drink a glass of water. It's hard right now.

There's nothing else left to say right now...numbness (another state of being that comes calling way too often these days) has set in so I can't bitch and moan any more than I already have.

Still and all, I think it must be said: Adam Sandler's death scene in Click was still lame, Jay. Before you haunt my dreams forever, let me explain; the guy's performance was just devoid of all dignity. If Sandler had wanted to know how to portray someone at the end of his rope with his respectability completely intact, he should have given you a call.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Rolling Disasters Waiting to Happen

There's been a lot to blog about these days, from the sudden and tragic death of Oscar-nominated Australian actor Heath Ledger to the abject humiliation suffered by multiple-term speaker of the House of Representatives Jose de Venecia, to the way a Filipino on American Idol dressed like a chicken became the next William Hung, but the thing about tragedies and downfalls and other forms of personal disaster is that they tend to become footnotes in history considering that once the terrible thing has happened there really isn't much else to talk about.

What I want to talk about is essentially a "sequel" to an earlier post I made about those idiots on scooters that they pay for at the rate of something like five pesos a day. Since making that post I have heard that no less than the Asian Development Bank has conducted a study on the death rate of these motorized primates and has come to the conclusion that it is of epidemic proportions.

These guys still raise my blood pressure every time I'm on the road, and even when I'm walking on the sidewalk as quite a few of them seem to view it as an extension of the road they can drive on. Tricycle drivers aggravate me similarly but somehow I've learned how to live with them. At least with tricycle drivers there's no danger that I might accidentally kill one on the road; they're too big and too slow to make a move sudden enough that might result in my running over them.

The problem with these two-wheeled menaces is that at all times they pose a danger to themselves, pedestrians and motorists. Every single day is a potential new disaster with hundreds of these things (and counting) on the road.

What I think people should know is that we don't have to sit here helpless to do anything about it. We can prepare petitions, breathe down the necks of our legislators and tell them that enough is enough; it's time to get these things off major highways and sidewalks. Let's have them impose prohibitive taxes on the sons of bitches who hawk these things. It's easy enough; all they'd have to do in the face of accusations of draconian legislation is invoke the time-honored principle of POLICE POWER (a legal term; look it up). They would merely have to slap the massive and growing statistics of DEATH in the face of any interest group inclined to protect these chimpanzees' right to roam the streets and say that the need to save lives is more important than anyone's right to act like he owns the road.

I'm serious here; on the one hand it's something of a blessing that all of these pieces of dog turd are getting wiped out as it's a form of natural selection. The smart survive and the stupid end up roadkill. The problem is that the people who run over these blights on humanity are inevitably the ones who end up paying the price; they're the ones that have to go to court and suffer wrongful prosecution and even assuming this doesn't push through, they're the ones who have to live with knowing that they were in an accident that killed someone, regardles of whose fault it is.
Quite frankly, considering the paucity of comments on this blog in the last eight months or so I'm pretty sure nobody really reads it, or that very few people do. Can't say I'm surprised as most of the time I don't really write anything of consequence.

THIS time, though, I exhort my one or two regular readers and the odd person who stumbles onto this blog: please get the word out about these disasters-around-the-corner. Create a link to this post if you're too lazy to expound. Get legislation written! Get these bastards OFF THE MAJOR ROADS AND THE SIDEWALKS!

The sooner these things can get done, the sooner we can stop worrying about having the blood of these fools on our bumpers.