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Zosimo Quibilan, Jr. - Melrose Ave
I made sure Sgt. Pepper's was on repeat mode before I rolled
out of the parking structure. About five miles later, I yanked
the defective handbrake. The first few disembodied
never could be any other way chants
reverberated from the speakers.
Of course, I failed to stop. Show me anyone
who had succeeded in defying acceleration. Gravity was
perfect. It was the new black.
A couple of days ago, I went home
with The Dark Side of the Moon. Time was fading out
as I passed Formosa on Melrose Ave. I could already see the sushi
and wraps restaurant up ahead when a woman in a sundress
cruised by to cross the street on a late 70s Schwinn Varsity.
This time, I stopped.
Although not as completely as I thought. I was attempting
to read the name of an Argentinean tapas bar
on the left when I half-crashed on a white Bentley. On the other side
of the street, Leno was asking people for a few laughs.
A swarm of tourists gawked. Like bike woman, the crew went on rolling
video as I screeched.
Things swirled on this road,
on the horizon. Sordid colors of maxi dresses waved,
flapping and fleeting such as thoughts of sex. It put words
that tasted sharp in my mouth. Pictures were a-blur. A flurry
of display windows closed as fast as they flipped the open sign.
We had lunch one time, you and I. (Not me and a friend.) Yes,
you ordered the Linguine Bolognese. (Bolo-knees, I said,
as if it were some hybrid ethnic group). After the Creole woman took
our orders, you pointed (with your lips, of course) at the half-assed
silkscreen print of gossamer wings on her back.
That was my cue. I knew
you wanted to talk about our differences again.
Skin colors for appetizers. Hair types and such. The carpet
matching the drapes, blah. I was not hungry enough to take the bait.
I made sure we were not eating Asian as though it were
most inevitable. We compared how wide our eyes opened. Our nose
faced off like meat cuts. We appraised the shapeliness
of your chili peppers against mine.
The bread was heaven-sent. It crumbled
as expected. Flakes of crust floated like ash after
a volcanic eruption in the tropics. Like mannah from our favorite
western fairy tale. We let the distorted staccato passages
of an Explosions in the Sky opus help us masticate.
We each held our napkins as if they were weapons, shielding us
from the embarrassment of enjoying each other's company.
We had all the distractions we needed. Across the street,
an empty sex shop. At least that was what it tried to promote.
On the sidewalk, more silk and sleaze sloppily sashayed.
Pigeons pecked at dead pixels of another digital billboard.
Two squad cars ran a red although there was nothing odd about that.
A man gripped a mannequin's hand. A woman waltzed
with a parked Harley Davidson.
They've been at it since.
The words to Lucy in the Sky
with Diamonds turned into an acai smoothie.
Hints of marmalade, strong lemon notes,
its fleeting bouquet, and soda pop hooks
all blended in for a refreshing adagio brimming
with uneasiness. I missed the pedal tones. The delicate
plucking of harps leaving me home and tickled
with feathers from a kite and not friends with benefits.
There was nothing to keep me from driving, iPod battery
notwithstanding. Traffic crawled right after La Brea.
And just then, visions. Ciphers.
A hipster carried the empty weight of his fixed gear Bianchi.
A dog smelled its master's green flip-flops; its leash
turning into a noose attached to its master's hand.
A bar served sushi chefs speaking perfect Spanish.
Peruvian, Nigerian, Thai, Indian but never
Filipino. In my mind, I still spoke slowly, thick accent
and all. I still formed sentences by plucking words
from a loose translation. I retracted the moon roof
so I could scream along Eclipse. I tried to out-sing
the quadraphonic mix booming from the analog speakers. I failed
fabulously. The woman in the Bentley stole
a quick glance. She couldn't tell if I was writing
new lyrics to the song or singing praise in an inventive dialect.
She went on reading her e-book. She quickly updated
her social networking website page.
I laughed at her. I became the lunatic on the grass. I mustered enough
strength to stifle a yawn. I couldn't even crash completely
into her. "Hike up yer skirt, tanginamo!" I hummed.
You've shown the world to me, all right.
The tourists were all ready to snap pictures, fingers.
Now the double-decker bus didn't seem out of place.
We all felt we were. When I reached Highland, I had this aching
urge to get on Beverly Blvd. as though change
was what I most needed.
There was a house waiting for me. It could be mine, really.
It was covered with giant strips of linoleum. A skull and bones logo
over bugs, real and imagined. A purple stripe between mauves.
A giant Californian quilt to keep the fumes in
and the immigrants out? It could have been any house
but never any home. I toyed with the idea. I shifted gears
(automatically, of course) and tried to parallel-park on side streets
with red-eyed parking sentinels. Broken meter. Broken Ingles. Ayt, bring it!
I popped the glove compartment, caught a whiff of the ticket
as if it were some freshly minted currency. It was
my Welcome Announcement. A testament suggesting,
among others, my ownership of this city.
Zosimo Quibilan, Jr. shared his poem with Departures in participation with National Poetry Month. Zosimo Quibilan, Jr. won the 2006 Philippine National Book Award for Short Story and the 8th Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award in 2008 for Pagluwas (Going to the City) published by the University of the Philippines Press in 2006. He was born in Manila and has, in the last four years, called Los Angeles home where he occasionally gives talks on Filipino Literature and Language at UCLA.
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