There were no beepers that required an operator to transcribe your messages, and cordless phones were considered a household wonder. People set meetings, and that was that. No begging off at the last minute. No changing of venues because parking was full.
It was black and white.
The message was usually clear.
There is something to be said when a meaning begins to boil down to a smiley face.
Or the lack thereof.
These diminutive icons have triggered countless McDonald’s breakfast meals at the break of dawn, as a friend and I analyze three things:
Add to that those midnight yosi breaks spent on the front porch with my flat mate, a blanket of stars adding drama to our already melodramatic introspection while eating Lucky Me chilli-mansi instant noodles.
It took me awhile to realize that at this day and age, a happy symbol on the miniscule screen of a technological contraption can either be a source of ecstasy, or grief. By the time I came to this, I knew something has gone wrong.
And we didn’t even see it happen.
“I can’t believe he texted me after three and half hours!”
Followed by a dismayed: “All he said was “k”. And no smiley face!”
Seems we’re living in a microwave era: just-add-water and everything is ready in just 2 minutes.
And when it doesn’t happen that way, we stress out. We wonder. We brood. We dial our best friends during our lunch break, speaking in hushed tones as we make sense of the things in our heads for over an hour. A sea of theories on why he could not have texted sooner.
And as if we haven’t had enough, we agree to meet up for dinner to “talk things over”.
After doing my quarterly cleaning, I stumbled on letters upon letters. From my grandparents during my 5th birthday, to penned conversations with high school seatmates, to letters of boredom from college barkadas, retreat letters and even Post-It’s with hastily scribbled notes from rushing carpool mates. Even ripped notebook paper, to stationery that reeked of Funny Friends ink, to Trapper Keeper and Fil-O fillers — it was all there.
The message was usually clear.
Nowadays, after a grueling work day with your duff stuck to your seat, dealing with characters of all sorts, you come home and flip open your mailbox (And I mean the REAL square thing that you can actually touch). Lo and behold! It is filled, all right. Mastercard bills. Mobilephone promos. Alumni homecoming announcements. Meralco notices. Administration dues.
And…. that’s it?
Where are all those post cards from our balikbayan relatives in Canada or L.A., telling us about snow, their trip to Disneyland or the blonde babe they posed with in a photo? And those birthday cards that played music when you open it? Or a letter from a friend who lived in the next village who simply had nothing better to do?
There is something to be said about things that satisfy our senses.
It would be nice to receive something personally scribbled with an actual pen and ink, and without a button that says CLICK TO DOWNLOAD.
A picturesque postage stamp would be nice, too (ever wondered what happened to philatelic clubs?) It sure beats bluemountainarts.com anytime!
There is something to be said about those orchids stealthily clipped from his mom’s garden, tiny flowers ceremoniously arranged inside a glove compartment, and requesting you to open it on the pretense of getting sunglasses.
Or that wild, mountain bloom placed in a used mineral water bottle that mysteriously appeared on your door step one morning.
Remember that call on your land line, perfectly timed when you arrived home, “just to check if you’re ok”. It’s nice to hear the house phone ring for you. It sure beats the usual “Txt me when u gt hme” on your LCD screen.
There is something to be said about chucking the whole club scene filled with rebonded clones and P120-beer-toting guys in lieu of a walk in a park. Or a drive out of town where you share that relaxing quiet, as you view the city from the distance, your intertwined hands speaking volumes which transcend words, as you watch the sky disrobe.
Or that gummy spider candy (sealed, of course) snuck into the pages of your history book when he thought you weren’t looking.
There are many ways to say something.
It may come in an early morning text message telling him what a difference he’s made. Or it can also come in a birthday serenade sent through video (recorded in the bathroom for better acoustics!) because you both live on two different time zones.
It can also come in shared silence that transcends words, reveling in the rays of late afternoon sunlight pouring through the ancient Spanish ruins and a flock of doves choosing that perfect moment to take flight.
When you strip off the jaded layers of cynicism and ram down the walls of defenses, you are left with nothing but your vulnerable self.
No words or time lapses to analyze.
No text messages to keep going back to.
Or smiley faces to count.
No more vague “moments” to interpret.
Flesh and bone. And your heart on the line.
By the time you get there, the message is usually clear.
My first published copy in Fudge Magazine, 2007