It Happened in Your Neighborhood

I knew Alexis as the quiet guy, usually in the corner engrossed in academic journals, or to the side smiling politely while everyone else got thoroughly inebriated. I knew that much about him. Alexis was polite, never too obnoxious, never commanded any unnecessary attention, and yet he got it, mostly for his disproportionately large egg shaped head. My descriptions of him may be vague or inaccurate. I never really knew Alexis, but that shouldn’t matter.

I knew Alexis loved film, everybody knew that. He was a regular at all the film fests, eventually organizing his own screenings followed by lectures, anything to get the word out on what he loved and what he was devoted to. Someone who’s seen that many movies must be inundated with all manners of endings to project onto how he envisioned his own fate. Alexis was a film critic and a teacher; and as much as films are open to myriad layers of academic discourse, at the end of it all films are repositories for memory and all the world’s knowledge about people and their lack of control over the plot.

The plot we were handed involves laying gentle flesh open to the whims of an often cruel and unfair world, but any film enthusiast/lover/cineaste will tell you that the best part is not knowing what the next frame contains. The most anyone can do is try to take the reins on whatever role they were forced into, and this is something I always admired about Alexis and the people like him, the people I tagged in this note. Alexis followed his bliss regardless of who else supported or believed in it. The passion and commitment he poured into every aspect of his work testify to how tightly he held the reins on his role, how strongly he believed in making a contribution to a plot over which he had no control to begin with.

The part I hate most about this story is the familiar ring it still holds. I opened facebook and saw most of you cursing the world, asking what the hell it’s coming to bringing multiple deaths this close to your backyard. First Tara, now Alexis and Nika. I wasn’t a very close friend to any of them, I only met them in passing at large gatherings peppered with chit chat and drunken banter, but really: how far from you does a murder have to take place before it becomes real?

Or rather how close will you allow it to get. How close and how often before I stop telling myself to “suck it up, it’s the Philippines.” This is not how the plot has to work. These are not consequences we have to deal with.

A friend and I were talking about running, literally running like as a routine for weight loss and health reasons. The friend said he saw running not as an exercise, but as a function of a situation over which you have no actual control–“like being chased by a lion”. I remember thinking at first, “That’s stupid, there are no lions in L.A.” Only to realize later that we weren’t really talking about lions then, were we?

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