Itinerant Conditions

Or, Fathers, pt. 4

PROJECT ANOTHER COUNTRY: ADDRESS, 2008, 140 stacked cubes of personal belongings, at the 2008 Adelaide Biennale of Australian Art. Courtesy Drawing Room, Manila. http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/81/SetAdriftAlfredoAndIsabelAquilizan
PROJECT ANOTHER COUNTRY: ADDRESS, 2008, 140 stacked cubes of personal belongings, at the 2008 Adelaide Biennale of Australian Art. Courtesy Drawing Room, Manila.
http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/81/SetAdriftAlfredoAndIsabelAquilizan

My dad said he could “track our childhoods” based on what we ordered and ate at the sports club where he’s been a member since the early 80s. When we were little, it was Sopa de Mariscos, then came the weekends where we took our friends swimming and ordered Halo-halo. Now he just gets bills for black coffee, because I’m the only one of his kids still living in Quezon City. This was something he mentioned very casually over Sunday lunch, but it carries no small amount of regret for both of us. It attests to periods in which he rarely saw us, and our existence was only confirmed by a monthly bill.

There were days however when we saw his car parked in the lot and knew he was upstairs in the library, working. Even if we didn’t see each other very often, we were still attuned to each other’s habits, and my dad needed a quiet place to work. My dad has always been more of a historian than a lawyer–or maybe the frustrations at not having been able to practice as a historian are just more pronounced now that he has his own library. I’ve always envied his superhuman ability to finish a book in one sitting and actually give a substantial assessment of what it contained and what else I should read if I liked it. Everything he owns is marked with the date and place of purchase, and whether it’s the first or second copy. He says things like, “We’re not barbarians. We do not throw books away,” which I’ve countered by just giving my books away when I’m done with them.

Unlike me though, he makes space instead of making do with whatever floor area he’s stuck with. He’s entertained ideas like buying container vans to solve the problem of porous borders between his library and kitchen. Unlike him, I’m a slow reader and I’m easily distracted. While I enjoy projects where I get to triangulate between concepts to prove a point, he has the focus to see singular subjects all the way through and follow one conclusion to the next. Where I was trained to tinker with critical theory, he’s armed himself with logic. Like a dad who takes data from receipts and pieces together a story about the kids he doesn’t see as much as he’d like.

I’m moving in with my dad at the end of the month; but even that isn’t entirely true, because half of my things will stay at my mom’s. Whenever I need to talk about the logistics of splitting my belongings between two households, he interrupts me, correcting me for saying “your house”, because, “It’s our house.” As much as he’d like to call it that, I still feel uneasy calling a place I’ve never slept in “our house”. Still, I have something to come home to.

I’m doing this because I’m setting off for the longest period I’ve ever spent in transit. I spent the last month getting through the immense amount of red tape leading up to this break, and it’s with a mix of regret and relief that I fill in the blank for “address” with names of places I no longer call home. The relief comes with having lived on my own for a little over a year – a move which brewed a miniature shitstorm on the domestic front that still hasn’t completely dissipated, but I’ll talk about that some other time…It’s just weird once you understand that home is just an address.

An address is one thing, employment is another; because if it wasn’t for finishing grad school or the shift in the academic calendar, I wouldn’t be able to take this long vacation or leave my job for commitments that just don’t give the same amount of certainty. Having a full-time, tenure-track position with a government institution gave me this sense of permanence and stability that I won’t be able to fall back on anymore. It’s too early to regret anything though, and to be honest, I doubt I will.

It’s not even as if it’s that big a transition, because in the past four years, teaching was not the only thing I did. Nor was it the only thing that paid the bills or the taxes. But…again about floating your pen over certain spaces while filling out forms; there’s a word for that space between the page and the nib, right?

If there is, then there has to be a word for it when the two tend to repel each other because you have no idea what to write, and where filling in a blank once came so naturally, that momentary hesitation creates so much anxiety. The only assurance that there actually is something to write is that I’m still here: still slugging it out and making a living, while being lucky enough to actually enjoy what I do. The bills are still coming in and the grocery receipts are still being filed: the difference is I’m the one keeping track of me now.

Soon, the consistency of a paycheck will feel like some distant fantasy. Having my things in boxes, ready to be carted into the back of a truck, is equally strange. I know where they’re going for the meantime, but where they’re staying is another story.

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Author: alicesarmiento

San Juan, Metro Manila

One thought on “Itinerant Conditions”

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