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Ft. St. John
Valerie brought your letter by yesterday. John left this morning to look for work. Thereís snow on the ground now and itís cold! Cripes is it cold! I canít believe how cold it is! The truck has to be shot full of ether to even start. I think itís ether because it has that sort of smell. Our lamp uses naphtha gas and I spilled some on my hand filling it up two days ago and it was like getting stabbed with hot icicles. Donít laugh but there is this tower building up in the outhouse. John tells me it will have to be kicked over before it creeps above the opening. I look at it everytime and wonder how hard of a kick is needed. At least Iíve got enough sense to do that before instead of after. Look at me! Iím writing about shit. Must be a slow day.
Weíve got a deer hanging in the granary and I have to shave slivers off it instead of steaks. My parents bought us some carving knives by Gerber which are as sharp as razor blades and they are just dandy.
I hung a pair of jeans outside on Friday and when I brought them back inside they hadnít dried at all. Just froze solid. They looked like the jeans my mom used to stretch on wire frames. John told me not to try to fold them because theyíd snap. I donít believe him but Iím wasnít going to try it.
There isnít enough snow to shore up the sides of the trailer so the wind blows underneath and the chill comes up through the floor. When I get out of bed my feet stick to the linoleum as the condensation freezes. There are a lot of snap and popping noises too when I walk to the heater to crank it up. Itís windy here. In the summer itís nice because it keeps the bugs away but now it intensifies the cold. Itís called the wind chill factor and can take the temperature down another 10 to 20 degrees.
The last time we went to town, we got stuck in the drifts and Johnís ear lobe turned white when he went to dig us out. Iíve never seen frost bite before. He told me it was nothing but when it thawed it looked red and raw. I donít know why he doesnít wear something more sensible than a cowboy hat. The coat my mom got me has a lovely hood which keeps my head warm. When I go outside the cold smacks my face like a slap and makes my lungs ache when I inhale. I canít believe how cold it is.
The frost ices the bare willow branches up so they look like upside down crystal chandeliers. When the sunís shining they sparkle. Sound travels for miles and the air is so crisp it cracks. I think about your tropical paradise and you telling me about sweating. Itís very dry here and I donít think Iíve sweat since I got here.
Itís only light for a few hours a day now. Iím kind of lost without a clock because I forgot to wind it. Iím never too sure what time it is and more or less doze most of the time. The cold makes me sleepy. Iím sure itís been a few days since John left. He never did come home so I guess he found work on the oil rigs.
What do you mean Juliaís short legged? Her feet touch the ground donít they? Iím five foot four and considered short but my legs travel all the way down to my feet so itís okay. Is it important to you that sheís pretty? What is pretty anyhow? Iíve never considered myself pretty. My oldest brother is good-looking but heís mean. He always had the girls chasing him and now heís married to the girl who had his baby. The girls still phone him and he takes off to Terrace to party from what Iíve heard. Mary is stuck at home with their daughter Belinda while he goes out. They are living in the basement suite of my parentís place and my mom tells me sheís not happy with the way heís behaving. I called my mom last time I was in town. I wish I could have told her how much I miss her and dad. Terence too. I miss all of them except Tom.
I should have put the date on this letter when I started it so I could have kept track. I just keep adding to it from time to time and donít know how long Iíve been writing it. I heard the wolves howling last night and when it was light I went out and saw their tracks near the granary and our small dump. I love the noise they make. Not just howls, they yodel, bark and yip too. Thereís a blizzard happening now and I should get the lantern filled up before it gets too dark. Sometimes a gust of wind slams into the trailer and it shudders. Almost like itís going to be blown off itís mooring. Jesus! Itís cold. When I go out to fill up the lantern I have to get fully geared up for just a few steps. Iím using a bucket at night now instead of going the fifty yards to the outhouse. I go and dump it every day and shuffle a fresh path through the snow. The snow is like powder with hardened drifts where the wind has whipped it into ridges. It looks like white ocean waves. When the sun shines it hurts my eyes because there is so much dazzling white.
Do you know about northern lights? They come in waves of colour and undulate across the sky like galloping ghosts. I swear they make a noise too. I strain my ears to listen to their eerie shadow sounds. Weird.
John still isnít back yet. Itís been quite a while. This morning when I went to take the heater fuel out of the drum it was almost empty. I had to wrestle the forty-five gallon drum on itís side and slosh out the rest of the fuel. I was wondering about using naphtha instead but I donít think that would be a good idea. Iíd probably burn the trailer down and then really be in a bad way.
Pete, I canít walk the mile to the neighbours because Iíd freeze to death. I know it. Itís too far and the drifts have made huge waves in the field. Sam is getting restless and pacing around my feet. The heater just went out and the trailer got freezing cold right away. Sam jumped up onto my lap and sheís bitching at me.
I thought I heard a truck coming in the dark. I threw on my coat and rushed outside to see a couple of wolves only a few yards away. I think they were as startled as I was. They took off and I fell backwards into the trailer. I pumped up the lantern and lit it and now Iím sitting here wondering what day and time it is. Iím going to turn on the oven. I still have propane. Where is John? Sam just nipped my earlobe. I guess sheís worried too.
I read your letter again and thought about shopping in a mall where thereís parrots, jackfruit trees, coconut milk to drink and hot spicy food to eat. I think Iíd kill for a donut. Christ Iím hungry too. Well, Iím not going to shave off some venison slivers right now. Iíve got tomato soup and canned milk. Water for tea comes from the snow melting in the cistern we have in the trailer. It had a layer of ice on it that I had to break.
Pete, if you get this letter it means Iím still alive. Iím getting a bit scared now. I donít know how long the propane will last or if it will freeze and not flow properly. I noticed the flame on the burner looked odd. Someone said once that propane gets thick in the cold but I donít know if it still works. I hope I donít have to bring it inside to keep it working. I donít think I could lift it. Where is John? If he doesnít come home soon Iíll have to make a trek out because to stay here would mean freezing if I run out of propane.
Did I tell you the bedcovers freeze to the outside wall of the trailer? Get me a ticket on a tropical tramp steamer with Sadie and the good doctor. What was his name anyhow? Have you ever read any Somerset Maugham? Most of the books I read were adventure stories and classics. I didnít read any romance novels except for the ones about glove marriages and Spice Islands. I never liked Jane Austin and Wuthering Heights was garbage as far as I was concerned. I remember my mom being upset because I didnít like Little Women. They were nothing like the family I had and sounded kind of dull to me. I loved the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer. I read them when I was thirteen and it was cool to read about Penelope. She was nothing like me though. The kids in the Enid Blighton books were the ones I felt familiar with. Shit! The oven just went out Pete! Now what do I do? Sam is pacing around on the table screeching at me. The trailer is like a giant ice cube tray and if I left I would start my journey being cold. Sam has gone to hide under the quilt and Iím going to do the same.
Oh yeah. Why do you think you are like those other boys? You turned away and escaped so you canít be like them at all.
Pete, Iím writing this under the quilt covers and my hands are freezing cold. I think itís still snowing and the wind is howling. Or maybe itís the wolves. I canít tell the difference any more.
Pete, Iím in town at the laundromat. John came home and we came to town right away to get fuel. It took over two hours to get out even though John had just driven in. He told me he'd been away three weeks but it felt like three months. Iím mailing this before he comes to fetch me. I feel kind of weird and I donít wonder if Iím an adult anymore. I hope Sam is okay until we get home. In my next letter I'll tell you about my dream.
Peter Paulino de Villa
700 Mulawin Street
I just finished doing my assignment in History. I still have something like thirty minutes to write or start this letter.
Japeth my friend and Julia my girlfriend are at the same table with me, both doing their stuff, writing or reading or maybe still doing their assignment as both of them are in the same History class with me. We sit forming a triangle here in our favorite spot, a study area with round tables and chairs set in an open-space floor for students of our college. The sun's not hot today; tennis weather as they say. Japeth's portable radio is just so right for the mood I want to retain, romantic. We are tuned into Mellow Midweek, our favorite program
Something's playing inside my mind now and I know Julia will be very mad at me if she finds out what. So I am never going to tell her, ever. But Penny, you're lucky because I am going to confide it to you: I love watching Japeth and Julia together. I look at them now as if I were a different entity floating above them, moving around them, invisible. I am thinking that they will make a very good couple. Not because they are almost of the same height and color of skin but that they are both beautiful.
I am not sure if what I am seeing are more than just what my eyes can see: their physical appearance. I am trying to see through them but in the flesh they are both attractive I cannot help but doubt the inner beauty I see in them. I am not so good in describing Penny but what I like most in both of them are their eyes, deep brown and soulful and sad. One could mistake them as siblings, in fact, because they too each have small faces and a slight cleft chin (something I also envy in both of them). Much ado about how they look like from the outside, I also believe they have beautiful souls. I am delighted by Japeth's love for music. There are songs which he sings quietly that I always loved to hear. He can get shy when the group asks him to sing louder, I feel as if he is this person who keeps the good things he has only to himself, something one would mistake as selfishness. Julia loves literature. She said my comics are a form of literature. She reads everything and loves to discuss about them. She mentions to me some writers and poetís names and I can just stare at her blankly.
I have this crazy fantasy about the two, Penny. I sometimes imagine that they are cheating on me: my friend and my girlfriend having a romantic affair behind my back. Don't you think this thought absurd?
The two were chatting to me earlier and I couldn't help but just gaze at their intelligent faces without really hearing what they say.†It was an ecstasy whenever their eyes met. I know they were talking to me about Brutus and Julius Caesar. There was even a moment that they debated; something which I thought was exhilarating because they spoke in a very mild tone nobody would think they were arguing. Something that was between them very gentle instead of antagonistic.
I am trying to feel, or wait, if anyone would brush the other's hand. I want so much for anyone of them to touch the other. Although at this moment I admit I would loathe touching anyone of them because that will mean intrusion to the affair I imagined for them.
Penny, that was sick, huh? Still I am not going to withhold from you those things I just said. You see, I don't have anybody to listen to these confessions.
Right now, I am writing from home, in my very own room, my very own study table and my very own chair. I missed playing my records: my Barry Manilow, my Kenny Rogers and Perry Como. You'll be surprised that I love listening to even older records which are my mother's. I have this small cassette player which my mother bought for me from the money my father sent.
It's weekend that's why I am here. Nanay is cooking something special for lunch, my favorite Kare-kare; it is beef with banana artichoke and peanut butter. I am not sure if you know this kind of dish. I don't know how it is exactly called in English. She does this every Sunday that I am here.
We were talking earlier; she told me she has a plan of working in Manila, something which she knows Tatay would disapprove. My father is really against the idea of women working which I think is rather stupid than being old-fashioned. Nanay was telling his wage is not sufficient for our growing needs.
I really must find a job.
About my tropical paradise: Oh, I like what you said. But here in the mountains, especially now that Christmas is near it's not really as warm. In fact tonight I would have to wear a bonnet with ear covers. I am also hiding under my bed a case of San Miguel beer which I consume bottle per bottle each night that I am here in Quezon. It doesn't make me drunk but it keeps me warm all through the hours that I am up writing and drawing. I guess I'll be inserting here a short comic strip which I wrote and sketched on a bond paper earlier. I hope the humor will make you laugh. I enjoy reading comics, it is one common past time here besides watching television.
During vacation it is also very easy to lose track of time here. I miss those days when I could still play with my younger brothers and our kid neighbors; I would often purposely disregard the time and days. I am not a good swimmer but we could have good hours of fun playing 'capture' in the water. Didn't I mention there's this lovely spring here where the water is clear and fresh? They say the stream is coming from a fountain of youth. My mother faithfully believes in that that's why she makes it a point to always bathe in the spring at least once a week.
In the past I would have agreed with my mother but lately after having gone back to Manila my conviction about the mystical have shrunk. I hate remembering I have told you those things about magic and witchcraft and such, I feel I sounded so foolish in my previous letters.
Today I can just enjoy nature for what it is. No more spirits and dwarfs and ghosts.
I have this suspicion that I am not good-looking although my mother have often assured me I am (aren't mothers really supposed to?). I think I am very skinny and ugly. I don't like the sight of me in mirrors. There's not enough food I could eat that will make me bigger and handsomer.
My brothers Robin and Jamil are the ones who look better, handsomer than I am. I know that. And I want to become their age again. Or older. Not this. Not myself in this age.
Oh, yes, I am just so sure I am ugly. I am five foot seven, too tall for my weight.
If I'll be as good-looking as Japeth I swear I won't be mean or snobbish. But Japeth is not unkind though. Perhaps he has not even the awareness that he's good-looking so he couldn't afford to be conceited. That he is short of height does not matter because his body is well-proportioned. He has big and long enough limbs unlike me, a walking skeleton.
Somehow I have this stupid feeling that I chose to hang around Julia and Japeth because both of them are beautiful people. That if I'll be going out with unsightly people like me I'm going to miss all the fun just the more I will be aware of my ugliness.
You are pretty, Penny. From what I see in the photos you sent me, I even think you are prettier than Julia. I am sorry for my tactlessness in the last letter. Short is no big deal for me, really.
Okay, please don't think what I am going to say is funny, Penny: I feel like I have no more chance of becoming an actor or even a newscaster because I can never look better. While you, I swear, Penny that if you'll try working as an actress here, you'll be accepted and become famous. As for me, no chance at all.
Julia kissed me today. I arrived late in our first subject and when she saw me she jumped and hugged me right away. I wondered why, she said she was already worried something bad must have happened to me. Then she kissed me on the lips. But Penny, what excited me most was that Japeth was looking while Julia did that. I enjoyed that look in his face, an averting look which perhaps meant a feeling of hurt and envy, or perhaps something even deeper and darker. He was maybe thinking that sooner or later he's going to steal from me this girl in my arms.