Sunday, December 4, 2011

An Anniversary


Today is an anniversary. Four years ago, a particularly awful woman - a methamphetamine addict, freelance hooker, and part-time police informer (I learned all this only later) - introduced the woman in the picture to me. I was technically still a tourist in a Philippine city that has catered to male tourists ever since the closure of a large American air force base in 1991. I was staying in a cheap hotel owned by a New Zealander and I had been drinking steadily for a few days when I asked the dreadful girl who was with me (she was endowed with beautiful brown skin and breasts that defied gravity) to go and find me a masseuse. I can't speak too badly of that girl because the masseuse she brought back with her has been my constant companion ever since.

It was she who suggested that I leave the resort town and come to the provinces, where my meagre pension would go quite a lot further. She has saved my skin several times, saved me incalculable amounts of money. She is my translator and my protector. Through her this place has become somehow less incomprehensible. Through her I am somehow made somewhat more human to the Filipinos we encounter.

Wherever we have chosen to live, the neighbors are struck by so many things about us. I always stick close to home, close to her, and they marvel at my uncharacteristic faithfulness. What little they know of foreigners here is contradicted by my abstemiousness and my lack of a string of other girlfriends. Why haven't I taken up with another, younger and more nubile girl? They are puzzled by the fact that she has not been jettisoning one baby after another, since that's what every other woman does and we foreigners are alleged to be so oversexed. If you saw her standing in the sunlight with the other neighbor women, you could identify her by the absence of a baby stapled to her breast.

She has also given me her family - or, rather, given me to her family. They have shown such acceptance, even when I was reluctant to be anyone's "daddy". (Freud would've noticed that the boys are more aloof, since in their minds I am a feeble replacement for the man they know as their "tatay".) Despite occasional frustrations, I thank her for the daughter, who turns 10 next month, who says "good night daddy" to me every night. I am a failure as a father, I know. But only because I am so dubious of fatherhood in the first place.

I cannot marry her here, since I married here once before, and the marriage is registered. (The Philippines is now the only country in the world with no divorce law.) Only some amount of cash and a lawyer could make it possible to marry her here. Yet she has been immeasurably more a wife to me than either of my former wives put together. I tell her this, but she wants to be married to me. I make promises that are of their nature feeble, since I have no way of knowing how or when I can get myself home. Only there can I hope to make an "honest" woman of her. But who will make me an honest man?

Happy Anniversary, my angel.

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