A White Rice Christmas
When I was in Senior High, I isolated myself in class.
I would be terrified about interacting with any of my classmates. Even in lectures, I would hold back from reciting even when I knew my answer was correct. Anytime I pushed myself to step up, I was stopped by the fear of what my classmates thought of me.
Soon the school would require us to have a Christmas potluck party in the Cory Aquino Democratic Space (CADS). It felt like high school. My class needed volunteers, so I volunteered for rice. My mom always pushed for me to bring rice to these parties—it was easy to make and bring. I didn’t want to fade in the background again, I wanted to play my part. However, I still remember my fingers trembling with fear while I packed the rice. What if no one brought food? Will I be made fun of? Who would even want me there?
I walked to CADS that morning with a heavy heart, a shaky Uniqlo bag, and a Tupperware full of rice. I remembered there wasn’t much food at our table: a pizza, a ton of barbeque, and my rice—there weren’t even utensils or plates. Compared to the other tables, it felt pathetic. I heard someone ask, “Who brought the rice?” I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I wanted to just walk away and eat in Agno like I always do. Then someone opened all the boxes and the class converged for our meal.
They picked the rice with their hands and ate barbeque. The pizza was gone in an instant, but people still stuck around for the meat. Some improvised by using the empty barbeque sticks as chopsticks and others grasped it with their fingers. We started laughing about our situation, mouths full of rice. People took as much rice as they can. Soon they left one by one, somewhat satisfied, or in search for more food. Either way, they parted with a smile. I quickly tucked my rice away and parted as well.
I walked away with a smile, too. In my anxiety-induced illusion, I thought I would have left everyone hungry. How important is rice? Plain white rice on a table—easily forgotten when there but missed if it is gone.
I would later go home and eat the leftover rice (I was too lazy to wait for new rice). Someone was fed by this rice—it saved money, and it was there for people in an otherwise lackluster party. I can only hope I made them happier for at least a moment—which is what Christmas is for.
The Ghosts of Christmas Past
It was snowing, which was strange. It hadn’t snowed on campus for decades.
We few moved along the floors, watching the final throng of students and faculty walking along and as we did it dawned on us again, always again, that we’d be alone for the week.
We few walked into the rooms we always used, the tunes we always mused to being frozen in time.
We could never leave, but that was fine.
We could never breathe, but that was fine.
Gliding along the hillsides of academe, we floated to the rooftop, telling stories each.
Floors upon floors, stratified with age, our clothes and our faces being timestamps in place of the dates we were given, the last years that we faced.
A séance was waiting for us by the rooftop. A view was said to die for, more often more literally than not.
We few gathered around, coated by the air given off by the gusts that quilled us in prayer.
Regrets to fade away, bodies undisplayed, texts regaled, tests reclaimed.
Today was a special day, a day like any other. Cue a caravan passing by, 12 cousins with their lovers.
Cue a car blaring down the street, desperate to get home.
Cue a couple leaving late, bodies marked in fleshy tones.
We few gathered round the table as few of us faded, ghosts melting to the past once their thoughts were all sated.
Lingering behind, the rest of us glowed in the quiet that only intimate communities know.