While wait­ing

Sun.Star Pampanga - - STORIES! - MAYETTE Q. TABADA

READ­ING is a form of wait­ing. Re­cently, I set­tled down to read while wait­ing for my son to fetch me from a mall.

Long af­ter I met friends, long af­ter the mall closed, long af­ter the café took fi­nal or­ders, long af­ter taxis left the queue with in­de­fati­ga­ble mid­night ex­plor­ers, I turned the pages of my book, which I bought when I de­cided to wait.

It rained steadily, mis­er­ably the whole day, which cur­tailed some of my plans. Since com­mut­ing home a bridge away was bound to be an in­ter­minable, mis­er­able wait, I opted for an in­ter­minable, plea­sur­able one: read­ing un­til my son’s work was done.

If there is any­thing grad­u­ate school taught me, it is to read with pur­pose. It is the same les­son mid­dle age teaches me: one can­not read ev­ery­thing ever writ­ten; there­fore, one must choose, in keep­ing with a rea­son­able es­ti­mate of one’s life­span, the writ­ing one spends time with.

Life­long read­ers may want to in­ter­ject at this point to un­der­score the in­es­timable com­plex­ity of what seems to be a de­cep­tively sim­ple in­sight: how does one choose what to read?

A life­time of read­ing is also wait­ing time to seek and find my­self as a reader. In the first 50 years of my life, I read what was re­quired, what was avail­able, what was given, what was free, what could be bor­rowed. Most of all, what I wanted to read.

Look­ing back on the pa­per­backs, text­books, clas­sics, fic­tion, li­brary books, pornog­ra­phy, comic books, news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines, man­i­festos, po­etry, and Jin­gle mu­sic chord books I picked up, I think, fore­most, I en­joyed my­self.

I also won­dered what I was miss­ing by be­ing such a he­do­nist.

When I hit the mid­dle of a cen­tury, I re­al­ized I couldn’t pru­dently ex­pect an­other 50 years to fool around with. Be­sides, even if I wanted to, I quickly fall asleep now when read­ing in bed, roll over too many eye­glasses, ban­ish pee­vishly to the bot­tom of the tot­ter­ing pile those writ­ers whose main thought I can­not fer­ret out af­ter so many reread­ing, and so on and so forth.

Yet, mid­dle age has slowed me down, too, to ap­pre­ci­ate more the turn­ing of a book’s last page. In­stead of a fi­esta, I gladly set­tle for si­esta, grate­ful al­ready when I fin­ish a chap­ter or two be­fore doz­ing off.

The book I chose to wait with on that evening vigil was VJ Campi­lan’s “All My Lonely Is­lands.”

It is a book set in the Global South: Batanes, Manila, Bangladesh. It is writ­ten by a Filip­ina. And while read­ing the novel in the com­pany of other women check­ing their phones while wait­ing for their part­ners, I dis­cov­ered that the nar­ra­tor is named Crisanta, my sis­ter’s name­sake.

As a nod to my younger read­ing self, I am still cu­ri­ous about the world I have al­ways en­joyed.

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