Monday, December 26, 2005

Dead Stars by Paz Marquez Benitez

One advantage of having a father whose undergraduate course at UST was Philosophy & Letters is that we had access to the best in Philippine literature at an early age. One of the short stories that captured so much emotion in very few words for me was "Dead Stars" by Paz Marquez Benitez, which my siblings and I were required to read from Papa's Storymasters series.

While surfing on this Christmas night, I chanced upon a webpage, "The Best of Philippine Short Stories". I quote my favorite part below. It still speaks strongly to me, of staring at stars and waiting for something to happen, only to realize that the dream you've had for so long does not yield the perfect happiness you had hoped for. Something like that. The original words sound much better.

She had not changed much--a little less slender, not so eagerly alive, yet something had gone. He missed it, sitting opposite her, looking thoughtfully into her fine dark eyes. She asked him about the home town, about this and that, in a sober, somewhat meditative tone. He conversed with increasing ease, though with a growing wonder that he should be there at all. He could not take his eyes from her face. What had she lost? Or was the loss his? He felt an impersonal curiosity creeping into his gaze. The girl must have noticed, for her cheek darkened in a blush.

Gently--was it experimentally?--he pressed her hand at parting; but his own felt undisturbed and emotionless. Did she still care? The answer to the question hardly interested him.

The young moon had set, and from the uninviting cot he could see one half of a star-studded sky.

So that was all over.

Why had he obstinately clung to that dream?

So all these years--since when?--he had been seeing the light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens.

An immense sadness as of loss invaded his spirit, a vast homesickness for some immutable refuge of the heart far away where faded gardens bloom again, and where live on in unchanging freshness, the dear, dead loves of vanished youth.

The website I copied it from said that "[t]his is the 1925 short story that gave birth to modern Philippine writing in English".

It just might give birth again to serious writing in this blog.

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