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Love's Objects

Love's gift cannot be given /
It waits to be accepted

Rabindanath Tagore






Inventory of things on my bathroom dresser:

  1. Absurdly expensive Denman brush that I rarely use
  2. Free hair comb from Philippine Airlines which I do use for my beard
  3. Peso coins
  4. My friend's pocket watch that he gave me the moment I said that I have been wanting one for a long time
  5. Nail cutter
  6. Something to help me sleep
  7. Malaysian ringgit left over from a trip to Kula Lumpur last month with my girlfriend and her friends
  8. Luxury watch from my parents given when I was in high school
  9. Ashtray I took as my own from my sister's room
  10. Nike baller ID bands I bought on sale in San Francisco (which some people tell me are unfashionable as there are many fakes in the market)
  11. Empty container of cotton buds
  12. Perfume
  13. Zippo lighter my dad gave because it had an American eagle on it (which reminded him of my alma mater)
  14. Self-stick index cards I keep handy if ever I think of an idea or read a quotation
  15. Batmobile scale model from my Ninang
  16. Digital clock
I realized that the said items can be grouped as follows: necessities or excesses, and remembrances or gifts. Those that I need, e.g., cotton buds, nail clippers, coins, clock, index cards, sleeping pills, were usually bought by myself and did not require much thought or contemplation whether to buy them or not. Of my vanities, e.g., perfume, baller ID bands, Denman brush, it is safe to say that I spent some good money on them and gave them some thought; but it is another question whether I do in fact use them or not (I think I used them when they were still new).

But all the rest are there because they are either signs or symbols. Tokens or remembrances such as the Malaysian ringgit, the Zippo lighter, my sister's ashtray, or a Rolex watch, are signs which point to other realities, e.g., a vacation remembered, a school that was home, a sister who smokes like me, or the generosity of my parents. We more often than not use them because not only are they practical but also because they are valuable in that they have become invested with deeper realities such as love, happiness, an other. These are the presents we receive from our loved ones, the kind of which we get on birthdays and Christmas, the kind of which we take home from a trip as a souvenir or the reason why we take pictures. They stand on their own but they subsist in relation to an other. This is why we keep them.

Yet that leaves me with two items unaccounted for: the Batmobile from my Ninang and the pocket watch from my friend Bhonny. The first was a present for my birthday and the other was given with no special occasion--just when we were drinking out. The first was, my guess is, expensive and given much thought--my uncle bought a separate crystal view case for it which he had to first measure to make sure the car fit; the second was something you can get for a few hundred pesos in any tiangge. The first was a symbol--like the Bat symbol which shoots through the air of a dark Gotham night--which stood for myself and my other persona I so darkly hide like the Dark Knight; the other was not a sign that pointed to myself but a symbol of a friend who gave the watch he used everyday until that night he handed it over to me. The first was a lovely gift; the other, a gift of love.

There are around three other luxury watches in my jewelry box, all of which, because I can never afford to buy one myself, have been given by my parents throughout the years. Yet this pocket watch that I do not even use stands more than the other watches as a gift that was purely given for no reason at all, that is, without why. It was given in an open-air bar over sinuglaw and cheesesticks; it did not come in a large box or worldwide warranty much less with bows and ribbons. And, what really struck me with that gesture was, it came from a friend who never gave his mother or brother a gift on Christmas, and who did not know how to say a word of gratitude because he never received anything from a father who left him when he was still a child.

A pure gift: that which is given without remainder or without cause or reason; that which lets the giver disappear behind it; that which not only is invested with value but transgresses any value to become invaluable; that which is not only kept because it reminds us of a deeper reality but is treasured even if the reality behind it is long gone. Like the record-breaking 756th home run ball which Barry Bonds, in one mighty swing, gave to an unknown man on the stands.

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