Juan Luna’s Introduction

Today I squeezed onto the crowded bus,
dragging my bag past feet and wheels, settling
finally into the only open seat,
next to a twinkling tiny brown woman.
She nodded as I sat down, leaned over
conspiratorially, and said, “So!
You like Luna?” “Luna?” I asked, baffled.
“Juan Luna! You are reading about him!”
“Oh, the book!” I flip it over, confirm
the cover does indeed say “Juan Luna.”
“You know the new book store? Literati?”
I ask, waving my hands vaguely towards it.
“Of course,” she nods, serenely. “I have asked,
for many months — 6? 8? — I’ve been asking
for them to stock the books of Luisa
“Ah, you read Luisa?”
“Luisa is … incredible,” I rave,
“I love her work, always so vivid, so
intense, so vibrant. We know each other
on Facebook.”
“Really,” she says, “You know her?”
I nod. “On Facebook?” I nod. “Hmmm. I know
Luisa,” she says, “In real life. We’ve met.
She’s a Philippina.” My eyes go wide.
“Really?! Well, yesterday her books arrived
at the bookstore. I bought two, and left one,
so maybe someone else will learn about her.”

“Thank you,” she says, firmly, “Luisa is
quite good.” I pass over the book, but she
waves it away. “I don’t read much these days.
That’s why I go to the doctor. My eyes.”
So I read to her, on the bus, “Luces.”
“I have been reading about the Malolos
Convention … “
“Ah!” she interrupts, “Since you
are reading about Malolos, did you
know there is a lecture today, at noon?
You might find it interesting. Since you
are reading about Malolos.” “How?!”
“I was a faculty at the college,”
she explains. “What did you teach?” “Philippine
language and culture.” “Ah, that explains how
you know Luisa.”
She smiles, and nods,
rummages in her bag. “Here!” She pushes
a bus schedule at me. “Write down your name,
your email address. I want to talk more.”
She can’t find a pen, I can’t find a pen.
Then she does, and I write. “What is your name?”
I ask. “Deling.” Then, tentatively, “How
is she? Luisa? It’s been a while since
I’ve seen her, now that I’m retired.”
I describe her new poetry, the blog,
her recordings, video, her friendship
with Dave, who introduced us. “I’m sorry,
what is your name again? I’m bad with names.”

“Deling.” “Could you write it down? I’m not good
with this.”
She does. I continue reading
aloud: “gold-tasseled menus … Cocido
Filipino … sardinas secas … straw …
glaciers … mestizas … fathered by friars …”

and at last “los indios bravos.” Both
of us smile at the end. I reach past her
to pull the cord. “I’m glad to have met you.”
“Me, too. What is your name again? I want
to remember, to say hi to Luisa
for you.”
“Deling,” she says. “That’s my nickname.”
Later at the noon presentation, this:
“May I livetweet your talk?” [pause] “Oh, wow,
that’s never happened before.” “How do you
pronounce your name, Kale like the vegetable?”

“No, I pronounce it Kah-lay.” “I’m here now
because of this book, and this poem …”
“Oh, yeah,
I know Luisa. I should read that book.”

True story, lightly edited. I really WANT to put up another in the Unmentionables series, but … I have a super busy day, and I’m not sure I’ll have time to finish the next one in the series, and at least this way I’ve fulfilled my NaPoWriMo obligation!


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