The Fates

Three college girls who did not know each other dreamt three dreams in three consecutive nights. The dream came after each girl in her own turn learned of Ka Fort’s death at the fiery hands of Nestlé. They heard of her in three different languages.

One of the them, for example, heard the bloody thud of felled Fortuna by reading the sprawl of print in a flyer that landed flat on her face after an activist drew it up overnight, passed it to a girl with an effected accent of several American teen flicks, who rejected it and let it fly and went back to her friends speaking singsong against the halitosis of activist suitors.

It was a marshmallow
Pillow to begin with.
Why then these dreams of shrieks

The flyer about Ka Fort was one of only twenty because the graduating student who wrote it wanted it to be brief and bereft of emotion, she being too tired of feeling and full rather of the hunger for something to happen. The educational discussions were slow, the reading of poetry and theory was slow, the campus paper and the pep and push of her editor, slow. Rising smoke, and weighing, neighing booze, and upbeat songs, all went slow. Even rallies were long and winding crawls.

She first heard the news of Ka Fort from her boyfriend, a smooth-talking college instructor whose perspiration she thought sickly sweet and with whom sex was fantastic but, come to think of it, slow. The activist went to the restroom to find out if she really felt anything for this Fortuna, one she met only once and in passing. No one heard the kicks or the crash. A cubicle door was unhinged that day.

At home, she recalled the clouts of truncheons against several of her afternoons and the more subtle showers of water cannons. She just judged them too lax, like the serpentine unwinding of nostalgia where the past loses its venom, or the feline stretch from a forgotten dream, or the caprine rumination where beard touches grass until each hair has shriveled each grass has dried. She thought of her coming degree in philosophy, a career in the call center industry where her megaphone-honed voice would serve the needs of foul-mouthed Americans and companies that were all over the world, and all business, and all Nestlé. That, or a teaching job, like that of her boyfriend, where she would first be loud then mellowed by gradations of introspection, generating the fancies of the impressionable young on the surface of her sun-baked skin. There, yes, where she would teach them either to stand in protest or to lie prostrate with cutting-edge tech earphones to receive multinational curses.

She did not consider heading a union or a people’s organization. She realized that she never thought of these options and she wondered why. The dream of going full-time, she could encourage it in others, not in herself.

She wrote her five-part piece, short and sweet. The title was “Beast Milk”. Ten bond paper leaves left in her printer. The piece ate up half a page and so she had twenty copies. These, she decided, would be her last words for the movement. She will graduate from her alma mater with portals no less hallowed than other universities, from her boyfriend no less rosy smelling than others, from a movement coeval with other movements in passion and futility. Her last words. And let the four winds take them where they would. October, she would graduate by October.

She pissed in a bowl. Then she poured it in a Gatorade bottle. Nestlé’s available bottles were of plastic and the senior thought they were not as, well, energetic. This she saved for later. For what exactly, she did not know. Maybe it was expurgation. Or, even old creeds must be hermetically sealed, lodged in a safe place. She wondered if snakes went back for the skin they shed, she answered herself: why the hell would they? She kept the bottle in a palochina chest in a room to where it would be forgotten for many years, only to be rediscovered when the senior already had a family, a husband at work, and an apartment in California, that state of many colors.

That night, her dream was a dream of fingers, hands with seven or eight fingers each. They were all nipples. Nipples with fingernails. Fingernails with maroon nail polish. She woke up, tried to write her dream down, failed to remember it, and wrote rather that she felt “like the ghostly vowel between the S and the M in the word nihilism. Or the H that separates (or necessitates?) the two first I’s.”

Ringing beneath wholesome,
Wholehearted, oh! wholesale,
Giggles of children? Why

Is it true, the freshman asked, is it true that a soul leaves the body to be reborn? How is this consistent with the population explosion? What if the soul took more than one body? Keanu, Keanu, Keanu! I remember this from The Little Buddha! I don’t remember though. Was it in that movie too? Was it there, this idea that the soul could enter a body that was already alive with the soul with which it was born? I mean, if you question the one is to one ratio of the soul, you could entertain other concepts like a body having parts of different souls, like containers with mixed liquids. And do they all have to enter at the same time, at birth? What if there was a delay like, what was that film? Robert Downey Jr.? Four souls? One body? Taking turns? A delay. A delay.

So she went on and on until the flyer hit her, full in the face, exactly like how important objects enter movie scenes.

There were three languages, the first from the voice of a sweet and sour boyfriend and this second from half a bond paper that flew into a freshman’s face. She read that it was about the tragic gunning down of a tragic woman in tragic times and thought it joyfully significant that it struck her face at that instant when she was burning at the thought of souls! She did not see where it could have come from. People were all moving away, chattering away, all with their backs to her. But, after reading the piece over and over, she knew she was the most important girl in the world, at that very second, at that height of noon, in a personal moment of silence when destiny came-a-calling and deigned her the most the person to talk to. And these were destiny’s words: Beast Milk.

“Everybody had someone to speak to during those seconds,” she, many years later, would answer an interview about her sense of purpose, “I was foolish, yes, but I felt I was speaking to my destiny, or that I was being spoken to. I don’t remember what went through my mind before then, unimportant things, maybe, crushes or class schedules? But when that page hit my face, the words came up at me! They were alive, a voice! and I was all ears. Things went fast from then on.” The memoir was part of an anthology of interviews with wives of politicians. The editors unanimously considered her presence in the collection as the book’s most marketable factor, its selling point. By then, the freshman knew herself as Outstanding Activist, Broadcast Journalist turned Actress, a distinguished and handsome Senator’s Wife, Founder of the Fortune Foundation, and a prized Board Member of what was more or less the company that bore the name of Nestlé.

But that night, after the landing of flyer on her face, she lay snug in her dormitory bed. She had already attended a cultural night of known leftists. The theme was indigenous peoples. She made contact. Names and cellphone numbers were exchanged. It was just a matter of time. She dreamed of smoke, a thick smoke. It was palpable, it was living, it rose like a skyscraper. Then an explosion. The smoke came before the bang, the smoke came before the bang, the smoke came before…

When she woke up, she thought it a fitful sleep, and it is true, it is true, the freshman said in reply to the dream that was fading into reality. This is the first day of the rest of my restless life.

The ice whip of cream, blood
Milked by the beast mothers?
Drink nothing. First explain

It was a graphic language and the junior was the first to hear of it. She heard of Ka Fort riddled by bullets on a couch before the language of the college instructor’s conviction, before the language of a printed, flying tongue.

The word came through the screen, attended by images. Thus she received the word of somebody dying – was it killed? – so what? another one of them? because of some stupid affair in front of some stupid company the name of which was never mentioned and, well, just let the Channel Two soaps to run, the less said the better. As the news was damned, so was the Nestlé commercial that followed.

What she knew was that she wanted to work in this channel as a reporter or a star. What she knew was that she had the looks for it. And because she was in the premier university, in a speech course, in the right circles, in bed with a law student from a successful political breed, she knew that she was bound for the public.

The junior dreamt of milk. Her skin was pure and her hair, white feathers. There were three of them, milk goddesses. She drank it, the second one pissed it. The third drank the milk piss. Or she did. One of them tore hair and bled milk from the scalp. And the white blood was a swirl in the night. Or it spelled the name of some company.

There was a spasm in the lips of the junior. Her head jerked, automatically but belatedly shrugging off the lost motion of her lip. She woke up, startled. She gargled with thrice her usual amount of mouthwash.

At school, her instructor taught the class to aspirate their T’s and P’s in a soundproofed room. I could have him, she thought. Just a word from me and he’d be silly putty in my hands. If only he wasn’t in such a dead-end job! If I had his speech talents, I’d not waste them in those rallies of his!

After class, she went to the restroom and said the word “aspirate” in the mirror while waiting for her friends to finish powdering a blush onto their cheeks. She aspirated where she thought appropriate. Then her friends laughed at what she was doing and she laughed with them. A spasm jolted her lips and this stopped the laughter.

They went out. A senior, a recognized leftist leader, passed her one of her flyers. She threw it the moment she received it, but did not find a trace of dismay in the senior’s face. In fact, it seemed like she expected the dismissal of her handout. Singsong, she railed against the breath of her activist suitors.

Years later, the spasm would come one last time during her usual coffee on her usual break when she looked out the window with her usual blank stare. She worked in the staff of one of the PR staffers in a company that, more or less, once competed under the banner of a nest, the flag of a mother bird nurturing her young. The spasm startled her, de ja vu! Then an explosion of shattered glass.

The endless recurrence
Of silence with the full,
Tasteless faith of being

While transferring her old journals to more durable boxes, she who was once the senior discovered an old page that she remembered as one of her last college pages, one out of twenty. This impelled her to leave California with no clear explanation to her husband. All she left him was a willful look, an expression he never knew her face to have. She went home, lingered in her old room, touching old books, looking for something, and she did not know what she entered the room for until she came upon a palochina chest. She did not know exactly why she wanted to go back to her homeland when she already considered the States home, but when she found the bottle she knew what to do with it. She went to a building in Makati, one she knew was once called Nestlé. She hurled the bottle with all her strength.

The bottle flew higher than the senior thought it would, but not high enough to reach the top floors of the important people. It crashed against the window of the cubicle of a staff member of a PR staff member. The window was also a wall and therefore was composed of thick, sturdy material. Only the glass of the bottle shattered and the cap and fragment came down on an exiting car, startling the driver to a stop, throwing his charge – a prized Board Member and a Senator’s Wife – hard against the windshield.

But she who was once the senior already expected that nothing would happen despite what was to her the clear fact that something had to be done and the much-clearer fact that she had to do something. Thus, after she threw the bottle of her urine, she ran as fast and as far as her middle-aged bones could take her. Had she lingered to observe the arc of her bottle, she would have been surprised for it was much too high for any throw she could manage. Had she eyes to penetrate the tint, she would have found that the bottle crashed at a point where there was a face. Had she eyes outside herself to remark on her own run, she would have seen herself going faster and longer than what was possible with the speed or breath in her. At that moment, she had more than when she was at her prime, her prime being her senior year when all went so slow for her, when a dream of maroon nipple-nails came to her. She returned to her family, stayed for four years. After that, it was a family she considered full-formed and affluent. She left everything, clothes, boxes, plus a long letter glowing and flowing with pride and memory. It ended with “I have to follow somebody” which, for some reason, the husband never believed was another love, never, not even at his deathbed. After the four years in California, the senior disappeared, never to be known again in her previous name. She always remembered the throw, never heard what happened after it because she had long ago sworn off the old habit of news, and never recalled the time when she wrote herself off as just an H between two I’s.

She who was once a freshman was dead on arrival after an orange bottle cap and a shower of shards and urine fell on the face of her windshield, a surprise in the height of the noon sun. The swirl of her dying thoughts, a string of successes, old incoherent but soulful ideas, all swelled as pearls and flattened, merged into a flying page that went through her face and escaped with her breath.

She who was once a junior with a forgotten accent saw an explosion of glass and liquid that shattered her vista of sunny sky and skyscrapers. The scatter and splash woke her, as if from a long dream that was a chain of unfinished dreams.

She followed the brief investigation. The authorities noted that out of three main glass pieces, the windshield, the office window, and the bottle, only the bottle was destroyed. Indeed, neither the windshield nor the window bore a scratch. Not even the impact of the important wife’s head marked the inside of the windshield. The doctors said that although the concussions were significant, “it was, in all probability, the shock that killed her.” The driver was pardoned by the Senator in a public display of magnificent sorrow and magnanimous pardon. Superstitious, he withdrew the family stocks from the company and an unprecedented chain of internal events that followed irreparably crippled it.

She who was once a junior with a dream of three godesses and a reality of three spasms went home one evening, her head full of facts gathered from an investigation, some other things she learned from the internet about the history of her company, the old name of the company strangely that corresponded to something she felt she already knew, and also some related poems and stories. She also brought home a decision. Her youngest son remarked on the glow she had about her. Nonsense, she said, and she told him that she had enlisted in the reformation of an old union. An activist! My mother! her son teased. You and other, what did you say? eighteen employees? all against the Establishment!

“Establishment” was a quaint word, something from his history lessons, too old, even for his mother whose word was “aspiration.” Naturally, the joke was lost on her. She had learned the grace of retort when laughed at. Shut up! she said with her middle-aged smile. Just hurry, finish your studies, and catch me if I fail.

What she did not know was that she was never bound to be the one to fall.

Awake. Red and quiet,
Ka Fort, in old peace, rest.
The bullets in the milk
Will never permit sleep.

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