and I mean literally. It’s the third day of my latest bout of laryngitis, and the situation has yet again made clear to me that if the body says no—never mind the pleading and cajoling and the finger pointing at the schedule of classes that need to be taught and this week’s extra-curricular labor where I need to do most of the talking—well, it says no. The crazy thing about laryngitis is my body feels perfectly fine (that is, after a slight fever, which isn’t anything a pill and sleep can’t take care of, and despite the sniffles, which I find nothing more than annoying), only I have no voice and I can’t speak. There’s only so much charades and board work in class can do.
Work worries aside, I actually don’t mind the malady-imposed silence and consequent foreigner-in-one’s-own-land behavior, my choice gestures being the smile, the nod, the shrug, and the rolling of eyes. And so, at the post office to pick up my latest parcel of books, the conversation is short and sweet and successful. Wala kang tracking number? (shrug) Mahirap kasi hanapin ang parcel kung walang tracking number. (shrug) Kelangan kasi tignan isa-isa yung listahan kung walang tracking number. (smile) Pero sa bagay, ang tagal rin kasi ng padala ng notice na may parcel ka, ano? (nod) Hintay lang, ha, check ko. (smile) Eto, nahanap ko na. (smile-and-a-half) I suppose it helped that I didn’t at all use the rolling of eyes.
Because experience has taught me that it is agony to have no voice and not speak when the conversation is a riot, I skip Friday night drinks and go straight to bed. In the dark I flip my laptop open and decide to play some Joni (who, based on the last interview of her that I read, is cr-ay-zee, not that it matters) after ages of not playing Joni, whose voice can send me hurtling into my mid-twenties when she was all I listened to on my way to school each morning, and true enough, when Joni sings about her lonely road I am back in my boots and my coat and my gloves and my cap and I am running down the stairs and rushing to the bus stop, but not without pausing first to look up at the window of my second-floor apartment to wave at the cat who is sure to be sunning himself and staring straight back at me. Joni sings and out of her voice comes the image of that apartment from another place and another time, complete with the busted bedroom doorknob and the two non-functional fireplaces and the stained glass arch above the double doors to the balcony and the oven I switched on and kept open on particularly cold mornings. Now the cat is old and I am old(er) and the coat has been given away and the boots (thanks to several trips to Mr. Quickie) are still being worn and who knows who’s living in the apartment now? Joni sings and the song becomes a checklist of what I was, what I still am, what I am no longer: oh I love you when I forget about me (no) I want to wreck my stockings in some jukebox dive (yes) do you want to take a chance on maybe finding some sweet romance with me (sometimes) all I really really want our love to do is to bring out the best in me and in you too (yes) I want to talk to you (depends) I want to shampoo you (no) I want to renew you again and again (…) I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, looking for the key to set me free (yes) I want to knit you a sweater (not particularly) I want to write you a love letter (yes) I want to make you feel better I want to make you feel free (yes). Still mostly yes, again and again, several years and several apartments later. The song ends and the noise of the neighborhood takes over.