By: Raymund Fernandez January 10,2016 - 02:45 AM

The Turtles bar and book cafe is in a perennial half dark. Let us, for now, remember ourselves here. And him with us, bottles of beer on the table. The table normally sits four but we see more than double that number sitting with us. And at the other table, more friends. The smoke rises into haze, a fog to envelope the room, to make time seem to move on its own pace, so that the night would last till forever. Sa kahangturan, like the alcohol. But we are only all drunk and getting drunker still. So why not talk about art? Why not talk theater?

And if on an ordinary day we might wonder what all this is for. On this night, the question is not pertinent. Or to be more exact: The question is not needed. On this night, we know exactly what art is for. The purpose of art and theater is this. This. This thing that is all about us. This time and place. This room. This table. This fog. This acrid smell of burning tobacco and other stuff. This smell of life. This night, burning seemingly till forever; this beer, making us all drunk, but never too drunk. We have been at it too long, the beer does not destroy us, does not put us to sleep. It will kill us eventually. But not tonight.

And just like art and theater.We have been at it too long. It cannot destroy us anymore. We only get drunk with it. And that is what we want: to make us drunk with it. To make us forget what we think about when we are not drunk with it, thinking about school, or work, or funding, or money, food on the table, how to send the kids to school, how to pay rent. All these, they are for tomorrow when we are not this drunk.

This night and this room are impregnable of these things.

Long ago in a time we can hardly remember, we worried if we could ever come to here, become “artists”. How stupid we must have been. As if all these comes like a choice. There was no point of choice, no fork on the road where we told ourselves to take the one “less travelled”. We fell into it the same way we fell into love if we ever fell into it at all.

And if in the course of our lives people ever looked at us with an eye something of envy for the kind of life we fell into, we might have felt a bit incredulous. This is not, after all, the easy life. It was and always has been difficult, made even more difficult by the fact we required to make it more difficult still, sometimes for the most absurd reasons.

Let’s face it. We pursued genius. Genius is a whip used on  ourselves.  And all for that small moment when the act of whipping ends and it is up to the audience to clap their hands or not. And many times, we felt them wondering whether they should.

Nothing for us was better than a confused audience at the end of the show. Ordinary artists needed the applause. Alex was not an ordinary artist. He was an experimentalist. The applause was nice. The confusion? Even better.

Confusion is a lovely addiction, 50 percent  going by a formula, 50 percent going by the random, 100 percent no script. How many people of theater, how many artists, have the courage for that?
Alex was not one to pander to the audience. And yet, he lived in a place where pandering to the audience was the definition of art itself. Please the audience. Let them applaud. Let them come to the next show. Let them fund it. Grandness is the final goal of all these, the grander, the better.

Not so, for Alex; for whom the end result of all these was art. And one cannot define art correctly entirely. Art is this and that on this and that night or day. Art does not stay the same. Art is an amorphous monument that springs out of nowhere and in the least expected places. Art is a lover to love and hate, sometimes all at the same time. Art is losing one’s virginity in a drunken spur of a moment with a drunken someone whom we might want to forget by daybreak. Art is a drunken conversation.

And you must remember this night, this conversation at the cafe, when inside a small instant we forgot the rest of what was out there, the rest of the world. The stage absorbed us this way. Who remembers who the player, the audience, the speaker, the listener? Who threw away the script?

Alex had it all in his head.

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TAGS: Alex, haze, less traveled, smoke rises, Turtles bar

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