“The day I was born I was born free and that is my Privilege.”

The Tomato Tree
July 13, 2008, 7:52 am
Filed under: All That Jazz!, Backdrop, Tabloid | Tags: , , ,

A high school teacher used the tomato tree punishment to scare us off when we, her students, weren’t able to submit on time our assignments for her subject. She used to tell that she would hang us on a tomato tree for not doing what we were supposed to do. If I were a painter like Frida Kahlo, I want to illustrate that, a poor student being hanged on a tomato tree by her teacher, just imagine Coraline‘s other mother with black button eyes and cockroaches popping out of her mouth when she talks in Neil Gaiman’s story as the punisher-teacher. But no, take that thought out of your head as Ms. Padua is a soft-voiced, lenient teacher. When she thought her students were tired of the tomato tree punishment threat, she created a new one. You have an option to put a chicken feather on your head, mimicking the native Indians in America, and do a rain dance. Of course, we took that as a laugh, that it really isn’t a punishment, just a usual jest of hers. And one thing to remember about her, In class, when a student teases a boy to a girl, she had an anecdote, too. I remember she told us her idea of infatuation; that is, it only lasts for three seconds. That is how transient it is.

Standing still, I look at the sky, the clouds and how they move slowly. I imagine myself lying on a grass just staring at the ocean up above, contemplating, as far as I get the clouds to be a flying carpet and take me millions away from all my wee tribulations in life.

I look up on the ceiling from my post in our office and I see an opening. Just to make my usual day extraordinaire, I imagine myself to be Stephen King, changing a scene in my novel It. In lieu of hearing voices in the sinkhole while blood was flowing out off the faucet, a voice coming off on an opening in the ceiling followed by uneasy movements up there will send the heroine to unconsciousness.

I stare instead on the grocer’s ceiling while waiting for my turn in the baggage counter, ignoring the sound of acid drops in my intestines, the smell of cooked meat at the nearby rotisserie store, and getting myself a good grip as I was lost in translation with a daughter talking in Chinese to her mother who were next in line to me. I still remember clearly earlier that day, I checked my account and it just gave me a receipt saying “insufficient funds or funds not available.”

I glared at the huge signages at the grocer, hoping that it will give me a hint which shelf where the pesticide that my mother told me to buy was located. I passed through a queue of large shopping carts in the canned goods section, avoiding bumping into a saleslady offering a free taste with the fear of getting the whole plate. I helplessly eyed at the yogurt on a chiller, hoping to buy one after reading on an e-source that it would take your stress out, reasoning out its nutritional content, which, I dare not thought off anymore at that moment as a war was going on in my belly. I looked through every shelves and I remember young Marjane Satrapi riding a shopping cart, passing through every shelves, while her mother mediated between two women quarreling for an item, each of them stating that she found it first. In Persepolis, a film depicting Iran in the time of war, a life story of Marjane Satrapi, an almost empty grocer was shown. Food was scarce. Each individual was struggling to survive. When Marjane’s parents sent her to France to study, avoiding war, to be a liberal and cultured individual, as her mother wanted her to be, she made going to the grocer as her hobby. In France, there were no empty shelves, no two women quarreling over a can of milk and calling each other a bitch, far from what they had in Iran.

I have a constant fear of that happening in my own country. I put the problem of drought and famine on my shoulder. I forgot my own hunger for a while after recalling a documentary about Filipino children in provinces who were happy just with boiled root crops as their lunch and then frown after eating their share and thinking when their stomach will be filled again, maybe after a day or two. Before, nations are engaging into war to get hold of lands with abundant resources. Now I fear of war triggered by one’s desire to attain the remaining resources. An exaggerated picture of the two women in the grocer shown in Persepolis.

After that thought, I felt the war in my belly has not yet ceased. I was paying at the cashier, and I stared at my wallet containing an amount just enough to pay for the goods and my allowance till the next payday. The woman next to me, opened her purse, then her wallet. Unintentionally, I got a glimpse of my whole month salary in there. I looked away. Then I saw a hand placed on the cashier table a big Pringles can with others snacks. Again, I looked away and gave the few pennies I have to the cashier. I went out of the store, walked as fast as I could to the terminal and comfortably sat on the FX. A couple with their child got inside the car. After fixing their things, the young mother let her son sit on her lap and eat the Shake Shake fries that they bought. I fancied of going out of the car, getting to McDonald’s and buying myself some nuggets. But I just looked at the car’s roof and on the handrail, just at the top of my head, I found a white rosary.  It is innocently staring at me.

On my way home, I stared at the sky, the clouds as they were slowly moving and I thought of the tomato tree punishment. Looking at it, you alone will never be punished. The tomato’s delicate stem will break bearing your weight on it and you will fall on the ground. Emotions make you heavier. Anxiety makes you heavier. Pessimism makes you heavier. Cynicism makes you heavier. Nihilism makes you heavier. You would want to hang on the tomato tree and watch it bear fruits and those fruits turn red than make the tomato lose a stem and you falling on the ground.


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