Image by Arthur Rachbauer from Unsplash
Today, I thought of water and the lapping of waves against the shore. Tides that push and pull seaweed that cling to a wall of glittering rocks. Being in the water, in the sea, I remember how it is to be presided over by great currents and tiny ones. Little whirlpools that form between my fingers as I sweep my arms against a bigger tide; my entire body rocking with a current I am all to aware can take me in a swoop. Swimming is like surrendering to the shimmering stillness of relief and sleep; where there is also the peril of drowning.
What I have most days are impressions of what is happening in the world. This week, I have been following news about the death of George Floyd, a man from Minnesota who had suffocated and died under the knee of a police officer. His last words were, “Please. Please. I can’t breathe. Please. I can’t move”. The morning I learned of the news, it seemed to echo news of police brutality from my own country—Kian delos Santos, a seventeen year old boy shot execution style by police in a dark alley in Caloocan City, Metro Manila in 2017, whose last words were “Please, sir don’t” and begged to be let go because he had a test tomorrow; Winston Ragos, a military man who had PTSD, killed at a checkpoint by police officers in Quezon City. I don’t know if anybody remembers or had noted what his last words were. There are so many more names that come up in my timeline, and names that won’t even reach me. In the past week, the New York Times had also released a front page of all the names of those who died of COVID-19. All that were names were once people. I zoomed in on the NYT front page and read a few descriptions attached to the names. I found one Mr. Robert Barghaan, 88, who “could fix almost anything”.
These last words, and brief obituaries are utterances that are also like prayers, directed to something past perceiving. In a post shared on my Facebook timeline is a laborer who had been displaced by the poorly implemented lockdown, he shared his story and ended it by telling that he looked up to the sky and implored “Diyos ko, baguhin niyo po sana ang tadhana ko”, “My God, please change my fate”. I hope for those words to rise like a tall wave and crash to the shore, sweeping through boulevards and streets, then dragging back into the dark water every familiar and pleasurable thing. I hope that at a point when suffering and injustice is exposed, normal would become meaningless and undesirable. Normal times made for widespread abuse, it is exhausting; personally, I never wanted to be normal. If it is weird to hope for progressive societies, then there is nothing more desirable than being weird and having unmarketable ideas and thoughts. For now, these utterances like prayers approach and recede like a tide, creating a rhythm to the days that drag on.
Something that should have been obvious to me but wasn’t was the origin of the word ‘glamour’ (or, ‘glamor’), which came to English from Scots, which is English as spoken in Scotland. Around the 18th century, the word grammar was altered and became ‘glammer’ or glamour, which meant ‘to cast a spell’. In studying the Classics, written works in Greek and Latin, grammar meant both the study of language and literature; in medieval Latin, grammar or grammatica was associated with scholarship related to magic and the occult, such as astrology and alchemy.
I think about the language and cadence of final words and obituaries. The utterances that are like prayers are also spells.
In terror is glamour.