Raqib

Stefani J. Alvarez

(Saudi Arabia)


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Translated by Alton Melvar M. Dapanas

Nasa kamay ko noon ang mga kuwento ni Alice Munro sa kanyang Dear Life. Delayed ang flight ng Saudia papuntang Dammam mula Riyadh. Magkatabi tayo sa upuan. Suot mo ang isang puting sapatos na Lacoste. Kanina ko pa tinititigan ang iyong relos. Hindi ko nais malaman ang brand. Kundi nais kong malaman ang dahilan kung bakit panay ang sipat mo sa oras. 

Isang oras ang ating hinintay bago tuluyang nag-anunsyo ang kapitan na magti-take off na. Dumagundong ang eroplano at handa na itong lumaya sa alapaap. Nag-abot ang ating siko. Nanginig ang upuan. Sinabayan iyon ng aking puso. Naramdaman ko ang paglapat pa ng iyong braso sa gilid ng aking braso. Idiniin ko ang armrest. Napahigpit naman ang hawak mo sa dulo. 

Nagsimulang umugong nang mas malakas. Nakatanaw ako sa labas. Hindi upang tumakas sa  mga sandaling iyon kundi gustong-gusto kong manatili.

Kulay tubig-baha ang napakalawak na disyerto. Nasisilip ko iyon sa bintana. Kasinkulay ng suot mong khaki na pantalon. Ngayon ko lang din napansin na parehong stripes ang suot natin. Hindi ko ito makakalimutan.

*****

In my hands, Alice Munro’s short story collection Dear Life. Saudia’s flight to Dammam from Riyadh is delayed. We sit next to each other. You sport a pair of white Lacoste shoes. For a little while now, I’ve been staring at your wristwatch. I’m not interested in the brand. What I’m intrigued about is why you’re always sneaking a look at it.

We stand by for an hour before the captain announces, at last, that we’re about to take off. The plane rumbles, ready to break free from the clouds. Our elbows come into contact. Our seats quiver, as well as my heart. I feel your arm against mine. I lower the armrest, your hands now clenched at its edge. 

The whooshing sound grows louder. I peek at the view outside. Not to flee from these shared moments when what I desire, truth be told, is to stay. 

Outside, the infinite desert is glossed with the color of floodwaters. I can behold it through the porthole. The same tint as your khaki pants. Only now, I notice that we are both wearing stripes. This, I’ll never forget.

Stefani J. Alvarez

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.

Alton Melvar M. Dapanas

is an

Assistant Nonfiction Editor for Panorama.

Alton Melvar M Dapanas (they/them), essayist, poet, and translator from the southern Philippines, is the author of In the Name of the Body: Lyric Essays (Canada: Wrong Publishing, 2023) and Towards a Theory on City Boys: Prose Poems (UK: Newcomer Press, 2021). Published from South Africa to Japan, from France to Australia, and translated into Chinese and Swedish, their latest works have appeared in World Literature Today, BBC Radio 4, Oxford Anthology of Translation, Sant Jordi Festival of Books, and the University of Alabama Press anthology Infinite Constellations. Their lyric essay has been nominated to the Pushcart Prize and their prose poem was selected for The Best Asian Poetry. Formerly with Creative Nonfiction magazine, they’re editor-at-large at Asymptote and assistant nonfiction editor at Panorama: The Journal of Travel, Place, and Nature and Atlas & Alice Literary Magazine. Find more at https://linktr.ee/samdapanas.

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