Variations on the Expulsion from Eden
i. Adam and Eve as Evicted Tenants
We wager you wanted us to do it, giving us this place for free, allowing us to re-paint the walls, rearrange the existing furniture.
Cerise, we decided to call it, and we rolled up our sleeves and applied the coat in clean, thick strokes, watching, amazed, as the paint dried, accepting its definition.
Rose, we whispered to each other, and we licked each other’s nipples, each other’s cheeks.
And if we said vermilion? And if we said fire? We pushed our tongues into each other’s mouths, noting the subtle change in taste. Every day our lips burned with the act of naming.
Always, that tree in a corner, unfenced, unguarded, and all at once we knew that everything has been named even before our arrival.
We attacked cerise, chipping away at this mistake with our fingernails. Not rose, not vermilion, not fire. We moved away from each other, clothing ourselves, preserving the landscapes we have yet to discover.
The unnamed belongs to us, but now even the blank walls are resistant.
Is this what you wanted us to learn: how limited we are, how unnecessary?
We were hungry. We were just trying to find a shelter from your rain.
ii. Adam and Eve as Murder Suspects
That day the future took shape, an outline in chalk on the wet sidewalk.
What horrible conceit, the illusion of endlessness, your perfect pathways that never meet each other.
And now, the threat of exile. How it pales when compared to the moment of unshielding. The juice dribbling down our lips, the seeds lodged in our throats.
How it wounded us, how we wept at the sight of all this beauty.
Taken as evidence: our clothes, our wandering gaze. The tree bends in supplication: Forgive me for telling you the truth.
Must we now say We did not do it, We do not know anything, We have been in this room for hours, We were elsewhere when the crime was committed?
Must we say Show us your face, you bastard, you scum? We try to look past your light and witness only our own reflections.
iii. Adam and Eve as Abandoned Children
So this is it, then: this dark spot on the side of the road, the swirling dust, the diminishing form of your car. We move forward to keep the distance constant. We wonder if we are framed by your rearview mirror, if it is in your nature to look back. We wave and pretend it is a gesture of welcome.
Maybe somewhere in your wallet is a picture of us, tattered, handled often. See, now? Deterioration can be an evidence of love. Dog-eared pages, scuff marks on leather, overlapping fingerprints on the glass of a coffin.
The conspicuous absence of the fruit on its branch, and all you notice is our sudden lack of questions, our disobedience.
We come back to the empty house and try to cherish our dirty faces, the dishes in the sink, our clothes in need of mending, the dirt settling on all the surfaces. (Deterioration can be an evidence of love.)
We try to ignore how similar this is to abandonment.
Come back to us and show us again that rock, that flower that you wanted us to see, and we promise that we will do it right this time. We will say How lovely, instead of giving you a wordless smile, the pained look of someone who knows all the answers.
The mother, described as heartless, hates that she is only given a certain portion of the
narrative. How could she know, she has not heard of column inches. More space, and I could have shown my capacity to love.
The boy, now a businessman, tries to find the words to speak of a glorious instant. He settles with good, and his friends laugh, apologize: He has always been like this.
The child found in the cupboard, in a basket lined with flowers. Curiously, you always find space for the people outside the plot: union leaders, a neighbor who knew the parents, their assumption of authority. You want to replace the word good with something else.
One of his friends remembers him before the tragedy, talks to you alone. You take notes, rearrange the sequence of your questions.
The businessman who was once a boy frowns, stunned by your knowledge. He wants you to believe that it is possible to pass through a fire unchanged. In your head, you hunt down an expert who could say otherwise.
The friend says: You know how it is, like during torture, when you lose the words? You ask, What do you mean by good? The way he shrank back from the intrusion.
You want to tell him that you used to like fathers, their silence, the way they become soft when they see their children approaching. The word dances in the air, and he leans back, away from you, satisfied with his answer. You want to ask a question about forgiveness.
You let the priest speak, because in stories like this, the afterlife is important.
Comments on a Tragedy
and perhaps in a house somewhere a mother and a son are watching them
praise the man who did not draw his gun for the sake of his passengers
and what is the lesson here? the mother asks her boy, ready to tell him
to veer away from dark streets, just hand over his belongings
in case her first rule proves useless. The lesson here is?
The mother draws the curtains, conscious of the presence of men
who stab people for no reason, the prayers that rebuke revenge.
Onscreen, the widow receives papers certifying her children’s scholarship.
The lesson here is? When it’s your time, it’s your time, the mother says
whenever somebody dies because she is a churchgoer,
she is not proud. She touches her son’s shoulders and feels his back
stiffen with this knowledge. Onscreen, the widow sits
with his son on her lap, smiling one last time at the papers
before the pretty anchor’s face takes over with news of a fire,
another car crash. The lesson here is? the mother pleads,
staring at the curtains abloom with sunflowers.
When you have a gun, just use it, says the boy,
and No, no, the mother says sternly, but nods to herself, grateful.
Comments on a Tragedy
In the story where the woman disappears without a trace
The woman must have walked to a bus stop outside of the narrative.
The story is just like any ruined place, filled with cracks and partial to exodus.
Her husband thinks of her in the train. We assume the people around him have grown tired of counting the dead, having folded their newspapers, thinking of the economy.
We brand the earthquake simply as stubborn and desperate. As we would any survivor.
Question: Why can’t it be smart enough to understand that the city does not have what it wants, and what the city does have, it cannot afford to give?
Eliza Victoria is the author of several books including the Philippine National Book Award-winning Dwellers (2014), the novel Wounded Little Gods (2016), the graphic novel After Lambana (2016, a collaboration with Mervin Malonzo), and the science fiction novel-in-stories, Nightfall (2018). Her fiction and poetry have appeared in several online and print publications, most recently in LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, The Best Asian Speculative Fiction, The Dark Magazine, and The Apex Book of World SF Volume 5. Her work has won prizes in the Philippines’ top literary awards, including the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. Her one-act plays (written in Filipino) have been staged at the Virgin LabFest at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.