I am nearing the end of my story as I near the end of the river that is me. I have become sluggish and slow, dropping mud and silt as I reach the lower end of my course, as my freshwater currents begin to lick and lap the salt tide. There is some sort of battle going on at the estuary, a kind of ebb and flow, a continual back and forth, as part of me resists the siren song of the sea. There are times, in sudden spurts of energy, that I manage to stain the sea for many miles out. It reacts by sending its waves back to shore, shoving me gently but firmly, to put me in my place.
I was a stream born in the mountains. Pulled by gravity, pushed by yearnings wild and wily, I escaped the tight confines of my canyon because I wanted to meander freely across the open plains. In the beginning of my course, I got lost many times, just like you, just like everyone else. I went hither and yon, this way and that. I was carefree and cruel, reckless and ruthless.
People used to bathe in my clean, clear waters, drinking from it, swimming in it: Thirsts were slaked, bodies were cooled and refreshed. There were those who sought to dive deep into me, meaning to reach the end of their desires; one and all, without fail, they drowned. I often broke my banks, unmindful of the consequences of my deeds. I’ve been dammed and damned, gotten myself mired in swamps and lakes, gotten entangled in the morass of my making. It was such a wonderful thing to be young, but the shiftlessness and skittishness of youth nearly killed what little soul I had in me.
But even then, there were moments of inexplicable silence, in which I thought I heard the pounding waves of a distant and unseen sea, and something I knew not what always seemed to rise within my soul. I was a river thirsting for water, a cold-blooded river burning with fever. One morning I realized of a sudden that my final destination had to be the sea, which must be deeper than all my desires. The sea must be the end of all my wanderings.
As I approach the end, I reflect on my life and shudder to think that I could have died an early and ignoble death but for a voice that told me to be quiet, in order to hear what must be heard. For only those who want to listen will hear the voice in the howling wilderness, the voice that walks among the grass and makes it dance.
Time waits for no one, but the sea waits patiently to receive all the rivers, all the waters of the world. God waits for us, and every day I thank Him for not letting me die out there in a desert somewhere in Mongolia or the Skeleton Coast. I could have been a river seeping into the insatiable sands of a desert, a river that reaches no lake or reservoir or sea, a river that coils upon itself like a sleeping serpent.
Who could have known that the mountain stream that grew into this long, old river would come this far? The answer has always been there—only God knows. From the very beginning, God had charted the course of our lives. Regardless of how willful or headstrong we are, we will always return to the rut or groove that He Himself, using His fingers, had marked on the ground for us to follow.
I am lost and listless nevermore. I no longer meander and stray as I follow this straight and narrow path. I have lived a long and checkered life, one full of commas and exclamation points, but I know I will die well, with a period and not a question mark, because I have listened to the Voice in the dancing grass. The sea is the end for which I was created, for why I came to be. When at last all my waters shall have been transferred to the sea, I will surrender both my rind and my putamen, all that I was and all that I am, without hesitation.
Just by thinking it, I’m there already. On the shore of the Sea that is God, I will join the crabs as they shake shake shake in joyful dance at the rising of the moon, join the clams as they clap their shells together to the beat of a dreamy drummer. As I dive into the Sea which is deeper than my heart’s thousand and one cravings, my soul will rise to the surface, my hands brimming with all the shells that I want. Exactly as God had promised.
Life is to be lived like a living, red-blooded river—moving forward, flowing downstream, always advancing, gaining speed, seeking the end for why we began.
Antonio Calipjo Go (email@example.com) is academic supervisor of Marian School of Quezon City. This piece is dedicated to the memory of his father.
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