Parallel worlds are rarely parallel. At some point they converge, even collide.
As my uncertain relationship with Carmen was evolving with the application for a visa to Canada, and daily Skype conversations, my uncertainty over my latest ‘novel’ – the heartbreak of loss, new love and new loss – also occupied my mind: was it good enough to publish, and how would family and friends react if I did? And in parallel, my attraction to the ‘pamangkin’ was increasing. She lived in Osaka.
One qualifying criterion for a visa application to Canada was to demonstrate that the applicant had traveled outside his/her home country, and returned. Carmen had never traveled outside of The Philippines, and she had only recently received her first passport. Filipinos are obliged to get visas to travel to most other places in the world because of their reputation for becoming illegal migrants. Only Hong Kong and Singapore would accept a Philippines passport without a pre-qualifying visa. Among other things, an application for a Canadian visa invited evidence of three such foreign travels.
I began to cook up a contingency plan for Carmen should her application for a Canadian visa fail the first time. We would arrange to eventually travel to these two open destinations, Hong Kong and Singapore, and one other country. Japan. All that was needed for a Japanese visa was to show evidence of sufficient financial resources that you could stay in Japan for a certain period and pay for return airfare. So I deposited $3000 in Carmen’s bank account and off she went to make an application. She received a stamp in her passport, good to enter Japan until July 23rd! As it turned out, her visa to Canada arrived and so the Japan plan was redundant, but that’s’ why you make contingency plans.
I added another wrinkle. I wanted to escort the neophyte traveler and save her from the uncertainties of travel. But is wasn’t practical for me to fly all the way to Manila just to escort her back to Canada and guide her through Immigration? Why not meet part way? Say, Osaka? Carmen was very nervous about traveling by herself outside The Philippines but Genevieve said Carmen was very capable of managing herself: ‘she has mouth, she can ask’. (And if this were so, she could make it all the way to Toronto. Instead I convinced myself I would meet her in Osaka.) So I bought her a ticket from Manila to Osaka and then from Osaka to Toronto and return; and a return flight from Toronto-Osaka for me.
It seemed to me a trifecta solution: Carmen would have her first stamp in her passport and her first trip outside Philippines, she would get to see her favourite niece in Osaka, and so would I. My therapist and my friends thought this a very dangerous idea. I saw their point. I was going ahead with it, letting life make my decisions for me.
So here we were, all packed and ready for a whole new adventure. And I knew I wasn’t ready.
In the meantime, in my parallel life as author, and truth be told, still obsessing over the lost love, Emily, I continued to massage my manuscript. I had decided it was done, or as done as I could make it, or wanted to make it, and uploaded the manuscript to lulu.com along with the beautiful dust jacket. Miracle of miracles, it uploaded without glitch the first time! I marked the project private, not for distribution, still struggling with whether this book would ever see the light of day, and ordered my proof copy. It arrived ten days later. It was beautiful, the cover perfectly evoking the mood I was trying to capture with this story. I removed it from its wrapping and examined it carefully through perception-blind eyes. I was very pleased with it, but this still didn’t answer the question of what I intended to do with it.
This question lay heavy on my mind during the few weeks waiting for my rendezvous with Osaka. The taxi had arrived at my door to take me to the airport. I looked at the proof copy of Amitié, A Novel in my hand and wondered for the nth time what I should do with it. What was my real purpose? Was it self-therapy? a catharsis? Was this book worthy of being read by others? Did I merely have pretentions as an author? Was I desperately trying to reach out to Emily one more time to tell her how she had left me bereft? Or was this revenge?
I knew it was all of the above. But I truly believed this was part of my calling as an author. If I had a story to tell it was of no value whatsoever to stay in the vault of my hard drive, or even lulu.com’s servers. It had to be published. And if that was the case, I persuaded myself, I needed to have some idea of how Emily would react to the existence of this thinly disguised version of our love story.
I went to the lulu site and placed an order to send a copy of Amitié, A Novel to Emily. I took a deep breath and pressed, Place Order.
I closed my computer and walked out the door to the waiting cab for the airport. Osaka calling.