Cue the lights
I remember the moment that led me to my first love. To get there, let me first take you to the time my family went out to see the movie “Titanic.”
It was 1997. We attended a late-afternoon showing. It used to be that you could enter the movie theater even if the seats were in full capacity and the film was already halfway through. That was what we did. We squeezed through the crowd but there were just too many people. So we sat on the floor along with other unfortunate moviegoers.
The funny thing is I do not remember feeling anything as we watched the film. I remember my mom covering my eyes when a sex scene was showing on screen. But the rest of the film—the romance, the sinking, the deaths—was just a blur. I came out of the movie theater without a care about it. Or so I thought.
That night, as I found myself in a state between wakefulness and dreaming, a shadow shaped like a ship moved past streets and houses and stopped just next to my bedroom door. It stood in front of me with all its majesty. Its horn made a loud honk, calling me to come aboard.
I had a hard time sleeping after that. Maybe the images waited to come out only after I fell asleep. That dream was not scary. But it was too big for my young mind. And it stuck around, so much so that I still heard its honk echoing in my room weeks after we watched the movie.
Fast forward to 1999. My sister wanted to watch “The Sixth Sense.” In the film, the protagonist, who was just about my age then, sees ghosts of dead people. It got scary fast. When we entered the movie house, the film was showing hanged corpses with eyes directed at the screen, seemingly looking at me. I got so terrified that I had to leave the theater and wait outside with my father.
At that moment, my mind settled from the scares. We did not do anything. We just sat on a bench in an almost empty hallway. We remained silent. Equally silent. You see, I was the type of kid that was uncomfortable around noise and around people. While other grownups encouraged kids to be playful, my dad, by being silent with me at that time, assured me that silence is okay. And that it should not be taken for granted.
Back then, it was easy to be silent. But now, silence has become harder to come by, especially with all the adult stuff like deadlines and taxes. But moments of childhood keep coming back to me like projections on a movie screen. That must be why I have an affinity for the dark and for what it represents.
Light to me is chaotic. It is the rush of commuters trying not to be late for work, or the barrage of political ads on television. It is the sight of garbage on the street and the feeling that even if you pick it up, there will still be more of it, much more than you can handle.
But darkness is silence. It is the ticking of the clock or the sound of a cricket. It is the feeling of my cat resting on my lap and hearing it purr. It is the small laughter we have at dinner tables, the kind that echoes throughout our home long after it has passed. It is the memories that, for better or worse, come out and play at night.
Maybe that is what came to me that night after we watched “Titanic.” I, like the ship, floated on a vast ocean of silence. It surrounded me. And like the sinking ship, it embraced me with its darkening depth. Since that time, silence has become a habit to me. Yet, in my mind’s eye, there is more to say. And it led me to this writing.
As you may have guessed, I am writing this past midnight. I look up and imagine the sky outside our house.
It brings me back to the moment when I was a kid and entered the movie house for the first time, when I fell in love with silence.
My mom was holding my hand as we walked into the dark theater. I looked up and saw, not the ceiling, but space and all the stars as far as the eye could see. We took a seat and got ready to be transported to worlds unknown. All that was left is the wonder. And the love.
Justin Joyas, 27, says he is a news junkie by day and a dreamer by night.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.