"The Other Side" Contest Winners / March 2015 (Issue 27)

When A Ladyboy Loves A Foreign Man

by Arian Tejano

The art of seduction begins in the language of the lips.
When she says "Hello", she means "you are attractive".
When she says "You sound like a quintessential German",
she means she has read Marx, Adorno, listened to Bach, Bethooven,
Pachelbel and could enunciate VolksWagen in the accent of a native philosopher.
When she says "adventure", she means "a lazy afternoon
spent at the window overlooking the falls in summer."
And when she says "But I'm a ladyboy", the revelation rolls out of her tongue
like an exotic idiomatic expression any foreigner would be tempted to use.

For him, it seems like ordinary online dating.
For her, it's laying down her magic cards
she has been waiting to open.

When he says he'll keep in touch, he is in Brazil,
in a little town called Goais, and she is in Surigao.
Or he is in Toronto, driving downtown to attend a book launch,
and she is in Nabunturan wearing an apron and listening to Ella Fitzgerald
while preparing lunch for her father's guests, and he is intent
on getting the book signed by her favorite author.
Or he is walking down the streets of Paris in winter
and she is in Davao, staring disconsolate at the mirror
mastering each fine stroke to lift her droopy eyebrows.

When she says she's waiting for him, it's twelve hours ahead of his morning,
she's half-asleep at the computer. He is outside taking a picture
of sunset and eating focaccio, drinking wine with friends
and an hour later he remembers and staggers back into his room,
opens his phone where her messages await.

When she says "maybe tomorrow" she means "until when her anger
turns into longing" which usually happens three or four days
later. When she says, "I will be away for a month,"
she means she's seeing another man. On her absence.
begins complaining and calling her names.

Years later, when she says "I love you", she is in his arms
for the first time at the airport, wearing a flowered dress.
When he loves her, his word comes in flesh. He doesn't complain
that she's spending hours on herself at the mirror,
but only when she's trying so hard to look unfaced
while wearing high heels obviously in pain.
When he loves her, he finds a bench for two where they can
have each other like common lovers.

When she loves him, she maps a trip in Camiguin,
making her love more obvious in a long red dress and native earrings
even only to swim shortly on a fine February afternoon
with the noise of fishermen coming ashore like a laughter
of astonishment in the landscape of scarcity and envy.
For him, only she exists. And her desire exceeds the ocean.

Some days language fails her.
What else can he do but study her silence?

When he says, "Distance is expensive,"
"so is my time," she replies, attractive as the blue
velvet cake she's baking for him.

They quibble on many things.
"You're just too intelligent for me," he says.
"I didn't say I deserve a wedding ring," she shouts at him
the night she received the news of another friend getting married.
"I can understand if another man will cross the ocean
for you," he resigns in his inadequacy the last time he touched her.

Many nights she decided to give him space
and many empty summers threatened him the curse of regret
young men fear. It's true.
Most men settle their affairs privately
or on a winning end, whichever
generates the least pain.

But when she says she loves him, she doesn't only utter
the greatest quotes of Jeanette Winterson.
She lives her days spinning two worlds
where she and her beloved can live together.

When she says she loves him, she doesn't want to lose her illusions.
Back in her solitude, she continues to sing. She dances.
She cooks her best. She studies languages, films,
man's interests, carpentry, automotive, astrology, wars.
She learns her body. She knows which pallets
to put on her face to mean longing.
She has mastered a few of the sixty-four skills of seduction
one of which is the art of making a lover happy
so that one day when he'll be asked to recall
a moment in his life when he's most happy,
he will remember her name.  

Arian Tejano This is the First Prize Winner of Cha's "The Other Side" Poetry Contest. Arian Tejano on "When a Ladyboy Loves A Foreign Man": This poem was born out of a brave modern promise: love knows no country, culture, gender, language and time zone. For a long time I wanted to write about our stories, our great adventures in hope to occupy a little space in literature where this voice will be heard. The writing process was both a gender study and an experiment on David Lehman's poem "When A Woman Loves A Man". My poem was strictly patterned in hope that when readers happen compare them, the recreation will reveal this culture-based spectrum of femininity and its nuances. Also, this is a way to rebrand the term "ladyboy" which has been commercialised as a sexual exoticism over the years. This poem hopes to show the untold mysticism: what really drives a foreign man to discover the familiar and the unfamiliar. It premiered last Feb 18 at LitOrgy 6 to a great applause and I hope more readers will enjoy it not as a character study, but a colourful, theatrical and transcendental storytelling like the life of a ladyboy seems to unfold. [Read Vinita Agrawal's commentary on "When A Ladyman Loves A Foreign Man"] [Back to "The Other Side"]    
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