Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day Grieve

For Kane. Because you beat me to it.

I've often been fascinated by tragic short stories, and I remember them for years and years. Guy de Maupassant's The Necklace; The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs; and William Faulkner's A Rose For Emily, just to name a few.

One of the most bitter yet poignant ones I remember is Nick Joaquin's May Day Eve. In this tale, as a plot device, Joaquin uses the old superstition that if one were to hold a candle and look into a mirror at midnight on a certain night of the year, one would see either the person one is destined to marry, or one would see the face of the devil.

"And it was May again, said the old Anastasia. It was the first day of May and witches were abroad in the night, she said--for it was a night of divination, and night of lovers, and those who cared might peer into a mirror and would there behold the face of whoever it was they were fated to marry..."

It's like playing Candyman or Bloody Mary, and I've never had the courage to try it myself. The same way I've never played spirit of the glass or flirted with a Ouija board, despite a childhood full of occult occurrences.

Maybe I have enough trouble with the living not to bother toying with the undead.

Anyway, back to May Day Eve.

Even as a teen, I appreciated how Joaquin's characters manage to see ...well, read the story to learn what they ultimately saw in the mirror.

Many of us have had our May Day Eves. But unlike Joaquin's characters, we had no need of mirrors. We had eyes that danced and sparkled at the sights before us. But what we needed were eyes that could perceive what lay beneath the visions we beheld.

"...those wicked young men and their handsome apparel, their proud flashing eyes... so black and vivid in the moonlight..."

Suffice to say that the story's denouement I often recall when, over time, a love transmogrifies into something else altogether.

"...while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tile roofs looming like sinister chessboards against a wile sky murky with clouds, save where an evil young moon prowled about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable childhood fragrances or ripe guavas to the young men trooping so uproariously down the street..."

On this May Day Eve, alone in an old and silent house, I need no mirrors to see my own demons.


  1. it's the lusty month of may, ruddie.

    what's with the doña agueda outlook? :P

  2. I love this post, not because I am having an emo or grim moment, but because I had an unforgettable experience -- terribly unnerving! -- with spirit of the glass in my childhood. Curiosity can indeed kill a cat.
    And, if we believe Jaime Licauco (of the Inquirer): The mirror technique (done at midnight) can tell us the secrets of our soul. Yes, our past lives.

  3. di ba she saw the devil sa mirror?!

  4. Good choice for short stories... it is a challenging form, you know, getting all the elements to work and come together in a great thrill ride...with minimal allowances. thanks for the link. i love short stories. :-)

    i love Nick Joaquin's work. YOur take was good. :-)

  5. the best from the selections we had in my phil. lit. class....

    ang sad lang... yaiy

  6. I remember that one. Read it back in high school. It was one of those stories were imagery was employed with great effect. It really was a passing of time work, how modernity encroaches upon the truths that we once held dear. The senescence of sincerity.