A Space for Women of the World
He was lying on top of her, just having finished. He – still inside of her. She – holding his weight. Both – breathing hard as if they had just crossed the finish line. There was an ache between her legs. A good ache. And as much as he’d hate to admit it, there was an ache in his groin, the thrusting giving way to a terrible soreness in the lower reaches of his body. A soreness he told himself he could get used to. Had military training been more strenuous than lovemaking? No, he said to himself. Never. He felt he had something to prove. To prove his manhood before he died. Not by firing a gun, but to leave this earth knowing that he had at least made love to a woman. He had convinced her there was nothing to lose. They could very well die tomorrow. Damn this bloody war.
He thought she believed him. He thought she was the type of woman who could be easily persuaded, easily wooed.
But she wasn’t necessarily that type of woman.
Her college education had been interrupted, an education that she struggled so much to have from a tyrant of a father, and now this. War. Her college bombed. Her education stopped. And she, stuck with a naked man on top of her, telling her he loved her, while deep in her gut, she wasn’t sure. Promises were all that remained.
After he came, she wanted to try again, burning to perfect this sorrowful mystery that always left her hungry for some technique that would make her soul laugh and shatter her body into a million little stars.
There was no fan to ease the stifling heat and humidity of the room where their torsos lay half-exposed under thin, coarse blankets kissing their skin.
They were naked and touching.
They talked about the future.
They talked about children.
And they made promises.
She wanted to stop him from leaving to fight this war, but she knew it wasn’t her place. She believed he wouldn’t have listened anyway, while he would’ve stopped if only she had asked.
He rolled onto his back, out of breath. He looked up at the ceiling and stretched his arm out to hold her, at which she rolled into the cave of his embrace, not necessarily feeling safe, but to surrender to the moment in his arms.
There was never enough time, and yet, they couldn’t rush, so at every rocking motion between her legs, he had to savor it, love her, because he knew that the moment could be gone. A bomb dropping on top of them. Soldiers barging in with their guns. Tearing her body away from his.
Echoing this issue’s theme of “Decolonial Love,” this poem is a dedication to my grandparents’ relationship during World War II, when my grandfather had fought as a US Army soldier and later a guerilla when General MacArthur had left the Filipinos to their own demise at the hands of the Japanese. At the time, my grandfather had been faced with the difficult decision of leaving my grandmother behind. My grandfather was a loyalist to his country and after the Philippines had experienced Spanish, American, and Japanese colonization and imperialism in less than 40 years, his fervor and determination to fight for the independence of his country was heavily weighed against the choice to leave his beloved soulmate behind. As I thought about that difficult decision and sacrifice that both my grandparents had to make, for the love of country versus the love they had for one another – my grandmother in letting him go and fight, and my grandfather in leaving her behind – I wanted to capture that delicate moment between them where that choice had to be made.
Philippine-born and LA-raised, Elsa Valmidiano is an Oakland resident, a writer, poet, partner, feminist, globe trekker, and women’s freedom fighter. Her works have appeared in local literary journals such as Maganda Magazine, Tayo, Make/shift Magazine, and Burner Magazine, and the anthologies Field of Mirrors, Walang Hiya, and Same Difference. She holds a BA from UC San Diego, a JD from Syracuse University, an MFA from Mills College, and is a long-time member of the Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc.