The thing that struck me most about Dead Stars is that it was so exquisitely written. Florid? Perhaps. It was written by a Filipino at the turn of the century, at a period when we were adjusting to another language by way of conversations. To her credit, the author was "among the first generation of Filipinos trained in the American education system which used English as the medium of instruction."
That, and the bittersweet feeling that it left me in the end.
Of all the stories about love that I've read thus far, this is the kind that never fails to leave me with a hollow, empty feeling inside: lost loves.
Especially loves that are lost because of indecision.
Alfredo Salazar, a thirty-something bachelor lawyer, is engaged to be married to Esperanza. Their wedding is supposedly the culmination of a very long engagement. During this period, however, he meets Julia Salas. He spends time with Julia and, quite predictably, falls in love with her.
But society practically has him married to Esperanza, and so he does nothing about his feelings for Julia. He goes with what society expects of him: he marries his fiance and consequently, parts ways with Julia.
Eight years later, in a chance encounter with Julia in her hometown, Alfredo realizes that, while he never truly forgot her, all the feelings he had for her were long gone. Vanished.
This situation reminds me of an 80's song with a line that goes:
"It isn't quite the way it was before, I remember the boy, but I don't remember the feeling anymore..."
Perhaps, Alfredo loved Julia at that time, when they met. Perhaps, if they were living in our present time, where engagements are called off left and right (and some, even on the very day of the wedding itself) and society no longer has any bearing on life-altering, personal decisions, they could have stood a chance at a better ending than that. Perhaps if Alfredo were man enough to acknowledge his feelings for Julia, and did something about it, without fear of repercussion from their families and the society in general, then Julia would not have been a "dead star," and he would have been happy.
But who's to say that he wasn't happy, eight years later? Where can it be deduced that the decision to marry Esperanza, after all, was the wrong one? After all, he did realize in the end that his feelings for Julia had all but faded, yes? Does true love fade?
If I were Alfredo, I would have stayed away from Julia. That Julia, she's bad news. :P
Dead Stars is part of the Filipino short story anthology, Fourteen Love Stories edited by Jose Dalisay, Jr. and Angelo R. Lacuesta, published by the UP Press.
You might also want to check out The Best Philippine Short Stories, where this and other notable works are included. :)
Happy Love Month, everyone.
Recommended by: TFG's F2F Book for February 2013
Book Details: PDF copy provided by our dear moderator, TINA