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Yielding, Yearning

Augustine Paredes – Long Night Stands with Lonely, Lonely Boys
© Augustine Paredes

I first encountered Augustine’s work in a one-night exhibition in Today x Future, a small bar in Cubao in Quezon City. It is one of the few queer spaces in the city. 

By Carlos Quijon, Jr.

I forget what day was it, maybe a Friday or a Saturday. What I remember is that I went to the bar directly from my home and arrived early—in what was usually a packed dance floor, there were only 3 or maybe 4 people, all of us minding our own business. Under blue light, almost drowning in the dance music, were intimate portraits of men—small of their back, feet, slope of their shoulder, parts of their faces obscured by leaks of light or stumbling of shadow. The photographs felt furtive, intimacy an uneasy space of too much knowing. The photographs are mostly out of focus, a fragment of a life, a part of the body. The works were like quick, anxious glances. 

Apprehensive but nevertheless articulate, as if they were always the most auspicious moment, that if one waits for another second more the spell breaks its hold and we are people who didn’t interest each other. Under blue light, we are enticed by the photos to come closer, as if to share a secret. But we know the photographs. We have memorized all our lovers no matter how fidgety our hands are, no matter low lights or indiscriminate fragment. We know moments of levity and laughter but also the subtle cues when to take our leave. Augustine told me that he went home to his home town in Davao after this exhibition. He showed the photos again, in the toilet of Sales Bar, for one night. The same night, he left the country. 

There is something to say about this choreography of familiarities, desires. Loneliness is always difficult. It is difficult to experience, all the more difficult to understand, to account for. To be queer and lonely. To be alone and lonely. To find someone and be lonely. And perhaps, to be lonely is to masterfully enact this choreography—to step out of but also to be in and embrace it as we deem fit. As a queer professional elsewhere, Augustine and his work are acutely discerning of these conditions. Self-sufficiency takes on a precarious significance here: it is a source of identity but also an emblem of longing or of the desire to recognize this longing. I think in a queer person’s life, longing, perhaps, is always a matter of misrecognizing or being misrecognized. In Augustine’s essay into his life as a queer diasporic person, longing, it seems like, is always mistranslated, mishears, misunderstands. Here there is bluntness and blurting out, infelicitous gestures, disconnections, returns both auspicious and unexpected. 

In Augustine’s work, to be intimate is to know and share deeply, but is also to be simultaneously familiar and painfully aware of our strangeness to ourselves, to one another. This might be the story of the lives of queer people, it is in intimate moments that we learn about ourselves and when we also recognize how estranged we are from our selves, our desires, and subjectivities. Augustine’s work speaks to this aspect of intimacy—both its vulnerability and discomfort, its frankness and tenderness, how it is what keeps us "from fully knowing or being in control of ourselves and that prompts our misrecognition of our own motives and desires." [1] This is what I think intimacy teaches us, being with someone else allows us to wager our personal assurances, our self-sufficiencies; at the same time that it makes us realize that whatever comfort we have in ourselves we have found in the most difficult ways, we have pieced together from whatever we have saved. It is both precious and generous, what intimacy is.

Desire acknowledges its reciprocation or betrays its denial as skin meets skin, as precarious considerations of affiliation or familiarity or romance impress themselves onto us. Or, as a spark of recognizing oneself in another—one’s needs, image, its deflection or one’s opacity comes into focus. This may become an exceptionally freeing enterprise. The encounter with some other is in this sense an encounter that "disturbs [one’s] presumption of sovereignty" by way "an encounter with estrangement and intimacy of being in relation." [2] This is precisely why for queer scholars Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, "sex is exemplary in the way it powerfully induces such encounters, but such encounters exceed those experiences we recognize as sex." [3]

Sex "simultaneously overwhelms and anchors us." [4] Any form of intimate encounter is both that of estrangement and ecstasy. Risk and rapport. Yielding and yearning. Allowing oneself to assume a position of unknowing but also hopeful that perhaps this other person grants us some form of belonging. Cultivation and flourish. This is an exceptionally difficult position to be in: "our attempts to remain rooted in the social by both holding fast to and moving beyond our accustomed ways of experiencing ourselves and our connectedness to others." [5] Augustine Paredes’s Long Night Stands with Lonely Lonely Boys speaks to how each of these encounters is a moment of overwhelming incommensuration—mistranslations, missing your cue to leave, misunderstanding others. It also speaks of an ever partial but nonetheless always earnest agency of knowing and feeling other people. To be queer and elsewhere, to fend for yourself but also to find felicity in the friendship of others—this is a situation that Augustine’s keen eye and perceptive prose capture.

In Augustine’s stories, the world proceeds and recedes in every encounter, he finds himself in the company of himself and other lonely boys and in each encounter we discern aspects of other people. As a young queer of the diaspora, each of Augustine’s vignette is a moment of reckoning what it is to be at home, to find connections and relations, of reckoning what it is to be elsewhere. Each moment is always one of self-discovery and alienation. Each encounter is motivated by a yearning—coming home, leave-takings, arrivals, abiding by a patient will to leave and trust that it is time, to come back. But also of yielding, how we are ever willing to return. In each of these photographs, each essay, we learn about "the forms of negotiation we resort to in dealing with intimate estrangement, and it tries to enact, in its own formal structure, the constant, and at times disconcerting, adjustments those forms of negotiation demand." Perhaps this is the nature of the one night stand, these are moments of intense self-discovery—marking simultaneous masteries, failures, and insufficiencies of identity, personal history, love and longing.

[1] Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, preface to Sex, or the Unbearable (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), viii.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] ​Ibid., vii.
[5] Ibid.


Carlos Quijon, Jr.

is a curator and critic based in Manila, Philippines.