Tuesday, December 6, 2016

on thunderbolts through the heart

It creeps up on you when you least expect it. You think you’re not ready. You think it’s too soon. But from deep down inside, you begin to hear love as it takes its first steps.

Step 1. You meet and it’s wonderful. There’s music and laughter and conversations that never end. He spends the night and you talk till morning. You talk till your voice croaks. You talk till there’s no talk left. You talk until neither of you can keep your eyes open. And then you talk a little more.

Step 2. He leaves in the morning and you realize you’ve gone insane again. You pick up his shirt from the hamper and you inhale deeply. It smells like sweat marinated in tobacco smoke and pheromones. Your feet begin to tap seconds, minutes, hours till you’re with him again.

Step 3. You sit uncomfortably throughout dinner. You watch as his eyes light up when he tells you a story. You watch his lips move and skew as he talks, all the while wondering what it would be like to kiss him again. He stops talking and you’re like oh shit. Did he ask a question? You’re lost in a daydream again. You nod and say something non-committal. Yeah. That sounds fun. And he continues talking, pleased with your response. Phew. You live to daydream another day.

Step 4. You are in a meeting and you tune out. You play a game where you try to remember what he looks like. You remember the patterns on his tattoos, his scraggly beard, the stray hairs scattered on his chest. You remember how his arms feel as you cuddle when you sleep. The meeting ends and you continue your work day. You’re hopeless. You’re not even pretending to work. You stalk his Instagram. You scroll all the way back to three years ago. You accidentally hit Love. You don’t take it back.

Step 5. You come home. You stare at his towel and his toothbrush. You make the bed and wash the dishes. You wait for him to find you. He takes longer than usual. You go back to the hamper. You smell his shirt. His scent is mostly gone but it lingers in your nostrils and in your memories. You hear a knocking on the door. You fly down the stairs to meet him. You catch your breath and pat down your hair. You open the door casually, feigning sleep with a yawn. Did you miss me, he asks. And you say, meh a little. All the while, you stare eager at the way his lips move and skew as he talks, that annoyingly adorable scraggly little beard, and that shirt which you know will smell like him for at least a full day.

‘Cause this is how things start
A thunderbolt through the heart
When we do what we do
I want to whisper to you
When the whole word shouts
Find the things that you’re about

It won’t be hard
If you would like to start

♫: Reese Lansangan | Exploration No. 5 (2015)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

on strength

We come up the stairs to my room, the silence thick and heavy above our heads. He takes his coat off and puts his bag on the bed. I hear his hesitation as he unzips his trousers. I walk over to the window and draw the curtains to let in some light.

“You’ve got a view,” he says. “You never mentioned that.”

“Well, it’s nothing to write home about,” I tell him. “At night, the buses keep me awake.”

“Maybe you don’t think it’s beautiful because you’re so used to it. But someone who’s seeing it for the first time would beg to disagree.”

“It’s just the city, just traffic. Just a bunch of people trying to get somewhere. It can get a little lonely in here.”

“I think there’s beauty in lonely,” he says. “You just have to be at the right place and at the right time to see it.” I turn around to see he wasn’t looking out the window. He was looking at me.

He comes towards me and puts his arms around my waist. He rests his chin on my shoulder and I feel his warm breath on my skin. We are still just like that for a long time, two strangers coming together watching the city unravel.

Beyond the buses honking and the sound of people all trying to get somewhere, I could hear a dull thumping from the middle of my chest. I close my eyes and in my mind’s eye, I see my tired heart. Glue stains and pieces of tape covering cracks and scars, it slurs from its slumber. I feel its gears whirring slowly but furiously. For the first time in months, it begins to light up and beat again.

I didn’t know I had it in me. I didn’t know it had any fight left. Maybe I just don’t know my own strength.

♫: Carly Rae Jepsen | The One (2016)

Monday, September 5, 2016

on the man i will be after you

I dragged myself to the curb to text him. I dusted the rubble off my shaken body and struggled to compose my thoughts and a message. My sides hurt when I breathed, signifying a tear somewhere or perhaps a fractured rib. I lit up a cigarette, hoping I could smoke the pain away. The nicotine hit me fast and hard and I had to hold on to the pavement or else I felt I’d float away.

“Oo nga. Papunta na nga sana. Eh malamang, di ko naman ginusto madisgrasya diba?”

“Sinasabi ko naman kasi sayo noon pa. Delikado yang pag-motor motor mo. Ewan ko ba kung bakit di ka kasi nakikinig sa kin.”

“Sorry na. Di ko naman to ginusto. Kahit anong oras pa, pupuntahan kita. Antayin mo lang ako.”

And I thought about all the things that have happened that led me here. That first miscalculated turn, the cold bead of sweat that ran from my temple to my chin, the seed of doubt that got planted in my head. Kaya ko ba talaga to? Baka naman nagtatapang-tapangan lang ako? It took a few more blocks and crossways before I realized I’d turned too soon. Panic settled in and for a few seconds, I was mid-air in slow motion. The buildings and the streets traded places. I landed on the sky.

When strength and courage returned, I got back on my bike. I put the key in the ignition. Click. Thud. Click. Whirr. Click. Shit. Now what am I gonna do?

“Mi, ayaw na mag-start.”

“Anong ayaw na mag-start?”

“Yung motor. Eh ayaw nga. Anong gagawin ko?”

“Iwan mo nalang diyan. Balikan natin bukas. Punta ka na dito. Tulog na yung gata sa hapunan. Ako, inaantok na rin.”

“Di naman pwede yun. Baka pagtripan ng mga adik. Sira-sira na nga, nanakawin pa.”

“Eh anong gagawin mo? Diyan ka nalang pipirmi? Papabulok ka diyan?”


“Sorry. Nasan ka ba? Ako nalang pupunta diyan.”

“Hindi. Ako na. Gagawan ko nalang ng paraan. Basta antayin mo ko. Sorry.”

I dragged that motherfucker a mile and a half, my lungs burning, my feet screaming bloody murder. I arrived at his doorstep close to dawn. He opened the door, sleep and anger in his eyes, his eyebrows close to meeting.

“I’m here. I’m sorry. I’m here.”

He dropped the first aid kit he was holding and rushed towards me. He wrapped his arms around me and…

“Aray! Easy. Easy.”

“Ay sorry. Sorry.”

He wrapped his arms around me and it truly felt like I’d come home.

“Grabe naman pala yung sira,” he said, looking over my shoulder at the huge pile of metal garbage that lay smokey on his driveway. He surveyed the damage, making tiny calculations in his head. “Pero kaya pa yan. Oo. Kaya pa yan.”

“Oo. Dalhin ko nalang sa talyer bukas.”

He wrapped an arm around me as I limped my way inside. Outside, the September winds were cold and restless but inside, I could feel nothing but warmth.

He sat me down on the couch and put a pillow behind my neck. He propped my legs up and unlaced my boots. He disappeared into the kitchen and for once, I felt safe enough to close my eyes and let go.

“Ito, may dala akong yelo. Saan ba masakit?”

“Dito, mi. May bali ata.”

He pressed a bag of ice on my side, kisses me gently on the forehead.

“Buti nakarating ka.”

“Buti naghintay ka.”

I pray the next man I love will be patient. I pray he closes his eyes, sees me dragging this old heart down a dusty highway as I find my way to him, and realizes that his waiting is all that’s keeping me alive right now. The sun looms as dawn breaks and I begin to fully accept that this chapter of my life has finally come to an end. I’m terrified, so much so that I wake up at odd hours of the night in a cold sweat. But I know this will pass. Like all the other times I’ve sat on the curb smoking, staring at the mess I made, I know the hours will keep passing, the world will keep spinning, and this heart, however wounded, will keep beating. There is fear. There is anger. But when the dust settles, I know there is also a faint heartbeat of excitement. I can’t wait to meet the man I will be after you.

“Saan ba masakit?” he asks, and I show him my heart. He holds it in his hands, runs his fingers through scars, both old and new and says “I can fix it.” I will fix it.

I pray the next man I love will be me.

Photo: aljazeera
♫: Mayonnaise | Paraan (2015)