Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review: The Air I Breathe

The Air I Breathe
Released: January 25, 2008 (US, Limited), April 2, 2008 (RP)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥
[official website] [wiki] [imdb]

There are some movies that you need to see at least twice before you can form a valid opinion. I remember when I first saw Y Tu Mamá También, I felt disgusted and I immediately dismissed it as soft-core porn disguised as a quirky Mexican movie. When I saw it about two or three more times, I understood the complexities of the storyline and saw that behind all the nudity there was indeed a story to be told.

I first saw The Air I Breathe about a week ago and as I sat in front of my laptop to write about it, I could not find the words to really say much about it. I just finished watching it again and I think I now have enough words to tell you why I liked it.

The Air I Breathe is the story of four people who seemingly live unrelated lives but are actually connected in some way. None of their real names are used throughout the movie. They are only known as the emotion that they portrayed. The movie is pretty graphic and I suppose that's why I had difficulties expressing myself after.

Forest Whitaker played Happiness- a black man caught in a rut from childhood to adulthood. He starts to question the meaning of his life. His search for happiness seems to have reached a dead end. He is told that there are times when risking everything is the only choice you have- and risk he does. He bets an insane amount of money for a horse he has barely seen. He loses- massively- and is forced to rob a bank to pay off his debt. Although a lot of the scenes in this movie may seem surreal, you should know that there is still a very precise idea of right and wrong and so Happiness, who has been unhappy for the most part of the movie finally finds bliss as he is shot down by the cops.

Brendan Fraser played Pleasure, a gangster with the ability to see into the future. Because of his special gift, he no longer feels pleasure in life. What’s the use of reading a book when you know how the story ends, right? When his visions finally fail him in the form of a woman whose future he cannot see, he finally experiences pleasure and life just as everybody else experiences it. I must say I have a newfound respect for this guy. I’m used to seeing him in such commercial roles and so once he is stripped of all the fanfare and hype, he’s actually a pretty good actor. Note to self- see Crash soon.

Sarah Michelle Gellar played Sorrow, a pop singer named “Trista” with a unique blood type. I’ve never been a fan of Sarah’s so I must say that the fact that I really liked her in this movie means a lot. As Trista, she is quite sheltered and has never really experienced sorrow. Her manager seriously screws up and is forced to pay off a gambling debt with her contract. In this new world of guns and violence, she meets Pleasure. Not until she loses him in a very emotionally charged scene does she experience sorrow. As he lay dying in her arms, his only request is to know her real name. She whispers it into his ear and he dies right there. It was a screwed up scene that would move even the thugliest thug.

Kevin Bacon played Love, the epitome of unrequited love. He is a doctor in love with his best friend’s wife (Julie Delpy). When the girl is bitten by a poisonous snake, he is forced to move heaven and hell to source her unique blood type. He stalks Trista and. after several complicated layers of the story, talks her out of commiting suicide. Everybody’s happy.

In the middle of the whole movie is Fingers played by Andy Garcia. He was in his element in this film as a gambling lord-slash-manager wannabe-slash-thug. He ties the whole story and all the characters together. Emile Hirsch (who was brilliant in The Girl Next Door and Sean Penn's Into The Wild) embraces stereotype as Tony, Fingers' annoying nephew who is in town to see the family business.

The movie is very well written. I was actually surprised that the writer and director (Jieho Lee) was relatively new in the business. There are a lot of good quotes from it. Here are a few:

"I always wondered, when a butterfly leaves the safety of its cocoon, does it realize how beautiful it has become? Or does it still just see itself as a caterpillar?"

"When I was a kid, I knew the secret to a happy life. Play by the rules, work hard in school. And if you work hard in school, then your reward is... more school. And after more school, then you're given the best life has to offer. A job, and money, and a future. Filled with unending, singular pursuit, for more."

"Sometimes the things you can't change end up changing you."

"When you can see the future, you think you're capable of changing it. But you're just a witness to coming moments, unable to help, even if you wanted to and maybe you don't. Sometimes you think you're supposed to learn something, about patience or distance, but in the end it's all about discipline."

"Sometimes being totally fucked can be a liberating experience."

Generally, the people who saw this film did not like it. There’s a lot of violence and the plot’s a little farfetched so I understand where they’re coming from. All I can say is the story was pretty unique and the actors were all in top form. I was surprised to see Sarah Michelle Gellar in a movie that I sincerely liked. It’s no wonder that despite hating the film, a lot of critics acknowledged her for her role in it.

My take-away from this movie: everyone’s connected and everyone’s looking for something. Just when you think you have someone figured out, life has a way of surprising you. All-in-all, it’s a huge emotional roller coaster that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m looking forward to seeing it again sometime soon (once I’ve gotten over the last screening) just to see what new insights I can get. A solid 4/5.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

hanging by a thread

Subtitled: Confessions of a Burnout

I arrived at work today in an unironed shirt and unkempt hair (or as unkempt as possible with really short hair). This morning, I woke up to find a mountain standing between my bedroom and the bathroom. I had to climb up and rappel down just to get to work on time.

In between scrubbing and dreaming, I wondered when I started becoming just like everyone else. When did I go from loving my job and my life and everything in it* to equating my nine-hour shift to a slow and painful death. Surely, there must have been a time when I enjoyed going to work. Sadly, those days are gone. It's like I'm alive but I'm in a coma. I barely have the strength to find socks that match. Where would I find the strength to find happiness in my job?

This past week has been really stressful. I feel like I'm seriously starting to fray at the seams. I used to be really nice and polite and stuff until I realized I wasn't anymore. I had become Hitler in class. I wasn't smiling. I was putting noisy people on the spot. I was being sarcastic. I was being un-me.

This guy in my class came up to me and told me that I was being mean. He said it was a joke but I could tell that he meant it. I wanted to tell him that I wasn't doing it on purpose. That I was just tired. That I was stressed. That I need a vacation. I just pursed my lips and managed a fake smile. I couldn't tell him what was wrong. Truth is, I just don't have the same patience and passion I once had for this job. It means less now. Technically, I'm still doing my job. The trainees are still learning. I show up on time and I give it my all (or as much as I can). There's just one thing missing. I seem to have misplaced my heart.

I was surprised to find that I had nothing to do today. After two straight days of what felt like hand-to-hand combat, I was finally free. I wasn't scheduled for any classes so I took my time getting ready. It felt good not to rush. I got coffee, checked my email and chatted a little. Normally, I would look for some random class or ask if anyone needed me but like I said, I wasn't me anymore.

I got a little hungry so I went downstairs to get a snack. In the elevator, I smelled something really familiar. I once read that the human nose can recognize up to 10,000 unique scents. I struggled to trace the origins of this particular one. What is it and why is it so familiar?, I wondered. Somewhere between the seventh and fourth floor, I realized it was Woodspice- my father's aftershave. I closed my eyes and let the thick scent fill my head.

Suddenly, I was six years old in a Garfield t-shirt and shorts. I slowly opened the door to my parents' bedroom- just a crack small enough for me to see if they were still there. I could see my mother sitting in front of her dresser putting make-up on. I could smell my father's aftershave from their walk-in closet. In a few minutes, they would be off to work and I could watch TV in their room.

It's funny how work seems like such a magical place to a child. I used to think everybody who worked carried briefcases and smelled like Woodspice. I remember I couldn't wait to grow up and start working because I, too wanted to start carrying briefcases and wearing fancy aftershave. A couple of times, I even tried on my dad's ties and pretended I was late for this fancy meeting. I would address my stuffed animals and roll out complicated policies only I understood. I miss being naive like that.

As quickly as the memory rushed into my head, it suddenly evanesced. The elevator dinged, signaling my arrival at the ground floor. I got off, straightened my shirt and tried my hardest to blend in. I was no longer in my father's closet playing dress-up. This was for real. In lieu of a briefcase, I carried distrust and grudges. Instead of smelling like aftershave, I smelled like disloyalty and thoughts of flight. This was not my childish imagination anymore. I was at work and I was in hell.

It's getting late. I really should be getting some sleep. I pray for a good night's rest and hope that tomorrow, I would find the courage to click Apply Now.

Monday, March 23, 2009

the emancipation of miming este db

everything's so random. setting aging plans into motion. new friends. blank cards (tabula rasa?). celebrating independence. getting (faux) inked. calorie-burning soup. dawson's crack err creek. dried mangoes at paseo. coffee and other highs. convergence of friendships. wonderful lighting at next door. emo moments at the park. finally getting lechon macau.

congratulations debbie! let's hang out at your new place soon! kahit na you would let me drown kasi buo na ang life ko. hmmph... kamon!

forgive the colors. everything was auto-adjusted. it's not my fault the sun wasn't up. fixed most of the colors but the quality got screwed up a bit. fughedaboutit.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

tagged: handwriting

I've been tagged (again) and this time, I really didn't have to think about it. It's pretty easy. Take a blank sheet of paper and jot down the following information:

1. Write down who tagged you.
2. Answer these:
- your name / username / pseudo
- right-handed or left-handed?
- your favorite letters to write?
- your least favorite letters to write?
- Write “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”
3. Tag five persons.

I didn't want to start a tagging virus so I just tagged three people. Once again, these people are free to decline. Last I checked, the Philippines was still a free country.

I apologize for the red ink. It was the only pen I had in my bag when I took the test.

I am tagging Makmak, Carlo and Ria PM. Don't fail me, guys!

Friday, March 20, 2009

tagged: 15 different people

Carlo tagged me. Honestly, I hate getting tagged. I usually ignore it (if you’ve ever tagged me, I’m sorry!) but after seeing how unique this is, I figured- why not? The rules are simple:

a. Write something about 15 different people.
b. You can NOT say who they are.
c. If someone asks you which one is about them, you can NOT tell.
d. Tag 15 people who you think would do this, too. You don't have to tag the people you wrote about.

I’m going to try my best to write about 15 people. Don’t blame me if the count’s a little short.

1. We don’t really get to talk much and so plenty is left unsaid. I want you to know that I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for me and that I’ll always be your little boy. I want you to know that I will stand by you through anything and everything. I will hold your hand when you’re older just like you’ve held mine through trying times. I want to tell you that we’ll weather this latest storm together and that I’ll help you in any way I can. I don’t tell you I love you as much as I should but I want you to know that I really, really love you.

2. In my head, you are the epitome of everything that’s wrong in the world. Talking to you is such a chore. Stop living in the past. Patience is a virtue. The grass is greener on the other side. You may want to try it some time.

3. We only met once but not a day goes by that I don’t regret it. I fucking hate you. Sometimes, I have dreams where I’m pulling out your fingers one by one. Each time I awake from that dream, I have such a huge smile on my face. The years will not be kind to people like you. I yearn (with every fiber of my being) for the day when the earth shall call your name and you will be nothing but a memory of lesser days.

4. We’ve shared so much drama, Shakespeare would’ve been intimidated. I love how you brighten my day just by being in it. You know almost everything there is to know about me. You respect my walls even when I shut you out. I can talk to you about anything and everything. You’ve seen my monsters and you’re still here and for that I thank you.

5. I didn’t think we’d get along. I remember how you practically snubbed me when we first met. If you told me that three years later we’d be this close, I would’ve laughed at your face. Thank you for being so open to all my craziness. Thank you for bringing your art into this world. Thank you for making me and our little circle so happy. And yes, one day I will email you the Coffee Bean pictures.

6. Mongie! I was a little scared when I found out I was going to be in your class. I didn’t think we’d get along. Little did I know that we had so much in common. I’m the type of person who values intimacy and the fact that we share such a unique form of it makes it even more special. You’re an original, baby. Don’t ever forget that.

7. You are stronger than you think. Sometimes, I worry that in the process of finding your happily ever after, you’re going to lose yourself. My words are never enough. That’s why I feel like I’m just standing on a soapbox when you confide in me. I am doing my best to be here for you and I mostly am. My words fail so let me borrow some from one of our favorite authors. Don't attach yourself to anyone who shows you the least bit of attention because you're lonely. Loneliness is the human condition. No one is ever going to fill that space. The best you can do is know yourself... know what you want.

8. We once said that cosmically, we were meant to be friends. Countless times, we’ve parted and reconnected and yet it still feels like we’ve never been apart. I’m so glad we’ve evolved. We’re not slaves to the idiotic Wolverine anymore. We’ve grown as writers, as people and as friends. I wouldn’t trade anything for the friendship I have with you and I’m looking forward to us hanging out when we’re both wrinkly and old.

9. You’re the closest thing I have to a brother and I know that you could say the same for me. I’m sorry. Two words that are so easy to say but for some strange reason, I couldn’t say that to you. You didn’t deserve the way I treated you and the fact that I ignored your cries for help makes me a bad person. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for letting me be when I needed my space. I really am sorry and I hope that from all the things we left in the fire, we would still have a little something left to rebuild.

10. You’re a little pathetic and I suppose we could blame that on a lot of things. I never told you this but I caught you lying so many times, it’s not even funny. I hope this “man” of yours materializes soon or else you’ll be left with nothing but the sad pictures you showed me and the thing in your head that forces you to exaggerate. Truth is, in time you will understand everything. I just don’t know if I’ll still be there to walk you through the process.

11. Of all the friendships I’ve made, I think you surprised me most. I think we’re at the point where we can tell each other anything and it’s nice to know that you’re always just a holler away. Thank you for the hugs and for the advice and for figuratively holding my hair while I puked out my teenage drama. I just hope that I can one day repay you for all the times you’ve fixed me. Thank you for keeping me sane and for always knowing just what to say. You’re great at what you do and you may not know it but I really look up to you. Thank you. Thank you. A million times, thank you.

12. I’ve broken you so many times, I’m amazed you’re still here. Someday, I will get my karma and I know that you’ll hold my hand as I go through it. You never really understood the things that I felt but just so you know, I did that all for us. I wanted there to be an us after the chaos that was 2008. I miss our late night conversations, both of us watching TV- miles away but connected by the telephone. I miss doing things with you. I miss talking to you and if I would only allow myself to be honest, I know that I miss you. I know that you read my blog every now and then. I will always love you and I want to thank you for always being there.

13. I’ve never had a best friend before. I used to think that it wasn’t a necessity. Life would be just fine without a best friend. You proved me wrong. We’ve gone a long way from jogging around the park, trying to make sense of life and love. We grew up together and I’m glad you’re in my life. You said that you wouldn’t have made it this far in life if it weren’t for me. I want you to know that the feeling is mutual. I would be lost without you and our little weekly sessions.

14. Sometimes people have to part ways. Sometimes, I look at our pictures and I feel a little sad that we don’t talk anymore. I may have overreacted a little and I took advantage of the fact that you were never the confrontational type. You’re crazy and I miss you. I’m sorry.

15. As said in Grey’s Anatomy, if love were enough, I’d still be here. I struggle with the question if what we had was real or if it was just the season. I avoid certain places because of you. I am not the same person because of you. I still think about you every now and then even though I blame you for so many things. You’re one of the people that brought me to where I am right now. The coal doesn’t thank the fire but it’s grateful anyway.*

Phew. Well, what do you know- I actually made it to 15.

Wow. Whudabout I’m getting affected? It’s actually a little therapeutic. I was able to let go of some things I’ve been keeping inside. Can you say eeeemmmmooooo?

I am tagging the following people:

Blog buddies…
1. Victor
2. EJ
3. Mr. Scheez
4. Niel Camhalla
5. Gram Math

and actual buddies…
6. Belle
7. Apol
8. Juber
9. Derick
10. Kitch
11. Mitch
12. RG
13. Beans
14. Joel

Feel free to decline. Like I said, I completely ignored these kinds of things in the past. One thing I can say though: it may seem like a chore but trust me, it’s actually a lot of fun. I may even consider doing more in the future!

Jere, if you're reading this, I wanted to tag you but I'm pretty sure na-tag ka na ni Debbie or Carlo. This is a pseudo-tag. Do it now!

If I didn’t tag you and you want to answer, take the fifteenth spot. I warmed your seat for you. Take the damn test.

15. You

Thursday, March 19, 2009

update: so tahrdy

2007: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
2008: Less work and a little play makes Jack a regular boy.
2009: More work and more play makes Jack a tahrdy* boy.

On most days I find myself slumped over my bed, too lazy to even change my clothes (or my bedsheets). Work has got me so drained physically and emotionally that it's beginning to take its toll. I waited all week for an epiphany to write about but nothing came. I was still tired. I was still in the city and not a single muse was there to guide the way.

I need a vacation. citybuoy needs to be provincebuoy for at least a week. I filed for a vacation leave and it got beautifully and ceremoniously rejected. Boo. I guess I'm not hitting the beach any time soon. Since then, work's become such a bitch. I've worn out my new shoes from dragging my heels to work. I need to come to terms with the fact that because of graduation season, work's going to be a little hectic. With more and more classes full of fresh trainees, dreams of running with sand at my feet have given way to speech drills and tall caramel macchiatos.

I tried psyching myself. Yes! I've got work in the morning! I am sooo excited! That didn't work.

I tried tricking my mind into thinking I was on vacation. Let's go to the grocery! I'm going to get some butter cookies! I'm sooo excited! Didn't work.

I even tried sleeping in my swim shorts hoping that I would dream of the ocean. Didn't work either.

Help me. I neeeeeeed a vacation. Burning out in 5... 4... 3... xxx

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

review[s]: 1234

This year, I promised I would make a review for every movie I see. I've been neglecting that promise lately. I've never been a fan of Makro but I understand that sometimes, wholesale can be good for you. Without further adue, four compressed reviews.

Empire Records
Released: September 22, 1995 (US)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥
[official website] [wiki] [imdb]

Empire Records (when it first came out) was one of those movies that told the story of a certain generation. We've only had a few. (For my generation, it was Mean Girls). The plot is simple enough. A couple of record store employees clash here and there. The movie is ridiculed with stereotypes: the smart girl, the artist, the slut, the dork, the artist and the weirdo. After discovering that their nice little joint was about to be converted into the McDonald's of the music industry, one of them, in an idiotic act disguised as heroism, gambles the day's earnings in an effort to raise enough money to save the store. If things were that easy, life would be so uncomplicated. He loses everything.

It's funny because when this movie came out, I was 9 years old but watching it now, I kinda felt old. I felt like everything was this inside joke I wasn't privy to that I so wanted to know about. The writers and producers were able to cram in an entire culture in 2 hours of film. For people like me who didn't grow up in that era, it's a little difficult to relate.

The soundtrack was absolutely great. People have said that it's one of the 90's best soundtracks ever. All in all, the movie is a beautiful ode to youth, all its shapes and forms, our identities and all the things we try to prove before we get older. Definitely worth seeing again.

Yes Man
Released: December 19, 2008 (US), January 21, 2009 (RP)
Rating: ♥♥♥

Yes Man is a feel good movie. I saw it when I was feeling a little down and it really brings out the dreamer in you. It tells the story of Carl Allen (Jim Carrey), a depressingly divorced pencil-pusher who, after a startling epiphany, tries a new philosophy on for size. He challenges himself to say "yes" to everything and anything.

You get to see Carrey in his element. Yes, at times it can a little slapstick but then again we all knew that when we saw the movie. In one scene, we see him peeking out a window, guitar in hand singing Third Eye Blind's Jumper. That scene alone (and the LSS that goes on for days ♪ i would understaaaaaaaaaaand!!! ♪) is worth the price of admission.

I especially enjoyed seeing Zooey Deschanel. I loved seeing her sing in Elf and so when I found out that she was going to sing again, I knew I had to see this film. You get to see her more quirky side ala Elf and Failure To Launch. Although I love serious-Zooey as well (Almost Famous, All The Real Girls), it's nice to see this side every once in a while.

All in all, it really is a feel good movie. The ending was a little predictable but the first part of the movie more than makes up for this. I think everyone who's seen this movie would probably think of saying "yes" a little more often. It appeals to the dreamer in everyone and if only for that, this movie is worth seeing.

Released: January 20, 2009 (US), March 11, 2009 (RP)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥

I am convinced that Liam Neeson is made of steel. After years of being second-billed, it's nice to finally see him on top. In Love, Actually and Kinsey, you get the feeling that his macho days are finally over. He proves this wrong in Taken.

Taken is the story of an ex-military man who says goodbye to his life to be closer to his daughter. On a trip to Europe, his daughter gets kidnapped and is thrown into a world of drugs, human trafficking and prostitution.

I'm not a fan of action movies but I really liked Transporter. I've stood by the franchise through all the sequels and I must say I've become a fan. Taken is from the writer and producer of the franchise. In both films, the hand-to-hand combats feel more like a choreographed dance and less like violence. In one scene, an elevator opens to reveal a man brutally gunned down. A woman starts screaming and for the first time in the film, the audience finds a character they can all relate to.

Taken is the thrilling- albeit terrifying- precautionary tale that will surely be a staple in parental sermons worldwide. The scenes are thrilling, the fight scenes intense and the plot (for once) believable. If you've ever wanted to go backpacking across Europe in a fit of spontaneity, watch this movie first and think twice.

Released: January 20, 2009 (US), March 11, 2009 (RP)
Rating: ♥♥♥

I've never been a comic book fan. I used to think Neil Gaiman was a folk singer. When I was a kid, my dad used to get me comics from Book Sale but I never really took a liking to them. I am, however, a fan of movies and so as a movie fan, I knew I had to see Watchmen.

While most superhero stories start with death-defying acts of bravery, this movie starts with the death of a famous hero, The Comedian. The remaining heroes pick up the pieces, years after they were forced into retirement.

It's funny because the film is full of little treasures. I've been a fan of Billy Crudup ever since I saw him in Almost Famous and Big Fish. I hardly recognized him in this movie. He's the blue guy with the CG appendage. Patrick Wilson who I absolutely loved in Little Children was really interesting, too. In Little Children, he played the unwilling antagonist. In Watchmen, he played the unwilling protagonist. I think he's pretty much got the whole market covered.

The movie was a little too long. The plot was a little too ambitious. I think they could've had enough material for two films. The story explored so many different themes: humanity, morality, love, hate, family issues and it left me feeling tired three-fourths into the movie. Comic book fans will appreciate the panel by panel translation to the silver screen but for us regular folks, it was a little too verbose. To sum it up in an equation, think NBC's Heroes + Before Sunrise + Before Sunset = Watchmen. If you're planning on seeing this movie, do yourself a favor by getting enough sleep and arming yourself with a latte and some popcorn.

Monday, March 16, 2009

update: reminder

I was looking for this book that a friend of mine wanted to borrow. As I flipped through the pages in search of ATM receipts and other embarrassing makeshift bookmarks, a small piece of paper flew out. It was a little thing I wrote over a year ago at the back of a used schedule tracker.

Now that you’re gone, I find myself closer to God. I pray for strength and courage for each day that feels like my last. I pray for heavy rain to conceal my crying eyes. I pray for love to one day find its way back to me. But mostly, I find myself praying for slumber for it is what eludes me most.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s so melodramatic, it almost plays like a weepy country song. Seeing it now, it makes me cringe a little (conceal my crying eyes?). I guess I’ve forgotten how shattered I was back then. It’s nice to sit back and think about how I somehow pulled through. Although I still have a few missing pieces, I know that I’m almost whole again. Sometimes, all you need is a little reminder to show you how far you’ve come.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the boy's gone

How old are you?, he finally asked. It was obvious the question had been bothering him for quite some time now. I was just about to ask him to spell Schenectady on the board when he finally got the guts to ask his question.

22, I replied abruptly. Now what’s your answer to number three? I wanted to get back to business as soon as possible. I learned early on that in my profession, being young wasn’t a good thing. I could risk my credibility. After all, who would listen to a 22 year old? I’ve always felt like I was old for my age but days like this, I feel I am once again pimply-faced and juvenile.

A simple question has once again thrown me. Admittedly, I couldn’t focus on the task at hand. I started wondering what this newfound knowledge was doing to my credibility. Were they still going to listen to me once they learn I’m practically half their age?

For a few minutes, my mind spaces out. The walls, tables and chairs start to blur. Suddenly, I am but a tiny tadpole in a lake full of frogs. Their croaks and ribbits fill the air while I try my hardest to make my legs stronger. I want to be as strong as them, I silently wished. I watched them leap and catch flies, their tongues dancing in the air. I feel envious. I am still. Will I ever be just like them?

There’s a ticking in my head that tells me if I don’t fit the mold soon, I’m going to have to leave the lake. It’s a slow breaking down of the body and mind. My legs are tired but they try to swim anyway. The water feels heavy. I can’t breathe. Damn it, I can’t breathe!

Be so happy with the way you are. Just be happy that you made it this far. Go on. Be happy now.

Over break, an elderly woman asked me the same question. 22, I once again replied. She started talking about her daughter and how she’s much older than me. I’m sure your mother’s very proud of you. Sarap mo sigurong ampunin. I managed a polite smile but in my head, I was practically screaming. My cover’s blown. They’re on to me. Pretty soon, they’ll have to stick me in the back office till I start growing facial hair.

Please be happy now. Because you say this is something else. This is something else.

I need a vacation. Nothing makes sense anymore. I search through the cabinets of my life. A few unpublished posts here, some unsorted memories there and a handful of people (myself included) left behind in pursuit of glory. Is this glory?, I wondered. It sure doesn’t feel like it. Most days, it feels more like a well choreographed dance. My mind knows the steps very well but my body refuses to cooperate. Turn left, turn right and pirouette. Disillusioned, I turn right, turn left and fall flat on my knees. The auditorium is silent. The curtain falls and so does my heart.

This is the price you pay for dreaming, I heard her say. I searched for her voice but I couldn’t find her. Where did she go? My tadpole legs struggle to swim to her but it’s too late. It’s too late. She’s wised up and left.

I lay in bed. It’s 24 minutes to lights out. In ten hours, the dance will start again. Turn left, turn right and pirouette. Turn left, turn right and pirouette.

Monday, March 9, 2009

update: grrrrr...

Play with babies and you'll end up washing diapers!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

on the other side

It has often been said that the grass looks greener on the other side. The blades of grass look so appealing. Its bluish green tints shine brightly in the sun (from where I stand at least). In my corner, the shrubbery is anything but majestic. What was once a landscape of neat Bermuda grass is now infested with weeds and various bugs- a beautiful paradise giving way to a throng of convenience and mis-happenstance.

During moments of introspection, it’s only normal to hate our lives. I myself have thought about changing things drastically (hence the haircut) in an effort to become closer to my ideal self. Meet someone interesting enough and you start to wonder: what would it be like to be just like you?

I got home at about 2 in the morning to find my father smoking, looking helpless at the door. Apparently, my sister had another close encounter with Mickey Rat (Mickey Mouse’s fat, ugly cousin) and she fell down the stairs. City life is not all it’s perked up to be.

I asked my sister how she was and she said she felt fine. She was a little shaken but she wasn’t really in pain at all. I asked if she hit her head. Yes, she said. We fed each other's paranoia and in the end, I convinced her to go to the hospital.

So that’s how I got to spend my Sunday morning at the emergency room. I held my sister’s hand through the whole process. I didn’t expect that this would be where my next epiphany would find me.

As we were pulling up to the curb, I noticed a man in a white shirt running towards the ER. He had a panicked expression and was practically screaming at the nurses for help. He had a bottle of milk and a dirty white washcloth with him. About two minutes later, a woman with her infant came in. I tried my best not to eavesdrop but from the little I could surmise, the baby fell off the bed. The little girl’s green and white shirt had lots of dried blood. As the doctors rushed to her aid, I noticed that the man kept pacing around the room. It’s not everyday that something like this happens. I wanted to tell him that things were going to be fine but truth is I wasn’t so sure of that myself.

My sister and I looked at each other. I don’t think I’m supposed to be here, she said and I felt like she pulled the words right out of my mouth.

As the doctor examined my sister, I couldn’t help but stare at the man in the white shirt. He was talking to someone on his cellphone, possibly about an urgent loan. He didn’t have much money, this much was clear but he wasn’t going to let that stop him. Here was a man whose entire life was placed on hold for the one thing that he loved most. I thought about all my problems with money and I realized that despite all the times I felt I was depriving myself of things, I had no right to complain. Here was a man with a valid (and might I say urgent) financial problem. He looked like a good man. He must be wondering why this was happening to him. From what I could see, he didn’t let that get in the way. He just did what he had to do to save his daughter’s life.

A few moments later, a group of scantily clad women rushed into the ER. Mind you, this is a small hospital where hardly anything ever happens so getting three patients in one night was a big deal. Some of the nurses started waking up to attend to the new patients. Anong nangyari?, said one of the nurses. Inaapoy po siya ng lagnat. Di daw maka-ihi, said one of the women. The doctors and nurses all looked at each other.

One of the more sarcastic doctors was assigned to her case. Severe UTI yan. Bakit kasi pinagpa-bukas niyo pa? Hirap umihi, ibig sabihin may problema ang daluyan ng ihi. Ano ba ang daluyan ng ihi?, she managed to say in one breath.

Andun po kasi siya sa dressing room. Nangangatog. Di naman nahimatay pero inaapoy talaga ng lagnat, said a slightly bigger woman. It was crystal clear these women were prostitutes. I felt awful for the poor girl in pink pants and wooly black socks. She could not have been more than 19 years old. Whatever decisions led her to that hospital bed, I didn’t really want to know. I just realized that no matter how bad I feel about my career progress and some other work drama, at least these things will never lead me to a hospital bed with infected pink parts. At least I’m in a safe workplace where no one could really threaten my life.

No matter how shitty my life can be at times, it helps to know that I’m relatively fine. I’m not dead in some stranger’s home. I’m healthy. I’m not running a race against time and money to save my daughter’s life. I don’t have to sell my body to earn a living. I have all my limbs and original parts. Yes, I’m whiny but I’m grateful nonetheless.

My sister’s better now. After a series of x-rays, the doctor told us that her neck bones were really straight and that wasn’t a good thing. After the mandatory lecture, she sent us home with a prescription and specific instructions. Although the 30° pillow inclination isn’t helping her sleep one bit, with some rest, medication and support from family and friends, she’ll be back to her old self in no time.

We all have problems. No one goes through life without them. Every now and then, we need a reminder that for most people, the grass is never just green. Sometimes it’s brown-green, half alive and half dead. Sometimes it’s brown with the faint scent of dog shit. For some, there is no grass- only a mixture of mud and tears. That should never stop them. Grass, for all its elusiveness, is incredibly tenacious and sometimes all it needs is a little elbow grease and a shitload of contentment. I think Sheryl Crow said it best. The secret to happiness is not in having what you want. It’s in wanting what you’ve got.

Postscript: My dad bought about three of those old-school rat traps ala Tom and Jerry. Haven’t heard any snaps but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

photo: green grass and blue sky [admin]

Sunday, March 1, 2009

update: blood

I’ve been having these really violent dreams lately. When I wake up, I feel breathless and I’m almost always sure I have a new scratch wound somewhere. Today, it’s right above my upper lip. Most of the blood’s clotted by now but I still don’t understand why my body becomes so violent once the lights go down.

In this particular dream, a faceless old man is choking me. I was begging him to let me breathe but the monster had different plans for me. He took his time to make me suffer. Each move was precise. I was not his first victim. He was just about to draw a gun when I woke up, gasping and grateful to be alive.

Forgiveness is easy. It’s acceptance and forgetting that’s a bitch.