Sunday, July 26, 2009

paint it black

I woke up feeling a bit disoriented. I looked around and through the darkness, I felt the wall for the light switch. Flick! It said and I got a full view of where I was. The room was in terrible shape. The furniture needed rearranging, stuff needed to be picked up off the floor and the walls needed a fresh coat of paint. What happened to this place? It used to be really nice. I’m going to work really hard to make this room nice again.

I bought a couple cans of paint. I wanted everything to be bright so I settled on a nice, warm shade of blue. I mopped the floor once and swept twice for good measure. I hauled everything outside so that I wouldn’t get any paint on them. I kept the door open so that I could keep an eye on my stuff while I painted.

The walls had become really ugly over the years- a few chips here and there, holes where pictures and paintings used to be. I painted everything white. It was a fresh start. I stood in the middle of the room, paint fumes in the air and just absorbed everything around me. It’s been years since these walls felt this peaceful. I said a little prayer, hoping this feeling wouldn’t go away.

When the white base was dry, it was finally ready for the blue coat. I carefully took the roller and with patience and precision, I started painting everything blue. After about an hour or so, I was finished. I stood in the middle of my blue room and reveled in the fact that everything was now so clean and so me.

I moved the bed near the window. I put the books back in the shelves. It was almost evening when I noticed that the front door was still open.

As I was closing the door, I could see a nameless, faceless stranger from the horizon. Wait! He shouted. Don’t close that!

I’m very tired. Come back some other time.
I said.

Please. I won’t take up a lot of your time. I traveled far and wide to see this room and it would be pointless to give up now.

It’s really late and I’m very tired. Please come back some other time.
By this time, the stranger was on the porch.

Please. You won't even know I’m there.

After much hesitation, I finally obliged. You’re sleeping on the couch. I said and he seemed fine with the idea. He looked around the room with a half-smile on his face.

I just painted it today. Do you like the new color? I asked.

I think it’s ugly. I think it’s too bright.

I looked at him, weighing the value of his statement and decided it was pointless to fight with a stranger. I lay down my arms in brittle hopes of compromise.

Someone once said this room had lots of paintings in it. Where are they?

Well, over the years, people just took them home with them. I think I gave the last one out a month ago.

Such a shame.
He said, shaking his head in disapproval. Such a shame.

The next day, I woke up and saw that the stranger was still there. He was sitting, perched on top of the bookshelf like a glorious bird. He had a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

Good morning. I said but there was no answer. Several books lay scattered on the floor. Hey! I just fixed those yesterday. What are they doing on the floor?

They were ugly. I didn’t like how you arranged them.

But those were my books.
I muttered, picking them up as I made my way across the room. I rearranged the books and magazines on the shelf.

Is this better? I asked.

I suppose so.

Do you still think the room is ugly?

I don’t know. It’s still a little too bright.

By evening, he was gone. I looked around the small room and wondered what it was that made him leave. Maybe it was how I arranged the books. Maybe it was the shape of the shelf. Maybe it was the color on the walls. Or maybe, just maybe, he found everything he couldn’t stand in this room.

I took some leftover cans of paint from the garage and mixed them all together in a big container. I could see the moon’s reflection bouncing off the dark liquid. Are you doing this for yourself? It asked. I ignored it and went to bed. Tomorrow, when the sun is up, I’ll paint my room black.

That night, just as I was about to go to sleep, I looked up at the heavens from the window near my bed. Is it true that You love everyone just as they are? Please love me just as I am.

Alanis Morissette
City of Angels: Music from the Motion Picture

Monday, July 13, 2009

ribbons undone

There are days when you question whether you’re in the right place or not. Like maybe someone somewhere is living your life- the losing half of a lottery scratch card. Lately, I’ve been dealing with so much negativity that nothing feels the same way anymore. My morning bath, once cold and refreshing seems tedious and boring. My coffee, once bitter and invigorating seems watered down and subdued. I’ve been inside a shell for so long that when it finally cracked, I didn’t know exactly how to react. (Goodness, I’ve resorted to rhyming.)

What shell, you ask? I’ve been crying uncontrollably. I feel like a preschooler. I saw quite a number of movies (and a play!) over the weekend and I couldn’t write any reviews about them because the only thing I remember was my tears. I cried during the wedding vows in Rachel Getting Married. I cried for the children in Freedom Writers. I cried with Sister Aloysius in Doubt. I cried three times in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I even cried when McQueen pushed The King towards the finish line in Cars. I had to excuse myself so I missed the last part. What’s wrong with me?

It’s like I’m a child again. My favorite teacher (who ultimately inspired me to become one myself) once saw me crying behind the school chapel alone. I was maybe 7 or 8. Illuminated by the light from the stained glass window, I was crying because one of my classmates said something really horrible to me. I didn’t know how to fight back. Everyone was gone by that time. I should’ve been home, too but my mom’s secretary was running late. I just didn’t want to be there anymore. I felt so helpless. So I cried.

“I don’t want to cry anymore. My dad told me that real men don’t do that.” I told her between fits of tears.

“That’s not true. Crying is not the refuge of the weak. It’s okay to cry sometimes. Even the brave rest every now and then.”

“Do you cry, Teacher?”
I asked.

“Sometimes. When I don’t know what to do. When I feel like I need His help. When I want to feel loved”

We prayed together and she held me as I wept. It’s been almost fifteen years since but I still remember her. I think she became a missionary or something. I wonder what she’s doing right now.

Fifteen years. A decade and a half. What’s with the major regression? I haven’t been so perpetually close to tears in such a long time. Is it stress? Is it exhaustion? Could it be a void that needs to be filled? Or perhaps deep inside me, the weepy little kid behind the parish is still there, crying because he’s helpless. I don’t want to be that kid anymore.

She said she cries when she wants to feel loved. Do I want to feel loved? Is that why I’ve been crying? Do I even know what love is anymore?

I thought about this a while ago while I was walking home. What is love to me? Every time I think of love, I can’t help but thinking of my parents. Yes, they’ve had their ups and downs but after all these years, they’re still crazy about each other. To put it in my father’s words, patay na patay parin siya sa akin.

Love is putting yellow stickers on the perfectly black keyboard so she can Facebook till the wee hours of the morning. Love is buying that bland unsalted butter (which no one likes and is twice the price of the brand you like) because she wants to eat healthy. Love is giving up the fatty part of your pork chop (the best part!) just to see him devour it with such gusto. Love is laughing at each other’s jokes even though you’ve heard them fifty million times before. Love is staying together not because of the kids but because deep down you know that despite them, you would never want to be in a world without each other. That’s what love is. I know it’s real because I am living proof that it exists.

Farck, I’m crying again. My major task this week is to find out what the bloody hell opened the friggin’ dam behind my eyes. Maybe after I fix this, I will finally know how Cars ends.

Tori Amos
Ribbons Undone (Live)
The Beekeeper

Monday, July 6, 2009


My sisters and I are pretty close. Growing up together does that to you. Lately, I'm starting to notice that we've become a little different. I share a room with one of my sisters but most of our conversations have either one of us half-awake in bed. The lawyer who works all day and the call center drone who works till the wee hours of the morning. Perfect combination.

Scene: Weekend. My sister in front of a laptop watching a movie. Chinese (or was it Japanese?) dialogue barely audible from the front speakers. Me, four hours of sleep, hair in fifteen different directions, unsure of the date and time.

Her: You wanna go to Osaka?
Me: Not really. I don't think that stuff's real.
Her: (pause) How can you not believe in Japan?
Me: (left eye opens and then strains. big pause) Oh you meant Osaka. Osaka, Japan!
Her: Yeah. What did you think?
Me: (sheepishly) Iridology?

I swear. One of these days, she's not going to recognize me anymore.

Photo Credit: Neon Lights in Osaka (jeffbl88)

Ben Folds
Golden Slumbers
I Am Sam: Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

absolutely zero

It’s funny how nights like this trigger the strangest memories. They play in front of my eyes like a movie. I strained my eyes as though the projected image was a little fuzzy.

Suddenly, I’m sitting in a café. A friend from too long ago is with me, drinking a latte. Moisture clings to my cup like sweat, each drop slowly working their way to the bottom.

“Would I make a good girlfriend?” she asked.

“I dunno. Would you?” I absentmindedly answered. I was still fixated on the drops of water and how they conveniently formed a large ring on the table.

“It’s just… something someone told me a long time ago. Sayang daw ako kasi he likes me and I wasn’t reciprocating. At that time, I was completely offended. I had half the mind to walk out. ‘Who does he think he is?’” She paused, probably to catch her breath but upon closer inspection, it was really for emphasis. “Lately I’ve been thinking… what if I misunderstood? Maybe he said that because he sensed something that I couldn’t see back then. But I see it now. Fuck, I see it now.”

“And what, pray tell, do you see?”

“That I have all this love to give. That I’m wasting my best years afraid to commit. That my indecision has become my decision. I’m the romantic equivalent of an atheist.”

“I don’t think that’s what atheism means.”

Po-tay-to po-tah-to. You know what I mean.”

I didn’t know what to say so I struggled to string some words together. “That’s how you described him.”


“Your ex,”
I said, immediately regretting my forced insight. “I’m sure he did his best but in the end, he couldn’t choose either one of you. His indecision ultimately became his decision.”

“The harem,”
she finally said. I was a little relieved that she wasn’t offended by my frankness. If she was, she was putting on a pretty good show. She looked puzzled for a little while, inhaled as though she was about to say something but then decided against it. She exhaled a long sigh- equal parts frustration and submission.

“I’m sorry,” I said and I really was. “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s not like I’m an expert on the topic. My best relationships have been with coffee, music and chocolate.”

She laughed politely, took a sip of her latte and looked away.

“You’re afraid. That’s understandable. You were hurt. You’re still broken.”

“What happens next?”
she asked.

“I dunno. I wish I knew.”

I never saw much of her after that day. I guess there are some lines that you shouldn't cross- not even with your closest friends. Looking back, I should’ve bitten my tongue. What do I know about love and getting over loss?

I’m not entirely clueless. Most people will tell you that I’m just a little too careful. The slightest hint of friction and I bolt for the door. I’m not apologizing. It’s not like me to apologize. All I’m saying is I don’t like friction. I don’t like taking risks.

Walking home one night, it started to rain. I found shelter in a broken-down hardware store. I usually have an umbrella with me so you could imagine the look I had on my face when I realized it wasn’t it my bag. I didn’t want to catch a cold, not with all the things that I absolutely needed to do. I couldn’t stay there forever. I had tons of things waiting for me at home. I quickly weighed the pros and cons and decided to brave the storm.

I walked slowly as to not attract attention but my steps soon quickened (probably when I realized how cold the friggin’ water was). It was surreal, like my feet were carrying me or something. I was running and running and running and running then suddenly everything was a blur. The bakery, the internet café, even the friendly 7-11 were all reduced to lights that blurred past me. I didn’t even realize I was home until I saw my house go by.

My shoes slished and sloshed as I opened the front door. I was drenched and shivering. As I closed the door, the whole situation dawned on me and I started laughing. Like my running, it started really quietly but then within seconds I was gasping for air, holding onto the wall for support, laughing with all my heart. I remember thinking it’s been eons since I last laughed like that and how strange that my moment of carelessness bought me that moment. The maid, possibly awakened by my laughter took one look at my dripping person and walked away, muttering buang under her breath.

Sometimes it pays to be reckless. Sometimes. Maybe it's high time I stop being so darn cautious. I’m sorry if I’ve been too careful. I promise I’ll be better. I’m sorry for wasting your time.

The mind is a powerful thing. As quickly as the memories rushed in, they disappeared into the night.

The projector fan slows and then dies. I am once again in my room reading. Thank God for cold nights with nothing to do, for good books to curl up with and for chocolate to devour. Goodness me, thank You for chocolate.

Photo Credit: Sunshine Junior

Jason Mraz
Absolutely Zero
Waiting For My Rocket To Come