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I'm vulnerable. I'm vulnerable (but) I am not a robot.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

shipwreck / unsent


“Everybody needs a shipwreck once in a while.”
Temptation Island (1981)

Walking around Makati after the storm that shook us all to the core, I couldn’t help but feel so powerless. I ran into people who had lost everything in the flood, cashing in on the mercy of their wounded brethren, wielding bags of clothes previously rotting in the backs of closets. I saw snails clinging to the northern part of seven foot walls. I wondered what kept them hanging on and if they intended to come back to the earth any time soon.

I wondered how you were. I wondered if you were safe. I whipped out my phone and started drafting a message.

I hope you’re dry. I pray the flood didn’t cause your family any damage. I hope you’re taking care of yourself. I’m no longer there to do that. Don’t worry about me. I coped, as I always do. Just take care of yourself and don’t waste the chances that you’re given. No one wants to live a life full of regrets.

I looked around. A woman was sweeping leaves and a dead rat off her front porch. A man in skimpy, borrowed shorts walked by. Just like that, I knew I couldn’t send this message to you. What we had was so furious*, so self-consuming that when it ended, there was nothing left to rebuild.

There’s nothing like mass devastation to remind us that we are all so powerless despite our greatest efforts. Try as we might, we still abide by three basic truths: Life is precious but fleeting. Love, by default, hurts and at the end of a great storm, there is a peace that numbs us all into submission.

I join the nation in mourning for all our brothers lost in the flood. What a terrible, terrible waste of human life.


Alanis Morissette
Unsent
Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie


Saturday, September 26, 2009

pba



A few weeks ago, I ran into an old trainee. She looked alarmed and asked me if I was okay.

“Oo naman!” I defensively replied, my voice seventeen decibels higher than normal.

“Wala lang. Mukha ka kasing sad. Or na-tipus.”

I dismissed that last comment and went on my way. I suppose the transition from being on leave to working nights again was not as easy as I had hoped. I overdosed on ascorbic acid, focused on getting a lot of sleep and apparently it paid off.

I was speaking to a friend earlier today and she said my aura looked a little different. I don’t really believe in auras and whatnot but it’s nice to receive a compliment every now and then. She said I looked healthier and I didn’t seem as emo as before. I thought the day couldn’t get any better when…

I was looking at some of my blog statistics when I noticed that I got a lot of hits last Wednesday and Thursday. Being slightly vain and curious, I wanted to know what caused it. I totally freaked out when I saw that I got a lot of traffic from a particular website- The Philippine Blog Awards.

Two years ago, I learned that I was nominated for a PBA*. I didn’t know who nominated me or how I even made it to that list but truly, I was ecstatic. It didn’t matter that I found out about it four months after the contest ended. The mere fact that I was nominated was enough. I’ve always seen this page as my own fortress of solitude and the fact that someone thought I had a shot at an award made me feel really nice.

Hemingways… Back in July, I submitted my blog for this year’s awards. To be honest, I just wanted to display the nice shiny badge. They sent me an email early this month to confirm that I was an official nominee and today (drum roll please) I learned that they’ve chosen this page as a finalist for the Best Personal Blog category. So happy! :D I didn’t think that lighting could strike the same place twice but apparently, it can and it has.



Back in ’07, I wasn’t very sociable in the blogging world so I didn’t know any of my co-nominees. This year, I’m proud to say I know, err read a couple of these blogs. Koji from Excuse My French and RZ from Room For Squares are also finalists for Best Personal Blog. My favorite movie reviewer Francis from Lessons From The School of Inattention is a finalist for Best Entertainment Blog.

Whatever happens, I’m just glad to be a part of all this. Everyone is so talented. I’m in such awe. Looking through the entire list of finalists (see it here!), all I can say is the judges are soooo going to have their hands full. Best of luck to everyone!


Black Eyed Peas
I Gotta Feeling
The E.N.D.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

bicycles

When I was a kid, I would bug my parents to get me a bicycle. I really don’t know why I wanted a bike. All I know is it seemed like the right thing to want. All the kids in the neighborhood had a bike. All the kids on TV had a bike. I wanted one too.

My dad was excited. You see, I wasn’t a very athletic kid. I could stand about twenty minutes of Cops and Robbers but that’s basically it. I would retreat back to my room, gasping for air and sweating like a pig.

He bought me a really nice bike for my birthday. It had a red seat, a horn and multi-colored wheels. For weeks, I rode tirelessly. I liked the freedom I got from riding around the village. I couldn’t really go that fast because I still had my training wheels on but back then, I felt I was Evel Knievel. I would perform tricks in front of an imaginary audience. I would fearlessly evade big rocks and pieces of dog shit. I would ride downhill with my eyes closed. Look Pa! No hands!

Then one day, my dad said it was time to take the training wheels off. I was so scared. I didn’t want him to do that. I started crying and in between sobs, I told him to leave my bike alone. He sat me down and told me he would teach me how to ride a bike properly. I watched as he took his toolbox from the garage. He told me that while the training wheels made the bike safe, it also held me back. He asked if I wanted anything to hold me back. Knowing it was more of a rhetorical question, I bit my tongue. I wanted to tell him that I didn’t mind my slow bike. I just didn’t want to get hurt.

When he finished removing the training wheels, he called for me to begin our first lesson. He was at the garage with my (suddenly scary) bike and told me to sit down. Reluctantly, I did and he told me to ride slow. I could feel his hand on my shoulder so I wasn’t that scared. After a few times, I finally let him let me go. I was riding without my training wheels and without my father’s hand. I felt so free when suddenly, BLAGAG!!!

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!! Araaaaaayyyyyyyyy!!!” I cried. My father came running. I had a big wound on my right knee. I was almost certain that I broke my leg. The bike was too heavy. The weight pressed down on me like a mother-effing bitch. I was crying and howling.

“Why did you let go?” I accused. My dad scooped me off the floor. He told me to be a man and try again.

Knowing how much pain it caused me the first time, I swore I would never ride my bike again. I didn’t want to risk getting hurt again. I stormed into the house and went straight to my mom. A couple of times, my dad tried to convince me to try again but even back then, I was pretty hard-headed. I didn’t want to try again and so I never learned.

Now, whenever people ask me why I never learned how to ride a bike, I would give different reasons. Sometimes I would tell them it was because I was very sickly as a child. Sometimes I would say my parents never bought me one. I didn’t want to tell them that it was fear that prevented me from learning.

My beautiful bicycle, abandoned, started to rust. When we moved out of the house I grew up in, I saw it in the backyard looking sad and old. Poor thing, I thought to myself. It’s not its fault it went to a wimpy kid like me.

I realize now that my fear, although not completely unfounded, was very irrational. Yes, my fall really hurt but I shouldn’t have let it stop me. If I really persisted, I’m sure I would’ve gotten the hang of it eventually. Now, I’m twenty-three and I cannot ride a bicycle. Don’t you think that’s a little depressing? Although riding a bike isn’t something you would normally put in your résumé, it would’ve been nice to know that if a bicycle-related emergency should ever present itself, I would know what to do.

Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if I had learned how to ride a bike properly. It’s too late now so all I can get from this situation are lessons. What I learned is we should never let fear stand in the way of anything. Everything worth pursuing has a possibility to hurt you. Why else would you want it, right? If you fall and get hurt, just dust off the rubble and try again.

Tonight, as I finish writing this post, I wonder if I still have any bicycles left in my life. If so, I want to ride them sans training wheels and with the enthusiasm of an eight year old who just discovered the simple joys of riding a bike.

♫ It’s up to us to choose whether we win or lose and I choose to win. ♫


Mary J. Blige
No More Drama
No More Drama


Monday, September 14, 2009

hello anger

Hello Anger. It’s been a while. I know I said I would never come to you again but right now, just for this moment, allow me to break my promises. I don’t know who to trust anymore. I don’t know who I am anymore.

Hello Anger. I’ve been a good boy. Never stepped on anyone to get to where I am or nothing. I tried to stay out of trouble but it seems trouble always finds me. Just when I thought I was okay, that little monster took my last piece of hope and all the change in my pocket.

Hello Anger. Did you miss me? All the others couldn’t take me. I've tried Pride, Sorrow, Misery, even Intoxication. They all just let me down. I saw them ripping at the seams, cursing my name. They weren’t strong enough for me. They couldn’t hold me the way you held me. I'm sorry Anger. Will you take me back?

Hello Anger. Do you think I’m ugly too? Do you want me to be thinner? Taller? Smarter? More eloquent? Didn’t think so. You always take me for what I am, not what I can or should be. Thank you anger. You’re my new best friend.

Hello Anger. I tried Forgiveness. I tried everything to get the old me back and for a while, I was doing okay. I was laughing again. Life didn’t seem like such a chore. But I suppose they just had different plans for me.

Hello Anger. It's good to be in your arms again. Just when I thought I couldn’t hurt any more, I did. Just when I thought I had sunk to the deepest depths and there was nowhere else to go but up, the floor I was standing on crashed. I died a thousand deaths that day and just when I thought it was over, I realized it was only the beginning.

Hello Anger. Will you be my friend? I don’t know what that means anymore. Some friends have become my allies. Others have become my adversaries. I got tired of fighting this war. I got tired of asking for loyalty. I didn’t want to make them choose. So I shed my skin and came to you.

Hello Anger. I still remember the things that you said. Trust no one but yourself. Love no one but yourself. I’m sorry Anger. I should’ve listened.

Hello Anger. It’s been a while. After all these years, you’re still the cloak that fits me best.

The Killers
Mr. Brightside
Hot Fuss

Thursday, September 10, 2009

top ten things i learned from my two-week leave


My work shirts are starting to smell like my closet. My leather shoes have been untouched for almost half a month. I’m starting to doubt if I can still teach English (Don’t English me very deep. I did not study very high!) I’ve been on vacation leave since the end of August- the first vacation leave I’ve taken, uhm ever. I have a few more days left until I have to go back to work. So far, it’s been a blast. I learned so many things and I’m sharing a few of them with you.


1. When going on leave, have a plan but be prepared to break it. I was supposed to go to the beach. I originally took this leave of absence to clear my thoughts and find myself yaddah yaddah yaddah. My ten precious days off work was supposed to invigorate me and all that. However…


2. Do not spend all your money within the first five days partying. While it may seem like a good idea at first, remember to pace yourself. My first week on leave was a sick cycle of sleeping, drinking and being hung over. Pa-ulit ulit lang. Your body can only take so much abuse and you wouldn’t want to be stuck broke and sick for the remainder of your leave. Oo, ako yun.


3. The strangest things resurface when you clean your room. Sometimes, it’s the timeliest of reminders. I found an old journal from right after my last, err… car crash. In between movie tickets, pictures and haphazard movie reviews, I found this:

02.23.08
I once said that one day, you too will lose your power over me. I no longer walk in pain. The stars no longer remind me of you. Even your face, the one I longed to see for the longest time, begins to fade in my mind’s eye. The arch of your nose, the squint in your eyes, even the taste of your lips- all these are slipping from ‘memories’ to ‘lessons learned’.

And as I walk away from the car crash that was my private heaven and hell, I pick up the pieces of my sanity which I scattered like confetti when I was yours. A piece to restore my mind, returning self-awareness and self sufficiency. Another for my heart, so that when the time comes, I could love again.

I survived then. That was ten times more powerful. I will survive this. Especially because…


4. Lose a lover, gain a few friends. It all works out in the end. You may think the world is ending but the age-old adage is true. When God closes a door, He opens a window. (Cue Joseph the Dreamer) I may have had my heart broken but the Big Guy upstairs didn’t want me to be alone. So He sent in a few friends- really good friends. People I didn’t expect na madadala ako. Seriously, thank you so much for putting up with me during my darkest hours. You guys taught me that…


5. Emo-ness subsides. Skeeter Davis is a liar. The sun goes on shining, yes but it’s not the end of the world. Kasi nga the world doesn’t stop turning. It only feels that way when love ends but every morning that you wake up is another opportunity to prove your worth to the world. Sulking doesn’t get you anywhere. The sooner you shake it off, the sooner you’ll be fine. Also…


6. There’s no such thing as an easy break-up. You may think you’re fine but then a single text message can totally throw you off*. Relapse is a bitch* but that’s not your only problem. After you’ve given everything to ensure a sane and mature break-up, magugulat ka nalang, may mag-rereply sa isang post na naka-all caps. Hamuna. Ganun lang talaga yun. Hindi naman yun aalisin ni God if makakabuti siya sakin, diba?


7. There’s nothing that a long walk cannot fix. Aside from my really good friends, these long walks in Salcedo really kept me sane. Umulan man o umaraw, it felt good to have a routine. When your mind’s heavy and your heart knows no reprieve, just take a long walk. No phones, no Twitter, no connection to the outside world. Just you, your iPod and the pavement. You’ll be surprised at how therapeutic it is.


8. Eating fifty butter and cheese sandwiches* with non-fat milk will give you diarrhea. Seriously. It may seem like a good idea to eat and eat and eat pero I learned that my body has limits pala. Haha Another lesson (although it didn’t make the top ten) is if you have diarrhea, don’t leave home. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the middle of Ayala fleeing a cab and running for the nearest toilet. Err, no. Di ako ‘yun. Uhm, friend ko yun. Haha


9. Sleep. While it seems like a good idea to spend all night bloghopping or watching Sex and the City reruns, sleeping at 6AM with the sun in your face is hardly relaxing. Ooh, naps are also the bomb. It’s like a mini vacation within a vacation! I used to sleep 10 hours a day. These past few months, I could survive on just four. I’ve forgotten how good it feels to wake up after a really, really long nap.


10. When all else fails, there’s always Facebook. My goodness. After years of avoiding Facebook, I finally gave in*. If you’re bored, there’s sooooo much to do. I haven’t given in to the whole farming and mob-building craze but I am having tons of fun reading status updates and links and whatnot. It’s like having a window into everyone’s lives. When you want to tune out of the world, escape is just a few clicks away. Plus, when there’s no one around, it’s the only one that will ask you ‘What’s on your mind?’

Katy Perry
Waking Up In Vegas
One of the Boys

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

relapsus

“You’ll never guess who’s downstairs.”

“Who?” asked my friend.

I looked at her with one eyebrow raised. “You know who I’m talking about.”

I watched as her expression changed. It was very subtle but I saw it. “He’s downstairs. Wants to see me. That okay with you?”

“Of course,” she said, sounding winded. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

A few minutes later, my phone beeped.

“SOS,” the message read.

“What’s wrong?” I replied.

“Can you come back? I need you.”

I said goodbye to the unwanted visitor. In the two minutes we spent together, we barely spoke. I’m still not altogether sure what he wanted or why he was there. At that time, all I could think of was my friend and how this whole thing left her wounded yet again.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s just… wow… I didn’t expect that.”

“I thought you were fine. You’ve been going on and on about how you’re over him and all that. What’s this?”

“I thought I was. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I was perfectly fine up until a few minutes ago. My mind’s okay. My heart’s okay. It’s just my damn stomach.”

“Butterflies?” I offered.

“No. Not butterflies. More like wasps. What did he want?”

“I don’t know. I got here as soon as I could.”

“Did he ask about me?”

“No. Not really.”

“Did you say anything about me?”

“No. I’m not stupid, okay?” We were quiet for a little bit. She started to cry.

“Look, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have said anything if I knew you were still…”

“How is he?” she asked, cutting me off.

“Fine. He says he found a job. He starts in a few days.”

“Finally.”

“Yeah. And uh…” I trailed off. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to say anything. At times like this, I wish friends came with a manual.

“And what?”

“He’s seeing someone. Wants me to meet her next week”

“What?!” she shouted. Fighting back more tears, she let out a series of whimpers and other sounds.. “Whu.. How.. How is that even possible? It’s only been a week.”

“I don’t know. I didn’t want to ask too many questions. I’m not going, just so you know.”

“How could he have moved on so quickly? I mean, it’s only been a week. For Pete’s sake, the movies we saw together are still in theaters. How is that even possible?”

“I guess people move on at different paces.”

“Is it really that easy for him?” she asked, cutting me off once again. “Like fucking changing socks? One foot then the other? Dammit!”

“Don’t think of it that way. Just try to move on. He has. You should, too.”

“I wish it were that easy. It’s not fair!” she yelled, sounding like a four year old.

“Sulking’s not gonna help, you know. What happened? I thought you said you were fine. Didn’t you break up with him?” She was quiet. From the tears and all that hair, I could barely see her face.

“Just try not to think about him,” I added. I came a little closer to give her a hug. We both fell to the ground and she started weeping openly.

“How can I? How can I forget about him when he’s in the rain, in my morning coffee, in the paper? He’s everywhere. It’s like he’s haunting me or something. Everywhere I look, I see something that reminds me of him. And it’s not fair. It’s not fair.”

Relapse is a bitch. One minute you’re fine, the next minute you’re on the floor with wasps in your stomach.

Alanis Morissette
Flinch
Under Rug Swept

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

untitled sticks story

Disclaimer: I wrote this story really quickly and I'm posting it with little editing. It doesn't really read like the other stuff I've posted. The whole writing process felt organic and stuff. I just kept typing and typing and now I'm really tired. I'm so tired, I couldn't even think of a title. I don't know if I'll still like it in the morning. All I know is it goes really well with this Liz Phair song which I'm posting at the end of the story.



An old man came to me in my sleep. It’s funny because I didn’t even know I was asleep until I noticed I wasn’t in my room anymore. He wore one of those dirty looking robes that wise old people wear in the movies. He told me to come closer.

“Come. I have a story to tell.” I was scared at first but I guess you could say I’m pretty obedient. Even in my dreams, I take directions really well. I sort of levitated towards him. My legs did not move and there was no one around to tell me I had a funny way of walking (I do).

“Nowadays, people wear their hearts differently,” he began. “The romantic ones wear it on their sleeves. The jaded ones keep it hidden from plain sight. The bitter ones leave it at home. Back then, people had sticks with them. If you grew up in a nice home with a lot of love, your stick would look very nice. Those who didn’t have a lot of love would have little twigs that look like they just fell off a withered tree. No matter what your stick looked like, you had to bring it everywhere to show people just what kind of person you are.”

“If you found someone who had a stick that looked just like yours, it usually means you would hit it off,” he continued. “If you like the person, you would cut off a part of your stick and give it to her. If she liked you back, she would do the same thing. Your sticks, on the outside at least, would look exactly the same but you both knew that it wasn’t. Your stick would have a bit of hers and her stick would have a bit of yours.”

I looked at him with an expression of disbelief. What the hell was he talking about?

“I know you think I’m crazy but there’s something to be said here; a story to be told. A story you need to bring to the world. The ceremony of cutting and exchanging and bridging sticks was not exactly that common. Many people held on to their sticks, afraid to cut it because they knew it would hurt. It stings a little but I suppose it really hurts when the person doesn’t give you their part of the stick. It wasn’t uncommon to see people with little sticks- people who were so addicted to love that they had nothing left. There were also people who walked around with sticks as high as skyscrapers. They took and took and never gave their part to other people.”

“I’m sure that was pretty chaotic.”

“It was. People started crying out to the gods. ‘Why give us these sticks if they only cause us pain?’ they would say. The gods were quiet.”

“Something had to be done about these stick-hoggers.”

“Yes. The people with small sticks took matters into their own hands. They would climb up trees and break off other people’s sticks. The selfish ones with bigger sticks got hurt. You should know that the ceremony of breaking and bridging sticks stinged a little so it wasn’t a good idea to go breaking other people’s sticks.”

“Sounds familiar. I guess people just wear their sticks differently these days,” I said.

“The gods were mostly quiet but they knew something had to be done before people started getting seriously hurt. Their solution? Karma.”

“Karma? As in karmic retribution?”

“Yes. They said, ‘You must not break off other people’s sticks just because you unwisely cut yours. If you love someone and that person says he loves you back, then go ahead and exchange. But if that person does not give you part of their stick in return for yours, allow us to deal with him. We shall strike him down before he does it to someone else.”

“Did it work?”

“Somewhat. The gods would cause thunder to burn the sticks of the selfish people. But if the person had a legitimate reason for not giving his part of the stick, they would leave him alone.”

“That sounds fair. What’s the point?” I asked. I felt like I was about to wake up any moment now and I didn’t want the whole dream to go to waste.

“I was just about to get to that. Here’s the story that you need to tell. I once met a girl with a stick so small, you could put it in your pocket. She said she’s always played her cards right, never hurt anyone or nothing but her love almost always went to waste. She asked me about karma.”

“What did she ask you?”

“She was not alive when the gods introduced it to the people and no one really understood it well enough to explain it to her. She wondered- if karma was meant to punish stick-hoggers, what does that mean to people like her? Sticks don’t grow back, she said. The only way she could have her stick back was if she tricked people to give her parts of their sticks. She could no longer live life with a really small stick. Is it possible to take karma into our own hands?”

“It sounds like she wanted to justify hurting people. What did you say?”

“I told her that there are other ways to make your stick bigger. There was no need to trick people. Once you learn to love yourself, you won’t need to keep cutting your stick. Slowly and in time, the stick will grow back and when you’re ready, you can give it to someone who really deserves it.”

“That sounds fair. Why didn’t more people know about that?”

“Because they were so caught up in the game of bridging sticks. They forgot that love made the stick grow in the first place and if you didn’t have enough love, you run the risk of living the rest of your life with a twig instead of a stick.”

“So did she love herself?”

“Sadly, no. She died a few years later. Her stick had withered to the size of a splinter and in the end, that’s what killed her.”

I was silent. It was fucking depressing. Poor girl, I thought.

“She now serves as a precautionary tale.”

“What does that mean to me anyway? Sticks? Love? It means nothing to me.”

“Are you sure?” he asked. He reached into his pocket and took out a frail twig. From where I was standing, it almost looked like a reed-stalk.

“What’s that?”

“This is your stick.” His palm started to open and the reed fell to the ground.

“Take care of yourself. No one else will,” he said as his image started to dissipate. I woke up almost instantly, his words still ringing in my ear. Take care of yourself. No one else will.

Photo Credit: FreeStockImages.org

Liz Phair
Fuck and Run
Exile in Guyville
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