Monday, December 13, 2010

postscript

Florence + the Machine  
Dog Days Are Over  
Lungs  


Six years, three months, eight days, an hour, thirty minutes, twenty-six seconds. It’s been a while since I signed up for a Blogger account. Through the years, this page has seen me through different times. I was an angry kid, a wannabe humorist, a pretentious movie critic, a washed-up advice columnist and lately, an emo writer. When I set out to write, it was just for the love of writing. I never imagined that anyone would pay attention to me for it.

Segue to last night, my legs shaking on stage, there was a screenshot of my latest story on the screen. I felt like I was gonna crap my pants when the woman called my name*. My heart felt like it was going to jump right out of my chest. My mind searched for words but I couldn’t find any. Under pressure, I am so not eloquent. In an awkward and hurried speech, I just thanked the Philippine Blog Awards and busted outta there. Now that I’m calmer and sober, allow me to give credit where credit is due.

First, I’d like to give a big wet kiss to A. Last night, I was looking for your face in the audience. Your smile made me feel better. I was just another emo writer before I met you. You inspire me more than you’ll ever know. On our third month, you said we still have a lifetime to go through. I can’t wait.

To the Coffee Babies for making sense of the jungle that is the blogosphere. You know how much I love you guys and though I may not show it much, I depend on you more than I care to admit. Jeff and Victor, you have my body. You just have to want it first.

A special shoutout to ןıuǝ oɟ ɟןıƃɥʇ for being my most loyal follower, commenter and friend. I really appreciate your guidance and no, you are not a bully.

To all the bloggers who have landed on this page, who linked, followed, shared and all those other cyber words I don’t have the time to enumerate. I believe that there is more goodness in our community than people understand and I am excited to see what new things the next year has for us.

And finally, to anyone who has ever cared to read my stories. I could say that I’d still write even if no one read me but being a Leo, I know I’d be lying. You make this all the more worthwhile. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

2010 has been a very good year for me. I got my heart broken, I met a ton of good friends and lost a few ones. I’ve had bigger milestones like my family being complete again, getting promoted at work, meeting the love of my life and now this. I don’t know what I did to deserve any of this. All I can do is thank the Lord every time I count my blessings. Now, I can officially say that my dog days are over. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Photo Credit: Manech

Monday, December 6, 2010

com-promise

No Doubt  
Cellophane Boy  
Everything In Time  

com·pro·mise (ˈkɒmprəˌmaɪz), n.
  1. a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands.
  2. an endangering; exposure to danger, suspicion, etc.: a compromise of one's integrity.

He opens the door, a crack just enough to see who it is. I stand there, hair still stringy from the rain and say I don’t love you anymore. Because loving him is a disease I needed to be cured of. Because people like us have no right to love. He lets me in. My boots make squishy noises on the doormat. The music starts to play.

When we were younger and when music was new, he asked if I knew how to dance. I shook my head. I’ll show you, he promised. He took my hand and made it hover over his shoulder. Keep it there. We mustn’t touch. His arm moved near my waist. Our palms faced each other like magnets of the same pole, an inch of space in between. When I advance, you must retreat, he began. If you advance, I retreat. We must never touch. This is how it must be if we want to keep dancing. This is how it must be for the music to play.

And so I learned to move the way he taught me. As my left leg steps forward, his right foot steps backward. Our knees moved carefully so they would not touch. We would dance for hours, my left hand longing for his right. The inches felt like miles. Each sigh seemed like an eternity. Our bodies were so close. If I tried really hard, I swore I could even hear his heartbeat. And if I breathed a certain way, I knew I could make my heart beat in sync with his.

I wanted to close the distance. Was I wrong to want more?

I became greedy. I desperately needed to touch him. I stepped towards him. He stepped back. When it was his turn to come to me, I advanced. At that moment, our bodies smacked into each other, the force strong enough to make us both fall. The music ended abruptly, the last note sounding like the pianist slammed a bunch of keys at once. With our bodies pressed together, I slithered my fingers into his right hand. My other hand squeezed his shoulder. His hand suddenly gripped my waist. I could smell the fear in his breath.

I closed my eyes and waited for him to kiss me. When I opened my eyes, he was gone. The song, his words, like an echo ringing in my ears. This is how it must be if we want to keep dancing.

The song ended. The room fell quiet. Now that it’s over, why am I the only one crying?

Sorry, I begged. I was wrong to want more. I don’t love you anymore, I said, my clothes dripping with rain water. Because I was wrong to touch you. Because it’s wrong to love you. Because I am addicted to the way we danced.

The music started playing as he let me in. The apartment smelled like dead flowers and heartbreak. Can we continue? Is it too late? My questions seemed alien. My voice didn’t sound like my own. He put his left hand near my waist. I made my right hand hover over his shoulder. Our free hands came together, the mandatory inch apart automatic. I advanced, he retreated. He pulled close, I stepped back. Those were the steps. I knew them very well. As long as I didn’t change them, he would never leave.

I knew you’d be back, he whispered into my ear. It was only a matter of time. His eyes seemed to pierce right through me. His pinky shuddered as it reached to touch mine. I fought it at first but he imposed himself. When our fingers touched, it felt like a mild current just coursed through my body. I looked at him, not understanding why he was breaking his own rules.

What’s this? I asked, my eyes fixed on our pinkies touching.

Compromise, he answered, a sly smile on his face.

We danced for hours, our bodies never tiring. If only my heart could be as willing.

Photo Credit: 141209

Monday, November 29, 2010

kissing

Bliss  
Kissing  
Quiet Letters  

We live in a world full of lies. Every day, we run into liars and fakers and it’s easy to get lost in all of it. Sometimes, I feel like joining the party, like maybe that would make everything easier. I know all the lines by heart. It’s easy to fake a smile. But then I’d be lying too, wouldn’t I?

Last night in bed, I stared doubtfully at our reflection. You seemed so small and frail, like a child spooning a giant. Your left leg rested comfortably on my hip. Your face peeked from the valleys of my shoulder. It seemed I could squish you like a bug if I wanted to.

“Parang ang liit mo,” I said as I stubbed my cigarette into the ashtray.

“Ikaw na. Ikaw na matangkad.”

What I wanted to say had nothing to do with height. What I meant was I wasn’t really sure if you could take me. Adaptation makes the parts we need bigger and the parts we don’t, smaller. For years, I’ve cultivated my wrath, my bitterness and strength. It’s helped me survive. It’s helped me write. What makes you think it would be that easy to undo all of that?

I sighed, one of those long, pregnant sighs when you know I’ve gone crazy again. In my head, the questions kept burning. Why do you love me? I have nothing left to give. Why do you stay?

And then you kissed me.

You kissed me and I tasted truth. Everything, all the doubts in my head and the voices that tell me it’s not gonna work, they all faded away. These are lies, your lips taught me. Believe only in this, they whispered as you kissed our hands intertwined. Trust only this, they said as you kissed the left side of my chest.

You kissed me and I felt honest again. It was a quiet shift but I felt it. My lips formed a clumsy smile. My heart sang a quiet song.

On a journey of the heart,
there’s so much to see.
And when the sky is dark,
you’ll be right here,
right here with me.

We could fly,
you and I.
On a cloud,
kissing, kissing.


Photo Credit: robyn

Monday, November 22, 2010

a bird named Bird

Zooey Deschanel  
Sugar Town  
(500) Days of Summer  

I have a bird who hates Zooey Deschanel. Which is unfortunate because I love Zooey Deschanel. I was playing Sugar Town one night when he started freaking out. I was afraid his squawking would wake the neighbors so I had to shush Zooey and work in the deafening quiet.

Okay, so technically he’s not my bird. He’s no one’s bird. One day, he just crashed into our house. Swerte yan! my superstitious aunt announced and so we kept him. We sent the maid out to get a cage for Bird (yes, we named him Bird. We are that imaginative.) but it seems she underestimated his size. The poor thing barely fit in his new home. If he escaped from his last home to look for freedom then I’m guessing he wasn’t very happy about where we decided he would live.

For something fluffy and yellow, Bird is pretty ill-tempered. He squawks like a madman when his food’s late. It’s impossible to work around him because he hates all my songs. In the morning, he flaps his wings really, really fast and it sounds like a bunch of winged demons just escaped from Hades to attack me.

My best guess was that he was miserable because he was in such a small cage. Bird flaps his wings but can’t go anywhere because of cruel Physics laws. I took it upon myself to find him a proper home but since I’m lazy and I procrastinate way too much, it took me about a year to find Chez Bird- a fancy, two-storey mansion with rods to perch on and a neat ol’ swing. It was everything a bird could ever want. I was certain he’d be pleased.

He wasn’t. For days, Bird was quiet. Oddly enough, he didn’t like his perches or his swing. He just stood there on the cage’s floor as though his life depended on it. This is for your own good, Bird. I assured him. You wanted this, remember?

I tried to poke him with a cotton bud but he was practically immovable from his spot. He would inch a little but as soon as his white invader left, he’d be right where he started. After some time, I realized he was still living on the floor space of his last home. Move, Bird! I scolded. This space is yours for the taking! He wouldn’t listen. I tried to cheer him up by playing that Incubus song* he enjoys and getting him the expensive bird seed he likes but he just stood there with a hollow expression.

He stopped making strange noises whenever I play the songs that I like. He stopped flapping his wings early in the morning. He wouldn’t even look at me. For days, he stood there as though he was at the end of a long death sentence and I didn’t know what to do. I was puzzled. Why wasn’t Bird happy?

I was happy in my loneliness. It sounds strange but I was. I loved wallowing. It forced me to write. But then all of a sudden, the stars aligned and I got everything I ever wanted: my family was complete again, A and I fell in love, I got promoted*. Why couldn’t I be happy?

For years, I searched for stability and now that it’s here, I don’t quite know what to do with it. What happens after they ride into the sunset? What happens after they pull away from that reconciliatory kiss in the middle of a busy airport? Nobody tells you what happens after the screen fades to black. Nobody stays long enough to see the last of the credits roll. All you should remember is it was a happy ending, done in the way that only Hollywood can.

I let Bird be. I figured he’d come around soon enough.

One day, my neighbor’s daughter asked if she could have Bird’s old cage. She was gonna use it for a project or something. I unearthed it from the mountain of useless junk in the garage. As I walked past Chez Bird with the old cage in my hand, the winged creature made its first sound in weeks.

I don’t speak bird nor do I know anyone who does but at that exact moment, on that unnervingly warm Thursday afternoon, I thought I heard Bird say something. It was strange and murky like water in an unused fountain but I understood it as though the words were my own.

As Bird saw his old cage, I could’ve sworn I heard him say Home.

---

Peace is beautiful but it’s not for everyone. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself stuck, looking for trouble in an effort to revert to your old self. Don’t get too comfortable, a voice tells me. It wasn’t meant to be this easy.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, VICTOR! I said "bird" twenty-two times for you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

black widow

Rihanna  
Russian Roulette  
Rated R  

All around me, everyone seems to be having a good time. Alcohol does that to you and coupled with friendship and other spirits, it’s not hard to feel alone in a sea of happy, inebriated strangers. Pardon the cliché but it’s all I have right now. My word processor’s cursor blinks like an irregular heartbeat and I can’t help but feel that if I don’t start writing, I would dry up and vanish forever.

I’m alone, save for an empty bottle of beer. I’ve been trying to get another one but the waiter seems very intent on a much delayed airing of a boxing match. On the table, I have my cigarettes and a relatively untouched bowl of tokwa’t baboy. I’m not hungry. I came here to drink. And to write.

I close my eyes. There are stories that need to be told, scenes that need to play out. In my mind’s eye is a woman with a toaster. You can hear an old song from the radio. Which song is it? It sounds like the intro to Michelle Branch’s Are You Happy Now?* The woman is frozen in time, toaster in the air, her husband in the bathtub seemingly unaware of the fate she has decided for them. Why is she there? Why does she want to kill him?

My head hurts. It seems I cannot find the story. It’s like that store in the mall, the one where you saw that really nice pair of jeans a week ago. It has a way of hiding from you right when you need it. And when you finally arrive at its well-lit façade, the jeans are either not how you remembered them to be, not in the right size or if you’re really unlucky, the store has just closed for the night.

The waiter looks my way and I signal for another bottle. Where is the woman with the toaster? Where has she gone?

If you ask me, toasters are a little too cliché. It’s so old-fashioned, you can literally taste the damask wallpaper peeling off the wall. The scene’s poorly lit but you can tell that her hair has been dyed from its original color to platinum blonde. The roots show like a weak story with poor delivery. Let’s change the toaster.

She walks slowly with a loaded shotgun. The bathtub’s gone too. Her husband is showering. You can see his blurry nakedness through the frosted shower window. He needs a pubic trim but that’s something you don’t really write about.

She slides the door open. There is no fear in his eyes. Did he see it coming?

I take another swig of my beer only to find it is my last one. I promised myself I would stop drinking so I guess I should stop at three bottles. The waiter is behind me. With the smallest voice I could find, I ask him for a glass of water and the bill.

Chit? he asks.

Bill, I correct.

“Hands up,” she commands but he just stands there, one hand soaping his left shoulder, the other covering his privates. She needs something from him – a look, a confirmation her lover loves her still.

“Hands up!” she says again, this time shouting. Reluctantly, he drops the bar of soap and throws both hands in the air.

“Say it,” she barks as she cocks the gun.

“Say what?”

“Three words.” There is a wicked smile on her face, like she’s done this countless times before. There is still no fear in his eyes.

“Do you want me to say I love you?” he asks. The scene is in black and white so you barely notice that he has peed on himself. The warm liquid trickles from the tip of his uncut penis to his hairy, muscled leg to the soapy water on the cold bathroom tiles.

Yes. (?)

Yes? Do I want her to say yes? Does she want him to say he loves her? Wouldn’t that be too quick?

“Pull the trigger,” he says, not I love you. More than any combination of all the words in the English language, those were the three she least expected. Why did it seem more genuine then? Could it be that he knew all along? Why did he allow it to happen? Is love really that strong or that stupid? Help me understand why he let her do it.

He loved her knowing it would be the end of him. In my mind’s eye, she is cleaning the gun’s barrel as they do in the movies. Do shotguns have barrels? This story has no ending. None of my stories do.

Sir? Sir, the waiter calls to me and I awake from my daydream. He hands me the bill for the food, a pack of cigarettes and two bottles of beer.

I ordered three, I say. Or was that all in my imagination too? I lay a crispy Ninoy on the tacky leather envelope and tell him to keep the change.

Photo Credit: it's my life

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

if i were you

Tamia  
If I Were You  
A Nu Day  

There are three people in this story- him, me and you. Now, how many of us will end up hurt after all this is anyone’s guess. If you ask me why I did what I did, I really wouldn’t know what to tell you. I was searching for something, the way a kid breezes past lonely grocery aisles when he has a sweet tooth. But no one ever told him he was looking too quickly. No one warned him that when you run, things have a way of passing you by.

There’s a part of me that will always love him. I think that’s the way it is for everyone we have loved. But this particular love was destructive. I was young then, unaware of the dangers that conceal behind the guise of love. I married him without a prenup, figuratively, of course. He would have all of me whether or not that relationship worked out. It was chaos, I know but it was our chaos and I gave furiously without requiring anything in return.

It didn’t work out and like a broken wing, my heart was dormant for close to three years. I tried endlessly to fly but it hurt too much. I numbed myself, sure that it was the only way I could survive. I promised I would never give myself the way I did with him. I built an impenetrable wall around my heart. Relationships became logical and unfeeling. Fucking started to feel routinary and mechanical. There was only one goal: to feel better. Slowly and in time, I became stronger. I learned to live my life without anyone seeing I was hollow. I was stronger, yes, but at what price?

And then you came into my life. You changed everything. You made me think that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t as broken as I thought and I wanted to hold on to the feeling for as long as I could.

One day, you asked to see my heart. Shaking, I held it up for you to see. I was afraid you’d look closely and see the cracks, the pieces of scotch tape and dried-up glue recklessly put into place. I knew you could tell that a part of me was dead. What crushed me was that you stayed anyway. You would kiss me with your eyes closed. I could feel your passion and the pressure to love you in equal amounts.

I wanted to. I really did. It’s just, I had given all my passion to him. I had nothing left to give. Would you be angry if I told you I went to him to see if I could get it back? I wanted to see if that part of me was still there, hiding behind layers of bitterness and sorrow. And so I came to him and over vodka and triple sec, he showed me that my passion was still there, sleeping. Waiting. Why was it so easy for him to bring it out? Was it because he was the last person to make me feel it? Was it because he was the last person who had all of me?

That night opened my eyes to a lot of things. I learned that you could only pick at a scab so many times before it starts bleeding again.

Would you hate me if I told you that I fell into his arms? I do. I’ve been blaming myself nonstop since I left his house, shitfaced and intoxicated late that night. I’m a bad person. Behind all the pretenses and walls I put up, I am an evil, needy person who only takes and never gives back. Cliché as it may sound, you deserve better. You’re a good person who should only be surrounded by rainbows, butterflies, perhaps a unicorn with a golden saddle. Okay, bad image but you get the point.

And I said all this to you with a straight face as we looked out into the city. Your eyes were blank. From afar, I could’ve sworn I could hear a strange bird singing. You couldn’t look me in the eye. Even after my confession, all you could do was blame yourself. I am the bad one here, I corrected. You are beautiful and blameless. You have every right in the world to hate me but you chose not to. I wonder why you chose not to.

Seek vengeance, I offered. Slap me. Hit me. Tell me you’re not just gonna stand there and pretend everything’s fine. Everything’s not fine. I am broken. Don’t you see that? I cannot love you the way you need to be loved. I cannot hold you the way you need to be held. I have never admitted to it but I have always known.

I am broken. I need you to be strong so you can fix me. Can you be strong for me?

Your closed your eyes. I wanted to shake you so you would look at me, so you would talk to me but you had already retreated into your safe place. I let you because I cannot hurt you there. And though it seems that’s all I’m capable of, I never meant to hurt you like this. I never wanted to hurt you the way he hurt me.

You need me to be passionate. I need you to be strong. Could it be that in the end, all we ever do is look for ourselves in each other?

Photo Credit: speed blur

Monday, October 11, 2010

his jacket

Curtis Stigers  
To Be Loved  
Songs From Dawson's Creek  

In almost all of my father’s pictures from when he was my age, he wears a thick leather jacket. It didn’t matter if it was eighty degrees out. He would always have a crisp white shirt, tight dark jeans and that bulky jacket on. I always assumed he needed that whole macho image to enter manhood, something that my grandfather and seven uncles failed to teach him. No one ever teaches you to become a man. It’s just something you should know from the get go.

He refused to throw it away even as he outgrew the style. It stayed at the back of his closet for decades. I remember one time, he caught me and my sister playing with it. I think I was about seven or something which made my sister about ten. Anyway, she and I had no idea about the jacket’s history. We just saw it and thought it would be cool to play dress up with it. When he saw me wearing it, he saw red. I had no right to wear his precious jacket and I got the beating of my life to make sure I always remembered.

I think that’s why it felt a little weird when he called me into his room and said he had something to give me. His room always smelled like naphthalene balls, a scent I have since associated with old people. He reached into his closet, pulled out the jacket and told me that it was time for me to start wearing it.

“I was about your age when I bought that,” he said. Part of me cringed and I was hoping it wasn’t very visible in the afternoon sunlight. I’m not exactly the leather jacket wearing type. But this wasn’t just any jacket, I would soon learn. It had a very special meaning to my father.

When he was in his early twenties, most of my father’s clothes were hand-me-downs from his brothers. He knew his wardrobe lacked a few key pieces. With his first paycheck, he bought that jacket. At first sight, it was a simple accessory, just scraps of leather, cotton and polyester sewn together. But underneath those layers, it symbolized everything he deemed important- freedom, growing up and making it in the real world. Whenever my father put on that jacket, he was becoming less like the boy who grew up in a farm and more like the man from the city he was becoming.

“Now I know times have changed but classics like this will never go out of style,” he beamed as he removed the jacket from the wooden hanger. I was torn at that point. I knew there was no chance in hell I would wear that thing but at the same time, I knew how much it meant to him, how this moment must’ve been in his mind for years. He was passing the symbol of his manhood to his only son. Now why did it feel like such a burden?

He put the jacket over my shoulders. I popped my hand out of each sleeve to find that it was at least three sizes too big for me. The shoulders drooped and the sleeves swallowed my hands. All in all, it just looked like a real big mess. I walked over to the dresser to see my reflection. I looked like a large black cow swallowed me whole.

“It’s too big,” I reasoned out as I took the jacket off. “I could have it tailored but that might ruin it.” My father stood behind me, his lips pursed and tense. I stared at our reflections in the mirror. How could we be related when we look nothing like each other? He stared at my reflection, his eyes lingering on my frail shoulders. Was he thinking the same thing? Was he asking the same questions?

“Perhaps you’ll grow into it,” he said, his voice filled with an alien hope. He took the jacket from my hands, folded it up and gave it to me. “Who knows? One day, you might decide to bulk up and it’ll fit then.” I smiled at him, that polite smile I only use when he makes me feel uncomfortable and thanked him for his gift. Deep down, I too wished the jacket would fit me one day.

Photo Credit: TSY

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

six / war on chores

Weezer  
Buddy Holly  
Weezer (The Blue Album)  

Today marks my sixth year as a blogger* as well as my first month with A. Normally, I’d write something snazzy to celebrate but I’m going through this phase where I feel like everything I write is crap. I’ve got about a dozen or so stories all in my mind or on torn up pieces of tissue paper and I can’t seem to make sense of them.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been sick. I haven’t been to work in ages. This stupid mosquito bit me and poof! It became dengue! It’s not the big D I’m worried about though. It’s the boredom that comes with it. I’ve been on reverse isolation for about a week and a half now and I’m about thiiiiis close to exploding from sheer idleness.

And so because I feel like I should post something but at the same time I feel like nothing I write is good enough, I figured I’d dig something up from the old baul. The article I chose is one of the first things I ever wrote with the intention of posting online. I published it in early 2004 when I still had my own website and before I signed up for a Blogger account. I reeeeally want to edit it but I know that would go against the whole activity. It’s all very whiney, self-deprecating and fake-cool which was how everyone wrote in those days.

Anyway, I just spoiled everything with a lengthy disclaimer. Here is my War on Chores.


There should be a law against chores. There should be. I mean it. There should be a law that makes it illegal for suburban homes to be without a maid. I hate chores. They’re messy and you get nothing in return for them. At least the maid gets a monthly check. What do I get? I get calloused hands and the distinct smell of leftovers. I hate chores and I hate people who assign them. They keep me from the more important things that I have to do like… hmm… I dunno… I’ve been doing chores so long I don’t even remember what a normal teenager does in summer!

Chores always upset me and when I’m upset, I eat and get fat. It’s what I do. So basically, the ten pounds that I lost last month is now down to a dwindling five. I got it! That’s what I wanted to do with my summer… concentrate on slimming down.

Do you know that fifteen minutes on a treadmill or a bicycle will burn you about 70-90 calories? I biked briskly in the gym two weeks ago and it burned me 96 calories. I was mighty proud of my accomplishment until I realized I didn’t even burn enough calories for the bag of chips I had for breakfast. 96 friggin’ calories means nothing.

Elections came again and I was assigned another chore. Bring my grandmother to Makati so she can exercise her suffrage. For the record, I never agreed to this arrangement. Next thing I know is people are waking me up to bring Lola there! I didn’t give in and I just slept the whole morning. My sister ended up going. It wasn’t so hard. They rode cabs to and fro and they didn’t have any heavy bags to carry. So I was a bit surprised when my sister came home tired and sleepy. Suddenly, she was exempted from chores! Aaargh! I was so freaking pissed! It just wasn’t fair! What do I get for walking fifty blocks just to deposit Lola’s money or mail Lola’s affidavits? Mind you, Lola’s a very picky person and you have to do things perfectly or you’re doing it again… So, what does she get for helping Lola out. She gets exempted for chores. What do I get for helping Lola out? A shitload more chores. There is just no freaking justice left in the world. And just to prove my point, here’s another story.

It’s no secret I failed trigonometry last semester. Trying to convince them a new school is best for me only terminated the possibility of future attempts. So I needed to accept the fact that I’m going to be an irreg. That’s basically the kiss of death for someone like me who’s unassertive most of the time. So I figured you got the car, might as well drive it. I was going to take some advance courses so that I won’t be soooo behind next few years. But in UST, that’s not even possible. I need to talk to a bunch of people who will then decide if I can do that. So I told my mom last Friday that I needed to go to UST. Guess who didn’t want me to go. Guess who didn’t leave me any money… Clue, she’s my father’s wife… It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Water under the bridge, I said when she got home. So I reminded her this afternoon and she said (and I quote) “There are a lot of more important things that you need to do that go to UST. What makes you so sure they even have office tomorrow? Mag floorwax ka na lang!” So I guess the floor’s future is more important than mine… and for further proof of the world’s injustice and the overabundance of chores… here’s another story, though somewhat unrelated.

I called Bleep’s cellphone last week in the middle of a chore. To my surprise, it wasn’t Bleep who answered but someone else who sounded like they were just waking up. Complete with yawning and stretching sounds. I quickly hung up and repeatedly told myself it was the wrong number. Several days later, Bleep calls me up. “Listen, I was checking my ‘Received Calls’ and saw this number. I don’t remember you calling me so may I ask who this is?” Bleep doesn’t know my number. That was the beauty of everything. Everything was casual, no strings attached unless I wanted them to be. But now I guess Bleep’s moved on. I faked (with expertise) a probinsyano accent and said “Sorry piru sari-sari store lang pu tu i kaya de ko talaga alam kong seno ang tomawag jan. Pusibleng kahit seno kasi madami naman nakeketawag deto eh” which was quite a change from my greeting (Good Morning, Hello!). There is no justice in the world and when I hung up, guess what was right there waiting for me… chores!

Monday, September 20, 2010

two letters

Nerina Pallot  
Nickindia  
Fires  

Sunday morning. You lay asleep beside me. It was a special morning, one that came at the heels of our first night together. Outside, the sun was looming behind the curtains. It threatened to take away everything that took place here.

In a world that constantly forgets, who will remember us?

I feared for my memory was weak. I wanted to document everything so I would never forget. I wanted to write about the way the light danced from the swaying curtains, the hum of the air conditioner and the bead of sweat that trickled slowly down the small of your back as you rose to get a glass of water. I felt bad that we were leaving this place without any proof that we were even here.

There is only one way to leave your mark, a voice said to me. Write a letter.

When I was a kid, my mom enrolled me in a school that was very close to her office. Convenience, she said but I think she just wanted me to be close to her at all times. While most kids spent their afternoons playing with friends or watching cartoons, I spent the hours after class in my mother’s office watching her work.

On a particularly boring day, I told her I was claiming an unused desk at the northeast corner of the room. I need the space, I reasoned. To do my homework and stuff. At that time, it was the closest I had come to becoming an adult. The location was prime. There was no one around to bother me. The drawer proved most useful. All at once, it held my books, crayons and lessons learned.

I was very sociable back then. I made many friends in different departments and floors. One time, the seventh floor guard gave me a piece of Stork. He was a pretty notorious bully but even he couldn’t resist my charms. After I devoured the candy, I kept the wrapper in my drawer as proof that there is good in everyone’s hearts. You just gotta dig deep sometimes.

There was this other time when I was running around the office in my white socks. I think I was pretending to skate or something. My socks would often turn gray those days but it was a fun way to kill time. During one miscalculation, I ended up slipping and crushing this huge ass bug on the wall. Upon closer inspection, it was a beautiful insect with many colors. I started crying, the guilt of having taken a life deep in my gut. To remember how fragile life is and how some mistakes are irreversible, I wrapped the bug’s body in toilet paper and stored it in my drawer.

There were many stories, each one with a different lesson and a different addition to my collection. I learned a lot that year and it didn’t take long before I had enough stuff to fill the entire drawer. On my last day before summer vacation, my mother told me it was time to clear my desk. Next year, I would be studying in a school closer to home.

I had an urge to leave something behind, something to prove I once occupied that space. If I didn’t, it would be like I was betraying all the lessons that I learned. I decided to leave a letter in my special drawer. I wanted the next user to know how special it was to me. I wrote everything down in my crooked second-grade handwriting on a page I tore out of my notebook. Right before we left that night, I pushed the letter into the now empty drawer, hoping that my message would find its intended recipient.

In a world that constantly forgets, who will remember us? I asked.

Write a letter, my eight-year old self replied. Put on a show and no one will ever forget.

I started writing in my clumsy twenty-four year old handwriting on a pad of hotel paper. I wrote about my search for love and how it took me to different beds and different hearts. I wrote about giving up and resigning to live alone. I recounted all the mistakes I had ever made, mistakes that somehow led me to this hotel room and in your arms. And then I realized it was too long and too emotional. No one wants to read stuff like that anymore.

I crumpled the page and started anew. I chronicled each kiss, the way our bodies moved as one, how I was you and you were me. I retold Hedwig’s Origin of Love* and how each touch, each kiss brought you closer to me. I wrote about how I entered you and how it felt like we were jigsaw puzzle pieces who had finally found each other. And then I realized it was too erotic and I didn’t want the next resident to think it was that kind of hotel.

I wrote about the conversations that we had over cigarettes at the balcony. I recounted how I felt when I woke up beside you, your chest rising and falling gently with each breath. I described the wonderful, warm fuzzy feeling love brings and how I wanted to die and be reborn as that mole in the middle of your chest. I wrote about how we slow danced to a Sade song* that was playing in my mind. And then I realized that it was too cheesy and I didn’t want them to think I was some fool obsessed with love.

One thing was clear. We had stumbled upon something very important within these four walls. I just couldn’t seem to write it down. The concept was elusive and each attempt to capture it felt like a betrayal. After many drafts, I realized I was down to my last piece of stationery.

Make this count, my eight-year old self said. Use no other voice but yours. Ours. I looked at him in his navy blue shorts and graying socks and I automatically knew what I should write. He was there for a reason. His drawer was my hotel room. I furiously wrote down my letter, my penmanship heavy and excited. Right after we checked out, I ran upstairs and slipped my letter in the bedside drawer. There, beside the Bible and the room service menu, someone would find a letter. It would contain the most important thing I know.

Dear 3A Resident,

There is magic in this room. It taught me that love exists.

NL

Photo Credit: crumpled-paper

Sunday, September 12, 2010

reprising little boy sam

Liz Phair  
Only Son  
whitechocolatespaceegg  

As a child, I had dreams of Superman. I valued his morals and envied his strength. I thought the world of him. In many ways, he took the place of my father. I always abhorred the latter for not being strong enough, brave enough or even honest enough. He was never around for the big stuff. He was always out working. His politics paid for my education, the roof above my head and the food in my gut but in no way did it afford him my love. Money does not raise a child, a father does and I was determined that the greatest power in the universe was to be my new father.

My coming out to him was a sign, at least to me, of respect. I probably wanted to tell him first because on some level, I blamed him for how I turned out. Needless to say, he didn’t take it well. He called me names, even tried to hit me a few times. He would always stop right before his fist hit my face. He punched the walls, screaming in a voice I had never heard him use before and in a language that seemed of a different world. Resigned, he cursed the heavens for what happened to his only son. He looked at me with the eyes of an animal. I had never been so delighted and terrified at the same time.

My lover Grey greeted the problem with a response that was equal parts ambitious and arrogant. Elope, he said. Fuck him. Fuck them all. He put his lips around his middle finger. His spit glistened in the distant moonlight. With a child’s attention to detail, he raised his finger towards an imagined figure of my father and mouthed a subtle fuck you.

But not after I fuck you first, he added as he pulled me under the covers.

But there would be no need to run away. Days later, the fates decided to throw us a bone. I went to my father’s office one afternoon to talk to him. It was his sanctuary, his Fortress of Solitude if you must. Using the key that he kept hidden in one of the building’s many crevices, I unlocked the door to find him naked and in the arms of Luther, his childhood best friend and longtime business partner. I hid behind the door, quiet as a mouse, listening to him moan as another man took him from behind.

Now tell me, who’s the disgrace now?

That night, I stayed up to watch him creep into our house. It was past midnight when he finally came home.

Long night? I asked. He dismissed my statement and went up to his bedroom. Outside, a lonely dog was howling a lullaby. You know, you and I, we’re not so different. I added, right as he closed his bedroom door.

Superman was not the greatest power in the universe. Denial was stronger and like glue, it put together what the truth was trying to take apart.

Father, come out, I said to him, even though I knew he could not hear me. This cross is ours to bear now. There is no one left to blame.

Photo Credit: grapesfrappe
Original Post: continuing the straight path

Monday, September 6, 2010

leaving

Kelly Clarkson  
Irvine  
My December  

I knew he was leaving. The signs were clear. I just didn’t want to think about it.

“If you wanna go, then go,” I said to him through my bedroom door. He was silent. The only sound I could hear was the gentle clinking of metal. My entire house moans as another lover leaves. I didn’t think it would hurt that much. I’ve certainly had my practice. But it seems all that I have of him is all that he’s left me, a single key on top of the countertop; a reclusive reminder of a love that broke before it bent.

He did not know. There was no way he could. As he left, I closed my eyes, pressed my ear to the floor and listened for the shuffle his feet made on the wood. I was waiting for hesitation, for the sound of his steps to grow louder and louder as he came to my bedroom door. I wanted him to beckon, to beg me to come out, to tell me that he was going to fight for us. I needed him to hear the words that my pride wouldn’t let me say. Please don’t leave me. Not you.

Each year, my fishbowl gets fatter and fatter with keys returned, love disposed of and the sound of footsteps walking away. As my front door ushered him out, I wondered if anyone could see how I was doubled over, weeping on my bedroom floor. Could anyone see the tears that have come to bring me slumber?

---

Like animals, we learn to adapt. We change because we live, because we can, because we refuse to be victims of our circumstances. It’s like severing an arm to save the rest of your body. We do this because as humans, we see patterns. We do this because only a fool jumps into the same fire twice.

---

The moon looked ripe that day. We were fighting in the kitchen. It’s a scene I’ve learned to memorize from years and years of repetition. The story is always the same. It’s just the actors that shuffle. This is the part where you leave.

“If you wanna go, then go,” I said to you. You looked confused. Experience has taught me that this would be the last time I would ever see you. I sat silently on the countertop but in my head, I was already in my room, head on the floor, listening to the sound your feet would make as you walked away.

“I wish you’d stop that,” you said, waking me up from my little daydream.

“Stop what?”

“Stop assuming that everyone you love will leave you. That’s probably why you’re so strange sometimes, how you’re warm one minute and cold as ice the next.” I looked up from my spot in the room. There was a strange calmness in your voice. “If you really want this to work, you have to trust me without contempt. You have to love me without fear.”

Were you there that night my first lover left? How do you know these things when I have built so many walls to keep you away? How do you know the thoughts in my mind when my tongue bleeds from being bitten? Was I that transparent? How do you know me so well?

“I’m sorry,” I said, finally breaking down.

“I’m not going anywhere,” you promised as you wrapped your arms around me. In my heart of hearts and to the lonely moon, I prayed you were telling the truth.

Photo Credit: leaving

Sunday, August 29, 2010

reprising the bitch

Lily Allen  
Littlest Things  
Alright, Still  

It would be nice if lovers were like movies. I’d have lovers in boxes, on bookshelves, a messy pile by the bed. There are some movies that you see only once, others you play over and over again without tiring. I could rank my lovers and keep the good ones close to the television.

I run my hands through a particular pile. There’s a movie I need to play, a scene I desperately need to see. It was a moment when I felt happy, when I thought love was the strongest thing in the world. I turn the television on, pop the disc in and allow the images to fill my mind.

It’s been years since I saw it but this movie still feels very fresh. I wonder how long my mind can preserve these thoughts. They say moments like this never cease to exist. They’re just there, suspended in time for all eternity. Why then do I feel like I’m seeing a picture slowly overexposing? It’ll be all white soon. I need to recapture it with my mind’s eye.

Will I always remember the darkness of his eyes, the firmness of his grip or the smell of the street as it rained?

We were walking home, one of many walks we took around that time. It was past midnight and though darkness lurked in every corner, I felt safe with your arm around me. I don’t really remember where we came from or what we were doing. All I know is right there, right at the intersection, I realized we were at the point of no return. We had somehow jumped off a cliff together and made it out alive. You were already a part of me, a part that would hurt if ripped out.

“So this is me,” I said, my standard goodbye. My umbrella made little splashes as water dripped into a small puddle by my feet.

“Thank you for tonight,” he said, the street lights reflecting on his dark brown eyes. If I ever drowned in those dark pools, it would be the sweetest way to die.

And then he kissed me. Under the moonlight, under the guidance of the nighttime sky, he wrapped his arms around me as our lips touched. I felt lightheaded. In the middle of it all, I felt him push a small piece of paper into my hand.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“It’s nothing,” he answered. “It’s just a note. Read it when you get inside.”

As I watched him walk away, his shoes making splashes on the water, my knees felt a little weak. Here was a man madly in love with me. I didn’t know what I did to deserve him but he calls my heart his home. When I was younger, I often wondered if I had let my chance to fall in love pass me by. But then all I needed to do was see him smiling at me and my heart would fill with hope. His smile expressed a silent wish. Maybe tomorrow won’t be so bad.

It was just a moment, a split second in the quilt of history, but it was our moment. I closed my apartment door, a huge smile on my face as my body sank to the floor. I touched my lips, the same ones he just kissed as my other hand struggled in my jean pocket for the note he gave me.

“This love, ever ours,” it said. How silly of me to believe.

Is it wrong to hold on to him like this? It’s just one of those days, one of those feelings I don’t indulge all the time. The end credits of our movie starts rolling, a song playing softly in the background. Would you take it against me if I asked you to dance? I close my eyes and imagine him in front of me. I wrap my arms around him, a feeble embrace as my hands fall limply on where I remember his neck to be. Our bodies move to the soft beat. If I tried hard enough, I swear I could even smell him. I inhale sharply, let his scent fill my very being. Outside, the clouds start to darken. Something tells me it’s going to rain soon.

Original Posts: Moment, Dati...

Monday, August 23, 2010

infidelity

Amy Winehouse  
I Heard Love Is Blind  
Frank  

How do I say this without hurting you? I cheated on you last night with the ghost of lovers past. I was looking through some old letters and I started recreating these scenes in my mind. Letters, pictures, movie tickets and condom wrappers- I was hoarding memories, certain that love is always too fleeting to remember, too moody to contain.

I laid out all the letters on my bedroom floor and for a while, I was just sitting there, wondering where their writers were. Do they still think of me? I closed my eyes and touched myself. I tried to remember how each kiss felt, how each moan sounded. Do my lovers touch themselves when they remember me?

He came out of nowhere. When I opened my eyes, he was in front of me, inviting me, seducing me. He took my hand and led me to the bed. He whispered words in my ear, words I often wish you could say. I believed him for once upon a time, those words were true. He was true and so I let him do what he wanted.

He touched me in all the familiar places. His mouth traveled from my lips to my ears, my neck and the small of my back. He hit me like he used to when I was younger. The shear weight of his arm sent me flying. More, I begged him and he hit me again. Each strike set my skin on fire. Each bruise felt like I was coming closer to my true home.

I entered him with force and abandon. It felt just like it used to. As I pushed myself in and out, I realized the rhythm was familiar. It was a song my heart once sang to. I still knew all the words.

He was getting closer and closer to climaxing. I could tell in the way his legs were tensing up. I tried to focus on coming, too but I couldn’t. I started losing interest. I started realizing my mistakes. His face to the heavens, he couldn’t tell that I was no longer into it. I started getting soft. My heart and my body were too in sync to continue.

And then a curious thing happened. I thought of you. I thought of what we have. I thought of all the things I wanted to do to you and I got hard again. I thought of the life we could have together if we only got over our fears. I thought about your face, the lines pulsating each time I thrust into the ghost’s being. I imagined your face on his, recreating your eyes, your nose and your lips from shear memory.

I thought of you and I came. I exploded inside the ghost; my seed flying into the air, sullying the letters and pictures on the floor. I picked them up and tossed them into the trash. It was high time I threw them out anyway. Though they kept me warm through the many cold nights before I called your heart my home, the second hand ticking on the clock tells me there’s no use holding on to them anymore. I’m letting them go, love. I’m sorry it took this long. I’m letting them go to let you in.

Till next time, said the ghost as he put on his shirt.

There won’t be a next time, I promised.

There will always be a next time, he said, a smile on his face as he disappeared into the darkness.

Photo Credit: embrace

Sunday, August 15, 2010

chances

Platinum Weird  
Taking Chances  
Platinum Weird (Unreleased)  

On nights like this when my mind won’t lend itself to sleep, I find myself thinking of you. There are many things to be said. Sometimes, the burden of the silent elephants in the room becomes too heavy to hold and I feel like if I don’t write it all down, I’ll somehow explode. And so I try, even though each word feels like a betrayal, each attempt fails at capturing what I see when I see you.

I escape into my imagination. We are at a park bench with a view of the city. It’s a view borrowed from a movie. There is a distance between us, perhaps because we are afraid to touch. We talk about menial things like the weather or how the birds fly from one side of the sky to the other. We talk about books and music. We talk about religion, politics and all other topics until there is only one thing left to talk about- us.

“I know you’re afraid,” I begin, constantly on eggshells. “It doesn’t really help that I’m scared shitless too. I just think that if we don’t give this a shot, we would be wasting everything.”

You are silent. I look at your spot on the bench and notice that you have your eyes closed. Even in slumber, you are so beautiful. I have never seen someone so at peace, so stunning it hurts, in my entire life. Gravity takes over and your head falls gently on my shoulder. I hold my breath so that my inhales and exhales won’t wake you up. I move only when necessary so that I would not shake you. Slowly, I feel your hand search for mine. For the first time, we touch. My fingers wrapped around yours, something tells me that if I don’t hold on to something, I might float away.

And if I had to spend the rest of my life holding my breath, our hands in embrace like two lovers lost in time, I wouldn’t really mind. I would never, ever mind.

Photo Credit: iamnotastalker

Sunday, August 8, 2010

beachbuoy



If years were hours then today would be the start of a new day. This year, I am celebrating away from the lullaby of buses opening and closing. There are many things to be grateful for and I can only hope to be just as blessed in the years ahead.

Photo Credit: winding bay

The Beatles
Birthday
The White Album

Monday, August 2, 2010

quiet



To the one who called me Gori. Because this doesn’t hurt anymore.

When we were younger and much more in love, we'd often lose ourselves in pointless conversations. I love you, I’d whisper in your ear. I love you more, you’d say. No, I love you more, I’d say, stressing every word. We’d do this again and again, neither of us predicting that who loves who more was not the right question to ask. It’s who’s letting go first?

This isn’t the hardest decision to make. If anything, I think I’m doing both of us a favor. There is a strange need to leave this place as it was when I first got here. I close my eyes and in my mind’s eye, I picture the apartment from three years ago. There is furniture to be moved, walls to be painted and curtains to be changed. The sofa would prove to be challenging. I remember our combined strengths couldn’t lift the damn thing. I shook off this thought. That sofa is moving if it kills me, I said to you even though you weren’t around. Everything has to be exactly the way it was. It should be like I was never here at all.

---

We were artists convinced that our little paintings could somehow change the world. I wanted to do nothing but paint your face, the crook of your elbow, the small of your back, the stray strands of hair that peeked from your boxer shorts. We bought tons and tons of canvasses, locked ourselves in separate worlds so we could be in our respective elements. We shared an immense desire to capture our love in watercolor (yours) and oil-based paint (mine). I chose the kitchen so I could be close to the fridge. You, the den so you could be close to the books.

The easel couldn’t hold you, or at least how I thought of you. It was too small, too frail to capture the strength in your eyes or the calm in your voice. One by one, I took the spices off the cupboard. I unhinged the racks and the hooks that held the pans until I had a free wall to myself. For days, I ate nothing but dumplings, pausing only to shit, smoke or both. In about a week, I had your face on the biggest wall of the house. I remember thinking I had never been as happy, so filled to the brim with contentment.

You often locked yourself in the den. You didn’t want me to see what you came up with. My mind was brewing with anticipation. But then hours turned into days, days into weeks and I saw nothing. One day, I realized the ochre I used to color your cheeks had turned a dirty shade of brown. My mural was fading and I still hadn’t seen a single painting of yours.

While you were sleeping, I crept up the narrow hallway to the den. I had to see it. I had to meet the child you birthed and reared in that room for several months. The lock resisted at first but with a little more effort, it finally gave way. It was pitch dark. Outside, the moon shone like a lover’s secret wish. I groped in the darkness for the switch. Nothing could have prepared me for that moment. I had to look away from the easel that stood lonely in the center of the room. It was empty. All your canvasses were empty. Your brushes sat dusty on top of a pile of books.

In the middle of the canvas, in clumsy red paint, I wrote you my first and only letter. They say expectations are premeditated resentments. I’m sorry I resented too much.

---

The sofa would prove to be challenging. On the radio, a woman sings me a song. It’ll be just as quiet when I leave as it was when I first got here, she promised. I push the gargantuan set, leaving large, ugly scratches on the wooden floor.

Photo Credit: the empty canvas
♫: Rachael Yamagata | Quiet (2004)

Monday, July 26, 2010

counting cars



The weary warrior walked up the steps of his fallen home. Around him lay an orgy of rubble. If these stones could speak, they would tell stories of death, struggle and waste. Suddenly, all the victories he won, all the challenges he overcame seemed meaningless. Nothing he ever did in his short life could ever compare to the grief, the immense sense of loss that seemed to rain on him now. What good would it do if he had no one to share it with?

My father walked up the funeral home with a similar sense of defeat. My uncle died over the weekend. He was instrumental in my formative years. We spent countless summers together, playing street games and eating watermelons. My uncle was a bit of a wild child. He never conformed to anyone even when he had a family of his own. In my clearest memories of him, he is coming up to me with a big, ripe watermelon. He’d chop it in half and we’d bury our faces in the heart of each cheek, eating only the sweetest part, throwing out the rest. It showed how he viewed life. He didn’t want to waste his time with seeds or the bland parts of the fruit’s flesh. You gotta take the good parts and throw away the bad, he explained once. Outside, the trash cans were filled to the brim with half-eaten watermelons left to the flies.

His final years saw him wasting away. The last I saw him, he was almost toothless. His smile beamed at me from across the room, the years betraying signs on his face. His daughters, no longer charmed by his careless life, treated him like a prisoner. He rarely left his room, only venturing into the outside world for his daily trip to the sari-sari store for soda and some smokes. That’s what pained my father the most. He looked at them with disgust. How could you do that to my brother?

He’d been dead for hours before anyone noticed. The entire left side of his body was bloated beyond recognition. My father walked up to the closed casket with a stern expression. He’s always been such an expert at concealing his emotions, showing only what was necessary or negligible. His hands caressed the coffin’s trimmings, running his fingers through the wooden carvings. A single tear dropped on the cold wood. My eyes widened. I realized I had never seen my father cry before.

He was quiet for a long time. He sat on one of the pews, speaking to no one, refusing trays of food or drink. My father is the youngest in his family. He has buried so many people, we have all lost count. My uncle was not the first nor will he be the last my father puts in the ground. It seems that for most people born last in the family, it is our inheritance to bury our kin. I looked at my sisters sitting quietly in the corner. How will it be when my turn comes?

I saw my eldest sister staring at my father, her thoughts running parallel with mine. I couldn’t explain it. I rarely cry at funerals but all of a sudden, I found my own dams had burst. I ran to my sisters, hugging them, hoping they would understand why I felt so bad. There was no doubt in my mind we had many years ahead of us. My fear was that we had already wasted the ones we have now.

My family is not known for our emotions. Prior to this funeral, it had been weeks since we hung out as a pack. Time is a funny thing. We never realize how much we’ve wasted until we are faced with our own mortality. My father wiped his tears and as he stood up, his grown-up children rushed to him with the same fervor as townspeople welcoming a hero. We couldn’t explain it. Logic seemed to escape us but it took a great sense of grief and loss to remind us that it is not too late for our family. It is not too late to be a family.

My sister was too tired so my dad offered to drive us home. In the passenger seat, my mother sat half-awake. In the back seat, my siblings and I sat together, like we did when we were kids on our way to church. I was exhausted. The little strength I had left was taken away by all the crying. In the darkness, I felt a small hand grasp mine, my sister seemingly holding the little time we had left together.

We are only given a few years before everything we worked for, every thing we know is taken away from us. I walked up the steps to my home and unlike the warrior’s, my home’s walls were still intact, the roof firmly above our heads. It’ll take years, decades even, before this house falls to rubble. I found my father frozen in the kitchen with a glass of water. It was like he forgot what he was doing or what the next step was. Good night, I said as my arms wrapped tightly around him. What I really wanted to say was that it’s not too late. That our family will be different. And that though I don’t say it too much, I love him with everything I am.

I could tell he found this strange, too. His first impulse was to flinch. Slowly, I felt his shoulders relax. This evening armed us with an openness none of us wanted to explain. He didn’t say anything. I just felt his hold tighten and I knew what his heart was trying to say. Thank you for being here. I love you, too.

Photo Credit: parthenon

Dishwalla
Counting Blue Cars
Pet Your Friends


If songs have covers, what do blog posts have? My good friend Victor translated one of my first Filipino posts into English. (And though it’s a little embarrassing to have your three-year-old posts aired out, because of the talented writer I know-he knows-I know he is, me’s izz extreeeemely flattered.) Click here to see what he came up with.

Monday, July 19, 2010

mirrors



For weeks, we’ve been trying to track him down. A sage told me that all my unhappiness, my failures in relationships, my dismal career, all of these things could be attributed to one man. I told my people to look for him and for weeks, they searched every corner in the city, looked under every rock in the country. I was about to give up when I received a call from my assistant that they finally located the bastard. He was being held at the safe house in Manila.

They led me through the poorly lit room where a man was sitting on a chair. Looking back, I’m not sure if they cuffed him or not. No matter the case, he wasn’t going anywhere. He was facing the wall. The sage told me that if I should ever find him, I must never look at his face. I sat down, took out my tape recorder and began my interview.

“How did you do it?” I asked. Outside, it sounded like it was starting to rain.

“Do what?”

“Take my happiness. Sabotage my relationships. How did you do it?”

“It’s not that hard. You made it pretty easy for me.” The guard by the door stepped forward, like a hound ready to attack. I cleared my throat twice as he stepped back into the darkness.

“I would appreciate it if we figured this out as soon as possible. I don’t know about you but I’m a very busy man and personal attacks only take us farther away from the truth we seek tonight. If you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to business.”

“Alright. Be my guest.”

“All these years, I’ve tried hard to be happy only for you to take it away from me. Why did you do it?”

“You’re not asking the right questions,” he said. “Why I chose you is not important.”

“What’s in it for you? What could you possibly have to gain from my suffering?”

“Everything. Nothing. Does it matter?”

“Is someone paying you to do this? I can match their offer. Money is no object.”

“Money never is.”

“If it’s not money, then tell me. Why have you been doing this to me?”

“Because I can.”

“That’s not reason enough.”

“It is for me,” he replied. His voice was warm but strained. “What do you want to hear? Do you want me to say it made me happy? Do you want me to say that I enjoyed your suffering?”

“Did you?”

“Of course not.”

“Then why? What could you possible have to gain?” I could no longer hide the frustration in my voice. Outside, the water made little drum beats on the roof. The air smelled of rain and wet concrete.

“Looks like the weather finally gave in,” he said. There was no fear in his voice, only a faint sense of familiarity. “You’ve been trapped in your own little world for too long. You’ve forgotten that people mostly do things for themselves and not for other people.”

“So you’re saying that you did all of these things because you wanted to. That it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with you.”

“Exactly,” he replied. In his voice, you could hear a wicked little smile.

“Fuck you,” I said, a little too forcefully for comfort. The guards all shuddered at my voice. “Why did you do it? What did I ever do to you?”

“Because you didn’t love me!” he shouted. “Because you wasted so much time on these fuckers who wouldn’t know love if it hit them in the eye! Because all this time, I was waiting for you to love me and you didn’t even know I was there.”

“Love you? Love you?! I don’t even know you!”

“Exactly,” he said as he swiveled his chair to face me. My first instinct was to look away, the sage’s warning ringing clear in my mind. I forgot that behind me was a mirror. There, in plain sight was the man who made a living of tormenting my waking life. I saw the man who sank all my relationships, who took away all the people I have ever loved simply because I didn’t love him.

It was me.

Photo Credit: interrogationroom6

Paula Cole
Me
This Fire

Monday, July 12, 2010

alaala ng daga



Noong high school ako, nagmakaawa ako sa nanay ko na ipag-dorm ako. Pano naman kasi, taga Sucat kami tapos sa Diliman yung school ko. Hindi ko na mabilang ang oras na iginugol ko sa mga bus sa EDSA. Noong third year na ako, napapayag ko din siya sa wakas.

Ganun pala ang buhay pag wala kang magulang, no? Noong una, ang saya saya ko! Malaya na akong makinig ng mga depressing songs buong araw. Wala nang kakatok at magsasabing wala bang mas masaya diyan? o bakit paulit-ulit yang kanta? Malaya narin ako kumain ng kahit anong gusto ko. Wala nang magbabawal sakin manood ng TV kahit disioras na ng gabi. Wala nang magpipilit sakin kumain ng ampalaya o paksiw na isda. Hate na hate ko kasi talaga ang paksiw na isda.

Madami akong natutunan sa pagdo-dorm. Nalaman ko na masama pala pag puro Gatorade at junk food ang laman ng tiyan mo. Nalaman ko na hindi rin pala dapat mag-impok ng pagkain sa kwarto dahil naaamoy ito ng mga ipis, daga at langgam. Nalaman ko rin na napakarami palang peste sa Katipunan. Nagising ako isang gabi dahil sa isang malakas na kaluskos. Pagbukas ko ng ilaw, may malaking daga na kinakain yung Nova ko. Nagtalukbong nalang ako ng kumot at nagdasal na di niya ako ngatngatin habang tulog ako.

Isang araw, napansin kong amoy patay na daga yung kwarto ko. Noong una, akala ko sa kabila pero habang papalapit ako ng papalapit sa kwarto ko, hindi ko na maipagkaila na nasa akin nga siya. Hinanap ko ng matagal yung pinanggagalingan nung amoy. Pagtingin ko sa aparador, andun siya sa tabi ng mga sapatos ko. Kinilabutan talaga ako. Nakapikit ang mga mata nung daga pero medyo nakabukas yung bibig niya. Basa yung balahibo niya, parang naka-mumurahing gel. Nakakasulasok yung amoy, lalo nung binuksan ko ng todo yung aparador.

Napaupo ako sa kama. Di ko alam ang gagawin. Masyadong malayo tatay ko para pakiusapan kong iitsa yung bangkay. Sumilip ako sa labas, baka sakaling may ka-dorm ako na magmamagandang loob tumulong sakin kaso lahat sila busy. Andun yung isa kaso masungit yun at alam ko di niya ako tutulungan. Doon ko talaga narealize kung ano ibig sabihin ng independence. Parang gusto ko na umuwi nun. Kung ganito pala ang feeling ng pagiging independent eh ayoko na. Kadiri kasi talaga yung daga. Kinikilabutan parin ako ngayon kahit ilang taon na ang lumipas.

Sinubukan ko siyang galawin gamit ng t-square ko. Di ko rin naman kasi ginagamit. Kaso mabigat siya talaga. Medyo kumukurba na yung kawawang kahoy. Nausug ko lang siya ng konti. Hindi talaga matinag ang kadiring peste. Naisip kong medyo imposible din na kayanin ng t-square kong buhatin yung daga papunta sa basurahan. Baka tumalsik pa yun pag nagkamali ako ng tiyempo.

Pagkatapos ng ilang oras ng pagtitiis sa amoy ng patay na daga, naisip kong walang ibang tutulong sakin kundi sarili ko. Kumuha ako ng maraming plastic bag at binalot ito sa mga kamay ko. Nagtakip ako ng ilong gamit ng lumang t-shirt na spinrayan ng pabango. Sabay lapit sa daga, pikit mata at dukot. Success!!!

Ihinagis ko yung bangkay sa garbage bag na maraming diyaryo at dali-daling bumaba ng bahay papunta sa kalsada. Initsa ko yung buong plastic, kasama narin yung improvised gloves ko sa tambakan ng basura sa tapat ng dorm. Pag-akyat ko, pinaliguan ko ng Lysol yung kwarto ko at nangakong hinding hindi ko na hahayaang maulit pa ang eksenang iyon. Papanatiliin kong malinis ang aking kwarto. Sisiguraduhin kong hindi ako mag-iiwan ng mga pinagkainan. Gagawin ko ang lahat, wag lang ako magpulot ng daga muli.

Weird lang na ito yung naalala ko nung nakita ko yung mga pictures mo sa Facebook. Kahit parang dumaan ako sa butas ng karayom para iitsa yung daga, di hamak na mas madali parin yun kaysa sa kalimutan ka. Halos isang taon narin ang lumipas. Inaamag na ang bangkay mo sa aparador ko. Inuuod na ang mga panahong pinagsamahan natin. Malamang di mo na ako iniisip. Di mo nga siguro alam na iniisip parin kita ngayon. Sana talaga ganun lang kadali yun.

Photo Credits: kwarto, dead rat drawing

Sugarfree
Kwarto
Dramachine

Monday, July 5, 2010

mean



“Is this related to the long e?” I asked. The boy shook his head. In my hand, I held a frail sheet of paper where he had scribbled his name in seventeen different styles. On the board, a PowerPoint slide stood frozen, marinating on the screen.

“No? Okay. Do we need it?” He shook his head again. “Answer me!” I barked. “Use your words!”

“N-no,” he stuttered. “No, sir.”

“Can I throw it?” I asked. He looked up. I was standing right in front of him like an animal ready to pounce. He looked back down and nodded, signaling a surrender of sorts.

“Can I tear it up first?” I asked, with a smile on my face. He no longer answered me. The class was quiet and the only thing you could hear apart from the gentle humming of the AC was the sound of a small, innocent piece of paper being ripped to shreds.

---

I’ve been losing my temper way too much these days. This little incident started over a measly house rule violation. I could’ve solved it by rewarding points to the other teams but instead, I became emotional. I attacked him for not listening to me, for his assumption that my lessons were not important. I traced his behavior to one simple fact: he did not think I was good enough to train him. When he disrupted the class, he grossly disrespected me and for that, he got the bitter end of my words.

I thought that that whole thing was just an isolated incident but then last Thursday, I snapped at another trainee. Fearing a repeat of the paper incident, I asked him to step out instead. He was getting on my nerves. I never saw him again. He didn’t come back from lunch. I think I scared him away.

Mean. That’s the only word I can think of. My friends tell me that there’s something different about me. Truth is, they needn’t even bother. I’ve seen the change for myself. Somehow, along the way, I managed to lose the one thing I swore I would hold on to: myself*. I’ve lost the will to work, the patience it takes to do my job, the perseverance to love or to even be anything. If I could have my way, I would lock myself in my room all day until I’m nicer.

But I can’t do that. I need to work to live. And so I have to make do with what I have.

“Parang ang bait mo kasi noon. Nakakapanibago lang,” a friend from work explained. She felt she needed to step in after rumors of me turning into Hitler started to surface. My first impulse was to retaliate, to be strong in my anger. But then I realized she was right. You can’t argue with someone who’s right.

“Ano ba kasi problema?” she asked. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Wala naman,” I lied. For days, I had been trying not to think of a lot of things. If I allowed my mind to wander, even for just a tiny little bit, I knew I’d go ballistic. Being mean was my way of coping with the tiny voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough. Being mean was my way of ignoring the insecurities that were piling up and demanding attention. I looked in the mirror, wondering how that nice little boy two years ago could turn into this miserable old man. How do I get him back?

An external change to inspire an internal one. You see it all the time in movies. I looked at old pictures of myself, when I was proud of who I was and what I was doing. I figured, if I look more like the guy I was two years ago, the niceness would automatically follow.

I had been growing my hair for close to six months. With the exception of the Bieber comparisons, I loved everything about it. One morning, when sleep seemed to avoid me, I marched right on to the nearest salon. Without thinking twice, I told the stylist I wanted most of it out. The shampoo guy who took his time washing my hair, telling me how soft it was and everything looked absolutely stunned. “Sayang,” he muttered under his breath. I didn’t explain it to him. He wouldn’t have understood.

The following day, I got mixed reactions for my new hairdo. Some liked it, some didn’t and a great number of people didn’t even recognize me. None of them mattered to me. There was only one person I needed to hear from, one person I needed to convince. With a smile that could rival most of the great movie villains of our time, I singled out my friend near the copier.

“Well, mukha na ba akong mabait?” I asked her. She stared at me for a good ten seconds. In my heart of hearts, I prayed that it worked.

Photo Credit: papercut

Pink
Mean
Funhouse