Monday, November 29, 2010


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

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