Friday, September 16, 2011

how would you do it?

How would you do it? It’s a question that’s been in my head for over a week now. I suppress it, fill my head with things to do, anything to get my mind off it. Deal with problems as they arise. My laptop battery dies, I grab my charger. My tummy rumbles, I eat. My coffee spills, I wipe it up. Never succumb, nothing is let go. But there are days like today when I’m too weak to fight; too weak to stay sane so I just let the thoughts calmly trickle down.

I imagine white sheets on a white bed in a blindingly white room. There is a Tornatore score in the background. The windows are open but the sun is too bright to see anything. The curtains sway feverishly. I am naked, lost in slumber in the middle of the bed. A small red dot appears in the middle of the bed. It grows and grows until all you see is red. The sheets, the bed, the curtains, the wallpaper. The cellos end on a peculiar note. I’ve slit my wrists. The scene fades to black.

The next scene finds me on the roof of a skyscraper. It is nighttime. Hyperballad plays from a loud car on the street. I go through all this before you wake up, Björk sings. Her song mixes with car horns, traffic sounds, trains screeching through tracks. I feel the wind on my face. My shirt gets magically unbuttoned. I leap. I am free. I smile. Safe again with you, she sings over and over again. The scene fades to black.

I am in the bath in the house I grew up in. I soak. My mind is at ease. I close my eyes. My mother is listening to the news on our old multiplex. A murder in Marikina. No one saw it coming. No suspects, no leads, just a body in the middle of the river. I tune out. The water is so calm, so inviting. I fidget a little, ripples on the water’s surface. I dip my head slowly. The water enters through my nose, my ears, my eyes. I feel it in my lungs. The radio begins to sound muffled. The scene fades to black.

Hanging. Sleeping pills. An insane amount of ecstasy. An air-conditioned car with a hose in the muffler. Leaping in front of a speeding bus along EDSA. Gasoline and a match. A river and a stone. The scenes mix, one right after the other like boom boom boom. The soundtrack confuses. Sia, Adele, Sparklehorse, Fiona Apple, Liz Phair and Amy Winehouse. OneRepublic, Robyn, Paula Cole and a Lady GaGa song for good measure. Silence, static, the Angkor Wat theme. I am dizzy. And then, a realization.

How can someone die when he’s already dead? How can you kill someone who’s already been killed?

How? We meet. It is wonderful. We share coffee and cigarettes. A Train song plays in the background. We laugh, discuss poetry and movies, time flies. A park bench. Love. A day, a week, a month, six months. I start to believe in myself again. All of the shit I went through in the past suddenly makes sense. We make plans. He talks about our home, our children, the stories we will write. Promise me you’ll always be happy by my side. I promise to sing to you when all the music dies.*

And then, it does. There is only silence. A bump in the road. And then another one. And then another one. It feels like all we ever think about is him leaving. I hide, weep quietly. I show him nothing. There’s no reason for both of us to be miserable. I withdraw. Am I here? A missed opportunity. Another one. Another one. I am invisible.

A week before a year and he needs me. I am distant. I am busy. He seeks comfort in another man. Can you blame him? A choice, a decision. Him instead of me. Another decision. Him again. Again and again and again. Can you blame him? I am broken. I am nothing. I’ve lost faith in men and love and the birds in the sky. I’ve stopped believing I will ever love again. It feels like I’m a sheet of paper slowly burning in anger and self-pity. He has killed me. The scene fades to black.

A co-worker barks my name snapping me back to reality. I am suddenly awake and painfully aware that all that I’ve written is true. And then there are things to do, bills to be paid, emails to respond to and reports to be sent. Life goes on despite the absence of it. I breeze through the tasks at hand.

Are you okay? a friend asks. You look terrible.

I’m not, I answer reluctantly, but I will be. I smile. It is vacant. In my head, I see slit wrists, tall buildings and buses speeding along EDSA. I put on my headset, plug it into my iPod and the world is silenced by a song.

You'll say you'd never let me fall from hopes so high.
But never is a promise and you can't afford to lie.

♫: Fiona Apple | Never Is A Promise (1996)

Monday, September 5, 2011


“Story,” I called out from the darkness. The dungeon was dark so I brought out my lighter. I spotted him in the corner, sleep in his eyes. “C’mon Story. Let’s go. It’s your turn.”

“Not today, boss.” he said. “You’ve got something else you need to write.”

I looked around the room. Stories in various states of finish looked at me and then ran away into the darker parts of the room. “They don’t want to be written today either.” He looked at me, or rather looked through me as if to say he knew something I didn’t want him to know.

“Is it that obvious?” I asked. “I thought I was hiding things pretty well.”

“You are. But we know better.” One by one, my stories came towards me. They wrapped around my legs, some crawled up my back as they fought to lay me flat on the table. Some struggled with my button fly, others with the leather to bind my hands and feet. Stripped and bound, I took a deep breath to get started.

“You could go on and on and on, given the state you’re in. You could fill a whole novel about your sadness,” Story warned.

“What do I do?” I asked. “How do I even start to talk about how my love died?”

“Focus on what’s important.” His beady eyes still sliced right through me. “Focus on this.” His bony finger resting on my heart, I knew just what I needed to say.

“Write this down.” I began. “Before I forget, I want to tell you I love you…”


Before I forget, I want to tell you I love you. I can feel my fickle brain, fragment after fragment pulling you away from me. I close my eyes, trying to remember your face, the way your eyes squint when you laugh at my jokes or the wheeze you make from smoking too much. Memory is a tricky bastard. Count on it all you want but it’s got a mind of its own.

There are moments when I find myself staring at lost corners of the room. I think about our plans, the children we were going to have (adopt?). One was gonna be a boy and he was gonna be like me. He’d be friendly, not that smart but really active in school. We talked about him playing sports, the unlived lives of his fathers coursing fiercely through his blood. I remembered our daughter, how she was gonna have your gentleness, your eyes, how she was gonna be a dancer. I pictured her pink tutu as she fluttered around the kitchen. I saw her poetry written in crayon, magnets on the refrigerator door. And then memory took her away. He took them all away.

And then anger fills the Vacant. I picture you, I picture him. I close my eyes and all I can see are his hands on your body, your mouth on his lips. I hear your moans and I hear his (with the voice I imagined he has). I clench my teeth, my fists, my soul. I’d punch my eyes out if it would stop these tears. I stare at my reflection in the mirror, feeling ugly, feeling obsolete and unworthy of anyone’s attention. I hear the collective laughter of my exes, how they said I would never amount to anything. I listen closely, wondering if you had already joined them.

And then shame fills the Vacant. Last night, I dreamed that I was flying and everyone could see. I was yelling, screaming, squealing with delight. I relished the moment, setting myself apart from those I walked the earth with. I’m different, I’m special, I seemed to say. My feeble wings reeked of bird shit and glue and then I flew too close to the sun.

I still hear your voice when the room becomes quiet. There are days when I feel okay. Then there are days like today when I stalk you both obsessively on Facebook. Part of me is praying you’d unfriend me soon so I wouldn’t see the pictures you just posted or his vague status I saw right through. And then the vacant fills the Vacant and it’s a struggle to remember your face, the way your eyes squint when you laugh at my jokes or the wheeze you make from smoking too much. So before I forget, before my mind loses to its own defenses, I want to say I love you.


“I promised you a song. We had just met and you asked if I could sing. I’m sorry I never got to.” I opened my eyes but it was still dark to see. From behind me, I could hear Story scribbling angrily on my notebook.

“Who was it that said that loving is too short and that forgetting is too long?” I asked Story as he wrote down my last few sentences.

“Neruda,” he answered, almost instantly. “That bastard.”

“Let’s throw that in somewhere.” As our voices faded into the night, the other stories untied me from the table. The leather left marks on my skin. I sat up, the cold creeping from the window to the table to the small of my back.

“I want to forgive him, Story. I really do. It’s just…” I looked around me and I realized I was alone.

Someone wise once said that love is a series of choices and that you choose to love somebody despite understanding, despite all your defenses. I’m sorry I chose myself.

We are born innocent.
Believe me, Adia.
We are still innocent.
It’s easy. We all falter.
Does it matter?

♫: Sarah McLachlan | Adia (1998)