Tuesday, November 22, 2011


“I hate flying,” I said to the woman next to me. I don’t make a habit of talking to strangers but I figured since we were stuck in Economy for the better part of the morning, it wouldn’t hurt to pass the time with a new friend. “Though they say you’re more likely to die of heart disease than a plane crash.” She smiled politely at me as she plugged her earphones in. I had half a mind to tell her she’s not allowed to play music during takeoff but as I glanced at her iPod, I noticed it wasn’t even on. So much for making new friends.

When we hit a stable altitude, I decided I should probably take a nap. I wasn’t really sleepy. I just didn’t have anything better to do. Smarter travellers would’ve brought a book or a gadget of some sort. I had the inflight magazine and half a KitKat. I didn’t want to look like a loser so I figured sleep’s the only thing left to do. I shut my eyes. One by one, the sounds around me started to fade away. Within minutes, I found myself sleeping miles above the earth.

I didn’t get much sleep though. Of all things, it was the oxygen masks that woke me. I quickly took the one that hit me and put it over my mouth. The plane shook violently as the pilot talked to us about lightning and where we were trying to land. The stewardesses fought hard to keep their balance and their composures. One was helping an elderly woman with her life vest. Another was barking out instructions. Put this on! Pull both at the same time! Women with infants! I looked around me. The woman next to me was in tears, her paperback soaking in a puddle of coffee. The overhead bins flew open as bags threw themselves at unsuspecting passengers. Couples held on to each other as though love could get them through a plane crash. The religious clutched rosaries and prayed. In the middle of it all, I was strangely calm. I wasn’t afraid. I was thinking of you.

The plane ripped open and one by one, the seats flew out like they do in cartoons. My seat ejected soon enough. The clouds and the cold air felt sharp as I passed through them. The city lights looked like stars. I mapped out the bridges and skyscrapers like they were constellations. I floated aimlessly, my heart fearless, my mind hell-bent on a destination.

I wanted to float to you. In my mind, I pictured landing on your doorstep. You would open the door and let me in. It would be awkward at first, you not knowing exactly what I was doing or how I got there. Me, heavily burdened by all that I couldn’t but wanted to say. If that happens, would all the things we couldn’t talk about stop mattering? Or would we still be afraid of all we had to lose?

I’d like to think that at that moment, it would just be me and you and no one else. No meddling friends, deep-set issues or exes who refuse to be forgotten. There’s only us and the bright opportunity to fall in love. We’d hug and it would feel like we found missing parts of ourselves in each other. Our hearts would start beating in tune. We’d kiss in sweet slow motion, like honey dripping or something pretentiously poetic like that. Maybe a few birds would sing. There would be a double rainbow. But none of that would matter because we’d be lost in each other’s embrace.

The only thing worse than waking up from a nightmare is to wake up from a silly dream. We will never meet. We will never touch. We are too fucked up to let go. The pilot announced that we’d landed early. I stood up to get my carry-on. I turned my phone on to check my messages. There was one from the office, another from an old friend. I tapped compose.

“Just landed. The airport is five different shades of lonely.” Not that you asked. Not that you will.

♫: Jason Mraz | Plane (2005)
Photo: airplane window / pixlr.com

Monday, November 14, 2011


Bird’s losing his feathers, I casually said to my sister over breakfast. Over warm pan de sal and small talk, she and I came up with theories. I said he might be shedding like snakes do. She said he might be sad or lonely. For the entire year since he crashed into our living room*, he’s always been alone. Everybody needs somebody, she reasoned. Perhaps music would help.

Since then, I’d grown accustomed to hearing her sing to him in the early morning. Jazz standards, hymns from the church we grew up in, top forty mainstays – my sister’s repertoire knew no bounds. The bird responded frequently. Though off key, he did his best to keep up with her vocal runs. I wish we’d listened to him at night when we all went to bed. If we did, we’d understand the real reason why he was losing all his feathers.

This morning, when I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, I saw Bird with one of his feathers between his beak. There were a few others on his cage’s floor. If I’d come earlier, I would’ve heard the incessant gnawing of his self-mutilation or the sound his beak made as he slammed it repetitively on one of the bars. He wasn’t shedding nor was he particularly lonely. He was stripping.


I don’t understand this, my father said one morning. He was tending to his latest project: an herb garden and though he stuck to the internet how-to he’d printed out, he could not get the sprouts to live past a few days. My mother, ever supportive, suggested that maybe it was the weather. Perhaps November’s too chilly to be growing arugula.

Rubbish, he dismissed. The man at the seedling bank said it was the perfect season for arugula. I wondered how he could care so much for something so frail. I could not find any compassion for those green little things but they kept my father busy so I couldn’t complain.

I’m thinking about all of this as I sit outside our house at three in the morning. I have a cigarette in one hand and a cup of ash and water in the other. I puff, flick twice into the cup and think about my father’s rosemary, his Thai basil and a few more that I couldn’t name. I think about the care he takes, nipping the bad ones, treasuring the good. My big toe traces the outline of the chalk fence he drew to keep the pests away. And when I finished my cigarette and thoughts of his babies, I carefully poured the contents of my cup into each pot.


Are you leaving because you’re in love with me? he asked. My mind knew this game too well. It was time to override the control of my heart. I was starting to lose it. I was acting funny, saying things I wasn’t sure I meant, spiraling into an abyss of empty promises and failed expectations. I pleaded my case and lost. I convinced myself I gave it a fair shake and it was time to move on. It was time to say goodbye.

No, I said, my voice thin and frail. I’m leaving because you’re breaking my heart.

From out of nowhere, a voice whispers in my ear. Honey, you’re breaking your own heart.


97% of scientific experts agree that the climate changes, the crazy weather, the spontaneous tsunamis and consequent droughts are all very likely caused by man-made activity. We like to destroy our own, don’t we? After all, what is life without conflict?

♫: Jet | Look What You've Done (2003)

Sunday, November 6, 2011


We may never speak again. That was my first thought when I woke up this morning. I don’t usually get up before noon on Sundays but today was different. My head throbbed from drinking too many beers in too little time. My three-hour sleep nap was yet another cosmic joke that I didn’t get. But none of that mattered. The only thing that did was that we may never speak again.

And there is so much to say. Sometimes, the sheer weight of all the things I say to you and all I leave behind feels like it’s going to crush me. My shoulders ache from lugging it around, the way I conceal my psychoses, the way I pretend to ignore yours, the way I used our common pain as common ground. I carried them around for weeks. One day, I said to myself I didn’t want to carry that weight anymore. Especially not on this strange Sunday morning where I find myself hung over, with a splitting headache, heartbroken and writing draft after draft for you.

What took me months to rebuild is once again shattered. I stare at the mirror, at the cracks on my cheek, the glue stains on my neck and wonder what it’s like to be unbreakable. I run my hands through scars, both fresh and old and wonder if there was more to me than what you saw. Perhaps I’m not really as wonderful as I thought I was. Maybe you were right.

Over dinner, a friend talks to me about strength. I only half-listen for in my mind, I was still reeling from what little we had ending so abruptly. Through bits and pieces, she told me that strength is not winning the break-up game. It’s not about being the first to move on or the last to hold a grudge. Strength is getting punched in the gut, doubling over, standing up and asking for more. Many lose when they look for love. I guess that’s why so many of us just wait but only the strong can love, get hurt and still find it in them to come back day after day after day, heart on their sleeve, smile on their face, saying let’s do this. Like it’s the simplest thing in the world. Like it’s never going to hurt.

When it’s time to live and let die
And you can’t get another try.
Something inside this heart has died.
You’re in ruins.

One, 21 guns.
Lay down your arms. Give up the fight.
One, 21 guns.
Throw up your arms into the sky

She said strength is in standing up and asking for more. I’m sorry I’m not that strong.

♫: Green Day | 21 Guns [Cast Version] (2009)