Tuesday, May 15, 2012

somebody loved

“So we finally got to eat pares,” he said while we paid for the food. We were in the middle of a crowded mall carrying our overnighters like a bunch of hillbilly backpackers. I looked at him, unsure of the anecdote he was hinting at. “Remember? Back in November. We were supposed to have breakfast here but we flaked.”

The memory resurfaced like a buoy set free underwater. He’d refused to meet me for weeks and then he suddenly invited me to grab a bite. A craving, he reasoned but at the last minute, plans fell apart. I thought for sure we’d never meet but yet there we were, months later about to enjoy our first bowl of pares together.

“I’ll go get us a table,” he offered, juggling his backpack and a tray of rice bowls and iced tea. As the cashier was handing me my change, a little lightbulb flashed in my head.

“Is this seat taken?” I asked in a voice that didn’t sound like my own. He looked up from the bench he was on and flashed me a smirk. I set my tray on the wooden table to offer a firm handshake.

“N,” I introduced. “And you are?”

“Z.” He smiled, I melted. We shook hands and went through the ritual of pares-eating. Anyone who was watching might have believed we were strangers who’d just met for the first time. In reality, we’ve been together for almost three months and I have loved him for close to six.


It’s moments like this that I recall when I’m in bed, alone and missing him. I think of the way he stirred the burnt garlic crisps and sliced onion springs into his rice. I recall his untouched bowl of house soup and how he looked at me for approval as he sheepishly ordered a second helping of rice. And though we’ve eaten at a lot of nice places, it’s this quick fastfood trip we made that I’ll probably always remember. It was such a perfect image of who we are, of how uncomplicated things should be. There was nothing gourmet about the large chunks of beef bathing in broth. There were no spirits in the ₱15 iced tea they served in disposable cups. But still, I knew I had all I needed at that little table in the middle of a crowded mall with a man I pretended I’d just met.

There are times when I feel like I’m addicted to him. I crave the way he picks up the phone when I call him. I always long for the feeling of his head on my arm when we cuddle and watch TV. I love the sound of his laughter when I tell a joke or curse at the cartoons he watches. In the morning, I look forward to him showing me pictures he took of me sleeping. We glide through the previews and I see pictures of me, mouth ajar, legs bent at odd angles. In my head, I’m thinking ugly, ugly, ugleeeee but he’s telling me that I look funny, cute, and adorable. In less lucid moments of having just woken up, I actually believe him. I’d tell him about the wicked dreams that came the night before and he’d listen, without prejudice as though dreaming of dragons who steal your coffee was the most normal thing in the world. He’d tell me how I elbowed him in my sleep and I’d remark at how his snoring woke me up in the middle of the night. We’ve built a little routine around each other’s quirks and it’s things like this that I recall when I’m in bed, alone, still missing him badly.

It’s not perfect. Nothing is. We bicker like nine-year olds and we make up like them too. He tells me I smoke too much. I scold him when he refuses to abstain from the lechon’s fatty grip. We’ve hurt each other deeply with our words. We’ve both acted like jerks who didn’t care for each other. But then all I need to do is look into his big ol’ eyes and I remember how everything that happened in the past year only made sense when I met him. We were both disillusioned by love, both held shards of dreams we built with other people. And in the middle of all that rubble, he saw a broken boy and turned him into somebody loved. His heartbeat is my lullaby and if I close my eyes, I can almost hear the words.

Rain turns the sand into mud.
Wind turns the trees into bone.
Stars turning high up above.
You turn me into somebody loved

Nights when the heat had gone out.
We danced together alone.
Cold turned our breath into clouds.
We never said what we were dreaming of.
But you turned me into somebody loved

Someday when we're old and worn
Like two softened shoes,
I will wonder on how I was born
The night I first ran away from you.

Now my feet turn the corn
Sun turns the evening to rose.
Stars turning high up above.
You turn me into somebody loved.

I do not want to say I love you for we know not what the future betrays. Instead, I offer three simpler words: you are home.

♫: The Weepies | Somebody Loved (2003)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Some girls are like paper dolls. You make them wear pretty clothes, have them stand around and that’s all they ever did. They’d stare at you with hollow eyes as you rip their clothes off and fold them something new. Some girls are marionettes, their husbands holding their strings like master puppeteers. They tell their wives what they could do, who they could see, when they could breathe. Mama was a doll made of little scraps sewn together. She had button eyes that always drooped and her seams weren’t always in the best shape. She wasn’t as graceful or eloquent or even smart as the other girls. And perhaps that’s what my father liked about her. She wore her poor childhood like a cross. He could always count on her to shut up and take whatever he gave because that would be always better than the shit life she grew up in.

And there were nights when he’d come home, reeking of gin and perfume. Mama would open the door and have his slippers ready for him. She tried to treat him nice and all but there was always some little thing she did or said that would rile him up. He’d start shouting then he’d hit her and she’d just take it. She was a rag doll and she took all that in because he was the only one who thought her beautiful, even though it’d been years since he last said it. I spent my whole life saying I would be nothing like her. That I’d be smarter than her or something; like a Barbie doll with a cool job and a car and all the frilly accessories only rich kids could afford. But life has a strange way of turning us into the monsters we hide from. When my lover first hit me, he did it so hard that my lip split open and one of my teeth flew out. My bruises burned for days. I should’ve called the police. I should’ve packed my things and left but his love held me in invisible chains. I stayed.

When I was a little girl, I saw this Russian doll at my rich aunt’s house. When she wasn’t looking, I slid that big old thing into my coat. When I got home, I cracked it open and a smaller doll came out. I cracked that one open and an ever smaller doll came out. I kept cracking and twisting and all these smaller dolls came out until I got to the very last one. It was so small, the paint was all smudged up and you could barely make out a face. Mama was a rag doll and I swore I’d never be like her. I couldn’t be Barbie. I was never pretty enough for that. But I could always be a Matryoshka. Every time he hits me, every time his fists fly towards me, I feel like a smaller, purer version of me comes out. And when he gets to my core, to that littlest piece at the center of my heart, I just know he’d finally throw his hands up and surrender. When I am small enough to be crushed by his right boot, he’d find it in his heart to love me just as I am.

♫: Goo Goo Dolls | Acoustic #3 (1998)
Photo: Matryoshka Dolls