Sunday, May 19, 2013

guadalupe

This post is based on the ever prolific Aris’ Oh Boy! originally published in 2009 here. To see his reworking of disconnect, click here.


They say the night is for the lovers and I guess, some part of me recognized that. The bar was packed from wall to wall with people dancing, enticing, trying to make sense of the world outside the corners of that room. And while I myself had a different purpose for coming here, we all moved to the same rhythm, to the same beat of a heart seeking another.

I guess you could say at the end of everything that I got everything I deserved. I knew he was dangerous. I knew what power he had over me and yet there I was, at the time and place we agreed to meet, heart firmly up my sleeve. From the thinning crowd, he walked towards me and kissed me lightly on the cheek.

“Miss me?” he asked, sly and inviting.

“Of course,” I replied. His was a power I knew long ago not to question. He took my hand and led me to his car.

That night, marinating in sweat and sex, I told him I was in love with him. I looked to him with questioning eyes, waiting for a response.

“I’d love you, I mean really love you but…” he paused, the ellipsis thick and imposing in the air. “But I can’t. I’d tell you it’s because I’m dying but then baby, aren’t we all?”

I felt at one with the rhythm. The bar smelled like trapped smoke, sweat, and desire. A man brushes up from behind me. I turn around and he smiles. A Top 40 song starts to play. The whole bar was hooting in unison as I got lost in the eyes of my beautiful stranger.

“Aris,” he says.

“Leo.”

“You come here often?”

“Not really. I’m not from around here.”

“Well, it’s great to meet you,” he says, extending his hand. I shake it mildly then bring him closer for an embrace.

Denial is the strongest force in the universe. I tried to ignore the signs even though they were blatantly emblazoned throughout the day – a weakening body, a defeated spirit, a bit of blood in my spit. It took all the courage in me to answer the questions in my head. The lab technician stabbed a needle in me one day to get blood, truth, and clarification. As the counselor handed me a frail sheet of white paper, I knew that though my lover had gone and left me, there was always going to be something he left behind that would remind me of the gamble I took and lost.

Reactive. What a cruel word. The counselor told me I shouldn’t let it control my life. I feared that since my lover left, there was no life left to control.

We dance as though it were foreplay. My hands roam the many districts of his body – his ample chest, his muscular arms, his broad shoulders. My fervent lips were busy claiming his as my own. As the crowd blurs away like an overexposed photograph, I remark at how wonderful it feels to be with him, how at peace I was with this warm body, this beating heart, this thrilling feeling of love blossoming in one night.

“Can you be my boyfriend?” I ask. He smiles at me tentatively, like he was expecting a different question altogether. The song that was playing slowly fades into silence as the DJ flips a new record to play.

“Let’s get out of here.”

The days after my visit to the clinic were long and painful. I took it all in quietly, knowing not to stir too much hysterics on an already hysterical life. For days, I got lost in confusion and despair. I wanted to blame him, wanted to cast him as the villain who took over my life. But then I remember that I was the one who fell for him. I was the one who took his hand and got in his car. When one loses their face down a well, there is little left to do but fall in after it.

Despite everything, I could not hate him. I couldn’t bring myself to despise all that he did to me. When the dust settled, I saw everything with painful clarity. I knew what I had to do to be set free.

I would visit him one last time at the place where we first met. It was the only way to keep him, to keep his memory alive and burning in my mind. Maybe then, I would find peace.

Over breakfast with his friends, we are a picture of a perfect couple. My arms rest naturally on his side and every now and then, I rest my head on his shoulder. His friends interrogated us into the wee hours of the morning. Their faces are welcoming but their tones betray bitter pangs of jealousy and judgment. Not another one, they seem to say. How long will this one stick around? I steal light, feather kisses whenever I can in between spoonfuls of beef tapa and fried rice.

He looks at me, or rather through me. His gaze jars my very soul. My head was telling me that this could work. That maybe he’d find a way to fix me, to put my broken pieces together. But my heart would not let go. He will never understand. He will run when he knows who you really are. There’s only room for one in here. I close my eyes and feel his lips on mine, all the while my lover’s face shines through the darkness.

We settle the bill and get ready to leave. He asks if I want to come over to his place. I say I’ve got stuff to do, people to see, a life I need to get back to. He hails a cab for me and right before I get in, I kiss him one last time on the cheek.

“Text text,” he says, even though we didn’t exchange digits.

“Yup,” I answer. As we drove away, the woman on the radio sings the story of my life. I close my eyes and imagine her words filling my head.

At ngayon, ‘di pa rin alam
Kung ba’t tayo nandito
Pwede bang itigil muna
Ang pag-ikot ng mundo?

“Boss? Boss…” the driver wakes me. I open my eyes and the 8AM sunlight blinds me. “Saan po tayo?”

I hesitate for a second. “Sa Guadalupe,” I tell him and as we made our way through the city, I realize that for the first time in a long time, it feels like I’m finding my way back to free.

POSTCRIPT: Man commits suicide inside MRT station
Posted at 05/08/2013 12:09 PM

MANILA - Operations of Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) were disrupted after a passenger allegedly committed suicide by jumping in front of a train Wednesday morning.

Makati police chief Col. Manuel Lucban said the man appeared to have committed suicide, and that he did not accidentally fall onto the tracks. The incident occurred at 8:18 a.m.

MRT general manager Al Vitangcol said the train station's closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage shows that the man indeed jumped onto the tracks.

The man's body was mangled after being dragged by the train for about 30 meters. He was already dead when the rescue team arrived.

The MRT management had to suspend the operations of the train system due to the incident.

The DOTC said that "MRT is on provisional operations from North Ave. to Shaw stations and vice versa until further notice. Please bear with us. Thank you."

Due to the incident, some passengers were forced to get off the train even before it could reach the station.

Passengers had no choice but to take other means of transportation following the disruption of operations.

♫: Imago | Spolarium (2005)
Post: Oh Boy!, DZMM
Photo: bed2



DON’T DO IT! I thought twice about posting this because I was afraid of the message I was sending. This post is a work of fiction. In no way am I encouraging suicide or mongering fear/hatred for those living with HIV. I highly encourage everybody to check out Love Yourself and get tested today. Also, the Philippines recently launched a suicide hotline. If you feel lost or hopeless, contact 0917 588 HOPE.

Monday, May 13, 2013

stella and her waiting (1)


“You’re on in 2 minutes,” says Bookie. He was red from running around all night trying to get us girls to stick to our cues. I tighten my bra straps, take one last hit of my joint and get a move on.

I hear the usual post-dinner crowd, mostly middle-aged men unwinding after work. I was used to their stares, their beady eyes undressing you even before your number starts. There’s momentary feedback as Bookie turns on his mic, rendering the whole nightclub deaf. In his deep baritone, he calls me onto the stage.

Stella, his voice lingers on the final vowel, commanding but gentle. The stage name was his idea. He said my real name was too plain, too easy to pass by. The lights begin to dim as I hear the first few bars of my song.

I walk to the center of the stage, my back turned to the waiting men. My song’s intro is long so it gives me time to vacillate—nay, marinate—onstage. I walk slowly, my clunky heels tapping hollow beats on the floor. I contort, exaggerating my features and minimizing my gut. I move my hips to the beat and raise a leg to tease my audience. Like clockwork, I remind myself. I close my eyes, try to block the hooting men out as the woman in the record starts to sing.

Tonight we stand by the door
Waiting for amends.
I’ve lived all this time
For love.

“Who’s Bryan?” he asked. For a second, it felt like he'd just emptied an ice bucket on my naked body.

“No one,” I quickly dismissed. It was the sound of his name, the intricate consonant blend, the way the B and the R just seemed to roll off so naturally for him. It threw me off so quickly that my head felt like I’d put it on backwards.

“He must’ve been somebody. Somebody important.” He ran his finger across my thigh, resting to feel the ink on my skin. “Enough for you to put his name on your hip and all.”

“He was,” I lied, gritting my teeth. He can touch my skin, my hair, my sex, my thighs, but he can never touch my heart.

If you had told me two years ago that I’d somehow end up dancing in a seedy club like this, I’d have slapped you. But such is my life now and though I wish otherwise, there seems to be no turning back. I walk back to the center of the stage, let my hand briefly graze the metal pole. A man whistles for me to come over. In his hand, I see a crisp purple bill. His friends egg him on, their cervezas red and raging on their foreign faces. Like a cat, I crawl to him on all fours. He tucks the bill into my garter, his fingers resting briefly on the copper cufflink I keep there. I slap his hand away.

Tonight you come with no suit
And no suitcase in your hand.
I couldn’t wait until the day is done.

I inhale deeply, let the woman’s saccharine voice fill my head as I slowly let my left strap dangle to my arm. It takes a bit of practice to unhook your bra onstage, without it seeming common or everyday. For years, I knew to do it privately, hurriedly, with no concept of an audience watching my every move. I move my shoulders in tentative circles, the straps coming loose with each turn. As the drummer pounds on, the song moves to the chorus. I let my top drop to the floor.

I never thought that I would be the one
Who could deal with so much waiting.
I never count but look at me now.
I see the time I should be saving.

“He must’ve been somebody. Somebody important.” He said as his fingers ran across my skin.

“He was,” I lied, gritting my teeth. More than anything in the world, I wished for the freedom to say he is.

♫: Up Dharma Down | Parks (2012)
Photo: WCTI12



Establishing Shots. I fell in love with this song a few weeks back and the more I listened to it raped the replay button, the more I could feel this story brewing in my head. I finally started writing it last night and when I realized the word count was slowly building up, I figured I’d chop it up into a few parts. Next installment is in two weeks as I have a pretty interesting collaboration with a mystery blogger planed for next week. Stay tuned! He’s someone I have never collaborated with despite people saying we’re fairly alike and I have a feeling it’s gonna be really good.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

porn in the 00s


There are so many things that young people don’t understand. I used to get so giddy with excitement when I hear my modem connecting to the Internet. Before torrents, you had to use a VCR to tape your favorite shows. People actually showed up on time when you meet them for lunch or coffee. And porn? Well, porn was quite tricky.

Before YouJizz or PornMD, most of us got by with JPEGs. The little videos I had were mostly 5-second clips that I hurriedly saved in floppy disks. You could also rent softcore porn in little mom and pop video stores (Those were awesome. Anyone else remember how cool it was to rent a VHS tape?). We all got o̶f̶f̶ by one way or the other but I was always curious about what real, honest to goodness porn looked like.

“There’s porn in Quiapo,” a friend offered. “My brother took me there once. We told the guy we were looking for Barely Legal. He took us to the back and the walls were lined from top to bottom with all the porn you can find.” His hands moved around the imagined shelf. It was huge.

“It was seriously all the porn you could ever imagine. Blondes, brunettes, redheads, even Asians! I spent a week’s allowance that day but I have no regrets.”

My eyes grew wide with anticipation. “Where is this Quiapo and how do I get there?”

I wanted to ask if the *ahem* selection they had was as diverse as it was bountiful. What if all they had was straight porn? I didn’t want to get lost in the streets of Manila if all I would get are inflated double d’s. I sat on this information for quite some time. After saving enough money and courage for the trip, I took the first jeep to Quiapo.

What my friend didn’t tell me is that the place in itself was ginormous. It’s mostly known for the church but in little side streets you could find anything from flowers to candles, perfumes to cigarettes, fortunetellers to abortionists… Take two lefts and a right and you’ll find The Pirate Bay: Physical Edition.

Any Quiapo expert would tell you that there are three parts to the media area. One part is for movie lovers. You’ll find everything from cheesy local movies to complete box sets of TV shows. Another part is for music lovers, with each store specializing in a specific genre. But I didn’t come here for any of that.

The third part was where they kept all the porn. Unfortunately, it was never easy to find. Many of the local government folks didn’t mind the pirated movies and CDs but they did have an issue with pornographic materials. That’s why the porn area was so hidden. My friend said I should ask one of the storekeepers. If they think they can trust you, they’ll personally escort you to porn haven.

I was thumbing through some dusty CDs, looking for a friendly storekeeper when I noticed that the stall I was in had a small back door. A man in a sweaty sando was talking to the storekeeper and after a few moments, he was escorted inside. I took that as my cue to man up. I brought my CDs to him and whipped out my wallet.

“Kuya, ano yung nasa likod?” I asked, my voice nervous and croaky. [translation]

“Ah yan? Wala yan. Mga DVD.”

“Akala ko puro CD lang kayo dito, kuya. Anong klaseng DVD yung andiyan?”

He looked up from the CDs I was purchasing and I flashed him a knowing smile. It was like I wanted my eyes to say I know what’s back there and I want in.

“Ano bang hinahanap mo, kuya?” he said in a hushed voice. The other storekeeper was an old woman and she was clearly within earshot.

“Ano bang meron kayo?” I said, in a matched whisper. I was beginning to sweat profusely.

“Madami. May mga movies, concerts…“ He paused. “May anime…”

“Meron ba kayong… M2M.” I interrupted. His eyes widened and I almost choked.

“Pasok ka,” he said, a sly smile plastered on his face. And what I saw in that little room would change my life forever.

---

“Anong nabili mo?” asked my best friend. I met him for dinner after my Quiapo shopping spree. I looked like shit but it had gone well over all.

“A few movies, a few CDs…” I said, handing him my loot.

“Bumili ka ng bold?” he asked as he thumbed through my purchases.

“Hindi no! Baboy ka. Wag mo nga ‘kong itulad sa ‘yo!” I answered defensively, my volume and pitch a little too high for comfort.

“Yuck! Bakit ka may ganito?” he exclaimed as he fished a DVD out of my black plastic bag.

----

“Pasok ka,” the storekeeper said, a sly smile plastered on his face. The backroom smelled like stale sweat and burnt plastic. He surveyed the piles of DVDs searching for my gay porn.

“Ito na yung hinahanap mo. Huling kopya na nga yan. Mabentang mabenta.” He smiled at me as he handed me my prized DVD…



A bootleg copy of M2M, Live in Concert.

♫: M2M | Pretty Boy (2000)
Photo: Buhoneros

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

fifteen different words for tears


“Would you mind if I had another one?” I ask, hand firmly on my pack of cigarettes. I was having coffee with an old friend at 10 in the evening; a distant reminder of the life of a call center drone I thought I’d left behind.

“Go ahead,” she says, her left arm tilting slightly so she could see her watch. “I still have about… half an hour before I have to go.” I shake the pack and a stick comes out. I push hard on the filter to pop the flavored bead and light up.

“Hey, whatever happened to citybuoy?” she asks as I took my first puff.

“Well, he’s still there… I think. I haven’t really checked in a while.”

“I noticed. I dropped by a couple of days ago and you haven’t updated in months. Writer’s block?”

“A huge one.” I respond, dragging too deeply on my cigarette that it starts to burn my throat. “I don’t really know what it is. I have all these half-stories in my head but when I sit down to write them, I just can’t seem to put the words together. Besides, no one blogs anymore. It’s kind of sad, really.”

“Maybe it’s like riding a bike. You just have to keep doing it until it feels normal again.”

“I don’t think it’s about me not knowing how to write per se but just me not knowing how to write like citybuoy anymore.”

“Write like citybuoy?” she asks, her eyebrow raised five meters high. “And what exactly does that mean?”

“Um… I used to write because I was lonely. Because I wasn’t happy with how my life was. That’s how it’s been for the last couple of years. But for the first time, I can honestly say I’m just really happy. Stable and finally happy.”

“That’s a good thing, right?” Her face was filled with good intentions. For once, I wasn’t sure what to say.

“I guess… Or maybe I just can’t do happy. Because some part of me knows that’s not gonna fly with the people who read me. It’s like that Alanis record after Jagged Little Pill. No one wants to hear me thanking India. They wanna read about me weeping over loss or moaning about unrequited love. The very reason they come to me is because they’re sad too.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” she says, a little too strongly. “They read you because you are a good writer. I don’t need to tell you that.”

And so we skirt around the age-old debate of writing freely or having your audience in mind. I didn’t really feel like arguing so I just sat there, drinking my coffee and smoking the pleasantries away.

“Maybe you just need a different vocabulary,” she offers. “You know I once read that eskimoes have 50 different words for snow.”

“And I have fifteen different words for tears.”

“Precisely. So build your vocabulary. I’m pretty sure you can find more eloquent ways to say I’m stable and finally happy.”

I stub my cigarette on the half-filled ashtray. Maybe she’s right. Maybe there’s more to me than weepy prose. She grabs my hand and I look up in surprise.

“Joy,” she says, her eyes wild with fire. “Bliss… Exuberance… Gaiety!” Each word was said louder than the last one and a couple of people in the next table were starting to look.

“Um… you okay?”

“Yes! I’m exhilarated! Euphoric! You say you have fifteen words for tears well I say we need to think of fifteen words for happy. No, wait. Scratch that. Let’s just add fifteen more to your list! Haven’t you ever laughed so hard, you had tears in your eyes? Have you never been filled with so much happiness, your tear ducts started to well up?”

I didn’t want to participate because I knew what she was trying to do. But she had weaved a wonderful moment. I could feel that she was just genuinely worried that the writer in me had died.

“Elated,” I add, slightly embarrassed but happy to be participating. “Delighted?”

“There you go!”

“Exuberant?”

“Said that already”

“In sheer merriment?”

“Yes!”

“Delectation?”

“That’s it. Warming up.”

“ON CLOUD NUMBER FUCKING NINE!” I shout, fists banging on the table. The guard eyes us suspiciously and we laugh at our own brief moment of hysteria. At the end of it, I did have a couple of tears in my eyes. Some friends just get it, you know what I mean? Like they just get you. Who knows? This new thing may spell the end of citybuoy but at least then, I would know it didn’t kill the writer in me.

♫: Alanis Morissette | Thank U (1998)