Tuesday, December 6, 2016

on thunderbolts through the heart



It creeps up on you when you least expect it. You think you’re not ready. You think it’s too soon. But from deep down inside, you begin to hear love as it takes its first steps.

Step 1. You meet and it’s wonderful. There’s music and laughter and conversations that never end. He spends the night and you talk till morning. You talk till your voice croaks. You talk till there’s no talk left. You talk until neither of you can keep your eyes open. And then you talk a little more.

Step 2. He leaves in the morning and you realize you’ve gone insane again. You pick up his shirt from the hamper and you inhale deeply. It smells like sweat marinated in tobacco smoke and pheromones. Your feet begin to tap seconds, minutes, hours till you’re with him again.

Step 3. You sit uncomfortably throughout dinner. You watch as his eyes light up when he tells you a story. You watch his lips move and skew as he talks, all the while wondering what it would be like to kiss him again. He stops talking and you’re like oh shit. Did he ask a question? You’re lost in a daydream again. You nod and say something non-committal. Yeah. That sounds fun. And he continues talking, pleased with your response. Phew. You live to daydream another day.

Step 4. You are in a meeting and you tune out. You play a game where you try to remember what he looks like. You remember the patterns on his tattoos, his scraggly beard, the stray hairs scattered on his chest. You remember how his arms feel as you cuddle when you sleep. The meeting ends and you continue your work day. You’re hopeless. You’re not even pretending to work. You stalk his Instagram. You scroll all the way back to three years ago. You accidentally hit Love. You don’t take it back.

Step 5. You come home. You stare at his towel and his toothbrush. You make the bed and wash the dishes. You wait for him to find you. He takes longer than usual. You go back to the hamper. You smell his shirt. His scent is mostly gone but it lingers in your nostrils and in your memories. You hear a knocking on the door. You fly down the stairs to meet him. You catch your breath and pat down your hair. You open the door casually, feigning sleep with a yawn. Did you miss me, he asks. And you say, meh a little. All the while, you stare eager at the way his lips move and skew as he talks, that annoyingly adorable scraggly little beard, and that shirt which you know will smell like him for at least a full day.

‘Cause this is how things start
A thunderbolt through the heart
When we do what we do
I want to whisper to you
When the whole word shouts
Find the things that you’re about

It won’t be hard
If you would like to start

♫: Reese Lansangan | Exploration No. 5 (2015)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

on strength



We come up the stairs to my room, the silence thick and heavy above our heads. He takes his coat off and puts his bag on the bed. I hear his hesitation as he unzips his trousers. I walk over to the window and draw the curtains to let in some light.

“You’ve got a view,” he says. “You never mentioned that.”

“Well, it’s nothing to write home about,” I tell him. “At night, the buses keep me awake.”

“Maybe you don’t think it’s beautiful because you’re so used to it. But someone who’s seeing it for the first time would beg to disagree.”

“It’s just the city, just traffic. Just a bunch of people trying to get somewhere. It can get a little lonely in here.”

“I think there’s beauty in lonely,” he says. “You just have to be at the right place and at the right time to see it.” I turn around to see he wasn’t looking out the window. He was looking at me.

He comes towards me and puts his arms around my waist. He rests his chin on my shoulder and I feel his warm breath on my skin. We are still just like that for a long time, two strangers coming together watching the city unravel.

Beyond the buses honking and the sound of people all trying to get somewhere, I could hear a dull thumping from the middle of my chest. I close my eyes and in my mind’s eye, I see my tired heart. Glue stains and pieces of tape covering cracks and scars, it slurs from its slumber. I feel its gears whirring slowly but furiously. For the first time in months, it begins to light up and beat again.

I didn’t know I had it in me. I didn’t know it had any fight left. Maybe I just don’t know my own strength.

♫: Carly Rae Jepsen | The One (2016)

Monday, September 5, 2016

on the man i will be after you



I dragged myself to the curb to text him. I dusted the rubble off my shaken body and struggled to compose my thoughts and a message. My sides hurt when I breathed, signifying a tear somewhere or perhaps a fractured rib. I lit up a cigarette, hoping I could smoke the pain away. The nicotine hit me fast and hard and I had to hold on to the pavement or else I felt I’d float away.


“Oo nga. Papunta na nga sana. Eh malamang, di ko naman ginusto madisgrasya diba?”

“Sinasabi ko naman kasi sayo noon pa. Delikado yang pag-motor motor mo. Ewan ko ba kung bakit di ka kasi nakikinig sa kin.”

“Sorry na. Di ko naman to ginusto. Kahit anong oras pa, pupuntahan kita. Antayin mo lang ako.”

And I thought about all the things that have happened that led me here. That first miscalculated turn, the cold bead of sweat that ran from my temple to my chin, the seed of doubt that got planted in my head. Kaya ko ba talaga to? Baka naman nagtatapang-tapangan lang ako? It took a few more blocks and crossways before I realized I’d turned too soon. Panic settled in and for a few seconds, I was mid-air in slow motion. The buildings and the streets traded places. I landed on the sky.

When strength and courage returned, I got back on my bike. I put the key in the ignition. Click. Thud. Click. Whirr. Click. Shit. Now what am I gonna do?

“Mi, ayaw na mag-start.”

“Anong ayaw na mag-start?”

“Yung motor. Eh ayaw nga. Anong gagawin ko?”

“Iwan mo nalang diyan. Balikan natin bukas. Punta ka na dito. Tulog na yung gata sa hapunan. Ako, inaantok na rin.”

“Di naman pwede yun. Baka pagtripan ng mga adik. Sira-sira na nga, nanakawin pa.”

“Eh anong gagawin mo? Diyan ka nalang pipirmi? Papabulok ka diyan?”

“Mi…”

“Sorry. Nasan ka ba? Ako nalang pupunta diyan.”

“Hindi. Ako na. Gagawan ko nalang ng paraan. Basta antayin mo ko. Sorry.”

I dragged that motherfucker a mile and a half, my lungs burning, my feet screaming bloody murder. I arrived at his doorstep close to dawn. He opened the door, sleep and anger in his eyes, his eyebrows close to meeting.

“I’m here. I’m sorry. I’m here.”

He dropped the first aid kit he was holding and rushed towards me. He wrapped his arms around me and…

“Aray! Easy. Easy.”

“Ay sorry. Sorry.”

He wrapped his arms around me and it truly felt like I’d come home.

“Grabe naman pala yung sira,” he said, looking over my shoulder at the huge pile of metal garbage that lay smokey on his driveway. He surveyed the damage, making tiny calculations in his head. “Pero kaya pa yan. Oo. Kaya pa yan.”

“Oo. Dalhin ko nalang sa talyer bukas.”

He wrapped an arm around me as I limped my way inside. Outside, the September winds were cold and restless but inside, I could feel nothing but warmth.

He sat me down on the couch and put a pillow behind my neck. He propped my legs up and unlaced my boots. He disappeared into the kitchen and for once, I felt safe enough to close my eyes and let go.

“Ito, may dala akong yelo. Saan ba masakit?”

“Dito, mi. May bali ata.”

He pressed a bag of ice on my side, kisses me gently on the forehead.

“Buti nakarating ka.”

“Buti naghintay ka.”
---

I pray the next man I love will be patient. I pray he closes his eyes, sees me dragging this old heart down a dusty highway as I find my way to him, and realizes that his waiting is all that’s keeping me alive right now. The sun looms as dawn breaks and I begin to fully accept that this chapter of my life has finally come to an end. I’m terrified, so much so that I wake up at odd hours of the night in a cold sweat. But I know this will pass. Like all the other times I’ve sat on the curb smoking, staring at the mess I made, I know the hours will keep passing, the world will keep spinning, and this heart, however wounded, will keep beating. There is fear. There is anger. But when the dust settles, I know there is also a faint heartbeat of excitement. I can’t wait to meet the man I will be after you.

“Saan ba masakit?” he asks, and I show him my heart. He holds it in his hands, runs his fingers through scars, both old and new and says “I can fix it.” I will fix it.

I pray the next man I love will be me.

Photo: aljazeera
♫: Mayonnaise | Paraan (2015)

Friday, August 26, 2016

on what it was like to hold on to you



“Where I’m from, they name storms after women,” I said to him one day. “It’s because only a woman can ravage so swiftly, so completely,” Years later, he would tell me this was when he first realized he was in love with me.

It was summer and you were sleeping when the first quake hit. I lay awake in bed, lulled by your sighs and snores. As the walls shook and the ceiling turned to powder, I realized every feeling of safety, of security – it all flew out the window as soon as the earthquake hit. I shook you awake and told you we needed to run but you just turned up the covers and went back to sleep.

I guess that’s what it’s always been like – me with my head in the clouds, you with your feet on the ground. I tell you what I see – rumbling in the clouds, howling in the mountains, a lone man screaming TSUNAMI!!! at the top of his lungs. You say there’s nothing there. That it’ll all pass. I come back down and put in one final protest. With a single kiss, you shush me and there is nothing left to do but be still.

You can prepare all you want for an earthquake – pack a bag, pitch a tent, stock up on canned goods and batteries, but you can never be truly prepared for when it first hits you. The ground shook violently giving birth to demons who didn’t know anything except to take, to separate, and to destroy.

The first fights shook us, as we thought it would. But we managed to survive them, hands clasped and ready. When the earthquake finally came, it brought us to our knees. I still see you, fear in your eyes, the veins in your neck bulging as you told me to hold on to you. I see your outstretched arms, your fingers far apart like a fan as you tried desperately to hold on to me. I somehow managed to cut through the crowd as I flung my body towards yours. We ran as far away as we could.

We thought the worst was over. We thought we’d found a safe place in each other’s arms. But it’s the aftershocks, not the earthquake, that are often more treacherous. They lasted for days. They threatened to destroy the little that remained. Many bridges and roads that survived our earthquake ended up getting destroyed by the tiniest quivers. The tremors began in equal intervals – one in the morning and one at night. A push here, a pull there, I believed we grew stronger each time. But anything stretched too thinly is bound to break apart. I pulled you closer to my body during each aftershock, resigned that if we were to die, at least we’d be together. I didn’t know that life had other plans; didn’t know you had other plans. That’s what it was like to hold on to you.

We were running, the air thin and crisp. Our lungs burned as we sped through the city’s broken streets. When you’re on the run, all you ever think about is how to make it out alive. Your instincts kick in and there is nothing but surviving, nothing but the next safe place to be. It was too late when I realized that you’d let go of me. For 4 weeks, I waited for you to come back for me but you never did. I searched the rubble for your scent, for our memories, for a clue.

I struggled to maintain my balance as the earth shook. Something told me I would find you buried beneath the rubble. My hands bled as I lifted broken pieces of concrete and my heart off the ground. Again. And again. And again. When my strength finally left me, I fell to the ground and closed my eyes. Then, as clear as day, your voice whispered in my ear. This was how you said goodbye.

You once told me they named storms after women where you’re from. But why don’t they name earthquakes? If they did, I’d tell them to name one after you. You who brought the tremors, you who shook me to the core – your fault line ran deep in my heart.

The ground shook violently, giving birth to the demons that pulled you away from me. There is anger. There is blame. There is jealousy. There is neglect. There is blissfully tender, angry fucking. As my heart shook and all the lives we haven’t lived turned to powder, I realized that every feeling of safety, of security, every happy moment we’ve ever had – it all flew out the window when you left.

Post: 0.1
Photo: earthquake
♫: Jewel | Enter From The East (1998)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

on what it will be like



“You’ve changed,” he said, a sadness in his voice. He looked like he’d come home to open a present only to find that after the circus of ripped wrappers and ribbons pulled apart, there was nothing inside – nothing but an empty box with pieces of tape still stuck on.

“Have I? I didn’t notice.” I told him as I gulped the last of my black coffee, its warmth and bitterness like an embrace from a long lost friend. I wanted to sound cool and nonchalant but I fear that I came across as bored and drawn-out. And I’ve replayed this scene over and over in my head for the last 2 weeks wondering if I should have said what I wanted to.

That yes, I’ve changed and I was fully aware of that. But I didn’t change because I wanted to. It was because I had to. That day he packed his suitcase, he took more than just his books, records, and half the DVD collection. He ripped my heart away.

He pulled the smile away from my lips, the light from my eyes, the youth from my fingertips. It was as though something had imploded and I could feel my heart, my skin, my sex burning out and caving in.

Everything he ever touched, ever kissed, ever loved slowly fell away. For days, I walked around with what was left of me – an eyeball, half an arm, a fractured skull, various veins and tissues popping out.

I filled the void with whatever I could find. I rebuilt myself with the comfort of a stranger’s smile on the train, with work, with candlewax and some driftwood, casual encounters at the gym, some used up gum, and a pack of cigarettes.

In time, I grew back all that I had lost save one – you can never grow back a heart.

And so though I sat in front of him drinking coffee and acting cool, I’m afraid there wasn’t much left of who I was. Yes, I looked the same as I did a year ago when he last loved me but if he had come closer and pressed an ear towards my chest, he would hear nothing but the dull echo of his own voice telling me I’ve changed.

Photo: baby sunflower
♫: Isaac Gracie | Terrified (2016)