Of the stacks you used to fill and eventually vacated

I would have taken you out today, or any other day for that matter. We would go on road trips, if health would allow you to do so. We could go to Batanes. I know you love hillsides and seascapes and sea foods, and I would love to take you anywhere that could make you happy.

I have not been very vocal about you, no. Whenever people ask me about you, I tell them where you currently are, and technically I am still giving them the truth, though not the very core of it. I left to forget about your passing and try to move on, but death came in search of me, one after another.

Over time, your absence has grown robust, demanding, and assertive. It gnawed me and left me with nothing but decay. I grew up, yes, but all the years I have accumulated are unable to fill the space you used to occupy.

If any, they simply remind me of the stacks you used to fill and eventually vacated. Photographs of photographs, becoming fainter and blurred and far away. It scares me, the possibility that in time, I will not be able to remember your face. I refuse to forget how you have lived your life. If I have to cheat destiny just so I could hold unto you, I will.

I am well aware that absolutely no one can ever replace you, and with each passing day, I crave nothing but your presence. Even 20 minutes would do. Even a glimpse. Please, one more time.

Today, I sit here, in the middle of this clean white sheet of void — stranded and unable to think straight. Posting this nonsense in social media that you won’t even be able to read. I would have taken you out today, or paid you visits, but up until this point, I am still unable to face your grave. I’m so, so sorry.

Truth is, I still cannot accept the fact that you have been dead for eleven years.

Why do you have to go where I cannot follow?

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Of thousand lives

Keys. I keep keys of every room I’ve inhabited. It’s actually symbolic, at least on my end. It serves as my access to territories I’ve chartered, to an existence I lived, to all years I’ve consumed, to every self-version I’ve worn and shed.

Once, after an old friend of mine vacated her place, I went back to her flat and secretly took the keys. I had it duplicated. I returned its copy to its previous spot. Then I gave my friend the original and told her the story.

Tonight, I locked the door of my room for the final time. I gave one final glimpse, inhaled the details one final time — the empty shelves, the clean wardrobe, the folded blankets, the made bed. It was in the opposite state when I was inhabiting it. It was filled with clatters and books and dreams and life.

A realization struck me: that the last two years did not kill me. If anything, it made me stronger.

I settled my remaining bill. The receptionist issued me a receipt, one last time. I left messages to people who are important in my life before I vacate the building. They asked me for the keys, and I surrendered my copy. But, as I’ve said —

I
Keep
Keys

Of thousand lives I’ve worn and inhabited and lived and loved and will live again in moments of retrospect. (August 2016)

Hellebore

Some nights, your absence rises from the bed and wakes me up. I’m dead tired but there are vacuities and sadness right now that won’t allow me to have my rest.
 
I don’t blame you for going but I regret the fact that I can never follow you. This is death. Irreconcilable and excruciatingly painful. I doubt if anyone can ever genuinely move on after each incident.
 
It’s Christmas again. A bland, empty celebration that I have to endure without you in it. Then comes new year. Then, twenty five days after that will mark the day I lost you for breast cancer.
 
Perhaps I will sleep through it all, like I always do. The carols, the lights, the fireworks, the feast. They have all ceased meaking meanings. Despite my writing skills I can’t even compose and give you a proper eulogy and I am so sorry for that.
 
Thing is, I don’t want to talk about you because it makes everything final. I don’t want anyone recounting your memories either because they do it in past tense.
 
Almost thirteen years. It’s still painful. And I am still counting.
 
Happy holidays, wherever you are. I love you in the most human and profound way that I can mean.

Ensign

Your wife. Misty eyes, she looked at me and asked about souls. I was stunned.

A band of cars and trucks sped past and sadistically mutilated the already mangled city. I watched them as I navigated the network of my reasoning. I bent down, picked, and exhumed the old superstitions I have learned in childhood.

“They say we still have them for 49 days after the internment. Then they depart, forever.”

She lifted the back of her right hand and brushed her eyes. “So he is still with us?”

I looked at the longing on her face. “He is still with you.”

I’m so sorry I lied that day.

When people die they do not truly disappear. Instead, their absence grows robust and demanding day by day. We see them — in the half-eaten plates, in every homecooked meal, in the empty chairs across us at the dinner table.

They are the cold, uninhabited side of the bed all year round. They are the white noise in the radio; the static one at the back of the telly. The loss proliferates and the longing magnifies. Their absence is an excavation in our lives and it hurts everywhere.

When she asked me about souls, this was what I had in mind but I held it back. I do not have the heart to break her further that day so I told her about the superstitions I do not believe in.

“His ears will be on the swells of your breasts and with each heartbeat, he’ll be proud to know that you keep your ground and fight life back,” I assured her.

She pressed her head on my shoulder and willed a smile. I watched a lock of her hair as it fell, slowly, on the sides of my arm.

Your wife. She proudly carries her scars and lets them flap in the wind like a banner of victory.

When two universes collapse and explode, they will produce gold

I have not met every single inhabitants of this Earth yet, and perhaps I never will, but you are my favorite person in this world.

You are the still, bright lake on a summer day; you are the dew drops at the tip of each leaf on misty afternoons. You are the luminous smoke from a mug of coffee on cold evenings and you are the rain who dances in barefoot in my sunken places.

You are the tender hand on my hair, the kiss on my left temple, the pauses in my erratic life, the keeper of secret happiness and stolen glances. You are the sun beams of the lost forests and you are the home of this drifting fog.

You put order in my existence and the years of this lifetime will never be sufficient to show my gratitude.

Ich verstehe dass Sie sind nicht immer vollständig. You’ve ventured too long and too far and you’ve lost yourself in the process.

Now it is my turn — and this is for you.

When two universes collapse and explode, they will produce gold. And if you hold your ground against these beatings and disappointments and endless exhaustion, you will be the living prodigy of this transcendental phenomenon.

So courage, dear heart. You have a world to love.

I HATE MANILA

I HATE MANILA WITH ALL THE PASSION THAT I CAN MUSTER. I HATE THAT GHASTLY PLACE. I HATE EVERYTHING IN IT, EVERY CORNER, EVERY CAR. I HATE ITS INHUMANE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES. I HATE ITS LACK OF URBAN PLANNING. I HATE THE HEAT AND DUST AND CROWD. I HATE THE LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY THE PEOPLE IN THE EMBASSY IMPOSED UPON THOSE WHO WANT TO LEAVE THIS LAND. I HATE THEIR INABILITY TO COMPREHEND THAT THERE IS NOTHING WORTH STAYING IN THIS COUNTRY. I HATE THE FACT THAT THEY DEMAND THE PEOPLE TO STAY AND LIVE WITH CROCODILES. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LET US OUT AND LET THE CROCODILES DEVOUR EVERY PARCEL OF GHASTLY LAND HEREIN.

Jasmine

Somehow, things ceased to matter: political affiliations, advocacies, philosophical subscriptions, hazzards, impending earthquake, pol-econ framework of analysis, social media clammor, mainstream vanity, involvement.

Their values unravelled and their corpses filled my life, converting the uninhabited house inside me into a crowded graveyard.

I’ve began avoiding people, especially those I know. Their presence subjugates my existence and wrapped all I could be in a sargasso of anxiety. I’ve ditched all social calls and all the paths I used to take. I worry, everyday, that I might bump into someone I know. I recede in the background and desperately beg invisibility to render me unnoticed.

This way, I feel safe.

But, in the midst of all this, at the heart of my isolation, there’s this deep-seated hope inside me that wants the mad universe to take over and, in the dappling vines of jasmine and wild narcissus, to make me bump into you, specifically and always, and to no one else.

Edges, stars

It would be nice, wouldn’t it, to wake up in our ancestors era one random morning — 10 generations past, then 20, then 30.
 
To see the trading galleons docked in Manila Bay,
the spices and golds they carried and bartered,
the cotton and armory, while a few miles underground,
a secret pact was conceived and bound both in loyalty and treachery.
 
It would have been nice, I know, except that I do not have an ancestor. My life stemmed from the gutter, a collection of grime and smoke, of discarded wrappers and incessant deceits. The sound of the cistern is the living reminder of my everyday rejection.
 
How could you love me, after all these? I, who cannot even bear the sight of my unkempt hair, who stealthily look at the shop windows and secretly inspect my appearance, casually wishing not to see the reflection of a mentally deranged individual.
 
A while ago I dissected the morning and saw you leaning close to me, tracing the moles on my chest, naming them, one by one. Cassiopeia, you whispered. And here, on your collar bone, you said, stand the ruins of Serious Black, the explosion of Southern Pinwheel, and the eventide woven by Betelgeuse the Giant.
 
You traced the length of my neck and identified them, and with such tenderness on the tip of your fingers, you violently broke me.
 
It would be nice, wouldn’t it, to wake up in our ancestors era one random morning — 10 generations past, then 20, then 30. You murmured, softly.
 
I do not know, I answered. My existence only began last night, on the splinters of my bones, when you accurately named the stars, when solitude was the cutting edge of my heart.

Dream mirror

It rained all day, a monotonous beating of exhausted hours against the roof, each droplet a second that feeds and magnifies your absence.

I am not used to this.

Not being with you in our beloved places, in the green mountains and its subtle, sun-drenched wind, those soft, golden beams dancing on the tip of the sharp-pointed leaves, falling in the Earth, melting on your hair and making you a sestina of everything that dazzles.

On the other side of this dream mirror, I am certain you are there. I can almost see the shroud of haze arising from your feet, clouding the honest blink of your eyes, the patient lines on the sides of your mouth, the intricate contours of your cheek bones, the timelessness of your laughter.

Perhaps, when I am better I can join you. Do tell, what was it like over there? Are the cities symmetrical? Are the buildings tame and not tyrants? Are there sea gulls, are they white, do they soar and burst and dive bravely into the ocean floor? Are thoughts made of pine woods, stars, crimson spirals, and still waters? Is tranquility made of hinterlands, reclusive owls, and sycamores?

Do you stitch hearts in thistles and myrtle leaves and evening dreams and piece it back together? Does the sun dance, ecstatically, in barefoot? Is there an endless dawn of liantris and corn flowers? Are the nights doused in the thousand fabrics of blooming jasmine?

Will you dispel the gloom?