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?

Advertisements

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)

Tarry

They descended slowly, those white mists. The academics claimed that meanings are forged in binaries where one cannot exist without the other; yet that night, there was only silence between us and nothing more.

The absence of the other houses the embodiment of nihility. It fetters and in dry, frightened steps, it paces back and forth. The void tarries in its surroundings and, apart from the clean sheet of white mist, there was nothing it in.

The academics claimed that meanings only thrives in binaries but perhaps they are wrong. You see, it was not that stiff figure of detachment as it recedes and flees; there was more to it than exile.

Meanings, I suppose, reside in multiverse where one reality collides against your endlessness. Because, my love, in this topographical distance between you and I, there exist the hundred attempts I’ve tried to find you and the hundred years I’ve failed.

But, in broken spaces and dimmest worlds, there breathes my defiance to never give up and my unwavering resolve to always, always hope.

Wonders and short convos

“Do tell. What happened?”
“We talked.”
“You mean you two confined yourselves in the hotel room for 48 hours and just talked?”
“Yea. It was surreal.”
“And you talked about what?”
“A lot.”
“Like?”
“Solipsism. Narratives of suicides. Past life regression. Mercury retrograde. Parallel lives. Politics in art. Emile Durkheim. Effects of various drugs on nervous system. Angel’s trumpets. Waltz of Chihiro. Myers-Briggs. Both of us are INTPs, you know?
“Yea. Nerds. What else?”
“Chances we took. Chances we took for granted. Chances we never took. Second chances. Third. Fourth. Labels. Social stigma. People we have hurt. People we loved too much, in our best capacities as emotionally detached individuals. People we have to forego. Obligations. Uncertainties. Dull inanities in life that made us question if these are all we actually have in this material plane. Secrets we have never told anyone.”
“Mind to spill a wee bit of those secrets?”
“Ah no. Maybe next time. Or ask her directly but gain her trust first. I’ll introduce you.”
“As if. And then? What did you do after the talking?”
“We slept. Ah, no. We went out past midnight and had ramen, all the while conversing about anything and nothing at all. She’s eloquent and well-read. You’ll love her.”
“I’m sure. She’s a bit renowned, yea?”
“She worked hard for it, like really hard. They dismissed her at first, debased her creations even.”
“And then?”
“She persevered.”
“What did you two do after the ramen escapade.”
“We lay on bed and talked some more.”
“About what this time?”
“I can’t remember. While she was saying something, I zoned out and found myself regarding the details of her face with delight. She’s otherworldly. With her, I realized how easy it is to lose yourself without rehearsals and inhibitions.”
“That was… intense.”
“Yea but it is more like.. I think this is what friendship actually is.”
“You mean what?”
“I mean, I think friendship is the most sublime affection of all.”

Those frameless heads

“I’m going to tell you something. I don’t know why I want to tell you this but I want to tell you this. C, that guy who was sitting across us, he was apologizing to me a while ago. Thing is, last Tuesday, he confessed to me. I rejected him.”
 
“People have become obsessed with this relationship ideals. I’m not sure if it is indigenous in the Filipino culture but it seems like nowadays it has become impossible for us, females, to be friends with males without them jumping into us like rabid creatures.”
 
“It was revolting. C said he has this thing with me that has been going on for 6 years. I was like, wtf. I was not even informed. He then asked me if he stands a chance. I said nobody has a chance.”
 
“They treat single-hood as if it is a disease that must be cured. What a weak-minded notion of human existence!”
 
“Yaaaaaa. Abominable! Like, they said I’m lonely because I’m single but actually I am not. Not having anyone is liberating.”
 
“I actually find it fascinating, this seeming obsession people have towards human relationships. If their age ranges somewhere between early to mid 20s, I would understand the behavior following the tenets of Eric Ericson’s psychosocial stages. The behavior falls in Intimacy vs Isolation category.”
 
“On my end, I don’t think I need the presence of anyone to validate my existence. You see, I am not emotional as a person. I cannot handle too much emotion. When C confessed, I was like ‘please don’t say that. It’s dangerous for you.’ Haha! But of course I did not. My mind was like wtf dude how in the name of fresh hell should I react properly.”
 
“Saaame! It happened in Zambales. I was there to gather some court documents and was staying in this house in San Narciso. I was genial to people because basically I have no reason to be hostile. Then there was this nephew whom I befriended. We went on road trips, had dinner outside, visit places. I actually expected we were friends. Next thing, he confessed to me. Que ultimo horror!”
 
“Have you been intimate to someone?”
 
“I don’t think I am capable of that. I have an arid heart.”
 
~Tam-awan Village, Baguio City | May 2018

Undulation

Perhaps it’s the blood-soaked moon that douses us tonight. People who barely know each other clutter the streets and fill the alleyways. Lovers sit on the seawall and revel at the sound of the breaking ocean. Friends on the rooftop set up their binoculars and drown themselves in brawl and laughter. The world has gone mad but right now all I can see is the undulation of your tousled hair.

Perhaps it’s the night blooming jasmine. The evening opened the flowers and allowed its scent to spiral in the air. It seeped through the spaces in my window and invaded the room — all corners, every inch. You spun around and there was your three-day old beard. I traced the lines of your jawline with certainty. I took a deep breath and you exhaled my name and there was sea-salt and midnight and tenderness in it.

Perhaps it’s the morning light: warm and yellow and soft. The curtains hum the crunch of our footsteps as we strolled round the ancient parks. We were surrounded by statues of gargoyles and elves, of courageous beginnings and guarantees. You told me that raindrops fell on the park bench like fallen friends. That day I constructed a home in a strange and unfamiliar place.

Perhaps it’s the map, each country content beside each other. Here are the white forests of Russia. Here are the golden sands of Mongolia. Here is China and New Zealand and the thousand gods of India. Here is Germany. Here is Prague. Here is Egypt, and, inches away, here is Japan with its still lakes and cherry blossoms.

But, more than that, here we are, months ago, surrounded by gargoyles and jasmine and morning light, loved by the birds outside my window. And there you were, laughing, worshipping the broken rain, your eyes in golden numbers, your beard with its lonely trees, sea-salt against my skin, the memory of you behind my pillow, your tousled hair undulating inches away from me.

After the afternoon train

You are the indifference of the stars. The dusts in the windows have bloomed into profusion, the curtains bled in your absence, and your laughter melted straight into the wall. The last time we were together you were happy.

A few days after that you were barely returning my affection. Do tell me what transpired in between. I do not understand.

It’s not dawn yet but the night has already coiled into myrtles of meaningless thoughts. You became the speedy train at 4:30 in the afternoon. You ferried the ghost to their comforts and I hobbled after you until there is nothing left in that barren station but unwanted litters and overworn seats.

The railings refused to accept my existence and I have ceased expecting love to rescue me.

You are the indifference of the stars and there is tenderness in reading poetry, in silence, at 2 o’clock in the morning. I am not going to run after you but if you do not find home in strange places, a candle in my window can lead you back to me.

Ciao! Existence

The year 2017 has been a trying one for me. January, I got off an employment where colleagues are negligent and downright feckless. I went from being underpaid to being a bum, and goddess knows I’ve succeeded.
February, my cat, Fishy, passed away. It was a freak accident. Once, when she was barely 8 weeks old, I was able to snatch her from death. But that February evening I was simply not there. She died alone and in pain. And after all these months I’m still grieving.
March and April, I was plagued with intense sadness and everyday gloom. Or maybe it was melancholia. Leaving the house was difficult. Facing people, especially those I know, more so. I obsessively thought about death.
May to June, I hitched my way round the country. Rode random trucks and ships to distract myself from suicidal tendencies and cross out an entry from my bucket list.
It was during that time when I spent a night in Mindoro and Aklan. I swerved a trip to Boracay. I got stranded in Capiz. Encountered difficulties in Cebu. Killed a long while on the road from Bukidnon to Davao. Saw Mindanao from the mountaintop. Met an old friend from UPLB graduate school. Slept in bus terminals. Slept in an island 3 hours away from Indonesia. Visited the Grand Mosque in Cotabato. Ended up less than 40 kms away from Marawi when the Maute conflict broke. Experienced Martial Law. Volunteered in the refugee camp. Got interrogated a few times.
July, I came back to my loneliness. I hated this country. I hated the people — every single jot of their pretense and hypocrisy. I hated their spotless, untrue lives in the social media. I hated their lack of sincerity. I still do.
I wanted, more than anything, to leave. Over time, this persisted and intensified. It was a mental battle I had to resist and confront and combat and overcome — and I don’t always win.
August, my suicidal tendencies progressed. A gloom that is rooted to a death incident more than a decade ago devoured me alive. It was agonizing. I wanted to leave this world.
September, I ended up in a project in Zambales. It resuscitated me, in its particular way. Those were the days when life randomly surprised me with hope and a guarantee of a bearable tomorrow. I held on to that, best as I can.
One of my bestest friends, Jy, recommended me for the project. It is almost the end of my contract but in doing so, she restructured my life and, in her way, kept me alive.
October, a good friend of mine passed away. It was sudden and his absence left an aching gape in this lifetime. I have not moved on. I have not accepted his death either.
November, I had a skin flare outbreak. My skin cells have abnormally developed this inability to live longer. I shed skin — and I shed relentlessly. This disables me from keeping moisture. I had to guzzle plenty of fluids to keep myself from dehydrating. This also disables me from retaining my body heat. I was always cold. And I was gravely ill.
December, a friend of mine who passed away last October was callously judged in front of me. I was appalled. That day I have learned the kind of person I no longer want in my life. They are the ones who reduce the complexity of your existence to fit the box of their preference. Those who find empowerment in prejudicial remarks. Those whose self-righteousness have blinded them to pure hypocrisy. Those who find it easy to slander an individual and grueling to actually understand.
This was a trying year, 2017. My demons rose and no matter how exhausted I am, I had to will myself and pursue the battle. Some days I failed but what matters, I guess, is persistence. I will always be grateful to those who were patient with me, especially during those times when I simply wanted to kill myself.
Of course, I lost myself in the process, painful and bit by bit. But I have also come to love and nurture what remains of me, and this will not be possible without those few friends and loved ones who patched me up and made the choice to stand with me when I was disintegrating. They rowed the boat to stubbornly beat on against the ruthless current.
We’re rearing the end of 2017 but before we reach its conclusion, allow me to thank those people who held me intact and believed that, in a cruel and unforgiving world, keeping a beating heart is already a victory.
Thank you, guys, for staying in my life and for simply being kind. This piece is for you.

That much

Yesterday, while I was out in the field, I have made a mental note to caption this photo. It is gone now.
 
The job was never easy. It compelled me to work long hours, deal with people, resolve conflict, make decisions, write reports, beat deadlines.
 
It made me weather the scorching heat, the physical and mental fatigue, the endless demands. It taught me to wake before 6 o’clock in the morning — something that I, on normal days, do not do.
 
Consequently, it gave something back. The motorcycle rides in the open fields of Zambales, for example, as I visit my project sites.
 
The watermelons planted by the IPs in Iba Zambales, the sweetest variety I’ve tasted, and the friends I gained along the way. The innumerable and selfless ways that people in the community have extended themselves.
 
The way my participants tried to pull their organic vegetable garden despite the hardships and their lack of experience. The way they try and try hard — and the way they accumulate and collect small victories with each passing day.
 
Most importantly, this project taught me what it means to love something beyond the confines of our narcissistic desires. It taught me to aim for a goal that is not mine, to achieve an objective for the benefit of others.
 
It taught me to set aside my individualistic tendencies and redirect my vision for the achievements of the team. I have learned to fulfill my tasks and responsibilities with excellence — and I’ve learned to do it not for me but for the institution and the community as a whole.
 
I have been in the field these past few days and it has been heartbreaking, actually, knowing that I am visiting the sites for the final time. When I saw the seeds sprouting from their seedling trays, I was happy to realize that I was one of those who ran and managed the trainings of those participants. My participants.
 
Still, I never had the nerve to bid them farewell.
 
It breaks my heart to accept that I am approaching the end of this tether. Closure is never my forte.