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)

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?

Why poppies are impossible

You were angry at your grandmother for losing her sense of equilibrium. This afternoon, she tried to stand up and she fell, face flat against the cold ground.

You screamed at her, you cursed her — her existence, her physical weakness, her remaining days — and you wished, blatantly, for her to fold her laboured breathing without noise and tuck it neatly in the drawer, never to be used again.

The neighbors hated you because of that. But you ceased caring.

I hated my father with all the passion I can muster. But unlike you, I fear his death. I don’t want to deal with the funeral arrangement and all the necessary, customary matters. I don’t want to attend to everything after everything — abandonment, beatings, screams, deceits, betrayal.

My clan will disown me if they hear me say this. But like you, I have stopped caring. Family is a very messed up institution, you said. And they perfectly know where it hurts.

I think of you often, on times like this. The books we’ve read, the poems we’ve written, the vile, blasphemous things we’ve confessed without rehearsal, the hesitations and half-eaten plates and the raw, unacceptable passages we’ve nailed on our blood-dripping chests.

I think about our burdens. The expectations we find repulsive. Your dying grandmother. My autocratic father. The family we did not chose, the one bereft of warmth. The people we’ve been wanting to flash out, the tyrants we’ve been condemned to live with.

We inhaled the world and built a gallow out of our stifling regrets. We lay on our backs on the soft spirals of aurora borealis. We savoured our distractions and celebrated our impending demise, the graveyard beneath our skins, the barren land inside us, the sunken places where flowers and visitors freeze and crumble into oblivion, the echoes of our footfalls battering the pavement, the stubborn refusal of the night to exhaust its heartbeat and the loathsome desire of the despicable god who ruminates the expansion of his seething underbelly.

We’re the estranged vivisection and you are right. It would take a miracle for someone to love us dearly. (July 6, 2017)

You didn’t get it, did you?

I think we have silently harbored our reservations and contempt towards one another. I have heard yours, and in a way or another you have heard mine but completely missed my point in most cases.

Lately I find you inauthentic actually. Too pretentious in the social media; too pathetic almost, overtly craving the approbation of the online folks at the expense of integrity.
 
What I’m trying to say is it’s not just you alone who wants to walk away from this — I do too. I no longer want you in my life.
Sometimes I want to take back everything I have said, every idea that I’ve articulated, my words and phrases that you’ve mimicked and taken as your own. I wish you would stop doing that. It’s annoying as hell, this sheer absence of originality.
 
I silently rue ever introducing to you the people I know, those closest to me, unknowingly lining them on the road filled with your opportunism. I wish you would just leave them, really. You are rude beyond reason, beyond belief.
 
Take heart on this: more than anything, I want you out of my life and out of everything — and most especially out of every one — that I hold dear.

Penny for your thoughts

It’s a bit dim but there is a beautiful memory deeply lodged in the indented piazza of my childhood recollection.

Like all the other kids, I have godmothers and godfathers. One of them, my godmother, is a couturier. This explains why my clothes back in the 90s were specifically tailored for me. Her husband, on the other hand, is a photographer.
 
My mom normally commissioned their services each time there was an event in town wherein I was invited to participate.
 
One time, my mother left me in their house. I don’t remember much about that day but I do remember a long, tenebrous corridor lined with stuffed animals.
 
By stuffed animals, I don’t mean toys made of fabric and cotton. I mean actual animals, dead and preserved and striking in their haunting beauty.
 
The trick there, I noticed, was the chip of glass planted inside their eyes. This was what made all of them flare with life.
 
At the foot of the stair, there stood two white wolves. Their mouths were half-opened; the crinkles on their snout boasted its prominence. They looked as if they were about to jump and slaughter their prey.
 
At the top of it was a cat, curled and sleeping. Except the cat was stuffed, like the wolves so it was not sleeping but dead. There was an owl tethered from the ceiling, there were rabbits and guinea pigs and other species of birds and dogs, and they all inhabited that long, tenebrous corridor.
 
I do not remember if there was a window at the end of it, but I remember walking in that musty hallway, lined with dead, stuff creatures and feeling not a nip of fear but a burning fascination. I remember the creaks of the wooden floor and the echoes of my footfalls.
 
I was five years old, and at that tender age, I have discovered my love for everything that is strange and remarkable.