Syl’s Shadows

I’ve listed down all my writings, and I will cross them all out tonight, so tomorrow, I could ask you to have coffee with me.

You, my favorite person of all.
You said your life is like a fig tree, with branches sprouting everywhere. One leads to the prestige of the academe, the other to the beauty of poetry. There was also a branch with a husband and children, and one for a recognition you never got when you were still breathing.
You were there, you said, at the foot of that tree when all the leaves fell and wrinkled and turned black.
You will understand me, I trust. Mine is almost similar to yours. But it isn’t a fig tree, no. It is, you see, a diverging and irreconcilable route.
And I am here in the crossroad, unable to move and, like you, unable to choose.
One of the paths leads to security. A way back to academe. A standard existence in a normal society — husband, children, career, recognition. This is what I am expected to choose. It’s an asphalt road with flashy cars zooming past, here and everywhere.
The other trail is wild and ravenous and untamed. The lane is wet and muddy and filled with adventures and long shadows — golden sands and rough waves, stories about pirates and gypsies, sound of cisterns and scent of sandalwood, caves and a crown of purple thistle.
You are right, what you wrote there. Choosing one would mean losing all the others.
Like you, I cannot let that happen.
Maybe in a parallel universe, this tragedy never transpired. Still, I want you to know that I understand why, in February 1963, you chose to kill yourself.
And if by some mischief of a chance we find each other in another time period and plane of existence, please have coffee with me. We will talk about our days. We will sort this mess out.
We will ease the pain. We will make life worth living and bearable. And no matter how impossible and bleak it may seem, we will find hope.
And we will guarantee that this time,
we will never stop hoping.

Songs of the Seabirds

Lately, I’ve been contemplating what it could possibly feel to cease existing. Your body buried deep down below, the surface of your graveyard decorated by fallen leaves and occasional flowers from random visits.
I don’t know what would be more painful: the process of leaving our mortal frame or the possibility of being forgotten, eventually.
Dying, in my mind, is an obligation I will have to carry out. I do not want illness or years to take away everything I have been and could ever be; I have resolved to snap the last thread of my life using my own method and my own hand, in my own time.
When meaninglessness sets in, I take folding my existence and tucking it neatly as an imperative commitment.
I was in an empty playground last night, like I was in an empty playground when I was in kindergarten. I took the empty swing, pressed the tip of my shoes on the ground and let go, like when I was four.
I thought about birds in flight and mountains and lobsters at home, and then I saw myself closing the bathroom door. I filled the tub with water and made some bubble bath. I removed my clothes and got in, and I cried and cried and cried and made an ocean out of everything.
It’s a tragic event — the way our innocence passes so quickly and leaves us behind.
I wish I could still think about birds and mountains and lobsters at home, but lately I’ve been contemplating about ceasing to exist.
I do not know what could be more exhilarating: the prospect of finally vacating this dreadful existence or the possibility of reincarnating in another land and time period.
In a coastline some where, I hope, where rough waves never break on limestone, where hearts remain intact, where sea gulls sing and soar overhead, and where lobsters sit on the kitchen table.


My internal landscape was once a wetland. Grasses and herbaceous plants sprout from the ventricles of my heart. My rib is a birch tree, a deciduous hard wood crowned with thin leaves. My veins are wild ravines. Inside it is the torrent of rain water that keeps me alive.
My heart is a beating water lily, eternally blooming on the lake of my blood. I was a sullen mist, and I loved it that way.
But they mistook my solitude for loneliness, the crowd, the clever engineers. So they loaded sands on their trucks, sacks after sacks. They opened me up, covered my wetland, and built a city inside me. They paved roads. They constructed buildings. They opened cafes and pubs and restaurants. They turned on their neon lights.
A rave party is inside me at night, and they won’t stop until I am filled with cigarette stubs and empty bottles and used issues and half-eaten plates — litters and grime that I have to clean every morning of my life. My gutter is overflowing and they call this happiness.
I call this wreckage.
I moved close to the bed, pulled the sheet and laid down. I tried to remember my by-gone world — my birch trees, my herbaceous plants, my wild ravines, my water lily — before I was converted into a rattling shell called Happiness.
You wrapped your arms around me and press your face on small of my back. My spine was a hard wood once, and every October it shed its golden leaves. “What do you want?” you asked.
The neon lights and the avalanche of noise from everywhere drowned my thoughts, and all I can do for my defense is curl my mutiliated body. “Love me until the end of everything,” I whispered. “And understand that this is not a plea.”
This is a burning desire to have my wetland back.

And then, it flashed again

As a person, I am not very religious. The world is aware of that. I subscribe to dialectical materialism and most of the time, I use it as my framework of analysis.
Though I cannot commit fully, there are narratives I like. Endless incarnation, for instance. The ceaseless cycle of death and life. I would like to believe in that, I really would.
I just cannot — not fully. There is a lack of evidence to prove its existence. Consequently, this lack of evidence cannot disprove it either, thus we cannot rule out the possibilities.
So I stand here, unable to have faith, unable to commit in anything. Still, the idea of higher realm and infinite universes is indubitably fascinating.
I was sleepless again last night. To give my mind some pre-occupation, I ran some experiment.
I want to know how far I can bend my cognitive faculty before it disintegrates into shards, so yes, for quite some time, I have been treating myself as subject to my countless experiments.
A friend of mine said I was cruel to myself but last night I had past life regression.
And I saw things and events — strange and beautiful and frightening. It was like watching a film in an old theater — snippets that rolled and unrolled and vanished and reappeared.
I saw the eyes of this kid — golden and clear, curious and observant. I saw this woman in Victorian dress, running down the hill on a bright summer day. The end of her skirt brushing against the tip of the grass.
I saw and admired the arch of a university hallway — towering and imposing and powerful. I walked in a corridor lined with endless doors and I walked through a forest and saw faces of dead people — drowned woman with a plant sprouting out of her mouth, dead men in their wooden coffin, in black suit and brimmed hats.
And everything went dark, like a closing scene in a movie, and then the world flashed again. And I saw grains and tulips, swaying in the wind. I saw small flowers.
As a person, I am not very religious. Everyone is aware of that. But there are mysteries I cannot fathom, those that continue to haunt me, even today.
And sometimes — from time to time — they save me. When mornings were hard and covered in shadows. When curtains were drawn and windows forgotten. When sawdust cannot dance and when light cannot pass through.

China Blue

I looked out the window and I saw a person in a street faraway.

Trees and vintage cars filled the stretch of that long lane. Sunbeams passed through the gaps between the leaves and broke on his hair. Dusts made their small explosion at every crunch of his footsteps, and it echoed and it mingled in the crisp, vanilla scent of summer air.

Without warning he stooped down and placed a chess board on the pavement. The took a tether out of his pocket and tied its handle at the end of the rope. He tilted his head, looked at the blank distance far away, and inhaled and sighed. Then, he placed his palm on his knee and pulled himself upward and stood up and walked.

And he walked and walked and dragged the chess board and it rattled and bounced, as if complaining from the pain brought by the hard flints of the asphalt.

He passed through the window, under the blue summer sky, the man and his screaming baggage, and all colors wrinkled and fell like dead leaves on that summer pavement, and I am the chess board.

My desire for temporary death and eternal dreaming intensified as I clunk clunk clunk on that sidewalk, my pain displaced and drowning somewhere in the song of this merry world.

And he walked on, oblivious to my splintered shell, to the sound of my rattling bones against the sour, empty space. Summer is a crisp, vanilla scent, he said.

And he whistled and nodded and hummed and smiled at the passersby.

Thoughts and Febby

Come back, they say.

It’s almost a year since I graduated, and I never ceased missing UPLB, I never did.

I miss the old days and the long nights. I miss the endless walks around Freedom Park, the crunching footfalls, the wide expanse of canopies, the towering trees. I miss the buildings and the lectures, the isaw in Reymundo, and the way we meet our friends in cafes and pubs.

I miss the green shades and the comfort of an inward life and the spaces in the hearts of the gentle folks of Los Baños.

It’s almost a year since I graduated, and I still visit the place from time to time — Freedom Park, the canopies, the college hallways, the trees in Forestry, the isaw in Reymundo, the buildings where I used to live and shed thousand selves. It was nostalgic, but more than that it was painful.

I miss that precise time period in life when I was inhabiting Elbi. The day to day routine; the familiar faces of our old friends in the crowd. The time when happiness has meaning and when life was bearable and worth living.

It’s almost a year since I graduated but I was not able to move on. It’s like after the blaring sounds and cheers and graduation event last year, I stayed in the venue — stuck and immobile and unable to let go.

And I was just there, that way, as everything, every life, recedes far, far away from me. And I sat there. And I held on.

Come back, they say.
There are jobs in Los Baños, why not apply, they ask.

That could be an option, I agree. But more than the place, it is Time I’m after. It’s the old days I want to live again, and I don’t have any portal for that.

Hungry gods

“I don’t think that person knows how sandwiches work,” you said condescendingly.

You have fits, I recognized that. My relationship with you has never been easy — filled with sex and shouting and hair pulling, my wrists still bruised from your cuff and bondage.

I secretly liked it, you know that. You dominate me and I am possessed by this desire to have myself physically abused and gorged in the bedroom. This is something I cannot openly admit to the conventional society.

This is something you willingly took.

You made me recite the names of far away stars as you unbutton my blouse and cupped my breasts. Pavo, I panted. The fire in your breath made my grip tighten around your arm. Betelgeuse, the hand of the giant. Rigel. Deneb. Altair. Bellatrix. Orion the hunter.


And I kept on reciting and reciting and did not stop and all you could say, in a condescending manner, is how you don’t think that person knows how sandwiches work.

But you do.
Oh yes you do.
Ohgod you do.
You do you do you do.

Burn me tonight. Bite my shoulder blade until it bleeds. Let the gods condemn us. Show them, hungrily, how sandwiches work.

A hollow rusty sound of thump thump

All aboard, we were. Or so I thought.

I leaned over the deck and watched the mainland shrunk into nothingness, not even a speck. The damp, cool steel seethed my skin as sea mists rolled and lingered for company.
I have eaten all my provisions and drank the last drop of my sanity. And in the midst of this white silence, my only source of comfort stems from my own voice — some days a whisper, most of the time a scream.
A hollow rusty sound of thump thump breaking every rib in my body.
Stranded I have been, and running out of words I am. I leaned over the deck and watched my empty space — the inviting void, the welcome feast, my splintered ribs.
And I fell, down down this nautical graveyard, and no one heard a sound.
Not even the sullen rain.

Time portal for our broken lives

The last thing I have read before I shut down my laptop this afternoon is the Facebook post of some woman who was pathetically ranting about her ex-boyfriend.

Actually, she wrote quite a lot of it — some miserably inarticulate social media posts which house her anger and bitterness, begging and inability to move on. I presume her psychological state reflects a stark similarity.
I closed the lid of my laptop and did not open it until past midnight. In the course of more than 8 hours, I burnt my life by roaming around the park with my suitcase trailing behind me.
I need to leave, to move out, to find a new place, I know that. I have to patch myself, stitch my wreckage until I can function again. However, instead of going, I just lolled and lolled around and think obsessively about the woman until my mind could think no more.
The sun moved past the canopies and the birds eddied everywhere. I sat on a bench and opened my suitcase for the first time in twelve months.
Almost a year ago, after my graduation, I packed my clothes and my books and my determination and prospects of academic spot in that bag. It was not what I found today.
I saw, instead, the wreckage of my entire life — every dust, every broken heart — dead on a flat cardboard.
There stood, on a cardboard, the arch of the university gate. Mighty and tall and excellent. I saw myself standing near the gate, almost a year ago, holding my diploma in scroll and about to move out.
But I have not really moved out — it’s the other way around. I simply stood there, immobile and numb and incapable of letting go, and this I did while everything receded away from me and exploded into intangible memories.
I still visit the university from time to time, yes, and from time to time I deny that feeling. That everything is still the same — the space, the buildings, the trees — but deep within me, in a loud, disturbing voice, it screams that it is not.
I no longer have the same routine I used to live; I no longer see the familiar faces of my old friends in the crowd no matter how hard I look.
There’s a newly established Jollibee near Vega and they’ve transferred Paponei’s to the spot of El Burrito’s, the Mexican restaurant where I used to order coffee and beat my deadlines.
Those incidents only rubbed the truth I have been refusing to recognize: time has moved on and it did not wait for me.
Everything was smeared in a color of by-gone period and bleeding nostalgia. I shut the lid of my suitcase and opened my laptop. The woman was there again, this time with a photo of a river where, according to her, she was baptised and where she had her first kiss.
She announced these as if the world has the time portal to patch our broken hearts.

Thursday arrives

I have the propensity to listen to the same song over and over and over. I play Don McLean’s Vincent, for instance, for straight ten hours and just drown myself in everything that I cannot let go.

It’s a sort of addiction, an opiate that helps me overcome my personal demons as I cross and struggle in this sullen mist called life. I no longer want to live mine, yet I am forced to do so.
I wish checking out of this existence is as easy as checking out of a hotel room.
Earlier this afternoon, I died again today, Thursday. More like, I discovered another piece of me lying dead and rigid and numb on the ground.
I took a stroll and found myself at the foot of a towering tree. I watched hundreds and hundreds of its leaves fall and fly and drift nonchalantly in the wind, until it settled, finally, on the cold pavement with other dead leaves.
It must have felt home, a sort of community and belonging; of no longer being displaced or isolated or unheard, of no longer being a passerby looking at the transparent window of a restaurant and watching everyone inside
breathes and
laughs and
savors their lunch
palm pressed on the glass and thin body shivering in the morning field of this dark, unforgivable summer, time passing and not waiting for anyone.
That’s what I’ve been wanting to do, actually, but no one bothered to ask. I want to fall on the pavement, until the end of everything, and watch the hundred leaves fly, fly away.