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