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.

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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.

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.