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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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.

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.

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.

Into sea mists and sunsets

We’re literally verging on death and no one even bothered to properly orient us on what it would be like.

There’s the West Valley Fault, ready to strike a fatal blow that will make buildings crumble and set an entire city afire. There is always the Tokhang, a ruthless method that could practically annihilate and gun down anyone through gossips and word of mouth. There’s the brewing tension between the North Korea and the US, the possibility of nuclear war and bioterrorism breathing at the back of our necks.

Earlier today, a friend of mine witnessed an accident. A death, I hazard. Broken bones and crumpled body. A loud explosion, a worker coming face to face with electrocution. He fell from the roof of the footbridge, she said, near Session road. Mortality is easing up on us, she said.

So before any of these befall on us — any of these dooms — as it inevitably will, I would like to ask you to go out with me. We’ll go anywhere, anywhere at all. Everywhere, nowhere, wherever we want. We’ll talk and dance and scream and exist all at once. We’ll build bonfires and watch the stars and roll under the moon beams and in silence and anticipation, we will wait for the arrival of the morning light.

We will savour the last sliver of our days and we will hope. We will carry the splinters of our bones and we will find our way out of all these harms, into sea mists and sunsets in indigos and golds. We will never cease hoping. We will go on living and with each breath we draw against everything that happened to us, each beauty we make out of our sorrow and uncertainties, we will mock this grey, grey world.

In an unloved hinterland

Lately, all I want to do is stare at the ceiling and let my consciousness descend in the cellar of perpetual dreaming.

It happens, I guess. Friends vacate their spaces and walk quietly out of your life. Without warning, and sometimes, when we need them most.
 
All those times you’ve spent together, those nights you’ve skipped sleep just so you could drag them out of their loneliness before sunrise, all those they’ve buried in the farthest corner of their memories, to be left forgotten and cold like ordinary days.
 
I will let you be. It’s your prerogative to leave. I cannot make you stay, I can only give you a piece of myself as a parting gift — last cup of brewed coffee, a sleepover, random snack, crackling laughter, secret language, and a silent, desperate plea for you not to decamp and disappear.
 
If you do, do something for me, please? Walk away without noise. Leave a breath of your memory under my pillow where my hand would find them in the morning. Let them live on, in my mind, as you were, as we were.
 
I will plant trees and seek solace in the uninhabited forest of our bygone days. The olden times will no longer be drifting in exhaustion. In each leaf, I will build a cabin and a home and I will remember the time when you never asked questions, when you never judged, and when you were just kind.
 
I will remember the look of understanding in our eyes as I unraveled my thoughts and bled out. I will remember, always, when you reassured me that it is human to be vulnerable.
 
One day, we will find a way out of this harm and regain a kinder hope. And perhaps, in an unloved hinterland, a miracle will happen and the rain will dance, dearly, in barefoot.