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.

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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.

Stumbling Proses

I.
Went to the beach today. The place was packed with merry yells and warm sand, gathering dusk and sea foam, last glimpse of the red sun and late afternoon salt water. I walked barefoot on the shore and conversed with people and savoured the wind and read a bit. Oh, the stubborn way we refuse to surrender hope and insist in transforming the pains of this bleak, bleak world into candid portraits of ecstacy.

II.
It’s April. A year ago, I was in Los Baños manically writing my manuscript. Life was neatly laid out — the goals for the next month, the thesis sections that needs to be filled, the diagram of existence that needs to be followed, all idealism burning afire.

Days used to be banal, until the collosal blow of everything hits you hard. Suddenly you are surrounded by weddings and childbirths and deaths of people close to you — the blend of excitement and loss passing through you and leaving cracks.

And there you are, on the bed somewhere, watching the soft, innocent gleam of the morning sun. The ball of your life rolls beside you, patched and pulsating, like the stubborn beatings of your wandering heart.

Another day? It asked.
Another day. You answered.

III.
The inside of my mind is filled with murky water. The scribbles of my thoughts are submerged in a sullen, silver mist. Sometimes I wonder if human existence is condemned to lead a life of phenomenological isolation.

And so we collect memories as we tread on, our days a montage of choices and sacrifices. We savour the strange contour of the mountains, we laugh here and there. We inhale the cold wind, love the innocent mornings, deliberately seek tranquility, and crave for our bygone childhood.

There are things we cannot share, and there are those we can but can never be understood. Still we hold on and nurse our hope — against sorrow and death and anything.

And this is what catches us when we fall.

Bleed out, girl

Went to the beach again today. In my better state, I would have jumped straight into the ocean and reveled in the current and folds of the undulating waves. I would have screamed in pure delight.

Ruefully, I am in no better state — I have not been for a while now. So I walked and walked and walked under the scorching sun.
 
I wanted to see the pine woods, and I did. It was brimming with people, hundreds of them, drinking and gawking and submerging everyone in sheer noise. Their tents were scattered randomly, everywhere.
 
The tranquility I’ve expected was crushed by morbid disappointment.
 
I feel so disconnected and isolated, and often, when I mingle with others, I find my body exhausted; my thoughts drifting in a far, misty place.
 
But I do — I do — crave the company of those I can be open and raw and honest with, without inhibitions and walls and rehearsals.
 
I’ve been reading the journal of Sylvia Plath and the letters of Vincent Van Gogh, and I find comfort in each entry.
 
I can almost hear the raspy voice of Vincent, his gasps and spaces in between words; I can almost feel the strain in the hands of Sylvia Plath. I can almost see the English countryside, the symmetry of French architecture, the wheatfields and downbridge of Provence and Antwerp.
 
Suffice it to say I feel less lonely — and less alone. This is the beauty of arts, I suppose, and it’s magic too. It burns, after all these years, from generations to generations, in all space and in all time, and it accompanies us in moments when we feel so isolated.
 
So, in the hour of our heartbreaks, we stubbornly defy the dastardly acts of this world with all the love that we can master. We refuse to surrender hope and insist in painting our candid portraits of merry yells and growing souls.
 
I almost accepted defeat, almost, but I realized that the brave thing and the right thing is to struggle, especially in moment like this.
 
So I will write and write and write — not for me but for anyone out there who may be bleeding and close to giving up and in dire need of a company, of a friend, who understands.