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.

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.

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.