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.

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Why poppies are impossible

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)

Penny for your thoughts

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

Like all the other kids, I have godmothers and godfathers. One of them, my godmother, is a couturier. This explains why my clothes back in the 90s were specifically tailored for me. Her husband, on the other hand, is a photographer.
 
My mom normally commissioned their services each time there was an event in town wherein I was invited to participate.
 
One time, my mother left me in their house. I don’t remember much about that day but I do remember a long, tenebrous corridor lined with stuffed animals.
 
By stuffed animals, I don’t mean toys made of fabric and cotton. I mean actual animals, dead and preserved and striking in their haunting beauty.
 
The trick there, I noticed, was the chip of glass planted inside their eyes. This was what made all of them flare with life.
 
At the foot of the stair, there stood two white wolves. Their mouths were half-opened; the crinkles on their snout boasted its prominence. They looked as if they were about to jump and slaughter their prey.
 
At the top of it was a cat, curled and sleeping. Except the cat was stuffed, like the wolves so it was not sleeping but dead. There was an owl tethered from the ceiling, there were rabbits and guinea pigs and other species of birds and dogs, and they all inhabited that long, tenebrous corridor.
 
I do not remember if there was a window at the end of it, but I remember walking in that musty hallway, lined with dead, stuff creatures and feeling not a nip of fear but a burning fascination. I remember the creaks of the wooden floor and the echoes of my footfalls.
 
I was five years old, and at that tender age, I have discovered my love for everything that is strange and remarkable.

Blabber, general discontent

I’m about to say the surefire way to go against the very grain of expectation: the Young Blood publication tastes bland.

I know, I know. I ought to feel at least some pride in it. After all, countless essays and authors from 2014 to 2015 competed for a space in that anthology. Battle of the best-est and diversity where the weaker entries were trounced, as one of the Inquirer editors put it. I just… don’t.
 
It tastes bland, if anything. Insipid. Dreary. I don’t speak for the others — what I’m saying here is purely culled out of my own phenomenological standpoint. If it is a journal publication, I wonder if I would have felt elated.
 
There was so much energy during the book launch — everyone excitedly talked with one another. They introduced themselves, talked about their jobs and schools and course works, have their book copies signed by other authors. I was the reclusive freak who resides inside the glass case and who was given a keen and vivid vision to observe the outside events but not to fully partake in it.
 
I have always been this way, detached, in some way or another I guess. I feigned smiles in the photos; I nodded and readily offered insights to those who asked for it — but certain distances stood and stretched between me and the others.
 
Before, it was a wall — and certain people managed to dismember it and get past it. I have learned attachment, that basic human emotion that makes us vulnerable and incredibly human. I have developed fondness towards some individuals, and have injured myself along the way. Now, I have a glass case.
 
I was palpitating when I left the event. I was not thrilled. My mind was numb and unthinking and submerged in brackish water once more. I walked from SM North to Trinoma, lost my way, and strolled back from Trinoma to SM North and then West Ave. There was a gaping hole on my chest, an arid land that devours everything including my rattling bones. Perhaps one day, it will be kind enough to guzzle my self-doubts too.
 
I boarded a random bus and found the slow moving traffic not pesky but merciful. I watched the neon signs of Metro Manila businesses and read the endless lines of billboards and finished a book of Margaret Atwood. In my isolation and fragmentary existence, felt solitude and tranquility.
 
The day after that I was happy. I met my old friends, people I have not seen for 2 to 5 years. We visited strange places and had meaningful conversations. We served as witnesses to the sufferings of the patients in a public hospital ward and the birth of a wedding bow in Manila cathedral.
 
We talked about achievements and past mistakes, exchange gossips about illicit affairs and risque activities of those we knew. We discussed social issues, argued a bit, like before, and practiced the methods of Zen, like now.
 
Maybe one day, I would be able to open this glass case. Maybe one day, I won’t. I hazard that life is a ceaseless cycle of recovery and damages and I have decided to roll on with it, patched as I already am.
 
My few, genuine friends, with their rawness and sincerity are worth it anyway.

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.

Southern Roommate

I think the best relationship I had with someone is the one I shared with my last roommate. It’s almost non-existent.

So, we inhabited the room for more than 9 months — but we never talked to each other. We never asked each others’ names. We never asked how our days were, the progress or backlash in our acads and work.
 
We never dined together, maybe noticed the slight changes — haircut, slump shoulders — but never said anything about it. We never offered compliments, and we never offered comfort. We never talked, we never listened. We treated each other invisibly, but not in a cold, harsh way.
 
She occupied the bed near the door; I, the one near the window. Her desk was filled with make-ups and soaps and lotion, all items meticulously arranged and organized. Mine, well, you can imagine the chaos — piles of readings and books, crumpled scratch papers, a pinwheel, old pens, acrylic, brushes, pallette etc.
 
Her bed was always made, her bedsheet smoothed out, her blanket folded. Mine, not so. Maybe I managed to make it twice in a year but that was the best I got.
 
She would leave in the morning, and she wouldn’t bother to wake me up. I would arrive in the evening and find the lights off, and I wouldn’t bother to turn it on. I would just quietly gather my readings and laptop so as not to wake her up, and I would head to the second floor and read and work till the dead hours of the night. I would return to our room at 5 AM to sleep. She would begin her day a few minutes after.
 
We silently recognized each others’ needs and preferences, and we never tried to invade or alter anything.
 
The kind of association that we had (if any) may sound alienating to a normal person but it was actually comforting, and possess tranquility in its own right. The way we never attempted to breach the rims of our privacy, the way we never cross each others’ existence despite our close proximity in a very intimate space — bedroom. We only shared geniality, and that was all.
 
So there we were, in one room. Her with her cellphone; I with my books. We never talked, never even asked each others’ name in the course of our time. There were no expectations between us. There were no disappointments either.