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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Edges, stars

It would be nice, wouldn’t it, to wake up in our ancestors era one random morning — 10 generations past, then 20, then 30.
 
To see the trading galleons docked in Manila Bay,
the spices and golds they carried and bartered,
the cotton and armory, while a few miles underground,
a secret pact was conceived and bound both in loyalty and treachery.
 
It would have been nice, I know, except that I do not have an ancestor. My life stemmed from the gutter, a collection of grime and smoke, of discarded wrappers and incessant deceits. The sound of the cistern is the living reminder of my everyday rejection.
 
How could you love me, after all these? I, who cannot even bear the sight of my unkempt hair, who stealthily look at the shop windows and secretly inspect my appearance, casually wishing not to see the reflection of a mentally deranged individual.
 
A while ago I dissected the morning and saw you leaning close to me, tracing the moles on my chest, naming them, one by one. Cassiopeia, you whispered. And here, on your collar bone, you said, stand the ruins of Serious Black, the explosion of Southern Pinwheel, and the eventide woven by Betelgeuse the Giant.
 
You traced the length of my neck and identified them, and with such tenderness on the tip of your fingers, you violently broke me.
 
It would be nice, wouldn’t it, to wake up in our ancestors era one random morning — 10 generations past, then 20, then 30. You murmured, softly.
 
I do not know, I answered. My existence only began last night, on the splinters of my bones, when you accurately named the stars, when solitude was the cutting edge of my heart.

Dream mirror

It rained all day, a monotonous beating of exhausted hours against the roof, each droplet a second that feeds and magnifies your absence.

I am not used to this.

Not being with you in our beloved places, in the green mountains and its subtle, sun-drenched wind, those soft, golden beams dancing on the tip of the sharp-pointed leaves, falling in the Earth, melting on your hair and making you a sestina of everything that dazzles.

On the other side of this dream mirror, I am certain you are there. I can almost see the shroud of haze arising from your feet, clouding the honest blink of your eyes, the patient lines on the sides of your mouth, the intricate contours of your cheek bones, the timelessness of your laughter.

Perhaps, when I am better I can join you. Do tell, what was it like over there? Are the cities symmetrical? Are the buildings tame and not tyrants? Are there sea gulls, are they white, do they soar and burst and dive bravely into the ocean floor? Are thoughts made of pine woods, stars, crimson spirals, and still waters? Is tranquility made of hinterlands, reclusive owls, and sycamores?

Do you stitch hearts in thistles and myrtle leaves and evening dreams and piece it back together? Does the sun dance, ecstatically, in barefoot? Is there an endless dawn of liantris and corn flowers? Are the nights doused in the thousand fabrics of blooming jasmine?

Will you dispel the gloom?

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)

You didn’t get it, did you?

I think we have silently harbored our reservations and contempt towards one another. I have heard yours, and in a way or another you have heard mine but completely missed my point in most cases.

Lately I find you inauthentic actually. Too pretentious in the social media; too pathetic almost, overtly craving the approbation of the online folks at the expense of integrity.
 
What I’m trying to say is it’s not just you alone who wants to walk away from this — I do too. I no longer want you in my life.
Sometimes I want to take back everything I have said, every idea that I’ve articulated, my words and phrases that you’ve mimicked and taken as your own. I wish you would stop doing that. It’s annoying as hell, this sheer absence of originality.
 
I silently rue ever introducing to you the people I know, those closest to me, unknowingly lining them on the road filled with your opportunism. I wish you would just leave them, really. You are rude beyond reason, beyond belief.
 
Take heart on this: more than anything, I want you out of my life and out of everything — and most especially out of every one — that I hold dear.

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.