Tarry

They descended slowly, those white mists. The academics claimed that meanings are forged in binaries where one cannot exist without the other; yet that night, there was only silence between us and nothing more.

The absence of the other houses the embodiment of nihility. It fetters and in dry, frightened steps, it paces back and forth. The void tarries in its surroundings and, apart from the clean sheet of white mist, there was nothing it in.

The academics claimed that meanings only thrives in binaries but perhaps they are wrong. You see, it was not that stiff figure of detachment as it recedes and flees; there was more to it than exile.

Meanings, I suppose, reside in multiverse where one reality collides against your endlessness. Because, my love, in this topographical distance between you and I, there exist the hundred attempts I’ve tried to find you and the hundred years I’ve failed.

But, in broken spaces and dimmest worlds, there breathes my defiance to never give up and my unwavering resolve to always, always hope.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.