Cinderella.

The madness of youth burns a hole through the veins. One day, you walk through life as if you are immune to its ravages. The next, you cry over stale coffee, clothes not fitting like they used to, or a love unrequited. When you look into the eyes of a beloved and see the possibilities, smell the perfume, feel the warmth so passionately, you almost forget about the impending goodbye.

What stories do we tell ourselves to sleep through the night?

Mine is of a girl whose mind is never quite right. Her heart always too big, her voice always too loud, her body never warm enough to sleep next to. She is unlovable, forgettable. Why she even tries is beyond me. She is but a blip in the cosmos, always dreading the midnight hour. For when the clock hits 12, her fairy tale ends. It always ends, be it by her own machinations or of lovers’ past and present. The truth of the matter is, no one’s hands are clean. No one comes out unscathed — her most of all.

But a life half-lived is not a life. A life in shambles has its charms. What is happiness without suffering? Suffering flays the skin raw. What other way to know you’re alive if not to bleed? To feel?

After all stories are told, all songs are sung, all tears are wept, and all beginnings begun, you see the truth of all the bodies laid bare. To us, the universe is everything. To the universe, we are nothing but atoms that fall apart at the slightest touch. Insignificant. Replaceable.

Sometimes, the universe is a person. Most times, it is a mass of regurgitated truths and heirloom follies. We live our lives never for who we are but for who we will be, for who our beloveds think we should be. Who we are is gone with each passing second. Every heartbeat is a eulogy to our past selves. We only become free after we draw our last breaths.

Inside the people we leave behind is a mausoleum of who we once were in their eyes. It is a prison we are more than happy to inhabit. It is the heaven we so desperately covet. There, we waste away day after day. The end is always too close to see. Before you know it, it’s five minutes to midnight. The fairy tale draws to a close. It’s only a matter of time until we are pumpkins and paupers once more.

Lighthouse.

In high school, my friends and I would go to the park every Friday to hang out at the only tempura stand in the city at the time. It was every student’s go-to whenever one gets a hankering for some unhealthy street food. Fried tempura with Coke was as gourmet as allowance-bound high schoolers from a small city could go. Get your fill for nothing more than 20 pesos, exchange stories, and share a few laughs before heading home. While the exact date escapes me, it was on one of those Fridays that I first saw you.

You reminded me of those reluctant characters I saw in movies: A boy too tall for his age, back slouched, hair slicked back, and eyes transfixed by the ground like it was the most interesting he’s ever seen.

How peculiar, I thought. How ironic that the shy ones stand out to me the most. While the world tries to grab my attention, my eyes will always gravitate toward the ones who aren’t trying; the ones who stand still and beam like a lighthouse bringing a lost ship to shore. My eyes have always searched for the horizon amidst the chaos of the sea. It wasn’t love at first sight, but the shy boy made an impact. It simply didn’t occur to me then.

My next memory of you was in college: A boy still too tall for his age, back slouched, head with wild, cascading curls, and eyes looking straight at me this time. It wasn’t long before we became social media friends, but never friends in real life. Our social circles never fit. Our stars never aligned.

My wanton proclivities have led me to believe the whole thing as unfortunate. College is one of the best times in our lives. We made the poorest of choices, but never with each other. The outcome would have been much less romantically favorable then. Though, I can’t be sure if it would’ve been less fun either.

As it happened, we both grew up to be the kind of snobs who swore off dating anyone from our hometown. Too familiar, we said. Too intertwined. We’ve lived and loved elsewhere since.

All the people I’ve gotten familiar with have had many virtues and have taken me to many highs and lows I have come to love, but they have never been you and they have never built me your brand of home.

I have walked through life with a practical disenchantment that so many have in this day and age toward love. God forbid I fell into its clutches once again, I prayed. I have avoided romance like a medieval plague. But, as with most beautiful things, this love story snuck up on me out of the ether like a not totally benign ghost.

As far as first dates go, ours was the best. I look back on that day with a smile on my face and a disbelief of how things changed my plans little by little, and then all at once. Humans are wired to bond. It was my folly to think I was the exception.

Love, man’s greatest drug and delusion. Love has left a few bodies in its wake. The great survivors will be the ones who never stop figuring it out. I hope we never get tired figuring it out.

It’s been an incredible year. We aren’t perfect, but we try. You are the lighthouse that brings me closer to shore each day; the horizon amidst the chaotic sea. You have grown into a man who’s just the right size and shape to fit into the cracks of the armor that’s kept me truly safe from a world in turmoil. In return, I can only hope to love you a little better.

As I trace the arch of your back, I hope to one day be the reason you’ll stand a little straighter, taller, lighter. I cannot be sure how long life will keep us together, but I do know that our possibilities are greater than the uncertainties. I have walked this earth for almost three decades. I have walked it with you for only a year, but you have made all the difference. How you did it still baffles me to this day. Never stop.

I’ll love you always. Happy June 1st.

Epic.

Girl arrived 30 minutes late, insisted she pay for dinner to absolve the guilt. Guy, not one to be upstaged, paid for it anyway.

Girl persisted she compensate for drinks. Guy caved.

Conversation flowed until the first rays of morning.

“I’m not looking for a relationship,” Girl declared in a haze of booze and cigarette smoke. Girl was certain.

“Me too,” Guy answered warily.

First dates couldn’t have gone any better. Theirs was something out of a romcom — flirty banter with a side of cheese.

With eyes half awake, he saw through the public face of a life in chaos and heard the hum of a hungry heart.

His soul was of a drifter seeking reprieve from uncertainty, hers was worn from tragedy.

However, it didn’t take much for her to love him. It only needed a leap of faith she wasn’t keen on taking.

Yet.

Months passed and his moon tugged on the tides in her blood.

“I love you.” His stare all the treasures of Egypt.

He had the kindest eyes. Ones that sought hers and told her everything will be okay.

In that moment, she believed them.

“I love you, too.”

A dreadful weight was lifted as the proclamations hung in the air.

They breathed them in and the words permeated the lungs, the heart, the skin.

Such beautiful sin.

Gentlemen, send for the cavalry. The heroine has been slain.

One chapter has ended. Another one begins.

For D.

Most days, I look down at the wreckage of what once was a heart. My soul made heavy by the dreadful weight of melancholy. Most days, I live in a tyrannical regime of clocks and calendars. My thoughts fall from porous hands into silent waters. Most days, I hide my heart and give away my body. My skin screams violent protests against my fallen convictions. Most days, I am an imaginary friend standing outside while looking in. An entire universe separates me from a world where I do not exist.

I am a ghost, most days. Exhaustingly morose at worst, seductively haunting at best. Like clockwork, my hands betray me as they shake with the volume of all the words that fall out of my mouth. They can no longer catch them. They can no longer contain them. So I find myself constantly hurling strings of letters and syllables about hopes and dreams and fears and failures at people who say they want to make sense of the haunting, only to find out they will always fall short.

Most days, I am a voyeur. My feet take me along cobbled streets lined with bare-window brownstones and my eyes catch a glimpse of the animated life within. When I passed by your window, you let me in. I told you I was born, like my mother, in a storm. Because of that, I sail troubled waters to live up to form. I like to keep my heart tucked away from prying eyes, never to reveal too much. In it are wounds that are too profound to heal, while some have set so heavily into scars they feel like braille. I did not know you would have reading hands. Such hands hold a cup full of high life, that is they have lived a life without me. I did not know you would have kind eyes. Such eyes have seen the world for what it is, and now they only see me.

I cannot remember a time when I violently wished to stay in one place. I cannot remember a moment when I became weary of being cynical. It used to be that I remember tenderness only through the haze of my dreams. Now, I taste it on your lips. Now, it seeps into the textures of my skin. You have made all the difference.

I will wait for you all week. Every week. For as long as this love permits. This love is a voluptuous exile of our choosing, an oasis in the middle of an arid world. I have had the pleasure to meet past lovers who had the power to lift reality for a while, who simply had roughly the right shape to fit for a time. But you weren’t made to fit. You were made to radiate radical softness in a hardened world. Here I am, soaked to the bone in your light. The empty parts now filled. My old and worn soul made new.

If my intention for this opus still escapes you, put simply: I love you.

Shot glasses.

The tides swell with excitement

as the moon rises to its throne,

as the stars take a dip in the ebony sky.

Behind the brashness of the wind,

behind the poise of the waves,

is a dribble of melancholy life

that savored the same,

that whimpered the same.

“Where does the sun go when it sets?

We all know sunsets can only last for so long.”

These questions beat on,

like martyrs in search of the wounded.

Never stopping until they taste

the bittersweetness of the truth.

It is here,

at the bottom of this glass.

It is here

that you’ll find the raw,

the wounded,

the sublime.

Here is the place

where broken hearts go.

Here is where the sun

goes to die.

Gravity.

I know now where the moon goes when it sets

in your eyes.

So majestic its gravity

that the tides in my blood fail to resist.

So I crash into the rocks at your feet

and yield to the dark pressure of your kiss.

This love will be the death of me,

but I will let it.

For I am nothing

if not the aftermath you leave

in your wake.

Limbo.

Here we are,
always on the cusp of I love you
always bracing for the fall without really jumping in
The hollow of my hand
still ivory-full of you
as you say goodbye each night
without really wanting to.