Four years without you took roots like prickly flowers on arid earth; flowed through like hot liquid down our throats. While we miss you miserably, the muddy cracks make space for light; the burns radiate warmth. We are better people because of you. I hope you’re well 🖤✨
I slit my wrists open and the exposed vein bled out the horrors of my barely-there childhood. My chest echoes hollow from all the pain and crying. I am birthed to be nothing more than a dam of misery. I am birthed to be nothing more than a shrine of my mother’s lost youth.
I was born on a September night while storms brewed in the horizon. My mother bled like she never did before, her hips dipped in and out of pain. I was born from the ashes of her dreams. Her sorrows gave way to a life full of promise and yearning.
Her bed is where she will lay unfulfilled for decades to come. I am my mother’s savior — all her hopes made flesh. For a moment, as most women are wired to feel when spawning their young, all her failures seem so trivial as she looked into the eyes she carved from her flesh.
But I still catch her in daydreams. She traces the silhouette of her “maybes” and “if onlys” as if she could bring life to them just through wishing. She lives through me because it is the only way she knows how.
Her skin bleeds rose petals from the thorn crown she wears. Her floor scattered with relics from her adolescence. What hopes and dreams died with her that day she found out she is with child? What medicine does she take for her restless heart?
She said her life has been multiplied by four; that she is reborn one child at a time. Still, she gets lost her in daydreams. We are her surrenders. We are her hopes and dreams and “could-have-beens”. She comes to life sipping on our tantrums. She sinks her teeth into our tears.
But my mother is also the monster under my bed; the bottomless canyon I keep falling into. Her name conjures nightmares and I constantly slip into the void of her creation. My mother has carved me empty.
Written on my wrists are the words she repeats into my ears:
“You have surpassed all I am, all I ever will be. You will be my saving grace — all my dreams realized. You will pull me out of the gaping wound of my own mother’s doing. You cannot leave me behind. You will save me. Please, save me.”
I do not remember the last time I felt safe. Even in moments of pure joy, a lunatic impulse to rouse the corpses out of their graves overwhelms. A fear seeps into the cracks, reminding me not to let my guard down. Yet, I welcome it.
Perhaps this is both my delight and my folly — wherever the void’s hands moved, my body is as yielding as water. Submerged in the rapture of the deep – hundreds of fathoms down and still sinking – the fumes of the bog still faintly cling to my nostrils. The air escapes my lungs, but the effervescence of my fears keeps the heart beating.
I am perpetually on top of a skyscraper that has seen better days — every inch of its vertical space occupied by chaos and dust. Malice overcomes the rose-colored haven in my mind. I let it. Thick and heavy, I feel every quiver of its breathing.
Atop this high place, the void beckons and I come alive. For every paramour or friend weighed and found wanting, my knees numb and a coldness creeps under my skin, eventually making its way into my spine. Yet again, I come alive. In the humid stillness of noons, when my reserves deplete, I bask in my viscous humanness and I come alive.
Heaven is the opium for the credulous and the afraid, uncertainty is mine. Neither herb nor alcohol comes close. So, when the void calls, I jump.
For a while, I never truly grasped when the platonic ends and the romantic begins. Is it in the moments when the gaze lingers a split-second longer? Is it when the body gives in to the mattress a little deeper? Is it during times when the chest yields to the weight of theirs? The answer, I have found, is in all of them. The little things.
When slanting beams of light enter a room and you notice the dust dance and turn golden, you realize there is more to that moment than you care to admit. It is the little things that make the soul dance. For in the little things, you will find unstudied moments of surrender.
For a man who has not been given the words, the body becomes the place where they make room for the tenderness. It is in this fleshly terrain that they find their sanctioned language for love and closeness. For a woman who has not been blessed with the physical strength, it is in her mouth and her heart where she finds the weapons of mass destruction. It is through her words and intentions where she wields power to make the beasts submit.
Dear reader, it is through little ways that people find the courage to become soft.
So, how does one know if the friendship has blossomed into starry-eyed love? Look to the little things. For in the little things, you will uncover whispered professions borne by the heart and soul. It is in the little things where bite-sized romantic confessions rise to the surface and become ripe for harvest.
Before we met, I lived countless lifetimes with crumbs in my hand, secretly waiting for someone like you to find me. I came with a caveat: “Broken. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” I have been falling in and out of love with half-way lovers and waging wars with internal demons for nothing more than a promise of a moment’s peace. Despite knowing this, you came to my door and made a home on the front porch while looking for a way in. For the life of me, I still do not know if you relish in the agony, or simply possess a heart too big for this place.
For all it brightens, love casts the longest shadows — I know this in theory, but have never had the forbearance to see beyond the pain and earthly flaws… until you. In all the days I simmer in the ire caused by your shortcomings, I think back to all the times when you and all your virtues sat with me, unwavering and unruffled. For every wall I put up, you found a way to break through. I finally surrendered not because you proved yourself worthy, but because you showed me I am worth loving. For that, I am grateful and beholden to mirror you devotion and patience.
If I could give you the world, I would. But since I can’t yet, let me offer you a piece of my heart for now — a promise made in good faith. Herein lies a tiny part of a massive, complicated tapestry that has been torn countless times only to be stitched back together by kind, loving hands before your time. It has been beaten bloody and raw, but has found a way to become shiny and new. It is a gift I have given to too many, all worthwhile — each hand has basted every crevice, every valve; some parts made heavy and stiff, others sewn resilient and forgiving. There is no version of you too ugly or too dark that will turn it away. I pray that I can show you, just as you have shown me, that your worst parts are also worth loving.
There is a stillness in my breaths whenever you come by. For every minute I spend with you, I awake to the truth that I have never really known peace outside of myself until now. For every late night stirring, you bring a calm that puts an end to the restlessness clawing at my throat. With you, it only takes a moment for all the frost in the pit of my belly to thaw. Your hands are the warmth that puts me back to sleep.
This past year threw us too many curve balls for our liking. We may not have always acted in each other’s best interest, but I need you to know that you are still my home. For every time I say your name, I still live for the aftertaste. They say love is different every time, each with its own truth, but I like to believe the one I have with you makes any other love I have known a lie.
Here’s to love, here’s to faith, here’s to doing better for ourselves and each other from this day forward. As we sail through life, until my last day’s dying breath, I will always choose love. For as long as you are here, I will always choose you.
I’ll love you always.
I know relationships are nebulous — they can uplift and defy gravy, or they can lead love-drunk sirens into the bog. I have drowned in the quagmire many a time. I have been saved by well-meaning, but tempestuous boys many times, too. But while they got me out, my body and mind didn’t leave.
The body never forgets. Pain creates a hypervigilance that manifests like frozen embers. You can never put a finger on what sensations are there, not really — they are low, hot trills that permeate the crevices of your skull, the valves of your heart. They tingle and then numb. They leave the body through the path carved along your spine and diffuse into the atmosphere — taking every bit of hope with it.
You are then left empty, as if there is no more of yourself to lose. You become a shell yet again. The hollow hums, then vibrates until it becomes unbearable. There is a burning need to fill the void with more bodies, more trinkets, more half-meant promises. I know all this. I feel all this.
It is not your fault. The world can be a ghastly place. And while people can heal you, they can also wound you. The closer you let them, the deeper the cut. You are in survival mode like your ancestors before you; like the ill-fated lovers of a bygone epoch. You have not much choice left except to fight, flee, or freeze — and right now, you are frozen still while the earth violently shifts below your feet. You can stay there and never again feel, or you can drag one foot in front of the other and heal.
You are allowed to feel weak, but you are not obliged to make yourself more palatable for the consumption of others. Allow yourself one more choice. A new way of living requires a painful awakening, releasing, unlearning. Allow yourself to soften and exist in the delicious place of the present. Allow yourself to feel small for a time until you suffocate under the weight of the narrow space, until you tire of the affliction of wasted time, that you force yourself free.
Let go of burdens heavier than your broken heart. Revisit decrepit tombstones to remember what you allowed to die in order to live. Revisit dusty shelves sagging with lessons drawn from all the places you have been.
When you give your weaknesses space to breathe, you allow the right people to see the fabric of your soul and where the threads are damaged or worn thin — to which they, at minimum, will do no further harm. Instead, they will ever so carefully start to weave their own threads in places where you are laid bare and bleeding. Some will depart, some will stay, but each will leave a masterpiece in their wake — a tapestry meant to drape on the shoulders of the willing and the worthy.
There is a magical life ahead of you. I pray that you live it.
On the 9th floor of a 10-storey building smack in the middle of the bustling IT park, I find refuge from the corporate barrage of tasks and small talk in the handicap stall of the women’s bathroom. This unassuming oasis comes with a window pane a little too high for my liking, but has nonetheless blessed me with a view of the life below — a surprisingly pleasant mix of trees, sea, and concrete. From above, the buildings look out of place as if they were fighting for attention against nature’s calm incandescence. I stare into its splendor for as long as standing on tiptoes permits. How wonderful would it be if I was just a few inches taller?
I make my way below for sustenance and some solitude. Life on the ground is lackluster at first glance. Depending on your worldview, you will find either concrete prisons or architectural havens for hopefuls who seek fuller lives beyond what they can find in the domestic. Looking up from the umbrage, the blue and white sky glistens, unbothered by the staggering giants that block out the beating sun. How wonderful is the shade?
Life in this city teems with chaos and wonder, feeds me bits and pieces of human chagrins and eccentricities in forkfuls. In this theater, I am the adoring spectator — once removed from partaking, but close enough to witness, smell, taste, love, infuriate. It is during these moments when I transcend my inner world and live in tangible tandem with earthly glory and constructs. How wonderful is this existence?
Life is as scintillating as it is mundane. People often retreat to the curated worlds of their own design. To my left is a girl in a loose sweater, hair unkempt. She walks about and projects nonchalance for her looks, but her well-drawn brows and cherry lips give her away. How often do we pretend not to try?
To my right are meandering children forming what looks to be their earliest clique — the girl who has the food wields the power. You would do well to please this fickle epicurean queen. How wonderful would it be to live this deliberately?
As soon as I lose myself in my voyeuristic daze, a sylphlike figure taps me on the elbow and wishes me an enjoyable time with my thoughts. Must be a colleague, I thought. We have never been this proximate, she has never sent a wink my way. The only indication of our shared association can be found by virtue of our identical lanyards. How wonderfully kind humans can be.
Just when I was convinced that I was merely an onlooker living on a foreign plane, I am suddenly made aware that this theater of life is an immersive spectacle made richer because I am also in it. How wonderful it is to be alive.
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.
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.
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.
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.