Showing posts tagged literature
What scares us?
The night has settled in the way my body dents the mattress when I lay myself to sleep. Outside, the silence of the night becomes a constant melody as my ears hear nothing but the deep, steady lub-dub beneath my chest. I breathe in. I breathe out.
I put out my bedside lamp with a quick, almost inconspicuous click of a switch and darkness engulfs everything. I stare with eyes wide open at the space above me. I can’t really see anything but I know too well that I am staring at my ceiling. I know too well, too, that it is staring right back at me. The only thing between us is this space and the thorough absence of light.
Somewhere outside I hear a lizard clicking. A loud motorcycle passes by the road just outside and through my window a momentary glimmer of light flashes through my wall and disappears, leaving a hazy, quickly dissolving memory of a blinding brightness. I continue to stare through the dark. Nothing seems to stir. Nothing seems awake.
My eyes adjust by themselves and slowly I start to make out the whiteness of my ceiling. I make out the outline of my legs covered by a thin blanket and the frame of my window. I fix my gaze at the night sky which gradually reveals its stars, shining even with—or because of—the absence of light around it, swift and constant, steady as the lub-dub beneath my chest.
I fall asleep thinking that—despite all the distance, despite all the time—they come to us.
The sound of the elevator doors opening resonated through the vacant corridors of the 18th floor. Nathan felt relieved that his feet were heading home at last. He checked his watch. 11:12pm, it seemed to scream. He knew very well that he was underpaid and that tomorrow, he’d most likely leave at this same hour. For the nth time, he reminded himself that he was lucky enough to get a job so quickly given that he just got out of college.
“Everything takes time. Baby steps, Nathan. Baby steps. Gain experience,” he whispered to himself.
He almost dragged his legs inside. Inside the stainless steel walls of the elevator, he caught his reflection showcasing different angles of his face. Immediately, he thanked his lucky stars that the elevator was vacant. Not just so he could lazily lean on the walls, but because no one would be a witness to this version of his face, accentuated by a month’s worth of stress. He pressed the G button and it immediately lit up. A bit frustrated and mostly tired, he stared at the sign which said Level 18 just as the doors began to gently close.
He felt the elevator stop.
For a quick moment, while leaning on the side of the elevator with his bag sprawled on the floor, he wondered who else could still be in at an hour like this, and then thought of the number of employees that could be like him—on the verge of martyrdom. Not too many, he suspected.
The doors slid open on the 14th floor. An impeccably dressed guy stood before him. For what seemed like a long time, they exchanged surprised stares at each other, clearly the other guy also didn’t expect to see anybody. He reached for the G button, but seeing that it was already lit, placed his hands in his pocket. He leaned on the opposite side of Nathan, as if trying to imitate him. Both of them were politely smiling as the elevator doors closed once again.
Killing the silence, the guy asked him with a genuine expression of curiosity, “Over time?”
“Without pay,” Nathan answered nodding. He tried to smile, although he was sure it came out as a smirk.
“How about you?” Nathan asked. He found this stranger rather interesting, as if there was an air of mystery about him.
“Well, actually,” the guy wasn’t able to finish his sentence because suddenly, the elevator lights went out and the elevator came to a full stop. After three seconds, the emergency lights blazed brightly.
It was unusual that unannounced blackouts occurred in this part of the city, but it was more unusual—rather rare, that generators weren’t ready for events like this. Nathan began to feel a developing hate towards the building.
“Just my luck!” Nathan said sarcastically.
“I’ll try calling security in the lobby,” the guy said calmly as he fidgeted with his phone.
Nathan gave a loud grunt after feeling his pockets. He must have left his phone on the desk, charging. What else could go wrong? He thought.
“Don’t worry about it, there’s no service here anyway.”
“What?” Nathan asked, worried and annoyed.
“I’m sure someone’s working on getting the electricity back. Maybe in a few minutes…”
“Why are you so calm?” Nathan asked, failing to hide his irritation.
“Well, because at least I know I have someone to talk to while I wait. I’m Andrew, by the way. How are you, Jonathan?” Andrew held out his hand.
“How did you know my name?” Nathan raised his eyebrows.
Andrew pointed on the ID on Nathan’s chest.
“Right,” Nathan replied, trying to stifle an embarrassed smile.
“As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by this blackout, I just came back here because I forgot my apartment keys, I thought I lost it and was at a friend’s house when I figured I should check my office drawers,” Andrew pulled out from his pocket a bunch of keys which jingled, the sound stark in the silent space.
They had been on the elevator for 27 minutes when the emergency lights started to weaken, but they hardly noticed it. For 27 minutes, they’ve been talking non-stop. They discussed work. They talked about college, music, short-term goals and long-term plans. They talked about pets, they talked about the weather, books and food. They talked about things that arbitrarily came to their minds. At first, Nathan hesitated to open up, but Andrew proved to be a good listener. He looked at him intently when he asked something and he doesn’t cut. He gives advice, but wasn’t too preachy. He shared but does not blabber. It felt natural, talking to him. Nathan never felt this good talking to someone, not even to his closest friends. Before he knew it, he was already thinking, wishing that this was the first of many conversations with Andrew.
The emergency lights started to flicker until it went out. The sound of the elevator humming came back. Wind started to blow again from the ceiling and they slowly stood up, fixing their clothes.
“I didn’t even notice the time,” Nathan exclaimed after checking his watch.
“I did, but I didn’t really care,” Andrew replied. Smiling like he has for the past half hour.
“How are you going home?” Nathan asked.
“The train. How about you?”
“I usually ride the bus, but I can ride the train with you, if you like,” Nathan felt his face break into a smile. On any normal day, he wouldn’t have said that out loud, but this day… well, this day was pleasantly strange. He liked him.
“That would be perfect,” Andrew clenched his fist as if he just made a homerun.
“I’m glad I got stuck with you,” Nathan said, almost whispering.
“I’m glad I went here to find more than just my apartment keys,” Andrew uttered staring at Nathan’s face.
The elevator doors slowly opened to reveal a deserted lobby.
“Hey, my phone’s still on my desk! I should get it first, right?” The thought struck Nathan as sudden as an unannounced blackout.
“Yeah, sure. Let’s go!” Andrew exclaimed with a tinge of excitement.
“Should we take the stairs?” Nathan asked innocently.
“No. Of course, not. I like being in elevators.” Andrew replied.
“Me, too.” Nathan failed to suppress a hearty laugh as he pressed the button lighting the number 18.
The elevator ascended carrying with it two boys, both with a newfound understanding that blackouts and elevators don’t always make for a bad combination.
This is the problem with us who get hurt real bad. We resign to being cautious all the time, promising ourselves to only let loose when everything seems ideal, when everything seems perfect. We stop at our tracks to be safe, and get ourselves trapped inside our own heads because we’re afraid of the truth. The deafening, dogged truth that nothing is ideal; that after all the hoping, after all the waiting, nothing really is perfect.
To add to my repertoire. Hahaha! Please ignore.
Guitar instrumental: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apA4cp-xUuo
I have never written our story in the way you’d already done,
so here instead is a map, the weight of paper instructing at which point the compass feels magnetic towards you, heavier as you are near, and massless, almost invisible, in your disappearance.
What I remember: the placelessness of memory. In which the you, the we—finally separated as continents. Countries inside us named after pre-midnight walks, bedroom kisses. The whole lot of it, you smelling of my skin. You, breathing in the fragrance of poems; forgetful you, forgetting all gardens of words, all rough patches of soil planted on them sentences, more sentences about how we fell apart, my autumn leaf, my waterfall river.
This is the way it is: the end of my sea, where yours begin. Always, the crash of waves hitting these shores, a part of them, contains you. Water on water; skin on skin.
From the only person in the world who is brave enough, who is more than enough, and who loves me enough to write me poems
I like that after all this time, I’ve finally felt the urge to write about you. I like the way our food got caught in between your teeth the other day. It was interesting, the way it presented itself as your mouth opened for a hearty laugh. That let me know how charmingly perfect you can be at being imperfect. I liked it more than I ever thought I would though I’m pretty sure you would have scowled at yourself if you knew what I was seeing. And so, I like that I can actually keep these things from you with minimal effort. I usually just blurt things out, but with you I’m cautious. The good kind, I believe. The kind that makes me weigh things, use my God-given intellect. I like that I’m careful not because of myself but, more importantly, because of you. Admittedly though, I do slip sometimes and you catch me by reigning your emotions. You retaliate by giving me controlled and calculated responses to which I find myself stunned. I like being stunned. The feeling of not knowing what to do, what to say, that’s fresh. There’s something in the way you do it that makes me smile inside. I like having arguments with you, too. I like how we never seem to resolve things, how we let them go but individually and covertly vow to win next time they come up. I like how consistent it is, we failing to convert each other. I like how it doesn’t really bother me. I like how you keep me engaged. Believe it or not, I equally like the long silences. And I like that it took me all this time to like you the way I do now, it only means that if and when I find that I already love you, I would know exactly why.
I love that, for the past six months, you’ve been giving me something to sleep to at night.
My first 2014 run brought me sprinting on the long, quiet IPB road beside the endless rice fields, leading to APEC where I took time to admire the sunset, the flock of birds soaring through the weakening light, and the hills and mountains that have probably seen a million sunsets. They all seem to whisper, “another year, another opportunity.”
I thank God for this clean slate—an opportunity to do good, mend any mistakes in the past, and make a good difference in this world.
Here I go.
An Ode to 2013
I entered this year apprehensive, a much scarred person. I dreaded the possibility of a new wave of bad things coming, thinking that this time I’d probably fail to keep it together. Now, with the year drawing to a close, I finally see it as a year of contentment and security.
This contentment springs forth from the knowledge that I have everything and, in fact, more than enough to make me genuinely happy, to keep me afloat and living. And the security comes from two things: First, from the knowledge that life is deceptively good. From the days that I dreaded waking up, I noticed that no matter how disinterested I was in getting up, the sun would rise. Day after day, it would rise. Then one day it hit me that I no longer had the right to let the day go by without trying to keep up with the rest of the world. So, I decided I didn’t want to live resisting the present and walking back into a time that was relentlessly getting smaller and vaguer. All of the people around me, the people that mattered, my friends and family—which are actually the second reason for this new-found sense of security—pushed me into making this decision, too. I have them, the people who mattered, and they will always stay because I am loved in spite of myself, my weaknesses and shortcomings, flaws and all. And knowing just that means the world to me.
There were a lot of times during the year when I blissfully forget all of the challenges I had faced in 2012. And there are times, like this moment, when I am forced to look back and re-evaluate my trail. I look back at my old self and vividly remember the details, I look at old photographs and I am compelled to be so proud of myself, for deciding to love, for deciding to fight for it, for fighting for something I believed in and for recognizing the time to let it go. I am proud of myself because I had allowed myself to feel everything, to savor it and know that it may not come again.
I can never be that same person, the one I am looking back now. I cannot go back, even if I wanted to. I have learned so many things, grown beyond recognition. Sometimes, I even surprise myself. What I’ve done this year is step back on track. I had done that by loving myself more. And loving myself more has led me to love others more sincerely.
There will be looking back, reminiscing. But there will only be steps forward.
I am hoping that 2014 will be a year for taking chances, new people, growth in friendships, and a finished book.
Happy New Year!
It’s our eleventh year celebrating Christmas with your passing on. And after all these years, the pain is as fresh as the flowers on your tomb stone, the wounds as open as they could ever be, the memories as vivid as the colors under the ancient sun.
The Lord certainly knew how to make us never forget you and your heart which could fit the entire universe.
Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma Lety! I love and miss you.