Floored

When a reader becomes too critical and reads what I have written like a professor of literature or psychology, I begin to be more wary and careful with what I write. I choose my words correctly, pick my verbs with caution, and fastidiously revise the organization of my essays lest I’d be labelled mediocre, and, worse insecure.

This is the danger of having an identified reader in mind and if that reader in mind actually reads one’s work. That reader in mind used to be an abstract concept whose impression I need not manage too closely, but the moment he makes his presence concrete and actually voices his opinion, then the writing process becomes more challenging, scarier, albeit more sincere, open, raw, vulnerable.

I have no issues with my written works criticised. I have heard and read more scathing criticisms of them, but for my person to be judged based on my written words, it can be a little hurtful, but I’m taking it in strides. Perhaps I’m just trying to run away from these gnawing suspicion that my writings are indeed too full of myself. And that he’s brave enough to tell me this thing I know all along but was too proud to admit – this too much focus on the self as a reflection of my insecurities as a writer, my fear of going beyond the self because I do not believe in my capacity to write about other people because I am afraid to be told I am wrong.

I enjoy observing people, but these observations are always filtered by the lens of the self, as should be the case. But often times what I make are not observations but a long confession of my longings via the observation.

And it’s refreshing to have a reader as unabashedly honest and candid as this reader in mind.

He, holding his about to be extinguished cigarette in between his middle and index fingers, naked, looking at me straight in the eyes telling me that it wasn’t an essay about Juanma but about me, taught me a lot of things about writing and reading.

And for the first time in my life, that reader in mind has responded very articulately. And I am floored.

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Juanma

I am often intrigued (I’m not sure if this is the best word to describe it) by all these that are happening between us. The start, it was something I did not think would lead to anything deep and beautiful, but to something deep and beautiful it led to.

This morning, while walking toward you, you smoking what remained of that cigarette stick always stuck in between your index and middle fingers, I barely held myself from smiling. I felt I was again a teenage boy mesmerised by the sight of a teacher he admires a lot, whose attention he wants to catch, whose affirmation of his good works he always seeks.

The noonday sun as it shone on your face almost blinded me. I tried to ask you a mundane question because if I said anything other than ‘how are you’ I’d betray the upwelling of excitement I had inside me. And it has long ceased to be appropriate for a man my age.

I have told you that my circumstance keeps me from being with you, and you told me that my choice of the word ‘circumstance’ is something that you don’t like. You’re right. It’s a word used by a coward, someone not brave enough to understand our agency as humans who are always given that choice to redirect our journey to wherever our hearts lead us.

Forgive the cliche. I have not written here for a long time, and I have become quite rusty. This is my way of documenting this very important decision I’m making as an adult.

Yesterday was a good day. We walked under the trees, we lay on the grass, you lay your head on my chest, you read me a poem, we kissed; it was so good I didn’t want for the day to end. I wanted it to go on forever. But my circumstance keeps on pushing itself on me.

But this shall soon change because you’ve given me enough reasons to.

As for irony, I shall write about it soon.

Sunset in Pagudpud

I know that pictures of me on the beach change each year–I gain more weight, develop more facial lines, look a little more confident, and perhaps happier because of my growing acceptance of the many things I cannot change now but I may take some shots of changing in the future.

My happiness now has become less dependent on many external factors; they’re more hinged on the fact that the sun, more than the people I’m with, the hotel where I stay, the things I do, they matter less, and that what counts is that I’m alive and am able to have a glimpse of the setting sun, that I believe is already something worth celebrating about–being able to enjoy that view of the sun as it turns bright orange then suddenly darkness.

I am becoming old. And that’s a good thing. I am not having so much fun, but I’m happy. The two are different.

A story in my mind

From a distance, looking at both of them, nothing seemed to be happening. They’re both good at keeping the facade of a static self.

A continued doing what he normally did, that is, be lulled by the quiet repetitions of his life. B was his normal, distant and quiet self. The only thing that betrayed him were those beautiful eyes that glimmered with so much knowledge of the world. But both knew that something strong and powerful was happening within, something that would sweep them both away. That night, before A said good bye to B, B told A that he wanted to talk to him, at least for an hour; there was gravity in his tone, but it needed not be that evening, that talk could wait until they have again that stolen time. The wind was quiet but it was cool.

A said yes. Terrified. It was one of those rare times when B called him by his name.

Nanay

Two days after Christmas, I received a message on Viber from my sister Bem that Nanay, my mother’s eldest sister, was rushed to the ICU; a few seconds later, my sister declared she has died.

I don’t recall the reason we called her Nanay, perhaps because we wanted to avoid confusing her with our mother whom we call mama. She married last among the four sisters because she was sent early in her life to Mindanao to be employed as a factory worker for Dole Philippines and had to support her younger siblings to school back in Iloilo. My mother also attempted to work for Dole, with Nanay’s invitation,  but lasted only a day. My mother cried, from her recollection, when she saw her older sister waving at her from the production floor removing crowns of pineapples, peeling their heads, and removing their eyes. That day she wore for the first and the last time that pair of soccer shoes Nanay gave my mother as gift to celebrate her first day working at the pineapple canning factory.

My mother married first, at 23, that’s why among us cousins, we’re considered the kuyas and the ates, although they never attach those before our names as the tradition in our family. The other two sisters also started their families very early. This fact made my Nanay bitter, that she worked hard to support her sisters and they ended up marrying or getting pregnant at such an early age. She got married when she was in her 30s, and the only one among the four sisters who had a wedding that looked like a “real” wedding, as far as I can remember — white wedding gown, flower girls, a wedding cake, and trinkets for souvenirs.

She was a very gentle soul. I don’t remember she ever scolded us when we were young. Before she had her own children, we received all the love she could give meant for her children. Maybe that explains why we called her Nanay. When I was in the university, whenever I went home for the holidays, she’d give me a small amount to help me with my studies. And I don’t know why, but my memory of this is always my saying good bye to her while she’s doing the laundry of her family by hand after arriving from her night shift peeling pineapple at the cannery.

Aging ravages us and renders us little by little unrecognizable. This was what happened to her as it would to all of us. Three months ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her decline was too fast, I did not have time to see her before she went. We spoke on the phone, but it was a voice that sounded tired and fed up with life. My mother was with her the whole time, sitting by the sickbed of her elder sister whom looked forward to spending their old age together.

Two days after Christmas, Nanay left. She was survived by her four children and her husband.

Rant and rage

Most people my age who can’t really be called young neither can we be called old straddle that point when nothing much is going on, but so much is at stake that quitting isn’t really the best option there is. We have children, or pets, a stable relationship, a job that can be considered all right, and a circle of friends that gets wider but paradoxically narrower. People my age are afflicted with this feeling which escapes decent description. It’s boredom, a certain degree of emptiness, being rudderless. I simply have gone too inarticulate to express it in a language that is crisp and does not rely on cliche. I have to admit that not writing for a quite a while now makes my thoughts disorganized. I also don’t want to whine and rant here because I would sound like a thankless millennial who fails to recognize how despite the comfort I am able to afford myself of I still find it almost natural to complain about how bad life is treating me. But I also don’t want to sound like life is truly good. I am not depressed, nor am I the happiest in the world. I hope this is all just hormonal imbalance. 

I can go on with this, fill the whole screen with nonsense. And tire myself writing meandering musings, complain about work, wax vitriol about this country and how one is left with no option but to be indifferent and numb because being indifferent and numb is the most visceral response one can have amid all the killings and scandals hounding this country. I find solace in watching cat videos before I go to bed every night, in petting my three cats when at least one of them decided he wants to be petted, or in watching videos of the gaffes and stupidity committed by Trump. Schadenfreude. I find consolation in the fact that I don’t have the unfortunate hairdo, the propensity to drop daft statements, and the sadness of having to face all the ire and rage of the world alone.

I still am luckier. But I don’t want to be just lucky. I want to scream and be enraged and be part of a bigger narrative. Honestly, I don’t exactly know. There are days when I’m thankful that I’m one of those nameless faces on the MRT and nights when I think I deserve more than all these.