Changing lightbulb

A good lightbulb creates that perfect mood.

Photo by Juanma

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Being alone

At 12:53pm today I woke up from a dream almost too real, for a second I thought the emotional pain I feel inside due to a recent breakup is only an illusion, and I could take a ride to Mandaluyong to see Juanma again, but it wasn’t to be the case. Nothing is going to change anytime soon. I am still alone. This has been the longest time I have been alone my whole life. Alone in the sense that there is no one person out there that I know who will ask me if I’m all right, without a partner.

From my window I can see the metro moving ahead indifferent to what I feel because truly it doesn’t care about anyone.

This recent week, in the rush of events, I met an old love, someone I consider the closest person in my life, but even he has changed. He’s the same–his voice, scent, touch, yes, even now he looked at me, but he’s changed a lot in the same way that I couldn’t recognize myself when I was with him. I knew I love him, but it wasn’t the same kind of love I felt before. We’ve both changed so much, but ironically and naively, the only thing that didn’t change is my expectation that people don’t change after the years, heartaches, solitude, travels, people they meet on the way.

The way this expectation was shattered was too painful and traumatic for me. Reopening wounds from the past was the most inhumane thing I could do to someone I love, and I left him again knowing that after four years since that painful conclusion to a relationship that spanned for almost four years, I can honestly say to myself that I deserved now the comeuppance for the pains I caused him that time, and for this, I will never hurt him again, and the only way I can do this is to distance myself and not to inflict more pain on him by loving him like I used to in the past. We said good bye, not as friends, but as former lovers who decide that what was will never be again.

***

In that dream it was raining. I was going to the the other side of the road and Juanma to somewhere I don’t know where. I looked at his sad eyes. He smiled at me and gestured a kiss. I ran towards him and right at this very point in my life, there’s only one place in the world that I want to be in, and that is to be beside him.

But fate has other things in store for me, for him.

I promise myself not to be afraid to be alone this time, to not force myself into anyone’s life without first making sure that I will never hurt them like the people I loved in the past.

I don’t like being alone. I have never been alone before, but I hope to discover the value of being single, of depending on no one for my happiness and sense of self.

Only after this will I know how it is to be truly beside someone.

There’s something about Juanma

I know I will never completely know him. Or I will, but it will take a lifetime. Ours is a story that’s private, almost tragic, sad at times, almost fictional (but definitely real), and this story is enlivened by the quietness and ordinariness of how people like Juan and me live our brief stint in this world.

He’s one man I am most interested in understanding. Although he has almost spelled out to me how he wanted to be understood, I think I am still as clueless about who he really is as the time we first had a chance to talk in person more than half a year ago.

When one is fortunate (or unfortunate enough, depending on how one sees it), he meets someone so enigmatic and so beautiful a person that the desire to know and to understand this other other human being surpasses any other desires that compete for his attention. This drive to know is stronger than sex or his other biological needs.

I am one very fortunate man (or unfortunate, depending on how one looks at it).

I am not wont at exaggerating.

There are texts that give you a flow chart to help you comprehend them, and so the act of reading could not be easier. There are texts that knowingly and maliciously defy being read, frustrating the reader and incarcerating him in a hall of mirrors. I am not interested in these texts. There are, however, texts that announce their cipher and teach you how to use it; however, the reader insists that there’s so much more than the offered reading. Juanma is of the third type. Or more accurately, I am a reader of the third type.

There are a lot of things that I cannot write on this public blog, but which I have written more extensively in my private journal about this man who is the subject of this essay. The conversations we exchange will stay in a cocoon of privacy because the beauty of the creature inside can only be appreciated within the threads shared by these two individuals.

I never enjoyed writing about people because my attempt at writing about a fellow human being will only be successful at insulting them due to the impossibility of capturing their complexity using language. Unlike in the novels where characters, regardless of their avowed intricacy of characterisation, can still be described almost comprehensively using stock adjectives, a living and walking human being’s identity constantly shifts ground.

But Juanma is worse. He tells me explicitly who he is and how he became who he is but I refuse to accept this because I have an aching feeling that his childhood stories, his loves, his past, and his present won’t be enough to explain the man I usually sit across in the morning when we drink coffee, or the man I quietly look at sitting next to me as we watch the people walking at a park from the window of his room.

I sometimes see myself in him, but no. We’re two different beings. And I refuse to accept that he isn’t really complex because in my mind, this man, who has explicitly told me who he is, is bigger than the sum of his sad childhood, failed loves, complicated past, and an even more tangled present.

A stray dog

We humans think in symbols (albeit unconsciously, and most of the time use symbols that are a part of the general repertoire of symbols so unoriginal and fully embedded in the language we fail to realize that they are in fact symbolic).

And we impose gravity on these objects that so happen to be there in the most opportune of moments and associate with them meanings both frivolous and profound. Often, we begin by using them as a metaphor, an all-purpose cliche to simplify thoughts, but which also has this very insidious effect of rendering our thoughts banal, even dead, if chosen haphazardly and in a way that is uninterrogated. (Which is almost always the case. As who has the time to examine one’s choice of metaphors in speech?)

But in some very rare instances, we strike at something novel, pure, original, and powerful that we get dumbstruck at how metaphors, if chosen correctly achieve the status of a true symbol, recurring and with multiple layers of meanings. And dangerous because they function as a frame by which look at the world.

This afternoon, on my way home, I saw this black Labrador. I used to see him last year with an older-looking Labrador who by the looks of it was in the twilight of his dog life. They were inseparable. Then this year, this guy has been seen plying Alvero Street every afternoon alone.

Cats fascinate me more than dogs. Cats seldom show emotions and feign independence. Dogs are rather predictable, unashamed of dependency. Dogs are sad creatures programmed to suffer from a tragic old-age. Cats expire in privacy that is of their own choosing, untheatrically. They don’t experience abandonment because they are no one’s pet to begin with. One doesn’t feel nostalgic towards things he doesn’t experience or believe to have experienced.

For dogs, it’s different. It’s heart rending to see an ageing canine walking on a street alone and abandoned. It’s sad because they had a taste of love and warmth but are deprived of it at a time in their lives when they need these the most. To be conditioned to feel love for one’s entire existence then to be divested of it is painful, and to witness one creature experience it is as painful to the observer.

When I was told that he’s called by someone in his past a stray dog I had nothing but pity and guilty empathy. I wanted to run my hand on his hair, look at him in the eyes, and tell him I will not abandon him, but I have nothing to prove that I will stay true to this promise. I barely know him. I don’t know his fear, his dreams, or the extent of evil he’s capable of doing. I only see what is good because that is what is allowed by our young relationship.

To declare that I will be loyal to him, to be with him, forever, will not make me any different from that person who promised the solitary Labrador that he will be with the dog until his dying days.

I, like any human being, am capable of leaving behind the things, pets, and people I care so much about.

And this is the folly of the human being. But it doesn’t mean that we stop making this promise, that we give up on attempting to stay true to this promise, that we don’t articulate this promise.

Because after all, everything begins with that promise. To have it is better than nothing at all. To experience love no matter how short is better than to not have experienced it at all. To hope that forever exists is a choice I shall make than to forever doubt its probability.

Delusional, sure.

But so what? This is what our brief existence allows–forever.

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.

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.