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In another life, I have a husband. He gets up earlier than I do all the time. On some mornings he likes listening to me sleep talking. "I have a blue button on my buttocks," is one of his favorites. He asked me, what exactly was I dreaming of at that moment, and I said "Nothing, just me, saying those exact words, and I kind of knew you were listening?" This is the truth, you know how you're in between wakefulness and sleep? My husband has a deep laugh, in this life, my favorite sound is his laughter, his cackle.
In another life, I have a wife. She is a preschool teacher like me. We teach at different schools, and look forward everyday to coming home, when we can tell each other stories about these crazy, demon, shit, sweet, irresistible kids. "One of my coteachers asked her students to draw candlelight, can you imagine how that looks?" "A vagina?" This is my favorite exchange between us so far this month, I like how her mind works, so fast, so weird. We were laughing into dinner, that day of the candlelight vagina, it was a Tuesday. I love Tuesdays more now.
In another life, you're still here with me. We'd have been together for a million years now, and you'd be blatant at making me feel how I am overstaying my welcome. This is how it felt then, when you first said goodbye, that I have overstayed my welcome and you were trying to tell me in a kind way. I ignored your attempt at goodbye and tricked you into staying, better to have you beside me, even if you are miserable, than lose you and feel miserable myself. In this life, you hate me, as I go on loving you.
In another life, I'm walking along a quiet street that's lined with blue trees and birds as big as human beings. These birds are gentle and scared of people. So what they do is peck at a tree, right, and when they sense a human being nearby, they get off the ground so fast and perch on said tree. You'd feel a whoosh, as if a high-speed train passed by, and you wouldn't guess that a giant bird was around. Only, in this life, I'm invisible, so I'm able to stand near them, and they are beautiful up close.
In another life, I have two boys. On afternoons when they know their father is coming home early, they nap in their tent at the living room, set the alarm for 5 p.m. When they wake, first thing they do is look around suspiciously, because their dad likes lurking, startling them, and my boys don't like that, no. They like to be the ones scaring their dad. Once they're sure the coast is clear, they go to their hiding spots. The front door would open, then there would be the most adorable giggling in the history of my life.
In another life, I am a girl with caramel brown hair, which reaches the small of my back. It's wavy, heavy, and shiny, and my mother likes combing it at night, before we sleep. This ritual, when missed, causes me nightmares, so my mother makes sure that whatever happens, she would be at my room at exactly 9:45 p.m., because in this life, I have a disorder, and that is, I do everything at the exact same time all the time all my life. My mother suffers, I know, but in this life, she puts me first always.
In another life, a man is driving his green car at 130 mph. He is careless, to put it kindly. He is a devil, to put it bluntly. Because in this life, people walk slow, somehow they haven't had the urge to pick up their pace even in the presence of fast cars. In this life, I'm crossing a street and this green car hits me, it all happens in a split second. My tomatoes, apples, and bananas spray out and I am hurled onto the sidewalk across, and my first thought as I land is, "Was it my fault?"
In another life, I am friends with a curly haired boy. He may be Harry Styles, he may not be Harry Styles. He smells of lemon all day, even when he sweats...especially when he sweats. He has the corniest jokes and we like having ice cream at that dilapidated shop near where that nifty movie house used to be. This friend of mine, who's curly, likes talking to my brother about action stars from the past. Dante Varona, Lito Lapid, Jess Lapid (Lito's father), Jeric Raval, Jun Aristorenas. They are best friends, too. I guess. It makes me glad.
In another life, I have a father who has kind eyes (in real life, I do, I do). He likes baking chocolate cakes on Sundays. One for me, one for him, one for my sister. In this life, I have a sister, yes. She is a bit older, has a warm smile, and talks to me through her eyes. In a crowded room I only have to locate her face then I can feel calm again, she got that smile from my father. We always eat dinner on that old, dependable, narra table, and our days are made of pearls.
In another life, you're wheedling your way onto my lap because you want me to sing you to sleep. In this life I'm a good singer, I like this other life, to be honest. You forgive my biggest mistakes, but what especially give me the fuzzies are the times you forgive me for my littlest faults. My grammar lapses, my tantrums, my moments of weakness in which I turn to indifference in order to feign love. You say nothing, you just hold my hand and squeeze it, and I will know then that it means "I'm here and it's okay."
In a parallel time, "text" is not a verb. There is only "talk," "touch," and "hear." In this parallel time, a babies still turn away with a mischievous, shy smile whenever their mother looks in their direction. A father would be home late and tiptoe into his daughter's room, he's careful not to wake her, but struggling to keep himself from hugging her tight and kissing her plump cheeks. He likes the smell of apples in her hair, and this is all he can think about on the car on his way home. He keeps hoping he'll catch her awake.
In another time, he is still wooing me. Been five years now. In that time I'm not mean to him. Kind but firm, accommodating but just-the-right-amount cold. I don't make fun of him behind his back. I don't disappoint him with my immaturity. I don't hurt him. Here, now, I keep my distance and am honest about what I do not feel. It's clear to both of us what will and will not happen. There are reasons why he is relentless, he says, someday I might understand. In this time, I think I am falling for him.
In another time, the automobile is not horrendous. Another version of me does not regard it as a giant tin foil harbinger of harm and doom. That version of me is able to drive through EDSA without saying the f word 100 times per minute. In this blessed time, people are sensible, and I mean all the time, consciously, always mindful of not causing pain to others, and so, they drive with utmost care. In this perfect time, worry is not a concept. If you worry, you sin. That is how taboo worry is. Cars are the safest places, here.
In another time, one day is made up of 72 hours. But in this parallel time there is a boy who cannot find enough hours to do all that he desires. In his hurriedness, he misses valuable moments with valuable people. Sleep does not come easy, he is consumed by the need to use every minute in "sensible" ways. What happens is--he loses the capability to sit down, as in his body refuses to bend, it controls him and makes him walk, walk, walk. Move all the time. His days fold into each other. This boy, he craves sleep.
In another time, mothers are programmed to manufacture homemade desserts--not just for their offspring, but for whoever knocks on their door and asks for it. In this parallel time, homemade desserts are fuel. The most popular among teenagers is lemon pie, for kids it's pudding. Adults, well it's a little difficult to say. Some of them choose to not take fuel, some go on asking their mothers for fruit cake with an abundance of rum. Mothers are generous, they don't complain. Only sometimes they gey sad that no one cares to ask them anymore about what keeps them going.
In another time, this is how you scare someone. You lull her into trusting you. You put up the kindest face, the kindest eyes, the kindest voice. Basically, you trick her into believing you would not do anything to make her feel bad. This will take months, even years. But you go at it and go at it. When at last she 100% trusts you, you sit in front of her and start commanding snakes to come out of your eyes. You deliver the death blow by exploding into a sticky, black puddle, and emitting an ear-splitting screech. Victory.
In another time, the cinema is a place to socialize. You pay to get in a dark place with a big screen showcasing people who are ace at pretending they care for each other. You enter a cinema and there are cocktail party tables, people are expectant, their eyes convey "I hope someone comes near me." They hold their drinks and hearts, ready to either throw them or hold them in, dependent on how their day at the cinema unfolds. It's hushed even if they have a conversation piece right there on the screen. They choose the safety of intuition.
In another time, snipers are bad at aiming. Terrible. Snipers are very good at botching a job, it's what they spend their lives being good at--missing their aim. The goal is to get the target's attention. Just that. Keep them on their toes. A sniper is instructed to shoot at the head, but they miss the person entirely and hit the wall behind or shoot a random trash can. There are rare times they hit a different person instead. This is where problems arise. When confronted by this mistake, a sniper would doubt his abilities and become a recluse.
In a different world, we meet Lenny. He's 59. In this world, you are to die if you haven't found the love of your life by the time you're 60. You're just going to drop dead. Lenny dreads this because in this world, life is good. Living to 100 is a lofty dream though, because so few find true love. Lenny's girl is Sam, she hates Lenny, he's sure. Whenever he addresses her, she just stares at him. It's a month before our guy turns 60. He's on the prowl but also resigned. Love is tiring in this world, too.
In a different world, we meet Anna. She's on TV 24/7. Today's episode is "Food that Anna fancies or has eaten.." She's on T now (it's been a long day): Tamarind candy, tandoori chicken, Twix...She likes rattling off these lists in alphabetically for some semblance of order, she says. Out in the streets, riots are a normal occurrence. In this world, Anna is all we have in terms of comfort. There was one episode wherein she just stared at the camera the whole day. People at home stared back at the TV. Outside, hundreds of children being slaughtered.
In a dream, a blue, old bus is passing in front of my house. I look out my window and there it is, moseying as if it had all the time in the world. One by one, a child's head appears behind each bus window. They're all looking at me. It's 10 identical boys. Black hair, round eyes, red lips. I know this is a dream so I know not to be afraid, but then they start singing this haunting song. Why is this bus moving so slow? It feels like years now. The boys open their mouths in unison.
In a dream, I'm still in Baguio. I'm in college, 16 and too optimistic. I meet this tall boy and he becomes one of my closest friends. Before Christmas break we look at poinsettias to take home to Manila. We choose the not-too-red ones, I forget now for what reason. At the market we know where to buy the good ube jam, the good coffee, the good strawberry jam, the good strawberries, the cheapest broccoli, the best lemons (limes)? We are yet to know how pomegranates or persimmons taste like. And we are too proud to even try.
In a dream, there is a boy who only wears bespoke suits. His favorite color is blue. The darkest, inkiest shade of the night sky. He wears pomade that has a distinct smell, you will know he's nearby if you smell it. He doesn't speak...just...stands there with both hands in his pockets. Stares you down, but is gentle about it, and then you'd know what it is he wants. His pants drape on his shoes in the most elegant manner. In this dream, he is every girl's dream, but here, he is the master of elusion and charm.
In a dream, pain of all types can be ended with a simple extraction procedure. Here, it's not a drawn-out, inconclusive matter. You can call a pain removal clinic and ask for an appointment. If you do this though, all memories will fade, too. You will be a clean slate. Painless and too hopeful. Think, a problem-less Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind world. There is no possibility of relapse. In this dream world, pain extraction has been perfected. Memory-making has lost its importance. We go about our days knowing everything can be wiped clean. Poof, gone.
In a dream, we meet Sara. She goes into a Subway and smells coffee. Sara is a coffee snob, she berates the Subway staff for serving below-par coffee. In this dream, people are obnoxious and uncaring. Here, the Subway staff cry at the same time. Because in this dream, people are hurt easily. The obnoxious people take advantage of this mostly to steal money. Sara is a professional thief. Here, we see her take out a gun and kill the Subway staff one by one. "Fix your coffee!" she shouts as she runs out the shop with her loot.
In a dream, I am driving a truck. In it are all my loved ones. They are calm at the back, playing cards and laughing. There's a Christmas spread, and gift wrappers are strewn about. This is what we do on Christmas, we rent a huge truck then drive around. This year I'm the driver. Christmas day today is crazy stormy. So I'm driving through a dark highway and this other huge truck barrels toward me out of nowhere. I swerve and hear my relatives shriek at the back. I swerved in time. We are alive. They continue playing, laughing.
In a dream, she meets him in the woods instead of her house. The trees are redder this time of the year, and the clouds turn from yellow to green every hour. This is why she likes to meet out, for the changing colors. The ground is white this year. Not because of snow, but because of an unexplained Earth phenomenon. TV says there's a possibility the world ends in a week. Newscaster said it matter-of-factly, as if they've been expecting this for years. And they have. She meets him today to go over their plan of escape.
In a dream, we are on a couch that's too small. You're laughing about something Vic Sotto said on TV, and I'm looking at your face like a child admiring bright lights. See, when you laugh this way--your nose scrunched up, your eyes closed, your mouth wide open, and your head tilted back, I still get smitten. You look different, you look free. And I know that face is just for me. Forgive my arrogance, but you don't do this when with other people. You have a different laugh with them. But with me, there's this. I love you.
In another time, One Direction are 16, 17, and 18 years old forever. They are wide-eyed, just-the-right-amount-cautious, and too happy. They get their hearts broken, sure, they get hurt, they get booed, people give them a hard time, people laugh at them, but they don't advance to the next years where things get more serious and worse, where they get more hurt. Here, frozen, they are safe. It's not conducive for growing up, no, they will not develop thick skins and bigger hearts, no. But here, they are babies always, guffaws still real, unsullied, unbroken.
In another lifetime, the office is a haven for all. People are happy in their homes, for sure, but when they go to work they have a different smile while going about their day. The smell of air conditioning, printer ink, warm paper, and dusty carpets are comforting, no one imagines the beach or mountains while in front of the computer, no one complains. It's a little world that's full of promise and contentment. Perfect, you might say. They groan when a day off is announced. In the pantry, there's always cake and a streamer saying: "I LOVE THIS PLACE!!!"
In a dream, we're holding hands while surveying a garden. I'm wearing a purple dress and you have on a bow tie I've never seen before. I turn to you to say I like it, but I have no voice. For a moment I'm confused but remember I've chosen this. You've chosen to lose your voice, too. We decided one day that we can do away with speaking so that when it's time to say goodbye we'll just...go. So here we are in this garden drinking in thousands of colors and smells. You let go of my hand, disappear.
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