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Letters to a leaver
(To be read in conjunction with September 2016)
WHAT THE FUCK?! What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck? WHAT THE FUCK?! WHAT THE FUCK?! WHAT THE FUCK?! What the fuck? What the fuck! What the fuck! What the fuck! What the fuck??? What the fuck!!! What the fuck? WHAT the fuck? What THE FUCK??? WHAT THE FUCK? What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK WHAT THE fuck what the fuck? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?
Day 2. I'm angry, confused, and relieved. Angry because why would I be not? Confused because what the hell, JOHN? Relieved because I don't have you to cook for anymore, that's always been my complaint in this relationship. I didn't mean for that to sound harsh. I'm sorry. My head's spinning and that's the first thing I thought of. No more cooking, would you believe? I miss my fast food grub, I miss non-home-cooked food, I miss restaurant-anything, I miss not having to wash the dishes. Once you read this, I imagine you'd be laughing. Wouldn't you?
Day 3. It's funny how you wrote all these notes in such a serious tone. Our friends wouldn't believe you wrote these, you know? I didn't know you were unhappy. I know. I know you said you're happy with me. But what I understand is that you're unhappy about something in your life. And I wish I had been there for you. Or is this something you want to do on your own? Evidently. Were you that sad that it reached a point when you became an expert in pretending to be happy? So good at acting. I miss you.
Day 4. So what does it mean, being a fan of classic rock? You never got to tell me, exactly. 60s to 80s, you said, but, what is it about, really? You said you donít understand my questions about it, that if someone likes a certain type of music they donít have to explain or know why they do. Are you annoyed by my overusage of commas? My questions? Well, youíre not here now. I brushed my teeth this morning. I felt powerful and able. Letís start again. I mean, unknow each other, maybe thereís something we missed, something critical?
Day 5. Dane asked how I am, I told him 50/50. In the past four days, two days were okay, two days were horrible. Today I donít know yet. Days will become weeks and months and years. I should be an expert in this. But I wonít be arrogant, no, I havenít had a truly broken heart and I donít know pain that well. But I want to know how you are, really. Itís like somebody took an important body part and Iím looking around, wondering how to go on without it. Nevertheless and quite strangely, I think I can.
Day 39. Hi, John. I quit my job. You were always telling me to do what I really want. So I did. I wish you'd been home so I can tell you the good news in person. But anyway, it was a rough month, that. How were you able to write to me every day for a month? I don't have the patience and dedication. Ah well, maybe those come naturally when you're planning to leave someone, yes? I'm not being sarcastic. I'm leaving for a month. Don't know where to yet or if it's really a month. Maybe longer.
Day 52. There's a boy who keeps following me home, five maybe six years old. Home now is a bungalow somewhere north. Boy's name is Lenny, short for Leonardo. His parents sell fish. The first time we met, he offered to carry my fish for me. He didn't have to. I was expecting him to ask for tip but he didn't. He said he wanted to do it so he did. Everyday now he follows me home even if I don't have fish or anything from his parents. "I want to make sure you're safe," he says matter-of-factly.
Day 70. Lenny is six. I don't go to the market every day now because I've devised ways to procure my produce from somewhere nearer, aka my backyard. In case you're wondering, no. This isn't permanent. I plan to go back to the city in a few weeks. I know. An herb garden? Chickens? A couple of pigs? A cow on the way? I don't know what I was thinking. Lenny comes over every morning to help me tend the "farm." He seems to think I'm staying put. I'm terrified to say goodbye to him or even broach the subject.
Day 71. I shouldn't compare, no. But here, indulge me. Lenny thinks I'm fond of him, and I am. He is fond of me as well, I know this for sure. I asked him yesterday about his feelings for me, the way you ask a child if he likes a toy, and he lit up. I'm telling you, it was beautiful the way he answered with his eyes. I can't bear to leave this sweet boy. Is that it? You were so brave in leaving me like that, because you felt my affection was not enough to make you stay?
Day 90. I'm still here. Lenny is teaching me that leaving shouldn't be that hard. We don't talk about my dilemma at all, in fact, what we talk about whenever he's here is his dream of traveling the world. You know how he knows about "the world"? His father used to be a seaman. On his last birthday, Lenny got a globe the size of a standard basketball. Lenny often says: "Aalis kung makakaalis." If you can leave, leave. Simple, right? I ask about his parents, people he will leave behind. His answer: "Pwede namang umalis nang hindi nang-iiwan."
Day 148. I'm back in the city, renting a bigger space. You remember that apartment with the red door? That one. You didn't like that it has too many windows. We compromised and got an apartment with a skylight. I like this apartment because it's new and you have no things here. I left the province and the "farm" a couple of weeks ago. You remember Lenny? He was at the bus station on the day I left. He didn't say anything, just handed me a globe key chain, hugged me, and let me ruffle his hair. I was sobbing.
Day 360. Almost a year now, hey. Would you believe? I've been reading old writings of mine and I cringe at how angry I've been. How...I was that person who said "You ruined it,
you fix it
." You know how someone does not think to look inward and just...I wish there was a better way to say it but...just blames his or her misfortunes on other people. I used to be that person. It was in the guise of nonchalance, sure. But who I was fooling? Right now, I'd like to think I've transcended that.
Day 400. Ma said that there is no wrong or right way to hurt someone. You do something and you hurt someone, period. Doesn't matter if you intended for that result, what matters is how the action's receiver felt. And so, it is no one's fault. People get hurt, and it doesn't have to mean that the cause of hurt needs to apologize, no. I've tricked myself into believing this for more than a year because hating you is the last thing I want to feel. But tonight, forgive me this one moment of weakness and let me be angry.
Day 450. How come you don't write? I hope for a letter, of course, any sign that you're okay. I worry about your bad back, your weak knee, your tendency to fall asleep anywhere. Remember when you came home without your bag because you fell asleep on the jeepney? Of course, you remember. We laughed the whole night, we laughed ourselves to sleep. How come we could laugh about our imperfections, our failures, our small indiscretions, and yet we are threatened when things go right, when things look like they're going to be perfect? You left when everything was okay.
Day 521. I'm tired of not having you in my life. I keep encouraging myself to start over and give up hope that you're ever coming back. To no avail. I am perfectly functional: a job, family, friends, clean house, regular laundry, etc. It's just I miss you every day, always. Good thing is it's turned into a familiar hitch by now, an anomaly in my otherwise normal day that after I have sufficienty overcome it, the day goes on smoothly. I hate adverbs. See? I just need to purge and then you will be gone for good. I hope.
Day 639. When we first met, I was at almost 200 lbs. It was few years after a major heartbreak. I can hear you chuckling, what a cliche, you would say. Turning to food and sadness because someone decided they didn't want you in their life. Pshaw. I wanted so much to learn that nonchalance from you. That...self-assurance. So we became friends and then lovers and I returned to my old weight. Now, almost two years after you left, I'm back there. The difference this time is I feel at peace about it. Pshaw. I learned, after all.
Day 791. You remember our friend who likes to gossip? Yeah that friend. Her. I'm sure you remember her. We have that one friend, hard to forget, we've been targets. So she has the tendency to mouth off, right. Things she should say to someone's face, she says to someone else. And so of course, this causes conflict. I kind of adopted that behavior. Say, I complain about someone to someone else instead of just talking to the person concerned. My point is, you're not here and I miss you and don't miss you. It's becoming familiar and quite sickening.
Day 792. I was drunk last night. Imagine if I had your contact number and you let me phone you every now and again, imagine the things I would be yelling at you. Kidding. I'm not a yeller, you know that. I'd probably just cry and you'd leave the phone on the desk, go about your day. How did we get here? It's too late in the day to be asking that and to expect an answer, yeah? See, it's getting to a point where I feel like I'd wake up one day and this would all be gone, forgotten.
Day 839. I'm dating again. Two of them are writers. Okay, let me talk about the writers first. One of them, let's call him P, he has this tic. I'm not telling you this to make fun of him (because I can sense you judging me and willing me to stop this story before "I say something bad"). So, his tic. It's adorable. He wrinkles his nose every five seconds. Like he smells something suspicious every five seconds. True story. The second one, let's call him M. He doesn't have a tic. I kind of like P with the tic.
Day 841. If you're curious about the others, well, I'm just going to stop. I wanted to let you know there are writers because I know you'd get jealous of writers. But in what world does that matter anymore? You might have not received any of my letters or cared to know how I am. This isn't bitterness. None of that tone here. Just matter-of-fact declaration that we're over and my juvenile fantasies are just that, made-up stories. Tomorrow I'm moving to a new city, and i hope to still have the strength to write to you.
Day 1,253. Hey. If you're reading this, I want you to know that the past three years have taught me so much, thanks to you. The value of silence. Knowing when to talk. Knowing when to walk away. Knowing how to stay and not hover. Knowing when to not give a shit. Knowing, just knowing. Being kind, most of all. There are all kinds of people with ugly insides. Most of them smile and look like angels. I can be one of these shit people, too. My God, I can be so black inside. But kindness always, always wins.
Day 1,540. You were a young boy of 7, riding your bike in the neighborhood park when you saw your father kissing a woman who was not your mother. They didn't see you staring at them. You hurried back home to find your mother preparing snacks for you. Your sweet mom and her beautiful smile, she fussed about your gash, and you responded by hugging her like your life depended on it. She laughed, a soft sound that will haunt you all your life. You swore never to hurt anyone secretly. You swore to do it honestly, openly, kindly.
Day 1,932. Months pass by and I forget about this journal. I don't forget about you, no. But I forget to write now. There's not the same urge anymore to tell you how my day was, and surely that's not a bad thing. My friends continue egging me to go on dates. I'm too old for that, I say. And it's true. I am. I'm relieved that it's not because I'm still hoping you'd come back. If I see you, I might just walk on. And that's not cause I'm being dramatic. It's cause I've forgotten your face, love.
Day 1,933. So yeah, I was being dramatic yesterday. I haven't forgotten your face! We can forget names, but faces? Faces are more dangerous than names. You can be among a thousand faces and I'd be able to pick you out in a flash because I'd know where to look, because my heart can find you. That's how mothers find their lost children. That's how life works in general. Are you laughing? I imagine yes. But I also know you get me. Those kind eyes. Yesterday was especially hard. I missed you suddenly. So I was angry a bit.
Day 2,022. I keep a journal of "bests" now. You might remember that elusive evil garlic bread that we never found again. It was so good. It's still the best garlic bread I've encountered in my life. Soft and gooey, melts in your mouth, warm and full of character, like a sassy aunt, a firecracker of a woman, gentle yet spectacular. Goddamn that garlic bread was evil. We didn't speak to each other for two days because we were mad at each other for not taking note of the restaurant's name or address. We believed we had enough time.
Day 2,023. So in my journal of "bests" are lists upon lists of finds, addresses, phone numbers, contact people. The best lemon pie, the best almond oatmeal cookie, where to get the best laing (in Manila! I have a Sorsogon source, too), the best paella negra, the freshest buko juice (freshest, I tell you). I occupy most of my time sprucing up these lists because I know that future me would like a more organized and concise resource for my food needs. If you were here...okay, let me stop right there. You're not here. I'm here. That's it.
Day 2,120. Bright Eyes' First Day of My Life came out of nowhere while I was driving. Someone found a mix CD among my pile of trash in the backseat. Wow, I swear I just cleaned there. Three years ago? So anyway, this CD was in my player. Familiar songs, no big deal. I was navigating Makati Avenue and at the turn to Ayala the opening chords of this godforsaken song wafted. Our song. Wow? It still hit me like a bullet. You know what though? By the time I got to the office, my chest was so light.
Day 2,121. Like I could fly? I felt a happiness that I didn't know I missed. And it felt so good. I hugged the first person I saw. It helped that it was an acquaintance so they hugged back and I just said "it's my birthday" and so they hugged me tighter and wished me a happy day. I lied, I know. I just needed an immediate hug. This is the day, I think. The culmination of all those days they say would make me realize that I'm over it. You're never really over it. It's always beside you.
Day 2,320. Thing is, I never fully trusted that you'd be getting these missives, or in case you were/are, I highly doubt you're paying them mind. I know how you are with finality. I've seen how you can brush someone off because they irritated you or because you simply decided you don't care at all. I know where I stand. I'm mostly writing these for me. If I thank you and say hey, you were good to me...that was really kind of you, the way you left? You will just look at me and smirk, walk away.
Day 2,438. The beauty of it is that I wouldn't feel offended at all. I had your love and that is enough. I lost it and that's okay. Looking back, it was happy. You were happy. No amount of could haves or should haves can make me regret what I said or did not say. Maybe I could have loved you more? But you will leave anyway. That's how it is. A person is never a possession. You hold tight, then you let go, you grovel, sure, but there's a limit. You will always be my balm, my peace.
Day 2,550. You will frown at the word "always," you don't like being an always to anyone. Remember when we were talking about trusting there is enough time? I lied when I told you that I've learned to grab time and do what needs to be done. Before you left, I trusted, I hoped I would have more time with you. All these years that you've been gone, I still hoped I could say this to you personally. But now is the time to let go and say what needs to be said: I was pregnant when you left.
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