REPORT A PROBLEM
Letters to my loves (past, present, future, never, often, always)
Hi. I tend to run my mouth off a lot of times. See, there's an eternity wherein I rehearse what to say, and then when I think I'm ready to say it, I say it, yeah? And it ruins the whole moment, just...shoots it straight to shit. And I can't help it. You taught me to think 5 years ahead, will this still matter? Everyone should take this "lesson" to heart, no? Because it's the real thing. No more inhibitions. Say everything! Total freedom.
I think about our last "real" encounter, and it's you offering to do something for me. Listen, out of 20 people, 17 of them see you as distant, selfish, childish. The 3 of us, well, we see you as thoughtful, sensitive, kind. Do you see now? How easy it is to fall for you? It's also easy to walk away from this feeling. Both are easy, that's why it's hard, do you understand? You come out of nowhere but you were there all along. Why have I seen you only now when I was looking at you all this time?
You have a limp. Do you know? This is the kind of question I come up with when talking to you. Obvious ones, stupid. Things you are warranted to answer with a "Duh." But you're kind and forgiving so you respond to my mindless chatter like a benevolent grandparent telling their clueless grandchild a bedtime story, which is about how the world will end in five hours. But they tell it in a way that the child is comforted into sleeping. The child knows danger is coming, but the grandparent succeeds in making them believe it's going to be okay.
Hi. Sorry for that one time you had to wait. We agreed on the time and place. I didn't show. Most conclusions would point out that I was being a dick. I took you for granted. Wasted your time. Thing is, and this would cause eye-rolling for sure, I was afraid of the little things. That electricity when we accidentally touched fingers. That time I looked at you just as you were looking away from me. That small gesture at the dining table when you thought I wanted the salt. I panicked. Ran away. Hid. Stayed away. Hello. Bye.
Sandwiches. Was your answer when I asked what your favorite food is. This was years ago. And I forget now, am I imagining this? Did I really ask you this? Or am I thinking about Joey from Friends? Did I really care to ask you because I had wanted to make your favorite food, or was I just filling the silence with idle talk disguised as affection? I wonder: Did I really love you? Or was I just waiting for the feeling to subside because I knew that, like any other, it was bound to end. Do you wonder, too?
Your laugh. It's what endears you to people. It's loud and real. It envelops the air and it's never annoying. You find almost everything funny. Just yesterday you were laughing at a signage that said "No vacancies, sorry sissies." And it's the kind of thing that makes one wonder, why is this man so happy? It borders on the annoying but never really reaches it, you know? You have that thing in you that when someone is very near to punching you in the mouth, you do something and you make them want to squish your face in total abandon.
You're in a dream. Sepia. There's a tree, its leaves are flying toward the sky. Your face contorts, probably wondering if you're upside down. You see that the tree's roots are parallel to your feet. So, no. You're not upside down. So why are the leaves "falling" in the opposite direction? This is a dream, you remind yourself. To your left is a deer with four eyes. Dangling from its antlers are keys shaped like hands. You pluck one and recognize it as the key to your house. You throw it away. You don't need it. Home is an illusion.
Black Mirror season 5, am I right? Whew. Remember when I forced you to watch Heroes even when I knew you weren't enjoying it anymore? Sorry for that. I held on to the past too much. You liked the first few episodes then you told me you were losing interest. But I still wanted you to watch it with me, and so you did. Little did I know then that that might have been one of the many reasons you had to leave. My selfishness. My tendency to ignore what people actually tell me. My fierce grip of the past.
Hello. I know this isn't going to reach you. But I will say it anyway: You're my Sunday. It's corny. Yes. You're like my favorite uncle. Comfortable. Funny. Awkward. You know what, I think this might reach you after all. The Internet's made a lot of things possible, yes? One of these days you might receive an invitation to eat out. Or not. I'm going back and forth. And it's always wisest to not think and just do. I know. Well, okay, not always. Maybe 95% of the time, yes? Sundays are warm, feels-like-home, cozy, feels-like-you.
Yep. Stopping. Told myself last night, quite sternly, to stop this and move on. I'm happy. I was happy. Allowed myself a few days to marinate in this crush-thing and now emerging from the frothy dream. Fully awake and accepting that it's not meant to be anything. It's nice the way it is. Your steady voice, your gentle way, your childlike questions. Someday I'll look back and see this as a sweet time. So thanks for that. It's drizzling as I write this, and I just passed your building. I hoped to see you. I hoped I never do.
In this dream I watch you sleep. If I squint hard enough I can see 5 years into the future, on the exact day you'll say that you've fallen in love with her. I'm aware that this is a dream because you're not making that small sound when you sleep. Everything's too perfect here, including the "fact" that I know for sure how to keep five years from today from happening. It says I have to persuade you to move somewhere else. The word "persuade" tells me this isn't right. I force myself awake. This must be what acceptance feels.
There are a million songs about unrequited love, about how it hurts. But she's grateful for unrequited love, and wishes she can teach the skill. What skill? The ability to focus amid the dissonance. See, if one's declaration of love isn't reciprocated, there's a world of pain that's dodged. Have you watched Flowers? Deborah suggests to her husband, Maurice, that maybe love is the answer to his sadness. And Maurice says that love makes his sadness worse. The catch to the upside of unrequited love, however, is that it can be addictive. As everything. You go through life dodging pain.
He reckons he'll go crazy, if he takes her propensity for hyperbole seriously. He goes through Mondays the same way, avoiding her—hoping she'd notice him. Tuesdays they go out for lunch: together, not together. They just happen to be in the same coffee shop at the same exact time. Sometimes he suspects that she spies on him. On Wednesdays they have a meeting with 30 other people, but they only have eyes for each other. On Thursdays he sends her an email, all business-like, but with hidden clues. On Fridays, they both give up. Start again on Monday.
Thresholds. You pass through one and the past disappears. As it should. Your intentions are fresh and new, and former regrets stay on the other side of this new land. You think it's over, because it is. Sometimes you're wrong, most times you're right. The past has no feet, it cannot catch up. Or can it? Wings? It has wings. It can go any which way. But you're insulated by all this newness. You wake up a clean slate. 10 years, 1 week. It doesn't matter how long. The most important thing is knowing when to press the kill switch.
Summer has decided to plop on the couch and sweat away there, maybe until July, maybe until year-end. Who knows. This heat is what May should have given us. You wore a knitted sweater to work today, and of course you still looked cool and calm. Unbothered. Untethered. All the "un"s that have a positive meaning. Has anyone ever told you? You're kind, selfless, generous. But also firm, inspires respect, encourages distance. These are all good things when combined. You're a well-rounded person. That's it. One can't say this about just anyone else. Please stay that way.
She's still sometimes full of herself in that she supposes that the reason people leave her is because of her. Something she did, something she said, something she did not do. It's an alien concept to her, that people can have other reasons for doing things that does not include her. Maybe it's a childhood thing, something someone said to her before, but yes...she's slowly learning to let go. Someone leaves or stops talking to her? Pshaw. Maybe they had a reason, a whole reason that has nothing to do with her. Only sometimes she succumbs to old habits.
Hi. Remember when you used to take photos of flowers during your travels and send them to me? When you weren't able to mail them, you'd just hand me the print when you get back. I remember this magenta orchid that had dewdrops on it, and your scribble at the back. I loved you. So much. For years. I know you loved me, too. I'm sure. As I'm sure now that our love for each other has run its course. I'm not sad, no. Cliche: I'm happy we happened. I'm happy we had those years. I'm happy our hearts met.
Hi. Where are you? How are you? I'm so happy everytime I go home from work because I know there will be x hours of Radiohead live performances available on the Interwebs for me to consume. Me. Me. Me. I'm sick of this. I ask how you are, and I interrupt you with my stories. These days all you'd probably hear is Radiohead, Thom Yorke, Jonny and Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Phil Selway. Pyramid Song. Supercollider. Reckoner. Codex!!! 2+2=5. Lotus Flower. Lotus Flower video. Bus rides. Rain. Long bus rides. You. Memories of you. Your lovely voice. You.
Brysen on the phone just now, asking his Dad: "Why is Grandpa older than you?" My nephew just asked his Dad (my older brother) why his Grandpa (our father) is older than him. I smiled so wide. I love him. He sounded worried, like it's a problem that needs to be solved. Why is Grandpa older than my Dad? I could cry. What goes on in this boy's mind? I'd love to see. You'd have loved him. He's smart and considerate. Very polite and discerning. Prone to laughter and also mood swings, but touchy, sweet, and quick to forgive. Sigh.
You've not been paying attention. There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. The water's clear and innocent. It's like I've fallen out of bed from a long and vivid dream. I have jettisoned my illusions. Finally I'm free of all the weight I've been carrying. Flan in the face. Dance you fucker. Not just once. Not just twice. I am the key to the lock in your house. Take it with the love it's given. If you think this is over then you're wrong. Jump off the end. No one around. Just dragonflies. Fantasize. No one gets hurt.
I'm serious when I say that what makes me happy these days is knowing that there's more than a hundred Radiohead songs on Spotify I can rediscover for the rest of the year, and maybe the year after, and...you get the drift. It's so much different now, listening to them. So much more feeling and immersion and crying inside, in a good way. Previous entry are Radiohead lyrics from some of my current playlist: Supercollider, et al. What are you listening to now? You're like an apparition. You happened and did not happen. A half-remembered dream. Come back.
"It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds." A little more than 6 years ago I went to a Death Cab for Cutie show alone and wept to Transatlanticism. To be honest, I forget the setlist now, if they played Transatlanticism or What Sarah Said. I just remember pining for you. Hoping you'd call and tell me you were indeed joining me. Because you said you'd like to. My younger mind couldn't, didn't, want to recognize the difference between words and actions. We are prone to give ourselves heartaches, aren't we.
A man stands beside his vehicle, both looking calm and frantic on his phone. Beside his car is a cab, its driver examining scratches above the front right tire. They've managed to park their cars in an unobstrusive part of EDSA. Seeing them so organized like that, you wouldn't think there was an accident. The car owner must be dialing help. Someone to aid him and the cab driver come to a settlement, something. It's always amusing how easily accidents can be addressed. Still, one thinks of accidents that cause permanent damage. Can those be settled via phone and patience?
Hi. "Both looking calm and frantic.. " above should be "looking both calm and frantic..." Now that's out of the way. In 1999, you were calling almost everyday, asking if we can try. After, what, 7 years of playing around we were "finally" reaching another level. Thing is, you were married. I was 18, you were 22? I forget. There's so many things I forget now, except for that one time you touched my hand when I wasn't looking. I felt your fingers brush my hand and quickly looked at you to check if it really happened. You acted nonchalantly. Shrug.
The city is creeping in. There's now a Starbucks walking distance from my house. Less than 10 minutes. This street that used to be lined with houses is now populated by banks, restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, hairdresser and laundry shops, etc. A 7-11 is less than 5 minutes from home. A drugstore is, too, in the opposite direction. There's an Italian place with really good seafood pasta that I wanted you to try years ago. It's still there. You're not. No idea where you are now. See, feelings change overnight. Mine didn't, not for years anyway. They're gone now.
It's an unwieldy day. "Kain ng masarap," a dear friend texts. In this 7 p.m. drizzly Wednesday, the world is awash in pale colors that promise peace and relief. You're far away, near, around, here. It is a puzzle I know so well to dismantle and put back. Do years waste us or do we waste years? I stare at billboards in EDSA; the train passes by two men taking down a Zayn tarpaulin. How are these things even printed? I miss you. I don't want you around. I can't wait anymore. Please don't come yet. I love you.
Erratum: The 2:58 mark of San Marcos (Brockhampton) is my favorite part of the song, not 2:28. Are you even reading this? Earlier this month I learned you were stateside, and well, habit...after all these years there was a part of me that got sad because we don't acknowledge each other's presence or absence anymore, when it was all we knew to do then. You still smell of heartbeat. You will always be the one who smells like heartbeat. Some things change, disappear. Some things linger. I know this will fade away soon. Just let me bask.
This love is like an abandoned tourist spot. It's still operational. All the lights turn on at a predetermined time. Employees clock in and out and attend to a few customers. Management has not adjusted power consumption; it's all systems go day in, day out. There's wastage, lots of it. Everything is "normal" and strange. No one raises a hand, no one bothers to make it stop, or easier, or knowable. In a few months the weeds will take over, time will stop while they fight to go on. The new becomes old, and the two of them are stuck.
Someone in line at Starbucks is putting on an American accent that's jarring, distressing, loud in its futility. And it's all too much. I turn to you for comfort. Your chest is a world of earthiness. I bury my head. I tell you: My heart is big, ready, open. I'll leave this country of uncertainty. Doesn't matter much if someone's coming with. There are pockets of time when it hits me like a freight train how the only love that matters is self-love, in all its sensible and generous meaning. I lift my head, realize you were a dream.
Rain's here. She's began to study how to make maps. The rain obscures familiar paths and reveals lost roads. She checks on her obsession to make herself feel better whatever the cost. Drug-addled nights get in the way of map-making. This is serious business. She's inclined to decide that her ability is now nearing expert-level. It's easy to be precise. Much harder to fuck things up deliberately. Because, conscience. But if one's too honest it gets boring. She's working on a map of Manila, a hidden street. She enlarges it. "Find me now!" she writes. She waits.
The Tip Jar