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Mid-March felt very much like the first 15 minutes of Spirited Away, the past few days especially being a constant replay of that moment Chihiro finds that her parents have turned into pigs. It's that feeling of disbelief yet also knowing all this is real. I hide my phone somewhere deep and dark. Sometimes. Most times. This has been my normal for years. Hiding away in the house. Timing my outside ventures for optimal results. It's going to be okay. It is okay. Harry Styles tells me "We'll be alright". A marching band. A parade. The end. Crowd cheers.
It also feels like watching the sunset, except instead of it being over in minutes the sun is stuck in the same position for hours and hours. Perfect orange ball against a backdrop of pinks, blues, wispy whites, hesitant yellows, and almost-black. We're all waiting for it to disappear but it refuses to budge. It doesn't get dark and much as we want this beauty to be over so we can go home and make dinner, it makes us stay and watch, except it's not beautiful anymore. It's morphed into a sarcastic spectacle and we're all glued. Almost helpless.
It's Week #4 in a day or two. Most of us are sitting, laying in bed, staring at the TV, etc. taking stock. Others are going about their days much like how they used to before this started. Others are still working—they have to work—most of them much harder than before. TV is funny, aids escape, but yesterday during lunch I cried into my noodles after seeing this clip on hospital employees and their extended shifts. All tired and maxed out but still going at it. My brother was quiet and let me cry. Thank you very much.
Perspective. Yes. My ennui brought me back to fb.com—searching for my past crushes and loves. Anything to distract from this...uncertainty. Quickly removed myself from that city of nostalgia and right back to the present. This place. Here. Now. But. Ended up dreaming about a certain someone. The whole dream, like a movie of us. Revisiting what could be. Relearning how to touch each other. Stayed in bed a couple more hours to memorize the dream. But as with all dreams, each detail became hazier and hazier until it went back to being what it really is. Unreal.
Subscribed to Apple Music today. After a few minutes of excitement I was overcome by this tiredness of...having to think of who I want to listen to. I can just listen to the radio, yes? But then I wouldn't like everything they play! So I go back to curating a playlist. And then get tired again. Say, if I had five vinyls and the certainty that I can play those songs only, wouldn't that be easier? More ideal? I resort to reading a book. It's Palm Sunday. It's tiring to have to finish these things on a positive note!
In theory, the house should be clean by now. I have devised the following schedules: rage-clean (1.5 days with almost no sleep), sensible clean (3.5 days with minimal sleep), and deep clean (5–6 days with proper sleep). These come in handy when someone from abroad is coming home. Almost 4 weeks in this lockdown and yes, yep, yah! In theory, the house should be freakishly clean by now. Thing is, it's not! Nope, not even close. There's basic sanitation, sure. But we're coming out of this lockdown the same way we went in. Yup uh-huh.
The Andok's employee talked to me as if I were a foreigner. I often get variations of "Ay akala ko Chinese ka ma'am". At the supermarket, observe—some cashiers and baggers treat foreigners differently, as if they're dignitaries, royalties, celebrities. It's as if they fold into themselves in submission to whatever the foreigner demands. Once they attend to a Filipino their demeanor changes. It's fascinating. Last night I had a dream I was at the end of my street, staring at the moon, which was framed by two large houses. Yellow, huge, near. Will this end? Two more weeks. Okay.
Day #25! Heat outside wasn't too harsh today. There was wind! Didn't even need the umbrella half the time. Overall a good walk. However, all this still feels like a hit to the shin bone. All 25 days of it. Pain's not getting worse but it's also not subsiding. Well, that's the drama queen version of it. Truth is, there's a lot I'm grateful for. All my tone-deaf, privileged, pretentious thoughts are made up of gratitude. I miss having someone to parse through the semantics of everything. Who are you self-isolating with? Hope it's with someone nice. Bye.
Radiohead spurs my propensity for hyperbole. Their Saitama concert is playing in the background. When I want to punish myself I try to think of my favorite Radiohead song, which, if you are a fan you'll know is something torturous. There it is again. Hyperbole. Most days I decide on "Codex", other days it's "Last Flowers". Sometimes "Jigsaw..." or "Bodysnatchers". "Fake Plastic Trees" maybe or "Let Down". Maybe "Maquiladora". Anyway. Codex. It's Codex. For today. *laugh track* Feels like I'm in a sitcom. It's reached that point. The only person laughing is me of course. It's Day #26. "Reckoner" mayhap.
Harry Styles said something about checking in on your friends, especially the ones who are going through this alone. He adds, this is also the time you quite learn who really matters—who checks in on you, who you want to check on, who you think you should check on but for some reason don't. And...yeah, that's my thought for today. How about you? Who've you been constantly checking in on? Feels nice, yes? To have someone. People. Spent most of the day watching Radiohead footage on YT. Will spend the rest of the day doing exactly that, too.
Just finished Tales from the Loop on Amazon Prime Video. I liked it! The lighting especially. I'd like to replace all our bulbs with incandescent light now, so that when I see the house from the outside there will be a soft yellow glow, like it has secrets and tender memories all the time. "Must be nice, coming home with the lights on, because you know there are people waiting for you," Gaddis said something like this ("Parallel" episode) and yeah, that's the thought for today. Modern Family has just ended. "Leave the porch light on." This, too, shall pass.
Years from now we'll look back at the first quarter of 2020 and regard it as a whole separate era. Then there's mid-March and the succeeding weeks, which is another separate time line filled with confusion and startling clarity. All the feels, all of it. The first time I realized I've lost track of time was midway into the (original) lockdown duration. I got an automated text from work and got annoyed that they were texting on a weekend. It was a Wednesday. The first time I felt hope was when I saw alcohol bottles on the shelves again.
Yesterday the narra trees at Fernandez Street were showing off. Tiny yellow flowers! I was so happy during my walk. It's going to rain, I thought. Then there will be a flower shower! If it doesn't rain, the shower would be more deliberate and I may be able to catch it tomorrow afternoon, I thought. So "tomorrow" is today and it's raining as I write this. I'm dressed up for my walk but hesitating to step out because I don't like getting my feet wet. But the narra trees, the shower! Might miss it. Hope this rain lets up soon.
Today was a mixture of joy and annoyance. Joy because I once again came across Bangkok 2012 photos of me holding a Good Morning towel in almost every photo. IDK, it's really just so funny to me. Annoyance because of passive-aggressive people taking potshots. This doesn't even concern me directly! Sigh! It was wise to hide away the phone again. Rediscovered new Radiohead tracks that I initially didn't take to. I like it when that happens! When I hum it out of nowhere and wonder, What Song Is This Why Is This In My Brain. It's almost always Radiohead.
Out of the house quite early today. All Day supermarket at Starmall is now requiring a quarantine pass, which our barangay is yet to issue After a Month of This. It's only a matter of time before Rustan's at Shang requires a pass, too. Need to be early tomorrow again and I'm tired haha haha hahaha. Been sleeping in for the most part, IDK what I'm tired of. It's maybe starting to sink in. My friend said it will be gradual. And yah, it is being slow and deliberate and meticulous in occupying every crevice of every day. Mega sigh!
Fiction from hereon: We have stopped fixing the clocks in the house. In the past we would visit each clock to set the time right. They're mischievous, those clocks. Our lives depended on time. The right time. We were told that if we did something at the wrong time the moon will stop working. Just disengage from the sky and fall on Earth. We were doing our part, see. Our lives revolved around making sure the time is right. There was one clock that always said it right. But one day that stopped, too. The moon's still up. We're okay.
It's invisible. No one's sure what it brings and for how long. Many people wish for it. Some say you can catch it while walking to work, at the beach, or at home. Anywhere, really. Some say you have to hold your hands open. That's where it "enters". Maybe the same way we hold up our hands at a concert, as if we're waiting for a blessing. However, some are shy and hesitant to hold up their hands in public. In time though, quite a lot have been doing it. So it became normal. They are hopeful, waving, smiling, content.
It's easier for me to let go now. I've fashioned an imaginary switch in my brain. It's always on, FYI. But I know better now and turn it off when intrusion strikes. All unwelcome thought is intrusion. Well what is a thought that's welcome anyway? If you have to think about it is it a good thing? A difficult question for someone trained to ignore the good and focus on the bad. "Have to" being the key words, I've now decided that it's easier to believe I don't "have to". The world will keep turning. It's okay. It can leave.
My brother has asked me to stop badgering him, stop treating him like a child. Stop. Just stop. We made a deal that I can "badger" if I'm being inconvenienced. Fair enough, right? If he does something that's affecting me directly, it's only fair that I "badger". He agreed. There will be days I can bite my tongue and ignore him completely, even when I'm inconvenienced. But today I lasted only 3 hours, came downstairs and rapid-fired 10+ chore-related questions in an effort to make him feel guilty. IDK. There's something in me that craves destruction, ruin, chaos.
This is getting ridiculous. They will have you believe that online "contact" is preferable, safer, more convenient. People are beginning to throw stuff at each other instead of properly handing them because "It's okay—it's not being mean, The Virus, you know? It's forgivable!" FUCK IS THAT? Someone is "dancing" with someone via a widescreen TV. Someone decided against a long-awaited hug. Surely there's a more tender way to navigate this. SURE!!! IT'S FOR THE GREATER GOOD!!! SITUATION WARRANTS IT! ETC.!!! But it's getting out of hand. There are still personal, warm, sensible, immediate ways to deal with this.
In this country, the government encourages dissolution of the self. An absolute turning away from the self. "Encourages" is the wrong word, mayhap. "Orders", this is it. It's a concept, sure. Not following government orders is hard to prove. No one can know what's in another person's mind. It's an elliptical rule that goes back and goes back to: Who can be sure? The government is working on it. People should live for other people—that is their purpose. But isn't that somehow selfish, too? We go back to the same question: Who can be sure? Is anybody ever sure?
We think nothing of using phones at the table. Your daughter asked you a question. You heard it, but continued scrolling. Thinking, she's just there, I can answer in a few seconds, I just have to finish reading this Facebook post first. Maybe another. Then you answer, but because you took your time you've now misremembered the question and have given an improper, incomplete, disrespectful answer. You don't see the disappointment and confusion in your daughter's face because you're on the phone again. Scrolling. Scrolling. Scrolling. You don't notice her standing up. Walking. Stopping. Hesitating. Deciding. Walking. Leaving. Leaving. Leaving.
In the dream there are 2 video clips that were replaying as if on their own. In the first clip is a long shot of a meadow, you can see bright spots where the flowers are. As it pans to the right, a boy's face—grinning, up close. In the second clip is a nearer shot of the same meadow, the flowers' details more visible. Bluebells here, some cosmos there. It's like an old movie, punctuated with splices. White noise, blur, pastel. Whenever the boy's face comes into frame she lets out a sound, a sort of sigh. She wakes.
She has a lot of regret. As of last count, they totaled 81. But regret can be a good thing, her father told her years ago. It directs and informs your next action. So this collection of 81 regrets, this will help her in the future. Just not for now. It's okay. The past 10 years up to the present is like one long moment she doesn't want to leave. This is a nice moment. Warm, cozy, kind. So she saves her regrets for a rainy day. There are many staircases in her house. Someday she'll know where they lead.
Stick to a routine, they say. Nowadays my routine is timing my movements according to my housemates' respective routines. It's to avoid friction. If we're in the same room for too long we start to bristle and bare our fangs. We need distance. We still like each other, I guess. Or maybe we're only pretending. These times are tricky. There's a lot I'm unsure of now. My routine is convincing myself this is okay—keeping to myself. Hiding. I used to know this song so well, but lately it seems we're already halfway through and I still don't recognize it.
It's 5:41 p.m. and sunset's early. Her face looks like it's on fire, but peaceful. He finds these small moments where he can just stare at her and not have to be someone or say the right thing. He wonders what she's thinking and wishes he can comfort her, whether if it's a happy or sad thought. Well, he's learned by now that happy memories hurt her more. "The violence of memories," she said, "takes us by surprise even if we already remember them. Isn't that terrible?" But see, for some of us, "terrible" can also mean beautiful.
(cont...) He hesitated to ask her then, what she meant by that. The moment just kept on passing that now it seems like a useless question. Another word—"awful"—can also mean something positive, see. So he's confused sometimes, if she needs him or not. "I can be strong and still need you!" she said years ago. He wants these days with her to pile on and fold into each other until they become indestructible. He knows this is wishful thinking. "What are you thinking," at last he asks her. She smiles, "This awful day, I wish it never ended."
(cont...) He's sure that was a positive remark. "What's special about today?" She answers: "Just, it had a good start. Coffee was good, eggs were good, and you were humming that song." He forgets now what that song is. He's afraid to ask because it will sully this moment. Or won't it? As if on cue she says: "That one by Beach House." And he remembers. If life with someone is often on edge, fragile, and gravely unpredictable, is it a sign one should leave it? He mourns the most painful event in someone's life now reduced to a statistic.
(cont...) "Like tears in rain", she announces to the cat, "where did we hear that?" "Blade Runner", he answers. She grows quiet again, fiddling on her favorite blanket. Yellow, worn, large. He looks forward to these daily dusk dates. Just the two of them (and the cat) on the back porch, watching the sun set. No other houses nearby. An expanse for them only. He always wishes for this time together to stretch on because he has her almost-full attention on this porch. She looks into his eyes af if she really sees him. Here, they're still in love.
(cont...) In this wide open space where they live, the world has become small. He used to see her as his everything, but feelings change. He once called her his safety net, but the feeling of danger has been resurfacing. Danger of losing himself, danger of falling hard. Tomorrow he will leave her not for the first time. He senses that she already knows, which explains why she cooked his favorite dish. The day has now officially ended. Maybe she was right. Maybe good days should not end. Maybe we can find a way to stay in them—happy, unafraid.
The Tip Jar