REPORT A PROBLEM
My hands are clean all the time, it takes all day to clean my hands. If I touch my memories from yesterday or even take a look at them through a peep hole I will have to wash my hands two, three, four times just to make sure what I touch next will not be contaminated. In a few days, it will be month No. 6 of this newness, it should be old by now—or familiar—but it keeps on being new, everyday. What arrogance is this? To believe we are safe inside our homes? What arrogance is this?
Milk before bed (8 p.m.), Fissan in the summer, hopscotch in the afternoon. When I was younger, the world was patient and more coherent, like it had all the time and knew for sure what it wanted. Nowadays there's a constant buzz of listlessness and uncertainty, like we have always been meant to live like this: Lethargic yet alert, paranoid. Who wakes up happy, content, and peaceful? What's your secret? It's Groundhog Day everyday, we are trapped and hopeless. The exit is in plain sight. Yet we choose to live in fear and false comfort. Waiting for something unknown.
Problems are like stopovers. One mishap today, minor or major, is like that Sison stopover on the way to Baguio. You're only ever there for half an hour at most. You're sure of this. And so no matter how dark it gets, you look forward to when the bus pulls away and into the highway again. You look to your side and wait until the stopover shops disappear from your sight. You crane your neck and look behind, as the stopover becomes smaller and smaller and you get farther and farther away from it, until it's gone. Bye for now.
If I'm quiet more maybe I will feel better. In the past 6 months I've just been blathering nonstop in all possible ways. Not really sure why I'm using the past 6 months as some sort of yardstick to measure something. What is there to measure, really. This is it, this is life, this is what we have now. Is that dismissive of what's happening to a lot of other people? Do we have to be inclusive 100% of the time? Is asking that question a dick move? I've just been too angry often in the past six effing months.
These messages will keep on coming, even if you turn off your device, these messages will not stop. You have no control over anything and you have control over everything. Always, it would be both. In keeping with the theme of anger... JK, I'd like to leave that town now. Here I am on a bus, pulling away toward the curb, back home where I've never been my whole life. Do you think you're home now? Home is some place else, it's something you don't know you're working toward your whole life. Pshaw, all these cliches. Let me pivot here.
So OK, shifting gears. I'd like to focus on forgiveness. In all its forms. Forgiving one's self most importantly. Also maybe Harry Styles? But that will be a major digression. So, OK, hi! Let's start over. My notes say that for this month I had been planning to write about the "new normal." Whatever that is? A phrase that's been around for ages, thrown around now like it's supposed to comfort us, make us feel okay? Help us navigate this newness? I can feel myself getting hot and bothered again. IDK. OK, maybe being calm is the way to go.
Was talking to Kuya about kindness and how hard it is, that even if we know it's the only right thing, we still find it so hard. Is that how it is always? The right thing to do is the hardest? Most people will say yes, a lot of others will say no, some will continue to watch the spectacle and decide with whoever is the majority. Thing is, the majority is unsure of what to say. So what do we do about that? Kuya chuckled at my statement and said, “Well…” which is the only answer we need, really.
There's a train that doesn't know where to go. It chugs along, memorizing its path, and ends up forgetting anyway. When it starts over at an exact point, it convinces itself that it knows the way. The track is there, it'll lead somewhere. However, the places it passes seem to change everyday, there is so little that's familiar and so much that's too new, too bright, too loud. It keeps moving until it completes another lap, how it determines where to stop and know to start again is a mystery. It's the only thing it knows—where it begins again.
I can feel a sort of lifting, like there's another way to go about the days aside from being angry and irritable. The easiest things to do are often what we shouldn't be doing. That's a generalization. Okay. A change, I need a change. Major. No-going-back level of decision-making. It's hard; it's easy, I should decide which is which. It's hard but it can be done. And some other platitude. Before I sat down for this entry I told myself: Be less angry please. Maybe tomorrow I can write about something positive. Like rain in the afternoon.
Time in this city is tricky. Time anywhere is tricky, really. But in this particular city the sun doesn't set. It changes color, yes, but it doesn't go down. Is the planet rotating? Yes. It's just that the sun is following this particular city for weeks now. Anywhere else is now a cold expanse. Call a scientist and ask them about the science of this. How can something like this sustain life. Should something have exploded or melted by now? Should something have frozen over and cracked by now? Should the planet still be rotating when it knows something's wrong?
If I'm less angry maybe the days will stop coming. Maybe? Or they will keep coming but because I'm less angry, they will at least be bearable. Be less angry. Okay. 96% of the time there's no actual point in what I'm saying on here. I just like the act of typing, seeing wisps of my thoughts on screen, knowing no one will read them or if they do, that they will not revisit after doing so. It's freeing, that. If I say this is futile then this is, but it's not. It gives me some sort of purpose. This.
There's rain every day. I wake up and the ground is wet, then I remember waking up slightly in the middle of sleep for a few seconds to the sound of rain. Turn off the AC or turn on the fan, rearrange the pillows and find a comfortable position, then drift off again, completely forgetting about the distant rumblings and the pitter patter. Upon waking up the memory is lost, but something will bring it back to mind, like something that has always been known, remembered, memorized. It rained today, I will remind myself at night when I wake. Balm.
There are small pockets of time when the world seems perfect, like any sudden movement will cause an imbalance, or something to awaken, and things will go back to being flawed. Sometimes you taunt the universe and make that sudden movement, but it doesn't react and things go on smoothly. Only you didnt know that it was just taking its sweet time. A few moments later you're caught off guard and you're back where you were—a sad, dirty, unwieldy place. It's okay though, because it's familiar. You convince yourself this is better because it is. You had some respite.
However, there are also moments when you realize, No, I can do better. So you do that, begin doing that, rest when you feel tired, press on, and so on. You're still in the middle of that process, right now, believe it or not. After all the starting and stopping you've never really stopped-stopped. You just told yourself you're giving up today and tomorrow, you may not know it, but you're back on the saddle. Galloping, running away, running toward something. You forget now, what, really. Just that you know you must keep moving so that you can breathe.
Because yes, you have to remind yourself to breathe sometimes. You're immobilized by the smallest inconveniences and you lay on bed for days on end. Your back hurts, your neck hurts, this side of your face hurts. You look forward to the dreams, they're colorful, peaceful, breezy. Like you can be happy and not have it taken away from you, like you can be happy and hold on to it, like you can be happy and not feel guilty or protective. Happiness is a decision, they say. But why is it elusive? Why doesn't everyone have it? You know why.
She always has to end on a positive note. Always has to shift gears and be accessible. She can discuss sensitive stuff but always, always has to go back to being harmless. Or sunshiny, anything but negative or controversial or whiny. Maybe it's time to...IDK. Running out of words again. This is a nice succession of hours, writing on here, quiet, dark outside. White noise. Like there's nothing else that needs to be done. Like there's no need to set the alarm for the same time each night. Thank you for consistency, the Internet, people who let me be.
Remember that day at the park? There was fog, mud, and our friends. You did something for the first time and in that moment I knew I will always remember that gesture. It's 18 years later and I still remember how I felt then. Surprised, happy, afraid. Like it was going to end right then and there. It did end, some years later, a protracted end at that. It's another set of years later, today, and these are all just memories. They might as well have never happened. Like wind in another city altogether. Transient, distant, there but not there.
Remember that first night? We were giddy, cold, excited, and tired. There was something that was beginning, we both knew it, didn't we? You headed home and a few more minutes later you texted about an accident. You said you were fine but what I felt then, as I look into it here in my lockbox of memories, is something I don't ever want to feel again. Not because it was ugly or unwelcome, but because it was strong and undeniable. Is. I had no idea then it would stay. How can you love someone and also wish you didn't?
Remember that first fight? You were trying to be nice but I interpreted it as betrayal and condescension. Story of our lives, story of us. Looking back, it was bound to end, like everything. I'm surprised it lasted long as it did. It's funny now, how there was effort from my end to keep it alive even after you pulled the plug, I mean, how was it going to work? It stopped breathing long before you said Stop. It's funny, now. But bring me back to that day, knowing what I know now, and I'm sure it will still sting.
Remember the late night phone calls? When we were starting out they were hilarious, tender, something that brought us joy. When we were ending they were tedious and almost funny in their lameness. It was mostly me though. Lol. I can laugh about it now. I think about you every now and again, more so now in this pandemic. How, you used to be someone I knew so well and didn't know at all. How, right now we are practically strangers. How, now if we are in a room alone together we would struggle to find words. Isn't it funny?
Dear You. It's the early hours as I write this, you're somewhere else maybe already awake, too. Your eyes look cute in the morning, like they have no choice how they will look like—because they don't. They look tired but also raring to be awake. How do we not notice the gradual change from sleepy eyes to awake eyes? Have we taken it for granted? How our loved one's eyes look in the morning? How we're the only ones who can see them? Next time we're in the same city I will not take our mornings for granted again.
Your laughter is still one of my favorite sounds, probably will be for all time. With you I can speak in superlatives because I'm sure they will be true. How am I sure, I just am. You're my favorite person. You just are. You are playful and confident, smart and thoughtful, kind and respectful. You say what's in your mind and you apologize when you know you're wrong. Sometimes it takes a while before you admit it, but always you swallow your pride and agree to move on. When you're older I hope you appreciate your parents, everything they are.
Dear You. It's now three days since we saw each other last. We live in the same vicinity and could very well run into each other at any time of the day. Yetwe manage to "hide" from each other because we don't know what to say, we don't have anything to talk about, we've grown awkward and distant. This is strange because of our history, we used to love each other and show it, too. However uncomfortable or unappreciated we end up being, we kept trying. You kept trying. I can't remember when you stopped exactly, just that you did.
I've stopped, too, for sure. The difference is that I try again on some days, without success or response. So I end up feeling hurt. You've stopped for good, and that should be ideal, because then I know what to expect, or what not to expect for that matter. But then feelings change. Each morning I still have space for you, and that gets trampled on. And that's fine, really. I say this without sarcasm or irony. It's fine. Maybe if I just become more honest and admit that it still hurts, things will be better. Maybe honesty is key.
Dear You. 2009 up north, remember? We were eating fish balls on some sidewalk near SM, and you were so worried about me, Eat, please eat. You said. I ate, so you could stop worrying, so that you'd know it was going to be okay. You're my hero, I cannot remember a bad day now without you in it, in that you were the person who made it better. Back in Manila you took me out for ice cream, just because. You sat down with me and listened. You didn't tell me what to do, you just listened. Thank you.
You are always the first one to reach out. I can go for days without contact, and you'd be messaging me randomly, just a reminder that you're there and that you love me, and whatever I was feeling on that day will turn into affection and joy because I am reminded that I have you. You're in my life. A little bit of sadness, too, for other people, because they don't have a You in theirs. I'm sure they have someone good and dependable and honest and like-you, but sometimes I just wish everybody had a You. Love you.
Dear You. It's hard, for sure, being far and alone. You already know this, but I still cry whenever Auntie mentions that you are the kindest person she's ever known. Because you are, and I get choked up because I have you in my life and yet I take you for granted. You never ask for anything in return, you always think of other people first, you never say a word even if they're doing you wrong. Yes, you are the kindest person, thank you for being in our lives. I wish you find joy, contentment. Most of all, love.
You deserve to be taken care of, to be the first priority, to be loved unconditionally. You have taken care of other people your whole life, still doing it now. You must be tired, having to live this kind of life, but you face it like a champion, like everything's going to be okay someday, you just go on with your life and be grateful for what you have. You've taught us this, be content and appreciative of what you have. All you'll ever need , you already have. Sound simplistic and naive, but true in the grand scheme of things
Dear You. It's been a hard life, yes? For you especially. People haven't exactly been kind to you. Some days I just want to wrap you up and protect you from all the days that will come, keep you safe here, today, and not let anyone near you. It hasn't been a good childhood, it certainly hasn't been a good adolescence, and it's very much Not the adulthood your mother would've wished you'd have. I'm sorry it's gotten this way, life. Your life. You need help and we haven't been there, not really. We're just doing the bare minimum. Yeah?
I can say something perfunctory now and leave it at that. Things will get better, we'll try harder, we'll find a way. But all that doesn't do anything. The only thing that will make a difference is if we actually do something, start something, take the first step. Feels like we're forever stuck in the quicksand, only we've also stopped sinking. We're just there, heads sticking out, waiting for God knows what. Maybe we should start shouting for help, or accepting help that's actually given, or clawing our way out. Onto steady land. Start walking. Pick a place. Go there.
The Tip Jar