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Dec 31: I'm sitting on my bed, trying to get past a recent disappointment, struggling to arrive at forgiveness—of myself mostly. Seems like a lot of my bad days lately had been brought upon by my lofty expectations that I can be the bigger person. Tomorrow is a new year, and it's going to be the same old. This is being optimistic, mind you. Hoping for something new is akin to attracting devastation. That's an exaggeration. To each his own. It's raining softly outside, here inside my room the air is pregnant with unsayable wishes. I'm careful, I'm wary.
Dec 30: A friend introduced lo-fi music to me during a workday lull. I saw him smiling at his computer screen that has numbers on it, and I just had to ask what he was smiling at. He motioned for me to come near and sit, then made me wear his headphones. Held up his hand as if asking for a high five, meaning to stay still for 5 minutes. So I did. The song that was on was a duet, gritty guitar plucking, and what sounded like rainfall. I ended up listening for 3 more songs while doodling.
Dec 29. The TV is alienating, no? The aforementioned work guy blurted out during lunch. Well, he explained that all this staying at home and haven't been out in ages information is strange. Even social media is riddled with it. With what? Newness! All this newness! He exclaimed, and I like how I knew he wasn't angry at me. I like this comfort we have with each other. See, we didn't really have a break, a lot of people didn't! Many of us still had to go about our pre-Covid days. We had what, a week's worth of reprieve?
Dec 28: A work colleague has taken to announcing his opinions on a daily basis now. He doesn't care that no one really listens, he's just thankful no one interrupts him. The year is ending, he begins his rant today. A few minutes later he's on his closing remarks. Surprisingly positive today, I must say. The fog is heavy outside, he said. This old woman was having trouble crossing the street. A sulky-looking teenager took her hand and helped her along. Now that was nice, wasn't it. What's it gotta do with the year ending? Well, that there's hope.
Dec 27: Bob the Fog is missing in action. Today by the lake I sat at my spot and waited for Bob to roll in, someone to be sad with. Bob didn't show. It was cold, my 2 jackets were nowhere near enough. Kids at the nearby playground served as distraction from my worries and reminded me of my younger brother. When he was alive we would play hide and seek every time we saw each other, one round each, without fail. Even when we were adults. We always found a new hiding place, and we always found each other.
Dec 26: It's one of those days. Pffft. Who am I kidding. It's that post-Christmas depressive episode that makes everything seem white and blurry and unwieldy. I'm in my bed, and it's both the best and worst place I can think of. Glad that's over, I say to myself again and again. But am I really glad. This had been hard in the past years, and this year was actually the easiest it had been to be honest. Yet why is it that this relief is bringing me immense sadness, still? I stare at the ceiling, wish for answers.
Dec 25: I imagine myself in a cabin on a snowy mountain. My husband is outside, checking the mailbox, waiting for word from his parents. Our Christmas tree is sparse, under it are wooden mushrooms that my cousin gave me for my birthday last year, because she knew I liked anything to do with elves and dwarves and fairies and whimsy. Our cabin is simple, brown, warm. I look around at how this house had kept us safe throughout this strange year, and my eyes tear up with the gratefulness I feel so greatly. My husband comes in, I'm happy.
Dec 24: There's a house in my memory, a bungalow with large rooms, a quaint bathroom, and a Christmas tree all-year round standing on a platform by the bathroom door. The fairy lights do not twinkle, and each time you go to the bathroom you catch a whiff of tinsel and, strangely, powder and rose. I've associated these smells with Christmas since I was around 7 years old. This house is gone now, and in its place is a soulless building with people I hardly recognize. We still see each other regularly, but in my childhood they seemed warmer.
Dec 23: My neighbor bakes brownies every weekend. He knocks at precisely 10 a.m. on Saturdays and hands me 2 containers. We go through the motion of me insisting to pay and him sternly telling me that there's no need. He will just tell me one of these days if he needs help with anything, and I would have no choice but to help him. I know he's partly joking, but I take him seriously. These brownies are too good to pass up. I bring him light snacks almost daily, we watch Brooklyn 99 on Wednesdays. I like him.
Dec 22: Why do we wish death upon our enemies, when it's the best thing that can happen to anyone, if you really stop and think about it. Right? My mother avoids my phone calls lately. I'm in that weird phase of throwing out these questions and expecting her to engage. She knows I expect so, because I explicitly told her. She doesn't want these conversations. What she wants is gossip and light-hearted reminiscences about my father, whom she left when her children were toddlers. See, I don't like conversations about people I don't know. This is our dilemma.
Dec 21: They say Baguio is not what it used to be. Well, what place or person or anything is what it used to be? An old guy at my favorite diner sits beside me at the bar and tells me the same exact sentence: Baguio is not what it used to be. I'm in the mood to engage, so I ask, how do you mean? He says: "It used to be haughty, distant. These days it's actually comforting. Don't you think? Like an old friend." Wow. That was a nice surprise, wasn't it. I smile into my milk shake.
Dec 20: At the market I head for the ube jam stall and ask for new stock. The lady hands me a still-warm bottle and advises me to keep the lid loose. It's been months since I sat down and wolfed this down in front of a muted TV. This ritual is reserved for bad days, but not so bad that I can't get up and buy food. I'm thankful this is is a bad day where I can still decide and actually act on that decision. It crept up today, this sadness. I'm trying to drive it away.
Dec 19: "Please limit non-essential contact." There are signs all over the city encouraging distance and reminding us to wear a mask. Wash your hands, disinfect your surroundings, take care of each other. I walk up and down Session Road, past Pizza Volante, past Laperal Building, past Porta Vaga Mall, past Tea House, and then another round and another until I lose count of my trips. The Cathedral is there but no one is praying. Used to be, there's a smattering of people at any given day. There's an air of apathy, resignation, tiredness, misplaced trust, so much waiting.
Dec 18: Today I walk to the Botanical Garden to sit by the Golden Gate Bridge replica. The park is unkempt, familiar, comforting. It's quiet. Slanting, shimmering gold light pillars emerge from the nearby pond's surface, reaching an invisible sky. Birdcalls sound like an after-rain special. They're happy and expectant. I wonder what news they learned today. At work what we wonder about is when we can take a real break. Maybe work from home at least? This year's been tiring in a way that our tiredness last March can still be felt this month. Quite strange. Quite normal.
Dec 17: At Mines View Park there's a cave near the entrance shops that no one pays attention to anymore. In the 80s it was the main attraction. Inside are stalagmites and stalactites, spotlighted and seeming dignified. The cave entrance has a sign that warns of Danger and Darkness. "Our eyes adjust to darkness", says one vandal. "Yes but do we adjust to danger?" says another one. We do adjust to danger, right? I think about this every time I pass by the cave. Why ask a question that has an obvious answer? Why keep something open if it's dangerous?
Dec 16: At Luneta Hill there's an elusive eucalyptus tree. Pale green, snowy round leaves perfect for a Christmas wreath. My best friend used to bring me there at the onset of Ber months. He knows where the spot is, when I go alone I can never find it. Once we have our eucalyptus haul, we head to the Pine Trees of the World Park and scan the grounds for pine cones. Once that's done we head to Burnham Park near the bikes for cheap poinsettia. We choose the still-green ones. We head home, pot of coffee. Good night.
Dec 15: Working in this city feels fake sometimes. I mean, I get tired but not city-tired? Well, obviously. My clothes don't smell at the end of the day, commute is breezy (most days!), the weather on my walks home is perfect 70% of the time. Here is the only place I can say "perfect" and know it to be true. At the market I stop for shawarma (best garlic sauce I've had) and coffee grounds (stash always has to be full). I get home and turn on the radio. The DJ is talking about tourists. It's December alright.
Dec 14: My phone is glitching. Might be the cold (6 degrees). I don't know. I turn on the TV (muted) and the laptop (for music). When my phone is working I don't need other devices, I hope my phone stops acting up. It's 2 a.m. and I can't sleep, I need distraction, movement, sound. Food in fridge is now 2 months old, maybe? I haven't been to the supermarket in weeks. The lemon cake is hard now, but still good, I think. I'm not even hungry, I just need to have something going on. The city's unkind tonight.
Dec 13: On the outskirts of Baguio it's a veritable twilight zone. Climate abruptly changes and the general color shifts to uncomfortable yellow against the city's crisp green. In La Trinidad the terrain gently morphs into flat but still manages to shock you a few minutes in. It's like you were someone else entirely, which you were and weren't. The boundary is unclear but the realization is precise. You long to go back even if you've only been out of the city for a short time. Strange, because just before that you were raring to go somewhere else. Strange, that.
Dec 12: They're using the term "Before-Times" now and it's half-annoying, half-amusing. Before what? I'm being difficult. I know I know I know I know. Pre-Covid, a sepia-toned memory we are not sure even existed, is a thing of the past. Sure yeah. I can't say we're even certain that this Present-Time is real. Memory-wise, human beings have the tendency to forget (of course). They remember half-truths instead. They embellish. And it's either too-bad or too-good. We can't remember something for what it is—mundane, pedestrian, ordinary. All the synonyms.
Dec 11: At work my focus is deteriorating. I know this because I once read a supposedly-already-edited-and-polished feature story wherein I found more than 10 misspells and a handful of SVA disagreements, not to mention loads of run-on sentences. It was funny when I saw my name at the bottom: I edited this? I submitted this as a final copy? And now it's back with client feedback and I'm chuckling because more than ever I'm now sure I'm ready to move on to another field. I still care to do my job properly. But. Shrug.
Dec 10: I visit UP now and again. Our part of the woods is quiet and never-changing. "Our" meaning my good friends from the mountains. They showed themselves for the first time during sophomore year. The group composition varies. Most times it's a tall fairy and a pixie, sometimes it's an Ent-like being with an elf perched on it. They don't talk, they merely sit with me. Throughout college I met with them once or twice a month and though there are no words exchanged, I always leave feeling-better. Braver. Happier. They're still there, I visit sometimes.
Dec 9: I woke up to hail. Then, after what may have been 2 hours, to the sound of rain. Both times it felt like a dream. A few seconds of wakefulness informing me of the current situation outside. Baguio houses can withstand heavy hail. They've adjusted construction in the early 70s when it became apparent this would be a normal occurrence. On heavy hail days we are to stay home. These usually last for a week at most, 3 times a year. There are tolerable hail days. We're used to being gently pelted with ice. I don't know why.
Dec 8: I visit the senior center today. My grandma is there. My grandpa, too. Thing is, they both have Alzheimer's disease, so you can imagine how it is. Some days I can get both of them to sit with me and we can have a common topic of conversation: the TV, the weather, what they ate for breakfast, how they feel, the nurses. Sometimes my grandma has this face where she looks about to cry, it comes suddenly, mostly when that milk commercial is on. "I wish my husband was here," she'd say. I hold her hand. Kiss it.
Dec 7: On Mabini Street there's a shop that sells old records and cassette tapes. The shop is on the second floor, it's easy to miss if it's your first time going there. It has a small signage at street level, a dark brown slab of wood, 12 in x 4 in, hung by the door jamb. Carved on it (blackened) is the shop's name, Parallax. One would think it has to do with cameras, so one would be curious and check it out. Someone will guide them to the second floor, then that someone will disappear without a trace.
Dec 6: My friend's arrogance has reached the point where she claimed that her imagined and real illnesses entitle her to special treatment. So yeah I severed that tie. If anyone can give just one justification for anyone to act like a dick, I'd be glad to listen and debate. Okay, there are many justifications, I was only exaggerating, masking my sadness at yet another lost friendship. Been living here around 10 years and all my former friends are now strangers. Friends in Manila and other areas do not count, my life is not in those places anymore. Ties severed.
Dec 5: Today I spend hours at the bus station, people-watching. I hate the smell here, it's all sorts of everyplace and everywhen culminating in the smell of dried-up puke and cheap junk food. I tend to be snooty when talking about something I love. Today there's a couple who have been sitting in front of the Manila-bound buses for hours now. They're alternately holding hands, hugging, looking ahead, leaning their head on each other's shoulder, crying. I regret I chose to watch this couple today. But I can't look away from their hesitation to be apart.
Dec 4: My coworker loves the hot spring at the edge of town. Fiona talks about the hot spring everyday, no kidding. We used to surmise there was someone there she was stalking (bad thinking, yeah) because nobody can love a body of water that much for sure. But over the years we've come to understand her passion for the hot spring. On days when she couldn't go, she's understandably in a bad mood. There was a month when our lunch topics included her and our fascination with how one can love one single thing that much their entire life.
Dec 3: Dear Dad, I'm writing to apologize for not being in touch all these years. It's unclear to me why I'm apologizing now. Not sure if this is still your address. If not, I hope the house went to Aunt Dana. She loved our house. Not also sure why I'm still writing when you may not even receive this at all. I guess that makes it easier to say words, huh? Remember when you attended a school function with me and I couldn't see the stage so you lifted me onto your shoulders? That's my favorite memory of us.
Dec 2: I was born in Baguio, grew up in Manila, came back to Baguio in my 20s to be nearer my grandparents. Or maybe it was to be far from my parents. Still can't decide. I wanted to be alone, I'm sure. These days, kindness is rare. At the hospital about 79% of people were high-strung. It was bad vibes there. I badly needed a coffee, but the machine kept rejecting my bill. A nurse approached me and offered to help, I agreed, and minutes later we were having coffee. Maybe kindness is more common nowadays. Just maybe.
Dec 1: It's a new month. Another imaginary chance to start over. And this time I'm making the most of it. My neighbor will be knocking any moment now, and I will do my best to accept his kindness (and brownies). We used to ignore each other because we didn't know how to make the first step. Now we're here. Life isn't black and white. It's a grey expanse, littered with non-absolutes and ever-changing feelings. I take advantage of good days, do my best to be grateful and kind, appreciate the simple things. Life is often okay. Thanks.
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