A Bedtime Story

My parent’s warning: Never wear your crown because it shines too bright.
If you desire to be rescued by princes, you have to be a pure-hearted girl
Who sings good songs and asks safe questions.
Leaving her empire behind, she rides on his steed
Swallowing the rest of her senses behind her coy smile
(She can puke it out later, when they live happily ever after).

I’m sorry, mother.
I’ve tried my best to be nice. I’ve been a good little girl,
But what do I get with being cute? A man’s knee pressed to my leg.
Uninvited.
His thighs a spread canopy at the bottom of the dinner table,
Asserting the space that he thinks is his.
Pushing me at the edges.
For supper, he serves morsels of moral convictions with his mouth,
And leaning to me closer, he breathes,
“You should come with me to church.”

I am already tired of the kisses people steal in the dark
When their mouths speak of chastity in the morning.
“No, I never intend to have sex with you,”
But his fingers spider its way at the hem of my skirt.
We’ve never been chaste
Yet we show up at masses every Sunday,
Waiting for the rites to end
For the lights to turn off again
So that we can attend to what’s already burning.

Lover, you should already know that
my tongue is a fire that cannot be quenched
by any distilled sparkling water you drink everyday.
It’s too late now. You cannot rescue me.                                                                                         It demands. It hungers.
And it speaks of your undoing. Saying,
“White Knight, here’s what I want: I want to see you fully at your unmasking.”
Turn on the lights. I am not blinded nor scared by your sharp edges,
Your jagged pieces, your naked self that is stripped of armor and defenses.
I am not anymore a little girl who faints at the sight of blood.
I have been torched through many stakes.
My heart, already a live coal which no man can put out.

If you really want me, you have to take part in the burning.
Else, you remain in the shadows and become
the very monster you fear under your bed.

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Narcissus

Narcissus

Maybe we have different truths. Maybe your truth is different from mine, but that doesn’t make any of us less of what we are.

I have loved you in the way that I have loved. And in my mind, I know you did the same. We have loved each other in the ways we know how- that’s a truth I believe in.

but love– ah, what a big word it is. We’ve waded our way into it, still never knowing how slippery or deep it could be. Our hands are frantic in search for the other as we try to concretize its vagueness.

I see a clear image of you at the other side of the mirror, but our skins never touch- that’s a truth I have accepted.

I envy the weeds that wrap themselves around your feet. They cling onto you, like a blanket that keeps you warm at night. Meanwhile, the same thing continues to grow at my side of the riverbank. I feel it scratching my skin, slowly twining its life around my existence. Maybe this is the truth we should attend to.

You close your eyes now- and I hear your heart growing faint. I should do the same. In time, we’ll become something more real. But still in different realities.

When I Was 18: Double Coating

I’m your plain white wallpaper covering

Your gray slab of a wall. Is it not enough

For me to wrap you in my protective

Embrace that you decide to splash me

With pints of hot pink? No, I’d rather not

Complain about your insensitivities. I should

Know better. A plain white wallpaper like me

Who has no other color or texture still deserves to be

Treated the same. I wish that

The concrete walls aren’t as cold and as unfriendly.

Compared with you who tells me that

I am suited here.

When I Was 18: Lot’s Wife

I just discovered an old notebook containing some of the poems that I’ve written when I was eighteen (and I’ll be posting some of them here). Of course, they sound crude…but these also make me realize a lot of things of who I was before. Four years seem so short but the way I see the world right now is so different from my perspective when I was only beginning “adulthood.” It’s amusing but at the same time sad to realize that one can’t really stay the same (no matter how hard one tries to do so).

I’m not also sure if it’s Kawabata who said that though time flows the same way in all human beings, the latter flows through time in different ways. I guess I’m a sort of a person who always finds herself going back in an earlier time. I still don’t fully understand why I’m like this, but maybe one reasonable explanation is that retrospection somehow offers a consolation: Though the past expires, it still leaves mementos that makes it possible for the present to exist.

 

LOT’S WIFE

They say I have to leave.

But I cannot go fully

Cannot step forward

Without at least looking back.

 

Pressing my hand to my chest,

I find my heart missing.

Left it under the fine linen beds

Of my sweet home.

 

Maybe the men outside my house

Would find it and share it among themselves.

Or maybe, they’ll bury it

Deep within the city walls.

 

So that I could take part in their burning

So that my soul would still be tied to the city gate

Even if my feet starts running.

And yes, if I can’t bear to leave my heart behind,

 

I deserve to cry salty tears.

What was left unsaid

“The thing is, You didn’t care enough,” you said.
And I bit my lip, keeping–

forcing those memories
to burn

everything in my throat.
You do not know about

the sleepless nights
the desperate phone calls
the hospital receipts
that I had hidden away. Those list of

forgotten things
in exchange that you would remember
me as someone

who loves beyond
all your flaws, neuroses, and complexes.
All I want is to be strong

like a hard wall
That

Absorbs all the impact, and never

Demands

anything in return.
But you and

The whole world

never figured that out.

“I guess you’re right,” I said.
And we dropped the conversation
As if it–

–This

never existed.

Clytie

A/N: I was sorting some old doc files when I chanced upon this. Written last 2013. Crude and sick, yes. But I was devoted.

 

Clytie

If you ask me what beauty is like,

I’d still tell you that it’s the Sun.

Yes,

That god of gold

Whose radiance I’m always blinded at.

Whose presence blurs everything

Into nothingness…

I could only see, only feel, only think

Of HIM-

Always passing my way

But never stopping, never even coming

To me.

 

I know that bastard does that on purpose.

Revenge, he claims, is best served cold.

Yet his anger burns at my betrayal.

He’ll probably never forgive me,

Will never even cast again

A caring glance nor longing for my arms.

Even so, I am to atone by remaining here- transfixed

At his magnificence.

Yielding at his will.

Embracing his rage for sustenance.

Maybe for life itself.

 

Other nymphs tell me that I am getting mad

It’s getting unhealthy- my skin starts to be singed.

It’s best to run first and hide away, they say.

Any more prolonged exposure

Will lead to my eventual burn.

To my ruin.

 

But they don’t understand that

He has ruined me already-

What is burning compared to dying?

I will wilt without the Sun

And I will surely shrivel

If he forgets, if he forgives

If he grows cold.

 

He has already caused me to thrive

In the fields of eternal fire.

Oktubre 26: Para kay J.

A/N: Isinulat ko ang sanaysay na ito bilang isang requirement sa isang elective noong nasa kolehiyo pa ako. Sa totoo lang, di ko alam kung gaano katagal ba talaga ako nahumaling kay X (X MARKs the spot). Kung sisimulan ang pagbilang mula sa petsa na nangyari ito hanggang sa araw na napagtanto kong wala na talaga akong feelings, siguro mga apat na taon. Kung isasama pati yung kabaliwan ko noong hayskul, mga anim na taon siguro. Medyo malaki ang ginampanang role ni X sa buhay ko- kahit di naman talaga niya alam at di siya directly involved. Kung di dahil sa kanya, di ko siguro matutunan na alagaan ang sarili ko o di kaya, mag-ayos paminsan minsan. Siguro gragraduate ako ng cum laude kung di ako parating nagcucutting para lang tumambay sa lugawan sa PUP (di, joke lang yung cum laude). Pero walang biro, kay X ko natutunan kung ano nga ba ang pakiramdam na mawalan ng self-confidence AT kung paano hanapin at buuin ito muli. Walang Hannah Riesa kung wala si X (dahil ewan ko ba pero siya lang yung tumatawag sa akin ng Hannah Riesa), at di siguro mababaliw ang mga kaibigan ko sa pagdidissect sa MPD ko. All in all, nandito ang sanaysay na ito ngayon bilang isang pag-alala sa isang “pag-ibig”/obsesyon/crush/kunganopaman na tumambay sa puso ko ng napakatagal. Syempre ngayon, confident na ako na wala na talaga akong nararamdaman para sa kanya, pero di parin maaalis na malaki ang ginampanan niya sa paghubog kung sino ba ako ngayon.

  —

Ngayon lang ulit ako nakadaan sa Brookside- isang subdivision sa may bandang Tikling. Wala pa ring nagbabago: Nakakatakot pa rin ang tawiran papunta roon at nakakasilaw pa rin ang neon signages ng samu’t-saring pangalang nagsulputan sa highway. Katulad na katulad pa rin ito sa lugar na pinuntahan ko dalawang taon na ang nakakalipas.

Di ko naman kasi sinasadyang madaan doon. Nagkataon lang na nakatulog ako sa biyahe at lumagpas ako sa dapat kong babaan- ang Junction. Mula Junction, dapat sasakay na lang ako ng jeep na lilikong kanan patungo sa aming subdivision. Mas praktikal kasi yung ganoong routa. Hindi lang sa mas mura ang pamasahe, mas banayad din ang takbo ng mga sasakyang lumiliko pakanan ng Junction. Kapag dinire-diretso na kasi ang daan patungong Tikling, bumibilis ang takbo ng mga sasakyan- tila ba nakikipag-unahan patungong finish line. Ayoko ng ganoon. Kung gaano kasi kabilis ang takbo ng sasakyan ay ganoon din kaalanganin ang paraan ng pagbababa sa akin.

Bukod doon, di ko talaga trip yung mga neon signages na nakabalandra sa highway. Masyadong mainit sa mata- nakakabulag na kung minsan. Lalo na kapag madilim na ang daan, litaw na litaw yung mga nagtitingkarang pangalan ng mga politiko at korporasyong puro lang naman pangako. Tila ba mga kumukutitap na paalala sa mga pagkakamaling nagawa noong nakaraang eleksyon.

Ganoon na ganoon pa rin talaga ang Brookside katulad ng gabing pinagpasyahan kong dumirediretso sa Tikling dalawang taon na ang nakakalipas. Dapat kasi, mula sa Junction, lumiko nalang sana ulit ako ng pakanan, papunta sa bahay ng kaibigan ko para maki-overnight. Sa halip, sumakay ako ng jeep na padiretso, patungong Brookside. Patungo sa overnight ng dati kong mga kaklase na sa totoo lang, ay wala naman talaga akong pakialam.

Isa lang naman ang layunin ko noon: Ang makita si X. Miss ko na kasi siya. Hayskul palang, importante na talaga siya sa akin. Nagsimula kami bilang mortal na magkaaway. Tipong susulatan niya ng pentel pen yung mga uniporme ko tapos hahabulin ko siya hawak-hawak yung sapatos ko bilang pamalo. Medyo nasanay ako sa set-up naming ganoon hanggang sa magka-girlfriend sya. Kinalaunan noong grumadweyt na kami (at nalaman ko nang break na sila), naging magka-chatmates naman kami sa fb. Pero wala nang asaran. Kinabog talaga ako sa ganoong pagbabago. Parang hindi siya. Pero nagustuhan ko. Sasabihin ko na sana na nagugustuhan ko na yung nangyayari sa amin kaso nga lang, bigla nalang tumigil ang chat. Biglang naging wala. Naging sabaw. Wala na tuloy akong nasabi at di ko na tuloy alam kung ano na ang nangyari sa kanya. Para siyang isang telenovela na matagal ko nang sinubaybayan tapos bigla nalang naglaho sa primetime.

Kaya, noong narinig ko na magkakaroon daw ng hayskul reunion ang klase namin, ay talaga namang pinaghandaan ko ito. Sumakto pa na magkakaroon ng overnight sa bahay ng isa kong malapit na kaibigan kaya perpekto talaga ang alibi ko noong gabing iyon.

Ang totoo niyan, wala naman talagang kasiguraduhan kung darating si X sa reunion. Nagbakasakali lang naman ako. Sumugal kung may mapapala ba ako sa gabing iyon o pinahamak ko lang ang sarili ko sa nanay ko. Nagkataon lang talaga na tsumempo: Dumating siya bandang mag-aalas nuwebe na ng gabi. Naka-itim na T-shirt at cargo shorts na di naman bagay sa kanya. Syempre, kunyare parang wala lang sa akin.

“So…kamusta ka na?” Tanong ko.
“Stressed.” sabi niya
“San ka na nag-aaral ngayon?” Kunyare, wala parin akong alam. O di kaya’y paki-alam.
“PUP- Computer Engineering.”
“Ah…” Tatanungin ko sana kung nagkikita pa sila ng recent-crush-niya-turned-out-to-be-closefriend-ko-pala pero inunahan na niya ako ng sagot,
“Di ko na nakikita si Pau eh.”
“Ah.”

Iyon lang siguro yung pinakamahabang pag-uusap namin noong gabing iyon. Hindi ko rin alam kung bakit ganoon ang nangyare. Ang plano ko naman dapat talaga ay gigisahin ko siya ng mga tanong: Bakit ngayon ka lang ulit nagpakita? Bakit di ka na nagparamdam kung parati naman tayong nagkakaabot na mag-online? Bakit bigla-bigla ka nalang nawala at di namansin? Pero ang lahat ng iyon ay nilunod ko nalang sa kakainom ng tubig. Wala na siguro akong magagawa sa pagkamahiyain ko. At di ko rin siguro kakayanin na mapahiya sa harap ng dati kong mga kaklase. Total ganoon, naisip ko na rin na wala na palang kwentang manatili sa reunion kaya sinabi ko na na aalis na ako.

“Teka, sabay na ako.” Sabi niya. “Para naman may bodyguard akong chicks.”

Ala-una na ng umaga. Naglalakad kami sa kahabaan ng Brookside. Tanaw at ramdam sa highway ang tulin at dagundong ng mga trailer truck. Kumukutikutitap ang hugis-pusong neon sign ni Nini Ynares. Napatigil ako.

“Saan ka na ngayon?” Tanong niya.

Naisip kong sumakay nalang ng jeep pabalik sa Junction. Tatawid, tapos sasakay ulit ng isang jeep na lilikong pakanan patungo sa aming subdivision. Di na baleng mag-isa. Mas gugustuhin ko pa iyon kesa sa tumawid sa highway na wala namang kasiguraduhan kung makakalagpas ka ng buhay…

“Tatawid ako.” Yun ang lumabas sa aking bibig. Sabay naming binagtas ang mapanganib na highway.

Dalawang taon na ang nakalipas bago ulit akong napadaan sa Brookside. Mag-isa. Hanggang ngayon, di ko parin alam kung ano talaga ang nagtulak sa akin kung bakit pinili kong tumawid sa nakakatakot na daanan na iyon. Dahil ba ginusto kong patagalin pa ang oras na kasama ko siya? O dahil sinubukan ko lang talaga ang aking sarili kung kaya kong makipagsabayan sa bilis at dagundong ng mga bagay-bagay na di ko naman nakasanayan? Hanggang sa ngayon, mas pinipili ko nalang na bumaba sa Junction at sumakay ng jeep na liliko pakanan. Pero sa aksidenteng pagkakataong iyon na napadaan ako sa Brookside, di ko maiwasang tumigil at pagmasdan ang kumukurap-kurap na signage ni Nini Ynares na tila ba naghihingalo- di malaman kung mamamatay na ba ito o magpapatuloy sa pagkukutitap.