Fatty Heart

When my grandfather joked
to all of my relatives
that i do not have the makings
of a dancer
because of my belly rolls,
i felt my body go stiff.
Possibly from comatose.
I could still remember how
his laughter blared to my ears,
muting my world into white noise,
unplugging me from the show girls
-my virtual playmates who pirouette
at the melody of heartache.
i was only seven.

When i was ten, my parents lamented
about my size.
Twice big for my age,
Twice young for aunt’s hand-me-downs.
She’s just large-bonedtita assured my mother,
so i was dressed like large-boned women:
office ladies in slacks and starched blazers,
nevermind if i rip or sweat through the garment.
i was the most behave in Sunday school
for sucking the tummy in,
in fear that a button might pop out,
and i have to bleed my fingers
just to sew it back again.

At twelve, i was asked countless times
what course was i taking in college,
and would i ever be interested
in applying for a car loan?
i would laugh at their faces and tell
that i was just in grade school
before scurrying home to take off
these grownup clothes
that fit my body just right.

At thirteen, a miracle happened:
my mother discovered
the surplus section of the department store.
Here, I bought my first pair of jogging pants
They were quite long, and very much blue
like the sky when swans fly.
It’s stretchable so it would fit you,’ the saleslady piped,
and the material felt velvet on my thighs,
clinging to my skin as I flit from one errand to another.

In my extensive knowledge of cartoons, I finally understood
how fairies shimmy gold dust
in their wake.
But i did not blind anyone.
Not when a number of drunk workers
traced my footsteps home,
calling me ‘juicy’-
a word printed at the rear pocket of my pants.
For a week, i drained myself
in the bathroom,
bleaching my sky blue pants
into the color of crushed cherries.

The subsequent years were lost
in the layers of mass I wrap around myself.
For every man who would follow me at the mall,
or for boys who would attempt
to write on my uniform,
I would swallow my inaudible prayers with a tall glass
of double chocolate milkshake
Thick enough to stifle
the many names i was accused at.
Sweet enough to coat
sensitive regions of my fatty heart.
I could not feel anything
I only need to be safe.

At seventeen, my security measures backfired.
i began to realize
that the fortress i built around myself
was too cold from the inside.
Slowly, I started to dress less,
trading my elephant jeans into shorts,
my scratchy shirts into sundresses.
Not for the attention of anybody,
but to the girl gazing at the mirror.
For the first time, I fell in love with my thighs,
the curve of my body outlined by a thin blazer,
the swell of my breasts,
the way my hair falls at mid-length—
framing not covering.
Surprised at the wonder staring before me-
how her body grew without any care or apology,
how she was hidden and bubble-wrapped
for the past years of her life,
told not to play with fire
because she has grown a forest out of herself,
and now she’s discovering
parts and parcels of her
that make her feel happy.

Alas, the apparition was only brief,
disturbed by the voices outside the fitting room.
my friend moaning to herself
that she has grown
from size two to four,
my mother complaining
about how could i ever afford to grow larger
when i couldnt even feed myself.
I wrapped a jacket around my heart
who suddenly got a chill from wearing less.
Half-convinced that she would appear
in my dresser the next day,
i probably drowned her when i dumped my sweatshirts to the laundry.

For years, i tried to search
for the ghost of my seventeen year old self
in every funhouse mirror
of friends, lovers, and crashed diets.
She was nowhere.

At twenty four, i gave up.
Resigned myself to a lifetime of recluse
after failed attempts of losing weight
or losing my body to strangers or to accidents.
I decided to strip and lay bare
this flesh of a heart
just for the last time,
prolly let it breathe a little
before it immures itself for decades.
I watched myself undress.

She was there, waiting.
Tucked inside the folds i subconsciously swathe myself with
for every rejection or predatory invite.
Aged, yes. A bit overweight.
But still has the same zest for life in her eyes.
She took me by the hand, wrapped it in hers,
I could hear my heart thunder in my ears.
I could feel my pulse fire in my fingertips
She smiles and welcomes me inside
to this home
to this heart
to this body.

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Bodies

You told me that this house is too small for us to live in. So I built us

a mansion: this funhouse of mirrors.

Now we live on opposite ends of this vast space, comfortable at the edges of our own loneliness,

merely acknowledging the presence of the other

as a next door neighbour

when there are thousands of uninhabited rooms between us,

waiting to be opened,

broken down and passed through.
 
 

I long to breach the distance that traps us in an endless hallway of what-ifs–

possibilities that could have materialised

should one of us break this truce

and step on the shards of existences we have shed behind.
 

I have left a number of broken beer bottles

at my passing. They carelessly scar on

the thin carpet of my skin, warning you

of every landmine I have set up at my defense.

I don’t know how to undo them

so I just pretend they never happened
 

but from here, I can still hear the sound of the ocean in your room,

the rattle of prayer beads that barbed your front door–

your lifesaver

from the continuous cry of the phone receiver

you left hanging in god knows where.

I know you are still there- breathing

sometimes floating, sometimes drowning

like I do here at the other side-
 

Oh how we have baptized ourselves over and under

in salt or in liquor

waiting for the sweetness to come

maybe in some guise of an intruder

who’s insane enough to ignore

all the caution tape we have weaved on our fences.
 

-I guess we are both insane to still believe onto each other

so we wait for one of us to come willing

to lose her place in the process of finding.

It has become quite a game

we are both patient enough to play.
 

Maybe on particularly good days

when we are almost sober to feel

the dust on our fingertips, we would be able

to grasp the door handles and turn open

each other’s knobs.

Discovering that we are just in adjacent rooms

with a secret door in between.
 

When that time comes, I will greet you

with a kiss of thousand words unsaid.

Years of longing and loneliness

cleansed away by this very second.

Tears on our cheeks,

hands in your hair, lips on my ear,

flesh pressing on flesh,

nails scraping skin,

mouth drinking from the wells of another–

We will make mad love to each other

tearing these rooms, screaming

through these swelling walls that made us apart.
 
 

Until then, this house becomes intact.

A shell for the winter that brews from within.

A body of fragmented personas

Notes to a Younger Self

Forgive your parents for never giving you an older sister. They had a hard time making you possible, on the first place. Besides, you’ll have tens of sisters looking after you by the time you reach my age. And if you are still not contented, know that you have a built-in sister system:

That’s the two other personas living inside you.

Do not freak out. Everything will turn out to be alright. You’ve probably noticed that something is strange about you ever since you were a kid. But not all strange things are bad. Let them grow. They are just like you. They eat, they sleep, they also fart. And because you all share a space of a body, you’ll be assured that there’s someone who is going to carry your shell home when you are already lost in your world of daydreams and emotions.

Befriend your other selves. Talk to them. Hang out with them. You’ll find out that they have their own ticks and they respond to different names, but they are still you in every sense. In time, your friends will learn and accept the difference. And even though they have a favorite persona to hang out with, they would still love you all the same.

You are one of a kind. Never shortchange yourself for a person others want you to be.

But even though as I speak this, I know that you’ll still go through that process (I wouldn’t blame you ‘cause I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t). You’d play it down and repress your other selves because you probably think that you suck, and you dress terribly. Yes, you did dress terribly when you were in high school. But be consoled that at least, the people who befriended you aren’t fazed by the way you look or the way you smell. They like you for who you are, hormones and all. Treasure them because they saw you when you weren’t even seeing yourself.  Yet.

Know that things will get better when you reach college.

But you’ll still carry that angst that you had by the time you meet new people in your university. It’s never easy to let go of something just by changing the way you look or the place you live in. You’ll grow your hair long. Dress in fancy outfits. Do things that the cool people in your high school think you’d never do. You’ll drink shots and shots of angst laced with curiosity, chased by regret. It’s a potent cocktail, after all. It makes you feel giddy and down at the same time. But please drink moderately. You need to get sober so that you’ll remember the names of the people who you meet in mixers. You won’t be able to do so when you are drunk; you tend to confuse their faces with those of the people who have hurt you in the past. You’d end up sitting alone at the bar because you think you are just in the same club no matter what you do. Again, do not shortchange the night for drinks. This is your time to dance. Revel in the beat and changing of lights.

At the end of the day, go home with the people you know you can have coffee and brunch with when you wake up the next morning. They are the ones who aren’t afraid nor intimidated when you start drunk-stripping in front of them. They are the ones who wouldn’t take advantage of you when you let your nakedness be exposed in full light. They’d probably lend you their underwear when yours lay forgotten in someone else’s bedroom. Stick with them. Do not return the things that they’ve given. Rather, pass it to someone else – to the next partygoer who’s wasting away like you did last time.

Do not break this chain of kindness. Someday, it will return to you but in a different form. When it comes back, do not keep it in your closet. Give it again to the next person in need. That’s the way life goes.

When lonely, do not wait in empty train stations. Do not chase after buses that have gone already. Never wait for someone to pick you up. That boy you’d texted would never come (back). He never promised to come, anyway. Learn to walk when public transportation fails. You’ll appreciate the landscape more.

When society tells you that actions speak louder than words, reply that actions should also be backed by words. When someone acts nice to you but doesn’t tell the reason why, it’s either because (1) he’s afraid, or (2) he’s a jerk. Have nothing to do with him. You need a man who has the balls to say that he likes you and can stand by it.

Instead, listen to people who love poetry. They have a keen eye for beauty. Observe how their words disambiguate defenses. Thus, they also make sense of your tedious and flawed way of thinking. Look at the world through their lenses. Befriend their muses. You’ll learn more about yourself when you do.

Not all things could be learned from adults. Sometimes, they are the very ones who would twist the ironies in you. Look not at the teachers but at the lessons. Take down notes. Pass it to your juniors who wouldn’t believe it anyway. When your theories get shot down or discouraged, understand that hostility is a mask of fear. You are probably treading on something that has yet to be discovered or tested. Continue. Not only for your own benefit, but also for those who would come after you. They’d probably believe when things get written in books.

But do not get complacent

Because change is constant. The things I’m probably writing right now might probably be not the same tomorrow. Likewise, I know that you’ll end up kind of different from the person that you know you are right now. Cheer up. You’ll see better days. You’ll also see worse days. But know that as long as you are willing to evolve, the future will save a space for you.

All the best,

Your (young) self.