Postcard

I am writing this as I wait for dinner to be done. Tonight my partner cooks. He is still busy configuring out the basics of bistek, a local beef stew dish. Meanwhile, the kitchen air is filled with the aroma of simmered soy sauce and caramelized onions. The soft hiss of cooking pan is faintly heard next to the croon of his favorite artist.

This has been a typical night for both of us.

It is still surreal that a few months ago, I would clock out at eight and still be at lost as to what I should be doing after work. Well, for one, there was more work— occupied by keynotes needed to be animated, grades that must be computed, assessment tasks that should be drafted or conceptualized. It was not surprising that I have developed a tendency for procrastination— after repeatedly being advised to work smart, not hard. Well, foine. If you really insist to turn off all lights at six, maybe I should get life after work.

The alternative life would mean signing out at five and exploring whatever city life has to offer for a poorly paid yuppie. Having moved out from my parents and settled at my friend’s couch, a fringe benefit entitled me to a lot of unsupervised free time (well, saved from those nights when my host needed me to tutor her kids, but you get the drift). I entered the wonderland of dating, and boy was it magical.

Still, the spell would wear off at the strike of a certain hour or on particular days when a date suddenly ghosts, and I would find myself brooding and listless at social media. What to do now?

It took me three specialists, two mental breakdowns, and a barrage of office memos to finally realize that what I need is more than a break. I need a vacation.

Now that I think about it, I haven’t really had a legit vacation ever since I graduated college. After being hurled out screaming from my alma mater’s, I focused on one thing I was weaned to do: survive. I moved from one job to another, traversed cities, and even entered graduate school— all for the dream of being this sophisticated self-made woman.

What I am right now is SO far-fetched from the ideals I had imagined back when I was a graduate. For starters, I am currently unemployed. I try to scrape out an income by tutoring from time to time. Fifty percent of my purchase power is fuelled by my parents’ unconditional(?) love for me. I secretly live with my partner to regain the sanity I lost when I was teaching. My media subscriptions are all on hold. Aside from some books, I have nothing else valuable except time…

…which I am learning to enjoy indiscriminately. I used to abhor how time runs so fast while I, weighed by responsibilities and personal demons, trudged far behind it. Now that I am on an indefinite vacation, time stretches like a wide paved road, and I have the option to stroll wherever I please.

It is very ironic to have found my sense of routine in a space devoid of rigid structures. Without any morning commitment, I now regularly wake up at nine. I am slow in preparing food, but always make it in time for lunch. Afternoons are spent either responding to mails, playing video games, or napping. At five, I go to my tutee and we would have a productive time learning together. I usually arrive home at eight, just in time for me and my partner to decide on what we are going to have for dinner. My routine is a tad boring than what I used to do, but I overall feel alive, accomplished and happy.

To add, this has been going on for two months- the longest I am able to sustain a routine without any sort of internal revulsion.

Do I want this to last forever? Partly. But I am also aware that there is life after this LIFE. ;). After all, I am an adult who has bills to pay, plans to save for, and places to travel to. Staying permanently in this utopic set-up would prolly defeat the purpose of being human. So yes, I will soon be returning to the throng of mass workers who digests Metro Manila traffic for breakfast. This time I clutch dearly onto my souvenir: a better sense of what I should do and what my work is worth for.

Meanwhile, I relish the remaining time I have here while ze partner is setting the table for dinner.

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Random Reminders for Sanity

1. If you’re going to die at 30, make sure to live a life that is well-spent. Live a rich life, and let others find humor and solace in your story.

2. That means to say, let go of all things that keep you from flying. Sometimes, courage is exhibited in quitting. If pride is the only thing that makes you stay, it is not a worthy cause. Let go and let the universe take you to new places. We are all pilgrims of realms.

3. Pursue the authentic. Deside first what is authentic and go after it with all your heart (Erdrich, Advice to Myself).

4. As you grow older, you would notice that your body isn’t as sharp or as efficient as it was before. Forgive yourself and put your focus on things that matter. You cannot multi-task now, but you can always prioritize.

5. Never apologize for being too intense. If s/he couldn’t handle the heat of your flame, s/he is not worth burning for.

6. Always turn hurt into art. If there’s a gift that you need to practice, that is to recycle negativity into beauty.

7. See the good in people. Everyone deserves to be given the benefit of doubt.

8. Kindness and persistence cultivate the heart. You would have already been dead if not for people who took you in, spoonfed you with warm food, and treated your wounds.

9. After all the heartache, strive to remain soft. There is hidden strength in being raw and vulnerable. But don’t forget prudence.

10. Listen to your anger. It is sadness that has not been grieved. Breathe it out without causing harm to others.

Sunday night, drunk on love

In everything that exists

The universe manifests its will.

It whispers through the stillness of the night—

the moment when you are at most ease

(probably from a post-orgasmic bliss).

During that particular point in free flowing time

Your heart is calm and it beats peace.

Listen to the overflow

of the ocean that is your soul.

Watch how waves are parted,

water will be turned into wine,

and you will get served.

Be mildly drunk. You will make love

With yourself

Who you have thirsted for so long

Who you have left in the desert to die

In pursuit of another.

You will taste bitterness

aged by experience

matured by years of longing

And you will find it sweet.

Shamhat

From the beginning of time, the goddess reveals herself

through this earth. She comes and strips naked

before the eyes of those she has chosen. She purses her lips,

invites spectators to kiss. Their own fate

she unravels with her skilful tongue:

a tale of eternal sojourns.
 

This you must know, pilgrim.

There is no quench to your needs,

simply an acknowledgement of it.

Coming to this temple is not the end to your wanderings.

Merely a beginning of infinite pathways

Unfolded through my body

Welcome, touch.

But you must not make a home here.
 

Instead, I invite you to walk.

Tread with your arms, wrestle with your legs.

Plow, cultivate vegetation into this flesh

trying to swallow you whole

panting, stretching, growling
 

And when your back has already been clawed raw,

when you have devoured every fruit that grows,

when you have drunk water from every crevice,

when you have released your last seed into this ground,

cast your eyes at the expanse-

at awe in all things around you.

This land renews itself. Opens pathways

for her new stranger.
 

Let everything behind and before you

pass your view. Go.

Tropic of Cancer

Pride-nourished bones:

An ivory head

cut clean and chiseled, crammed full of highway street smarts

smoothening the traffic of the senses.

It sits straight on the spine

made up of countless women’s cartilages,

a lumbar trail for the uninitiated,

stepped and compressed

to compensate for that extra rib.

Pelvis juts out in calcified defiance,

taunting anyone to a test of strength

tries to hide its soft parts within its sharp edges

honed by years of fear for an unknown intruder

that might just be herself.

All these weight are shouldered by these thighbones

trained to hold the added baggage

that my upper extremities refuse to put down

(I still had room for another pound in my heart).

 

I am proud of my home.

These bones

have built this self to stand tall,

strong in itself, strong on its own

A bedrock amidst the shifting sand.

 

But like all houses unfazed by summer storms,

mine begins to simmer inside.

 

A spark of lightning at the base of the skull

creeps a long way down to my spine.

It lingers at my loins,

feeds at my thighs

until my body roars to an uncontrollable furnace

a never dying pyre for the self.

It gnaws at its marrow

unsatisfied.

 

Pride-nourished bones:

My body is a bundle of fire wood-

a cruel insurance policy

in case of these internal emergencies.

Build your house with the sweat of your brow,

pay in blood when it burns down.

Remind me again,

What do dwellers do when their house wages war against them?

When the body betrays itself?

When elements crusade to convert

materials into beings

and beings into materials-

who should arbitrate on the matter?

 

My first ‘amen’

was probably breathed from

the heavy smell of a rising tempest

What used to be a tell-tale for refuge

Becomes a fragrance that lures

the self to strip naked,

to provocatively dance on fire,

to open windows and doors

and to surrender to the hurricane

allowing the tide to wash these bones away.

My house becomes a wreck- floats for

all the things I slowly let go of

as waves lap at all open wounds

salting bruises, cleansing pores,

dissolving all in the whirlpool of unlikely grace.

 

Sometimes what it takes to get out is to give in-

to rely on strangers,

or even storms

and believe that

these pride-nourished bones

will continue to drift on.