One would think that I’ve written to you and about you extensively over the past two years. But I have always feared that if I stopped, my mind would betray me and I will forget. I always hope that I can retain all our good memories. You weren’t perfect. I wasn’t either. But we did our best. Even though I always felt like I could have done better.
There’s still so many things I wish I could have said, and things that have happened where I wished you were there. But words always stay at the tip of my tongue. The rare chance when they do come, words never seem enough.
There has to be a word for forgiving but not forgetting. You forgive for yourself but remain cautious because you know what they are capable of.
There has to be a word for that rare chance where you say the right thing during a difficult time. L’esprit de l’escalier is missing the opportunity to say the perfect thing and the exact opposite of this word.
There has to be a word for knowing when to overcompensate for someone you’re in a relationship with (whether it is familial, platonic or romantic). This does not mean that you’re taken advantage of. It’s just that there are days where someone is only 40% in it, so you give 60% to make it complete. And if situations were reversed, they do the same for you.
There has to be a word that is dedicated entirely to a dog’s intuition in knowing when they need you to rub their belly. And in the process, make you feel like everything will eventually fall into place.
You know whenever she’s around or when she’s coming your way. What’s unfortunate is it’s almost always at the darndest moments.
You woke up on the wrong side of the bed after snoozing your alarm for the umpteenth time. You ran out of shampoo in the shower. All you can find are mismatched socks. By the time you get to your lukewarm coffee, you realize you totally botched it as you slurp down bitter watered down milk. Running to the bus station, the sole on your left shoe partially loosens and almost sends you barreling face down the filthy sidewalk. You protect the bag your work laptop in is, of course, and sacrifice your right knee to bruising. And that’s when you see her.
The first thing to pop in mind was to immediately cross the street but unfortunately, that small stumble had already caught her eye. She must have sensed your instinct to flee, or seen how much you resembled a deer in headlights as her short pudgy legs moved towards you at record speed. You pray to all the deities you know (religious, Greek, Roman, and even the Nordic ones) and silently atone for your sins as she approaches. Before you can even manage a weak greeting –
Terrible weather, isn’t it? ButnotasterribleasthelatestchismisIjustheard. Did you know that someone just got sued by the place she works in? Oh yes. It was just so terrible. Apparently she stole millions, it was even on TV! Are you headed for work? I’m sorry if I’m keeping you. Last I heard, traffic was really bad. Especially the other night. Were you stuck there too? This is why we should strictly implement the truck ban. The drivers are reckless on the streets. Have you gotten your driver’s license yet? You know my daughter already had hers. The guy she’s dating right now is crazy rich, he lends her one of his cars. Sure he’s a widow, and twice her age. And has two kids who… Well, they don’t like her right now, but they will. She gets along well with her siblings, and these kids are their age. They are actually vacationing in the US right now. It’s 2017, who cares about the age gap? And the fact that his wife died seven months ago. How about you hija, when are you planning to get married? Your clock is ticking. I also think you should lose some weight. Even gravity says so, that’s why you’re stumbling about. I remember when you were a kid, you have always been so clumsy –
She held on to your arm while her endless babbling went on. You start calling all the deities, maybe someone up there will end your suffering and smite you with a lightning bolt.
We sat opposite each other, across a table. I found myself sitting on a small plastic chair, worried about falling over because I’ve had too many mixed drinks that mostly consist of Tang fruit juice, and there were no backrests. You sat across me, drink in hand, alternating between taking a sip and swirling the contents in it. We had a cramped time when two of my girlfriends and I decided to engage in a round of toilet gossip. This was obviously not the place for it, but what else can you expect from a now defunct college bar named Funky Buddha? I just needed to get something out of my chest. “Zel, ang cute nung Carlo.”
We sat opposite each other, across a table that recently acquired an ashtray and a plate of tacos. I wasn’t even sure then what it was I found cute about you. It was twilight when we all ended up at that bar for the first time and decided to go al fresco drinking. Admittedly not the best idea to execute when the bar is near a university and situated by the highway. Cars honked in the background. Stilted conversations. I take in the air you release and cough out some of my dry humor. I have never done well in awkward situations. So I drink. I would even have played with my hair if it wasn’t tied up in a ponytail. Your face was shrouded by smoke and dust. Eventually, by my own beer goggles. Only it’s not made of beer. I don’t drink beer. I imagine it tastes like piss. I just don’t do well in awkward situations. The heat has not yet fully crawled its way down my throat as I downed another drink. 17 year old me is yet to learn how to handle social situations with grace.
We sat opposite each other, across a table that was wet with spilled drinks, littered with pieces of sisig, and a filled up ash tray. Jeepney drivers calling out for passengers are becoming scarce. Laughter flowed easily as our conversations drown out the latest pop song blasting in the background. I have started to refuse drinks that come my way and held onto a nearly empty glass like a lifeline. You held on to an empty pack of Marlboro lights and play with the flip top box. It must have been the excessive drinking. Or some midnight magic. My skin tingled at every witty comeback you had. There was an undercurrent of static between us as I catch you stealing glances when I take some myself. I didn’t even mind that you were a human chimney. That was uncharacteristic.
We sat opposite each other, across a table, your phone in my hand, with my number typed in. Your smile matched mine as I hand it back. Nine years later, and the rest is history.
In fact, unless you outright ask me, I won’t even encourage it. I have always maintained the position that traveling is a personal experience. We all have different needs, wants, and, in varying phases in our lives. Like the well-worn adage, not everything that works for me will work for you. There are tourists who just want to cover all the picturesque sites. And there are tourists who waste an afternoon away getting lost in back alleys and finding themselves in some third wave coffee shop. Some of us are budget travelers who can maximize every single peso they spend and are hard to pin down because of the mileage they cover. Then there are some who would splurge on posh accommodations and eat meals that require a diversity of utensils, once a year. The 1% goes on a yacht trip every weekend. Some just want to immerse themselves in foreign cultures and eat authentic local cuisine. Shoppers go to stretch out their negotiation muscles. Others have items on their bucket lists to cross out. There are parents who can’t leave their children behind, and would rather spend their money on tuition fees. There are fur parents with pets that don’t do well in pet hotels. Some people hate flying. Some people get seasick. There are people who enjoy their expensive coffee and latest gadgets more than traveling. And you know what? That’s okay.
With most of the people I interact with on social media in their 20s, my feed is flooded with listicles of why you should or should not do things. Most of these are, surprisingly, travel related. As much as I enjoy traveling, solo or not, I also acknowledge that the choice to do so is a mix of privilege and priorities. However, the pressure to do so is staggering, and there are even debates on being a tourist or a traveler. Even movies advocate travel as a way to be enlightened or an escape where all your problems magically wrap themselves up and the pieces fall into place. It has not happened to me yet, but it could have happened to anyone. The only way to find out is by doing you. So I am not gonna tell you to travel. But I’m gonna tell you to do you.
Today’s activity was to get a pen and paper and write down our thoughts for fifteen minutes. C and I went on a long drive the other day and while stuck in traffic, decided to rewatch the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hence, where my mind went when I turned everything off and created a 15-minute mind map. I’ve always been an overthinker so I was confident that I wouldn’t run out of things to jot down. You can imagine the process that went into it though – the first thing that popped into my mind was the series, leading to me thinking about an episode that stood out. I was writing in different branches after another since I went down and spiraled into thinking about a plethora of things simultaneously. I’m guessing it’s also another reason why I have a hard time writing. I start out with an idea, and then it does not take long for things to get sidetracked because the coupling that holds my train of thought together disappears, and my different thought compartments are derailed. Ugh. It’s hard to be cohesive sometimes.
“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”
I have always been terrified by the idea of death. Even as a kid, whenever I start thinking about closing my eyes, losing consciousness, and of leaving the world behind, I scare myself silly and I start calling out for my mom. She usually explained how death was inevitable and that someday, we all would need to welcome it with open arms. It was a concept I had a hard time accepting, and remained quite foreign to me even when people I do know passes on. It wasn’t until my mom was diagnosed with cancer that I actively started contemplating about death and how it works.
Dying is one thing. But going through second-hand pain, and knowing that there’s nothing you can do about it is another. The fear of the unknown and of dying gave me a couple of sleepless nights on the rare times it pops up in my mind. The knowledge that Death can come knocking on our family home’s door was like living in a beach house built too close to the sea. A relentless sea of anxiety, frustration, and, questions. Strong waves that keep slamming on glass walls overlooking the ocean, every day of every week for three years. Most days the waves are harsh and high, high enough to reach the roof and harsh enough to rattle your foundation. The days where the sea is calm is few and far in between, but you take it as it is and appreciate the view. However, no matter the weather, the thought remains oppressively constant. Is today going to be the day our walls are overcome, and this entire thing is swallowed into the sea?
It wasn’t until I learned how to operate an oxygen tank and its mask while the beeping of a heart rate monitor play in the background that I realized, a life well lived is worth dying for. Living trapped in your own body is not living, and how I would rather welcome peace if it would stop her suffering, even if it comes in the form of death. I am betting nothing else can quickly rearrange your life’s priorities than the prospect of losing the most important person in your life. The fear of death and of losing her comes only second to the fear of seeing her in more pain. And when Death finally came, it was embraced fondly as we said goodbye to her anguish, and, to Death, “see you again”.
“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
I have been struggling with producing content for this blog because even if my life was eventful, I felt like there really wasn’t anything I could write where the words were accurate, and the writing true. So when I randomly stumbled upon a writing workshop on Instagram, #15DaysOfWritingTrue, I went and took it. I was banking on the universe lending out a helping hand in pushing me to work on releasing my creative juices. Since this blog is a curation of life experiences I want to remember, I will be sharing all the things I produce during the workshop.
Before we started writing true, we had to make a list of reasons why we aren’t already. And here’s what I came up with:
I don’t feel like the appropriate words come out when I write. I don’t feel like I convey what I really truly mean. What’s in my head does not translate well into paper.
I don’t feel motivated most days. I’d sit there and the words just won’t come out.
I’m afraid that my writing is mediocre and the words I use are repetitive and worn out.
I have the time and I can make time to write. But I’m afraid that actually doing so will reveal that it’s actually not good enough.
I know most of it is repetitive. But having written them down on paper is actually pretty helpful because I realized that most of it stem from fear of not being good enough, and that’s an entirely different issue altogether. Here’s to hoping that I get over this soon!