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🙃🙃🙃

August 18, 2017

Hey, he said he still jerks off to your memory, hard for your phantom kisses. He told me about that one time you drove out for some late-night roadtrip and near Sta. Rosa exit, you had asked him to pull over so you could do more than just ride cars. He found moonlit romantic, he said. But let’s be honest, I told him, there was nothing romantic about what you did and he countered, dirty can be romantic, too. Anyway, at night he sleeps in different shirts — all yours. During really cold ones, he wears them all, so in the morning he peels himself off layer by layer, hoping with every article of clothing your ghost gets put in its place. He told me he sometimes even cried and that must have looked stupidly profound — an overgrown onion crying at its own shedding. Last night — and this is the reason I am telling you all this — he sent me a text saying he was looking at gun catalogs online as though asking for my opinion which one was a bargain. I replied the same way to everything that made me feel awkward: with misplaced humor. I asked him why buy a gun when a belt and the bathroom door would do the job just as well? He replied with an upside down smiling emoji. What the fuck does that even mean? Fifteen minutes later I was knocking at his door and he opened it, let me in where we had a couple of beers and watched dude where’s my car for the millionth time. And when the credits started rolling was when he started telling me everything: the jerking off and the fear he could love no one else.

So, there. Give me a call. Guns go on sale, too, you know.

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Rodolfo

June 23, 2017

earlier today, i buried my father.

one day, i will start with the story i know i must write, what i see when i close my eyes these last few days. 

but that will have to wait.

for now, it’s about saying goodbye. i can’t candycoat adult stuff. it is what it is.also it’s about gratitude towards everyone who helped. and how i would have bumbled through had not for the assistance of a few cherished people. i bumbled through, anyway.

it’s about how i forgot the words to the lord’s prayer and how you flailed to cling to faith in your last days.

it’s about how many years ago you appeared at my door, seeking answers for why his son started to drift from his home. it’s about how i had not let you in that day, and about how i finally did last sunday – but you harbored no more questions. we found peace, didn’t we?

it’s about how you were man then 1134 degrees celsius later you were earth. it’s about how i saw your bones glow like coals and i mused myself by thinking i knew you had it in you.

i see glowing coals when i close my eyes.

it’s about how we were so alike – the mannerisms of my fingers, why i sing all the time, our cursed short tempers.
i will write you that story one day and though i haven’t started, i already know its ending.

two point seventy five kilograms. that’s what’s left of you. and as i carried you to where you shall stay until we join you, i couldn’t stop thinking how i could’ve tried harder, how i could’ve been stronger.

you weren’t heavy.

goodbye ‘til our Father says it’s time.

 

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In The Mornings

June 2, 2017

It was one summer day in the late aughts. You and I spent the afternoon lying on the concrete floor, our heads barely touching with our bodies perpendicular so we formed a big L, red in our clothes from the wax they polished the floors with, the specter of our mother’s wrath once she finds us keeping us company. Passing a bag of corn chips back and forth, we talked about new songs we have learned, lizard eggs I had found in cracks between blocks, for one fleeting moment about a boy that made you cry in school, and flowers we loved the most. You mentioned about daisies and mums, I kept at roses and which colors bloomed best.

Roses were the worst, you said. Being two years older than me, you were afforded the right to being right for issues of least import. It had just rained and our tummies ached from the smell of the earth which you said was called petrichor. Being two years older, aside from always being right, you fed me with constant causes for wonderment so that at night, I would constantly call you from the top to where you were at the bottom bunk, checking if you were awake.

“I won’t sleep until you’re asleep,” you would say.

“Why?” I would ask.

“Because you need me to be awake right now.”

You were right again.

“Daisy?” yes, her favorite, her name.

“Yes?” you would answer.

“Do you think mother knows by now?”

“About what?”

“About the red in our clothes?”

“Go to sleep, my Rome.” your favorite city, short for Romeo.

I would try to keep awake thinking of things I still wanted to tell you. But the more I daydream, the sleepier I got. When sleep finally came, daydreams became regular dreams and in them, I took notes. Then in the morning, I told you about them all.

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Of Comfort

February 10, 2017

I am burdened by the kindness of the people around me and hurt by my constant inability to bloom in familial affection.

It’s always been that I have sweet thoughts but never the know-how to turn them into anything more. Since I was young, I felt I owed it to myself to be independent and strong. It wasn’t difficult but it didn’t say much about my own resilience so much as a visceral necessity for me to survive. I swore the angels away, convinced that games were better played with the demons I grew up with.

To be honest, I have never felt comfortable dealing with what I call genetic relations. My loss, of course, but we do what we got to do.

I am incapable of blame, unlearned in matters of reciprocity. And just when I feel like I’ve let the chinks grow and grant me the freedom of an armistice, my predilection to go back to what’s comfortable I’ve ran all these years to find wins.

At thirty-one, how little I’ve grown.

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Fire Out

January 31, 2017

A month ago, I quit smoking for the second and last time. An app on my phone tells me I’m saving minutes and coins, that my heart’s beats per minute’s falling all the time.

Many words have been said about the successes of kicking the habit but I feel I must go the other route for I feel like I’ve lost a friend. For a depressive, a cigarette is as good a company as any, making sure thirty minutes in a coffee shop didn’t feel as lonely. It gives me cancer and steals my breath but when friends wouldn’t do and my brain kept on playing and replaying end scenarios like an old choose your own adventure book, lighting a stick kept me still. I learned to chain-smoke at twenty-one, late by smoker standards. Really, it was just a byproduct of my struggles to start and keep conversations, and something to get my hands still enough to get me some.

Maybe it says more about the places I haunt than anything, but up of ninety percent of the best people I have ever met smoke or used to. The conversations were always amazing. And in cases when the words wouldn’t come, there was the tobacco — like a clingy no akward zone.

So from sneaking sticks in to my childhood room, to odd corners in UP Diliman, to numerous Starbucks branches, to countless al fresco food joints, to the front of Orient Square, to its back, to videoke bars, to Today x Future, to Mckinley Hill parking lots, to backseats with the window down and my arm out, to beds of lovers and strangers, to my own, to now dry and clean reminiscing all the great people I have smoked with over the span of a decade.

The moments are countless but I think I remember them all. The minutes — eleven per stick — I had lost with all of you were worth it.

Alas, health.

 

 

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Eve

January 10, 2017

Cinnamon warm, menthol cool, sweats and alcohol and the sun in his hair as he came home. Smells get you, don’t they? Whereas sights flash and sounds easily deniable, a smell takes its time clutching onto the folds of your brain, gives it a shake or two or a hundred depending on the time of the day and the number of pills you’ve already taken. You remember them now, don’t you?

And so it was her name that first arrived: Chanel, her perfume and the one she answered to. Must have been a couple of years into her hormone therapy when I met her, easily stealing any spotlight any room must have had. I was there in the same room not for her, but for her friend who I talked with online looking for my first best sex ever. I forgot his name but let’s call him Mark, the way all the guys I forgot the names of are called Mark. This Mark looked like my brother and I was eighteen, at the precipice between when brothers still meant something to me, and had I a younger brother, he’d have found me pretty old. I knew it when he had come walking towards me at Tropical Hut along Shaw. It must have been his eyes — my brother’s eyes. Fuck, our eyes. Spent all the money I had in a computer rental shop and commuting to this goddamned place and what I get is someone at the age borderline dividing my answers whenever I played the game To Do or Not To Do in my head when I people-watch.

“Hello,” I must have said, and he nodded to say let’s go.

He whisked me away across the highway into smaller streets that must have turned as fast as my mind that time. But I was that scrawny kid who took what he was given and at eighteen, everything felt like shining goddamned candy. He nodded left, we turned left, right and we went right, finally to a gate to a house which was really just a big room. You remember the rooms they take you, don’t you?

Anyway, I’ve always been a fan of small talking — the weather, exciting; your favorite band just might be mine, too. But Mark was not having that and he seemed to be a fan that day of nothing but getting some and I got that. But my brother’s eyes were not doing it for me — thank the heavens, a sign of normalcy. So I distracted by saying I was sleepy which was a half-truth, anyway, when who must have been his roommate came in.

Sees me, “Hi.”

“Hello,” I say.

Mark nods. “My friend,” he says.

The friend uh-huhs.

Ten minutes after and another friend comes in. Five more and another. Then another. One more and then finally, Chanel. Amazing Mark had brought me and tried to get laid in his fucking bedspace. Annoyed and frankly a little scared, I wanted to go home. But how could I? Chanel had the spotlight. She who was walking slowly towards me as I sat on a bed. All eyes were on her as she puts her index finger on my chin, raising my head so she could see my face clearly. I could smell her — sweet but about to fade as though she had worn her perfume since 6AM and have been out all day.

“Who?” she asks.

A roll of whispers in the room: “Mark’s.”

She taps my cheek with the same finger twice, smiles, turns, walks away and plops herself on one of the other beds I only noticed were also in the room. I watched them all like they were a new sitcom. I didn’t get most of what they were saying but I laughed at politely appropriate parts.

At one point, she took her top off. A pair of glorious breasts — fake, yes, but good lord glorious. If there were a cis-female in the room, she’d have taken one look at them and down at her own, feeling lacking. Chanel danced for a bit, egged on by the singing of what to me felt like five hundred people in the room; they were all singing, good god always singing.

She turns and turns until one pirouette took her in front of me. She looks down at me sweetly, her voice softer as though I were delicate.

“Hello Mark’s,” she says.

I wanted to struggle and stand and face her — the type of demeanor that said I was not anybody’s. When I would speak, I wanted my voice to be lower and more serious as though my being was questioned. But when it was actually time for me to do anything, good lord her sweet, sweet smell shut me up.

“Yes?” I say.

She took both my hands and raised them just in front of her chest.

“Do you mind?” she asks.

“Mind what?” I reply.

She moves a little closer.

“See, I just got these, and the doctor told me I needed to massage them every once in a while,” she says as she sits beside me, playacting like she was annoyed in a way only girls could be annoyed.

“And I’d do it myself, but tonight I’m tired and I need someone else to do it for me,” she goes on.

Confused, I looked around for help. Amongst grinning faces, finally, a voice spoke. It was Mark.

“It’s okay, Ron,” he says.

And it’s probably hearing my name — and I was young enough to enjoy the feeling that somebody actually knew me — that got me going with a little bit of unwarranted courage.

“You’re good at this,” Chanel says as I massaged her scarily firm breasts.

“Can’t say I’ve done this before,” I think I said.

At the risk of being existential, there I was, massaging fake breasts of a woman more woman than most I know, where only a man who wanted to get some who looked like my brother who I did not know the name of knew me, in a house that was really just a room, kind of wanting to go home, but might as well just stay. It was like a synecdoche of things to come.

Later that night, I find myself with everybody in a big grocery store. I remember buying myself some ice cream which I ate outside by the door while I waited for Mark so I could say goodbye.

“Well, I had fun,” he lies.

“I did, too,” I answer — truth.

I gave him a hug — one that said we’ll never see each other again, we will never bump into each other, we won’t haunt the same places, in ten years I’d have changed so much you wouldn’t recognize me, but not too much that you’d hit on me again.

******************

I bought a book. I have quit smoking. I felt an uncanny fondness for my job. I even got my hair cut.

It was new year’s eve — the most unimportant day of the year. You can either use it for self-examination, or say fuck it and get wasted one last time I swear to god to jesus and to everywhere his face is burnt upon, this is the last time. As unimportant, but I don’t even remember the last time I got properly wasted. I mean the logistics of getting wasted are a nightmare. How do I get home? Can I wear my favorite shoes and would I get puke on them? How annoying is too annoying and will I get there? What proper mix of drinks do I do to get me to the happy sort of wasted instead of the I’ll get in a dashboard confessional state of awareness and think I can sing type of wasted?

Besides, I was in the office. People would think it was slavery — having to work on new year’s eve. I thought it was cool. Or maybe not cool, but at least it gave me an excuse not to revel. I mean look at the fireworks go at minutes to midnight. They’re metaphorical hope of better things to come, replete with the sparks and colors. There’s no way I could look at them and honestly tell myself next year was going to be any different than this one. See, I was afraid of switches and sometimes even doors. Switches get you from one state to the other without any real reason other than you flipped. And don’t get me started with doors and how you’re in then out.

These were the thoughts in my head as I checked grocery items, together with delinquent house people who lacked a jar of mayonnaise or whatever for their media noche. And as I checked the price of a box of chocolates I’ve already had too much in this lifetime, a whiff and a swirl of a smell: sweet, familiar, unknown.

And there Chanel goes, coming to me as ethereal as ever. She looks a little weathered as though thirteen years passed her by in one, but as strong a presence as ever. She smiles at me, not because she recognized me but whatever I had in my grocery basket she wanted to know where to find it. It was that — ten seconds max — and she was gone.

I look at her back as she walks away, wondering if I should explain. But what? How she might not remember me, but I played with her breasts once?

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AM

August 26, 2016

When the sorrow dissipates like fog at 4 AM to be replaced by loneliness, I will see that you were right and always right there. All along and waiting, not to tell me you had told me so, but as respite against everything that weathered and chipped. The wind chimes in, whispers words from where I came from, determined for the past to imprint itself so that at night I’d know it was never the same.

I got here 8PM, nighttime by any measure, I know, but that was a few hours ago. Now I hear my phone ringing. You’ve heard and now you want to know. I could ignore you but you’re past that. I pick up to hear you humming.

“You’re in Greece,” you say. Hellos — you’re also past them.

“I am in Greece,” I confirm.

“Had you ever been in Greece?” you ask.

I slump back to my bed, a thump to bring flakes of me five minutes ago flying only to fall again, and now I gaze at the ceiling and imagine your voice talking to me from where you must always be. I’ll say no, I had never been to Greece but I am now, and no I can’t go to places I’ve never been to to find things I’ve left behind. Surely, one could only lose and find where one had been to and in, but I knew you, you’d spit that back at me.

So I go, “I feel tired and will go to sleep now,” when what I mean is you’re not who I need now.

And you go, “I’ll talk to you when you get here,” when what you really mean is let’s talk about you now.

“I miss you,” I add as I click end-call, further solidifying my horrible track record as a friend.

I was not tired. I jump up, put a shirt on. I would go downstairs and maybe on the way I would see a hotel staff and remind them they ought to give me the towel I had asked for. I would. Instead, I am scrolling through my contacts, curated and special, all the way to that one name that would make this all worth the hassle.

It rings and rings then your voice hits like soda crackers.

“You,” you say.

“Me,” and I brush my hair up, conscious only you could make me.

“You’re here,” you say, not a question.

“My first time,” I reply.

“God, what time is it?” you say, a question.

“4:15 AM,” I say, hoping it’s not too early.