Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Weight of Seven Summers

It happened yesterday, more than a week after they arrived. In the pale amber light, her searching eyes betrayed her interest on what she wanted for dinner. Her gesture was perfunctory, if not pure deadpan, and nowhere was it able to obscure the terse sentiment clawing its way from her heart to her throat. I whisked the thought aside. I got closer to her. The moment I felt my hand brush her hair, I closed my eyes. For a second, there was darkness, a momentary prelude to an unwelcome flashback; I rarely dwell on my forgotten histories. But then I found myself at this shoreline seven summers into the past, the tender waves rolling under the bright sun, unmaking themselves as they surrender to the undertow, flailing their ever so fragile surface against the air and sunlight as they sail through the Pacific and elsewhere, treading the infinite blue like tendrils that drape behind a carpet of retreating shadows. The sea met the sand at our feet, the lovers that we were at the time, two people united by their differences in more ways than one can imagine, and since that summer day she’s all there has ever been in my dreams.

I opened my eyes. She was looking at me, herself looking surprised at what I did. Those eyes, I thought, they give me a sense of life, the way the clouds give stargazers a sense of the sky. Her glance, it finds its genesis in the humble promise of a gaze, continuing with every anxious beat as though her heart fears its own pulse and the feverish desire burning her from within. I held her hand. This must be how it feels when the earth receives the benediction of the rain on a summer day, the way the dry fields are quenched of their thirst by the first dew before the awakening of the morning sun.

Her eyes were now fixed on my hand holding hers.


The word struck me like a dagger stabbing my chest. With her eyes now cast down, I figured that guilt has begun to find its way to her heart, which further estranged her from who I am to her, the only woman I have loved like this.

“It’s never wrong to hold on to the only life we have,” I said.

And in the silence that followed I swear I could hear her heart. The way she smiled, I figured life could still be as complete as this night.

Her husband finally arrived after dropping off their children at her cousin’s house. He sat beside her and said without batting an eyelash, “I’ve heard many things about you.”

So you did, I thought, so you did. Under the table, the weight of our seven summers missed: she and I still held hands. As I have promised to myself before, I will trap the universe in her heart. That night, I gave her the same promise.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Day in the Life

Three Red Umbrellas by Leonid Afremov

That night, we were twenty. She said that wherever we go we will always be under the same stars. All failed relationships, she insisted, are astral affairs, a billion stories projecting themselves toward the sky in their bid to find their rightful place among the constellations. But the stars are gone, I replied. The sparkles of light that we witness beyond sunset are the last of what they are and what they will never be again. These bright rays cast astray into the universe reach us a thousand light years too late. We can see them, I said, because they are gone.

She bowed and shook hear head. Before she left, she held my hand. She said my name, and then a pause. That was how it ended — with a pause. Since then, I managed to survive on my own. Or I tried. Some days were sunny. Some other days were not. Underneath the little pockets of the southern sky on moonless evenings, I bask in silence, waiting for that pause to end so that I can start again. Yet for years I was as solitary as the sun, a star casting light for no one, not a soul in the world. I can only hear my voice speaking to myself in behalf of myself. And then one day, seven years after, life happened.

She married the man I never was.

Now as I look at her, I find it difficult to place her face in my memory. Gone are the smoky eyes, in their place that misty pair of hazel brown pupils glowing with the kind of gaiety I have not seen in years. The ebony hair has given way to a shade of brown glistening under the artificial fluorescence inside the airport lobby. Her lips are daubed rouge, no longer the pale flesh I used to kiss. Looking at her, I somehow began to understand that the weight of seven years is thirty pounds lost, which is perhaps the heaviness of the heart she was nursing back then. Maybe hers is the anorexia of a love lost but found elsewhere, which is, of all places, in the heart of another man, someone who does not speak the language of poetry, someone who can never understand these things with his heart of stone.

This is not a homecoming, I thought. There is no home — but how beautiful she has become!

“Alas, you are the first flower to bloom in spring time,” I said. I approached her with caution in my heart and slight trembling in my knees. And then the embrace, the only warmth in the world I will ever need to get by. She looked at me and smiled.

“I missed you,” she whispered. Her voice felt like the soothing caress of gentle hands I can almost feel her wrap herself around my skin.

Those three words ended the longest pause in my life. But that is all there will ever be to it. I know I can never start again. Today I can see her, clear as water, because she is finally gone in my life the way starlight flashes by unnoticed. I lost her seven years ago, never to have her again, if at all I had her once upon a time.

It should be cold inside, but on this Wednesday afternoon the heat from outside seemed to spill into the lobby. This must be how it feels to live without the sun. I looked ahead and there they were: the two children she and I will never have, and her husband, the man I could have been but never was.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

If I Had It My Way

It is true: months come and go. But if I had it my way, I will not let this season end without tasting summer from your lips. I might restrain the setting sun so that its orange light can wax itself on your skin for the last time, like a sunset in pause held hostage by this insatiable yearning, its redemption possible only by way of a kiss — a ransom best paid in French. Though sunlight will color you, it is my fingers that will brush the gradients of light onto the canvass that is your body. Your shoulders, awash in that blissful radiance of sepia, shall be the playground where I will skate my fingers, cruising those lovely bones that frame something so immaculate you must be divine. Your back shall be the sky where my restless palms will glide until they have safely landed on your hands. I will kiss you. And then I will have to kiss you again just to be sure that you are, without doubt, the fire that will burn the last day of my summer.

Like fire is to cold nights, you are the water to my thirsty soul. Your toes shall be the shore where my own would run aground, like fallen petals thrown into the caress of the evening tide. This intimate touch is the closest I can get to all the coasts your heels have conquered, so if I had it my way, I’d pour myself into your memories. By then, you will remember that on those countless occasions when there were no whispers to lull you to sleep except the sound of waves negotiating the bay, someone equally lonely had his dreams set on you. In those midnight tussles with nostalgia, we will move like the wind, traceless but able to scale the heights and breach the limits of the horizon. You will be the east and west of my monsoons, and I the north and south of your skies. Wherever we may have to find our way, we will be the only directions we will ever need.

If I had it my way, I’d sink with you under the bed sheets, swim for the pillows, and dive back to our dreams where the ocean is a drop of the universe we build in our sleep. I’d try to bruise your neck with the tip of my tongue. But knowing that it might take forever, I’d stretch the night sky and wrap it around the world so that we will no longer have any need for sunrise and sunset to tell us what time it is. We will have the rest of our lifetime to ourselves. They say some people fall in love with those who do not even deserve the heart they have. But if I had it my way, if only I had, I’d engraft my heart to your chest in case you lose yours somewhere along the way. Wherever your feet might take you, you will have me.

I say these things with the best of intentions, for my fear is that if summer won’t cast my desires aflame, nothing else will. The rest of the year might become as cold as a heart so broken it feels nothing, not the gentle heat of early sunshine, certainly not the staccato of rain against this naked flesh I pray you would embrace for the warmth it could shelter you with, perhaps against all the lonely nights that you and I must bear as strangers who are yet to deliver themselves from solitude. In time, our lives will find grace from the benediction of sunlight as we lay together, your hand on my hand, our lips the only source of the sweet taste of summer. But until that day, you and I must continue looking for each other, relentless in our search for the better half of our lives if only to prove once and for all that we shall no longer be alone.

I am alone, and today I thought of you.