Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Future of Bonfires, One

Lady, I hummed your name first thing in the morning. I suppose the sun was pleased, as did the detritus of dry leaves that lay beneath the sunlight.

The letters of your name, though, still tasted like beer: bitter at the start, which is the exact moment the syllables begin to crawl out of my mouth, until they roll on my tongue like drops of wine I had to sing your name as many times as I can just to be sure that I will be drunk with it for another day.

Where I live, no one ever gets arrested for driving under the influence. Of alcohol. Of nostalgia. Because you do know that I might spend a day or two in jail for breaking the law by having too much of your memories in my body, careening in my arteries like the hemoglobin that reddens the blood, perhaps the heart, and the blush on my face whenever you say my name like a tease as tender as your embrace. That was a long, long time ago.

But after you said I’m sorry do I know you? with that tone I have long associated with your indifference to the many things that I thought were far more important than the possessions we have earned for ourselves, I understood. I understood that by this time tomorrow the sun will never rise the same way again. On the bed, the morning light will cast itself on the same space where a body used to sleep, for such is the nature of separate lives.

I find it rather strange, this thing they call hangover. I’ve had it for ten years now, I think, so I guess I’ve not really been sober lately. There’s no other way to confess it: I drink you like liquor is to liver as you are to my heart. Odd, though. I don’t feel like I have one or the other.

Last week I met a girl. When I went inside the cinema to find myself a seat, there she was, sitting all by herself. The rest of the seats were empty. I sat beside her. I didn’t say a word, nor did she. We were silent for two hours. When the credits rolled and the lights came up, I asked her What are the odds for this movie to be our first and last together? Then for the first time she looked at me and said It doesn’t matter. She smiled and walked away for the rest of my life.

Except, of course, that the rest of my life ended too quickly, because yesterday I met her again. Same time. Same place. Same movie. Same seat. And the same emptiness in the cinema I thought someone somewhere was playing a divine joke I could have died. And then she smiled and called out to me I told you so, it doesn’t matter. She tapped the leather seat and gestured that I take the spot. I did, for at that moment I knew there was no other place I’d rather be.

A few hours ago, she and I made a deal. We are not to see each other again. No calls. No texts. No Facebook messages. We are to let serendipity take its course, perhaps in another cinema, but she on her seat and I beside her, if ever that day comes, for yet again such is the nature of separate lives. But the emptiness of cinemas and of beds will never feel the same as they used to be.

And as the bonfire scatters its last flames to the breeze, I take a swig, but the whiskey still won’t wash your name down my throat. It’s one of those nights when I can do nothing but stare at the miasma of interstellar confusion exploding in the darkness above like an orgasm of the cosmos. Stars have names, too, and I’ve known some of them long enough to merit being forgotten for a while, but in them I remember you. Your name. You’re not even a fixture in the sky. Ever so persistent, the waves flail themselves against the sandy shore before retreating back into the infinite waters. I wish I was a wave, you the undertow to drag me back to where I came from before the embers that light the night turn to ashes.

Monday, October 14, 2013

How to Send Every Boy to the Friend Zone Forever

Night Stroll by Leonid Afremov

“Tanga lang ang umiibig. At gago lang ang hindi.” - Norman Wilwayco

Give him ten years, more or less, to chase you like a shadow, because you’re quite like the sun, the light at the nucleus of his everything, shining as bright as hindsight at the cost of dimming the only future he will ever have. Look him in the eyes. Gaze at him. Observe him breathe. He is not about to asphyxiate. It’s just that you have your eyes directed right at him, which is too rare it might as well be classified as extinct. Notice that he wears his dignity on his chest as if it is a piece of armor shielding his heart, and your task is to dismantle it, little by little, the way one would demolish a shanty down to the earth. With perseverance and a suspension of conscience, you will triumph. You will emerge unscathed as you brush him off like dust. You will proclaim that it can be done. It will take time. But as you go along, feign interest. Pretend that you appreciate his gestures. Thank him for seeing you that midnight on such short notice because you felt depressed, and goddamn aren’t we all. Take him for a fool, because no one who has fallen in love has ever gotten things right. “Men most of all,” you say, to which he will momentarily bow his head, lift it, and try to reach for your hand on the table. Draw your hand back to your lap and smile for half a second. Repeat as often as necessary, perhaps all the time, because you are not to be touched, or physically consoled, by someone who is always on your beck and call, someone who lives far south and yet understands fully well that wherever he goes his compass will always point north.

You live north, a hundred miles away. “Of course it’s cold up here,” you tell him over the phone, and no you don’t need a hug.

And then complain. Complain to him that your ex-boyfriend won’t answer your calls and won’t send you a text message. Let him hear you whine about how scorned of a woman you are. Grumble at the fact that the guy doesn’t even want to see you. “What the fuck is the use of him having a car anyway?” you say, “and the pig only lives next town!” Suddenly, you are silent. You hear the boy’s faint breathing over the line, and he tells you it will be alright. “No,” you counter, and you finish the conversation with your injunction. “Come and see me.”

And so north he goes. Without his own car. Calling you while he is on his way, but you won’t pick up. Sending you text messages through his journey, but you won’t reply. A hundred miles of silence, cured only by the consolation of your question: “Are you in town already?” And quite eagerly, with the biggest sense of redemption to wipe away the dejection from his eyes, he will tell you I’m almost there.

Almost there.

Except that he will never be there, that solitary spot in you where he truly wants to be. To you, the boy is a dead and exploded ventricle that can never replace the chambers of your own heart. What he is more than willing to offer, you are unwilling to accept.

No doubt there will be happier days. Some Saturdays will be spent watching the sunset by the sunken garden, his arm deployed across your shoulders, your head leaning to his side while the world minds its own business. A few hours on some Sundays you will splurge in his apartment, waiting for him to finish cooking your favorite dish, and you will call it the best dinner you’ve ever had in your life before saying your casual goodbyes. The peck you will give him on his cheek will stay on his memory like scar on skin.

But at the end of the decade, reject him completely. Send him to the friend zone without the slightest hope of repatriation. And because he is already as naked as a conch deprived of its shell, he will be left wondering where his dignity went. But he has little use for it now. In the friend zone, pride is a severely deflated tire punishing itself against hot asphalt — it won’t take anyone anywhere. And quite incidentally, as if the universe is not yet done with its ruthless sense of humor, the bus he will ride back south will have flat tires somewhere halfway through the return trip. The boy will wonder where the cosmos has decided to trap him this time. Stuck in the middle, that’s where the boy is. North is far, and so is south.

Of course you are not cruel. Of course it is not in your nature, beautiful that you truly are, to see yourself as a royalty whose sole purpose of having been born is to dismiss everyone else as disposable appendages to your incalculable whim to embody perfection with such precision you begin to think you are a god yourself. You swear you have no intention of breaking his heart, or anyone else’s for that matter. You are pure. You are divine. You wanted someone like a brother and not a lover, or at least someone not him. More than seven billion people in the world, and in your records he is not even one of them. After all, mere objects do not count.

To you, he seems to be just like that — an object, a vague specimen yet to be placed under the rules of taxonomy. Had he not been one, he would’ve told you early on I don’t want us to be just friends because there’s more to what we have than amity. But he did not. Tanga kasi eh.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Way of the Brokenhearted

Woman Reclining by A Lake by Edward Cucuel

We gather in crowded rooms where we can surround ourselves with our collective misery, except that, while the shindig is at its peak like an orgasm that no one wants preempted, nobody wants to flatly admit that our lives are as artificial as a silicone implant hanging too low it’s about to kiss the navel. Throughout the charade, we prefer the gaze of the faint ceiling lamps to assure us that most of us are left in the dark, groping whatever is there to grope for as long as it is not as emaciated as Samantha’s left cheek, or pride. No one even remembers her. I do, of course, but that’s beside the point. So we shake our heads and curl our toes and rub the few things in between our heads and toes, because we are sure, and this we swear to all the gods there has ever been, that that is all that is left of us — the few things in between, and for so few the heart is not even one of them. Imagine that. But whoever took it can keep it. Long ago we have convinced ourselves that love is neither as soft as an easy chair nor as fresh as the morning air. In other words, Barbara Streisand is wrong, which does not necessarily mean that Salbakuta is right, either. Christ on a hot burrito I do not even listen to both, but then we break into singing, like a fledgling choral group belting high notes — “Yes, high notes, there is no other way to put it” my new friend said, who confessed that he was gay even if everyone already knew, gesturing how high a high note is from one fingertip to another — because this is the way of the brokenhearted.

“So here’s a condescending question: where’s your girlfriend?”

“Girlfriends.” Someone else chimed in. I wasn’t able to figure out who it was.

“C-cut it out,” I said, “you and you and you and you and” I kept pointing until everything became blurred. “Someday I’ll f-find someday I’ll find her.”

“Pity you.”

“Oh y-yeah? Fuck you t-too, Danica. Yeah fuck you,” I said.

I didn’t see it coming. What swiftly hit my right cheek was as hard as an iron beam, though I admit it was a quick follow through when Danica’s lips suddenly touched mine, which was perhaps my compensation for the punishment she just meted out. Then her tongue dug into my mouth. I liked the whiff of beer in her breath and the faint smell of cigarette smoke on her hair that still had the scent of shampoo and ohmygod her smooth hand is now inside my pants goodlordhavemercy I’m getting so stiff down there.

“Penis,” Danica whispered in my ear.

“That is correct,” I whispered back. It felt like human anatomy class all over again.

“Danica dear not here,” Benny said. Or was it Benny? He tapped her on the shoulder. “Get a room.” He winked at me, then he gently stroke Danica’s hair. And Danica nonono please no don’t stroke it up down up down up ohgodalmighty that feels so good I think I love you.

Danica laughed. Guffawed. “Oh no you don’t love me,” she said, pulling out the hand and wagging a finger in front of my eyes. She sucked the finger. She sucked it like a jealous but calculating little girl, ending her performance by running the tip of her tongue on the fingernail, circling it with as much accuracy as she can manage under the faint light.

“Not bad. Not bad at all,” Jasper said, clapping his hands like a seal. He somehow looked like one, too. I told him about it thirty minutes and I think six bottles ago. He wasn’t amused, but he was quick to pardon my sin. Better than most priests, I must say, to which he replied, smiling, “I’d rather be a nun.”

Someone returned from the comfort room and sulked on the lounge sofa beside Danica. “Hey J-Jennifer,” I said, though I can’t recall if that was her name, “wh-what was it about the - ”

“Jennifer?” she said. “Silly you, drunk as an Irish on a Friday night payday.”

I don’t quite understand why I had to remember their names. After all, that night was the first and last time that we’ll ever see each other. That’s how we roll, people who believe desperate times call for desperate measures. That’s how we roll, and roll we did, Danica and I, rolling it and smoking it until things felt hazier than I can recall that night, and when I told her I like you she said hahaha but then she embraced me and I felt her breasts pressed against my chest and ohmygod they’re so soft can I touch them and she said no not here and she led me out the door then downstairs and I remember hailing a taxi before my eyes closed and when I woke-up again we stopped somewhere and got out of the car and went upstairs and god it’s so cold inside this room where are we and she said my place and I knew and she knew and before long we were naked in bed because she took off my shirt and pants and underwear and I did to her what she did to me and ohmygod nice curves and she said shut it and enjoy the show and she mounted me and shook her hips slowly very slowly and daaaamn was all I could say.

I lost consciousness somewhere in the middle.

Another morning, and just another day for the brokenhearted. Blood on the sheets. Blood on the floor. Crimson everywhere, and a heart in my bag. Goodbye, Danica. I hope you enjoy the bathtub.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Appointment

Rain Princess 2 by Leonid Afremov

“Wait for about three seconds after I press the record button, then state your name, age, occupation. We’ll begin from there.”

“OK, Doc,” I said.

He pressed the button. One two three

“Eight years?”

“Eight years.”

This is how we started.

At seven in the morning, I got up from bed and did what I always do on weekdays: brushed my teeth, took a bath, changed clothes, fixed myself a cup of black coffee, slung my backpack, and walked out of the room. Quite perfunctory for a third year college student on a Monday.

Except that it wasn’t.

You see, I have the habit of taking the ceramic cup with me to my morning class, although by the time I’ve reached the classroom I’ve already downed the coffee. Picture me inside the passenger jeep en route to my class sipping from the cup aaahh goddamn shit tastes so good and then of course I have to pay my fare with my left hand bayad po isang estudyante and reach for the other passengers’ fare once in a while because it’s rude not to even if the whole world can perfectly see you’re busy enjoying that steaming liquid black as everyone’s pupils but they don’t mind no sir they don’t because they say it’s common courtesy and probably because yeah fuck sensibility.

One kilometer in fifteen minutes. You’d be surprised that, in a place tucked at the foot of a mountain, we also boast of having to suffer heavy traffic first thing in the morning. We’re not living in a city, though I suppose the difference is the same.

Aaahh goddamn shit tastes so good.

And then the jeepney stopped. Someone got in. I wouldn’t have bothered chuckling, feeling giddy. I wouldn’t have restrained myself from looking less morose than I usually do, because I’ve long convinced myself that life is trivial, and that death is a travesty of it. I wouldn’t have told myself well fuckit I’m going to where she’s going screw my first class because today just for once the universe has given me a sign I should not ignore.

Because the girl who just got in, for the love of god, was also holding a ceramic cup of black coffee.

Unbelievable, I know, because I cannot imagine the odds of two people sharing the same ride sitting face-to-face and having similar ceramic cups of black coffee on their hands on the same hour of the same day.

Later on, she said she had it all planned, she having frequently seen me and my cup for the previous weeks except that I didn’t notice, her presence most of all. But I don't buy her confession, even if she said “Aaahh goddamn shit tastes so good” and I cannot help but smile and gently hold her chin and plant a kiss on her cheek and she must’ve felt happy the way she embraced me. Good days. Better days.

And this is how we ended.

The typhoon thrashed the city on the first Sunday of the rest of my life. By the time the roads were flooded and the bus stop was marooned, we went our separate ways: I north, she south, or wherever it was that she intended to go, perhaps dry land where she can take shelter from the storm. It was no use looking back. The heavy rain swallowed what little was left of her silhouette in the growing darkness. I did not cry. Tears are never for the broken. The sky had to do what my eyes cannot, because long ago on happier days I have already emptied myself of sorrow so that, at least for once, I can be as bad as a cliché forever stuck on a page. For the first time, I went home with two ceramic cups in my backpack, or at least what was left of them. I counted. Thirty-two fragments.

“And where’s the rest of it?”

“What do you mean, Doc?”

“The rest of the story. The eight years. What happened between the start and the end?”

“That’s strange, Doc. I’ve been asking myself the same question.”

“Damnit. What’s the use of being a doctor in purgatory when the guardians purge the memories out of all the souls in here? Jeeesus Christ.”

“Can I remove the noose from my neck now, Doc?”

“Suit yourself.”



She entered the room.