For people who walk hand in hand with anxiety, it will always come as a surprise when someone tells us that we are the missing puzzle in his or her life. Everyday we spend precious seconds tiptoeing, walking on thin glass — afraid that one wrong move would break our hard-earned peace of mind. For us, it will always be a question of why. Why me? Why leave? Why stay? We keep a long list of why’s on our pockets so whenever we feel like we took a bad step and notice the slightest change, we know what to start asking. Why did his tone dropped a little lower? Why is she touching her ears? Why did it took him extra 2 seconds to answer?
People say that we should learn to trust others. But, truth is, they are not the problem. We can hand them all the trust we have, but we can never fully trust ourselves. We will never be a good enough reason for anything. Not smart enough. Not kind enough. Not talented enough. Not pretty enough. Sooner or later they will realize that we are the not the missing puzzle. We are the puzzle. And that is the hardest thing.
I wake up to the monotonous sound of the fan. An unpleasant feeling starts to claw its way out of my chest and I begin to understand why they call this time of the day ‘the witching hour’.
Perhaps because here, in the quiet, we get to sit side by side with the unknown. That feeling of being sad, anxious, drained and lost for no apparent reason. Or maybe we simply just can’t pinpoint.
Many times I have put my heart out only to end up more dejected. You see, when you have all the reasons to be happy, people think you can’t feel otherwise. When you do, they ask you why. As if I am not as equally frustrated finding out the reason myself.
Somebody once told me that perhaps I’m being ungrateful. I have caring friends and family. A stable job. A pile of books. A passion in writing and exploring the outdoors. I have found love and life. So why would I not be okay?
I look to my left hoping that the bare wall knows the answer. It does not. An hour has passed yet there is still a clamor in my head. I want to go out for a long walk. But I fear they might burn me like they did to witches.
I’m sorry, but I can’t find a metaphor for you to get around this thought so I just have to ask it straight to your face.
What if you didn’t cheat?
You would be playing the guitar under the moonlit sky as I sing Daniel Caesar’s Best Part for the seventh time. Your fingers would hurt from strumming and probably your eardrums too from listening. But you would just laugh it out. You always do.
Like when I stepped on your toes while trying to reach a book from the top shelf. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I had no idea who the bearded guy was but I heard reading his book would make one look smarter. So I bought it. And you laughed.
But this is not a night for laughing. This is a night for asking how could a man who loves coffee forgets his mate? How could an ‘I love you’ sound like another woman’s name. How could emptiness sit between two people, with each passing second leaving a stab in the back straight to the heart?
There goes your metaphor.
It’s funny how I can liken cheating to so many things. A scenery gone wrong. Failing an open book test. Salt in a sugar jar. A crime with no punishment.
If only one of them would make the pain a little bearable.
What if you didn’t cheat? I probably wouldn’t have to worry on who I’d be: the girl who walks away or the girl who stays?
You who are probably wearing a little black dress or a loose shirt and skinny jeans or your grandmother’s overalls.
I want you to know that you can spit them now. Your hatred, your frustration, your anger. You are not a refugee from the past. You are here, now – breathing, living.
When you happen to pass a dark alley and you hear the whistle of lust, it’s okay to fight your might. Do not allow that man to define you in fragments. Skin, neck, legs, breasts and thighs— as if you are a piece of meat that can be pulled apart. I will join you in particicution for we are more than the gates of heaven that opens in one thrust. We are capable of giving them hell.
But, remember, you are also free to take flight. It is not your fault to tremble and feel your body shake. When the outside world and your mind are in equal darkness, it’s okay to cry. This world is cruel and respect is nothing but an amputated speech. I understand your distrust.
I’ve heard it too, passed on to me in soundless words with their lips hardly moving. Yes, they do not touch us but their eyes take off our clothes faster than their hands do. They claim respect but they reduce our worth to the size of an hourglass, a number, a measurement, a color. A rape joke with a disclaimer “do not take it personal”.
You! Yes, you.
Spit it out, that acrid taste of misogyny and sexism. Be angry and be frustrated because this is not what you deserve. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.
This one’s inspired by Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a harrowing story chronicling women’s struggle and survival set in a strict patriarchal society. The book is more that just a dystopian classic, it’s a warning to a not-so-distant future.
My mind is graveyard of thoughts. Of things profound and absurd. Of words that faded in one breath. Left buried and unsaid.
Sometimes, like ghosts, they slip through my door— in the quiet of the night when I’m two seconds away from sleep. Pulling me up from the covers.
At times, in the middle of the day, they sit with me. Side by side. At work, when I’m staring too long at the screen. Or even when I’m randomly talking to my friends.
Remember day that when you told me about the tragedy of the commons? On how individuals tend to exploit / neglect the well-being of shared resources? For a second, Ayn Rand and capitalism came to mind.
But, like all worthy thoughts, I shrugged it away.
I let my mind wander with elves, pixies and silverdusts. I thought about how tragic must it be for other people not to trudge the earthy soil down to the very womb of nature. On how magical the day is with the leaves murmuring softly as the wind blows. The birds chirping from a distance completing the grand orchestra for just you and I to hear.
How tragic must it be for other people to think climbing the mountains is common.
Believe me, I almost choked on my lunch when that memory popped in my head. And I realized, I have killed another conversation with my fancies. We would have talked about Atlas Shrugged. You probably would have asked why I read this kind of crap. And though I do not agree with Rand’s philosophy, I would have told you the woman has got something right, too.
I would have love to hear what you think if I ask you whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves— or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.
But that time has long gone. This is the tragedy of being a common daydreamer. Being left with nothing but a candle for another dearly, departed conversation.
“Here lies Maria, finally one with her thoughts.”
If I were dead, my epitaph would probably read like this.
i try to bury the pain and blink.
with eyes moving from tab after tab, ears focused on the mechanical tapping of keyboards, i try to forget their names.
The first tab led me to 9gag. A GIF of a “normal night” in an english pub flashed before my eyes. Drunken men fighting each other, brawling for fun. It was supposed to make me laugh— but it didn’t. The images of bodies thrown on burning houses played at the back of my mind. Blood flows to the river banks as the women of Rohingya shout in pain.
I clicked the second tab that led me to Bored Panda. A list of surprisingly simultaneous historical events that will change the way you think of history caught my eye. I couldn’t get past after the odds of Prisoners Arriving At Auschwitz Just Days After Mcdonald’s Was Founded were mentioned. I felt my stomach flipped at the thought of death camp. My mind traveled back to Syria. What are the odds of living for the displaced refugees? Then to indonesia, will they be handed their rights?
On a desparate attempt to shun the looming gloom in my head, I tried the last tab. The literature page, my second virtual haven next to my blog. The poetry section listed Edgar Allan Poe’s A Dream Within a Dream on the top. His words pierced me with added force and I plunged into the depths of helplessness head first. Is this life just one big false awakening? Are the endless murders and tortures just part of a nightmare?
i try to bury the pain and blink.
closing the tabs, unplugging the chords, i stared at the black screen
hoping to forget their names.
I wrote this a month ago, on one afternoon I immersed myself in the world news. I did not pusblish it because I was disheartend with what was happening. Still is. But back then the pain was too raw for me to share it in this blog. The cynic and existentialist in me has taken over my head, asking questions that could not be answered. Or perhaps I just do not accept.
I was not at the wrong place at the wrong time. Their eyes followed me with a laugh— or perhaps a mock— as I sit on the stand. My anguish did not mean a thing and I only reaped what I have sown.
I was asking for it.
When my shaking hands pointed at man across the room, I saw them smirk. My giggles the other night begged to differ the word I am trying to utter, R A P E.
I was asking for it.
Before the judge, the defense flashed a picture of my girlfriends and I. Hands holding a glass of vodka, laughing with our heads thrown back, the neon lights flashed before our tight miniskirts. I felt dirty with shame as I buried my face in my palms.
I was asking for it.
I should have known better the moment I slipped into my short skirts and high heels. I should have known the danger and the danger I bring. You see where this is going, right? When a man twice your age stops you with a leering face, it is your fault. Men will be men, and we are but a single piece plucked from their ribcage that they need to reclaim. It has always been their birthright.
I was to blame when his groin pressed down on me as his tongue slithered all over my skin. My shouts were that of ecstasy. My tears were that of joy, they say. I fucking liked it because my breath quickened with every thrust!
I was asking for it.
He showed the marks on his back with pride. That night, I buried my fingernails deep into his skin. God, I wished they were knives. Each night, the bare wall in my bedroom echoes his moans. His groans. The sound of slap from an unrecognizable monster plays on repeat. No anti-depressant or pill can help me sleep.
I wish they were knives.
I wish to be guilty of murder.
I wish I had killed that man.
I was never told being a woman is an open invitation to be fucked. That I am a platter of legs, thighs, breasts, and neck served for hungry beasts to devour. And when the meat is handed free, what kind of animal would dare to scowl?
I was asking for it, wasn’t I?
“Duterte, in a speech in Mandaue City, joked that his hometown of Davao City has a high number of reported rape cases because it has many beautiful women. Those who attended the President’s engagement laughed at the joke.” –GMA News
This is Philippines. Where a president jokes of pardons for soldiers who rape. Offers Filipino ‘virgins’ to foreigners with purchasing power. And orders soldiers to shoot women rebels in the vagina, so they become ‘useless.’ This is not the first time and it will not be the last.
This morning, through a friend’s post, I read a circulating issue regarding one Angkas driver here in Cebu. Angkas, a motorcycle ride-hailing service accessed through a mobile booking app, has been one of our reliable mode of transportation for quite some time. It appears that he was pressing the lady passenger to come with him to a motel.
This afternoon, in a sports warehouse, a man kept on stealing a gaze. As I was checking out shoes, he brushed his hands to mine “by accident”.
Tonight, as I get out of work, I do not want to go home. I assessed I have gotten used to it but the thought of men giving you catcalls and ogle as you pass by them is equal parts disturbing and tiring.
No harm done, they say. But what of the seconds we spent holding our breaths? What of the palms curled into a fist, just in case? What of the trembling knees? What of the fear as we breathe? Don’t these count?
He listens to their voices, whispering and laughing as they play with the shadows beneath the waxing moon. A girl, about four, stretches her hands. Her thumbs interlock to form a butterfly’s body, her fingers extend to form its wings. Arms high in the thin air, the shadow begins to flap. She is Haya and her brother, Alan, joins the fun.
“Yanam,” he shouts from a distance and the two dancing butterflies stopped. Colored mats cover the pavement. Linen bed sheets create a makeshift room in the dim space that is now a home. The children race towards their father, laugh as if they haven’t jumped over dead bodies during the day. As if they weren’t chased away and reduced to sleeping in the streets.
Their blanket is the sky.
In a parallel universe the night is undoubtedly romantic. In another world the moon and the stars are poetic. But this is reality. The asphalt still smell of blood. Life is still a ticking bomb. And his wife is still dead.
His lips curved into a weak smile at the thought of his wife. For the first time he was glad she picked their children’s names. Haya means “life” and Alan means “rock.” The woman must have seen it coming.
“Yanam,” he repeats and they all went to sleep.
For the months that I haven’t been blogging, I find myself immersed in the world news. Most specifically with the pains and pathos of Africa and the Middle East. What these people are going through is painful in its reality. It is disheartening in its truth.
I wrote this piece few weeks ago, inspired by an article about Syrian civilians fleeing Deraa. I was half-hearted then but decided now that I should go ahead and post it. Just as Banksy tries to make a voice with his art, this is my attempt with words.
I was feeling sad yesterday when I found that the concert tickets for December Avenue were sold out. Their music has always been my go-to playlist and I have long wanted to see this local band perform upfront. But time is not on my side, it seems. *cries*
Anyway, as I was nursing a broken heart, I received an email announcing that my entry for AkongSugbo’s photo essay contest won the runner up. One word: unbelievable! Despite my hesitations, I joined the contest last November just for the fun of it. I have always been a hopeless romantic and my muse was nudging me to write something at that time. What a surprise!
And because I’m feeling happy (still a little sad about the concert), I am sharing this entry with you. 🙂 P.S. It was written in our local dialect, Bisaya. I translated it to English but I find it weird. Haha. My apologies.