An Imagined Friendship

I sat on the soft-cushioned chair on that warmly-lit salon and  feel like I have found the best place to finally surrender myself  and my toenails. In hell days like Mondays, sometimes, a foot massage or nail cleaning services could be paradise enough for spartan legs who worked like hell–standing up for long hours in front of students and walking to get errands done. As I was thinking how tired my legs are, I never cared how the nail-cleaning lady looked like and instead directed my attention to the glass window that provided a great view of the grayish atmosphere with people and vehicles passing by. Even the sight of some good-looking men standing outside queuing up to pay their Leyeco bills did not give me the least excitement. I am simply tired and I need to be pampered. Even if it’s not for free, I, simply, don’t care.

The nail-cleaning lady approached me and asked if I would like a manicure or a pedicure. I told her I need a pedicure and again, I sank back to my reveries, my eyes seem to count the red-painted tricycles. She tried to smile at me but I was too tired to smile back. These are the rarest moments when tiredness took away my bubbly nature and all I could do was look at her and the bottles of nail-cleaning substances in her left hand. 

She started spraying the cuticle remover on my nails and scraping my two-week old cuticles. I looked intently at her fingers and how she cleaned my toes. I was relieved she didn’t comment on my ugly discolored toenails that most nail-cleaning ladies did. Her fingers felt light on my feet and that assured me that she wouldn’t torture them as some people do as if they know my toenails all their lives! 

There was this gay nail-cleaner who cleaned my toenails, two weeks ago. He felt like he had every right to do what he thought was best for my nails, digging soft skin at the sides of my nails and hurting some flesh inside my nails. I would’ve loved to kicked his face while he’s doing his job but then I ended up clenching my fist instead. I never go to that salon ever again.

Anyway, this lady was different. She scraped the cuticles subserviently as if my feet were all that matters to her. She didn’t even care looking up at the television even with the loud shrieking of girls on a suspense movie. And then suddenly, she asked me where I live. I hear my self giving a single-word answer. But she persisted asking me again where I worked and if I’m married. The first one is something of a standard but the second question is the one thing I hate the most. 

But she looked so innocent as if that question was given by the Holy Spirit and she merely acted like a vessel of some important message from God. Her innocence made me smile and finally, I got comfortable with her. I adjusted my leg in such a way that they are stretched more on her chair. Then, more questions keep popping up and I continued with my single answers while looking at her and noticing her eyebags. I wonder how many hours has she had been working and if she still has to do chores when she comes home. I imagine herself having a baby who might wake up at night for milk. Her husband could be one of the tricycle drivers who earned a meager sum of money. But despite all that, they felt happy, they felt a certain lightness in their lives. Oh lightness, Oh emancipation, where could you be? I longed for you! 

Her hands get lighter by the minute. After she gave her finishing touch, surprisingly, she massaged my feet with such grace everybody else in the room, the hairdresser and the other nail-cleaning ladies tried to look at her ‘coz it’s simply not part of the services anymore. hahaha.

I felt so damn lucky as if I have found a friend who understands my need even without me demanding it. In turn, I tried to repay her gentleness by opening some of myself more. I threw questions back at her and initiated a conversation. I asked why she speaks a little Tagalog. She told me, yes, she was new in Ormoc and had lived in Manila for a long time. 

I could’ve stayed long enough to take advantage of the free massage of that generous, innocent-looking girl but then I felt guilty with the prying eyes of the other employees in that salon. I paid my bill and gave her a tip. I wish I could see her again next time. And hopefully, I will stop from merely uttering single-word answers. Maybe, I would tell her that my toenails need to be taken cared of because they were once damaged. And maybe, I would also love to here her life story then. And with that, a new door of possible near-friendships could be opened. 

 

 

Dear Cousin

Dear cousin, 

I saw you in church today. We were in the same queue during communion. You were wearing a black shirt and you always had your chin held high as if you were looking out for something somewhere on your left. I tried to meet your eyes and smile at you but you never looked at my direction. You were three paces away from me and I have this feeling, you have seen me when I went inside the church. You know that I’m always late whenever I hear mass and with this, I always get visible to everybody. Being late in mass is one of the childhood traits I have never unlearned up to this time. It is a mark that I and my mum, your aunt, hold proud amidst all these years.

But she stopped hearing mass with me. She’s at home, trapped in a time warp where the past and the present exists in one frame of reality where our dead grandpa or my papa are still alive. She even calls them to dine with us for dinner. And yes,  she even mistook me for your mum. She considers me as her sister. You might have seen me with her, a few times in the past, but her asthma and her incessant need to pee made me decide that going to church doesn’t serve its purpose anymore. And for sure, if God could talk, He will surely advise me to let her home then and enjoy the confines of her fantasies. 

Dear cousin, all I want is to seek for a sign, a certain nod, a weak smile, even a simple recognition of kinship that for once we played makeshift mini houses together, hide and seek or buwan-buwan in one of those dark nights when there was no electricity.You and others from your family are always good at playing. I can’t run or do tricks as you guys cleverly do. I was a weakling who would just stay under a shade or who rather sat near our window and watch others play outside. 

Years pass by without our noticing it. We never bond with each other that much again. Our families had conflicts before especially with money. And I, being the only one left, had to defend what’s left of us. I had to defend my mum and successfully, here I am, I always rise every time. I always do. 

Just a smile, dear cousin, even a faint one. That’s all I need. It could probably lighten up the emotional burden I was carrying at the moment. I have problems, too. I was trying to “lift them all up” to the Lord as what they say. Your smile could’ve remind me of those days when we grin and bare our teeth unhesitatingly. You could’ve helped me a bit. But u never did. 

And so I retreated once more to my shell, reality has won and I have to act like a grown-up then. Someday, you might understand, how lonely it is to be in my place, how lonely it is to hear mass alone while looking at you from a distance. 

We finished communion and I have to pretend I didn’t see you, my eyes darted strategically to where I was seated. This is just one the few times when I felt myself torn. It lead me to think of what would happen in the future, what if we happen to bring our own kids or families together in church, would you ignore me still? 

I am quite certain you would. But this I say, a part of me never changed up to this time. I am still a weakling and can’t run fast. There are also times that I eat big like a boy without caring about calories. There are times when I would’ve wanted to make playhouses or get bathe in the rain. And I do grin unhesitatingly. 

I carry with me all these thoughts all throughout the mass until the last hymn. Peace be with you, my dear cousin. You will always be a part of my childhood. And if given a chance to bestow some love to your kids, I would willingly give some. But for now, let’s retreat to our own comfort zones, wear our own disguises, go home and face the present once more. Mama is waiting, as usual to have dinner with me at home.  

 

Some Sort of A Elegy

The cicadas were singing while I was on a jeepney going to a sick aunt’s house. It was around five o’clock in the afternoon. The sky is casting a grayish-orangey tint that reminds people of a coming rain. But there was no rain that afternoon. There was only a calmness of the perrenial cogon grasses behind the road, the stolidness of the houses behind the road and the usual chattering of people inside the jeepney. I was carrying flowers for my aunt. They were flowers for the dead. With all these “ordinariness” of things, a part of me still won’t believe that a dear aunt has indeed died. 

 I just got out from work and had this spur-of-the-moment decision to finally see her after receiving that horrible text message announcing her death. I can her a sob trying to escape from my throat while reading the message. It is so amazing how a person’s life can be concluded with just a very short message announcing her death. 

 After all this time, I still don’t want to use the word “dead” to describe her. She was merely sick and was in her sickbed for months now. Last time I saw her, she was mere skin, bones and what has been that so-called remnants of her long, curly hair has now turned into a disheveled mass in her pillow. She can’t speak back then and when I told her I was going, she only replied with a feeble nod. They had transferred her home as she refused to undergo another operation that was hoped to correct the first one.

A sodium light bulb was lighted in their doorway and there was a makeshift room that has been turned as an extension to their door. There were a few people playing cards on the tables and I can see that the interior of the house was lighted, overly lighted in fact. So this is it. I entered the door and there it was a coffin with some candles around it. There were flowers of different kinds, too. Then there was her husband, my uncle. His weary eyes greeted me. There were a few people sitting with him in a corner.

So it was all real. I sit there the whole time, not saying a word, just taking all that has happened so slowly. Silently, I imagined myself saying something to my aunt. I told her, I will always remember my summers spent in their house and all the warmth she has showed to me. Goodbye dear aunt. I will love you forever. 

 

 

And There It Falls From A Tree

And there it falls from a tree. This brown, tamsi bird met its sad fate in between my dogs’ playful claws. Ate Bebie, our helper, found it while she was sweeping the leaves in our front yard. The creature still has its hopes intact as it tries to hop away from her and from anybody coming near. It tried to flap its wings but its as if, it had lost its balance a few seconds ago. Finally, Ate Bebie managed to picked it up and bring it inside the house. Can It still live and fly? I asked her. But she only grip the bird tighter in her palm as it tries to escape from it. 

(to be continued)

 

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Of Scribbles On Receipts and Abandoned Papers

While I was having a break from an online class today, I tried to rummage through my bag hoping to find that pad where I have scribbled a new story that dawned on me while I was on-board a ferry going to Cebu. I have this habit of scribbling a few sentences on receipts, an abandoned paper in my bag or a bus ticket whenever I feel the urge. For some reason, I don’t like keeping an official journal. A notebook makes me feel that I HAVE to write and have to open that notebook as much as possible.

But yes, I have a journal some years back, that I never dared open yet until now. I guess I am not yet ready to face the kind of passion that I put to writing some years back compared with the lackadaisical, aimless, practical life that I want to lead at the moment.

It has been four years since I’ve written a full short story. And in a workshop, it was praised and well-accepted by critics including a college professor who has been a close friend and my momentary mum who unceasingly hear my life story and the psychological turmoils of a college kid who is experiencing some kind of a dark night of the soul after her brother decided to get married and left her in an unfinished quest to fight with the raging dilemmas of adolescence. Oh boy, I have just summarized a chapter in my life! LOL! 

I like writing stories. I used to write poems but after writing my first ever short story, I feel I am more at home with the loose and experimental structure of a short story compared with the cerebral, organized structure of a poem. The bad thing about writing stories or writing in general is that it didn’t let me stop thinking even in the most inconspicuous places and moments–while shitting, on the bus going home from work, while talking with a friend, in the middle of a work or while doing one of the most intimate pleasures you have like having sex. LOL!

For years, I have been silencing my mind and since then. The past four years are mostly f*ck ups anyway. And should writing really imitate life even its scum? So, here I am. In four years,I have survived recovering from a very disastrous relationship. I have survived from being allienated from people around me including friends that I used to have. My night job as a tutor and my busy schedule, basically, weakens my social life. Also, I feel lonely being thrown back in my town without anybody sharing the same ideals and love for movies, books or hobbies. 

But that’s enough, I guess. I would like to end that phase with so much courage as I could muster. Maybe, there is really no need to silence my thoughts after all. I just have to let them go and be me even with all the f*ck up stuff happening around me. Inner strength. I have developed some of it and I need more. 

I don’t care if I will have my receipts dirtied and the abandoned papers in my bag be filled with scribbles. I am even planning to put some kind of a board inside my room. I would like to write again as much as I can. By the way, I have observed that most of my ideas are borne when I’m away from home. So away from home I should, from time to time.  I should also see my professor again or talk to my brother again. I am not really the type who looks back in the past. But I guess I have to do it. I have to write again. 

A Post Remark On A Friend’s Wedding

I first met them in a town fiesta. Maila, a childhood friend, has this habit of bringing visitors in town whenever she returned to Merida. At first, I thought it was one of her cousins but no, this time, it is a boyfriend. We stayed in the disco until 2am until it was time for us to part. I have already graduated from college back then and was working on my first ever job. I was involved in a relationship that time but unfortunately, it ended after three years. I’ve been in several jobs after that but amidst changes around me, one thing remained: she and her bf are still together! Thus, when I received her text saying that she’s getting married, I considered it as something inevitable and what happened in the last years finally wind down to this one event that will finally conclude their love.

The wedding is set in Cebu, the place where my friend and her guy, Alrei met. In 2008, I used to meet them for lunch or a mall hangout. I had stayed in Panganiban and Junquera Extension in those times and my friend in Villa Leyson. They are inseparable. Their bonding goes beyond erotic love or friendship. They look like siblings at times. It was a common sight to see Alrei wipe sweat in my friend’s face or offer to carry a bag of groceries. These gestures that can be likened to complete submission are very sweet. They got me envious.

However, years later, when I went back to my hometown, I received texts or chats from my friend saying that they’ve been in a fight or there was news of some affairs that broke her heart. And with my independent, willful nature, I readily advise her to break free from the relationship. But like any successful love tales, they always managed to get back together and continued what they have started. New faces may have appeared in their facebook posts, Alrei may have found a new job or my friend may have promoted to a new position but they were always there for each other.

I arrived in Cebu one day before the wedding. Since 2010 in a three-day writer’s convention, I have never set foot in the city again. Thus, when I went out from Weesam in pier 3, I feel like thrown in a new jungle. I felt like a fool not to even remember where to hail for a jeep going to SM. I took the taxi instead and waited for a friend in SM. We decided to engage in a sinful pizza-pasta trip in Yellowcab Ayala and forget the weight loss regimen, for a while. My cousin met me there. Being one of the bridesmaids as well, she got her nails cleaned and bought a new pair of high heels for the wedding.

I slept in my cousin’s place and we reminisced memories in grade school. My cousin, Doreen, Maila and I were one of the famous trios in grade school class. We were seatmates, and since we are more or less of the same height, we stayed near each other in dance practice, girl scout line-ups or group singing. However, they have enrolled in Saint Peter’s College while I, being in a struggling family that time, got enrolled in a public high school, the Ormoc City National High School.

In church and in the reception, I had the chance to meet their high school buddies in SPC. I was introduced to Miko, Jenneth, Leah and Mark. Maila’s relatives, some of them who were my playmates before, were also there. Popong, who had a crush on me, is now working as manager in one of the departments of Robinson’s Fuente. He is now a father of three kids. Goldie, who used to visit Merida on summer vacations, is now an I.T. expert in an outsourcing firm in Cebu. I cannot help but overhear their conversations with her narrating her experience in Russia as part of a training in her job. Na Amparo and Noy Nanding, Maila’s parents were there with her aunties and cousins. It was like a mini-reunion.

In the reception, I never got to talk much with my cousin because she was busy catching up with her high school classmates. I just seek refuge to my Nikon point and shoot camera and took pictures of the food, the singer, the flowers on the table, other visitors in the next tables, the view of the metropolis and some scenes during the couple’s wedding dance.

I don’t really care. It was enough for me to be in the same room with my friend, watching her transform and took this grand step that separates her from the aimless roads of being single. It was enough for me that I have been in her wedding and made her feel that I am willing to be part of this new chapter in her life.

Fortunately, my tube, magenta-colored gown looked good on me. I did not feel fat wearing it but I must admit I get self-conscious; it might slip downward and expose my breasts. Haha!
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Doreen, who sounds gullible and believes that getting the bouquet will bring good love vibes, unfortunately, did not get it during the games. I am also currently single and I have decided months ago to live life as it is and forget about the stereotypical idea that girls should be married before 30. I’ll be 29 this year and I just CANNOT care yet. There are plans, endless plans for myself and for my mother at home. I even do not know where, in these plans, my man would come in.

I went back to Ormoc, on board the overnight Roble trip, feeling happy and refreshed. Despite my work schedule, I had managed to get out from the routine I have followed for years now. I am uploading wedding pictures on facebook, sometimes, looking at Maila’s wall and some news in their first week of being married. But no news yet especially of announcements of having babies. I am not in a hurry either. It was just good knowing that despite this world of skepticism and greed, people get married and prove once again that love remains and love is all that matters. I can only hope, pray and believe that this new couple will continue being happy in their marriage life, infinitely.

Aimless Thought With The Birds

Here comes the birds again. Their hurried wings rustling across the tambis and chico leaves in our frontyard and that euphonic chirping are one of the most look-forward to moments in the morning. Whether it is a rainy or sunny weather, it doesn’t matter. Their loyalty lies in these trees even with strongest of tempests we had experienced.

One thing peculiar, though, is I never got to actually see them. I just hear their sound from a distance. But not this morning. When I went out and resisted the temptation to be glued on a seat again and checked people on facebook, there was this pair of tamsi birds hopping in our tambis tree. Their brown, evenly-patterned wings glistened in the sunlight. They hop from one branch to another, sometimes their beaks touching each other. 

I would have like to think that this pair have survived the storm. It could be that they need to look for food for the young. They could be two aimless adventurers hoping from one tree to the next. They hover from roof to roof, their senses always ablaze with food cooking and never-ending sights of tiny figures moving, their wings touching the plethora of pollens along their way.

This thought appealed to me. If I were a bird then, which I really wish I am, I want to be as ordinary as the tamsi, nothing fancy on my wings, no large beaks to catch the onlookers’ attention. I want to mimic the brownness of the trees and suddenly target my beak to a helpless prey. I want to fly with the wind and smell a neighbor’s cooking. I want to tease, in a split second, a dog who has once plotted  to make me his breakfast. I want to be with the kingfishers and listen to their adventures. I want it all.

More and more birds gather around our tambis tree as I stayed on and their merry noises celebrating the sunshine has become fuller. This time, I had to take off my wings, transform my fragile legs into my old slippered pair and avert my attention to our house’ direction. There you could see loads of papers waiting to be checked and breakfast waiting.

 

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