never mind

I’ve moved again. Perhaps for good. No guarantees. I float where the North Wind takes me. This time though, I’ve dropped my iron anchor on the forest floor. I’m determined to let my roots grow here. Hah. Goodbye, other people’s dreams.

I am a hermit, channeling the graces of a disincarnate Medicine Woman. Don’t mind me for now. I am steeped in witch’s brew. I’ll get to spring cleaning presently. But for now, let the spiders weave their shawls across the ceiling. Try to ignore the layer of dust on the furniture and the bat droppings on the counter. There’s plenty of time to deal with those soon.

Meanwhile, I’m listening to things grow. New life cracks open from its shell. Bulbs dig deeper into the mossy earth, getting comfortable and dreaming flowery dreams. Fish sigh in greenish waters. Fronds rustle with undecipherable secrets. I drink them all in.

Those marbles… where are they now?

doomsday musings

Last night, Tata and I stayed up until close to midnight discussing doomsday scenarios. We don’t watch too much horror movies but we gave each other a good scare over what could possibly transpire when end-of-the-world prophecies from different civilizations are to occur in our lifetime. We’re sissies this way.

True, scientists already published reports that our world is indeed in the throes of a major change, as evidenced by more powerful storms, longer droughts, increasing top wind speeds, and rapidly melting glaciers. But those reports take on a different gravity when you’re living at the neck of a potentially active volcano and you’re, more or less, on a ringside seat during one of Mother Nature’s live performances.

Here, MN’s live performance features trees toppling down for no reason, howling winds, and rains straight out of Noah-and-his-Ark’s days. Also, we are privileged to watch the unfolding of every season; only now, the seasons are skewed. Other causes for unease are the howling winds that blow stronger than ever and the rains that threaten to stay for good.

March in this tropical jungle is supposed to be sweltering hot, and a short stroll around the yard can already impart a thick coating of dust on our feet. However, last night, we huddled and shivered under blankets, mugs of unsugared coffee in our hands. Today, the clouds kidnapped the sun, and the whole world is lit in a miserable shadow. A fine mist hung a foot above the ground and it has never stopped drizzling since mid-morning.

Strange times. I expect to see more sandwich board-toting folks soon.

fitful sleep

(In a Southern City)

Stabs of worry woke me up from a fitful slumber. The rumble of a truck added to the sense of agitation that swirled around me in the cold blue dark of dawn. I groped for the lamp’s switch and chased away the crushing weight of anxiety with a warm yellow light.

In waking life, there are still unresolved issues. My studies have been halted because of non-existent funds. My employer refused to communicate regarding the status of the company and until now has not given our November and December wages. It’s already two months past November, and I kid myself that everything is still going to turn out all right. Another co-worker resigned yesterday. I worry about her. She had no other means of providing for herself, had always depended on the funds from her job.

Bills to pay.

Mouths to feed.

Bodies to clothe.

Wants and needs to satisfy.

I also wonder how long I can wing this one out.

contemplations of a parachute jumper

(In a Southern City)

I’ve uprooted myself again.

One boat ride taken yesterday morning landed me in another city by dusk. And I miss my loved ones left behind in my tropical jungle home. Perhaps I am not really cut out for a nomadic existence because my heart bleeds each time a ritual of parting takes place.

Still, I wear the mask with the painted smile. I have duties to attend to here, in this other city. It’s my own free-fall jump. Without the altimeter. Without the false sense of security attributed to the straps of a nylon parachute digging on my glenohumeral joints. Tah-tah, love. See you on the next month’s turning. Or if I manage to land safely after this crazy dive. Just like that – usually.

But I’ve made the decision now. There was a clearer deliberation after spending several weeks in a place where the air was clear and the nights were pitch black. There, I saw things in their proper perspectives. Eureka amidst the palm fronds.

I am taking a packet of seeds on my next journey back.

another impulsiveness on a sun’s day

I brought rain to this tiny city, that I did. The city was in the throes of sunny weather yesterday and I brought my gloom along for the bus ride to this place. The moment I stepped off the yellow Ceres liner, raindrops splattered down from iron-grey clouds. Welcome! Welcome!

When the bus drove off, the streets were empty of any other means of transport. Most people had sought shelter from the sudden downpour.

That I was far from home was something of which I had no clear explanation.

It was one of those impulsive decisions that I’m prone to have every once in a while. I don’t know how it happens. Probably has to do with a certain slant in the sunlight or the barometer reading at 6:09 in the morning. I don’t know what sets off the impulsiveness.

Or probably, it has something to do with the waxing and waning of the moon. Like legendary folks who have powers of lycantrophy but rue the after-effects of chasing prey the morning after (the excess hair, mud, and gristle on the torn bed sheets and the telltale finger or claw on the puke that one has to flush down the drain), I feel out of sorts when the impulsiveness passes and I discover that there are things that happened which I normally wouldn’t have done.

Fortunately for me, I had kin in this city. I made the impromptu visit and was greeted with warmth. I stayed the night and set out the next morning lest I had the fit again. As I boarded another yellow bus for Dumaguete, the clouds darkened again. The rain caught up with me while the Ceres liner was exiting the city limits. It drizzled throughout my trip all the way back to my tropical jungle home.

Perhaps I need some prescription meds or a silver slug amulet. Or probably a heavy duty raincoat or a golf umbrella.

your messiah on a harness

It’s the second meeting with friends, and before us lay the ruins of our lunch: shawarma-rice containers, corn chip and chocolate wrappers, empty soda cans, and the remnants of candy/marshmallow/rice cripies-sprinkled ice scramble. We’re in the food court of one of Dumaguete’s older shopping centers, meeting up in what we all hoped was going to turn into a regular event, a getting together of Super Jj, The Monkey Keeper and yours truly.

We just finished our “main course and side dish”, and The Monkey Keeper was holding court by narrating a series of experiences she had on the second day of January. The noise coming from the mall’s amusement center provided the background music for her retelling of a story told by someone who was supposedly enrolled in SU’s creative writing program.

What this creative-writing-program kid told her started off as a promising horror story. So, Super Jj and I made ourselves more comfortable in the best way possible when one has to deal with Lee Plaza’s food court chairs. This was a story, and we love stories.

We shut off the noise from the arcades so that we’ll catch each unfolding of the plot as The Monkey Keeper retold the story of a grave digger who had a penchant for looting the graves of  rich dead Chinese who were certain to be buried with ancient coins in their caskets. Predictably, like any good rehashed horror story, the ancient coins of the dead were supposedly cursed. Jj and I waggled our eyebrows: This is going to be good!

However, the story suddenly branched off into a badly concealed deux ex machina – complete with the inevitable exploding volcano, earth tremors and landslides our country is notorious for. Then it became a Filipino parody of Washington Irving’s Rip van Winkle, which then morphed into – what it seemed to me – a Dawn of the Dead story line. From that, the story mutated into a parable, with the grave digger being transformed into a Messiah figure on a harness. Jesus on a harness. Then the narrative evolved into a prose with an ecologically nihilistic theme that, all of a sudden, became a humorless standoff between death and salvation. It ended there… a parable of the lost soul that had Jesus Christ on a harness and the figure of a gullible Grim Reaper.

The original writer of the story actually feels good about his magnum opus, and would willingly tell anyone who shows half an interest about it or if they mistakenly buy into the false advertising that this story was “the best one ever written”. And he does not care for feedback.

But we had feedbacks, and we discussed the story’s merits (or lack of them) for a good part of the afternoon, causing someone to fail to return to the office after her lunch hour and nearly forgetting that she’s supposed to pick up one daughter from school.

Anyway, here’s the general aftertaste left by the best story ever on our psyche:

The Monkey Keeper felt that she just heard the plotline of another local TV station’s soap opera (teleserye).

Super Jj gave a trademark one-eyebrow-raised expression and a yell: “What????!!!!!!!!!”

I echoed Super Jj’s yell… So frustrating. Like being promised candies and chocolates but was instead given a cucumber and grapefruit because these latter ones are healthier and better. Blech.

It would have been a very good story… ~Sigh.~

*

I’ll put a disclaimer here:

Judge not, lest ye be judged.

I admit to writing off-tangent plot lines myself. But still… the kid’s enrolled in a creative writing program that’s supposed to enhance his writing skills. I think he’s missing out on a wonderful opportunity to really shine as a writer if he continues to proceed with that single story that he considers as his masterpiece.

vagrancy and the cold

(In the tropical jungle)

It’s freezing. And I am broke. That’s how the new year caught up with me… penniless and shivering.

I wonder how vagrants survive during the winter months.

Still, the entire household finds means to get by. At least we don’t purchase gas for our cooking fire. Although the firewood is quite damp, we can still build smoky fires to heat our instant coffee and cook our dinner. It’s all about survival this first week of 2011. That and practicing how to be grateful for the simplest blessings in life.

I wrote something down on the pad of paper I always keep handy on my work table, and my scribblings say:

I will not heap curses upon your head; instead, I ask the Universe to pour blessings unto your life that through you others may be blessed as well.

There.

I penned this down when I was nearly tearing my hair off in frustration. Funds that I expected to arrive before the old year ended didn’t come in. There was no sumptuous new year feast that I envisioned months before. I am now flat broke and powerless to influence the glacial flow of funds. Still, I am humbled that I have understanding and generous loved ones to tide me over this lean period.

Here in the tropical jungle home, we’re busy finding ways of tightening the proverbial belt. Just this morning, a person who buys scraps and junk came by and we were happy to sell off the cans and bottles that Ta’s sister has accumulated from the past year. The cans were weighed in at 28 kilograms. Our contributions to the war effort.

I’m trying to put off the inevitable decision-making that I must face before the middle of this month.

This all sounds vague as of the moment. Maybe it’s for the lack of caffeine. I’ll scavenge around the house for loose coins so I could buy instant coffee.

Don’t mind if I can’t greet you a happy new year just yet.

Still, brightest blessings be upon your life always.

here is home

(In the tropical jungle)

It’s freezing cold. I just finished a couple of articles about electricians… wrote from what I knew about electricians – that they are in charge of things, um, electronic. Actually, I did fill in the article with grit that I grabbed from a government-run website that described the nature of the electrician’s job and the qualifications in order for a person to become one. Dry stuff, but I do take comfort in the thought that what I’m doing gives me the means to line my nest with warm quilts and my stomach with rice, meat and vegetables.

Rain patters softly on the roof and finds its way in through the holes in the rusty GI sheets; there’s barely a dry surface on the floor. The waterfall quality of our roof and the fact that the central cottage is about to cave in if the dogs sneezed together are the things that make me wish that I could extend my stay here until I could help set things right again.

Perhaps these things are making me decide more speedily on where I should spend this year. Home.

It’s not Kansas. It’s home.

My tropical jungle. Here, I am amidst the ferns, the moaning bamboo forests, the swaying coconuts, the tree frogs, the coffee-hued soil…

The past two years that I lived far from home were essential. The time apart placed things in their appropriate perspectives. But I guess it’s time to buy that return ticket. Before the dogs forget my scent. Before the ferns have flourished and withered. Before the jungle refused to embrace me as ever her own.

sensual morning

My eyes were closed but I knew I was awake. My sense of hearing was the first to stir this morning. I was brought to consciousness by the knocking of polyurethane against metal. A plastic trash box being emptied unto the barrel that served as the main midden pit to be collected later by the “environmental technicians.” Manong Frodo, one of the hotel’s own environmental technicians – probably up and about before first light – already swept the parking area clear of fallen leaves and last night’s inevitable debris.

I heard the cries of the jeepney barkers calling out their destinations, perhaps wishing that passengers would be more convinced to choose their rattling time machines over all the other rattling time machines parked in front of the church. Then the honks of car horns, squeals of brakes, rattle of motorcycle engines, thunder of eighteen-wheeler trucks, and wails of an ambulance drowned out the barkers’ cries.

Inside my room, I heard the rustle of sheets of paper being agitated by the rotating ceiling fan. I had quit using the AC several nights ago, and could note the return of my joints’ flexibility with each slumber that I was not under the mercies of the blasted air conditioning (but perhaps that’s just me tasting the edges of my twilight years). The fan had an uneven whir; it gave a thump midway to every completed rotation.

Then my sense of smell kicked in. Because I was using the ceiling fan, I kept the bedroom windows open for better air circulation. Now, the day’s aroma became more pronounced. The metallic tang of barbecue wafted in, courtesy of the chicken barbecue station across the street. Then, the clear, sharp scent of mango blossoms tickled my nose. There was a mango tree right outside my bedroom window, and the blossoms were perhaps opening up to catch the Sun’s early rays.

After the enticing fragrances came the aggressive and poisonous odors of fumes spewed by cars, trucks, motorcycles, jeepneys, and cigarette smokers. The stench reminded me that I live in a dying world.

I opened my eyes then.

On the wall in front of me was a woven rug depicting Mecca. This morning, with the Sun’s light pouring in from the window, the tapestry was bathed a golden glow. Above the the rug were two of my sketches done in eyeliner. Their frames glinted with touches of silver turned gold. From the piece of the Universe that I could see out my window, the sky was cerulean, with somber fat cotton clouds.

You bet this is going to be a good morning.

nasty new habit

See, I’ve done it again.

I’ve been staring at this “add new post” page for almost an hour now. Sepultura provides my background lullabye, furiously playing  Convicted in Life courtesy of good ole Youtube.

Nothing comes. I meant to write an earthshaking narrative to compensate for the time that I have neglected writing anything here. But nothing comes. Empty like the desiccated pulp of a lemon wedge after it gave up its life for the tequila.

My days are filled with various leavetakings and new hellos. All’s a whir that I barely have time to filter my experiences. There’s my full time job as a content writer. There’s also my role as a gatekeeper in this new house, answering doors like a butler who knows too many insider stuff about the master and mistress of the house. I am a personal shopper and a 24-hour apothecary, too. Then I decided to vary the routine a bit. When the dust settled, I see that may have bitten off more than I can masticate.

Earlier last week found me poring over medieval manuscripts and getting reacquainted with Sophocles, Aristotle, and the Bard at an intimate level that would make even the most hardened stripper blush.

I spent the latter part of the week reviewing my rickety background on grammar – and discovered that for all the years I spent as a – quote – copyeditor – unquote – I got by on the barest information about sentence coherence, grammar, and overall structure. A chuckle escapes me when I recall the “brainstorming” meetings in the old Shoe Factory about how to address recent issues in authors’ manuscripts, and I chuckle some more when I recall the most harebrained explanations put forth by the Unimaginative Shoemakers in those days. How naive we all were.

I successfully coerced myself to overcome my pathological shyness to read aloud Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” in front of a panel. The experience left me both shaky and elated.

All these things I did with the intention of graduating two years hence with a Masters degree.

I did mean to write down my experience down to the minutest detail, but I feel drained. Stared at the lappy’s screen for an hour now, Soulfly and Sepultura failing to raise me from my zombified state. This staring is fast becoming a habit.

impulsive on Thor’s day

I could taste metal.

Her Foerster clamp grabbed my lower lip with the tenacity of a pit bull intent on winning its owner’s affections. The light was aimed right at my eyes so that all I could see were the silhouettes of the other people in the room. Then I tasted rubber. The fingers of her left hand were in the outer portion of my mouth, and I could not protest to the next thing that she did. I tasted semi-formed fears and petroleum jelly.

I felt cold steel on my exposed skin.

Then the pain – tight, pulsing, raw – possessed my entire being. She guided the metal slowly, deftly. My nerves screamed at me to stop the hurt. In a few seconds before I could make up my mind to just leave, it was all over. The rod was already through. In a few more seconds, she’d locked the rounded tip in place. She checked me and marveled that there wasn’t any blood. She looked a bit wistfully at the amount of paper towels and Q-tips she prepared on her tray for the occasion. They were going to the bin now. Then she removed her surgical gloves and began sterilizing the equipment used for the session. She saw that I was still there, observing her cleaning up so pronounced that I was good to go. I was to wait outside to pay up.

There was now a handful of people out front.

Some were negotiating inking prices. I heard one lady ask if the artists gave discounts for coverups. A male staff was wrapping up bottles – a customer’s order of skin ink. I looked at the S&M collection displayed on one wall. I was in the midst of identifying the purpose of a string of metal beads on display beside bottles of multicolored lubricants with space-age names when the girl who was responsible for driving a piece of metal rod through my lower lip came in from the back room.

I paid up, signed the log. She gave me some after-care instructions, but before I could say my thanks and ask her how old she was, she was swept away to answer a woman’s question about degrees of pain; the customer wanted a picture of a hibiscus on her right shoulder blade.

Well, the piercer girl looked no more than 15, and her livelihood requires her to pierce human flesh with sharp metal rods. But she was good at what she does, I can tell.

Once my senses have quieted down, I left the shop and retraced my steps to the house to hunker down for work, the glint of steel winking from my lower lip each time I catch a glimpse of myself on storefront windows. I suddenly feel free. But that could be the endorphins and dopamine working overtime.

It’s one of those mornings.

Ranma…

Ranma has a meth habit. He goes out midday during office hours on the pretense of answering the call of nature. Instead of heading for the john, he makes a beeline out to the parking lot and then, with rapid strides, reaches the adjacent building – Lost Souls’ Hotel. He goes up the back stairs that lead to a spare room.

He uses the spare room, where some regular guests keep their holiday props, as his own den. There, he assembles his makeshift paraphernalia and takes his pre-lunch hit. Afterward, when he already feels the drug activating the rocket fuel in his bloodstream, he goes back to the office and, in a voice loud enough to ensure that all within a quarter-mile radius would hear him, complains about a defective flush mechanism in the men’s comfort room.

I realize that I should not judge Ranma’s actions. He is entitled to do as he pleased with his life.

But it is not easy to just turn a blind eye to what Ranma is doing.

He has two kids; one is still a toddler and the other one is in kindergarten. His wife does not have a stable job, and their family recently moved to a hut located on the outskirts of the city because they could no longer afford the rent on the one-room cottage that was supposedly closer to his place of work.

Ranma is already snowed under with salary loans and other debts. Each payday he applies for another loan in order to pay off an outstanding one. His parents still shell out money to buy milk for Ranma’s sons. Nevertheless, Ranma is still able to set aside a large portion of what remains of his wages for the meth crystals he buys from a former college buddy of his.

I hope Ranma makes a wise decision soon.

The 30-Day Letters Project

Eons ago, The Pizza-Worshipping Monkey Keeper gave me a challenge to write letters, one day at a time, to 30 various entities (and non-entities). The challenge also entailed posting the missives on a blog.

At first I planned to post it in another blog – the secret one whose password I kept forgetting. But I realized that The Broken Coffee Cafe walls are a nicer venue on which I could stick daily letters. Part of the interior decor.

You see, if the cafe existed on the physical plane and it actually has the weathered brown brick walls mellowed with age, these letters will be placed on the west wall beside the fireplace. They’d be gilt-framed and written-in-blood calligraphies on 100% acid-free recycled paper. You, as a cafe patron, would be able to give cursory glances to it over your cup of regular java or iced caramel macchiato. Who knows? Those gilt-framed notes might even inspire you to start your own letter-writing project.

So, dear patrons, please bear with me for the next thirty days when I wax sentimental and try to meet the Monkey Keeper’s challenge. Also, it will be another confirmation of two things about my personality: deranged and sappy.

(An aside: The letters were initially posted as regular blog posts, but I decided to gather all of them in one place. If you are interested in reading letters that are not addressed to you, click here to see what things I’ve written for the addressees below.)

If you are interested in trying the 30-day Letter-Writing Project, the following would serve as a guide as to whom you would address your letters:

Day 1 — Your Best Friend
Day 2 — Your Crush
Day 3 — Your parents
Day 4 — Your sibling (or closest relative)
Day 5 — Your dreams
Day 6 — A stranger
Day 7 — Your Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/love/crush
Day 8 — Your favorite internet friend
Day 9 — Someone you wish you could meet
Day 10 — Someone you don’t talk to as much as you’d like to
Day 11 — A Deceased person you wish you could talk to
Day 12 — The person you hate most/caused you a lot of pain
Day 13 — Someone you wish could forgive you
Day 14 — Someone you’ve drifted away from
Day 15 — The person you miss the most
Day 16 — Someone that’s not in your state/country
Day 17 — Someone from your childhood
Day 18 — The person that you wish you could be
Day 19 — Someone that pesters your mind—good or bad
Day 20 — The one that broke your heart the hardest
Day 21 — Someone you judged by their first impression
Day 22 — Someone you want to give a second chance to
Day 23 — The last person you kissed
Day 24 — The person that gave you your favorite memory
Day 25 — The person you know that is going through the worst of times
Day 26 — The last person you made a pinky promise to
Day 27 — The friendliest person you knew for only one day
Day 28 — Someone that changed your life
Day 29 — The person that you want to tell everything to, but are too afraid to
Day 30 — Your reflection in the mirror

this post is Rx

don’t mind me… i am a leaky, sneezy, wheezy, bloodshot vegetable.

i look like someone’s late-night drinking spree companion. my hair’s greasy and i had been wearing this shirt for two days now. haven’t taken a proper shower. if i were a man, i would be sporting a healthy stubble around my chin, too. i think it’s sexy for a guy to have that. but a five o’clock shadow on me… let’s not dwell on that thought. i don’t wish for you, dear reader, to have nightmares.

i’m busy paying attention to how i am slowly being debilitated. my right nasal passage is stopped up with concrete. the waterworks department may have placed a satellite office right in there as well. there’s an army of miner dwarfs using sledgehammers on my skull, and i think the sandman has taken up residence behind my eyelids. my tongue signals that cardboard tastes like cardboard. that’s fine. but the chicken fillet, the crab and corn soup, the pork tocino, and the dried salted fish also taste like cardboard.

this morning, i woke up the entire neighborhood – tough feat, considering that i now live along a superhighway – with my 300-mph sneezes. i ache all over. my joints are fused to the tendons. my muscles gave up their souls dawn of today, leaving me lying in bed in a vegetative state.

well, gents and ladies, it’s now officially flu season again. and i’ve caught the bug early.

give my love to the healthy folks out there.

a day of missing

Skies the color of iron cast a shadow on the world today. There is a storm, after all. It has already ravaged the northern part of the country, leaving cities and towns in a state of devastation and without power for more than forty-eight hours.

I am in a somewhat more snug and dry location; the typhoon didn’t fully grace the southernmost reaches of this archipelago. Yet that gloom… It makes for a dreary time. I hear the ancient crypts shrieking open. Ghosts – past, present, and future – would have their reunion with the living today.

So it is no wonder that I’ve been missing the company of many people who made my life awesome in one way or another. There’s my first-grade classmate Noah. He is the only the perfect gentleman I know. He braved walking me across an eight-lane highway, lugging my schoolbag along with his own bulging knapsack, so he could see me home safe. Nobody did anything like that for me ever again.

Then there’s Pepper. I miss her tales, her woes, her news, her joys, her views, her photographs. It was odd that early this afternoon she told me through chat that she missed me, too.

There’s my dearly departed pitbull, Shonnen Boop. She was so hungry for people’s attention that she could have been kidnapped (or dognapped, if we are after the most politically correct term) right out of our own yard. She was that friendly to humans. She was Faith’s bed companion when Faith was still a year old.

Then there’s Faith. The little girl turned six last April. I wasn’t there to wish her a happy birthday. She insisted that she will spend next summer here in this new city with me. I miss her so bad that it would be wonderful if wings will sprout from my shoulders and using the momentum from the storm, i will fly my way to my tropical jungle home.

Then there’s Gambit. I miss that Cajun. I miss the smell of new comic books because I miss Gambit. And I miss Peanut, too, because I miss Gambit.

Perhaps this is a day of missing. Ta has been here for over a week now. No downhill biking treks with his friends. He is doing landscape work, and just a few minutes ago, he sat next to me and chuckled. “It’s weird. I miss Scott,” he told me. Scott is one of our friends and his closest downhill buddy.

Definitely a day of missing.

And I’m blaming the weather.