A Word From One of Our Sponsors (or How to Use a Condom Properly)

(Alice’s POV)

Instructions:

1. First, make sure you have one with you before doing anything. It is very difficult to stop in the middle of making out to go to a store to buy one. Hold the pack at its edge and open by tearing from a ribbed edge.                                                                             thcolorful-condoms_h200

2. Make sure the penis is erect before putting it on. You can make sure that the penis is erect by touching it. Put the condom on the erect penis before the penis touches its partner.

3. Pinch the reservoir at the tip of the condom. Unroll the condom all the way to the base of the penis. The condom should unroll easily. If it does not, it is probably backwards. As with a lot of things in life, practice will prevent this problem. (At this point the assumption is that we are dealing with a circumcised penis.)

4. After ejaculation, while the penis is still erect, withdraw the penis from its partner, holding onto the rim of the condom to help prevent it slipping off and the semen spilling into the vagina (or anus). When in doubt, remember that that there is always Plan B.

5. Throw away the condom in a pit latrine or trash container. Do not use the latex condom more than once (that would be so gross).

Image from deviantart.com

Image from deviantart.com

***

I am putting into paper stuff that I never thought I’d talk about in a million years. Jonas did say I’m a prude. Maybe he was right.

I am doing this for posterity. And for me, and for him.

I am hoping that by reliving the times we were together, my thoughts will somehow reach him and he’d come back to me.

***

It was January 16, nine years ago. Of course I remember. Girls pretend to forget things like this. But we don’t. Never. Not really.

I already knew I loved him then. But darn it! It was so difficult to say it out loud. I am like that. I regard words with fear, knowing that they will bind me, which I hate.

Since December, he had been an almost-permanent fixture in the apartment. Kim, at one time, jokingly asked him to pay rent. Jonas good-naturedly paid up; and Kim bought a futon with the money.

Kim would get almost teary-eyed like a doting mother-hen whenever she saw me with Jonas. That girl’s dream was to play matchmaker, and now her experiment /project seemed like a success.

As she was always in the hospital (she was on night-shift every 3 nights and everyday she had classes and other clinical work), I was left alone in our 32 square meter studio in Taft Avenue.

Jonas claimed that he liked hanging out in my place because of the convenience. The LRT is just outside our building, he would point out. He didn’t even have to bring his car.

He actually had a key to the apartment courtesy of Kim (the meddling chit!). And he once surprised me when I came home one Friday night and he was in a blue apron tinkering in the kitchen, looking very proud of himself.

“Why are you so happy?” I asked him putting down my bag, leaning against the lone sofa in the living room.

“Three reasons,” he said. “One, after a million years, Congress finally passed the bill that would regulate the mining industry; two, mom’s biopsy came out negative; and three,” he held up three fingers and gave me a look that can only be described as wicked. “you’re here and I have you all to myself.”

I had to laugh at that. Sometimes Jonas could say the most outrageous things!

“So what are you cooking exactly?” I went over to the 4-seater wooden table that Kim and I bought from BLIMS a year ago. On it was a tupperware containing some sauce that I am sure Jonas could not have possibly made. “Who made the marinara?” I asked.

“Marianne.”

“And does she know you’re stealing food from your house?”

“If you must know, Alice, it was Marianne who suggested that I bring some over. She attached a note on the container, I think.”

I peered at the yellow plastic and sure enough, there was a folded post-it taped on one side. I detached it and read the message from Jonas’s sister. “Hi Alice! I made a large batch of marinara, since I know my brother will be going to your place. Nahihiya na ako na lagi syang nakikikain sa inyo. I hope to see you soon. Marianne.”

I looked up and told Jonas, “I love your sister. At least she knows how to cook; unlike some people we know.”

“For the nth time, I didn’t mean to burn that rice. And besides, what I lack in cooking skills I make up for in other departments.”

“Such as? Do tell!”

“Do you really want to know?”

***

At this point, I want to reiterate that we have been sort of dating for almost a year. In general, I have learned that males and females who have been seeing each other in a romantic context for 3 months or more tend to get physical (you know what I mean). Otherwise, they are either ultra-conservative, a member of a fundamental religious sect, or they’re not real.

Jonas and I have been seeing each other for 10 months 4 weeks and 5 days.

The day before the above scene took place, our conversation went something like this:

“I really think Woody Allen is overrated … Uhh … don’t you think? His earlier movies are … uhh … boring … uhh … what are you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Okay, anyway, I don’t really like … uhhh … Woody Allen … he gives me the creeps. Oh God … what are you doing?”

“Don’t you like it?”

“I do but … uhmmm … aren’t we going to watch this movie?”

“I want to make love to you.”

“O-kay. But do you have a condom?”

***

That’s the gist of it. Basically.

And no, at that time, he didn’t have a condom. So nothing happened. Then.

***

Now:

How do I describe the first time we made love? Had sex. Shagged each other. Fucked.

How do I say the correct words without sounding obscene or nauseatingly sentimental? How do I inject my prose with just the right amount of sweetness and honesty? Without sounding coy or vulgar.

The truth is, it was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life.

One moment you keep yourself at a distance, not giving anything away, self-preservation your middle name. Then the next, you are one rattled, frazzled, marshmallow. You know what marshmallow looks like after 30 seconds in a microwave, or in a camp fire? Well, that was me. Post-orgasm. Or something.

Afterwards, Jonas asked me if I was okay, if I was hurt, if I had any regrets. Of course now, I would say no. But right then, I had no fucking idea.

We just ruined Kim’s futon so we transferred to my bed. He wrapped me in my blanket and kissed my hair and held me until around 3 am. (He had to leave early because his flight to Davao was at 6 am.)

And he told me he loved me over and over. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I was considering the following responses:

1. (grateful) Thank you, now I won’t have to die a virgin.
2. (flippant) I had to lose that sooner or later.
3. (bitchy) I had a great time, now you can go.

I didn’t say any of those things, though.

He told me years later that he was worried at my reaction that night. That maybe I was turned off (yeah, right!) or traumatized (puh-leaze!) or that maybe I didn’t love him. I had to laugh at the third one, and teased him (years later) that really, I was just using him for his body.

He told me that that night changed him; and that then he knew that I was the one. Imagine that.

***

Now I look back and remember, staring at the picture of this man who loved me, above all others (or so he said).

I wonder if he is dead. I wonder if all the years I spent away from him were all wasted. I wonder if this dark heavy uncertainty, this limbo of worrying and searching, will ever end.

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Riding in Cars with Boys

I stepped down from the plane and just died.

Which, of course, is an exaggeration. I’m still alive, obviously. But with the stifling heat and humidity, the airport delays, and the lack of decent facilities (like air-conditioning) at NAIA, I might as well have died. I was home alright.

I  have never considered New Haven as “home.” Granted, I was only there for 4 years; but I have actually contemplated becoming a permanent resident. Without this incident that prompted me to return, I would have gladly turned my back at Manila, easily forgetting such a city even existed.

When I left 4 years ago, the roads surrounding the airport were craggy, bumpy and perennially congested — with cars and vans, trucks and buses; and commuters that are illiterate to road signs; and traffic enforcers that are overworked or corrupt or incompetent (or all three). These roads that all led to shopping malls.

Four years later, except for additional malls that have sprouted like ghastly mushrooms, everything was still the same. I was home, alright.

Auntie Juliet met me at the airport. Unlike NAIA, Auntie has changed. She looked stooped and smaller than I remembered. The lines on her forehead  more prominent. She still had that same smile, sweet but not cloying. She welcomed me the way she always did when I came back from school; when school meant college which was just a few cities (not a few countries) away.

“I told you I’d just get a taxi. You shouldn’t have bothered going all the way here,”I said.

“Shut up,” she told me cheerfully. “And get in the car.”

Unlike me, Auntie can drive. I am a klutz when it comes to cars. I have begged Jonas to let me practice on his Honda but he would only give me a look that I interpreted to mean: “You have got to be kidding!”

I don’t know why he couldn’t be more supportive. I feel like an incompetent ninny because everyone around me thought that when I get behind a wheel, that’s a sign that the evening news will feature a road accident along Quirino Avenue. Or C5 Road. Or Nagtahan Bridge.

Truth be told, I was not too keen to drive a car, either. First, the charges in the parking facilities in Makati where I used to work were tantamount to usury. Second, Metro Manila’s traffic was something straight out of purgatory. So I used to commute using the LRT or the bus or jeepney. How plebeian!

When I started going out with Jonas, he assigned himself as my designated driver. Whenever he was in Manila and not off doing field work in some godforsaken place, that is.

I liked having Jonas drive me around. I loved the long trips most of all; when during the weekends he would accompany me to my hometown and the trip would take 4 hours (5 if the traffic was heavy) and we would have these philosophical discussions about important questions such as:

1. Which has better french fries, McDonalds or Jollibee?

2. How many mistresses does Erap Estrada really has?

3. Who was the mastermind in the execution of Andres Bonifacio?

4. Was Imelda Marcos sexually frigid?

5. Do dogs and cats really hate each other?

6. Is shower-sex overrated?

Jonas’s opinion was: “dexterity counts a lot when attempting to go all the way in the shower.”

My opinion was … I had no opinion.

But since I had to pretend to be more worldly that I actually was, I had to make up an opinion, so I said, “I think it’s best to do it in a car.”

So.

We did do it in a car. Eventually.

In a gray 2001 Honda CRV with tinted windows and while the stereo was blaring “All I Need” by Shamrock.

Yes, shower-sex was definitely over-rated.

Lost

Raffy: Bakit ka nagpaiwan?

Lea: Bakit umalis ka kahit naiwan ako? Dahil malakas  ka at malakas ako. At iba ang gusto mong gawin sa gusto ko. Nawala ka sa akin pero kung sumunod  ako sa iyo noon ang nawala sa akin ay ang sarili ko. Magiging masaya ka ba sa isang babaeng walang sarili? Hindi na sya siya magandang asawa kapag ganoon.

(Raffy: Why didn’t you go with me?

Lea: Why did you leave? Because we were both strong and we wanted different things. You left, I lost you. But if I had gone with you, I would have lost myself. Would you be happy with a woman who doesn’t own herself? She would not have been a good wife for you.)

Bata,_Bata…_Pa’no_Ka_Ginawa_by_Lualhati_Bautista_Book_Cover   From: “Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa” (translation mine)

Award winning Tagalog novel by Lualhati Bautista.

It also had its own movie which starred Vilma Santos,

an actress who became a politician, a typical career path for Filipinos.

***

(Alice’s POV)

I miss Jonas.

It is April but I feel chilly which, according to Kim, is weird because everyone in New York just adore this weather. Maybe, she said, I am cold intolerant.

I just woke up and the one-room loft  we share is empty. Kim’s bed is already made up; she went out early to make rounds.

I am alone save for my thoughts and these … memories … of him, who else?

I know, I know … this was my choice. I chose to go.  I chose to leave him hanging there with his ring and his good intentions and his heart which, according to Marianne, I have broken into smithereens.

So I am the bitch. Fine. I admit it. You can unfriend me on Facebook, Marianne; I messed up royally.

But … I also had to do this. I had to get out of that country which is slowly suffocating and killing me. I had to escape from my work where I haven’t been happy for a long time. I wanted this — this opportunity to learn so much more than I would ever have a chance to know had I stayed in Manila. I would never have forgiven myself if I didn’t take this chance.

Jonas, don’t you understand? I love you. With all that I am. But I also love me. If I had stayed with you, I would have lost myself. And would you be happy  with a woman who does not own herself?

I feel cold. So I wrap Kim’s sweater tighter around me, and curl like a child on the lone sofa in the living room. I listen to the Chinese foodstore owner haggling with a customer downstairs, the smell of fermented shrimp paste wafts up my nostrils. Smells of home have never made me feel sadder.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Alice wonders at how clean and beautiful everything is in New York. She would have enjoyed being here, in the center of the world, if only she didn’t feel so shitty about what she left behind. Central Park in April. Picture from Wikipedia.

Notes About “Falling”

Really, sometimes it can be nothing special. Like one day, you go along when someone asks you to go out, and you have nothing to do, so you agree.

basta driver sweet lover

What will trigger it may be something as mundane as a wicked sign on a jeepney, or a teenaged couple doing PDA in the middle of a busy street (get an effing room, you said under your breath; which for some reason amused him so much);

PDA -- "public display of affection" . Image from hhsbearpress.wordpress.com

PDA — “public display of affection” . Image from hhsbearpress.wordpress.com

 

… or a stray dog crossing the road (a comment he made on that would segue into a story about his favorite dog when he was a boy).my dog

When you were younger, you thought it came with violins and hearts and flowers. And thunder and lightning and rainbows. And they did say (whoever they were, you never could figure out the identity of “they”) that it would be like walking on air, sublime happiness.

You can’t really relate with the idea of sublime happiness. Marginally comfortable is just fine with you.

Hiking -- something to get over an other humdrum Saturdat morning

Hiking — something to get over an otherwise humdrum Saturday morning. You did protest and said that you don’t do nature stuff. And he said that there’s a first time for everything.

But then, when he started striding into your life as if he owned it, you started to question the stuff that you were comfortable with. He asked you:  why not go mountain hiking because you spend so much time indoors that you lack vitamin D. Instead of saying, I can buy supplements at GNC thank you very much, you said “okay”.

Why is that you wonder?

And then he said that he liked it when you wore your hair long and free from confining ponytails behind your back, you actually blushed!

Remember when you were suspicious of people who gave you compliments? Now you have actually forgotten your scrunchies and have started the habit of blow-drying your hair!

And then when he started hovering around you almost everyday, you did not tell him to go home and stop making a “tambayan” out of your apartment. You served him iced tea and at one time even cooked pasta.

The problem with giving people an inch of yourself is that they would eventually ask for the whole package and you would be too polite to be selfish.

…. Or you would be charmed because they asked so nicely.

The problem with sublime happiness is that it can creep up on you like a burglar. And steal all your furniture.

You wake up from sleep and all that you thought you owned (including your heart) was no longer yours.falling in love

The Giver

I recently re-read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry because I heard that it was turned into a movie! The first time I read it, I was 17 y/o, upon the recommendation of my friend B who, at that time, was glomming Newberry award-winning books.

Book cover of "The Giver".  I was 17 y/o the first time I read it. That was the era pre-Hunger Games.

Book cover of “The Giver”. I was 17 y/o the first time I read it. That was the era pre-Hunger Games.

Poster of the "The Giver" the movie. I have yet to watch it. Question: why the girl in the poster? From what I know, the book was not about a love story.

Poster of the “The Giver” the movie. I have yet to watch it. Question: why the girl in the poster? From what I know, the book was not about a love story.

“The Giver” is a YA novel describing a dystopian community where everybody cooperates; everyone knows his/her place in the system; everyone is happy; there is no hunger, illness or strife; older people or babies who do not fit in are “released” with such heart-warming ceremony.

It is the story of 11 year-old Jonas who was assigned to be the next Receiver of Memories — with all the pain and joy that such a work would entail.

It is a world of blacks and whites and grays. No colors at all.

Jonas was astounded during his lessons to be the next Receiver. He realized that there are such stuff called “colors” and “heat” and “cold”. He got to learn about sunshine and snow and sleigh rides. On the other hand, he also got to experience hunger and conflict and war. And he was made to perceive death — seemingly the worst atrocity of all, depending on how one looks at it.

“The Giver” was like an allegory about “growing up”.

It was a disturbing book. Even for a 17-year old.

But then, one lives in a disturbing world. Even if one is already way past 17.

*****

I was reading several articles on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was just as bewildered as Jonas.

There are no such things as heroes and villains. Just different types of victims (i.e. one who suffered the holocaust and one who suffered displacement and foreign occupation). And different types of perpetrators (i.e. one who straps explosives on one’s body and kills a busload of innocents and one who fire explosives and kill a block-ful of innocents).

*****

One wishes to be young, to go back to a time when pride seemed meaningless and power was not even a word. When there were still no grudges and it was still easy to share a playground to lie on.

*****

On a positive note — Free ebook sites are one of humanity’s greatest inventions 🙂

Christmas in New England

Photo from vistaphotography.com

Photo from vistaphotography.com

The best thing about studying in the East Coast is the fact that it has four seasons, Kim gushed, practically a poet (poetess) in how she described the changing leaves from green to yellow (or maple) to brown (or tan) as the summer gives way to fall; and then winter when everything is white and still, as silent as the stars.

I  stare at Kim, at her enthusiasm, her utter love of this place called New England. I am fond of New England, and found Connecticut to be a most delightful place. But I cannot love it, hard as I want to. My heart belongs to somewhere else.

***

It was our first Christmas together. I couldn’t yet put a label on what we actually were. I would introduce him to my friends as Him … Jonas. No labels, just his name.

“Sooo …” Manda, a classmate asked. I had to attend the college reunion, if only to show my support for Kim, gregarious Kim, a member of the organizing committee. “So Jonas and you have been together how long?”

Manda was one of the most prolific gossips in our class. I had to watch my tongue around her.

“Kim introduced us last February.” I said carefully.

Jonas being Jonas had that small smile on his face. Which I found both adorable and irritating.

“Really!” Manda exclaimed. “Wow! I’m so happy for you both. And here I am 23 years old and still NBSB.” Giggles. Sometimes Manda could be so sympathetically pathetic. I had to laugh with her.

“Oh God. I hate reunions.” I told Jonas when we managed to escape from my college crowd to a secluded area of the multi-purpose hall. I was having a bottle of Tanduay Ice, while he was nursing his iced tea. Jonas was adamantly against having alcohol when he knew he had to drive.

“I actually think it’s fun. I enjoyed meeting your friends.”

“Which of them? Manda?”

He nodded. “She’s ditzy, but she’s nice. We should introduce her to somebody. She seems to be fixated on her having no boyfriend since birth.”

“So we’re playing cupids now, huh? Who among your friends would you suggest can take on Manda?”

“I think Eric will like her.”

“Isn’t Eric like … gay?”

Jonas stared at me for a second then laughed as if I just made the funniest joke in the world. “Honey … Eric is not gay. He just dresses … more fashionably than other guys. But he’s definitely into girls.”

The first time  I met Eric, he was wearing a fuschia Ralph Lauren top and Guess whitewashed jeans that just hugged his ass. What could be gayer than that? “How do you know?” I asked feeling lighthearted, I didn’t even correct Jonas for the endearment he used.

“Eric uhmm … we uhhh … I had to accompany him once to a KTV and … no he’s not gay.”

“So you accompanied him to a KTV.”

“Yup. There were a lot of us. I think it was Eric’s birthday.”

“And so what did you do?”

“The guys each had a GRO and … you know …”

I could see that this was making Jonas uncomfortable. Maybe he was careful about saying something that would make me upset or jealous. But I was just amused.

“So they each had a girl … And you?”

“Well … ”

I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing at his discomfort.

“So was it fun?” I had to ask.

“Not as fun as drinking this iced tea and being with you.”

The lights were not so dim that I couldn’t see the most tender look on his face. And I knew it was for me. I stopped laughing. Suddenly, I was the uncomfortable one.

***

So that was maybe 6 Christmases ago. Not a white Christmas. More of a smog-filled one. We had to navigate the EDSA traffic to reach my apartment after the party. The stifling heat of the metro was only momentarily relieved by amihan winds that blew into the car as we passed through Roxas Boulevard.

I have to admit that I was a bit tipsy during the ride home. Yes, 2 bottles of Tanduay Ice could do that to me.

Jonas, the ever cheerful driver, had to park by the Baywalk because I felt that I really really had to throw up. He rubbed my back, as mortified me hung my head before  the Manila Bay. Thank god, the vomit did not come. And thank god I had a very reliable and sympathetic … friend to take me home.

So yes, he kissed me.

We were standing there, me leaning against him for like eternity. A lot of things  can happen in an eternity: like he can kiss your hair, then your forehead, then your nose, your cheek and then your lips are touching and then time has no meaning.

We were alone along that long stretch of coconut lined road and the ocean was still and the night was full of stars. There were no clouds at all.

And that is why I can never love this perfectly beautiful New England Christmas as much as I love that imperfectly balmy-cool Christmas in Manila.

lovers-silhouette

Manila bay sunset. From http://www.tripadvisor.com

first loves

 

Ana thinks that, maybe, first loves are overrated.

But they are definitely powerful. They evoke images that are iconic to one’s personal legend. They remind her of archaic concepts like innocence, hope and the giddiness of childhood.

picture2_11-22-14

Christian sleeping. He would definitely kill Ana for taking his picture.

 

For Ana, first love means writing and Christian and romantic fiction. Not necessarily in that order.

Therese used to tease that she is a closet romantic.

“You want to see the world as some sort of idealized Monet painting. And then you go on nervous breakdowns when somethings happens to jolt you to the fact that it’s not.” Therese observes.

Claude_Monet,_Impression,_soleil_levant

“Impression, Sunrise” by Claude Monet. Image from Wikipedia. Ana loves sunrises more than sunsets.

 

Ana frowns. “I thought we were talking about my social anxiety. Where does Monet come into all this?”

“Ana, darling, your work is just a part of who you are. It is not you. You do not love your work, that’s fine. That doesn’t diminish it in any way. Those who say that one should do only what one loves, well they’re assholes. Or they are rich bitches who can afford to choose jobs.”

Ana sighs, “Well, we have already established that I’m definitely not rich. And while I do not hate my job, I do not love it either. Therese, there would be days when I got so stressed with the demands of my work that all I wanted was TO DIE!! To just drop down and die. The only thing stopping me was the great sex I was having with my boyfriend. It made me reconsider and grudgingly conclude that life may not be so bad after all.”