Searching for Antidotes to Bad Places

One should not love something that one cannot own. Loving entails dreaming for that which one loves. And what would be the point of expending energy dreaming for  that which one will never be a part of?

****

Alice stares at Jonas while he was sleeping. She cannot help feeling like a voyeur; but since  this is the only time she can permit herself to be with him without being defensive or guarded, she relishes such moments.

She stares at his eyelashes — the ones she had, once upon a time, found so entrancing — resting peacefully against his wasted face. She still loves his eyelashes; and as she remembers how he used to get annoyed when she teased him about them, she smiles.

Alice wonders how a man who possesses such lovely eyelashes can turn (wittingly or unwittingly) into a monster.

*****

She remembers the time he held her hand, that far-off time; a stormy June at the faculty lounge. 

He brought her lunch at 4 pm: siopao, dimsum and chinese noodles. She was grateful, nervous and hungry. And he was looking at her with a mixture of fondness and amusement as she was eating.

He was telling her about Helen. His ex-girlfriend who was a drug addict.

“I haven’t heard from her for years. Then she called the university looking for me.” Jonas was tracing random figures on her palm. It felt ticklish but he was so absorbed in it that she let him go on.

“She was in trouble,” he continued. “She got into a group that was really bad for her. She quit her job and was not living in their house.”

“Where was Helen staying?” Alice asked, not that she was particularly interested.

“A bad place,” Jonas answered simply. “They uhmmm, they were blackmailing her. She had photos with them and they were threatening to release those photos and humiliate her and her family.”

“Why did she go to you for help?”

“I don’t know. She just did.”

“Do you always remain  friends with your ex-girlfriends?” she teased him.

He smiled, “I try.”

*****

Years later, after that conversation, when Alice was Jonas’s pseudo-ex-girlfriend, he told her that he really really wanted to kiss her then, in that faculty lounge. But he was afraid that she might bolt or slap his face. Given the person she was, Alice agreed with his conclusion.

****

How often can a person  change in one lifetime? Now Alice wonders.

She so wants to reach out and touch Jonas.

But she is afraid that he might bolt, slap her face. Or worse.

*****

 

Author’s comments (not that I matter in this story): I have always been  more partial to Nat than to Betty. So I choose to believe that Alice will turn into Scarlett Johansson and save Jonas from himself. Or, will it be the other way around?

 

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On History and Heartbreaks

 

You should not love what you will never own. You only set yourself up for a humongous heartbreak.

A broken heart can have disastrous consequences, the magnitude of which depends on who owns that heart.

Cities, states, empires even, have fallen because of broken hearts — and that is in a literal sense.

We only appreciate the lessons of history when we study the personal details of the players that have acted in it.

We are humans, hence, we never learn from the story of others, unless we relate it to ourselves. That is called ego.

***

Last Week in History:

Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes IV met with US Senator Marco Rubio.

As anyone who cares to know is aware, my country is currently in crisisfake news (some of them are even state-sanctioned) is masquerading as real news, innocent people are sent to jail, there is a so-called “drug war” which has killed over 10000 of my fellow citizens, ISIS has ravaged our southern city Marawi where one of my bestfriends lives, and China is rapidly devouring Philippine territory (China has Sauron-like tendencies these days).

My country has never stood a chance to powers that are larger than she is. The Philippines is like all those Hollywood actresses who were sexually harrassed by Harvey Weinstein.

Also, we Filipinos have never had a lot of luck with our leaders. Most of them have pimped, abused or sold us. Or were too weak to stand up for us. In fairness to them, we Pinoys were also babies, we were a bunch of mewling, whining, unlettered idiots. Give us a break, we were in a convent for 300 years (under good old Mother Spain), drugged by Hollywood for 40 years (thank you Mother America), tortured by Kempetai for 4 years (Japan and WWII). We have only been to primary school and high school after 1945. And today, we are like starting college.

So … here’s to hoping for better leaders in the future, and more informed and active citizens to guide them.

Another Cut-and-Paste Blog Entry

The following words are from this website.

And while the details of the author’s life are different from mine, I share the sentiments she has towards her significant other.
*****
I Could Do This Without You, But I Don’t Want To (A Letter To My Husband)

by Amanda Elder

Image from Marriage.com

Image from Marriage.com

There were times I felt bitter toward you, especially when you were a medical student, and I was transitioning to being a stay-at-home mom. You didn’t understand my struggle. I ate, slept, and breathed our child, and felt consumed and alone.

You had a life outside of parenthood to continue, and while I stopped mine, I accommodated yours. For a period of time, we moved often and lived out of suitcases. Once, we even resided in a single bedroom of a Staten Island basement. For years, I manned the night wakings and offered my breasts around the clock as the only consistent comfort amidst constant upheaval.

Whenever you were off from work, I took our toddler out the minute he woke up so you (and our roommate) could sleep, but not always without resentment. I remember one morning, as I walked to our local bakery yet again, killing time with our little guy attached, I muttered, “I can do all this by myself.”

Because of life’s inherent uncertainty, I’ve actually considered the truth of that statement. I’ve now been a stay-at-home mom for five years and have wondered if I could actually survive on my own. Emotional well-being aside, would I even be able to provide food and shelter? I never thought I’d ask myself that question, being the self-sufficient woman I thought myself to be, but the honest answer is yes, I’d be fine. After all, I’m a go-getter, and that’s the reason all this staying home has been hard in the first place.

I’d make it, although there’d be details to figure out. You’re the dreamer, and you build our lives on the fantasies you manifest. Your doctor job is the one that would allow us to live a life of freedom and adventure in Costa Rica. I don’t have a vision for life without you, and the only notion of home I have is wherever we are. But I certainly wouldn’t head for the jungle on my own, and I wouldn’t do New Jersey either. Even though my sister lives there and I miss her when a single day goes by without conversation, I’ve been in Florida too long and have grown accustomed to bare feet and outdoor play all year long.

You’re in your residency now, and because you sometimes work 26 days a month, and 27 hours a day, I know that technically I can do this by myself. I pack bags and load babies like a boss. I clean toilets and play hide-and-seek simultaneously. I disguise trips to the grocery store as outings for cookies and have prepared many a meal with one hand. But despite my capability, I count down the time for you to come home, not because I so desperately need you to change the next diaper or fill the next sippy cup, but because I want you.

I don’t necessarily need you to carry scooters and tell the boys when it’s time to find a new climbing tree while out on family walks. I need you to hold my hand and talk to me.

I can put all the dishes away and find the missing shoe by myself, but with you, farts are funny, and coffee tastes better.

I can certainly walk the kids to sleep by myself, but when we stroll together, the full moon looks fuller, and I’m inclined to admire it longer.

I can take our son to karate by myself, but when that cute little girl beelines to be Javin’s partner, and another boy helps him perfect his jump kicks, I notice the sweetness, but I don’t giggle like I would with you.

I don’t need you to share parenting responsibilities with me out of fairness or survival, but for the joy of doing so. With you, the funny moments are funnier, the cute moments are cuter, and contrary to the pattern, the terrible moments are less so. Life is simply better with you.

We don’t only co-parent, we co-experience life.

We create and reflect on the same reality, and that somehow deepens the meaning of it all. When I see a beautiful sunset, and you say, “Look at that!” you validate what I see, and all of a sudden the colors become even brighter and more captivating.

I don’t necessarily need you for practical or worldly reasons, but I need you to know me. When I laugh, you’re aware of exactly why. And when I don’t say anything at all, you read my mind. You love my insecurities as you do my strengths, and your understanding gives me confirmation of myself. We’re like two beings from the same source, who get to witness more of themselves through each other.

It’s true that I don’t need you to survive. I need you for so much more.

 

In Defence of Soulmates

soulmate from FB— Michael Fiore by way of Facebook

 

***

Alice was not into soulmates.

If one’s non-belief could be gauged by the number of times one’s eyes have rolled when hearing about the concept one does not  believe in, then Alice’s eyeballs would have reached Davao by now. It goes without saying, her friends (all females) have totally bought into the soulmate bandwagon.

But Alice was not buying. Why should she?

As the Julie Delpy character in Before Sunset had  exclaimed so eloquently “The concept is absurd. The idea that we can only be complete with another person is evil!

before sunset

Evil indeed. That also goes for Valentine’s day, mushy 1980’s lovesongs, and sentimental Facebook postings on her newsfeed.

The thing is …

…  when she met him, he would (and could) cajole her into watching a play or a movie, or a walk in the park on February 14. Out of principle, she should have declined. However, he would  put on this puppy-dog look on his face, smile so adoringly, and squeeze her hand. And out went her principles. (Thinking about it now, it seemed that she’d shed her principles with him the way she had shed her clothes — one piece at a time).

… when she met him, she was more into Bon Jovi or Nirvana (when she took the time to listen to music, which was not very often). His favorite song is a dopey Tagalog ballad called “Pag-ibig”+. Of course, she had to pretend to appreciate it when he serenaded her with that on their first anniversary. (“Anniversary” is another concept she did not believe in.)

… when she met him, he was not into social media. She persuaded him to put up a Facebook profile. Which he (reluctantly) let her do for him. That was one of the few times she was completely ecstatic in performing him a service.

Soulmate is a word Alice hates because it is just so … uncool … and corny. Acquiescing that it exists would (could, should) make her too … vulnerable.

It is just like that other word that starts with an “L”.

 

***

+ “Pag-ibig” is the Tagalog word for “Love”

The original version of the song was sung by APO Hiking Society

Nong tangan ng nanay mo
Ang munti mong mga kamay
Ika’y tuwang-tuwa,
Panatag ang loob sa damdaming
Ika’y mahal

Nong nakilala mo ang una mong sinta
Umapaw ang saya at siya’y ibang-iba
Sinasamsam ang bawat gunita

[Chorus:]
Hindi mo malimutan kung kailan
Nagsimulang matuto kung papaanong magmahal
At di mo malimutan kung kailan mo natikman
Ang una mong halik/Ang tamis ng iyong halik
Yakap na napakahigpit
Pag-ibig na tunay hanggang langit

Nong tayo’y nagkakilala ng hindi sinasadya,
Ikaw lang ang napansin,
Nahuli sa isang tingin
At sa pagbati mong napakalambing.

Sex and Anarchy

ladies of avignon

Ladies of Avignon (Pablo Picasso). According to some sources, this is one of the most erotic arts in the world. Ana does not agree. A picture of naked women does not make her hot. If she wants to look at naked female bodies, she would strip her clothes in front of a mirror.

Sometimes, Ana would wonder: what can the world be if women took charge?

It would be so boring. And rigid. Women are so puritanical as a group that if they took the reins, everybody would all be worshiping in the church of Prada and dildoes would be a required accessory. But there would be no sex.

For sex to happen, there has to be anarchy.

Or more specifically … great sex requires the messiness of men. Or maybe Ana is just biased because she is not a lesbian.

The greatest orgasms (hence the best sex) Ana have ever had were the ones that have taken her by surprise. For women that usually seem to be the case.

The problem with that is now, a girl won’t usually know when her next orgasm will be coming from. But then, Ana consoles herself, a promise of something is better than a universe of nothing. Which is basically why she is thankful that she has found her husband (amidst the billions of human XYs in the world) and fell in love with him.

Ana found herself agreeing with Pope Francis when he said that we must permit ourselves to be surprised by love. (What he actually said was: we must let ourselves be surprised by god’s love. But, then Ana  thinks, the pope is Catholic so it’s understandable for him to insert his own deity in what would be a profound statement even for an atheist — or maybe, even for a Muslim, if we want to do the inclusivity thing.)

Ana is beginning to think that Jesus must be a feminist too. Granted, he had to relegate his mom Mary to the role of perpetual virgin; and his girlfriend, Magdalene to the role of perpetual whore. Despite those shortcomings, the guy had some of his marbles in order.

Ironically, this train of thought started because Ana was horny, not having seen Christian for the past 24 hours.

Cupid and Psyche

This sculpture of Psyche and Cupid … now this is hot — Ana.

psyche&cupid3

It’s even more erotic when seen in close-up!

***

Readings Lists:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erica-jong/if-men-could-get-pregnant_b_82467.html

http://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/82682-japan-foreign-affairs-isis-murders-crisis-management?utm_content=buffer71082&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 http://raissarobles.com/2015/01/30/haiku-on-the-death-of-44-police-commandos/

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/entertainment/01/31/15/look-celebs-touching-tribute-fallen-cop

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/11/10/1343748/-It-s-Official-Pope-Francis-Demotes-Higest-Ranking-US-Cardinal-Over-LBGT-Issues#

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/11/pope-francis-women_n_6307822.html

https://ph.news.yahoo.com/25-things-pope-said-today-103941208.html

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/01/13/15/pope-francis-worked-bouncer-had-girlfriend

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/popefrancis/story/409955/first-person-how-pope-francis-renewed-the-faith-of-this-reluctant-catholic

http://opinion.inquirer.net/81780/devout-and-dishonest

http://opinion.inquirer.net/81837/why-i-dont-like-pope-francis

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/14/cardinal-luis-antonio-tagle_n_6470298.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/14/cardinal-luis-antonio-tagle_n_6470298.html

 

Wondering on What Ifs

After a million years, Ana’s friend (finally!!) answered an email.

Caryn and Ana spent 7 years of school and 1 year of postgraduate work before Caryn left to follow the love-of-her-life-who was living in another country.

Being the romantic that she was, Ana completely understood. What she misses most about Caryn are:

1. Having someone who is as crazy about books as her

2. Scouring flea market sales for that once-in-a-lifetime deal

3. Eating a KFC fried chicken wing using spoon and fork

4. Coming up with crazy ideas like having a Vagina Monologues performed in front of crusty conservative bunch of god-wannabes

5. Walking into the bookstore of a great local writer (who considers Caryn as friend, or so Ana thought) and eating in a Japanese restaurant wondering who will pay

6. Gossiping about former classmates and friends that they haven’t been in contact with for a long time

7. Ana misses having someone eat a cake she baked; and lie so convincingly that it’s delicious that Ana would believe her. Christian also used to be a wonderful liar about Ana’s cooking; but these days, he had become like her Siamese twin that despite his best efforts, Ana still feels that she could read his mind and the truth behind his words.

8. Wondering  about what ifs

Right now, sitting idly in front of her computer at work, Ana is wondering about “what ifs”. She can’t help missing Caryn, who used to be her favorite person as far as wondering on what ifs is concerned.

Schrödinger's cat is a favorite thought experiment of boys. Boys cannot understand how a cat can be both dead and alive at the same time. Girls are all too familiar with such a predicament. Picture from Wikipedia.

Schrödinger’s cat is a favorite thought experiment of boys. Boys cannot understand how a cat can be both dead and alive at the same time. Girls are all too familiar with such a predicament. Picture from Wikipedia.

A hot shot scientist like Albert Einstein would have called what they were  doing Gedankenexperiment or “thought experiment”. But Ana would prefer to call it “wondering about what ifs” (WAWI is a nice acronym). In general, Ana believes that the “what ifs” of girls are quite different from the “what ifs” of boys (of which Einstein is one).

Girls tend to be more inclusive and non-clinical about their what ifs. Their what ifs have nothing to do about their current reality even if the two are parallel universes containing the same phenomena. Girls can wonder about what ifs and still be perfectly content about “what’s real”.

***

Today Ana was wondering: what if she had never met Christian? What if he didn’t ask her out that far-off time when they were students? What if she stood him up or what if she did one of her disappearing routines and didn’t bother to respond to his overtures after that first date? What if her mother didn’t die and so Ana wouldn’t have had a reason to go back to her so-called “career”? What if she and Caryn changed places?

***

Apart from Caryn’s email, these are the articles that inspired the above post:

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html?smid=tw-share&_r=1&referrer

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/no-37-big-wedding-or-small.html

http://the-how-to.tumblr.com/post/29963954456/how-to-fall-out-of-love

An Agnostic Attends Christmas Mass

(now)

It is 6 in the morning; there is a slight drizzle of rain and the world is as cold as the North Pole. I drag myself from bed; in the same spirit as Jonas, when he dragged me to a Simbang Gabi just like this oh so many years ago.

***

The charming Aglipayan church where Alice groggily listened to a now-forgotten sermon about faith. One cannot blame Alice for being distracted and not listening to the priest. All throughout the service, her boyfriend was tracing indecipherable messages on her palm.

The charming Aglipayan church where Alice groggily listened to a now-forgotten sermon about faith. One cannot blame Alice for being distracted and not paying attention to the priest. All throughout the service, her boyfriend was tracing indecipherable messages on her palm.

(then)

The church was small but it was strung with Christmas lights and there were homemade decors inside, making the peeling walls look almost charming. A confession: most times, when I am inside a church or attending mass,  I imagine myself doing a Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”

Most times. But this time, Jonas insisted; so I went (agnostic that I am) to hear the early morning tradition called “Simbang Gabi”.

My earliest memories of going to mass were associated with funerals. When I was 5, my grandmother insisted that I accompany her to the funeral service of her friend; the casket was open and I was deathly afraid the corpse would rise up ala “The Walking Dead” and eat me. When I was 10, my grandfather died and after the church service, before the procession to the cemetery, my mother told me to kiss lolo‘s hand if I didn’t want his ghost to haunt me. Then my mother died. I was 12 and I was alone beside my mother’s casket because my father who was then still an illegal alien in the US would not come home.

After that brouhaha at church during my mother’s funeral service, I stopped believing in god. Thereafter, my forays to “His house” were made to please others and not because of any religious conviction on my part.

So I was inside a church, with a man I just fucked a week ago. How cool was that.

“Do you think these people would be here if their neighbors had stayed at home?” I whispered.

Jonas squeezed my hand, “Alice, honey, it’s 4 am. Tomorrow will be Christmas. You don’t need to prove something every single hour of everyday.”

***

(now)

I sent this letter specifically because I know it will never be read:

Dear Jonas, I don’t expect you to write back. Knowing how you never log on to any of the social media accounts I’ve badgered you to sign up for, I also don’t expect you to read this. Which is good. As I can consider this a diary or something. Words I have unthinkingly sent out into the void. To pass away time. And hopefully to get rid of this disconcerting loneliness amidst a sea of activities.

Everyone seems to be in a hurry around here. And they all get to their appointments on time! The campus is beautiful and the leaves do really turn yellow in the fall. I can’t wait for December and see what snow looks like. I am enjoying my classes. There are a lot of readings and the teachers really expect a lot from us.

I have never seen what autumn looked like before. It’s beautiful. The leaves turn into shades of yellow and brown and the sunset seem bigger and more extravagant.

I miss you.

Yours, Alice

We imagine Alice on her laptop; she is dreaming of Jonas who is also dreaming of her. The worldwideweb is  a conduit of their dreams. Image from www.canstockphoto.com

We imagine Alice on her laptop; she is dreaming of Jonas who is also dreaming of her. The worldwideweb is a conduit of their dreams. Image from http://www.canstockphoto.com

But, yesterday, I received a Facebook message from someone who never opens his Facebook.

The truth is, I had never expected (never, never, ever) to see my Inbox to contain anything like this:

Dear Alice,

I am glad to hear that you are enjoying your studies. I am currently in a hiatus from our project in Davao and has been staying here in Laguna for the past couple of months.

Why would you think that I won’t write back? I wish now that I could have sent you off with more graciousness than I did — I am sorry for being such a bore at the airport — but you do know that I love you. And I have told you that so many times.

I am trying to do the Facebook thing, but you know my attitude about social media. It’s an invasion of individual privacy by multinational companies that claim to have our best interests at heart.

I can imagine you rolling your eyes at me again.

Marianne is getting married next month and she misses you too. Anton and she will go to California for their honeymoon. I know you’re in the East Coast and California is on the other side of the US, but maybe you can find some way to contact each other and catch up.

Alice, my love, our country has just been devastated by the strongest typhoon in the history of the world. A lot of people have lost their lives, their families, things and persons they care about. For many of them, the loss is final and irrevocable.

As cliché as it may sound, life is a fragile blessing, love even more so. I will go on loving you for as long as my heart remains beating.

Yours, Jonas

Jonas was referring to  the devastating loss that Typhoon Haiyan  (Yolanda) wrought on their country.

When Jonas mentioned “the strongest typhoon in the history of the world”, he was not exaggerating. He was referring to the innumerable loss that Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) wrought on their country. Photo from manilatimes.net

***

So can anyone blame me if I am now present in a scantily attended service inside a Catholic Church named after a saint who was, once upon a time, beheaded by a king of England?