The Inconsolable Distance of an Early Life

It was career week and most of the huge companies around town came over to talk about industry choices we had while scouting potential seniors running for honors with exceptional qualifier scores. Everybody wanted to be someone and seemed so sure to know what career option to choose. At first, I didn’t understand what it was I was feeling at the time, but it made me feel bad about the indecisions and on the lack of preference over and under.

Over coffee that afternoon I was on my usual quiet state walking past the walls of Intramuros. The smell of moisten grass complimented the descending sun in the west. The styro cup I was holding had bite marks on it, not realizing I was gnawing on its defenseless brim.

I confided my dilemma to her, and she was not in a hurry to dispense any answers. She just sat there by the wide windows of the convenience store we found ourselves at, listening intently as if I was a puzzle to solve. I was waiting for some quirky punchlines to shrug off my bickering, but instead, she just pursed her lips and pointed her index finger on my forehead and said that she was not worried about me, that I should see what she was seeing. I decided from then on that I love convenience stores and wanted to kiss her in the mouth occasionally.

From then on, we were buddies for life. There was nothing in the world that could separate us. I told her about this place where I used to go to that she should try out, and there, in the weeks that followed, we spent our nights and the little money we had on second-hand records and inexpensive chocolate bars while listening to unearthed B-sides with cigarettes. While it lasted it seemed endless. I liked the classics while she burrowed herself to punk rock. She always had good taste in music. I respected her, while she thought I was over-sentimental and coy that I was too sad I should seek professional help. One time we crashed a party pretending we were distant cousins just to see how the other kids in the subdivisions did it. Then we drove around town in her brother’s stolen car talking about how terrible it was, but deep down we thought how nice it really was and confessed eventually that we envied them. We laughed about it and pretended more, but could only go on so far that we knew we’d run out of roads.

She always persisted to take the wheel, going around places getting nowhere in particular, persisted that we go to the sea and drink by the fire. The nights were colder then but we always knew we had something to warm us with.

Sometimes if we’re low on gas, we’d just walk down the creek if there was enough moonlight and sit on the low walls of the golf course. We were juveniles, and those blue summer nights were ours. Had we held them close enough it would burst, and we’d explode along with it.  We would hold no form, morph into invisible energy roaming in the air, carefree. We would be in different places at once, many drifting parts of us, multiplied, experiencing simultaneous life episodes.  We wouldn’t have to worry about being overwhelmed — we’d be shapeless.

I looked across the purple dusk in that sullen, dry tropical afternoon, listening intently to the singing of the wind. And even though I have tried so much to reconcile, mustering with all might in this exponential attempt to remember even the slightest of, I could not have achieved it. For I am the chapters read from a torn paperback, dog-eared, spine ripped and worn down.  I will always remember her drinking from a paper cup, placing it under her lips, on queue after a drag from a cigarette in the streams of smoke. Her skin was the railways on her cheek for tears, deepened and mapped with heartaches.  I told her to listen, to just listen, for there was nothing left to do but to just wait for the playing of a well-chosen soundtrack that could rescue.

The Night Express

It was by this time that the thick evening sky has completely draped the entire city as if a giant palm has cupped the world to a close. With only a part of the moon slightly showing between the bisecting portions of the clouds, other than that it was an odd dark night comparing to the others.  While a cool drowsy breeze from the direction of the sea was gently wafting onto my skin, I pulled the collar closer to the nape while walking around back to the side of the building where employees go to smoke. I had no complaints; it was the next best thing to anything counted as a good dessert, capping a well-deserved late-night meal after a long tiring shift at work.  I work nights during the weekends, probably- subconsciously happy about it, as there were not many people there and it is a lot tranquil and I could play music without putting my earphones on.  I did not mind the short strolls around the retired empty streets of the business district whenever I need to; in fact I like it better as it is now than how they are during the day when rushing pedestrians on autopilot crowded the streets like fire ants on a mission while the sidewalks flooded by real estate agents and other sorts of company representatives handing out brochures that people don’t really read about.

The lamp posts gleam with a faint orangery hue that made everyone walking under them look a little better than they should be. It was some sort of an emboss to add a thrilling texture to the characters from a movie. Add a little mystery to an ordinary story and it will be worth telling.

This is why I like nights better.  Think about it, people are a bit more honest at night than they truly are during the day. Ever wonder why it always seems easier to confess a feeling to a lover at night? Or why the conscience is always there lurking wide awake during the wee hours of the dark?

I struck a match to light a cigarette and puffed out a train of smoke to the ground. A gloomy looking guy in his Pink Floyd shirt appears from the corner where the brighter side of the building was.  It was an old friend that I haven’t spoken with for a long while.  We used to go home together when taking off from work, but he got transferred to another department which meant he also had to work on a different shift.  The only time we get to see each other is during the weekends when I get to work on the same shift as he is. But even that prevented us to talk since we hang out with a different set of friends which we both don’t really like, or too busy with our work assignments that time did not allow us to.  At first, I thought it was to be a complete drag, being on your own, but it was what it was, and I got along quite well with solitude eventually.

We did not need words nor do anything to express that we were glad to see each other after some time.  It was an implied understanding between two longtime friends.  We practically grew up together.

I could not tell what if it was age or the night itself that diluted us to be this glum.  We used to be a lot louder when we were in college.  We were in our late twenties now, and we should not be acting this way, at the very least not yet.

“Remember the time when I used to work as a delivery guy for a fast food chain during summer some years ago?”  He laid his back flat against the concrete wall beside the stainless ashtray while staring at the towering condominium columns which stood two blocks away from where we were.  They were like in competition among themselves.

“You’d be surprised how many of those people up there are placing orders every night.” He followed.

“I don’t know what exactly, either they just like to stay up late, or they live reverse lives as we do. But it’s quite strange just the same; the phones ring off the hook for delivery orders. There was a time that we had to hire extra night riders just to cope up with the demand” He says, as he reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket and lit one.

There was a strange sullen look on his face for a moment, and he quickly gave out a huge laugh finally breaking the silence and threw a soft punch on my left arm.

“Glad you are still there inside that shell, how’s everything back home, how is she?” I responded.

“You know we are not the type who talks about this stuff right?”  He replied cracking a half smile.

“Right.” I affirmed.

“But do you reckon that people just simply like your food? “Returning to where he left off.

“Uh-uh, I don’t think it was that at all.” Shaking his head.

“Did you know that there was a study that we may be physiologically programmed to eat cookies at night?”

“So, are we like monsters after dusk?” I asked smiling.

“Sort of.”  He flicked the burnt butt towards the direction of the bin and fell silent for a while.

“Hmm, interesting, but aren’t we all?”  I asked aimlessly.

The dark of the night seemed to have added a colder heavy temperature as we stood there.

I placed both hands together while holding the almost done cigarette and we started walking.

We crossed the road where the PED XING sign hangs over the island of the intersecting streets.

As we were threading on midway, a fast single-delivery motorcycle zipped on by behind us.

Night Express

Cold Planked Boxes of Ernest

Remember the ones you left behind, the dead with their faces during the last moments you saw them speak. How could you possibly bring them back with you? What means did you have if there were any? It was such a cruel thing not being able to give what they truly deserved, as their voices fill your head in your sleep as you lie there on the dirt. You wonder what were those they prayed for?  To believe in the war is different from rooting for the deeds that come along with it.  It was necessary to take someone’s life, but one should not believe in it.  I phoned the commander and asked him to wait until the sun reaches above the scalp.  But damn the politics that helped oiled the gears which led us here.  Fool is to believe that all are selfless.   I was once proud and naive, for the flags I heeded to represent.  I was an urged rock that was given life, to be heavy and still as I am also numb.

A friend is when I speak out loud to myself.  It has been groomed unconsciously that it now turns into a living grieving habit.  Yes, it is normal that you have thoughts brewing to the point of discussion or a mere debate with yourself. But it should only stay within an inaudible state and not to be uttered for others to hear.  The mouth is for conversations that require a pair of ears other than yours.  And so, it is unusual to speak that way.

But how does one take control in the most piercing moments when the scorching sun strikes you back hard and when it turned the tracks of your tears into mere salt on your cheeks.  When you only have the barrel of the gun to depend on, when all of your brothers are motionless around you and you chose to crawl towards the one you are closest with. You see him drowning in his own spoils and blood. You are to willingly stick your fingers into the bullet holes just to convince any of them to accompany you even with just a hurtful moan.  You’d hope to be as faithful as your resolve.  The residues of these days are a stench that will never go away.  You rely on the handgun hoping it will not fly off when the time for shooting has come.  When it is already time to give up the bullet that will carry your message across, that the time for writing novels must be set aside for now.  It is not because you were left with no other choice. It was the circumstance presented at your feet.   You knew this was not the end, but you were also sure you could be absolutely wrong.

And you’d tell yourself, that the time for grieving is not now.  You will have plenty of that hereafter.  Nor is this the place to do it.  The dead must be respectfully cleansed.  The dried-up mud and blood must be washed off to reveal the chivalry and truth of their souls.  But most of all, as a final act of selflessness, for the families’ sake and the loved ones who waited, as one is sure that they will not have the stomach to witness the remnants of the horrors of their fate.   So, your body must be cleansed.  Your battle uniform must be replaced.

And so, you had it done, for them, always for them.

Crossings and Intersections

I was waiting by the tracks on a platform sitting on an empty steel bench where a beam from the weekend ether is cascaded down through an opening of the plastic transparent sunroof. The rustic smell from the old neighboring provinces flooded the air. There were not many people there yet, it was still early and so the sight is pretty much the usual vacated scene at this time of the day.

I had my left arm folded resting atop a luggage bag beside me, while the knuckles were pressed against the temple of my head. I just finished drinking coffee from a local inn, and I did not mind waiting. In fact, I was lingering at the moment while it was still mine to savor.

Not borrowers, but I guess we are the temporary owners of these fragments we call moments. Or at least we attempt to steal these from the overly stretched time we have left.

A dog-eared paperback book was occupying the other hand, laying it flat open across my right arm. I was caught between the lines that stuck with me for quite some time. Somehow, I couldn’t get past the words. I was rereading the same chapter over and over, and it was an indication that I was not getting anywhere obviously, and should give it a rest for the meantime.

Or was I becoming too engrossed?

Quite not sure.

Faceless people began to appear. I heard them coming from the steps but not rushing. From the sound of their voices, I was assuming that they were college students talking about school stuff and a professor that I thought they hated.

I turned to their direction to see, a mere mechanical reaction I guess, or maybe I was looking for a momentary amusement. I was in a way channel surfing for real-life episodes, not really knowing what I wanted my eyes to sit on.

An old lady carrying an eco-bag and a folding umbrella was also there, walking after the students. She had a sullen and weary look in her eyes, the kind that had seen many cold Decembers I suppose.

I watched her pacing herself to reach the bench where I was. She placed her things down carefully and made sure that these were secured and will not fall over. She then slowly chose a spot, sitting next to me.

I was trying not to be obvious. I was looking straight down on to the book I was holding, and just observing her through my peripheral. I didn’t want to offend her, but I couldn’t stop noticing as well since we were the only ones there.

She looked at the direction from where the train was going to appear, but she only found the image of me sitting there across her.

“Hijo, what time is the next train?” the old lady asked, her gaze shifted towards me.

“Um, I guess in a few minutes, they operate less on weekends” Stammering, I responded.

“And why do you suppose they’d do that? People still have to be somewhere even on weekends, right?” then a faint chuckle followed.

Clearly, time complimented her with wisdom.

“I guess, you’re right” taken by surprise on her response, I returned with a polite nod and a smile.

“If I may ask, are you in a hurry, Ma’am?”

She reached for her bag and went through what was inside and held out a standard-sized marble that kids play with especially during far back in the day.

“I plan to visit my son and surprise him with this. He is much older than you are, probably a decade older.

I found this thing from a box filled with worn-out clothes and old books, and I thought this will make him remember.”

“Remember what?” I quickly followed.

“Well, when he was still a little boy, he never left this behind, everywhere he went he carried this in his pocket, believing it held some sort of magic. I guess he got that idea from reading too much Mark Twain novels.”

“To tell you honestly, this is not the actual marble that he believed had magical powers. Many years ago, I accidentally dropped the real one when I was checking his trousers for anything before washing them. I lost the damn thing when it went straight through a hole.”

“That must have felt very frustrating” I sincerely injected.

“Then what happened next?”

“I went to the house of my son’s best friend, whose mom I was very close with, and explained what happened with the marble.

As a mother, she understood why it was so important for me to find another similar.

We snuck inside her son’s room and went through a drawer where he kept his collection of marbles. But we were dumbfounded when we discovered that there was a lot to choose from.”

I gave out a huge laugh after hearing this and felt very much intrigued on how the story was turning out.

“How were you able to find an exact match?” Curiously asking.

“Well, we didn’t.”

“I don’t understand, what did you do after?” Now really intrigued.

“I got back to our house with three marbles I thought similar with the real one. It was getting late, so I just bought us dinner on the way home from a cheap Chinese restaurant near our place.

And when I arrived, he was sleeping, apparently tired from looking for his treasure.

I woke him up and took the time explaining to him what happened.

“And then? Did he get mad about it?”

“Yes, he hated me for it. And it took a few days to get him talking to me again.”

“But it surprised me when he finally did, he told me, that he had a dream about his magic marble”.

I leaned closer to hear her clearly. Her tone and the volume of her voice dropped a couple of notches it was almost a whimper.

“He said that in his dream, I came out of an Ice cave and gave him a marble.

And according to the dream, I placed the marble inside his invisible pocket, and told him that it will never, ever be lost again.”

“That turned out well?” with a gesture of relief I gave a deep exhale.

“Well it sort of did, but years went by, and he seemed to have also forgotten where that secret pocket was. That’s why I am visiting him to show him this old marble. It’s been years since the last time we saw each other. Call me overly dramatic, but I am running out of time.” Holding the round toy up next to her hopeful smile.

All of a sudden, the train loomed out of the huge body of a hazy fog across the green field, approaching the station.

We hurriedly bid our short but sincere farewells, never knowing if we will cross paths ever again for another storytelling.

Apparently, that was the last time I saw the old lady.

She got on the train as I stayed behind watching her go.

The heavy weight on my chest was starting to fade as the rubber soles of my shoes seemed to have grown wings on them suddenly.

Flying off to somewhere instead.

Intersections

Somewhere along the Lines

The early morning light was in her eyes, waking her gently, like many times before. The day was warming up her toes, so she readjusted by pulling the blanket to her side. Every contour and delineating landscape of her body was as true as the lie she told herself upon seeing an old lover.  And the bending of the light from the window glass glared over her, so brightly and sincere, to remind her that she is alive for another day.

To endure, not for herself, but for those who cannot.

What power she had in her grasp. And it couldn’t be any simpler than this – No coffee, nor morning kisses, just a glass of cold water, and that morning message from her phone to get her by.

She recreated the world before her, as she saw in her dreams, asleep and awake.  Her hands were oftentimes beautifully stained by oil-paint and charcoal.  Her heart was a mass made of Bukowski, Whitman, Plath, Hemingway, and Neruda. Their words poured out of her mouth, and her delicate lips were chopped by heartaches and their promiscuity with literature.

Their muddled love affair with relevance.

She was a passerby, like the changing seasons, like summer and winter.  Traveled a lot through the seas and the skies, in heartbreaks and through each sad song and nighttime prayers.   She reminded herself again and again, that it is not for her, but for those who are barren and blind, for the lost who could not find north, for the unsung catalysts of our time, whose footprints were swept off in the sand.

Her fingertips rallied across to choose the best parchment paper, not in contention against the hands of time, but to withstand for as long as.

Oh, she was on her way, taking on the distance between her mind and her heart. Shaking hands with new found friends and tasting the lips of other men.  No penance here, nor guilty trips, she was as bold and unrelenting, and yet remains gentle just the same.  A rose with its thorns, the dark that makes the moon brighter in the night.

As her hero stole the show, the crimson curtains fell feebly over his head. The act was nearly approaching its end, the audience was on the edge of their seats, hoping to be swooned.

He took out his gun, the pistol given to him by his father before him. With an engraved dedication on its ivory grip beautifully written in script, he held it tighter as he crowed,

“These Hands were clean empty, and yet we were robbed of our names still!  A claim undeniably ours, oh it must be I say!  One insignificant sacrifice is all it takes, and we are there, oh how close we are to the end, just a little while now, and this right here, everything, will be back to its rightful place!” He sneered in the pouring rain.

With great numbers, in the utmost imposing intentions, the strings were hit hard by the bows.  As minor notes instilled chill and power, reinforced by the crashing thunders from the cymbals and the percussions, the organ, all the trumpets, horns, and the saxophones had shaken the halls and reached all corridors.

It was the world ending after all.

The master perspired, his sweat flew off like raging bullets on every turn of the head and in every swing of his arms.  He moved and instructed, measure after measure, note after note as if it was the last performance.

Beats, a long profound silence as she wondered about. She slid back, widening the gaps between her fingertips and the keyboard.  Her chest was pounding, and her throat was a bit dry.

She turned to her side looking out of the window — she could hear the chirping from the trees.  The light of the morning sun was still in her eyes, the wind touching her face, and the rivers of happiness flowed in her hair.

The world was so clear.

along the lines

Buoyancy in the Stillness of Everything

“Forget about the charm, just seize the quaintness of an aging photograph. “– Everything was so still, life in suspended animation.

I held it with me with a date written on the back to remind me of a distant time.

As I looked forward to the next morning sun on my face, I packed a few clean shirts and a container with just enough water in my bag.

The universe mocked, as the sky scowled a crooked thunderbolt ripped the horizon in half. “Tonight, the sky is a misunderstood friend.”

Of a prayer to disintegrate into a thousand-word declamation blemishing on paper, I heard a feeble shush from the faint rain. So, in the tides of the sheets, I went back, to wrap this inability to hold a vessel.

With all the leaps and the summersaults, all the remnants of the night, and the unheralded voyages to the slumber permissive night, my indecision was there to await me in the morning. But I guess the days will decide for themselves, however it is.

For people do not change much. We always think that we do, but truly we don’t.  We are merely the different versions of ourselves, like a book, today is a chapter, tomorrow is another.

I have seen this before, I knew this from somewhere very familiar. On a cold windy evening, I once placed my head against the table next to a drink.  In shame, my body curled voluntarily. But in a dream, she chose to forget about my crimes. “No need for tears tonight.” She assured the frail.

And that made me feel better for a while — a momentary relief. I could almost taste again the salt of the ocean. I knew I heard it, and I was glad and yet reluctant to indulge as if I was held back by something.

I called upon the falling stars twice, along with the long howling of a mutt outside the window. I guess she was cold too, the moon revealed finally.

The satellites and the fireworks began to dabble, bleeding into the skies playful, while the girl on TV in her black-laced dress was smiling upon the blinding flash of silver nitrate.

Just for one more incendiary sight.

They made love by the frenzied colors of lights made of transparent glasses and endless promises. The romantics feast on the unspoken sonnets and unpublished narratives. How it was different from the nights before was never made known to me, nor it was spelled significant.

I clung onto this ideology as if it was an imperative biological necessity.

I was up before dawn. The pavement held glittery fragments of the stars.

The rain must have shattered them on their way through.

Rearranging Past and Chess Board Pieces

Of cheap beers, and late night cab rides across the dimmed concrete highway tunnels of the weekends, I plunge into the deep abyss of the free-falling but not looking down, always never looking down.

To rearrange, a new theoretical standpoint to take, stirring the coffee cup, as I see now the sun in the swirl of the milk.  That breakfast is more than just a morning routine, and evenings compensated more, not just to conceal the stench and the scars, as we all go back to the end where life started.

The summer smiles, and the leaps, and those wide open arms for the rainfalls, when bulbs of daffodils finally bloom in their yellow sun rays, ringed in white, orange, and their reds. Those beckoning warm afternoon laughter of children playing after taking siestas, and that morning walks before the day wakes for its poetry.

Upon the layers of overlapping leaves, the sunbeams break through like a subtle rainfall.  A whisper pointed me to their silhouettes, and it talked about palettes and all the universal colors, how these all meant to find one’s place in the hushed Sunday skies.

Oh, tell me what do you want to do today? And we will draw a treasure map maybe; we are the Goonies of our time after all.

I washed my face after watching a good film. I have seen it a hundred times over, and I will do another hundred it seems.  Then l lighted a cigarette to cap this delightful feeling, a silent kind of happiness instills in the crowd of the crumpled papers.

When we are shown to entwine threads and copper wires, to hear the stories and to just relearn, nothing more, and when saying yes is all that ever mattered, while everything else will just follow through in place.  And we roll away, like boulders and round stones on the slopes.

We are shapeshifters, we over speculate before passing out, and made love with sunsets.

And after all of these realignments, all the moving parts and the rest of the things one has been working on for years, the delineation between respite and the time to embark has been drawn.

While waiting beneath a willow tree, I was thinking of this word that could paint the raptures of these descents and arrivals.  And I can’t quite catch it. Maybe someday I will somehow.  And if I finally do, I will never have to write about science fiction and farewell letters anymore.