The Forest in the Mountainside (A Ghost Story)

This happened to me some years ago when I was still studying at university. On the way home, I decided to take the long way route around the mountainside so I could take photographs while at it. At first, I didn’t think it was a bad idea since I grew up around the area and I mostly knew the people who lived there at the time. If something went wrong, I could just simply go to the nearest residence for help. After all, there hadn’t been any incidents related to mugging or anything crime-related. So with this assessment, I carried on and readied the camera with me.

It was late in the afternoon and the sun was just about to set. I thought the lighting will be just perfect by the time I start. I felt excited about it. Honestly, I couldn’t wait for my classmates to see what I’d have taken after this, and I could already imagine their faces when we meet that coming Monday. Looking back at it now, I guess I thought I wanted to brag about how much I had improved with my photography skills to land an impression among them. Besides, I had nothing to do at home, and I didn’t want to go back just yet.

I remember feeling rather bad that day. My parents had just finalized everything about their marriage annulment and apparently, they had been keeping the details from me up until that morning. They had decided that they would go their separate ways after the school year. I remember exactly how it felt even up to now when they broke the news to me at the breakfast table. It was my father who found the courage to explain to me first.

“We’d still be your parents, nothing will ever change you’ll see. For what it’s worth, we really considered all of the factors here, so there is no need to worry really, we’d make sure that you are taken care of.”

“Yeah… We really think that this will be all for the best, honey… for everyone.” My mother sounded unsure.

I remember seeing my grandfather arrive that day as well. I thought it was odd for him to travel all the way from where our family was from without a good enough reason, I mean, he rarely visited us when my siblings and I were a lot younger, but I thought that maybe he was just catching up for the lost time.

Soon after I realized the real reason for my grandfather’s visit, I tried to convince my parents to reconsider but things had already been finalized and there was no changing it.

My grandfather was a popular photographer during his time, so I was told, but I only saw all about it in newspaper clippings in the family photo album. My parents told me that it’d be probably good if I stayed with him for the summer — while both of them took care of things and made all the necessary arrangements, I could also learn a thing or two from him.

I didn’t have any choice. And what’s more, I barely knew my grandfather. He was more of a stranger to me at the time. I thought, how can someone you know so little about help you in this time of crisis?

To break the ice, he gave me one of his favorite cameras as a present when we met that morning.

There was nothing special about the camera. It was one of those old digital types that you’d just point and shoot with. But I guess he had memories with it, and he probably wanted to pass it down to me as an heirloom of some sort. I’ve got to admit, however, it helped take my mind off things for a while and somewhat made me feel better. I thanked him and decided not to think about it so much and went straight to school as usual.

I toyed with the camera as I went about the stroll around the mountain after school. It was on a Friday, so I didn’t mind strolling around so late.

Maybe I was too preoccupied with taking photographs that I didn’t realize that I had already wandered about deep into the forest. It was way farther than I have ever been into that the rice fields that you’d normally see around our small town were nowhere to be found. The tree branches sprawled above me as if they were locking arms with each other with their stares fixed down at me. As if conniving, the sun behind them cast dark shadows onto their massive trunks that all the more outlined their contoured figures around me.

At first, I thought, there was nothing wrong and that I should just turn back. But when I did, the pathway behind me vanished out of the thin air. I couldn’t see anything at all. There was just grass, and wild bushes, and strange-looking trees all around. They all look the same everywhere. I am lost, I am lost… I heard my voice crackle and at the same time, I was screaming hysterically inside my head. I was scared. The light from the dimming sun can hardly seep through the gaps of the branches and their thick leaves blotted out the light.

Just when I thought that things couldn’t get any worse, I heard a voice. At first, I thought it was some random animal, but when I walked closer to where it was, it got louder and louder — it became clear to me that it was much more like a human’s voice. Cold chills ran down to my spine.

Up ahead, between two crooked trees, I saw a boy curled up as if crying. There was little light but I knew I was right, no doubt about it. It really was a child! He had his back against me and he was muttering words I couldn’t understand. I froze on the spot. There was no way a child can get this far, I thought. And what’s more, he had no clothes and his back was filled with wounds, as if claw marks had caused it. When I tried to move in closer, I accidentally stepped on a twig. It was dry so it made a sharp snap when it received my full weight. I held my breath for what happened next. The boy’s crying suddenly stopped. This freaked me out. The boy fell silent and did not move.

“Hey kid… are you okay?” I tried to sound concerned.

There was no answer.

I tried to call him a few more times but the boy didn’t budge as if he was not hearing me. That settled it. That boy was not of this world.

I took a few steps back and tried to say goodbye as if asking for permission to do so. But when I did, suddenly, I saw it moved. Its head turned but its body remained in place as it was. I panicked. I felt all the hair on my body stood up. I tried to move, but my legs won’t give.

Finally, it heard me. Out of desperation, I thought that maybe I could talk my way out of it.

“Do you need help?” I started.

It stared at me and shook its head as if saying no. Its head appeared weirdly loose as if it was dislocated.

“Where are your parents? What are you doing out here all alone? I insisted.

It shook its head again but more rapidly this time. As I was saying all of these, I noticed something else… something sinister.

It was a feeling that somebody was watching me.

At first, I didn’t notice it. But it was there… A figure… I saw its face behind one of the crooked trees. Its face had a strange grin on it. I saw its front teeth — too many than it’s supposed to be. It was a dark figure, clad in black; it was tall; it bore no face at all except for its wide-opened eyes and its strange expressionless grin. It was as if it wanted to be seen. And when I locked eyes with it, it moved its face closer towards me, as if curious, as it peered behind a bark… I stood there just a few meters away from it — stunned, blood drained down from my body. I couldn’t move even if I tried to direct my limbs to do so. Somehow its stare had a grasp on me.

It wasn’t moving; it just stood right there, behind the bark. But the strange thing was, it felt it was getting closer and closer… I knew it hasn’t left its place behind the bark but it was definitely getting close. It was like a life-size photograph being zoomed in. And before long, I found myself standing face to face with its dark expressionless face. Its eyes were now wider than ever. Clear white and pure of malice. It felt like it desired something… Of mine…

All of a sudden it opened its mouth wide. It was dark and hollow. I’ve never seen black that way in my life! It felt I was drowning in the full darkness. I couldn’t breathe until I passed out.

The next thing I knew I was in the university clinic. Apparently, I was found by my grandfather when he went to fetch me from school. It was getting late so naturally, he was worried. When later I asked for the details, I found out that he had found me a little later after sundown, which meant that the entire experience only lasted just a few minutes, give or take, ten minutes tops.

“Huh? No way… I swear I must have been walking around those parts for at least two hours…”

Up until now, I couldn’t explain what had happened that day. I didn’t go back to our town nor the university and agreed to stay with my grandfather for good. After that day, I didn’t take photographs anymore. I was afraid that both the boy and the black figure will appear in one of the pictures, that they had followed me through it.

Even if my grandfather had asked me, I declined to take up photography, not even as just a hobby. When I was asked whatever happened to his old camera I just told him that I had dropped it in the forest where he found me. To be honest, I was glad that I lost it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it, to say the least. But I couldn’t help myself to wonder still… What really happened that night? And above all, why me?

I have a weird theory though. I can’t help but feel that both the boy and the mysterious black figure were manifestations of what I was feeling at the time. That somehow it was me who gave them life. The idea of that kept me awake most nights, I felt sick in my stomach. I don’t know, but I have a strong hunch that the boy was the sad and lonely part of me and the dark figure embodied all of my anger for my parents.

It’s been years now since I last saw my mom and my dad. I plan on taking a drive this weekend to see both of them in our old town. I’m also considering dropping by the university and to see the mountainside. I guess I will find out the answers then. Maybe…

It Must Have Been That Gary Guy Down the Hall

I wasn’t sure if I dialed the right number. But I tried and tried until I was finally able to get a hold of the local police. I frantically gave out a description of what happened that night. I told the operator that I heard some strange noises and that I was really scared. There were some low screeching noises in the walls. The sound that it was making were cold, of tormented voices which can be simply described as hoarse and scratchy all the same. “It must be Gary, I really think it’s him!” I told the woman I spoke with. I was fidgeting and twisting the spiral cord of the payphone in the hallway.

There is something about the rain that calms me. There were nights that I wished that it would not let up and it would just spray like that forever — slanting, almost sideways, so in that way I would know that the wind was carrying it, like how my memories would carry my chest adrift.

But there wasn’t a single drop for months.

At midnight I would randomly call friends to relieve me of my self-inflicted agitation. And they would say that Susan – my made-up girlfriend– did not deserve me at all.

They said that I should just simply forget her and they gave me a fine lesson on how I should start anew.

I wrote to my folks to lend me some money because I spent most of what I had on cheap evening companions and prescription drugs. Of course, I didn’t tell them that. I used the excuse that I was struggling, coping in the big city.

I always felt that I was different compared to those low-life addicts. I separated myself from their filth but I also wouldn’t call myself anywhere near special. I guess the only difference was that I knew there wasn’t an escape, nor a commiserated vindication if there was an end to any of these.

A guy who lived down the hall dropped by one night and brought some drinks to share.

He lifted his foamy beer and drank, and used a plastic fork when he pinched and chewed on the fried tofu. As if harnessing holy powers from this, he told me — in a forlorn way — about his prevocational wisdom.

“We don’t really get fixed. We just think we do and go on by, mending until we’re all done for.”

I guess he’s right. The world is not equilateral after all.

“Until we’re all done for.” I repeated the line to myself and stood up to get us fresh beers from the fridge.

“Do you like horror stories?” I asked him while balancing myself on a chair with its two back legs.

“I suppose.” he answered coolly.

And I read him something that I wrote and asked him to critique:

He was lying on his side facing her. It’s been days now since he got admitted for an illness he still wouldn’t believe he’s got. And he stared at her and wondered on, in those kind brown eyes that seemed like bathing in a midsummer night’s moonlight. He knew what she did, all of her secrets.

There was shortness in his breath. There was also shortness in the nights that ensued.

“Can you talk about the house again? Just enough to get me to sleep.”

She indulged him and told him about their dream house as he would have wanted it. How they’d wander in and about the halls and the walkways together to the garden in that perfect warm morning sun.

It was just a matter of time she reassured him.

Then one of the evening shift nurses came in and administered a dose of penicillin through a syringe and gave him something for the pain.

Then he asked to be moved to face the windows. But there was a bricked wall that blocked the view.

After reading him the first lines, Gary gave a huge laugh and told me that I should seriously consider switching genres.

Flushed and rather ashamed, I told him that I was going for something more.

Sometimes, the easiest decisions are the hardest ones to make. I wanted to stop using, but the thought of strangling him seemed more plausible.

I knew exactly what he came for.

Then I switched my gaze towards the lock of my door and thought about the shortness in his breath.

Cats Smoked the Souls of the Dead

At the funeral of a friend, he saw her helping out, handling over cold tetra packs of juices and repacked green peas and peanuts to the guests. His relationship with her was as dead as the one lying in the pine casket by the electric candles. He thought about saying hi but hesitated and felt it was completely inappropriate to do such a thing. It wasn’t the place or the time to rekindle with old romantic acquaintances, even though what he only wanted was to ask her one question after all.

It was a cool and damp night. She was wearing a comfortable-looking knitted cardigan over a strapped blue top and a pair of her usual outfit, a square pants and worn down sneakers. It was close to midnight but it was still quite a work finding his way through being noticeably visible. When he was young, he was made to believe that funerals are big farewell parties every time a relative died. “And that cats feed on the crematorium smoke, that’s why they have many lives” His uncles would tease the kids. But it wasn’t the case when his dad went when he was only eleven.

He thought about what happened between them. There was that problem she one day declared to him, turning the other way as she sat in the passenger seat. It was all a blur to him, but he can remember very well the humming of the car engine while she was at it. He wasn’t worried, she still had the seatbelt on.

What could have been said more often was reduced to mere incidentals, and what should have been felt as something natural eventually became a matter of opinion. A cause, and a consequential effect to put it simply. In the movie Interstate 60, James Marsden was told that all relationships were a reaction of the previous ones we had. It wasn’t the point of the scene, but that was the message that stuck. That night she just left in his sleep without saying goodbye. He always thought she’d come back for her stuff in his place, but still hasn’t.

“I almost couldn’t believe my eyes, I thought I was seeing the wrong ghost.” There was a soft chuckle when she said this after many of the guests left. “I was surprised to see you here.”

The night was filled with stars, there were only a few thin sheets of clouds scudding across. The wind was cool, it was such a good night for a long drive to the coast, what he truly wanted to say. “It was such a beautiful service.” He said after a while.

“I’m just glad it was over, peaceful. You know?” She replied without looking.

A week after he was at the door in front of the house, feeding a stray cat with milk and a corn-flavored cereal. Then it hit him, cats didn’t feed on the souls of the dead. They rip them apart until they were completely gone.

It Was Like Catching Flu

It’s late in the night when we took a cab ride around the outskirts of town. We picked up some supplies on the way at the local 24-hour convenience store near the bay and paid extra on top of the fare. He was sorry about waking me up, but he didn’t know who else to call at the time, he explained. Of course, I didn’t mind one bit.

We watched the smoke lingered in the air under a street lamp. It was like a scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  This made him forget for a little while, which relieved me in a way, for I was putting on a terrible performance consoling him.

We didn’t talk about it much really. I didn’t know how. The ebbing of the tides in the moonlight did all of that for us.

I guess that was all he ever needed, what both of us did.

“I don’t think we could ever prepare for these sort of things.” He started.

“You’d know if it’s good when it’s scarce.

All the good ones are.”

I didn’t say anything.

We waited until dawn before heading back. He wanted to catch both the last light of the night and the first of the coming day.

At the end of it, he knew that profanity is the cheapest means of revenge.

“Think about something else. “ I urged him finally.

“Like what?”

“The good days.” I knew I was doing worse I wanted to puke.

“I want to see that try bring down all the xenophobic ideas in the world.”

Then the warm rays glimpsed upon us suddenly with the breeze blowing from the direction of the sun.

And it went on in my head. I could still trace him.  My son’s scent on the pillows.

I think it’s painfully blissful, sometimes I couldn’t stand it.

It was like catching flu in the rain.

The Lack of Inhibition to the Less Critical Heart (or the overabundance thereof)

The Termite

It was as clear as a summer night’s sky that later he exhumed the details of the incident. But at that moment, all doors were shut tight and nobody seemed to know what answers he wanted to hear. He looked at the tenants scornfully, at their undiscriminating speculations, he could not stand it.

He was just making matters worse, they said to him. There was nothing else he could do and thought better of it. They could be right, of course. But he could not ignore the stench of apathy in his nostrils.

In the end, he decided to retreat to knit a constructive point of view. It sounded old-fashioned, it made him shudder. But it has always been an effective antidote to the poisoned heart.

He used charcoal briquettes to take out the smell, along the wooden panels and throughout the gaps.

But it was the sight of chloroform that interested him.

 

The Hermit

Once there lived a hermit living an ordinary solitary kind of life. All he ever needed was the sands beneath him, and the salts of the ocean to preserve. He stayed in the shallow reefs near the shoreline, along the coast where he had access to food and a few leisure. He rarely travels to the land, and only went when he had to. It was just a little corner of the world what he had, it was not much but it was his corner, nevertheless. He had it all.

Sure, he got a few friends at work, but he doubted if anyone would ever stick his head out for him when the time came. Not that it was necessary really, but sometimes, it was just comforting to think that one’s well-being is of some value to others.

He continues to scuttle through the sands of the beach.

 

The Old Dog

I read about the incident in a newspaper while waiting for my clothes to finish at a local laundromat. I barely knew Lisa, but it saddened me, nonetheless.

She must have been dead for three days by the time her body was discovered in her apartment. She just got old- basically, it was what the news read.

It was a pivotal experience, she was the closest friend I ever had.

And now that she is gone, the more I am tucked away from ever existing.

Lisa was 77, twelve in dog years. Her famous person left for Siargao to catch some waves.

She looked good in her two-piece bikini on her Instagram post.

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The Hostess on Romulo Street

The lady at the front desk was dressed in a traditional kimono with western jewelry jingling on her wrist.  Its intricately carved stone was of bright ruby that glistened when she handed over my key.  “You’re all set sir, room is at 801 and breakfast is served at six.”  It was too bad I told her.  I usually have trouble sleeping in strange places I rather want to start my day ahead.  She recommended trying out the bar instead.

A bleeping sound was made when I tapped the card on the door panel.  As I entered, I was greeted by a citrus scent that suggested that the room was clean, and it was.  Everything was spotless, this I attributed to the reputation the place has.  I started placing my bag on the luggage rack, retired my shoes under it, and sat on the corner of the bed in front of the television.

By the awnings, I watched the blanket of the night that slithered below.  The moonlight shone over the rain-soaked pavement—it coated the foams of the clouds white, sailing across overhead.

As a matter of habit, I first unpacked the clothes I was going to wear, hanged them all in the closet and lined up the toiletries neatly on the lavatory before changing to head out.

It was getting late, and the hallways waned in the darkness as I waited long enough for the elevator before realizing that it was not working.  I decided to use the fire exit since the bar was just four floors down.   At the end of the hall the exit sign glowed as if an enticing invitation was calling upon me.  In the dark, I trailed the narrow glimmer of green neon light until I reached and pushed the heavy door.

Two flights down I heard a murmuring from below.  I stopped, startled of this irregularity.  Guests were not supposed to loiter around these parts and I suppose the management does not allow employees as well.  But the voices grew louder as I approached and caught a smell of stale cigarettes in the air.

As I climbed down the stairs, placing most of my weight on my heels, I came about a huddle of men on the landing.  Some of them were on their knees, one was sitting on the railings, and a few were standing with their hands either propped on their thighs or on the wall.  A flashlight was directed to the ground where playing cards were laid down with the pot money in the middle.

With their loud response, I do not know how many of them shrieked in surprise.

Standing so close to them this time, I reckoned that they were a good ten at least — some bore old tired faces, some were foreigners whose skins were as pink as salmons adjusting to the heat, and women smoking with only burnt tips visible.

“The bartender does not know what he is doing” A man complained to me and reached up and offered his drink.  “Right here we like it clean.”

“Thanks comrade” And downed the drink in a gulp.

There was a voice that loomed from the lower landing.  It was the receptionist, but she is out of her uniform now.  “You’re 801, right?”

At first, I could not make out who she was, but I remembered when I heard the jingling of her bracelet.

“I guess I am” I tried responding coolly.

“What are you doing here 801? Are you lost?”

“Your elevators do not work.  The lights led me to the stairs.”

“Is it now?”

“Are you not going to fix it?”

“Everything gets broken around here anyway, why bother? Besides somebody from maintenance will find out sooner eventually, stay for a while, and care to play will you now?”

I declined politely.  I would rather take my chances at the bar I told her.  It is one of the few places I know is fair.

She asked if she could tag along. I did not know why she did that, but it was probably because she suspected me of ratting them out.  It took a bit of an effort, but I convinced her that I was not.

“But it was not about that at all” she assured me.

“I thought you would rather go to a better place to drink. I owe you that”

We walked two blocks to this place she knew.   She had one round and another.  She was a terrific hostess until around two when she left me in peace.

But peace is a just another word thrown around so carelessly these days.  What we have is silence in the shade of a world set ablaze.

Paperback Series

It was nearly the end of the hour, most of the customers have already left the counters and those who remained were the regulars playing a few more rounds of pool before calling it quits. On a napkin, she drew a Martian cat holding a flag and a pint, folded it in half and inserted it in my phone casing.

I was feeling light, tired. She said it might have been the lateness of the night; we were not the same as we used to be. We were different then, but in a way, have not changed much.  Probably we were both.

It was my turn to buy the next round. I was running thin on beer money, but the night was still asking.

It was a mistake, but who’s counting nowadays? The world is full of it. Everyone has drums and boxes filled with it.

“Where were we?”

“Back to where we used to be, in a place we ought to be” She insisted.

“But you’re moving back to California.”

“A tourniquet.”

“The moon was fuller the last time we were here. Your hair longer and I didn’t have this limp.”

“You were dashing” She chuckled.

I returned some myself. “Eight years of alcohol does a lot to you.”

The container trucks lined up overhead, stuck on a flyover across our window.  The stream of orange highway lamps traced the roads with broken lines and asphalt.  She wrapped her head as it rested on her upper arm and continued,

“Will you cook me breakfast?”

“If you still like over easy with burnt hems.”

“I always thought it was perfect.”

“Yeah?”

“Yep.”

Sometimes I go to this place in my head where I recounted this sequence over and over. There were nights when I’d just look up in the sky and hope for a chance.  I still keep it with me, her dog-eared paperback copy of The Trial, protesting, one unused bookmark at a time.

Photo by Biankitty

Red Moon Parting

As scheduled, they met at the family residence after dusk and sat together at the dining table under the low ceiling light hanging over them.  The tiny crystal pendants around its main light, of which the glass shade refracted prisms on each dangling embellishment themed the room with mixed hues.   Luis sat at the head of the table, while the younger brother sat by the corner, the two of them slightly facing each other while the lawyers seated side by side across.  There were piles of documents atop the leather case between them, and cigarette stubs nearly overflowed in a porcelain ashtray by the cups of consumed coffee.

“Have you thought about your options, Luis?” the lead counselor began.  Jojo turned to his elder for an answer.  “I guess we have.”  Luis’ voice has fallen tired when he responded.

“Or could we have more time to go over it?  I mean we don’t have to decide right away, do we attorney?”  Jojo injected worriedly.

“Inasmuch as we want to get the arrangements done for at this point, we want you to know that we completely understand how hard these things could get.  Please take all the time you need but let us know as soon as you have arrived at a decision.  It would be best if we get something by the end of the week, but we’ll hold it off as much as we can.”

And the rest of the exchanges were all ceremonials to make sure that everything down to the last detail was in order.  After half an hour, they all stood up and shook hands except for Luis who remained silent in his seat.  The younger brother showed the lawyers to the door and excused the indifference of the brother and blamed it all to exhaustion and explained further that he was not quite himself lately.  He went back to the dining area after getting a pitcher of cold water from the fridge, and Luis mechanically reached for the glasses from the rack in front of him and handed one to the brother.

Frustrated, he bolts right up on his feet and walked around and turned his back to Jojo.

“I can’t believe mother would do such a thing” and mellowed down after a pause,

“I guess it can’t be helped.”

After supper, in front of the wooden dresser, he peeled off a strip of white tape from the dispenser and wrote her name on it. He then plastered it across the surface of the mirror where his reflection was, on eye level, to ensure that he won’t forget to think about her every time he stood there.  Sometimes, the air in the bedroom would feel like a visit from the past.  The room still smelled of dried flowers from the house altar which their mother used to keep. It has been decided that they would always keep her room locked from the housekeepers or anyone for that matter without explicit permission.

A few days had passed, it was the weekend, the brothers decided to get some air on the coast.  Luis drove while Jojo was looking up to the direction of the foliage ahead with the wind on his face. The sun was always gentle after the rain he mused and reached behind him to the back seat to open the rest of the windows to let the cold breeze in.  The waves were full upon their arrival to the shore. For countless years they have carved in the skirts of the land mass deep into the ocean floor.  The crashes were hollow as it trembled heavily as both brothers felt minute in their presence.

“I remember how our parents have thrown their worries out here.  Do you recall?”  The stares of Luis fixed onto the horizon as if he has latched his gaze onto the ends of the ocean.

“I just remember how different things were, kuya.  Those were just the happiest times.” Jojo replied as he stepped a few paces forward into the beach and felt the salt water drown his feet, and continued as if mimicking,

“I guess it can’t be helped.”

Just as they stood a mushroom smoke steadied its girth from the horizon up to the ends of the sky.  The wild forest fire has been on for three days showing no signs of stopping.

The moon that night glared wildly red in the sky while its reflection quivered on the surface of the garden pond beneath the motionless virgin of the grotto.  Its light sliced through the gaps of the wooden jalousie into the rooms of the house.  The shadows crept in the corners, through the halls, and under the shed, while silhouettes shifted, and parted with each passing vehicle on the nearby street.

Photo by Biankitty

Buck Fever

We were set to meet the week after Earl was found on the bathroom floor in her parents’ house. Everyone had to lay low for a while, but clearly, it was also a way of saying that the club was about to end. The climate was inclement distinctively that night. The smell of sanitized concrete was clean and calming which paced my driving slow. The man in a green suit with pointy front teeth directed me to where I could park, hand-gesturing to a space behind the steel fences by the back door, where I found a graveyard of cigarette stubs and puddles of dark water left by the rain.

I cranked the hand break and checked the parking job from the rearview and waited for the engine to die down before pressing the dial.  The phone rang a few times over until finally a coarse voice answered lazily hinting a dozy reluctance.

It wasn’t her, so I hung up.  I went inside and nursed my impatience coupled with anxiety, while I sank in my usual spot at the corner where it was dark and cool and relatively isolated.

I repeatedly went over the unfavorable odds and faulted myself for it.

So, I drank and shook a pinball machine instead.

A little over a year ago, Earl and I stayed in a summertime retreat house near the eastern coastline that a relative of his handsomely sponsored. It was a favor that I had to go through which he insisted since I had nothing specially to do that vacation period anyway. Besides, I have already given tita my confirmation, which would be considered a huge let down if I had changed my mind the last minute. We were made to do preplanned activities which were part of the program, which also ensued, consequently, the day to day itinerary adversely tight for anything else.

On the fourth night, I thought of getting up before the sun did.  Sleep was a novelty that was not there since the time we arrived. The moon was too bright it seemed prying, stars too many that I felt naked under them.

It felt like I was making up for lost time. I had a mini viewing deck in my room, sat there with my early cigarette. Looking through the binoculars following a tree line over the ridge, I saw a beautiful white domestic canary gliding over the sloping into the narrow passages until it disappeared, completely.  The entire landscape was starting to warm up until it was finally soft and rosy all around, while the ocean whimpered across the shore on the opposite side of the lodge.

And it seemed tranquil enough to begin, for anyone who wanted to start all over – like a moth to a lamp I was drawn to it.

It was after breakfast when I saw her waded in the shallows.  The water was clear and blue, and sometimes green in the day. The skiff shifted, it was about the perfect time to daydream, and what better way to do it than sailing away from the coast. When the waters were right about her hip, she went in and plunged.  She paddled on patiently, her arms made consistent circular motions toward the direction of the horizon.  She tasted the salt upon turning her head for air and permitted the sea to wrap itself around her young body, to flow through her hair and touch her eyes.

I have never seen anyone so beautiful. She was the countless sand in that ocean, slipping away through my fingers.

Consumed, she took a rest on the raft, and lay there as if entwined with the planks; she felt the weight sinking beneath her and the water trickling down the surface of her now warm skin.  Her complete state heeded to the call of gravity, and the sun was almost midway up when she stared at it through the gap between her thighs.

She also saw the passing of the skiff, the sails were unfamiliar, but the face she knew.  Even so, she paid no mind to it, then she turned to her side and thought about the other boy instead.

Photo by: LJ Jumig

The Visit (homage)

It echoed to her, ringing into her ears.  Circling, hovering in the air suspended.  A thought that lingered, a shadow cast, a return mail, or perhaps in this case of her’s, a puzzle piece that she’d rather not complete. On the side table sat a half-filled glass of water and a mat of aspirins accented by the crumpling of drugstore receipts.  She got up but not quite making it and leaned against the two giant pillows propped on the wall. The day was not over yet, the soft glow of twilight brimmed across the wide horizon making the sky flushed up in that gentle orangery burst.

Her body was warm, a leg was bent, and both arms sagged across the bed. The wrinkles of the undone fitted sheets gave out, it was almost dark, and she was turning into a bat.  A familiar musk of which only a man could produce made her senses and her entire anatomy felt defensive.  She dabbed on her side hesitantly, lips were half open, curious words stifled by this uninvited ambiguity. She can hear innocence and lightness in the breathing that accompanied her. It was dry and rhythmic, almost melodious in tone.  It got louder as she leaned forward, causing her head braced.

She then dragged her fingertips quietly forward until finally, they had contacted a crooked body.

“It is not a dream” She thought. “But I do not know this man”.  She pricked herself again and again – for sometimes she would wake in a dream and would wander off in another.

“I slept the day away. But why aren’t you scared silly? Alas! At the very least weirded out by all this, stupid…” She gasped and slowly moved back to her side and tapped her left sole first onto the floor to get into her bedroom slippers.

Half an hour past she walked toward the table that stood by the open window, dragging a trail of blanket behind her, covering herself to the chest.  She waited there staring at the burrowed face on her bed, behind the mosquito net beneath the moonglow that showered through the faint curtains. This woke the crooked body and arose almost in stealth, propped on its arms on the sides.

This time she can see him, but not entirely.  Half of his chest and most of his being were concealed, unshared. But there was nothing to show, it spoke finally. “It is I, Juliana” his tone low and suited the sultry tropical weather.  He was just a faceless man, not of the flesh but made of stencils, and paints, and narratives – a figment of her imagination, an absolute manifestation of her mind.

Surely, she was not running a high fever to cast this delirious persona she checked.

The dream if it were, was surprisingly placid, she rationalized.

Behind the scaffolding, a grimy mirror on the mahogany closet held her reflection.  And she traced the light of the night outlined her shape, the slope of her forehead, the swell on her chest, and the rugged top knot of a painter’s panache she was sporting.

She was humbled by what she knew – She saw the sketching of the skies, the molding from clay, a creation of someone else’s dream.

She reopened a note she retrieved from the drawer and read:

“Let us linger in time before things disintegrate completely before us like paper in the rain.  Perhaps it will help you remember.   With complete vigor and youthful view round the backseats, as we drove up north, and decided on how you and I should face each other, now, then, in front of, or miles apart, we will always be the same people who we chose to be.  Like our favorite characters in those films.  So, I’ll see you there, amour.” 


The Visit

Photo By: Bianca Osorio

Film Debut

Power lines and phone cables decorated the streets, outlining the power grid, exposing how hideous the entire city planning was done. It was as if a severe case of varicose veins has decided to show up on someone’s leg. Overpopulation or just good old apathy to decongest caught in a time warp — this underdeveloped third world country is stuck in the past; its economy relies heavily on taxes, and the promiscuity of the moviegoers, who also prefer reading current events on sleazy tabloids with monochrome centerfolds. The strands of this electrical network which hang suspended across the intersecting roads of Manila resemble the humorless tangles of squid ink pasta.

A young man is casting overly animated shadows as he walks out through the sitios. Careful not to disturb the unsuspecting underage delinquents sniffing solvents in plastic bags, he deliberately stays on the other side of the street. And as he makes his turn to the back alley, a thick invisible body of stench welcomed him. Cat or human piss (or probably mixed) and what seemed to be a byproduct of decomposing manure occupied his nostrils.

His backpack is fully packed that it suggested to anyone seeing him that he is going somewhere real far.  A second bag was slung over across his chest, on his right shoulder, as he also wears a trucker hat that conceals his face. As he trod along, he felt this unadulterated fixation to get away. He fidgeted an unlit cigarette on his thigh as he waited for the next bus trip in the terminal. Flies swarm around the flickering fluorescent light above the ticket booth, as the stout cashier behind the window is watching the late night news, just waiting for the night shift guy to take over. An image of a young Jesus with wilted sampaguitas strung around its neck is standing next to a jade frog with a coin in its mouth.

The looming darkness is like the devouring of the world by a giant fish god and Adam is beneath the ceiling of its mouth.  Adam stared blankly into the night sky and thought about Jonah from the bible. He imagined what it felt like to stay inside the belly of an enormous fish.  If had it been true, Jonah must have felt really bored from all the waiting to be digested that he must have counted the number of rib bones it had to kill time.  His theology teacher Mrs. Paraiso insisted that it was probably a whale that saved him.  It would have been such an exciting book if it was a Megalodon or the Lockness creature instead. This he playfully mused until a long-legged prostitute walked on by and signaled to him to employ her.

He could have said yes to her, not because he wanted her but because he was dying of boredom. Instead, he lit the cigarette and welcomed the quiet. He closed his eyes and can almost hear the thick whooshing sound of the sea hurling itself onto the shore. He imagined in awe the continents and the golden beaches they visited. He saw the sun basking Africa and wondered if there were lions walking on the shore.  And between the crashing of the waves and hauling of the winds, was this lingering beat within him that stretches on so.

All of a sudden the night was so tranquil that it appeared that the world is on Valium.

He decluttered his mind and found no trouble reacquainting with loneliness. He is used to the transient nature of human beings. People leave all the time. And even if they did not, he always felt alone.  But the reason for his ongoing departure has got nothing to do with clinical depression or some weird existential crisis even. For him, the night is a friend that dismisses away scars, who truly never minds, and he appreciates that. And it dawned on him as if it was a feeling of joy almost forgotten that finally, he has escaped his life. “Freedom” he gasped with relief.

This decision just came to him like some divine apparition. He just woke up one night from a dream and decided that he wasn’t going anywhere unless he was to do things his way finally.  When he reached the port a dark-skinned man was standing on the gangplank counting the passengers coming in. His face was so oily you can sauté something on it. Adam approached the man and asked to be admitted and paid for the fare. Now that they are standing face to face, he thought he resembled Seal for some reason.  A porter sidled through the passing crowd and asked Adam if he needed help with his bags.  He refused and told him that he can manage his carry on, and this has caused the porter’s reaction to distort a little as he departed to chase another passenger.  Even if he wanted to, he needed to limit his spending after all.  He went on board and climbed the stairwell to the second level and found himself a bunk bed by the railing so he can smoke whenever he decides to. He then placed his bags against the steel bar, strapped it securely and placed the pillow to cover them.

His parents always knew what’s best for him. Took care of everything he ever needed growing up. The dad is one of the most decorated generals in the armed forces while the mom owns a chain of uprising salons in the metro. Through the years, he lived under the strict patriarchal regime of his father. He always did keep outstanding grades, to avoid the litany on how his father worked his way up doing manual labor for just about anything to finish school.  Adam did as they told him.  But he didn’t feel close to them at all.  He felt that he was just a responsibility to them. Or perhaps just another life project that needed to be fulfilled.

For the most part of living together, they let him watch too much television in exchange for the assimilation.  Adam has fallen in love with films.

Adam’s discovery of his fascination with cinema happened when he first saw Jaws airing on channel 5. It was the feature blockbuster Sunday movie.  The voice from the television box said that it was the best way to cap the weekend. Good thing it was scheduled after the evening mass, giving him just enough time for the family dinner, to brush his teeth, and change into his night clothes.  Locally aired programming normally takes longer than it should be because of interrupting advertisements for product promotions. His dad said it is the only way that broadcasting networks could make real money. Adam hated these.

Somehow, watching that great white unleashed its merciless tendencies helped him dispense his own inhibitions and all the frustrations holed up inside him.  For him, the shark was not the monster, it was something else.

Rows of uneven waves calmly rally across the surface of the sea with faint midnight moon-gleam wrapping over them. White foams are trailing behind the ferry, and the refracted light heralded the arrival of the new set of migrating waves. He looked around from the deck view and noticed that the night was blue and dark and it was also patient.

Right across the island, Sammy de la Pena is standing at the harbor waiting for the arrival of the eleven o’clock ferry.  He has a receding hairline and claims that his relationship with his hair was just a summertime fling.  He wears thick-lensed glasses with heavy black folding frames to make people take him seriously on the right occasion. His revolting checkered cardigan made him visible to Adam from a mile away.  His assistant named Pierre is waiting in a boxed-type sedan and was told to keep the motor running. Pierre has five kids and a nagging wife. He sidelines as a security detail for Sam, sometimes a temp lover to earn more money.

Sam met Adam as he walked down the ramp and reached for his bag. This time Adam allowed to be helped. He finally cracked a smile as the excitement was brimming out of him.  He took the back seat of the car and quick introductions were made by Sam and they drove to the nearest coastal pub where they serve fresh crabs and delicious buttered shrimps.  At the bar, Sam ordered two beers and a platter of sizzling minced pig ears and a glass of ice.  The barkeep nodded and placed a ceramic ashtray between them. Beads of sweat were noticeably gathering on Adam’s forehead as he scraped the paper napkin onto his face.

“So, can I see it then?”  Sam asked.

Adam reached down under the table where his bags are and pulls out a clamped manuscript. His face was flushed. “Here, but it’s not finished yet” He modestly injected.

“What’s it about?”

“It’s a story about the struggles in a war period”

“Is there a love scene in it?”

“The protagonist has a romantic interest, yes, if that’s what you mean.”

“There should be at least a couple of those in it, that’s what sells. Anyway, I’ll have Pierre take a look at it. He knows what to do. I mean he knows my taste.” He grinned audaciously at the subject of reference.

Pierre looked away, his jaw closed tight and his hand pressing onto his leather clutch bag sitting next to his leg.

Photo by LJ Jumig

 

The Crude Process of Manufacturing Sunlight

The newspaper was already wilted however a bit damped when he picked it up from the bricked doorway, as moisture and its current state were gracious enough to provide a little dose of personality, if not, originality for once.  He turned to the better side of the house, where a huge window and its shutters are always left open.  He carefully laid the paper flat on the marble top table by the industrial fan, where his old collection of fiction also stands.  An ornamental indoor plant on the window shaft was portraying a role of a desperate 8 to 5 employee, ready to jump, who has nothing else left to live with.  Until now, for some bizarre reason, or just a mere lack of concern, he still does not know what that plant is called, in the same order wherein he subconsciously decided a long time ago to not bother to know about anything trivial anymore.

So the information about how this plant has never bloomed for over a year now will not be of useful information to him anyhow as well.

In the sun the fine prints of the paper were like an impressive army of elite black ants in formation without his reading glasses.  And when he looks around the study and his living room, the place appears to be translucent, like an over magnified cooked onion.

For him, a true meaning of an idea or a tangible mass, its actual physical tendencies, everything about it is always going to be arguable, therefore.  Either we accept that or we turn to the crude process of manufacturing sunlight.

Through the passages of fiction, he took the time and lived there for the time being.  He has lived many lives in varying folds, characters and colors. He had discovered infinity and had access rights to polygamy.   His leftover meal has gone cold on the white ceramic plate, and he has skipped to dessert apparently. Wooden shutters slapped against the facade of the bungalow, on its broad porch as he was also tuning in.  He tapped his shoes along with it, to its rhythmic syncopated beating that for him was real jazz.

Neighbors can’t get a good read on him.  For them, he was odd and overly peculiar.  His wife left him be for most of the time, and would rather talk only over supper and breakfast.

But kids are genuinely fond of him. In fact, they treat him as equals.  He was in every truth of the term, “one of them”.  He wasn’t the mentor type or someone who would dispense life altering profound advices.  He just taught them how to put just enough grease on their hair, how to fix things like simple water pipes or how to build wooden pushcarts and change deflated tires.

He wasn’t an important man in the community, nor decided to be one.  In fact, whether or not he believed it to be, he was just a romantic with the obvious knack for indifference.  He currently lives in the past and through the pages of his magazines, newspaper, and paperbacks.

Just another ghost like us.

Retired Suitcases

The kitchen door swung open and the prism made it home through.  As his wrinkled eyes welcomed the dawn, old cigars from the drawer case were lined up on the table top as if a celebration called for it, as if yesterday has left behind its shape.  During those days newspapers were treated like they were still part of breakfast, of over-easy-peppered sunny side ups and black coffee while smoked salmon and VCRs kept the night intact.

Retired suitcases filled the closet and the clock was silent and still. The mailbox was hollow, and the words were deep-seeded somewhere far away.

But the stream was endless, and the pictures were always as clear as day. The possibilities never eluded him, as if miracles do happen all the time.  He would always go back holding onto a piece of paper, to a promise across a long stretch of an attempt to dream only to find the morning at the end of it.  A slow erratic pace, but a rediscovery is always almost a certainty.

And when sleep is out of reach, the dents and the dimples on the other side of the bed keep him company. He tells himself, that nights do end and some things last.  After all, the universe allows a little indifference in its lifetime.

For it is not sentimental he would always think? Just sheer contemplations of the complicated human heart.  It beats to resonate across the end corners and the clutters, cruising the seas and highway intersections to the point of absolution or tragedy.  The years that went by were reduced to mere flashes and pixelated photographs. They are no longer numbers but the very accumulation of delightful shared experiences.

How can one be grateful without despair? Suffering concludes pretenses, and it clears the way for contentment. For sure he recognizes what was once there.  The shadows of the past let him remember that he can never make an accord with time. He steals, therefore, a thief between the paradoxes.

But what does it mean really?  Whose answer may trigger either sober inspirations or bitter ending catastrophes. Pardon the blunt demeanor, but the ink is blotted, and the pen is starting to skip.

I wish to taste all the good from a honeycomb. To weather the skies.

Retired.

Erratum

She slid inside a half dark room, where grimy portraits of her dead and almost dead relatives hung.  Her family has a strong affinity with spirituality that she always thought was over the top eerie. As she sidled through the narrow gap in stealth like a sly cat, a familiar whiff of old books climbed into her nostrils letting the sensation immediately calm her down.

Hunched over the gentle stream of city lights was the moon that appeared to be like a half-inserted coin in the sky.  Long strands of thin after-rain clouds rippled across, while an airplane cuts through the waves skillfully like a zipper opening. She lay on her side against the linoleum floor under the heft of indifference. For a moment she has chosen to be holed up inside her delicate shell, cut off from lucid reality that requires any human interaction.

Friends gathered outside waiting to greet her merrily. The relatives appalled her, let alone the godparents who endlessly find pleasure in dispensing unsolicited life advice and religious blessings.

As if co-existing universes delineated by a partition, the study was concealed in the veil of melancholic conniving shadows, with only just a couple of dim lamps lit the corners. While everyone in the other room was bursting with sheer joy and intoxicated laughter, showering in the glint of tinsels, embellishing pearl necklaces, and strung up smiles.

Surprisingly in her world, the poignant stillness of the quiet night was immensely deafening. It was the anthem she was looking for, all along.  Her gaze was tentative, hopping from one constellation to another, across the glittered night canvas, as she is now beginning to feel saintly and light.

She drowsed a little but began contemplating within a fleeting thought. But it had become trite, so as her body wearing down. She reached for her glass and took a sip.

The drink was bland, almost tasteless.  “Of course, this was from the other side after all” she concluded.

Staggering, she stood up and rested her forehead against the pane. She relished how sublime the evening was as she also counted how many satellites crossed over her. And just across the willow trees, boats bounced in rhythmic motion above the waters, occasionally slapping against the dock. And in the faraway distance to the west, she tried to make out the outlines of the highways and train lines. She did all these, taking her time filling in the void.

Then suddenly, like how bad news always comes unannounced, the heavy timber door swung open bringing in from behind an intruder in its shapeless form.

The body was made of noise filled with obnoxious chuckles and music under the clad of cigar smoke and flattery.

A silhouetted figure of a man beckoned her to join them, gently closing the varnished wooden door behind him as he steps into her world.

Quiet resumes its reign.

She unwraps a gum from her jacket and placed it inside her mouth. A fruity flavor exploded, and a protracted stretch of infinity cascaded between them.

“I think I’m going to stay here for a while” She discerned finally.

Photo by: LJ Jumig

The Wanton Club

They ended up sitting around at the corner table under the collage of 11×14 black and white photographs taken in random, but the pictures were more ornamental than art.  The corrosive sea salt carried from the ocean nearby, turned the wooden panels on the walls bleak yet somehow complimented the rustic ambiance the place was going for.  And from time to time, a cool heavy wind wafted outside, chasing away the sultry remainders of the afternoon sun.  There was an idle sort of atmosphere in the motorways, making its way through the open windows of the establishment.  On the background was the occasional thin clanking sound of coins dropping from the insides of a pay telephone and there were thick drizzles throbbing against the rubber canopy roof spread out over the restaurant door, suggesting that the hard rain will arrive anytime soon.

The place was in a residential area, standing between the surrounding towering trees that grow around the vicinity. Invariably there were just quite a few customers who went there.  The tall windows were locked shut but usually left open when the rain is out, to entice people to swing by for a meal or a nightcap.  The wooden ceiling fan slowly spun above the patrons, suspended in the center of the room. The four friends ordered wanton soup as always.

As they waited, they can’t help but pay an occasional glance at the direction of the runny window pane.

The pluvial night sky was a usual sight, especially during this season. No reported storm was coming in though.  None of them spoke after the ceremonial chatter and catching up, the four of them fell silent, lost in their own thoughts but it was not the kind that was thick and indifferent. It was a natural thing for longtime friends, especially since they have discoursed about everything going on with their lives to the point that there was nothing to talk about anymore at the moment.  It was not a pact or something they have imposed as a rule between them. It’s just that they can’t seem to keep any secrets from each other.

There were even fewer guests that night.  There was an overweight guy mulling over a saucy steak with a beer mug at the bar area and a couple tourists with their nine-year-old daughter quietly having dinner.   The guy at the bar was used to be a professional swimmer. He was supposed to compete in a regional tournament, but during an uneventful twist of fate some years ago, on the eve of the qualifiers after practice, he was caught in a car accident causing a severe and permanent injury on his right shoulder.  This has prevented him to compete ever since.  He works as a lifeguard at the nearby beach and occasionally coaches aspiring children.

The couple was relatively young, still in their twenties. They met during a party on an island in the south.   Life was tough, and so good money was hard to earn.  Consequentially the husband worked longer hours and even did double shifts if it need be, that it has gotten to a point that the two hardly spoke to each other.  This trip was supposed to be their chance to fix whatever was left broken.

I rolled up my sleeves and peered through a nearly empty beer glass tilting it a bit sideways.  The beads were all over its cold sweaty surface as I gently wiped them off using my fingertips.  And through the glass, I see the reflection of my friends blended in the low stream of light dawning softly onto its body causing the images to distort.  The only thing that remained unchanged was the hot soup filled with sodium, which we were about to devour.

TWC

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.

Across the Waves and the Undertones

Between the blotted spaces through a nearly empty room, by the inviting light of a warm fire, you lay across your moonlight pale body in the oceans of the four-poster bed.

You had your stare aimlessly fixed at the disdainful fire that calms you, thinking to yourself that we all deserved a dose of compassion, even for a woman like you.

You cried that line a few times over and you always were hard on yourself, I wished I could carry you just to make you see.

Then turned your head and asked me what to do, you wanted to buy an idea so much.

We watched the movies again, all the good ones, and the bad. So, we can remember why we loved them the first time.

I didn’t know why, but I think that was far better than waiting for dawn to arrive.

You hated waiting too, so we stuck with those instead.

And we used to believe in shadow plays and mystery novels. As much as we hated audio books and those battery-operated cigarettes.

Your breath was soft and quiet in your sleep, and your breasts were like a bobbing wooden canoe over a sleepy river.

I know your mind is not made up yet, so maybe if you’d please, maybe we can fly off and see the greens beneath our feet instead? To set off over the infinite marsh of white clouds and colored pencil horizons.

Because we do not want to be lined up like canned goods and fruit juices in tetra packs on grocery aisles, hoping to be picked up before our expiration dates. You would always say.

I looked outside and asked for the night to whistle a merry tune, but the stars were mute. They were for the wandering eyes, and so I guessed I did not need them.  But why was I gazing at the brightest one that night?

We decided to drive off, rolling the windows down and in between towns I was putting together a traveling song, writing on the dashboard.  I was bouncing the tip of the pen against the chin, fidgeting it playfully between the fingers. Your head was in the open road.

I remember the night when we first landed on the moon at the backseat of the car.  You slurred, with eyes nearly closed, then the faint beam from a passing car revealed your pale skin.  We were rearranging the universe.

Life passed us by when we were too busy doing make-believe. And we could not catch up with reality eventually.

But in the flashing lights of that night, I would gladly stay, for it will always be my favorite time.

Something lifted you all of a sudden, I can see it in the flutters of your dress, in all the literature, and the open-ended inscriptions you wrote me.

And so, I made a phone call and left you a message. I know it was all too late, but I hope I did not make you wait for too long this time.

undertones

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

Loose Catching Ropes

The gleam from the golden drink shined upon the philandering cigarette over the ashtray, and my resolve was as flimsy as always.

I was entering a room in my mind that I knew nothing about, I reckoned that doom was upon me, anyhow it went.

But the Infallible human capacity to thrive on arose amidst the chaos. An old book helped me remember.

And while waiting for that warm Incandescent feeling to dawn upon the surface of my skin, I settled with instant coffee in my hands for the meantime. I was relieved by its faint vapor that soothed the narrow passages of my buttoned nose. A glimpse of what is forthcoming.

The summer haze was fast approaching. And one couldn’t wait.

For the unpainted board panels and that pair of burnished boat shoes beneath my grainy soles.

The taste of sea on my skin.

On hers.

The hand-weaved daisy chains, crowning the heads of our children.

Endless summer laughs gift-wrapped for the mornings to come.

To be sentimental. For it is always good to remember. The blueprints from which we base our endeavors on to.

To fall in love again.

To love head over heels or make love with a foe for just a night.

To be lost in that watercolor substance.

Deferring permanency, realizing that life is about forging relevance and leaving behind lasting marks.

To indulge.

On chocolate bars and short novels.

Sushi.

And leftover proses.

Typewritten.

Raw and unedited.

Collapsed and Cascaded. For fiction is the unwithering rose petals during summer.

A beautiful and strange incoherence.

A brand-new day, or just a change of paradigm. It does not matter.

A chance to recover,

A chance to catch up on sleep. To dream.

A chance to forgive, if not forget. To tidy up one’s room and finish up laundry finally.

To learn how to learn. To listen not to respond, but to truly understand.

To pray, for faith.

To be carefree, eating ice cream in the rain under a shared umbrella.

Learning how to dance.

Reading outdated editorials.

To be an astronaut.

To become.

You. Me. Us.

Catching

Casting Shadows in the Moonlight

Some years ago, I have found myself alone in a crowd, armed only with my nine-voltage-battery-powered-flashlight and a cape.  I was a 7-year-old boy and I was plodding the pedestrian streets barefoot in my pajamas and my favorite space odyssey shirt.  I looked up to the skies and saw angels gracefully gliding in circles above me.  I was pretty sure that one of them was watching over me.

I went back on the very spot where I once stood as a kid and realized that I am much like them now. Instead of my PJs and my favorite shirt, I wear adult clothing and shoes.  And the angels were replaced by skyscrapers and aeroplanes.

And I wonder.

So I went strutting, down the under passages of the thought that this is not one of those I invent in my head and was actually happening.

In the simplest truth to illustrate, you are writing a picturesque tale of your own grand adventures.  In a way, it is like going through the photographs kept in a shoebox, of once was, and of shared anecdotes.

The great human need for symbiosis, this undeniable fact of longing consumes all of one’s biological and intangible beings. That the brimming of its manifestations must be tempered, when we bump into each other just to feel, especially when pain attempts to hold claim to our significance.  And yes we aspire and act upon these indispensable necessities, but the very education which we feed on is also in question.

I got up and went to open the windows and yet the winters of these past nights had made the texts frozen.   The ceiling was outlined with traces of smoke; I must have stayed here for too long.  More than I should.

The retreat to the long and crude process of manufacturing sunlight is the only recourse. As the circumstance instills its resolve, I begin with my door and latched onto isolation. However it is, time is neither infinite nor bordered.

A concept of science, men of higher intellect attempt to encapsulate.  But it is like a force beyond us, an intangible matter, or like a memory, you caught only in a dream.  Papers with coffee stain and crossed out words, he resumes every after erasure.

I turned to see what’s calling me from a great distance.  I saw a man in a dark suit, or was it a shadow? Just a silhouette of a figure cast by moonlight, or a traced memory from a distant past?  All made up by my own mediocre pursuit of some pseudo contemporary ambition.

Well, what is real from one’s won comprehension is enough guarantee of tonight’s passage to live through the swallow of the forthcoming darkness and the unknown.

Maybe that is it. Happiness is piecing together little fragments of wonderful moments, hopeful dreams, and acceptable flaws.  I fear that when all the hypotheticals and the assumptions fail to deliver, one might be reliant on what was made convenient.

Contained, and self-absorbed, I refuse to settle.    And so I went upstream and consulted a higher entity in humility to the point of surrender.   And maybe, just maybe, that upon conferring, I may soon rediscover the eloquence back to my Saturdays.

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Omelet Tidings

The two waited on the bleachers with their eyes wandering through the damp. They were exchanging a half-done flask as they were also whistling cigarette smoke across the soccer field.  They have found themselves in a vacuum within this seemingly infinite void before the dawn.

She reveals her face to the voyaging clouds across the sparkling seas of the night, giving up a smile as she pulls back the hood of her jacket. The paradox of the universe unfolds. She gently kisses the stale tasting lips of nicotine, freeing its very soul one drag at a time.  It had no complaints, nor did the silence of the surroundings, as it implied in affirmation. Neither even the imposing claws of the tree branches nor the entire army of crickets under that sweet vanilla moon had any quarrels with her at that moment.

Her make up smears, she hasn’t painted her nails for a while, but she doesn’t really mind at all.

Deep breaths, as she administers imagination, what needs to be done?  She had begun in the shallow waters of her mind.

And little by little, she submerges down into the depths of her profound contemplations. And in every burning sip from the bitter openings of the flask, it was as if a passionate lover making love to her, she finally reconsiders.

She was taken gradually, within the raptures of the abyss and the parallel dimensions of her make-believe world. What is this unalienable truth that haunts her now? She then wishes for an antidote, like morphine, dismissing the pain in ten folds.

Then she ponders on the reassuring respite of bacon and omelet. How this dynamic duo may soon have to save her and the world when they both cry out for help. Be great presidents someday perhaps, or a pop song playing in loop, or be an empathizing friend for just a little while.

She then retracted these notions out of her head almost immediately. She must be drowsed, she thought.  Over romanticism might have murdered her skeptical heart she feared.

But these apprehensions were real. Confronted by their undeniable strength, she was tied to the mast.  As she turns to him reluctantly, almost uttering the words, falling like the rain in September.

She gave the boy a smile instead.

Omelet Tidings

Photo by T. Angara-Aragon

For the Dreamers and the Wide Awake

I gave this drowsy pair of eyes a gentle rub from my fingers, while the heat from the sunrays marinades my skin from its sweat.  I noticed that my complexion is browner than ever.  It is excruciating, but somehow I enjoyed this southern warm setting in the early afternoon.

I remember a good friend who once told me over a few good ones, as he slurred, “have your skin burnt, and go find yourself a good book, learn while you can and travel well.”

“But know that all the wonders of the world are already inside of you.  Sometimes, you need not go elsewhere. “

“Let the night stay for a little while”, that was my only request.  I can still remember the taste of wasabi on my lips while listening to my best friends’ singings, on our way home in a cab. The neon lights brought the universe to us, and then I rolled down the window half open, to hear every heartbeat in the world.   I still dream of those hyper-drive moments sometimes, and it will always be with me.

They say I over-romanticize reality, and I stare at the moon a little longer than most people.

I know it is not the most popular of choices, but I enjoy these kinds you see, like catching clever combinations of words turned into meaningful lines from screenplays, attempting to remember, scribbling them down on paper, or collecting pencils, nibbling nori flakes, and waking up really early.

I really think Life is simple, and that Chaos is just a tapestry of random events, people and timings.  It is not a bad thing really, we just don’t agree with the conniving variables most of the times.  So we run away.

Sometimes I wonder what if life comes in a box with an instruction manual or a roadmap perhaps. All the convenience and the indecisions it would provide.

But we’re expected to get lost.  And discoveries will never happen if we did not.

I learned to love taking train rides, although it is overly crowded at most times.  I just love the sound it makes.  Or taking that early flight out, just about in time to catch the sunrise up there, over the sea of clouds, when you are caught in that deep trance of thought, that surreal feeling you get at the same time.

And if everything seems too fast, consolation naps never fail and cassette tapes too.

For dreams and music are the dialects of the universe, love is its language.

In the wee hours of these contemporary ramblings of a fool, at the height of a great need, I became a commuter to see the world.  And In this race we refer to as Life, pit stops are essential.

And I hope to change wheels every once in a while.

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If Dogs Knew Poetry

“Make sure that you don’t burn the house down”.  That was his only instruction.  He never minded anything else other than that, not even the broken dishes, all the books that were made scattered all over the living room, nor his ruined fancy floor rug, for his instruction was simple, and direct.

He slings on his leather bag over his shoulder, crams the front door keys and the cigarette lighter in his left-hand pocket and takes one last look in the mirror to check on his neatly combed hair and his color matched buttoned shirt and jeans.

The housekeeper wags his tail, pants a little, but breathing quite calmly.  This is not the first time his master is going to leave him of the keep while he is away.  The entrusted one runs and jumps on the couch to watch his old friend get in the car to start the ignition.

He barks a couple of times behind the dusty window pane.  It hasn’t been cleaned since the last time she was around.  A thought circled inside the mutt’s head.

But it was not his job to clean the house, for him, he was given something more profound to do, nobler, a far more dignified duty.

He does his rounds, walked down the halls, past the family photos that lined evenly sitting atop the old narra drawer. Some of them were colored, but most were taken in black and white.  He will see them all again maybe at the end of the year, but today and the rest of the coming days, the halls will be quiet.

The patrol keeps on, the gaze was fierce, but his movements were silent. His pads matched perfectly with the wooden floors.

Across the side table and the leather chair of his master, strolled down the pathway between the living room and the dining area, surveying consistently, turning his head from side to side.

He reaches the kitchen, snout laying low, his forensic tool.  He circled around the tiled plain, in the corners and finally rested at the backdoor. He was looking at the green yard through the spaces.  He knew something was going down. He just didn’t know when, but he intends to be there when it does.

He may be over-anticipating, but it is always good to manage your expectations, his master would say.

For him, he was knighted with this solemn duty and the instruction was simple.

Don’t burn the house down.

And as he rested his muzzle next to his paws, his brisket laid flat against the floor.

He closed his eyes for a while and thought of the older times.

When his fuzzy golden fur was sandy on most days, and his cold nose was warmed by the early morning sun.

On how the wind from the waves of the beach sailed the rivers of his hair and cradled him to sleep.

He will never learn how to read and much about literature.

But that was the poetry he knew.

He relished those collarless days.

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Pinwheel Mile

The night clouds form an obscured figure of an Old Persian king in his sleeping clothes, lying on his side in some remote oasis. The wind was faint, but the low temperature of the final season was definitely there.  The colorful flicking lights were replaced by the blankets of the drowsy lights from an antique bedroom lampshade and the sidewalk lamp posts outside.

With this discerning conclusion that the night has already passed me by, what remains faithful was the stench of sweat and cigarette smoke on my shirt.

It was getting late so I figured that I retire and went back to the apartment. I double locked the door, rushed into my room, then climbed up on a wooden chair and drew the curtains open to let some of the moonlight in.

My fingers ran through the stacked records in the wooden shelf, breezing through the oxymoron album titles, taking the time to reach for a decision. One of the hardest I should say, to pick the most definitive one.

After giving it some thought, I picked Kath bloom and very carefully I took the vinyl record out of its delicate paper coverings.  I bent and ducked plugged the power on, and placed the needle down against its most fragile body on the now rotating turntable.

And there they were; the notes that started to fill every empty, uninhabited space of the room.

And In those moments, I was flying, so it seemed.

As the needle sailed through the waves and the surface of the record, a whispering imposition dawned onto me as if it was a matter of great importance.

“How I wish I’ve got cigarettes right now, or at least one more drink to cap the night.”

But I couldn’t move, maybe I was too lazy to go outside or maybe I was subdued by this undeniable influence of the soundtrack that accompanied me while leaning against the window sill.  I was pretty sure, that in those moments, my existence there was legitimized as a lifetime altogether.  I lingered, my outlining thoughts stayed on remembering, and then I wondered and dreamt with eyes wide open.

“No need to hurry, everything’s going to be alright…” She then goes singing, never failing to deliver a soothing embrace to my chest every time.

Some thoughts continue to brew, about me mostly, and I felt selfish almost immediately when they insisted to stay.  I could not stand this narcissistic reflection on the window pane, and so to my shame, I backpedaled.

And there was no one there really aside from this voice singing to me. I was a serpent lured out of its box, as solitude became a familiar face which encouraged for a renewal, I decided to carry on.

I saw my shadow traveling on the lunar draped concrete pavement, walking away with a small pocket flask, my blue warrens, and an extra pair of suede shoes in my luggage.

The Old Persian king slowly moves across the twilight, his reach expanding, pointing me to the pale half-moon in the sky.

My lips began to pretend blowing cigarette smoke between me and the vast openness.

The smoke traveled in the air after each vertical release, then disintegrates in the light of the lampposts as it lands.

Now in the ambiguous state, away from any lucid reality, I carry on strolling by the placid waters of my inner conversations amidst all the noise and the chaos.

A satellite gracefully placed its uncloaked body in the moonlight.  A constellation in the sky forms a broken pinwheel around the glittering islands of the late-night icebergs.

My musings took me sitting on a gutter in front of a convenience store, relishing a hot cup of seafood noodles.

I was a middle-aged ship-builder, resting under a tree after the day’s work.  I was a poet, staring at the streams of the waters and the moon that gleams over me.  I was a child longing for an adventure with Huck Finn through the endless Mississippi river.

And in the sheets of my brokenness, I wrote the words lent by time.  That we are merely the threads of the circumstances weaved. We are entwined by the strings of our allaying fears, shame, and disappointments, which made us the quilt that blankets us against the cold.

While I choose to be the piles of inked 8’11 bond papers placed inside a plastic envelope, the hot soup warms my throat and fills my empty stomach, but my mind yearns for more.

I am famished.

Summer 1988

It was a Tuesday morning and the day was blending nothing special, just a regular workday like any other.  Nothing was different, other than the fact that I was on my way to work 45 minutes earlier than my usual schedule when I reached the station to catch the train.

I guess distance does not matter as much when you have long strides.

The carts were not as crowded as most days and the sun was still fresh. The warmth from the rays was still friendly on the skin and it felt really good.  So I got time, a commodity I have regained somehow as these moments were mine to own, and I’ve got nothing else to do but to just wait for my stop at the end of the line.

I was sitting sideward to my left with my head resting on my knuckles with these aimless stares facing the window, looking at the mushroom billboards, car-infested highways and the cotton filled blue skies while most of the passengers on board if not all were in this very same state of blank thoughts and half consumed consciousness, commuting in silence, it was 6:20 am.

It seemed like everybody agreed to disengage as if there was an implied understanding among us and the only imposing sound was from the crashing like noise that the train wheels against the steel rails were making. This reminded me of the terrible typhoon back in August. I closed my eyes and I was taken back, I open them again, and it was sunny.  It was funny to note on how everybody else was unmoved by this, it was like everybody in the room was placed under a spell or to be more analytical, was a result of the preconditioned tendencies that dates back to early childhood.

I almost forgot about humanity’s ability to adapt, on how we can learn to get used to some chaos.  It is unspoken most of the times, yes, but it is also undeniable, the truth on how we can breathe to coexist with the most unforgiving conditions.

So I shied away from all of this, and inside my compartmentalized head, I open each drawer, stretching both of my arms to reach for the higher shelves, to find these comforting thoughts from the other side of my delineation.

I gave the cover cloth a good tug dropping one of the boxes on the floor.  I untied the knot, blew the dust off the lid, and brushed away what’s left of the dirt with my backhand until the label was readable enough – “summer 1988”.

Years of accumulated dust swarm around, within the beam of light coming in from the window.

As I open the lid, a paperback photograph was sitting atop of the pile of handwritten letters, cut out newspaper articles, a transparent flashlight and a few banged-up toys, one of them was a cowboy on a horse which was very popular at the time.

There in the photo was me and my brother on our first bikes.  His was a tricycle which pedals were attached on the front wheel and was larger than the other two on the rear.  It was made of plastic and metal, its body was blue and the wheels were finished in orange.  Mine has four red wheels and it was made mostly of wood. It got no pedals and the seat came in blue with white stars scattered all over it, while the rest of its body was painted white.

We had gray caps on and we were wearing our sando-undershirts and we had the look that we could ride those things anywhere we wanted.

I had a conversation not so long ago. About how time changes us.  On how circumstances replace everything and that childhood is like a cocoon covering that we outgrow eventually in life.

But I don’t really believe that.

The longer I looked at the photo, the more it felt familiar, the more it felt it was still me, that the child in that picture is still in me somewhere, that it wasn’t really gone.

A door down the narrow hallway swung open.  My attention was then captured by the newer boxes of memories stacked neatly in this special shelf from one of its aisles. I took a closer look, not minding the short walk that I had to take; after all, I have long strides.  As soon as I got there, I opened one of the colored boxes, doing the same routine, tug, untie the knot and dust. But this time I was more careful.

I then held a black and white photograph of a kid wearing a fedora hat under an umbrella with his Tommy gun toy. He reminded me of the boys from the other photograph. And from a crumpled paper note I read the words out loud on a whisper.

“Life is the transcendence of love towards another, and it leaves a permanent mark every time.”

Funny, it sounded like a line from a bumper sticker, but I guess there’s some truth to it.

It was a Tuesday morning and the day was blending nothing special, just a regular workday like any other.

And I have brought something back and I haven’t even reached my destination yet.

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Letters from a Passerby

“I am going to save the world someday!” He exclaimed to himself, giving the invisible foe a determined nod as if this was a known certainty. “Maybe not soon, but someday you’ll see.” He was threading on the railway line all the way from the previous town on the other side of the mountain, following a gravel pathway staying away from the rain-soaked grass on both sides. Every step makes a crunching sound as the soles of his boat shoes land on the uneven surface of the boulder fragments.

“But for now, I will have to find a dry place to take a rest.” As he stretches on both arms up in the air with a quick release of a yawn. He wears a collared striped shirt, buttoned all the way up, hand-me-down khaki shorts from his older brother and a fisherman’s hat to complete his wardrobe.

The boy readjusts his shoulder bag which contains clamped sheets of bond paper, a sketch pad, colored pencils bound with rubber band, a Tupperware of mixed cheap local chocolate candies, and a peanut butter sandwich.

“You’re not from around, here are you?” The mailman on a bicycle appears out of nowhere, as he then held the tip of his cap with his index finger and his thumb, pacing himself with the boy. Not a lint on his navy-blue coat uniform and he wears a white undershirt with a bowtie.

“You are a stowaway, aren’t you?”

“No sir, I am not!” Retorted the boy, almost angrily. The mailman then examined the boy with a lingering look from head to toe.

“I’m on my way home after fetching some of the dried fruits my grandmother is selling and took them to the market on the other side of the mountain.” The boy further explains.

“Good then, I trust you if you say so, besides, I always wander around these parts myself when I was a lot younger too. On the other thought, I heard you shouting something from back there. Forgive me, I’m not eavesdropping or anything like that, around here you can hear even the softest whisper, or a stumble of a small rock from a definitive distance.”

The boy was a bit embarrassed but hides this to the stranger. His face turned red though. He then pays him a soft affirmation with a short answer “it must have echoed.” And the mailman agrees.

“Um yes, I was just talking to myself out loud, it’s sort of a habit. Why? Do you think that’s weird?”

“Well, the world is filled with much weirder things.” The mailman replied.

“Weirder things?” the boy repeated. The boy stops walking for a while, turning his head following the man with his now narrowing eyes.

“Please allow me to explain. I mean for one, folks nowadays don’t’ read anymore. They spend most of the time watching TV than enjoying this, right here. They do less and complain much more each day.”

“That’s what I like about my job you know? I get to enjoy riding and passing by these parts every day, and I never get tired of it. I am the link between two distant lovers through their letters, the bearer of enveloped truth, may it be good or bad, all the correspondences that people value. I would like to think of myself as the caretaker of hope in a way.”

“You do the same things every day? I don’t know kids in my neighborhood that can stand that. We’re always up to something different each day” – the boy wondered.

“Well you’re still young of course, and you want to do many exciting things I’m sure. Your case is different. You’ll realize what I mean when the time comes.”

“But that doesn’t make my case any less exciting. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I guess the secret is learning to enjoy the little things. And I see that now, every day I take joy in having the opportunity to fall in love over and over with every unfolding flower and appreciating their varying colors, being able to hum along with the rustling of the leaves as I cruise these parts. When it becomes lonely, the buzzing bees are my companion, they are far hardworking than I am, so I guess, they make me want to better myself.”

“And when the circumstance won’t allow me to visit the hillside or the lake, like when it rains hard like moments ago, I go to my books while sipping a good cup of hot chocolate, teach my sister’s kids a thing or two, helping them with their studies, or I go visit the city library two blocks away from where I live. “

“I still don’t get it, how is it weird?” Asks the boy, now walking after the stranger interested. The boy does not understand what the mailman was saying. After all, he’s just a kid. The words are too big for him

“How do I put this?” The mailman then maneuvers over in front of the boy and squeezed on the brakes.

“You know how everybody feels and thinks that they need to do something very significant with their lives, say something bigger than them, to be someone perhaps, or to be known, leaving behind lasting marks on the face of the earth? Say like superheroes?

“Yes.” The boy finally understands.

“Well, I think it is just plain silly that most people are convinced that by complaining while holding the remote control watching the news will do the trick for them.”

“Change and Apathy are not good bedfellows you see?”

“I get it.” Says the boy.

“By the way, what do you mean by saving the world?” returned the mailman breaking a smile on his face, “You don’t mean aliens do you? You don’t strike me as a member of a secret government organization.” He follows this with an uncontrollable laugh. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mocking you or anything, it’s just that, you reminded me of a character in a book that I once read.”

“No, it’s okay, I was rehearsing. That was a line from a school play I am in. I should be able to memorize the lines by the end of the week or else I am screwed.”

“I also wrote the play by the way.”

The mailman was impressed, nods while scratching the temple of his face.

“But now that you mentioned it, I kind of like the idea of me really saving the world one day, or at least contributing something very significant.” the boy continued.

“And how are you supposed to do that? I hope you don’t mind me asking.”

The boy gave it a quick thought and gets back to the cyclist. “No I don’t mind it at all, in fact, that’s a good point. I never thought about it until now, but I’m guessing that there are a lot of things that you could do.”

“Like how, what’s in your mind, my young friend?”

“Well for one, and I may be oversimplifying things here, but if only I could find the right story to write about to show everyone. Stories that really matter, like yours Mr. Mailman, I’m sure that many people would be very interested in your story.”

“But it needs to be well played. As you said, we all play an important role.”

“I don’t know about my story, but yeah, I second what you are trying to say” – the mailman feeling a bit embarrassed himself.

Then the sun behind the thick monochrome clouds appeared, revealing the rest of the steel railway line ahead, and the mist is slowly but definitely starting to vanish. The distance appears to be long, but he realizes that it is the pathway to his destination, nonetheless, leading him to the clearing.

The kid knew that he’ll never be the same. The words that he needs to memorize now fluttered inside him. His inked fingers can’t wait to reconcile with the pen, and he felt freed by the encounter he just had.

And he reckoned that he is on a mission after all.

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Beneath the Glare of the Pulsar from a Neutron Star

“When a star explodes, that is when I am the happiest”, I heard her say. With my favorite drink on the side, next to the ashtray, sitting across from where the feeble yellow light was, with eyes crossed with cigarette smoke and the most beautiful sight on the peripheral.

She told me stories of a traveling satellite that drifts patiently across the nebulas and the distant, uncharted clusters of stars from the far stretch of the grid. Wildly and vividly taken, she took the words and carried them out from her storybook of the cosmos.  Page by page, I listened, never minding the flailing bodies from the intoxicated crowd around us.  She told me about milkshakes and cupcakes and runaway shooting stars, cartoonish dreams, and constellations. I leaned closer for the promise of clarity and to capture the whole celestial delight. It was almost morning and our wrist watches were nothing more but a bodily décor in those vacuumed moments, a time warp of its own, a moment from when a supernova turns into a neutron star approaching the collapse to become a black hole where time stands still. And her grace was the pulsar, stretching on.

Then she whispered, “When stars die, they leave a bright trail across the blackened space, and it stays on for a while for everyone to see. One of the most beautiful goodbyes I think”.

As I held her thoughts like it was mine to own. I made sure that I nodded every time to encourage her to say some more but the silence were filled with so much to spare. Her moisten painted lips were so close to my left ear, yet the gaps were too far still. Of course, this is just all a dream, I thought.

They say that the universe is infinitely expanding, that the space between each matter widens, scientists also concluded that there is not enough dark matter to hold everything together, but humanity and philosophy had termed it love that was lacking, that we laymen understand more easily.  It is the very gravity of life that pulls every molecule, and all of the atmospheric dust that makes up the blue skies.

“It expands, and we can’t quite catch up.  Maybe we’re not meant to anyway”, she figured.

We stood on the tip of the cliff near the banks of the shore as we held our heads up toward the planetarium over our scalps. The pale moon gleams as we also watched the foams of the waters crash gently on the soft bosom of the earth, as they remind us also of what we had there beneath our feet.

We were happy to have awakened before the sun rose. Before it had stretched its limbs out of the horizons, before the unfolding of the leaves from slumber.  We have exhaled the air, of what our lungs could give and inhaled sharing the same air between us. Despite the unspoken reassuring words of poetry and romance and all the formulas of science that we once have written on the blackboards with colored chalk.  We were there at that right moment, gazing through the pellets of what appeared to be a gathering of faraway candle lights, meeting together for that blue dot from a distant galaxy we call home.

These days are to linger in my mind.  A dream of a journey towards one’s arrival to consciousness, the immense feeling from within the rib-cages with care and compassion, its axis.

The magnetic field of life transcending to the blotting of the ink on paper. The literature of childlike musings, of what’s carefree or just plain silly. Through the slow waltzing dance of the cosmic flares in the night sky enjoyed through a bedtime telescope. For just a fraction, a dose if you will, like a nightcap while exchanging proses and bubble gum theories in those half-asleep conversations. For an aurora of glistened dreams on our night-clothes.

Dark Blue

Gliding over the Tides

From the soften beach floor bed, cradled a local dog resting peacefully in the early morning sun. He had his snout facing seaward, out to catch the cool combing embrace of the morning breeze through his sandy copper fur. And even though his paws had already aged, the pads were soft still. He had lived each breaking day in this tranquil state all his life.  And for a moment there, I envied the mutt, for I have forgotten how long far ago I had slept like that.

The sun was just about at the right ascend when the wind-driven current was gesturing its invitation to come along into the sea.  The air was oozing with excitement as both locals and tourists marched unto the stretch, with their hoverboards pressed between their sides and their arms, as they have their gaze fixed outward to the vast openings of the ocean.

The agenda was to stop, to watch the crashing of the waves, and while the waters breathed briskly through each white northern collapse, against our feet, the ocean’s pulse found its way to the homey banks of the shore, where the solace of wisdom sat as it waited for their safe return.

We then lingered all our inhibitions, on this rejuvenating view before us. The mutt was right to stay, and we followed him through in silence sitting in the shaded parts of the beach.

And as the browned and baked bodies were about to go under against the unrelenting white waters of the north, they held their breaths before each plunge, they paddled out to make their acquaintance with the ocean’s entirety, as they entwined their bodies with each exhaling current until they were finally welcomed to share its world.

Graceful on their gliders, the sun-induced melanin lingered in their now crisp and darken skin. Their hair was bleached by salt, preserving their youth in a timeless compartmentalized memory they hope to keep.

As their fingers ran through the tunneling waters, they wait patiently for that perfect one — a marriage of some sort — like a romantic getaway may be, and when they finally did, they took off on that wave, over the pilgrimage of the herd, without any sails they moved beautifully through the current, drifting in clouds, they sailed in their dreams wide awake.

The waves were rushing in from the entire stretch, and in their varying motions, they charged just to disintegrate upon each collapse.  And from this unchoreographed parade, one realized the truth that was being carried in each crashing — that there are no plans beyond the uncontrollable and the unseen.

That we just paddle out to meet whatever kind of waves we are there to catch. We plunge our way through head-on, to meet with each swollen-embossed tide that we brave to shake hands with, and with humility, we try to hold a steady pace for as long as we could, while it last, until the strong waves decide to wipe us out on our sides.

And from a faraway voice that echoed as a celebration of the waves, its familiar roars of tunes made it sounded so near. A version of its hums or it must be a prayer for the celestial, we hear the words form until they are finally made and forged.

And soon, answers will be then dispensed; neither for the eyes to read nor for our ears to hear. And in its modesty and simplicity, we hope to take refuge, in its utter silence through our rib cages and arteries.

IMGP0079Lonely stride, but not.

The Fall of the Dandelion Seed

She is a dandelion seed drifting across the midsummer sky. During the days of when each tree branch sways easy.  One of whose time finally ripens from the subtle release influenced by the permission of the morning warmth and a little convincing push of the wind.

She then paddles against the invisible waves through the horizons.  She travels the world for the first time. And she is perfectly happy.  The breeze then picks up the pace, teaching her to dance without using any legs.  The castaway leaves from the neighboring trees waltz with her, they take turns doing patterned and synchronized motions as if they have done dancing together before.  They are her Romeo, wooing her to glide with them throughout the ball.

The little dandelion seed was putting on a show, impressing the entire vegetation from below, across the rice fields they were her audience. They waved in approval or was it an attempt to emulate the motions, if only they could also fly, they thought to themselves, but in a way, they actually did somehow.

And from the open household windows, send a soothing familiar invitation to stay for a while. To spend a little more time at home, on a Saturday morning, to have an early lunch perhaps, with iced lemonade and daisies as center-piece in the family table.

The weather was on her side, she was grateful for her captain. The breeze has taken her far already, and through this ascend, she was introduced to the varying views and feelings, letting her see the world from another perspective. And from each climb and height, the world boasted its grandeur and its seemingly unending beauty. The horizons claimed eternity, imploring her to dream some more.

But she was just a mere seed she thought, how could the world care so much she asked? But there were no words found between the question and the utter silence, only episodes of continuity and the line in the horizon that separated the wanderer from the dreamer. She started to funnel the grace that went through her. And she hoped not to disappoint.

She soon realized that life is not stagnant, but it is change. It is the unfolding of a flower after the long cold night. Life is carefree and whimsical, yet it is forgiving and patient, daring yet respectful, adamant and stern but at the same time gentle.

The day was on her side, it did not rush her. And when the sun was too hot, the clouds connived to carefully place shade over her fragile body.

Then something changed.  The once strong wind is now feeble as it tires.  She slowly descends, as if the cold earth expects her arrival.  She prays for mercy to let this invisible force beneath her linger.  But she will not be answered.

The dandelion seed as she was known to be is no more.  But instead, she is life realized.  She learns as soon as she had hit the ground, that the very fall was not her demise, but rather the start of her real life.  That she had to take the journey, to let the circumstances dictate her place in the world.

After all, we are the jigsaw that fall into place, to complete the puzzle of our existence.  On our own, we are nothing but little pieces that make no sense.

And as the day was coming to a close, she dwelled very still, lying on the ground beneath the stars. She had promised herself to be fair to the moon that rested in the cradle of the evening breath that lingered as clouds. That she would throw the same kind of smile she gave the caring sun.

And she is perfect.

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Renditions: Year End Thoughts

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The lights from the lamp posts were painting the late night pavement with dreamy colors from a childhood memory.  I was standing in the middle of the road, between the past and what seems to be a snapshot of a not so distant future, not realizing that I was in the crossroads of my grown-up life.

I sat down in the nearby shed, waiting for the first trip of the bus, as I held in my hands a map that I got from one of the standees at the airport lobby. Somebody was supposed to pick me up, but nobody came. I’ve waited for one and a half hours until the jewelry stores of the night sky were all finally opened. Their display windows of billions of diamonds made the elegant black of the night even darker, raining down on everyone with the feeling of hope, magic, and romance as if everyone was ready to spend the rest of their lives in spontaneity.

As I was waiting in the cold alone, the time had lent an opportunity for me to spare.  And after a few, I decided to walk and amuse myself with whatever I could see and what was there to dispense. I was wandering around, past the park and the trees with the stray cats looting the trash bins, camouflaging the noise with the music the crickets were making, as both species connive in their ninja-like stealth.

After the short stroll, I went back to the same shed placing the backpack by my tired feet and the typewriter case on my lap.  I then rested both of my elbows against the wooden bench, tilting my head back looking at the pellets across the night sky.

Time treats my solitude with the imagination I never thought I would regain after that. I thought of windmills by the rivers, and parading gazelles running in the wild during spring. I was pretty sure that I have used up all my childlike musings during those moments. The world I painted in my mind sculpted a lingering smile on my once weary face.  I was in a way making up for those years I spent as a grown up.  Suddenly I wanted to go back and be Marty McFly on his hoverboard even for a little while. I would go gliding towards the unknown and reliving the best days there were.  And I was excited more and more, on rediscovering what else was out there in my mind waiting for me. As I now punch each key while setting the sails of my mind afloat in the drift of the oceans that I have to travel.

Time couldn’t be more perfect, I know that the winds had brought me here for a purpose and I believe that I am on a mission to rewrite the history of the skies in the pages with my own storylines.  I guess I owe the night and its stars that I borrowed for a friend.

I woke up the next morning sitting on the very bench where I had my last musings. It was only then that I realized when the daylight had soft-landed on the ground, that there was a nearby fishing dock that would remedy my ever restless mind.  I sat on one of the benches putting on my sunglasses while chewing nicotine gum.   I handed over my unfinished notes, all the rough drafts to the winds as each page found its way gliding through its invisibility, then waltzing into the open arms of the ocean. As I relish each goodbye, I wait for the gentle breeze to portray the words through the flip and the somersaults of each parchment paper, then diving and plunging their entirety into this deed of complete surrender. The view warmed and raptured the cold breath I exhaled from these mortal lungs while my gaze takes me to the lemon smiles of summer.

And there were no words in between, I mean there was nothing left, for it was all emptied by the silence and those textured moments of that midsummer feeling.

I wanted to stay; I guess I need the feeling from this scenic view to linger on.  For my sake, I thought that this medical help was the cure. I wanted to remember and memorize each heartbeat.  I tried to bribe the sun and its skies to stay, but they would always go each day.

I was made to realize that everything is borrowed, that there are repetitive moments but one can never own. I guess we can only live to create a rendition of these things to ink the paper.

Through the words and awes, through the rivers of our souls, and into the ocean of our dreams, we attempt to stretch these hopes up to the skies so we could be reminded that we travel these paths not to get away but to be found.  Not a right to claim, but just a humble gesture for another chance to relive a moment, if not a plea to always remember.

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Space Travel Contemporaries: Asteroids, Comets, and Satellites

Toes are curled, I was biting on my lower lip, I know that the first ascent is the most crucial part. I was holding on to the control wheel when I realized that my palms begin to excrete sweat.  I am on my way to chase a runaway star that stole one of the space probes earth sent, on a mission to take photographs of an alien civilization. I guess mankind has not enough problems to solve.

Just about to reach the midpoint of the stratosphere, the weight of my entire upper torso is dependently leaning against the backrest of the rubber and the polyester seat. Surprisingly I am still conscious at this height, thanks to my life support pack; one of my many worries was crossed out of my list.

On a vertical leap, I was pulling back the throttle lever more and more in a gradual fashion.  I was taking my time as if I was having second thoughts.  I already miss the chirping noises my winged neighbors make when they wake and the smell of sautéed garlic in the morning,  I was telling myself, the sooner this thing ends the faster I can get back to my couch and reruns.

Something that I never quite understood, something I have not seen in books and what they have taught us in our spaceflight training.  The second I flew through the marshmallow-like skies, I was caught off guard by this immense ocean of clouds. Who would have thought that Atlantis did exist? Below me I saw the dreamer in a boy with his World War II leather headgear and a pair of pilot goggles; he was on a wooden kayak paddling against the waves trying to keep up with me.  The pigments of ether land gently against the window pane like soft voices from the conversing angels playing in the sun. I closed my eyes for a little while, hiding them behind their coverings, as I enjoy the drowsing winds passing through the blades and the fins of the vessel.  The bright blues and the stripes of white from the cirrus clouds from all around were like a warm homey blanket in the cold.

As I keep the pace of an easy stride, I went through the small notebook that I had from my jacket reading the inscription from a lunar kiss.  I was reminded of the courage I represent, and the emblem of a happy ending this deed for many.  I was humbled clasping my hands together, it was almost like a prayer.

I took the time in a vacuum, shutting down my senses for a while. And deep down under the layers of slumber, I hear the soundtrack from Space Invasion is at play. I then found myself speeding through the laser beams, on a counterflow against the showering meteorites coming my way.  I was trying to reconcile what was going on with the fragments of what I could get from the last memory that I had.  I was searching for anything familiar around me, any clue that would help me connect the dots to make sense of this picture but I just couldn’t.

I was with the celebrities of the universe, Saturn and its 62 lovely mistresses, the gentle giant in Jupiter and the controversial Pluto. They are both my space travel contemporaries and TV programming.

It was during those moments of awe and transcendence that it dawned to me that it is okay to wander and to be lost, to ask a question and never get the answer, that there are things within our existence that are too grand to decipher.

I was lost in thought, realizing that I am but of a mere speck, just a grain in the sand.  But my sheer microscopic existence has also made me feel grateful by this overwhelming grandeur that surrounds me.  I was drenched by a thousand kisses of comets, asteroids, and satellites.  The space was deep; its breath swallows the moons and the entirety of the constellations and the Milky Way.

The faraway stars are like powdered diamonds from the rough that were scattered across the night sky.  This must be what Captain Ahab must have felt like when he was chasing the great sperm whale in the polar caps.

I guess humanity had always found its relief in deep explorations and space missions, searching for another frontier.  The human spirit and its curiosity are designed to go on and prevail. And I would say that it is alright to search and ask why, how and what, but It is in the acceptance and believing that there are profound anomalies not meant to be understood.

And what makes a perfect ending to these wanderings is a short humble conclusion of what makes humanity great.  –  The ability to understand that it is alright not to know.

An acceptance that there is a definitive yet obscured border between the imaginative and the conscious, in the hopes that these lucid thoughts beneath the waves of the words are enough to finish this never-ending prose.

These Days

Early breakfast on the road and a cool brush by the breeze through my uncombed morning hair were the firsts on the list. As I help myself, rolling down the tinted passenger seat window, catching the first glimpse of what could be an opening of a perfect season after the long monsoon rains. With the windshield wipers no longer in use, the rain is now dripping down the glass pane. As I was urging myself on going somewhere distant, I am not sure if it is somewhere uphill but the road I am on was definitely taking me somewhere new.  Something has gotten into me, a sense of urgency to take advantage while the world is still half asleep, a reckless abandon of some sort, looking for that great escape.

I then looked up and see a lingering, thick contrail from the jet exhaust streaming across the stretch of the sky, a long vertical line that sketched the sky fluffy white. I checked my backpack for anything to munch on and found a half done sandwich that I had after a few beers. Everything is going neatly so far that the entire experience showers me with high hopes of leaving behind the remains of last night, covering the stench with a couple of hours of sleep later, hoping not to remember.

And the day is already breaking.

The world truly does not owe us anything. I was thinking that my only rescue now is to catch the first waves of the sun tides.  I was moving my head from side to side looking for a clearing from the open road by the cliff as we make a right turn after passing through the tunnel. We had to take a longer route since the fault was at its dangerous that time. My hands are shaking because of the cold, yet still very eager to create something beautiful with whatever the blotted ink from my pen can lend me. Yearning for a far cry inspiration, I picked out a past dated reading material from the dashboard compartment, popping the lid open with a hammering motion of my right fist. An old newspaper or was it a travel magazine? I can’t remember exactly, but It was dated sometime 2001. “Not bad” I murmured to myself, for it was like time traveling all the same and I can use that for reference I figured, giving an undeserving applause to myself. And somehow I realized that the course we were threading on was much better. It was from those after meal thoughts and the open-free spaces in between towns and the quiet celebration from a flick of my cigarette that validated this glide the right thing to do at the time. For it was by far the warmest after the cold. And the ease of the lift of my facial muscles seemed sustainable and could seem to last a lifetime. It really surprised me on how easy it was all of a sudden.

A very good friend had once told me over a glass of rum, that our realizations and the wisdom that comes along with it, are all emanating from the affirmation that sometime soon after we are long gone, we will be just a part of a punch line in the short stories being told. It would probably start with a short visual reference from one of your favorite self-portrait photographs carefully placed in the family album or perhaps if lucky, you’ll be remembered when the index cards of the recipe box you once filled and treasured, was opened and used during some yearly household occasion.  You’ll be in a way, like a transistor radio or a technicolor television set with giant capacitors and wooden shutters that was boxed and locked up in a room somewhere.

I turned the knob of the car radio a notch higher while lip-synching to a plastic record, and for a moment there we were shaking our heads senseless and doing these random unrehearsed movements from our seats. We were, in our own weird ways, happy.

Past the varying heights of the trees, while the sun is playing hide and seek behind each, and the varying shades of greens of the hills color the feeling, I can’t help but compare. That it was definitely a different view from what laid days before. The haunting and casting shadows on the moonlight floor were no longer there, and all of the episodes were nothing but of a distant memory now, in my chest to be safely kept and yet to be seen again but not now, not at this very moment.

Through the fast open sky, and past the telephone wires that fenced the mountains and the slopping landscapes of the north and the infinite blue skies ceiling above us, I watched the wheels that spun so fast through the side mirrors, our speed made the white-highway-broken- lines appear to be this long and endless straight marker directing us towards the end and the beginning of a circle. Our tomorrows may or may not be there, but I will relish the flip of the coin, playing through over each finger as I tap my feet to the waltz of this familiar song.

And somehow it felt like we were slowly getting off the ground, we were almost flying.  A shift in perception or just an ordinary optical illusion, I could not really tell and it did not matter. For what I had there was not of this world and yet it felt it was.

Twenty-two degrees on an 80 kph freeway for as long as I have my polarized lenses on, my past dated magazines and plastic records – I am there, crashing through the walls of the uncertainty of history, trying to live in a story worth telling.

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Sunlight Supernova

It was like a black and white photograph that you see along the staircases of your home, a happy memory captured in time slicing through the open spaces of the realities and the nine-millimeter frames.  I woke up realizing that I have dreamt something beautiful this morning, something that took me to the bluest skies that one would see in a canvass of sunflowers and daffodils, tangerine fields and golden mango summer days. I wandered off, over and across the horizons with the feathered pilots in flight, doing their routine of salutations, passing through and by the cloud formations that were tasked to do a portrayal of the world they see below, a beautiful imitation, a sculpting rendition from the shape-shifters of the light. The white paint of the ceiling, the walls of the bedroom, the slow dancing of the curtains highlight the sun showers that invited themselves just to help out, lending a hand to magnify the unfolding of the hopeful summer feeling stemming from within.

Lying next to me is a warm, beautifully placed tanned body with all the white sheets and the cushions that cradled us into slumber the night before. And for someone like me, it is only fitting to throw the most fundamental questions of how and why it got there in the first place. As I found myself dumbfounded, she slowly opened her brown almond-shaped eyes, then a long lingering look directly aiming into my prying eyes. She then surveyed the rest of my face, from the forehead down to my buttoned nose, on the sides, chin and the cheeks while taking her time and breaking this gentle smile as she then rested her gaze right back to where it all started.  She then whispered something in my ear, some thoughts about cotton candies and marshmallows and vanilla ice cream and brewed coffee while tucking her face between my shoulder and my jawline, as I now feel the warmth of her breath on the left side of my neck.

As I give in, I suddenly felt the need to dispense this undeniable sensation, sneaking my right arm around my universe, wrapping my present and my tomorrows within the reach of my arms and my left and right hands’ fingertips, holding onto my supernova.

I suddenly got the feeling of when you are on the beach, raptured by this unsolicited fulfillment, sitting and listening to the crashing of the waves against your feet. The warm welcome of the inviting ocean, plunging in while rediscovering and relishing the sunlight on your imperfect skin and stained shirt, as the saltiness of the waters and the powdery promises of the sands of time are all you ever needed for the remainders of your days.

I took a few drags after lighting a cigarette and opened a book reading a couple of chapters from where I left off.  It took me a while to realize that it was the world I am living in that the words were describing. I held her hand next to my chest. We were slouching and care freed by the open windows with our sunglasses on, with crossed legs and our weekend smiles.  Coffee and Vanilla ice cream, Root beers and Jack Johnson, conversations after conversations, we talked about finding answers and an aimless attempt to look for an escape and what solitude really means, on how to outlast father time and getting the most out of each conscious moment and decisions.  And from the openings of her brilliance, she made something out of the blowing winds and the subtleness of the ether as she paints the canvass through her imagination of life brushes and watercolors.

Some would prefer to throw a peace sign and be on TV all greased and combed up, neatly dressed and all buttoned up, calling out everyone to put out a flag but for me, I prefer her way.  Just an honest display of what was and what we aspire to be at.  I guess all we ever needed was our sun, and a few bucks to get us by with our words and cigarettes.

But life most of the times is not as colorful as the stories we read from all the pages we encounter.  In a way, what we get from these dog-eared pages is just the fuel that help gets us going from one town to the next rest stop for another gas pump.  And after paying for what’s due, there’s always this invitation to make a phone call with a few spare change that we have got, to give thanks to the ones that made the journey possible and true.

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Chapter 2: A Conversation with a Peculiar Friend

It was 09:30 pm.  I was watching all of the outlining lights of the city from my apartment terrace view while finishing a good bowl of freshly heated ramen from the microwave. Something caught my attention. As I moved my head upwards to my right, just across from where I sat, I saw what appeared to be an audience.  There sat a frog, smoking its long and lean wooden pipe. Apparently, it was not just any ordinary frog.  I could tell from the prints and the design of his robe.  He was sporting a well-maintained facial hair growing from his small chin, the strands were grayish white, telling me that he’s been around for quite some time.  He had his legs crossed together, while awkwardly dabbling his webbed toes in the air.  He was sitting on the edge portion of the neighboring roof and he’s always been doing the same routine for years.

Of course, I never knew this since my family just moved into a new home.  We had financial difficulties since my father died and wanted to start over.

As a matter of etiquette and good manners, I signaled to him if he wanted some of what I was having — raising the bowl chin high and directing the chopsticks towards it.

“I had flies. Thank you.” With a mischievous smile on his face, the frog politely declined.  He then followed it with what you can say an offensive remark.

“You’re not the neighbor I was expecting to have.”

I had to ask why of course, almost choking on a string of noodle.

“My dreams told me that the next neighbor is the one who’s going to help me with my mathematics. I was observing you these past days, and I can’t see any signs at all that you have what it takes.  I think you’re a slacker, you just stare at photographs in your phone and you have a nasty habit of picking your nose.”

For a while there I felt very insulted. This is not the type of conversation you have at first meetings.  But I know his kind. Old folks tend to speak this way. They would go about it as if it is their inherent and social right or something.  My old professor spoke like this frog and it kind of reminded me of him. We were good friends until he went abroad for his treatments.

As the hundreds of matchbox lights from the façade of the buildings paint a mosaic landscape, the frog and I had started conversing.  We talked about a lot of interesting things.  My favorite was about the undiscovered colors that he dreamt about. These were colors that this world hasn’t seen yet. And it had something to do with our eyes he said, preventing us from really seeing.

The cold September breeze on that silent Tuesday evening called for it, I guess. While the hot broth slowly loses its warmth, replacing it with the oddity of that night, I was taken to places in my mind that I thought never existed.

The stranger then opened about his long-lost love. He began by telling the story on how they first met.

He was in his younger self squatting on a pond leaf under the biggest moon of that year. The fireflies that lingered about, just far enough for him to reach were the brightest stars that night.

He was instructed by his mother to hunt for pond flies that nested on the very surface of the still waters.  “Be one with the leaf” she said, “and hold very still to have a successful hunt. Have the required patience.”  He was waiting for hours for the right timing when a more experienced frog easily snatches his prey away.  She was hunting from a tip of the tree branch just over the pond. And from the moment he laid his eyes on her long, lightning-speed whipping tongue, he knew that she was the one.

As he was going over the story, I went inside and poured us some ginger juice and got something to smoke. And when I came back, I pinched a fingertip of tobacco from my cigarette into his empty wooden pipe and offered him a light.

“Have you met yours?” he wondered staring blankly to the sky.

I said I was not sure. And even if have, it wouldn’t matter. She was gone already and there was no point of remembering a tragic story. It would only bring you regrets and keep you awake most nights.

He smoked his long wooden pipe, blowing feebly into the air and nods.

I scratched my bearded jaw and rested my numbing head placing the whole weight in the open palm. And from time to time I was unconsciously nail-biting and dozing while the neighbors were watching their endless drama anthology on TV.

“Are they always like this every night?” The old frog just smiled away. I knew that he had learned to accept it, the same way that he had accepted the loss of his greatest love.

I felt sad for him. As if I was in the singularity of the black hole of his loneliness. It felt like I was never going anywhere, at the same time drifting away.

“A once healthy body is now starting to deteriorate as the numbers of time are catching up. You’d realize just about before it ends that your life as you know it had already passed you by along with all the unspoken questions in your lifetime. The answers had sailed far away into the oceans of the wandering and the forgotten.”

It was almost a mumble, but I heard the old frog’s every word.

Then I responded by saying that it was not my intention to make him feel sad, but I was so glad all the same for the chance. For these are the exact words I thought had slipped away from my writing hands fifty ink cartridges ago.  And I never had the opportunity to hear the reading of these lines out loud.

“And all the anecdotes and old love letters may seem nostalgic now, but I hope you’d agree with me when your time to scribble has finally come.” It was almost an attempt to cheer him up. But I couldn’t tell if it was working or not.  He just repositioned his right leg placing his knee right next to his shoulder and puffed on his wooden pipe, displaying his mischievous smile while the subtle whistling of the eastern winds and the throbbing percussion of the monsoon rains started to come and drenched us hopeful and drunk.

Heartbeats in the Life of a Sardine

I found myself in the middle of a room full of people as I was beginning to get this slight nauseous feeling from my erratic claustrophobia that was starting to creep in. I was on a train roaming past the landmarks of the metro, on my way to the place I call the safest for me. We were squished like sardines in a can. I could feel the throbbing beats from a vein that was magnified, residing on the right side of my forehead and the sweat dripping like lava from the surface of the scalp down to my nape. My whole-body mass was depending on the athletic abilities of my toes to keep me from getting out of balance. And in every stop upon arrival at each station, these brave toes of mine were constantly at war with the unrelenting inertia.  No handrail was near enough for the rescue and the only available consolation was the blowing of the feeble breeze coming from the small opening of the air-conditioning vent.

It felt like I was drowning, keeping my head above the waters of the crowd, as our bodies were waving back and forth and sometimes in these almost circular motions during abrupt turns through the sea of rail tracks, electricity, and concrete.

I rested my aimless thoughts on this moving view that I got from the window just below the vent. And after a few moments, I noticed these whimsical formations of dark clouds in the sky starting to connive.

I hurriedly took a quick survey through the open spaces available on both sides of the train, between the bodies of the sardines to see how the skies were. I was worried.

All of a sudden, just like that, it started to drizzle. And surprisingly it felt like the world was the skies’ grand piano, each raindrop was a musical note gently keyed in by this invisible hand.

In that silent moment, I was convinced that each living soul was part of the melody and the verses that made up the entire piece. That we mattered.

It began with a slow dance of the countless raindrops on a mission to make everyone feel overly romantic. In a way of gently saying that a little delay was on its way, and it was okay.

Home was approximately 14 kilometers away. The circumstance was telling me that I had plenty of time to be lost in this void within me. I was beginning to be numbed by the motionless state of my consciousness. Then, I was drifted towards the compartments of my mind, finally finding a soothing memory, reliving the entire experience in my head for six more times just enough before finally getting to the next station.

Then the consciousness took me to the episodes of climbing trees, listening to really good music, fishing by the sea, travelling probably with someone really close. I began to think of the closest people I know, on how little time I spent with my family and friends. I thought of changing that, I thought of falling in love, the possibility of marrying someone soon and settling down for good. I also thought of getting lost somewhere really far perhaps, enjoying a glass of whiskey in the night time — a quiet time for myself. Then I remembered something about borrowing a book from a good friend, also considering buying a copy if I liked it, thoughts of the things that really mattered.

Maybe I was over thinking it, but I got this feeling that we were trapped there for a reason.  I felt grateful for these realizations. And despite the initial display of reluctance, my legs were no longer minding the pins and needles sending me back to reality.

Then I was pulled back to my consciousness and the once full coach was beginning to free up.  The sardines were rushing out of the exits of the platform going their separate ways, swimming past the reefs of this vast ocean of life just to be willingly caught again to the promises of tomorrow.

The Great Battle against the Giants of Lightning and Thunder

Lightning and thunder had always carried a pull of interest to my imagination, of the tales that they would always bring, on how lightning can magically take its physical form out of sheer nothingness to these flashes of a great declaration of its very discerning presence.

Even as a grown-up it would always take me wondering, what if it is more than just an atmospheric disturbance, more than just a by-product of the mixture of the warm and cold air. What if?

Often times it is perceived as this very frightening notion that still hunts the living daylights out of our grown-up selves.

I remember as a child, me and my best friends would always think of lightning as the clashing of the broadswords of the Giants that fought over the terrains of the clouds.  Our nanny would also say that it can also be seen as a crooked hand of the grim reaper reaching for the souls of the dying.  Or sometimes, it is being used as a bridge by the “Engkantos” when they travel to reach the other realms to harness mystical powers.

When these bedtime stories got the very best of us, we would always hide under the force field of the sheets and our blankets; each of us curled up like an Armadillo in the presence of its slayer.  As this was the first of our many tactical maneuvers.

You’ve always got to have a defensive strategy.   And this was ours.

We would then hold on to our flashlights to counter the striking and blinding power of our unpredictable foes, the Lightning.

To time when would be their next attack, we would always try to catch patterns by counting the seconds from the last lightning strike to the next.  By doing this, we would know when to uncover and open fire.

But, we found ourselves stuck in a predicament. Although we are protected by our force field, we are as blind as a bat. The blankets are too thick for us to be able to see when the last lightning strike was.  We’d be fried if we ever took a chance.  And we figured we were outnumbered, we can’t afford to have any casualties.

“We have got to work with what we have”.  A very compelling voice from our esteemed captain, He was also our neighbor.

And my brother and I looked at each other and came up with this brilliant strategy.

Since we cannot uncover, we will have to rely on the roaring sounds of the thunder.  But the giants, despite their looks, are highly intelligent to have come up to delay the sound of thunder after each terrible lightning strike.  And it took us quite some time to have figured out the patterns to solve this puzzle.

We counted 1, 2, then the thunder would come, and 1,2,3,4, then another, 1, and another roar, it was so random and almost impossible to decipher.  We wrote all of the patterns on the back pages of my P.E. notebook, the one I never got to use a lot anyway, and discovered that despite the chaos, and its unpredictability, there’s this unique pattern that came out.

All we’ve got to do now is to make sure that we’ve got enough ammunition.

So my brother, our weapons specialist, made sure that a good supply of 9-voltage batteries was available, that we hid under the blue pillow we call our armory. These were recharged batteries. We believed that we can still use drained disposable batteries when you recycled and recharged it all day under the heat of the sun.

As I was waiting for the Captain’s signal, I wiped the sweat off of my palms against my battle uniform, which I also wear when I sleep, my pajamas.  I was ordered to strike when it is time. And we believed that the light coming from our flashlights, our weapon of choice, can make holes through the clouds where the giants take their cover.  And if we made just enough holes, they would fall from the skies, and the impact of the fall would kill them.

I held 2 flashlights, in case one would fail. Our first offensive strike was very crucial as this may be, the only chance we have.  The giants are not expecting that we have figured out their secret, and if this was deemed to be a failure, they’d definitely change the thunder patterns and we will be defeated.

Time was not on our side as well.

Children get easily bored and unable to stay up that late. This was our weakness.  If we fell asleep, they could easily snatch the win and we won’t be able to wake up again.

The Captain mumbles… with his eyes closed, calibrating and reading the flashes from the lightning and the roars of thunder.  And almost in slow motion, gave the wave, gesturing the signal to attack.

“This is it, brother!  You can do this! We’re all counting on…”

The last of the encouraging words from my twin was unheard, for it was abruptly interrupted by the blinding lightning strikes that were immediately followed by the deafening drum rolls of thunder. This was the last wave of their attack! A showdown between the soldiers of the light and the towering guardians of death itself!

The Captain reveals our frail bodies from all the sheets and pillows that helped camouflage us.

And he yelled, “Go, and Do it!”  And I knew we were done the moment I saw the two of them, fading away, falling on the bedroom floor.

But I was able to stretch both of my arms high, and towards the window, I went, as each step was proven a struggle by our enemies’ blunt remorseless gestures. I was able to reach the wall, then showing myself, aiming to the great marsh of the night clouds, holding both weapons as long as I could until I was taken out by the giants’ hard hitting blows.

Then I was out.  The 3 of us died in this great battle.

The next morning, the sunlight reveals the ruins of last night’s battle.  Pillows and blankets were on the floor, the debris of toys fallen from the shelves, and our fallen bodies on the ground.

And when we woke up, we realized that we were crushed, and have died tragically from last night’s war.

Then we smiled and agreed that we’ll be astronauts the next night.

 

Yelling — “Let’s prepare for a mission!”

Last Day – Northern Star

We strolled up the empty sidewalks of what could have thought to be an abandoned zombie land in its much later days when the once flesh munching dead are now hunted in extinction, leaving the vastness of the highways and the city to ourselves.  It was around half past the hour of 1, and our consciousness now forgetting about abstinence and sobriety as everything around us swirled over and swaying sideways, we couldn’t tell what was what and from a calm steady pace we picked up speed, in her heels and in my trusty walkers. We were runaways in the night.

We glanced from time to time over our shoulders, always on the lookout for what else was out there. From a stick that snaps, or from a sudden movement of the shadows, to a howling watchdog, for us, each was a potential threat. Luckily the pavement we were running on was a good friend to us, leaving no tracks but our lungs, on the other hand, were not able to deliver. We ran, only as fast as we could. And we panted hard, we thought we were about to die yet we smile as we catch every breath grateful, scared and feeling free.  The police in their size forty twos are too lazy to go this far of the stretch this time of the night we thought.  But we knew it was a different story altogether in the morning.

We were outside of a convenience store, sat down on the gutter, and administered caffeine, nicotine and what was a beautiful blunder between us. I took out a flask and dashed a little into each cup.  The space in the middle of our casting stares was just an imaginary line, our equator.  There were no stars on sight, a proxy, however, was gracious enough to share its blessings, coming from the lights of the commercial spaces, glowing out of the towering boastful skyscrapers and from the budget conscious government installed highway lamp posts which accidentally imposing a mood-setting feel for the tranquil and the peaceful.  And from this, we borrowed a warm and sublime feeling and placed it through our rib-cages inside our chests, our lives on a silver platter.

She began to open her lips, as she also started to utter the words that are now passing through the upper and lower openings of her mouth.  I couldn’t remember what exactly they were about, but I knew it was something relatable to a timeless anthem or an unwilted flower in the summer. After throwing a few, she tires and fell very silent but amazingly the conversation never stopped.  The peaceful night and the surreal drowsing wind that brushes our hair and what else there did the talking for us.  And we listened and translated each unspoken moment in silence to ourselves, and by and by we break a smile and inhaled. Her camera was confiscated earlier and it was smashed into a million pieces against a concrete wall. We tried to salvage the film but it was no good as well, and so we took mental pictures instead of what was there to take. And there were no thoughts to be withdrawn we figured. Just forward gestures of positivity, testimonials and wishful thinking.  We heard of this place somewhere north, where all great poets and the dreamers go; we talked about it for a while, escaping for good and living there and all.  But she only wanted to take pictures for now, and write.  She’s not done yet, she says.

We fill the ashtray nearly full at this point.

A condensed thought and asked for another. It was almost morning lying on a field of grass under the trees. I was trying to understand what she meant as I try to get a chance to recover and to steal a final glance to help me remember. Turning to her side, elevating myself on an elbow hoping for the night to linger on, to hold still. This was ours, the night we stole from the world but one can only throw a prayer. So in the final seconds we decided to put on our sunglasses as the deafening sound from the blades of the helicopters and the wailing sirens are now coming to a close, we thought of St. Peter and the rest of the saints waiting at the pearly gates. We smoked the remainders of our cigarettes while eating apples, tucking away our northern star, our way of surrender in the early morning sun.

Crumpled Origami Crane

I have been back and forth in my mind, going through trying to remember the countless dreams that I had this morning. The harder I try the lost I more become.  A sore loser, I am now pressing the palms of my hands against my eyelids, as I blame my aching back for giving up on me- being too tired to go back to my lost euphoria. The heat from the daylight tells me that I should be up even though my will tells me otherwise. Slowly, I opened my eyes just in time to find myself realizing that I am too early to be awake for this Saturday morning. It was as if my restless mind has a life of its own. All I could do now is spoil and just give in as it glides over and through the bluest horizons, leaving behind the rest of my no-good-for- any-outdoor-activity-body motionless, awkwardly positioned and thrown like a crumpled origami crane lying in an ocean of the whitest cloud-like sheets and the most reassuring cushions. My make-believe strong limbs are now deemed useless. The imagination that was once dependable felt like it was all forced. Slumber is too far away yet my consciousness is deep under. I am on a desert looking for the oasis of hope, ever desperate to be quenched by sleep, to be overwhelmed and to be wooed by its promises. A real romance I would say. Easy and true, like reading the words from a bedtime story, singing midnight lullabies. No more pretensions, now believing in fiction and magic, to every nostalgic meaning and for these softest pillows, I clutch.

I am polygamous for loving one and all.

The warmth lingers as it gently moistens my ashen skin and cracked lips. The rays from the sunlight indulgently playful passing through the window. Microscopic and magnified, they appear to be dancing having the time of their lives in a parade, as they waltz their way through the thin glass. And as they enter we can see that they have willingly committed their entire existence just to shatter into splinters of gem-like formations.  A color mixture of intangible ruby, diamonds, and emeralds with golden sunflower hues. They collaborate with the traffic of specs that gently sailing through the air, gliding and floating adrift, drawn to the sunbeams like a moth to a lamp – the only light in the room. They had brought life along with them, greeting the frailty in me with this renewed day.

I found a thought suspended in the air, and then grabbing a hold of it as I try to be more comfortable by placing one heel on top of the other foot against the window sill. The porcelain ashtray lying next to me, parallel to my cigarette hand while my left hand is tucked-pressed between my head and my trusty pillow.

I did not want to get up. I felt the guilt whispering in my ears. Finally, sleep has decided to make up for lost time. She is the jealous type-  the more you ignore the closer she gets. She’s like Morrissey in the song.  No will can turn its invitation away even if one comes to be real focused on the thoughts of greater consequence. The fractions and the equations will make no sense. Every known law in physics will remain written in textbooks, but not all will apply.

“Just for ten minutes then I will have to wake up” I told myself, but I knew I was over committing.

I could see every thought twirling over and under, from my mind to the chest they were overflowing, a hodgepodge of familiar and the strange. Each episode was like a paper note tied to a string – a kite taking its flight sending messages up to the sky. A strong pull to let it go that is the trick. And through the clouds each went, higher and higher until they can never be seen. I knew I still had them, it felt I still did. But suddenly without warning the reel full of strings went berserk, rolling loose, rushing, so I tied the end of the strings I had to the wooden posts of the bed. For a second there, I thought I had all the kites anchored, but I was proven wrong when I felt the bed started moving.

We went crashing through the wall.  Attempting to find cover behind the headboard, we went through the concrete and all the debris, shooting up to the morning sky and out we went to the blackened space of comets, supernovas, and what seemed to be a body of an outer space aurora. Everything was going fast as it happened. The pace of this dream was off the charts. I could see the landscapes of greens, the polar caps and the watery blues of the world below. Morning never looked so alive as the current and the waves run the whitest of white. While the other side of Earth glitters with city lights, humbled in the blanket of the beautiful night. As the man in the printed pajamas was sitting on the edge of the crescent moon dabbling his feet in the dreams of those who rest below. He turns and waves hello. Careful not to fall, with one hand holding the wooden headboard, I tried to balance my body to repay the courtesy. I then realized that it was not I that was looking down on everything, but it was the stars that did. They are the audience, not me. I felt stripped of my clothes, naked in front of heaven’s prying eyes.

I am in between the skies and the earth, now fearing that my flying vessel may snatch a sudden jerk waking me up from the dream that was ending way too soon. Now keeping both eyes open, consciously trying not to make any unforgivable mistakes yet relishing, I looked over my head as I decided to finally close my eyes for a moment to feel the air brushing through my hair. I was letting go, accepting the fact that I might not even remember any of these things when I wake up. But no worries, for the mind may forget but the soul never will.  And for as long as we dream, even though our minds are not conditioned for these sorts and our expectations are not cut out for anything as spontaneous as she is, I’d say, ride out anyways.  For dreams are like faith, it is for the believers, for those who have nothing to possess, for those whose hands are bare, for the astronauts and the cloud watchers in us, for the ever hopefuls.