Walls

The white walls were all there were.  I was sitting in front of it. At the bedroom table, I was surrounded by all of them. White walls on all sides. Plain as it could get, except for the outdated calendar hanged limply on the southwest side that was about to give out in the faintest blow of the wind. The room was still. Even with open windows, there was no breeze entering at all. No rustling coming from the neighboring trees, neither whistling nor visits from the birds that usually perched on the window sill. The smoke of the cigarette followed the pathless hike, ceiling-bound as it curled in front of my face.  Everything around me was silent as if we were all waiting together for something important to happen.   Thin sheets of clouds were covering most parts of the sky like an oversized gray patch so dull it resembled a clearing of a lahar aftermath.  I decided to rescue an empty coffee container made of glass, to use it as a spare mug should I have visitors coming over.  But I was not expecting anyone that night, or any time soon I figured.  Still, I washed the damn thing anyway and placed it on the drying rack next to a microwavable dish plate.

It was not always like this in fact.  Especially on weekends when the halls outside my room were packed by children running up and down playing and yelling until twilight when their parents call them in for supper. Or at Christmas when my mom and sisters come over to have lunch with me before heading back for Noche Buena, or last summer when I dated someone from work who also lived nearby the sea.  In this vacuum of time I remained, in this void, I lingered, over expanding in the thoughts of my consciousness boundless. I thought I belonged there, it was like a homecoming.  I began to snap my fingers to break the chain.  I could no longer stand the silence.  I walked towards my reflection and saw the lines on my forehead.  Deeper than the last time I remembered them to be, even the placements had changed, it was uncanny.  I didn’t realize that my wrinkles were well-traveled.  And when did they decide to move was unknown to me.  When one was asleep perhaps?  It should be that, lest I would have noticed it moved.

The cream firmed up. I stirred and stirred before it lost warmth.  I leaned over stretching my head to see the other side of the wooden fence below for an acquaintance resting my arms on the balcony.  Then I heard a heavy knocking on the door which caught me off-guard.  At first, I thought somebody saw me peering at the neighbor’s and ran up to my room to tell me off.  But that was too fast of a reaction it was impossible.  I didn’t know who it was behind it, as I said I wasn’t expecting anyone anytime soon.  As I turned to approach the door, I thought it could be the caretaker, or someone from the other units probably borrowing some tools like a Phillips screwdriver or an electrical tape.  People always forget to buy electrical tapes ending up asking the neighbor for some.  And as I came closer, I remembered all of a sudden that I was still in my sleep clothes and thought of putting on something more decent.  So, I did that, throwing in over a sweatshirt although it’s thirty-three degrees that afternoon.

When finally, I turned the knob to open, there stood in uniform a guard from downstairs panting, catching his breath while wiping his massive neck with a face towel.  He has a wide body, probably too big for his shirt and hat, who also was taller than I was.  I gave him a moment before he was able to say that there was a phone call for me at the reception.

“I don’t understand, did the caller leave a name?”

“I’m sorry, I neglected to ask” he responded, finally regaining himself.

“That’s fine, does it sound urgent?”

“It was a woman’s voice, I can’t really tell”

From the living area, I heard the first arrival of the birds perching on the tufts of the sofa.  The leaves rustled for the first time that day.

I invited him in to drink a good glass of cold water and joined my perched friends on the balcony.

Photo by: LJ Jumig

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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

Crimson Spectacle, Over Blue

You once told me that you wanted to run with me, across the tree-shaded slopes, to the hilltops just to have a taste of what you would always refer to as a real lover’s breath. I remember you doing an animated reenactment of what was going to be like when you pouted your lips kissing the clouds in the sun. You readied your pack and slung it over your shoulders, convinced even without a map or a plan, as you stood by the open door warming your palms with your own breath.

And the new day was breaking, your face was shrouded with the dark remnants of the night.

“Let us forget all about last night” you said.  You looked so beautiful like the dawn.  I knew I’d follow you.

The last nail was hammered down shut, we hear.  Nameless boxes will be buried in the backyard for now.  Salt will preserve, eventually.

For today will be like a tourniquet, it will be just like before you promised “no added preservatives”.

The funny thing about faith is that you lose yourself sometimes in the process or most if you are that lucky.

A solace, I would say.

I finally got you talking about it, for me, that is always a good thing.  To talk.

More when there is not much else to converse about.

And in that amazing display of human feat, we almost believed that it can still be overturned.

Despite of apathy and miseducation.

And you whispered like it was an open prayer, that you hoped for your camera could capture cancer, truth, and suffering.  All the time.

I leaned closer, sitting next to you on the steps of your front door, and looked at the universe which was inside of you.  And it was vast, expanding.

The space between us allowed me to heave a deep sigh.  And I was grateful for the chance, to leap without accord.

But I guess we are knit together by frequency and attuned with pure will.  So, we went uphill, marched to muster courage for acceptance and discernment.   We stayed up for hours where the sky hangs and the clouds glide.

Tonight, the city waits, and we will swift through beneath its feet and overhead, like a breeze that will fender off the dust that blanket the roof decks and the muddled streets.

It is time to wipe my glasses clean and replace the blunt pencil with ink.

Baler

 

Clear Blue Passing

As I was walking out the door, I looked back and turned to ask if he wanted anything for me to bring back. But the question thrown was unrequited although he was facing toward my direction. The stares were hallowed, but definitely not empty, as if his thoughts were elsewhere distant, undisclosed and unknown even to the visitor himself.

On the bedroom side table sat a perspiring glass of cold water that resembled a window pane on a cold rainy day. Its life was refuted by the stack of past dated panorama magazines, sandy old newspapers and the emptied coffee cups with their stained ceramic coasters.  And though it appeared that the drink was only fitting to remedy the hot afternoon weather, the readied beverage somehow implied not to be needed at the time, that the quench yearned for was not to be passed through the drought and the landlocked throat of this weathered bedridden character, but instead, of another it seemed.

He had a decent height, he came from a good family line. The soles of his feet were callused by resolve and the red baked earth of his heritage. And his proud appearance still surfaced despite his aged and battered state. Though often times visited by pain, he still held his head high above the stained pillows of saliva and antibiotics. He remembered his youth, gawking at the ceiling beams — his own time machine — reliving the years of working every day on their tangerine farmlands, as he found solace in these dire achievements that nobody but him ever celebrated.

The air was filled with the smell of antiseptic. The lazy wooden fan blades cut through the spaces under the plywood ceilings, and the grimy mirror held no reflection.

His hands and arms were tired, the skin was sallow, but built strong by time.  His shoulder blades boasted like the wide-spanned-wings of an eagle’s, imposing that they can withstand the discerning winds of the open skies.

“Oh, how time swiftly takes away what was lent” he feebly exclaimed.

Through the half-open door, I took one last look at him, and it was just a split-second glance really, but it felt infinitely stretched.  And in this timeless vacuum of space, I lived through these flashes of fond memories I had of him.  It was like listening to a two-minute song that carried all the answers in the world.  I set sails to entwine with the days of yesteryears, on how perpetually dependent I was on him, growing up like a seedling inching my way towards the blue ocean skies, how my ears were sculpted like wooden dippers for wisdom, and how I was emptied to refill.

And as I pulled the door back, gently twisting the unpolished brass knob clockwise hoping not to make a sound, my flooded eyes bade farewell as this view narrowed, knowing that his vessel can never, anymore, hold in together the entirety of him.  For he is a lot more, more than this world could ever have prepared for.

Blue

Just in Case (Don’t Wait Up)

You found a piece of something not too big to keep, nor too small to be easily lost. A treasure not for the pockets, well, we wished you love under the falling skies that night hoping to safely say it could last a lifetime.

Probably this is it, yours for the present and future tense.

Dance to the beat, throw your arms around the carbonated spaces and sing melodies for the centuries to come.  Get lost through the pages and faces of time, mind the pain from your heels later, we have dreamt for this moment to come, don’t think twice now to take that leap. You are a migratory bird after all.

I found your smile inside the television box, and you looked so beautiful and grand, how the whole world should be.  Do you remember? After the rain, when we stayed up late leaning against the couch, sitting on the floor rug by the warm lights, you drew a picture of this moment.  You did believe in fairies after all.

Weekends and too much sugar kept us alive, and we slept to die on weekdays.  You took the batteries off the clock and lobbed them into the trash bin.  You held a cigarette between your painted lips and a glass with your hand. You slid a cassette tape to play — the neighbors woke and sang along.

You drove a thousand miles, the freeway lights of yellow, red and green were on your face.  You rolled your windows down, and the wind smothered you with love.  You did visit us a few times when you were somewhere near and sent postcards every once in a while. It almost felt like we were there as well.

I tried to move to another place, but I just couldn’t do it.  I can’t stay away for too long.  I guess someone must stay behind.  Do not worry, everyone is doing just fine. You wore a white shirt the last time I saw you. You have surrendered, and yet you are free.

The lemonade glass sweats, I wore my sunglasses talking to the hot summer sun.  We were having the longest farewell conversation, or were we arguing?   I will write him letters and proses in the coming months, folded and turned into a kite, the days and the weather will be better when it reaches him I pray.

And for my dear friend the wind, I will strum my way into its chest. To quote from the same book over and over, “everything essential is invisible to the eyes”.

In a couple of hours, at exactly 2:45 am, I will draw the curtains and sit by the windows, next to the biggest moon this year.  In case you decide to drop by, you might not catch me, for I will take a short trip on a rocket ship and will be right back before breakfast.

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Photo by: JJG

Perched Birds and Safe Travels

The sky was brimming with so much life, while it sets on its final act the canvas of the horizon was painted indigo over the orangey crown of the sun.  The open road bids goodbye to all wanderers, for all who took the time to pass by, to say hello and stayed over the weekend, lost or found, its arms beckoned all, those who tiptoed to see what’s on the other side of the wall, to come back real soon.

The way back to the city was clad with towering billboards, of their streaming invitation to indulge in its optimism, from the layouts, and the huge arrays of video boards.  The flickering lights draped the bleak concrete façade of the neighboring buildings and the battered roads on their feet.  I sat at the back of the van, while elbowing the backrest with my right arm, also drumbeating my temple.   I was looking at the setting sun, we all were, and as the credits roll, as this may have appeared to be the last scene, everyone was singing along to the soundtracks of our lives.

It was time to go home.

It ended as fast as it started.  The feeling was like going after a wisp that you saw somewhere in a dream, maybe outside of your bedroom window, that you have decided to follow. You know you can catch it, you can almost imagine how it would feel within your clasp.  And when you are about to, when your fingertips are almost there to make contact, you wake up, to this blinding flash of white all around you.  And it is morning, and you are somewhere else. You remember, but not all.

Then you sat right up, sluggishly positioned your unfit body right on the very edge of the bed.  You wonder on, and taking your time to collect those clattered snapshots of the wonderful subconscious adventure you just had.  And you ask yourself why you can’t have it all, these dreams from start to finish.  And you realize, maybe it is not the point, maybe it’s not what you can remember nor the length it took you, maybe it’s something else.

Cars bled with red tail lights, as I brush my hair from the forehead, down to the back of my head.  I pondered how we miss out on the best things even if we were there.  I thank the scribbled memories that stayed in my head, as I sang along with the rest of those who mourned for the end of the weekend.

I remember the sun, how it streamed through hatched houses that lined up by the side of the road, the gold and green fields that heralded the arrival of summer.  The swelling humps of the mountains that shook hands with the sky.  I remember the excitement we felt when we inhaled the very rustic air that flooded our lungs.

We shared a scarf that we sat on by the shore while watching the parade of the rushing waves and took photos so we may remember.   At nightfall, we perched like birds on a wire, listening to the whistling of the wind, as we hum along with the guitar plucking on that cloudless evening.  We stayed up late and listened to each other’s stories. We were like Troy Dyer and Lelaina Pierce, in that “you and me, and five bucks” scene.

We peered through the window pane and caught the sun’s beautiful yolk that waved farewell.  And one by one, we hugged and bade “safe travels”, hoping to see each other soon.

And we knew that it was going to last more than just a weekend, for we are the tireless crashing and the disintegration of the waves of the sea.

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