Tall Glass

While we were at it, I threw in all sorts of questions on how it was like to be up there. He gave a picturesque narrative of the life in the camp during the summer with those kids from the private schools and how exciting the first year was. My brother tried very hard to be as detailed and brief as he could possibly be on the phone, but there wasn’t enough time so we bade goodbye and agreed to keep in touch before the new school year started.  I was pressing the receiver hard on my ear, it left a slight redness afterwards.

As natural things could get, we weren’t able to contact each other over a good period of time when we were supposed to. He was living in the city while I remained recluse back home.  I wasn’t able to keep track and assumed he was preoccupied himself that it didn’t feel it mattered then.

And as the gap widened while the silence grew, it haunted me all the more. Every time I was finished with the day’s chores, I would always try to imagine how it was to be up there with him. I would begin waking up in his room, in the all-boys dormitory making the bed before heading out, always making sure I was on time for each class. I thought about the faces of his classmates and the professors, what sort of people were there in the university, even the pretty girls he would have chosen to pursue.

The more I delved about leaving, the more it felt real to me. The more that I did it, the more it felt that I needed to move away from this zany town of ours.

There was no way around it I concluded.  It felt exclusive, more than the sensation I felt the first time I tasted caviar.

She insisted to take me all the way as far as she could make it. And as all things must end, the day was also coming to a close. She rested her head on my arm while we stood on a crowded bus on the way to the terminal. I looked at her, and she did the same to me — she had her hair just above her eyes and she was simply wonderful.

But I couldn’t help feeling that even after all that magic — enough to favor prejudice — still, it arrived quite dry on the surface.

I always faulted myself for that.

Up in the clouds, it made me forget all there is about on earth and it allowed me to bask in the soak of twilight. The sky was overcast but the runway was filled with outlining lights when the plane was about to land. It resembled a mid-summer night sky in a tropical coast island somewhere far away. I was drawn to it like a moth to a fire.

It felt like it was calling me, I wanted to hold it in my hands so bad I wanted nothing more.

I guess you’ll never know how disdainful the fire is until it burned you.

This could happen to you too, I told myself.

I waited for the green leaves to turn.

I hope I could help it.  But she didn’t want to bring it up.

I was sorry for the weight, I told her on the phone.

“I was staying in the Honeymoon lodge this past few nights.” She retorted.

I was pressing the receiver hard on my ear, it left a slight redness afterwards.

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The Steep Climb over the Ridges

She got out of the shower and stood by the doorway soaked. It was hard not to watch her body glisten in the light. She asked me about the fight, on why I over-reacted like that. Obviously, she was upset about the whole thing and I did not want to make matters worse, so I turned the other way. I told her that I didn’t mean to scare her and all, but it’s something that I did not have control over like how I was when I am around her sometimes. Like the polar caps in the heat of the sun, I guess we just simply melt away.

Lightheaded, I asked her if she can go to the front desk to get some fresh bandages and anesthetics. Miles Davis’ Blue in Green was on the static radio. I looked outside and noticed that the moon was a bit distant than the usual. It was turning out to be a really slow night.

When I was about to reach a complete state of deep slumber, I felt a sudden jolt which pulled me right off from respite. And in her softer version of a whisper, she said that we had no time and we ought to be going soon before the sun rises. “Movement is life, and there is no telling what the road holds for us today.”

She was always the wiser one.

I looked around trying to get some grip on what’s going on. My head still felt woozy from the sedatives and vodka I took. On the newsstands, some guy from the government was causing trouble in the south. I then skimmed the column and memorized the name on the byline and thought that the writer was one tough guy to be able to say things like that. And I wished wordlessly, that someday I could be as brave.

We sat down along the roadside by the line of shrubs under the canopy of the trees. The heat was gentle, and the dews were still present on the soft landings of the open leaves. We waited for the first bus trip while drinking cool stale water from our canteens and watching the day unfold. The wound from my head was starting to dry off, a bit painful still, but it was better. Across the benches, there was a sidewalk vendor selling herb oils and healing mantles, who signaled to me for a remedy, but I rather self-heal.

We bought a local wine to get us through the cold by the time we reach the highlands. This helpful advice was taken from an old commuter, whose business was to bring farm and household supplies to the villagers up north. He was a light-hearted fellow with a pair of shiny, rosy cheekbones. We thanked him for the tip and offered if we could buy him a bottle as well, but he respectfully declined and said that he does not drink while working. Instead, he offered his home to us in a couple of days during the cropping of the harvest. And then he added that we could also help out should we want to earn a few pesos or just for the experience. We said we would definitely consider that and thanked him once again for his generosity.

The day was ultimately different compared to the last few days. As if there was something grounded governing those mountains. I never felt so still in my life. And in those moments, I genuinely heard the voice of silence speaking to me, as the waves of the wind carried its message across, it was like an endless cradle of fleeting conversation with nature itself, it was inexplicably serene.

Then I surveyed the scenery around us, from the line of trees with their broken shadows cast on the road to the uneven terrains of the hillside, heaving deep breaths as I began to wonder if the thought of staying has ever occurred to her. And in the midst of this wandering contemplation I suddenly arrived at the conclusion which I have always known, that she was a runaway, and like the great mustangs in the west, she is always meant to run.

And so, I hid these and leaned against her shoulder thankful still.

Over the Blue-Tiled Roofs

I went out onto the main street where I breezed the sidewalk on the opposite side of where the sun shone. Rose gold rays warmly set in through the apartment windows and the narrow concrete walkways were relatively empty and yet to be bustled. Sure, a few cars jostled across here and there, but the town was sleepy considering, while breakfast cafés were putting up menu signs for the day and folding gazebos were set up at the marketplace beneath the shade of the trees along the hedges. The unloading vegetable jeepneys and meat canter trucks pulled over and went, as people shook hands and chattered before bidding goodbyes.

Summer has just begun, and another school year has ended.  Kids help out with the chores at the nearby fruit stands and novelty thrift shops. I know most of the owners by name, and some are considered dear friends.  As I watched them go about their day, I settled in under a cool shade, reading an overdue paperback from a local library.  I figured I had at least an hour before the scheduled rendezvous, so I took my time leisurely, drinking a cup of creamed coffee.

A flower girl held a basket full of mixed banaba and yellow gumamelas as offerings to the virgin of the grotto. She held the hand of an elderly, whose I would assume was of her grandmother’s, while lanky male tourists wearing board shorts and loose shirts walked past by me, peering through the food stalls at the corner street. They appear to have been around for at least a week by the looks and tone of their tan.

Over the blue-tiled roofs, the sun is now higher into the horizon, outlining the sky. The wind then picks up, as I walked up the slanting road, until leveling off onto the commercial part of the district. Standing on a tall escalator, pairs of lower limbs in jeans and skirts tripled before me through the reflection on the glass balustrade panels. I elbowed the rail as I ascended to the upper landing where I was bound.

When I approached the reception, I was told to sit down on the couch, under where a huge abstract painting hangs. The lady behind the desk was nice enough and made me feel I was being expected. Her warm accommodation was very much complimented by her soft voice. Somehow, I just couldn’t remember her face anymore, as if what was left is just a memory of an embroidered crest on her office jacket and the apple cut hair that she was sporting.

I stared at the enormous painting to kill time, examining it the best I could and thought about what it meant. I never quite understand what abstracts were all about, or how one should feel about them particularly.

When the time has come, I was led to a room at the end of the hall.  The decorative paneling was made of oak and the lighting was elegantly positioned and unnecessarily excessive.  I was behind the receptionist when the door was opened, and a man was waiting for me inside, leafing through some paperwork as he went to me and reached out his hand. He always had a good grip.

University certificates were delicately framed, not a hint of dust on them.  There was a fabric ward divider that stood at one side for changing and paper brochures neatly spread out atop the receiving table, with a picture of a happy looking couple on them.

“Let’s get on with it shall we?” I suggested.

“Lots of good things to see today”

 

Telegram

An afternoon coffee was served at exactly 04:30, precisely how it was done ever since the pension house opened. But today they were serving 2 for 1 to compensate for the low foot traffic.  She was alone by the sea breeze and mused about the other dreamers who sat there at the same table over the years and wallowed about the tides that had brought to them.  On the prints of each page, she graciously borrowed a steady meaning and sipped the reflection of the setting sun from a coffee cup.

When other couples have regular date nights, this was hers.  For her, she was married to the sea.  They never did celebrate anniversaries, nor have consistent birthday dinners, but never once did she skip their summers together.  Here, they exchanged glances for the longest time while tasting its kiss through the salt in the wind.  She lingered in its arms, longer than most men she slept with, and they made love so endlessly in the enveloping formation of curls and foams.

She will not grow weary of her.

And she wondered how she got there, and she thought about her mom.  Her parents raised her well, gave her good education, and taught her that grace and humility far exceed any talent in the world. And for her, their most precious gift was her well-traveled feet that led her shadows home.

One of the guests walked through the beaded blinds decorated with seashells and surveyed the sunburned faces in the room.  Her face was veiled by the shade of the baseball cap brim and her temples were draped by her long dark hair.  She was carrying a messenger bag and a gray hoodie hanged limp on its sling.

The guest walked past her while calling out her name.  Her complexion was mid-toned.

They caught each other’s eyes and locked for a while.

From afar, the lines of their lips broke apart in turns. The words fell out so silently and there were no movements apart from that.

Life was not perfect, so she realized, but so is the cratered moon.

She was introduced to contempt for the first time.

sea

Under the Kindness of the Dark

The pictures rolled past by me suddenly like some distant, familiar memory that kept on coming back only they were not mine to take.  An inkling of white foam now forms at the corner of my lip as I drowsed.  I must have dreamt some good dreams then.

Under the blanket of the deep black night, it arrived at me that my body felt quite differently.  As if lifted and cured of its illnesses, it hardly felt any pain, relieved of its mortal weight and protracted weariness after not sleeping for years.

The wipers thud swinging back and forth like clockwork while the rain pelted the pane relentless like splatted kamikaze pilots.  The howls of the wind seep through my ears, taking me while I sank in the backseat of the car with my knees held a little too close to my chest.  My half-opened eyes leveled with the chrome window sill as they pried into the gush of the rain.

A million and one headlights drew towards us on the highways.  Lights brighten up wide upon each approach as if a production line of salutation and courtesy.

She sang along soundlessly with the song that came out of the FM radio.  She had her face on, of faint rose petal red, evenly toned on her cheekbones and a bit heavier on her lips.  Her black laced eyes were crawling over their lids like beautiful insects in the night.

Behind the glass, the world was colorful and opaque, and imageless.

Studded with red hexagon lights, golden circles and pulsars of bright greens, they lined up neatly at the same time blurted in random.  There was poetry in chaos after all.

Residues of droplets obscured the view on all sides.  It was of another universe.

The seats smelt of cheap pine car freshener, lazily covering the stench of uncleaned upholstery.

She leaned against my left shoulder and pressed her face against it, as if lifeless.

She must have had preferred the smell of cigarette smoke on my sleeves, it felt safe.

And at that moment, I could almost tell her everything and more.

Then it would not matter how terribly things went.

She cradled a thermos for coffee, for the light of the sun and the little things left forgotten.

So, we may never have to close these wandering eyes anymore.

Not anymore.

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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