The Invisible Man

Jupiter was no bigger than a five centavo coin when it shined that night. Thrilled, he placed it inside the hole he made with his fingers and peeped through it into the sky with one eye. He took a photograph of the sighting but his phone camera failed to deliver justice and so he decided to just discard it.

Overhead, its glow was diluted by the increased display lightings of the bookstore. As he stood outside, he then watched the storekeepers and the customers raced -like lab mice- the mazes of the bookcases inside. Uninvited, he crushed his half done cigarette and went in and did the same. He started with the selected features and trod along the modern classics section until he slowed down when he reached the aisle between the Russian giants and H.G. Wells. He decided to procrastinate venturing and opted for the latter instead this time. Besides, he figured that reading Tolstoy or Dostoevsky would not sit very well with commuting on public transportation and discerned that he doesn’t want another unfinished book.

He had plenty of time, he tried to convince himself. But by the year he reached thirty-four true friends had enormously reduced to mostly dead writers and fictional protagonists. It was as if living people were only worth trying out if their thoughts and general interests were first proof read and edited like any publication houses would do.

This he thought about and the million things that could potentially take place in his short lifespan. But who would dare care? After a while, people would eventually move on with their lives. He confronted himself with the thoughts of unreciprocated love affairs and unfulfilled passions. What if they discovered that the only thing he could ever love unconditionally was the rain? The time of the monsoon was coming and it would be cooler soon. The thought began to console him. It was not necessarily of importance but for him, they were like the soundtrack of a very good film and the foams in his drink.

They say that life flashes on by without you realizing it. And oftentimes we miss it especially when it counted the most. But in his case there were no flashes, no theatrics – Just a series of random movements and intermittent pauses.

On the escalator going down he bumped into an old colleague from the University. They exchanged numbers after going over a crash course of where their lives had led them since they last saw each other.

During the dialogue all he was thinking about was the Irish coffee he was dying to have.

He never thought that the idea would ever touch his ugly mouth, but it did, he blurted it out, he felt ashamed.

In that moment everything else sounded broken to him.

It was a beautiful reclusion of the heart.

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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 made contact with 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 pigment 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

Bastet

Gregor and Emma are examining book spines of classic Filipiniana collections hoping they will stumble across something interesting although they already knew that this is highly unlikely.  If only great authors from the past could just magically write something new to send across to the present time, or maybe publishing houses would brilliantly come up with ideas like releasing special commemorative book editions or better yet, finding lost unpublished manuscripts from some hidden vault or a locked study.  Emma is on her knees, as if praying in front of a shrine – her collar bones perspire – while Gregor is skimming the pages of a Nick Joaquin shorts.  The old bookstore is so cramped, that religion and adult romance sections were placed next to each other.

Either it is a force of habit to induce intelligent conversations or just part of this unnecessary need for a routine that they occasionally come over to the same bookstore to have a proper venue to kick off their colorful speculations and exchanges that they agreed to term “The Crayola Sessions”.  Today is about the eventful ending of life as we all know it. The end of the world.

Gregor is wearing a samurai blue coat, with a white shirt beneath it. The necktie knot is loose, and he wears sports sneakers for comfort, while Emma is wearing a gray cardigan over a sleeveless casual shirt and a pair of denim shorts.

A whiff of old papers and the cold rain from the open windows marinate in the air, there is nothing like it.  Emma hailed the passing attendant of the store and ordered coffee and a pack of Marlboro reds, handing over the payment and a few change as tip. There are just about three round tables in the bookstore to occupy guests. They sat by the Capiz sliding windows.

“Say, do you think some divine being will truly show itself when the time comes? I really hope they’re cats. I think they must be, right? They are the sanest, most beautiful answer to save us from this god forsaken place. Ancient Egyptians believed it. I think it’s real.  You should see that episode about it.” Emma continued.

“You’re annoying.  But should it be true, at least it should be something original”

“I mean,” closing the book in his hands, placing the index finger between the pages “I hope it’s not going to be some cheesy judgment day where the sky opens up and angels appearing with trumpets start playing heavenly tunes, like what you see from those mediocre films.”

“Okay mister, supposing you are given a chance to participate to come up with a grand design on how things should end, how will you write it? What will be your ingenious version then? “

Emma scowling with a heft of sarcasm, crossing her legs together and leaning back against the My Home magazine back issues.

“I don’t know, probably angels and evil minions in Uber sedans, or perhaps a Ferris Wheel ride to enter heaven, only those permitted will be given a free pass.”

Emma gave out a genuine laugh.

When the attendant came back with their coffee the breeze picked up stronger.  There is no rain but the air is definitely damp. “Stay in for as long as you want, we’re supposed to close in about an hour but you are welcome here anytime.”

“Thank you for the hospitality sir, but we have to be somewhere as well.”  Gregor replied.

“Do we really have to go to that party? I mean, we’re already settled in here. “

“But you promised me Emma, don’t be such a prick.”

“No I did not! I said I will consider it.”

There was silence between them.

Gregor patiently studied the ceiling fan and making sipping noises from the cup that eventually graduated to slurping.

“But okay, to merit your infallible persistence, I will go.  But only until midnight and you need to promise me that.  Emma asserted.

“Okay, I promise then.”

“Just need to go back to my place and change.”

The attendant stepped back and nodded to the patrons before turning away.

“There’s no time, besides I have come prepared.  I asked my sister to lend you her dress.  You’re a size 6 right?”

Emma’s eyes rolled back, confused whether she would be impressed or annoyed.

When they arrived the hall was already teeming up with people and loud danceable music.  Looking around, people of different age brackets are there. They are drinking and dancing but they don’t look like they are enjoying at all. They are like hermits in uncomfortable shells. It felt odd to Emma.

When Gregor came back from the refreshments table his face was beaming with excitement.  He handed over a glass of punch to Emma.

“What’s this party about again?”  Emma asked in a loud voice next to his ear.

“It’s a masquerade party!”  Gregor shouted.

“A what party?!”

“A Masquerade party!” Gregor repeated and Emma finally caught up.

“I don’t think I follow you, I mean people are not wearing any masks here!”

Emma keeping up with the noise.

“Well, I don’t blame you!  It’s a different kind of masquerade.  People here are wearing a different kind of masks.  That includes you Emma.”

“Uh, I don’t understand” Emma now more perplexed.

“People came here wearing clothes of other people.  Preferably people who are linked to them.  And they pretend as if they are them as well”.  Gregor explains.

Emma stepped back, and surveyed the friend from head to toe.

“But you’re wearing your own clothes!”

Photo by: LJ Jumig

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 sun roof. The rustic smell from the old neighboring provinces flooded the air. There were not much 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 is 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 in 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 a while now. 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 now.

Or was I becoming too engrossed?

Quite not sure.

Faceless people begin to appear, I hear them coming from the steps but not rushing. From the sound of their voices, I am assuming that they are college students talking about school stuff and a professor that I think they hated.

I turn 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 want my eyes to sit on.

An old lady carrying an eco-bag and a folding umbrella was also there, walking after the students. She has 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 chooses 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 is 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 asks, 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 those days.

“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 has 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 immediately 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 were 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 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 seem to have also forgotten where that secret pocket was. That’s why I am visiting him to show him this old marble. It has 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 story telling.

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 seem to have grown wings on them suddenly.

Flying off to somewhere instead.

Intersections

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 implies 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 frets.

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

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 has to 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, 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 2:45am, 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

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 one 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 backpedalled.

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 travelling 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 travelled 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.