I gave you myself. You gave me a hangover and a nasty stomach ache. The piskat in me still thinking it was a fair trade. I could never fathom economics.
I remember when I was young, though I didn’t know what things were called or what I was doing, I was always one to tamper with existence; ever since I became unconvinced about the solid state of solid things like my Blue Magic stuffed bear or my dad’s old coffee mug being really still, being really… well… real. It’s the side effect of watching Beauty and the Beast, I think, makes you wonder about teapots and clocks and candlesticks so much so that you begin to wonder: how am I sure I exist myself? How was I sure “everything” wasn’t just a clever “nothing” with a new name and enough followers to believe in it?
So there I was: checking in with the glass atop the counter from time to time, forgetting about the half full- half empty debate, wondering if it’s really there to begin with; secretly hiding behind the ref and then jumping up on it, taking it by surprise, trying to figure out if it disappears whenever you blink, if glasses have a musical number of their own when no one’s watching.
Twelve years old and still playing peek-a-boo with the kitchen utensils. Piaget would’ve frowned at my object permanence capabilities- or lack thereof.
I’m no stockpile of inspiring things, darling.
I’m a mouth stuck in an ass that says all the wrong things.
Tight lip and still too loud or sometimes…
Too silent it’s becoming unholy.
I’m a hand that makes a living out of catching salt
A shoulder that turns cold and hard when wet.
And yet it says over and over: Go on. Lean.
I don’t mean to be. Honest.
It’s the gremlin in me
That never understood the politics of warmth and tenderness.
Multiplying the copies of my ugly self.
Leaving you in the dark with my ink stains
And shredded paper.
Saying “so what?” to all your problems
When what I really meant was: Honey, you’re rock and this is no time
To be thinking you’ve got a knack for crumbling. Because you don’t. You’re mountain. You’re stone. Withstanding in the softest ways. Though all everyone ever saw was “hard”. Something hard between even harder things. Luckily, you’re wind. You’re force. So what if the world shakes? So what if the torrential chaos blows us all away? So what? You’ve always loved a good storm.”
You see, I lose words when I’m nervous and all the wrong ones get left behind.
It’s the leftist in me that had forgotten which way was right.
I’m an apology that keeps repeating its mistakes.
But you put up with me.
/Why do you put up with me?/
I’m too fast for your lazy afternoons.
Too corporate for your “let you hair down”
Too uptight for your free verse.
Too heavy (metal) for your classic.
Too s(h)elfish for your holy lake.
I make wise cracks when you say “I love you”
I kiss like sarcasm and yet you kiss back.
I’ve got no bests to share with your godly.
Leave me. If you know what’s good for you.
But you never do.
You never do.
Should I be thanking God
That you’re into self-harm?
Otherwise you would never have pulled the trigger on my love gun.
Yelling: why not.
As the bullet breaks loose.
As I slice through.
You collect all the wrong things
And you put them in your mouth and you swallow.
And you smile like you don’t mind the taste of my dirty hands.
And muddy feet.
And you smile like kindness not minding itself.
Leave. If you know what’s good for you…
-But you never do.
You never do.
Thank God, I guess.
Or should I be thanking someone else?
Either way, I’m one lucky selfish ass.
That’s what I am.
That captures it best.
You’re the martyr that stuck around just to help pick up my mess.
Even when the party had ended and everyone and left.
There’s this girl in my dreams. Recurring. I think I might have invented her. But just the same, I can’t quite put my finger on it- on the whole of her. I know, dreams are like that: There’s always a figment of love conspiring against you, allying with the repressed romantic in your system. There’s always this aspect of perfection, a fragment that toys with you like a dangling hope waived in front of a desperate man. And there’s always this uncertainty. This blurred ending, a jolt awakening that leaves everything distanced and sketchy and incomplete. Lucid, surreal, expressionistic. Real in all the ways reality is not but just as impactful, sometimes more. That’s the best I can describe it. The dreams, the visions, the unconsciously invented narratives that seem to be beyond you, more than you and thus not yours at all. Things that feel ours and yet can never be ours simply because our spirituality would want to necessitate it- the fact that there is something more lurking behind the spaces of ourselves, wavering in the back of our minds- magic, heaven, love. Call it what you will, it has many names and yet for the most of us, for the penchant in us, it is nameless. This thing- ours and yet incomprehensible. The little funny things we invent.
Like this girl. I didn’t invent her because of loneliness. I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s partly boredom and mostly determinism. Natural determinism. The inevitability to make things because time, oddly enough, is just too much and we’ve got no clue how to spend it. Like money. Like consumption. Like greed. This overabundance of everything mixing with an unhealthy fear of lacking. This haunting emptiness, this dreaded incompletion. Calling.
And so there she is. Like an adventure, like a fantasy. An ideal. Waiting for you. She has no name because she has too many: Luce, Louise, Lease. A lot of names. But none of them are her. Not entirely. There’s always a lacking when you try to articulate raw emotion. And that’s what she is. She’s danger, she is love, she is perfection, she is hope, she is wanting, she is fun. Undeniable fun. Because she’s a game. We’re both in a game playing with each other. That’s how it starts.
One look, one teasing grin. And the game begins.
Banter here. Sarcasm there. A deeply intense conversation. And then we move on to the next round.
We both like similar things and yet we are nothing alike. I play guitar and the ukulele, she loves the violin. She dances. I don’t. We both love to make art: painting, sketches, murals. Anything that can be created. She’s better than me with painting and executions and space. I’m better with expression, with putting a name, a face to sadness and other melancholic things. We both sing, most of the time off key, sometimes, when we try, we make nice music. But that’s it, that’s the best of it. We do what the other cannot. And we finish each other. Not just sentences, mind you. But exactly what the sentence implies. We finish each other. We’re each other’s closure. But we’re not incomplete by ourselves. That’s not what I mean. We’re fine, alone. And that’s why it works. We’re both happy with ourselves so together- we can do anything, become everyone. Dream.
I know, I know. Dreams are like that. It presents infinite things but it denies you the very infinity you crave because dreams, these splendid, magical things are also determined by your own determinism, and hence in the rare moments we dream and understand our dreams, infinity meets mortality. Desire intertwines with melancholy. Denial and gratification merge. The oxymoron yields itself.
We are an oxymoron at times. Two seemingly irreconcilable things reconciling. She speaks business, and aside from my native tongue, I could only ever really fathom English, sometimes Spanish when I remember my lessons. She knows French, Japanese- simply put, a lot of dialects. Sometimes our language doesn’t understand each other. We get tongue-tied in our own conceptions. Because we believe in a lot of things too intensely and sometimes, these intense beliefs aren’t similar. But we get along. Like the secret friendship that buds between water and oil despite chemistry claiming they’re immiscible. There’s a tenderness beneath our bickering.
She feels too much and she teases me about not feeling at all. It’s all a game to her, toying with my penchant. And it’s all good clean fun as I toy with hers. She wins most of the time but she doesn’t know it. We both understand each other’s nature, the nature of our powers, the nature of subs and doms and who’s really on top, who really has control. I deny it all the time, especially to myself, but I know she has it. She’s always had it.
There are times in the dream that she gets frustrated and she understands that I can never love her as much or in the way she deserves. But she puts up with me and my stubbornness.
And there are times, when the dream turns into a nightmare and I realize that I am no longer mine. That in fact I’ve come undone. And that I’ve become overly attached to this sprite, this child that believes in pixie dust and loves Disney Princess Films while I prefer Studio Ghibli adventures. We both call our fairytales different names but there’s no denying that the romantic in us understands what we’re both looking for. It’s not each other. No. As I’ve said, we don’t need each other to complete ourselves, were quite well on our own. But we become better. That’s what we’re looking for. The better version of ourselves we unwittingly become with each other. The yin and the yang playing. The puzzle pieces fitting. The spirit finding home.
And that’s scary. That’s the nightmare. The revelation that when we lock into each other, we become something else: spirit, magic, love- the unnamed creating a ruckus in your mind, scratching at the door like a stray pup waiting for a new owner.
I had always been a solitary being. She loves the company of strangers, and crowds and I’ve always wondered how she mingles with everyone quite easily and effortlessly and impossibly sincerely. She says it’s all in the smile and the polite nodding here and there. I think there’s something more to it. A glistening in her eye that says: “You have lovely stories. You’re lovely.” The affirmation in her gaze, the charming validation when she acknowledges you, every bit of you. Magic. She’s magic that way like genuine niceties, like happy trivialities, like kindness that doesn’t mind itself.
And so we forgot to call the nightmare a nightmare. We called it something else. Reality beckoning but the dream persists.
“What if we become a cliché?” I asked her one time.
She said: “It doesn’t matter. Does it matter? I like clichés they feel like home.”
“Overused, redundant familiarity feels like home?”
“Yes. It’s like the worn-out blanket you keep coming back to. Or the cheesy narrative you keep rereading, this guilty pleasure you’re secretly ashamed to snuggle into but it hits a spot, this shallow, redundant familiarity hits a spot.”
“Maybe you’re confusing clichés with classics…” I said to her disapprovingly.
“It’s all potātoes, potătoes with you isn’t it?”
The dream persists.
I’ve been thinking about the future recently. And the past. And the present. Frankly about time and all its components. This thing I can’t shake off as being linear when in fact its quite multi-directional. This thing I can’t help but personify and then blame because it’s easier to blame personifications as opposed to lifeless abstracts – at least life in our own sense of the word (we all know abstract things have their own way of living), as opposed to real people- your self most especially. It’s hard to blame yourself after all, to take responsibility, as though you’re a child calling out the dog when in fact you broke the antique vase in the living room. We never lose our “childishness”. We forget sometimes, but we never lose it: our fears, our dreads, our wishful thinking, our little curiosity-driven braveries.
Today, however, as part of a remarkable change, I’m not here to point fingers. It was never my intention to look back, confused, and then up ahead, even more confused, and then yell to an infinite abyss “It’s all your fault.” I’ve out grown that. I think.
But I do still look back quite frequently. And then onwards. Seeing obscure figures traced and lost by flickering memories. Seeing history, or perhaps our stories meshed like collective shadows, not knowing endings or beginnings. Just you, as a child- getting bigger and more tired but evidently still as mischievous and curious and well, silly. Dillydallying with anything you can dillydally with. Utterly, wonderfully silly.
I’ve come to find that as you grow older you begin to dream of simpler things. But the tricky bit that no one warned you about is that the simplest dreams can be the most complicated paths to pursue. Complicated and difficult but you pursue it with a delicate ease simply because, and as I’ve mentioned, you’re still the same old child who got bigger but just as silly, in fact more so, and dreams, well, dreams are the sort of things you dillydally with the most.
Today, I look back at my dreams and then I see the current dream I am holding and I wonder about the current dreams I’ve yet to hold.
Back then I had different dreams for every day of the week. On Mondays I wanted to be a doctor. On Tuesdays I was a chef in my own restaurant serving up world cuisines. On Wednesdays, I was a fireman. And on Thursdays, I wanted to be a chair- the sort people sat on for hours and hours so they can read or watch television and think about things. Then on Fridays I’m a teacher for the barrios and on weekends, I was just my self. And the next week comes with another set of things to be. Whatever I want to be. They said I can and I believed them. The funny bit is, I still do. I can be anything I want to be, even a chair. But what I learned is that it takes a little time- time I think I don’t have, and it takes a little patience, something I run out of quite easily, and most especially, it takes a lot of dreaming. At least I have that on my side.
And then I grew up, but only a little bit and I said to myself: I want to change the world. Those years when you think you could be president or a renowned activist. Helping people, alleviating societal ills. Saving the country and the people from the very dooms we put upon ourselves. Tiring dreams. Tiring thoughts. It makes me weary just remembering them. But they were such fine dreams nonetheless. Those days, you scurried amidst the streets looking for a revolution and you would almost always get lost, finding only little outbursts from angry, old misfits and other impoverished dreamers. Those wonderful times. The times you fought for something and you fought hard with bloody idealisms that can put brass knuckles to shame. The sort of idealisms that got carried away, and sometimes, even afraid, confused, lost. But they would pucker up a punch nonetheless, swinging left hooks in the right ways.
And then I grew up some more (but not enough). And I said to myself: Today, I want to be selfish and I want to make art. But at the back of my mind, I prayed that my art would somehow stir up a little change, a little thought, a bit of an uproar in my slumbering society, simply as unintentional, collateral damage. Fleming had his serendipity, why can’t I? So I cradled these dreams and I let them live in my head and I gave them food for thought. And I smiled to myself. Thinking: how silly of me. Completely and utterly silly. Wonderfully silly. It’s the silliness I can’t really rid myself of. But I’ve taken a liking to it. Like a stray cat you learn to love.
Now…now the dream in my hand has no name but it tugs the most, like a cold hand of a gnawing sensitivity, pulling at your heartstrings. This longing for something you can’t put your finger on. Sometimes, when security kisses you on the brow, you realize that all these paths that had somehow revealed themselves to you still lead to obscure yet unwinding roads. Sure, they now have street signs but the alley narrows and fades and dims and you quite easily forget what you’re stepping on and where you’re heading to. In other words, security is not as reassuring as it made itself look. Or maybe, I was never a fan of security to begin with. I guess it’s that silly child again, evading responsibility, wanting to go out in forests looking for spirits and adventure. Admiring all the lost boys in Neverland. Dreaming of purpose and meaning and wonderful, wonderful infinite fun. Maybe the dream is to wake up but to still keep dreaming. Not daydreams. Not that sort. Something else. This poking paradox: to grow up but to remain a child, to stay both in dream and reality, to walk uncertain roads with optimistic certainty. To do everything, all at once, and be everything you wanted to be- just as they had said, just as they had told you when they read you bedtime stories and sent you off to sleep. Be everything and when you’re lucky be your self as well.
In some ways, we are like time. I’ve come to realize. We can’t help but think of ourselves, as something linear, treading forward in one dirt road when in fact, we are perhaps, spreading everywhere in an instance. Quite multi-directional beings. Never understanding its own condition. Never knowing how to be. Simply be and with that finally, realize everything. Become everything. Like the beautiful Buddhists who figured out the secret of the paradox, becoming infinite in the connective stillness of their selves.
I’ve no illusions with certainty and answers. I have none of them after all. Just a hope that when I grow up a bit more, I get to be as nimble and flexible as old time. Perhaps, that is my current dream: to understand what it means to stretch. To stretch yourself and become. To come to be in the multiplicities of your personhood. It seems like a lovely dream to dream of. Perhaps, it can be mine for the meantime.
You see, I fell in love with her when she walked by. When she struggled for spare change outside. Waiting in line. The look of wanting painted on her face- “Jesus let me have a break” echoing in her crooked brow, her pained lip. Alienation is not being able to afford the things you’ve made or worked for, the dreams you dreamt. And that was how she looked. Like Marx’s martyr waiting for her revolution… The one that never came, not fully. (No pun intended. This time I mean it.)
Like a longing for something else.
A striving just to make it somewhere.
A gun waiting to fire. (And I sort of wanted to pull the trigger but I knew it was her prerogative. And only hers. I respected that.)
/Yes, I fell in love with her./
And then, so easily, I forgot her when she left.
And then so easily, I fell in love with someone else- the next in line, the second sad soul of the day.
Intensely but momentarily.
I gave myself. And then I regain it. All of me. The whole of me. Leaving but a lock of hair in a clinching fist, in a clinging memory.
Knowing there’s always more to give. Unafraid of this type of losing.
It’s the best sort of romance:
To love completely but only in bits of time. Intensely in contained moments. At least, until I can fathom ‘forever’.
I’m going to make art for the rest of my life. I’m going to make silly, obscure little things because it feels right, because when I do, it’s when I’m at peace the most. I’m going to pursue something I love. But when all is said and done, I secretly hope, that because of my obscure, little triflings with words and scribbles and lines and ink, social change is produced as collateral damage, an unintentional by-product. How’s this for wishful thinking? How’s this for dilly-dallying with grandeur?