Inabot ako ng sampung taon upang mahinuha ang ugali ng mga lihim
At kung bakit sila takot sa liwanag.
Inabot ako ng sampung taon muli upang tanggapin
Na sadyang madulas ang gawi ng mga labi.
At madalas, nagtutunggalian ang dalwa.
Dito tuloy, sa eskinita ng ating balangkas, kung saan marikit ang liwanag at madulas ang dilim:
Ano ngayon ang gagawin ko sa mga letrang hinalik mo sa aking pisngi?
Itong mga letrang inukit mo sa bubong ng aking bibig
Mga parilalang nangangapa ng kanilang mga tuldok.
Naghahanap ng pagtatapos.
Hindi ko sila mabigkas o malunok.
Naroroon sila, nakasalumbitin:
Mga mapapaklang tamis na marunong kumagat.
Mga maaanghang na pandiwang hindi natutunan ang kahulugan ng kanilang kilos.
Tahimik. Sa dulo ng aking dila.
Maingay sa ilalim ng aking ala-ala.
Ano nga ba itong liham na hindi natin natutunang ipadala?
Ano nang katapusan ang ating ipapakilala sa isang sanaysay
Na hindi naranas ang init ng isang tenga?
Sa ating kwentong nabaon sa gulo ng ating katahimikan?
Sa ingay ng ating duda?
Ipapaubaya na lamang ba natin itong mga munting kataga
Sa isang karterong walang kamalay-malay sa bigat ng liham
na kaniyang dala-dala?
Nagmimistulang pipi nga siguro ang mga sumisilakbong puso
Takot sa ingay ng sarili nilang pulso.
Sa tapang ng lasing na plumang
Walang mahanap na lengwaheng maitatawag na tahanan.
"Don’t do anything stupid." She said.
"Too late." I whispered in mid-air. I had jumped. Off the cliff in Cadaques, Costa Brava. To the most glorious side of the Mediterranean waters I have ever seen, perhaps, the only side, where I swear, if I closed my eyes, I could taste the saltiness of home, the cool wind of the old house during monsoon season, when Manila is darkest and dampest but sweetest. Like wet, ripe mangoes in a far off childhood.
I plummeted. Something less than graceful.
It wasn’t suicide. Wasn’t my intention. Hardly crossed my mind. Trust me, I know my suicides like the back of my hand. I’ve read about them! A lot! Okay, so not really like the back of my hand, more like the back of my leg: this awkward, misshapen, overly large, contracting muscle in my calf. Like that! This very clumsy, muscular calf I had inherited from you. (Damn genes, always fitting in the wrong places.) I knew it like that: Something large and concrete in the back of me but I barely saw it. The sort of knowledge that comes with a forgotten familiarity that didn’t mind being forgotten. It was mine whether I like it or not. Mine, though I had forgotten about it. (Now, I understand the perplexity of these sinews! Now, when there isn’t any canvass around or model or Sir Diaz badgering me about depth and lines and strokes. Por Dios por santo! The timing of it all!)
Anyway, I jumped.
The wind called to me. I had forgotten myself, I had forgotten the Earth, every law of Newtonian physics blandly ingrained during high school. I was coming to be one forgetful loco-loco, I had realized. I stayed down as long as my lungs would allow me (which wasn’t very long but it felt like an eternity, or so Luce had told me). I watch the cold blue around me, the frantic bubbles scrambling towards the surface (like air gasping for its own air, it was funny). I bet they were looking at me too wondering why I wasn’t swimming upward, why I chose to stay. Before I could answer, a hand pulled me up.
Luce. She had jumped too.
And when I surfaced, I smiled the happiest, most innocent smile I could manage and she looked at me- white as a ghost, ten years older, nauseous, too tired or I guess, too confused to scrunch her face or cross her eyebrows and scold the living daylight right out of me- like you used to, harshly, with words that can put a sailor to shame- the most motherly way, now I look back on it.
"I’m never going for a walk with you ever again!" She told me, half-angry, half-relieved.
I laughed. So loud she had wanted to drag me up the cliff and throw me down the ocean herself. But she didn’t. Was afraid I wouldn’t come up a second time. (One can only get so lucky or was it the other way around for her? What does it matter- she had jumped. This grinch, this Scrooge, this black cat, chose to get wet! It was the biggest surprise of the day!)
What did I tell you, Mama! Didn’t I tell you! Stupidity takes you places. Far, far away places like the sea, like the old house, like Barcelona. And maybe one day, it might even lead me back home.
We moan in the motels just the same. We fall in brothels because intensity, tenderness- they can all brew in shabby rooms with overly bleached sheets, in dark, shady back alleys of bars, behind garbage bins with angry graffiti, beneath lonely stories… in the short embrace of a one-night stand, before the door clicks in the morning, before the hangover comes. We can use each other in our loneliness and say goodbye when we are satisfied and still remember: we had loved.
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.