Reviving dented dreams.

"My god these dreams are heavy! But I don't dare put them down."

Lost soul in the Van Gogh crevice. Wishful thinker in the madness metropolis. Elemental. Determined. Moon burnt. Sun kissed. Solitary being. Child.ish. A sucker for wild things. And honest conversation.

A twenty-something misfit that hasn't come of age. Stubborn in all the wrong things. Empty in all the right ways.

Drop a line. Share your sense of mind. I dare you: tell me something raw.

For Luce.

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.

On time and dreams and being.

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. 

“I just want to make art and be happy. Why does that feel like such a selfish thing to ask for?”

—   Katha, from Suicidal Bliss.

The only thing I’ve ever known of it is that it comes in brisk flings. Intense. But brisk.

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’ve decided to be selfish.

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? 

The Nature of Romance.

It starts in an empty music hall: Cold hardwood floor- polished. Rows and rows of silent seats with semi-worn out cushions but still very functional. A grand piano in the middle of an even grander stage. Red curtains- parted like a sea, delicately so that Moses would’ve been proud. The old place calling like a tug, a wanting.

                  And then she sneaks in. Takes a deep breath from the place. Keeps the air in her lungs and then releases it. Worn out rubber echoing against shinning wood. Footsteps having a touch at grandeur. She’s never seen a grand piano like that before, only from the movies. Old, fuzzy black and white things, intermittent with static that replayed in her head ever since she could remember.

                  She reaches out. Hesitates. For the longest pause, she waits, holding her breath. And then she leaps.

Dirty fingers scandalously caressing ivory keys. Smudging against a perfect black.

“So this is how it feels.” She whispers to her self, under her breath, over her head. “The real deal”

She taught herself to play: 13 years old, lounging unwantedly in a junk shop with a collection of discarded but still generally useable musical instruments, a shabby place that doubles as a sari-sari store along Recto, in a building that seems as though it doesn’t belong there anymore. Stealing hours until finally the old boss offers her a job. She cleans and then when everyone else was away, she plays. Reading the books, peeping at the music sheets beneath every body else’s busy noses. Having her way with the dusty, beaten up keys. Crooked but in tune.

They don’t mind her. No one minds her. Maybe because they don’t notice, maybe because raw music and childhood dreams are relics and they were surrounded by too many relics already.

                  She’s 17 now. A student at the conservatory. Full scholarship. Still no parents.

                  She takes a seat. And then she takes in the moment. Letting it linger.  Filling her lungs with memory.

And then she begins to play. Slowly. Sheepishly. Audaciously, in a grand hall with a faint trailing of an abandoned essence: memories of the people that had played there, the countless faces exalted and consumed by time, the protégés of then, the makers of a dying age, of a lingering blues and a lonely Jazz. Hollow shadows haunting or blessing the old place. (No one could really tell which).

“Lady sings the blues so well…” She sings. “As if she mean it…“

                                    “As if it’s hell down here. In the smoke filled world.“

                                                      “Where the jokes are cold.

                                                                        They don’t laugh at jokes.                                         They—“

 

                  All of a sudden, heavy breaths bottling up a saline storm enter. A shaky voice whimpers in the dark. A red nose, flustered cheeks, wet eyes outline themselves bit by bit.  

She stops herself from playing. Dumbfounded. Round eyes. An open mouth. A rather idiotic expression like a cow caught in the headlights—off guard and defenseless.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think anyone was here.” She wipes her face, collects herself. Inhaling deeply, exhaling sharply with an expression just as surprised but twice as idiotic.

“I was just…” She gestures to a past that isn’t there, to an excuse that hasn’t revealed itself, groping the air for a believable alibi.

“…I was looking for something…”

She remains silent, sitting behind the piano. Minding herself. Believing silence will reveal sufficient responses when she couldn’t find any.

“Um…” She says. She wanted to ask what but that was all that came out. She had forgotten how to speak.

“…I can’t remember when I last had it.“ She pretends to look around. “San na ba ‘yun…” she murmurs to herself. And then she looks at the girl, staring at her. “Uh, you’re… you’re a student here aren’t you? I… I saw you at registration the other day. Freshman ka ba?”

She shakes her head.

“Second year?”

She nods.

“So, uh…how… how do you like it here? One of the oldest Universities in Manila. The oldest if I’m not mistaken… What’s your major?” She tries to hide her shaking hands by covering it up with shaky gestures.

                  She blinks. Twice. Dumbly and awkwardly. A tad bit apologetically. She points at the piano.

“Oh. Nice, nice.” She smiles as she rubs her hands on her jeans, sweaty palms causing up a flood. “Very nice. I… I’m a student too. Graduating. Supposedly. But well…” The memory irritates her. She tries to hold her composure but it wouldn’t let her. “Profs here can be real assholes.” She smiles wryly. Hands fumbling nervously. She remembers something else- wounds by old time, scorned history, tainted futures, coldness. “And so can a lot of other people.” She rolls her eyes. Flashes the same hard, wry smile.

“Oh.” She manages to choke out. “Sorry.”

“I… I don’t mean you a! Christ, no! I… it’s been a long day that’s all. Sorry. Jesus! Must think I’m crazy. I’m not. I just… It’s been a long day. This rarely happens, I promise. Fucking Christ! Sorry! Look at me using saintly words like a sailor. Holy names make the best curses, I guess.” She laughs nervously. She on the other hand, smiles politely, a nervous gulp stuck in her throat, getting impatient.

 “Sorry, that was inappropriate, wasn’t it?”

“Ok lang.” She shrugs.

 “I’m… I’m normal, I assure you. But then again, what’s normal? Aren’t we all a little mad?” She jokes and laughs loudly, uncontrollably, painfully at herself. The girl behind the piano doesn’t. The nervous gulp releases itself.

“Sorry.” She clears her throat. “I’m… I’m normal. I promise.”

“I’m sure.” She doesn’t sound so convinced but she humors her.

  “I am. I’m…n…” She bites her tongue. Closes her eyes and holds herself down. “I’m Kat.” She smiles again beneath her breath. She reaches out her hand. They shake hands uncomfortably.

“Jo.”

Some shuffling of body weight. Loud gulps here and there. A long pause without any breaths or breaks or ease.

And then:

“Um…ano hinahanap mo? Maybe I can help…” Jo realigns her voice box. It can work again.

“What are we all looking for, really?” She says with a sigh and a troubled expression.

“Philo major?” She teases.

“A, no. I just tend to say the weirdest things on the longest days.”

She smiles understandingly. And then she sighs.

They both sigh.

Jo looks at her and then at the piano and then at her again and then to the rest of the empty hall. Kat stares at her, at the big instrument wedged between them. She gets the cue. Finally.

“Oh. Oh! Sorry. You’re… you’re obviously rehearsing and I… I guess I’ve got something to do too. Senior and all. Busy. Lahat tayo busy.” Sweat builds up like rosary beads on her forehead. She wipes it with her hanky. Learning to pray as she does. “I…I’ll leave you. I… I’ll go.” She mumbles. And then she walks off stage quickly, heels clanking against the boards.

“Uhm…” Jo stands up.

Kat stops abruptly. She turns and then she looks behind her. “Nice meeting you.” And then she makes her way again. Her embarrassed form eaten by the shadows of backstage.

                  Jo doesn’t know what to make of that encounter so she shakes it off. Ignorance can be bliss in certain circumstances. She continues her little indulgence. She continues playing the song stuck in her throat, in her fingers.

                  “They laugh at tragedies …” She sings. “Corner street societies…“

                  “But they believe her. They never leave her—“

                  Clicking heels tap against the floor. “Wala ka bang nakitang ano—” Kat comes back. Loudly.

Surprised, Jo accidently presses the wrong keys. She swallows the phrase she was about to sing.

“Sorry, you were rehearsing. I’ll come back” She begins to walk away.

“Okay lang.”

Kat stops and sits behind the piano next to Jo.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you… It’s just that…”

“Okay nga lang.” She says with more emphasis and a condoning smile.

There is silence. One that’s relatively easier now, more comfortable, less daunting. Jo looks around the hall smilingly. Kat looks at the piano pretending to examine it.

“You… you like the piano?”

She nods. “It is my major after all. Be a shame if I didn’t.”

“Right. Silly question, sorry.”

“Sorry ka ng sorry.”

“Force of habit. I like the way remorse rolls off the tongue.”

“Di ka talaga Philo major?”

She smiles and shakes her head. “Sorry.”

Jo chuckles quietly. “Nothing wrong if you were.”

Pause.

                  “What’s your major then?”

                  “Educ.”

                  “A! cool.”

Another pause.

                  “Uhm… you were looking for something…”

                  “Onga pala…”

                  “Ano nga ba hinahanap mo? If you don’t mind me asking”

                  “You’d laugh.”

                  “Try me.”

                  “It’s personal. Sort of”

                  “Condom?” She grins teasingly.

                  “HINDI!” She says embarrassed.

                  “I was just joking.” She laughs. Kat laughs too, sort of.

                  “Not looking for anything that promises to make something safe when all it does is lessen risks.”

                  “Huh?”

                   “It lessens I guess, but not sufficiently.”

                   “Oh.” She pretends to understand her.

                   “I’m looking for something else. Less pretentious, more honest.”

                   “Akala ko naman tipong ID hinahanap mo.”

                   “Pwede din. Identity. My self- di ko pa nahahanap ‘yun.”

                   Jo gulps nervously. “So you’re looking for metaphors?” She humors her.

                   She stares at Jo. She blinks. Twice. More dumbly and more awkwardly. She nods faintly. “I guess?”

                   “That’s kind of hard to find.”

                   “Aren’t you looking for anything?”

                   “Kanina.”

                   “Ano?”

                   “Yung registrar’s office.” She laughs softly. Kat laughs partly.

                   “Sorry. Must think I’m so strange…”

                   “Hindi naman. Sakto lang.”

One more pause.

                  “Okay lang sa’yo lahat ng bagay noh?…” Kat starts.

                  “Ha?”

                  “Kanina ka pa okay lang ng okay lang eh.” She smiles.

                  “A. Eh, ikaw kanina ka pa sorry ng sorry.”

                  “I told you I like remorse.”

                  “And I like reassurance. I guess we all have our favorite phrases”

                  Kat smiles. Her eyes still relatively wet, cheeks still flushed, a pained expression mildly imprinted on her face.

                  “Okay ka lang ba?”

                  “What do you mean?”

                  “Is there any other meaning to the question?”

                  “Okay lang ako.”

                  “Are you sure?”

                  “No one’s ever sure of anything.”

                  “Never a straight answer with you is there?”

                  “I don’t like anything straight. Ang pretentious din. Parang condom.”

                  Jo laughs. And then Kat laughs. “I mean…”

                  “I understand. Sort of.”

                  Kat sighs smilingly. The sad, troubled expression remaining on her face.

                  “Could you be frank with me, then?” Jo says rather authoritatively. “I’m a stranger, the type that can keep secrets and the type that doesn’t have to matter. Ano nangyari?”

                  “Wala. Small things wrapped up in a long story.”

                   “I’ve got time.”

                   “I don’t know if I have the trust.”

                   “You don’t have to trust me. You’re just telling me a story.”

Pause. Contemplative. Pros and cons dangling.

“It’s… my friend.”

Jo chuckles.

“What?”

“Nothing. It’s just… It’s funny, how we all have this sudden compulsion to talk about our “friends” when our secrets are involved.”

“It’s my story…”

“I’m sorry, go ahead.”

“It’s my friend…”

“What happened to her?”

“Shit. But then again, shit happens to everybody.”

Jo stares at her smilingly urging her to go on.

“She… well… she’s pregnant and she got delayed because the professor who got her pregnant is an asshole and she… well, she’s having the longest day of her life.”

They both sigh.

“I thought it was about small things in a long story?”

“It is…”

“Well that was relatively big and brief.”

“I rewrote it.”

Another pause.

                  “I’m sorry.” Jo mutters.

                  “It’s okay.”

                  “I don’t know what to say. I’ve got ears but no advice, no consolations.”

                  “Wasn’t asking for any.”

                  “Do you want to cry?”

                  “I do… well I did. I do…”

                  “And?”

                  “Well you were here and I ran out of places to run off to.”

                  “Sorry. I’ll leave.” She stands up.

“NO! DON’T! I mean… don’t” She pulls her back. Her eyes are tearing up again but nothing really comes out.

“Okay.” She sits back beside her. They both stare at the piano. Still. Soundless.

One last pause.

                  “Why the piano?”

                  “I don’t know. It felt right when I first played it. It’s sad but not too sad. And it can be happy when it wants to. I just like it.”

                  “Must be nice finding something that fits.”

                  “Do you play?”

                  “No. I’m not really into music.”

                  “WHO ISN’T INTO MUSIC?!”

                  Kat laughs.

                  “What?”

                  “Of all the ridiculous things I’ve said, you get riled up about this.”

                  Jo laughs. They both laugh.

                  “It’s not that I hate it. I guess, I haven’t really heard something I took a liking to, you know? I can live without it, that’s all…”

                  “No wonder you have such long days!”

                  “If only music could make them shorter.” The melancholic expression resurfaces.

                  “You’ll be fine. You’ll know what to do when you really have to do something.”

Kat stares at her. And then she laughs bitterly. A loud bitterness.

                  “I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?”

                  “No.” Kat says between heavy breathing and loud laughter.

                  “Then what?”

                  “You said it so convincingly.” She stops herself, breathes deeply and regains control. She sits up straight and fixes her face. “I almost believed you there.”

                  Jo stares puzzled.

                  “You said I’ll be fine.” She laughs again.

                  Jo just looked at her understandingly. “I meant it.”

                  She almost broke down into sobs but she stopped herself. She gave out a rather melancholic laugh instead, a sheepish, apologetic laugh. “I’m sorry. I’m… I can be weird sometimes.”

                  Jo laughs. They both laugh. “Okay lang.”

Kat breathes deeply. She pulls herself together. “I should go and you should get back to your piano. I’m sorry. I… I’ll go. Sorry. A…and thanks!”

                  Jo smiles.

                  Kat smiles and then she gets up and then she makes her way off stage.

 Jo looks at the piano and then Kat as she walks away, and then the piano again. She smiles. She closes her eyes and she sings the blues like Spektor’s Lady.

                  A heaviness eats the room. A tune swallows everything. Ringing in the halls: a melody that allows itself to be felt. Electric. Controlled, contained and yet spontaneous. A denied climax that is sufficiently enlivening. Beats twirling. A pulse clicking in precise eruptions. Passion. Not stunted but exercised. On cue. In heat. A bordered mess.  A collected infinity.

                  A lovely sadness. That was how it sounded. That was how she sounded. She fades forgetting everything as she plays. The world is only music now, only notes in the air, only her in the dark, only Jazz, only blue. Only night. Only dream. Only slow and steady time, pouring.

                  Kat stops herself before leaving the hall entirely. She turns back. She sees Jo. She walks near her, quietly. She watches her.

                  “While she sings she make them feel things.”

Jo sings.

“She says…

I can sing this song so blue…”

                                    “That you will cry…”

She opens her eyes and sees Kat directly in front of her.

“In spite of you.”

She looks at Kat. Her eyes glistening, nose still red, cheeks still flushed. She stares her down.

                  Kat forgets herself and she kisses Jo abruptly. She sits beside her, her hands sliding everywhere, softly but hungrily, uncontrollably. She slides her fingers beneath Jo’s shirt, playing her like an instrument. Calling the bluff of her blues. Things she doesn’t know take over her. Heavy breaths, wild panting. Primal feeling, overcoming her. And the saline storm releases itself.

                  Jo sits there motionless. Her lips kiss back but the rest of her remain unmoving. She takes everything. And she gives herself. The whole of herself.

                  They give themselves completely, unknowingly and openly. For a moment their hearts weren’t theirs. For a moment their selves weren’t theirs but each other’s. For a moment, they were selfless.

                  The music continues to play. A saxophone rises with its tune; a wailing trumpet makes its way. A soft piano continues to prance. The saddest note, the loveliest dance.

Suddenly:

                  “Jo? You in here?” A stranger yells, a figure in the dark, somewhat unwelcomed.

                  The lights open. The door of the hall opens and the secret releases itself, stops itself before it becomes someone else’s. The moment ends. The two stop before anyone else steals their time. Their sacred time. And they retrieve their selves once more. Collecting the whole they’ve offered.

                  Both of them red and breathless. Flustered and undone.

                  “I… I’m sorry.” Kat says beneath her breath, over her head.” She swallows hard. Her face hot, salty. Wet.

                  Jo smiles subtly. “Okay lang.” She says for old time’s sake. She let’s out a soft laugh, the softest laugh, and painfully, the sweetest. “I’ll see you around, I guess.” And she stands up and slowly walks away, towards the light, towards the stranger.

                  “What was that?” The stranger asks as they walk towards the end of the stretching hall.

She looks behind her seeing Kat, looking at them but not really seeing anything- silent and confused like a cow caught on the headlights, off guard and longing.

                  She lets out the same laugh: subtle, innocent, the softest and the sweetest—utterly cruel.

                  “Nothing.”  And then she walks away.

“The tragedy of it all is, we, who pretend to need no one, crumple beneath the tug of a lover we could never have.”

—   Mayumi, from Suicidal Bliss

Party Culture. Fragments.

And in our drunkenness, we vomited words.

Secrets really, the type that clung to the bone like hellfire.

Our heads were spinning in the crowd’s backlash.

Are people this rabid?

This repressed and pretentious?

Even when the night is fresh and the alcohol kiss had stuck itself onto everyone?

No one was ready for our honesty.

It was an unwelcomed stranger- even at the beer pong table where shots outnumbered the gun- everyone pulling triggers. Hitting marks.

Even at the kitchen sink where unfamiliar faces gathered together- lobbying to ease their loneliness. Weeping beneath smudged faces and sticky fingers.

Nobody likes to hear themselves revealed and undone. It makes for one nasty hangover the day after. And no one wants that.

Tonight, I am a cliché. (An update on my current predicament because I am secretly, like Wordsworth, an egotistical sublime, a confessional prick— and, tonight, shamefully open.)

Tonight, I am a cliché.

Charcoal fingers twitching.

Lips holding (a)

Cigarette embrace.

Smoke dissipating.

Mixing with French music.

“I don’t understand it but I like it.”

Blind likeness.

Simple.

Those rare occasions where everything is

“pretty”

and

“nice”

and

“okay”.

It makes you want to sob.

It’s okay.

I’m okay.

So this is what it feels like?

Rekindling a forgotten sensitivity.

Or perhaps, I’ve never known…

Contentment could be like this.

So simple.

So still.

A pencil in one hand.

A sketch pad on the other.

Messes everywhere.

Don’t touch it!

Leave it be.

I like this mess.

It’s mine.

As mine as anything can get (which means it ain’t really. In fact, it’s the other way around).

This is how it feels like.

I’ve forgotten this.

And now, I’ve known it—

I’m forgetting myself.

Must be a good day.

And on bad ones:

I forget everyone else.

But it’s alright.

Sometimes faulty memories are assets

When we want the world to go away.

“It’s alright.”

I keep repeating it.

So this is what it’s like:

To say something and mean it.

To believe.

It’s new.

I think I might like it.

It’s too early to tell…

But I might like it, in fact, just as much as my melancholy.

Now that’s saying something.

Officially turning my room into an “art” piece before our house gets knocked down. Madness wall semi-done (it just needs strangers’ secrets. Fitting that my closet will be filled with secrets. It suits me. Never been one to fill closets with clothes. Can’t afford them. Then again, secrets are rather expensive things as well. Anyway…) Up next: Dream pit. Boredom is my best ally sometimes— at others, the worst.

An excerpt from Suicidal Bliss

CJ:

You shouldn't trust anything that makes a living out of making things up. They're dangerous things.

Katha:

But aren't we all make believing anyway?

CJ:

We're not children. Make believe is for children. We've got to grow up sometime.

Katha:

No one really grows up, I think. We'd like to believe we do but we don't. We only grow. And sometimes we shrink. But we never grow up. Now, that's just everybody else playing make believe while calling it something else.