Diseased

Water rained on me
Cold fingers, uncertain death
Sore throat, fevered chills

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And so my mother offered me a jar of cookies, a bottle of water and two tablets of medicine. I also lost control of my bladder. I must be really sick!

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A play on HOPE

Hope is just one word
Yet it means the world for some
In varied degrees

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Honestly, I am frustrated about this concept of “hope” and the different ways it can be said. I’m currently reflecting on the paper that I will be presenting on Wednesday next week. There are just so many things lost in translation. The nuances which are important can be easily lost in the tide of a foreign language.

Strange Commutes

I was inspired to write this while reading a book about the history of Negros.

The Historian

While the sun struggled against the night, already a jeepney was on its way to getting its full assemblage of passengers. On this cold morning, only the barker could be heard. His energetic voice and frenetic movements herded the people, silent like sheep, into the jeepney.

Each face was remarkably strained as if in silent refusal to be divorced from the bed so early in the morning. In the weak pre-dawn light,  everybody looked gray.

One young woman, however, was more reluctant than most to enter the jeepney. Perhaps lamenting over the injustice of having to wake up so early; perhaps because she is so young compared with all the rest; perhaps it was just about the pre-dawn gloom. Yet her movements were sharp and graceful–betraying an awareness so unlike one who was sleepy. Her motions were not at all sluggish like the others. Then the single light inside the jeepney revealed clear eyes and a fresh beautiful face. Those who saw her under the light briefly gasped without sound. They had the creeping superstition that the sun would rise much faster in sheer jealousy of the young beauty.

Moving down the vehicle, the quiet beauty was oblivious to how she affected her fellow passengers. She took the seat behind the driver, hugging the corner and it seemed as if she gathered the darkness closer to her, like a cloak protecting her. As soon as she faded into the corner, the other passengers proceeded to see to their own comforts, moving this way and that; reaching up to grab the handle bar above and burrowing their faces into the crook of their arms. Needless to say, the ride is bound to be long and everyone simply wanted to catch a few more winks during the journey.

As the jeepney started, the morning slowly got brighter and brighter. Some passengers had forgone the chance for extra sleep and began chatting in tones so low they were difficult to hear above the sounds of the jeepney trudging along the uneven paths. The road has yet to be paved and many rocks and ruts jostle the jeepney and its passengers. Each of the passengers have long since learned to move with the jeepney so as to avoid getting off-balance. The trick is to go with the motion instead of resisting because it’s easier to stay on your precarious seat that way.

After an hour, the morning light has blinded most into giving up their attempts to sleep and yet some were still able to burrow their eyes deeper into their arms, slumbering continuously. Also, the morning light had banished the shadows from the jeepney, revealing once more the young woman. Curious, many passengers turned a discreet eye to watch what she will do.

She got her bag and took out a thick sheaf of paper. Then without looking at anyone or anything else, completely absorbed was she with her task, she began reading. Every now and then she would turn the pages and regardless of what is happening around her, her focus never faltered.

All the passengers were amazed but one wily old woman admonished her about getting a headache and ruining her eyes if she continued doing that. For the first time since bringing out the pages of what she was reading, the young woman took her eyes off of the page to look at the old woman. She politely smiled but said nothing. She was clearly used to reading and even seemed capable of doing so in worse situations than the jostling jeepney.

Soon enough, everyone left the young lady alone especially since she was looking more and more disturbed with every page she turned. Her expression grew darker and sadder as she moved her hands. Some hours had passed and the jeepney had finally reached its destination. Entering the city, the young lady put away her reading materials and  quickly swiped at her eyes. The old woman touched her hand and asked her why she was crying. The young lady smiled softly and said, I’m too soft-hearted to be a good historian.”

That was all she could say because the jeepney had stopped and they all hurried to get down. The old woman, the other passengers and the young woman herself forgot what had happened. All were silently concentrating on the act of getting down from the jeepney.

Strange Commutes

Have you ever been to the Philippines? Have you ever ridden a jeepney (formally called public utility jitneys or PUJs)? For most Filipinos, riding a jeepney is a regular occurrence that doesn’t even bear a second thought. However, we all know that each jeepney ride is unique in the sense of the things that you notice, the things that you do and the things that happen. Whether it was an annoying seatmate, cramped spaces or heavy traffic a single ride is an experience worth going through for itself.

Unemployment

Clutching the white folder and the red plastic envelope in my fist, I could not care less about ruining what was in my hand. I gripped the handle above me and tried to hide my face. I was hiding my face because I am crying.

I see a woman across from me. She looks sympathetic. She’s the only one who knows that I’m crying. All the rest are minding their own business. I want to rip her judging eyes out so that she can stop staring. I’m grateful for my restraint that tears are not falling. However I know that my eyes are watering up…and that staring woman is making it worse!

Sitting in front of me, judging me. God I hate her. I stared back down at my hand and I see that goddamned white folder again. Along with my red plastic envelope. The envelope contains my life and the white folder is the ticket to my dreams. Unfortunately, the plane to the dream had crashed and there’s nothing I can do to save it.

That’s why I’m crying. And that’s why that woman keeps staring. She knows. Fortunately, she’s the only one who knows. And I don’t know her. So she doesn’t matter. Not really. But she knows. Who cares if she knows? I don’t!

Are We Done Now?

A solitary man stood on the balcony. His scrawny frame could have easily been carried by the strong, cold winds of the night. Fortunately, his stubbornness to stay on God’s green Earth keeps his feet on solid ground.

They say that the world is moved by opposite forces. Matter, antimatter. Thesis, antithesis. Good, evil. Life and death. The old man reflects grimly at the fact that once he reenters the room behind him, all the forces of death will concentrate upon him while he is immediately and ironically immersed in life.

The sounds of the raucous party moves towards the balcony only to be swallowed by the silence of the night. He hated the fact that human existence on Earth could be easily erased by nature. If people abandon the building, you can bet your whole savings that it will be weathered, beaten, grown upon and crushed under the weight of other beings moving on. Existing in that space without you, until every trace of your existence has been eroded.

Suddenly, a figure enters the periphery of the old man’s rheumy vision. Without turning to him, he speaks to the unknown figure, “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

The figure responds clearly, “You have done very well for yourself. You deserve your final reward.”

“Finally.”

A strong gust of wind blew across the balcony, ruffling the curtains inside the room. For the people inside the party who felt the sudden cold believed for one second that Death had brushed by them. Shaking off such ridiculous superstitions, they proceeded to close the doors to the balcony to effectively ward off the cold night.

Of Sleep and Other Nightmares

I wrote this specifically for this blog. I sometimes get haunted by insomnia and I thought that it might be an interesting theme for me to write about. So these are three different stories, inspired by different day dreams that I’ve had in the past.

Haunted existence

Last night, I was unable to sleep at all. I slept only when the sun started to pour into my window and as I ran out of things to do with my things. Truth is, I avoid waking up as much as I want to avoid sleeping. I avoid sleep because it’s dark out there. I avoid my life because I’m too lazy. I like staying in my room. I don’t like going out. But I would often look out the window and wonder at the lives of other people, then I dream that I am a part of it.

Last night, I was shaken out of my solitary reverie as I heard my neighbor knocking at her house. She was calling for her son and daughter, asking them to open the door. She decided that what she was doing was futile and soon she was knocking everywhere–the windows, the walls, anywhere she could reach.

She kept on knocking and knocking. I wonder why no one answered the door because I could hear scurryings, the noise of comings and goings from the house next door. She kept it up. Again and again. Persistent. Relentless. Bone coated with human flesh beating hard against wood or glass. Her voice carried by the wind. Calling. Jessica. Jason. The door. Please. Open.

The cacophony of the woman next door was oddly one of the most relaxing things I’ve heard in a long while. I finally felt as if it was safe to sleep, knowing that if the lady next door can survive the darkness, I can surely survive the night.

Early warning signs

It was a peaceful night. The night wind was brisk but with the caffeine warming my veins, I braved the cold winds to trudge on home. It was a satisfying feeling to watch the fog wreath the lamplight in a mystical cloak, making the light dreamy and unreal. On the street, I was the only soul moving along its slick path with houses on both sides of me in deep slumber, sheltering its inhabitants by effectively keeping the cold away. Although I wore a warm coat that night, the winds still whistled its cool tunes along my ears–so cold it made my ears uncomfortably warm.

I just got home from a satisfying bout of drinking coffee and chatting with my closest friends. It was the perfect end after a long day of working. Teaching students may have been my choice among other possible career choices, but it was not an easy one. Every single day with those students is a veritable challenge, draining and yet I am always oddly fulfilled. That feeling could be the effect of both caffeine and nicotine as well as the high you get when you get rid of extreme nervousness.

And so I enter my house, energized yet drained. Restless yet tired. After brushing my teeth and other rudimentary nightly rituals, I lay in bed. Sated as if after a hard round with the best of the best. I lay awake thinking about all the great things that happened that day and without warning, I fell asleep.

I suddenly woke to the sound of a sharp bark. Soon, that bark was echoed by all the dogs in the neighborhood. They were barking their heads off but everything in the neighborhood was quiet and still. Then just as suddenly as they started, the dogs stopped but the earth started moving. My walls started making noise. I could hear the wood panels creaking and the cement crumbling.

However, it was all over too soon. It was around 4am.

My secret life

When I was much younger, my room was missing a portion of the ceiling. So at night, I could see the moonlight laying bare the beams that should have been covered. Of course, I also see a mysterious cavern whose shadows the moon cannot penetrate. In the imagination of my young mind, I can see what the shadows protect, hidden just under the roof.

Even as a child, it was never easy for me to go to sleep. Even if I close my eyes, I would imagine myself climbing up to the mysterious space between the ceiling and the roof. In my mind, I knew that there would be a giant spider. A spider so big that it can eat me whole and still hunger for more.

I knew without a doubt that this spider would never do me any harm. In fact, this spider has the magic of wishes. Not the smart aleck kind of wishes that genies have or other obtuse wish-granting magical creatures. This spider can see in your head and make possible the dreams that you conjure. The dreams that the spider grants are not the random dreams that you get during the night…but the dreams that you yearn for during the day when you are wide awake and in full control of what you want to happen in your mind.

When you make your wish to the spider through your mind, it will make your wish come true. However you have to go to the spider to claim your wish but if you have not claimed your wish, they will just simply accumulate in that mysterious space between the ceiling and the roof. Since I was so scared of the dark, every night I would wish for as many things as I could in the hopes that the ceiling will collapse under the weight of my wishes. But the ceiling remained strong…and I couldn’t come up with the courage to venture there during the night.

One day, I climbed up to the ceiling to take a little peak at that mysterious space but the sun would banish it with its light and I never saw my spider. Perhaps my magical spider and my wishes only appear at night. Continuously, I would wish to that magical spider, still hoping that the ceiling will collapse under the weight of my wishes.

Then, I started to forget about magical spiders. I stopped wishing. When our house was demolished so that we could build a new house, I didn’t even remember the spider or my wishes. I guess it was just my imagination and the spider wasn’t real. But that’s just another guess…like my guess that a magical spider exists. Which one is the truth?