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Everything in Between (Chapter 5)

IN BETWEEN CLASSES

It’s funny how one person enters your life and your world is changed forever. You think you’re doing just fine minding your own business but he shows up and suddenly you know what you’ve been missing all along. Then you talk with him for an hour and it feels like you’ve known him all your life.

I didn’t expect that first conversations could turn out like that. Even though we didn’t talk about personal things (we were mostly reviewing for the Math exam), I still felt close to him. I still felt a connection. It was in those pauses and inflections and facial expressions. It was in the air between us.

I didn’t even know why I told him that the distance between us was just a heartbeat. You know, I was trying to make a good impression and I already embarrassed myself by saying something that might have been lyrics from an ancient song. I blushed furiously and waited for him to snort or laugh or roll his eyes or tell me I’m corny. Or all of them. But he just looked at me with that kind of interest you only give either to famous people or to freaks of nature. Whatever that was, it seemed I blew his mind.

But that moment passed and I stopped blushing and he stopped staring and he said something like, “Oh, good answer. Since I didn’t specify that it should be spatial or physical distance, I’ll accept it. So, lunch later?” He said it like my answer was the most ordinary thing he could hear during a Math review session.

It is one of the things I like about him, the way he is flexible in conversations. He can connect two or more topics that seem unrelated. He can make farfetched statements look natural. He can even make my weirdness seem normal.

Like when we were walking to the CAL Building (College of Arts and Letters) after our Math period, I blurted out, “Who’s the first person that comes to your mind when you see ants?”

“I don’t have a specific person in mind but I guess ants make me think about the Chinese. You know, they seem to be everywhere. And the way ants gather food? It reminds me so much of how the Chinese do their work.” He said all this like he was pondering about ants all the time. Like answering questions about ants was something very usual for him.

“So, do you think of yourself as an ant, too? Because you’re Chinese, right?” I asked. His last name is Chua and he has chinky eyes so I figured he is Chinese, but maybe I was being stereotypical so I had to confirm.

“Yeah, sometimes. But, I am the ant that goes astray. The one who always gets separated from the rest. I like doing things my own way.”

“What about the color? Are you the black ant or the red one?”

“Neither. I’m the ant that changes color depending on what it eats.”

We went on like that until we arrived at the CAL Building, and he realized that he left his car in the College of Science parking lot, which was near the Math Building. We laughed at the absurdity of it. How could he forget something as important as a car? But then I realized, I also forgot something. I forgot about my ex-boyfriend. All the time we were talking, I hadn’t thought of him.

I wasn’t thinking about him like before. Not every minute anymore.

It was a nice feeling. I felt light. I felt free. We were laughing there and maybe he was thinking it was still because of his car, but really I was laughing because I also realized that I just thought of my ex-boyfriend but it didn’t hurt anymore. So, I relished that feeling and thanked my stars, destiny, karma, fate, or whoever’s up there watching me for letting this awesome guy walk with me in the rain and talk about ants and forget his car and make me laugh my real laugh.

It was our Creative Writing period and I sat with my friends while he went to the back. I would have sat with him but it would be like an overkill. We were asked to describe what the color yellow sounds like. I wrote, “It sounds like a million little chimes glorifying the droplets of sunshine falling softly on his face and mingling with his golden laugh.” Everything else about the color yellow, or about him, for that matter, was ineffable. Yes, him. I was thinking of him the entire Creative Writing period.

After class, he came to me and asked if our lunch was still on. I could almost hear my friends’ brains buzzing with interest. I didn’t know what to say or do at this point so I just stood there like a dumb person and he was standing there expectantly and my friends were eyeing him with curiosity. He saved me from that awkward situation by saying, “I guess I needed to ask for your permission to take her to lunch with me. It was sort of a bet.” So, they watched us go and I prayed he didn’t notice the intrigue painted on their faces.

We both had a three-hour break after Creative Writing, so we walked back to the CS parking lot to retrieve his car. We continued talking about random things. The rain had stopped and the first ray of sunshine was peeking through the clouds. I remembered our Creative Writing exercise.

“So, what’s the sound of the color yellow?” I asked. We were already in his car.

“It sounds like the sunflowers singing along the university avenue in summer. I was trying to think of a really sweet song when my thoughts were interrupted by the sunflower singing at the Plants vs. Zombies credits.”

As if on cue, we began singing, “There’s a zombie on your lawn…”

It became our theme song. Kind of.

Conversations with him disturbed my inertia. I had been lifeless for a long time when he came by and fueled up my system. These conversations were real, unfeigned, and without an ounce of dishonesty in them. I felt like I was learning more about life with these kinds of talk, no matter how insane they were, than with classroom discussions. Being somewhat of a nerd, I didn’t know there would come a time that I would look forward more to the grace time between classes than the actual classes themselves.

And I was there, owning the passenger’s seat of his car and thinking, “Could this be our first date?”

May Isang Babae

Sa isang kwarto, may isang babae,
Pinipilit pigilin ang pagtakbo ng oras –
May sirang orasan.

Sa kama, nagkalat ang mga sulat,
naipon ang mga litrato,
hindi maisantabi,
nilulunod s’ya sa nakaraan.

Pinatay ng babae ang maliit na ilawan;
Gusto n’yang manatili sa dilim,
Ayaw pa n’yang harapin ang umaga,
Mas nakaririmarim ito kaysa sa gabi.

May nagkalat na bubog,
May mantsa ng alak sa sahig.
Maraming basag na pangarap,
nasirang tiwala,
nalimutang pangako,
nabalewalang damdamin.

Sa isang kwarto, may isang babae,
Lasing na sa isang basong luha
na umaapaw sa pighati.

Everything in Between (Chapter 4)

MOVING IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS

I asked my boyfriend to write the previous chapter for me because I had been mulling over where and how I should start but I couldn’t get my hands on it. I had been staring at the first two sentences for so long and I couldn’t find the right words to say next. I just realized that it was the most blurry part of my love story, that in that particular period in my life, my mind was not working as it should. Half the time, I didn’t know what I was doing. The other half, I was figuring out what I just did and why I did that. And so, I entrusted that one to him, the one who was there when I wasn’t there for myself, the one who found me when I was trying to disappear.

He was a faceless person at first. All I knew is that he was somewhere out there, waiting for me even though he didn’t know it at the time. I wondered what his name was and what he looked like, but every time I tried to picture his face, I always saw my ex-boyfriend. Instead of starting anew, I got stuck in the past. Telling myself to move on was way easier than doing it.

But I tried. I even made a list of things to do.

1. Make yourself busy

2. Get a new hobby

3. Go out with friends more

4. Ignore your ex

5. Always think of memories that make you happy

Yes, I busied myself with studying, doing homeworks, and going to the library. On weekends, I was at the orphanage near our home, volunteering to babysit and teach children. Whenever I was free, I went out with my friends, doing group studies, eating lunch, or watching movies. Oh, I ignored my ex all right. The only difficult thing was the last one. You see, there were memories that made me happy and sad at the same time. I couldn’t take full control of my thoughts, and most of the time, they would go where I urged them not to.

Four out of five isn’t bad, I said. I thought I was fine moving on by myself. I thought I was actually moving on. I was perky and outgoing. I laugh a lot. I was normal.

But, what is normal, really? Is laughing a lot after a break-up normal? What about not telling my friends everything that was bugging me, all the things that disturbed my peace of mind, all the things that were proven wrong in a single moment? Does it include pretending all was right in the world, faking smiles, and deceiving everyone, even myself?

When I was with my friends, there would be a constant pause in our conversations where my ex-boyfriend’s name should be inserted. Then, there would be an awkward silence which I pretended not to notice. In my own solitary world, my ex didn’t exist. So I chose to stay there most of the time, savoring moments of solitude, moments when I could block out every painful memory, any stabbing pain in my being, everything that made this world cruel. I didn’t realize that I had been distancing myself from everyone, that in a desperate hope to get away, I built a wall around me. While I was trying to focus on what I needed to do to move on, I ignored everything else. I isolated myself.

I was blinded by my own notion that moving on has a deadline. That if I allowed sadness inside me for a long time, it would stay in my system forever. That after the tears had stopped falling, the pain would finally go away. I was scared that if I didn’t move on fast enough, the past would catch up and I would always be chasing my next love story. A love story that would get away even before it started.

But moving on isn’t moving too fast. It isn’t rushing things through, just to get over the pain sooner than it was meant to be. It is neither running from the past nor running for the future because the past always has a way of haunting people and the future has the knack of being one step ahead. Moving on is letting life take its course. Of letting pain stay as long as it wants because time heals everything anyway.

And moving on isn’t moving away. It isn’t a form of escape. I couldn’t just ignore people and places that reminded me of my ex-boyfriend because, at some point, it would all come rushing back and I wouldn’t be able to avoid it. I didn’t have to turn away from the whole world just because he was there, and he was part of it, and he was living in it. I didn’t have to forget and block out memories because, really, there is no such thing as forgetting. Only acceptance.

In that passage of time, I was always asking myself why I could not see my future boyfriend’s face. But then, I learned that he was there in front of me all along, only I was not looking at him. I was looking too far behind and too far ahead.

That was the reason why that July morning was the first time I ever saw him. Like really saw him. It was also the first time that, after a long agonizing period of searching for the right direction to move on, I saw everyone else – my friends, my classmates, and total strangers who were also moving on from something, one way or another. It was a turning point in my life, and I saw the world in a newfound light.

That time, I told myself to slow down and take it all in. I was on my way to the Math Building, and although it was drizzling and I had no umbrella, I still walked in nonchalance. I belong to the present, I said to myself, because the past is inevitable and the future is uncertain. I have to live this moment and let time take care of everything else.

Moving on is another story in itself. A story in which people, even after knowing that they should start over, get trapped in figuring out how to. It is about finding out that if there is anything that could go wrong in a given moment, it most probably would. That they have to make a lot of mistakes before figuring out how to do something right. It is about accepting that things don’t always happen the way they wanted. It is about learning how to let go, not just of others, but of their own selves, too.

Most importantly, moving on is a story that told me I didn’t have to to everything on my own. I didn’t have to rescue myself single-handedly. I didn’t have to walk alone.

So, I walked with him. Looking back, I realized that all those times, I was moving in two opposite directions in search for my rightful place in the world, that I was moving on because I was trying to find where I truly belong. That time, I found my perfect spot. Beside him.

That certain July morning, he started to make my journey more bearable.

For So Long

How many wishes upon a star should I make?
How many dandelions should I send to heaven?
How many silent prayers should I say
Before this sorrow ends?

Can you see my broken heart?
Can you even hear me speak?
I’ve been calling out your name
Even in my sleep.

Do you think it’s hopeless?
Do you think I’m pathetic?
I’ve loved you for so long
That most of the time,
I’m not aware of it
Anymore.

Do I believe in love?

Oh, love eh? It’s pretty hard to define so most people get really confused about it. There’s lust, infatuation, attraction, attachment – you can go on and on and still think these words are synonymous to love. There’s pain, betrayal, abandonment, grief, heartbreak, and a lot of other negative feelings that you experience when you fall in love. That’s probably why it’s pretty hard to believe in it anymore.

But I believe in love, I really do. Just seeing my grandparents still walk along the street together and holding hands is enough proof that love exists.

Love is actually everywhere, if you only know where to look and your eyes are not too jaded to see it. Love is pretty common. It’s the happy ending that’s rare.

Book Review: The Hunger Games (Book 1)

I purchased The Hunger Games trilogy last year to see what the hype was all about. It seemed everyone was talking about it and I got interested in reading it. I have always been a fan of dystopian novels and I easily ranked it as one of the best in that category.

The story is set in future North America where the country of Panem is divided into twelve districts and the Capitol. The Hunger Games is an event held every year to commemorate the downfall of District Thirteen and all the rebels who tried to take down the Capitol’s political regime. Each district has to send a girl and a boy to the Capitol to compete in an arena where the rule is very simple: kill or be killed. The entire Panem is required to watch the Hunger Games. In here, one’s survival is just someone else’s entertainment.

Among all the characters, I like Peeta the most. His character developed strongly throughout the story, from the sweet and innocent “boy with the bread” to a raging lunatic and ultimately, to a mellow and broken boy who survived all the hardships of life. Katniss is a tough, independent girl who braved her way through the Hunger Games, wanting to lean on to someone but not knowing who to trust. Gale, for me, is very selfish and ambitious. He didn’t suffer as much as Katniss and Peeta so his perspective in life was quite mistaken.

The story is sad and disturbing – not really for the faint at heart. There are brutal scenes where I can totally imagine the blood and suffering. While I was reading it, I felt like there was darkness looming over me. I think the author is very effective in putting the readers in the right melancholy mood. She is also very good in describing the characters and settings.

All in all, The Hunger Games is a must-read! I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Image

Another attempt at Photoshop

Another attempt at Photoshop

Do I ever cross your mind?