Mrs. Reyes had picked out the new bathroom tiles herself, powder blue with a streak of cerulean. Their old bathroom was yellowing white tile, spare and ordinary under the harsh fluorescent light.
Mrs. Reyes peels off the starchy blouse already sticking to her skin, kicks off her black heels. She is about to step into the shower, but she catches sight of herself in the mirror and can’t help but look.
When Bell was younger, around nine or ten, Mrs. Reyes used to catch her dancing in front of the old antique mirror, belting out Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’ with Mr. Reyes’ deodorant as her mic. Bell gyrated her hips and tossed her head back when she did her turn on the catwalk, Mrs. Reyes peering from behind the bathroom door, fingers caught on the wood. When Bell finally caught sight of her—when was too sexy for her car, too sexy for her car—Mrs. Reyes had started badly and nearly banged her head on the closet. She half-expected to hear the music stop and the awkward silence hang in the room like a physical thing, but what she didn’t expect was Bell’s tiny hand on her wrist, offering her another mic (Mr. Reyes’ gel bottle) for a duet.
The corner of Mrs. Reyes’ mouth turns up a little from the memory, and the corners of her reflection’s eyes wrinkle, deepen into creases.
"Love’s going to leave me," she murmurs, "And I’m too sexy for this song."
Our boss Hava has been firing people left and right recently. Only a couple days ago, Colin the Irish guy got sacked because he turned on all three switches on the coffeemaker when he was only supposed to turn on one, the leftmost one marked ‘steam.’
"Why did you do this?" Hava gestured threateningly at the offending coffeemaker. "Who taught you to do this?"
Colin the Irish guy shrugged, most likely wondering if there was any possible way he could get out of this with sanity and job intact.
The day after I graduated from journalism school in December, I flew to Tacloban on my first big assignment, which eventually ended up in the New York Times. I knew going in the city that I’d be interviewing children and so I went from orphanage to orphanage, shelter to shelter, looking for orphans.
There were, thankfully, not as many of them as I thought. The children were taken from the city and put on planes, on boats, and brought to Manila, to Cebu, one to Bataan, to be reunited with far-flung relatives. Second cousins, sisters of distant aunts and uncles, all ready to absorb the orphan child of the storm into already-large families. The ties that bind Filipino families are interminable; we are born and we die bound in obligations of blood.
It is in the beginning when she is born, when the stars are giants in the sky and the clouds so near the earth that there is no need for flight to reach out and touch them.
When she is born it is during the second month of the monsoon season. At her first breath droplets stop midway through the air and the rivers pause from their flow, waves craning towards the tribe’s settlement.
Her mother laughs at this, delighted; it is as if even nature has regarded her birth. She takes her first breath without crying, calmly and evenly, as if she knows it is only the first of too many.
These feet weren’t built to stay too long And I’ll go there on my own, But you’ll miss me when you’re home
It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days…Lightly, lightly—it’s the best advice ever given me. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly, my darling.
Gone is the humor from her voice. She is reminiscent of a favorite eccentric grandmother one moment, with her high, airy cackle and her eclectic fashion sense, and then the next she looks at you over her thin, wire-framed glasses with such a searing, calculated intelligence that you can only trip over yourself trying to give a decent answer.
The worst thing about the holidays is how I always fall back into weird extreme night owl sleeping patterns. I’m sure I’m not the only one—I love sleeping at sunrise, but I’ve surrounded myself with friends who are even worse at this whole sleeping business than I am. I’ve worked with a whole office full of them once, actually. I was part of a team outsourced for a Canadian company and we kept up with Eastern Standard Time. My favorite part is when we all go out for merienda and a smoke at 4 in the morning, similar to its afternoon counterpart in its lazy, two-more-hours-to-fucking-go feel, but darker, quieter and cooler (both in fashionably attractive sense and lack of Manila heat sense).
Just a few weeks ago, I found myself startled awake at 4 in the afternoon on a Friday after sleeping at 8 in the morning, almost completely missing my only window of opportunity to claim my grad school transcript for a fellowship application due that same night. Still groggy and in my pajamas (effectively hidden under my huge coat), it was only when I transferred to the E train on the subway that I realized it was actually 5:15 in the afternoon—I didn’t almost completely miss my window, I’d already completely missed it.
I beat myself up over it the whole way home (20 minutes, and in the cold, too) and felt so guilty about the entire affair that I resolved to change my sleeping patterns and woke up at nine the next day. (Yes, it was that one time.)
In Denmark, a group of Extreme Night Owls formed a group called the B-Society, named for the 15-25% of the human population who fall into the night owl chronotype category. “We’re calling for an uprising against the tyranny of early rising!” its manifesto screams. (Not really, but can’t you just picture two thousand people banging their coffee cups or lobbing them at the nearest morning lark in lobbing distance?) As for me, I love mornings. I love greeting the daylight streaming in my window and promptly falling back to my pillow, immediately asleep.
There’s a reason for the long hiatus in posts, aside from work, from laziness, or from the incapability of sustaining any form of long-term writing, particularly a blog. On an interview for an editorial position at a glittery teen magazine I must admit I wanted in some small way, I was asked by the interviewer, also the editor-at-large, to pull up the blog I had oversold as a fashion/styling/mishmash of whatever.
"Juliet has a gun," I told her as she started typing the address, and I was already preparing to say "like the perfume" with a small self-conscious laugh in case she misheard or raised an eyebrow or did other glamorous editor-at-largey things, at the same time I started regretting saying the name out loud or that I had a blog at all.
When my page loaded on the (completely foreign) screen (not mine) and she started scrolling and browsing through the entries and humming her approval (?) it felt like this:
And for a long time afterwards I couldn’t open the thing because I kept thinking about what it looked like on someone else’s browser (well she was using Firefox, for one), in someone else’s office being read by someone I didn’t know. A completely belated and useless realization, considering I’d made no attempts at privacy and the nature of blogging being the nature of blogging and so on, but it was still something that jarred me for a while, mostly because tumblogging felt like me talking to myself and a couple other friends.
But anyway. Hello world! Hello, editor-at-large (if by some freak accident you come back here). Felt like something from Drive for a moment there.
To say things! To know how to say things! To know how to exist through the written voice and the intellectual image! That’s what life is about: the rest is just about men and women, imagined loves and fictitious vanities, excuses born of poor digestion and forgetting, people squirming beneath the great abstract boulder of a meaningless blue sky, the way insects do when you life a stone.
Fernando Pessoa | The Book of DIsquiet | pg. 258 (via evoketheforms)
Street look of the day : Gorgeous colors on Jacquelin Dianne. Way to wear a galaxy print bodysuit!
The Art of Gardening
To her delight, her husband has taken up gardening. Their neighbor Dave gave him the packets to get him started, and everyday she watches him plant seeds in neat, orderly rows. There will be patches of beautiful sunflowers there, split peas and melons, squash and cabbages; she’s already imagining the sight it’ll be in spring.
What she doesn’t expect though, is to find them all in bloom one morning. Shocked, she goes out to her husband on the lawn, who’s standing with a curiously large walnut in hand.
“Honey, get back inside,” he calls out determinedly. “The zombies are coming.”
Especially lazy. Especially upset. Especially broke.
It was his sister’s gift to him, the jet ski, and a week after his birthday, when the rain started and didn’t stop, he’d called to thank her for the perfect timing.
"I always knew you had this sixth sense about things," he told her.
The connection had been choppy and he’d had to strain to hear her over the static and his five-year-old nephew screaming on the other line, but she replied dryly, “Great. Now that Anilao is submerged in water, would you mind giving it back?”
"Not on your life," he’d been too quick to say, and by the time he thought about taking it back or knocking on wood or throwing salt over his shoulder or whatever it was people did to make sure that what they said didn’t come true, she’d already started telling him about the things they’d lost in the flood, the brand new Kia, her favorite Doraemon alarm clock, Miguel’s stroller, Sammy’s books.
It was the last time he’d talked to her for so long—a couple of weeks ago he heard that they’d lost all of Pasig in the flash flood. He went over with the Sta. Clara search teams, but nothing had remained of his sister’s old barangay, just an endless stretch of murky brown water.
He saw the list of the identified dead the other day, and number fifty-six could’ve been Len, but the n had been smudged beyond recognition; in certain plays of light it could just as easily have been Les or Lea or Leo or Lem, and he thinks of all the jet skis in the world he would give for it to be.
Unfinished/unfinishable story I’ve been working on since Ondoy. There are sections in this story that trail off or die abruptly, and though I usually have no qualms about cutting out chunks of parts that don’t work, for some reason I’ve been lovingly hoarding each word, so much so that I’ve created three irreconcilable versions of this monstrous thing.
An abnormal love
for a specific object, place or action is mania in Trichotillomania, an impulse control disorder that produces the uncontrollable urge for people (me) to pull out their hair (scalp hair) due to anxiety, depression or stress (writing).
The compulsion is incessant but almost natural, the way some people need to smoke when faced with a blinking cursor and too many ideas while the translation and transition mechanism in your brain is lagging like an obese man at a marathon. That was a bad metaphor, but then I didn’t want to pause for too long to think of a good one and lose a few strands in the process.