I need a release.

It would probably take an entire day or two, or maybe even a lifetime, like writing a Proust novel of some sort, for me to tell Mom how differently my thoughts about love, relationships, family, God, religion, and life in general have changed since I left home.

Not that leaving home was a good thing, but it certainly gave me a bit more of a perspective and transformed me from that typical high school girl who knows too much about rebellion but was rather too scared to step out of her comfort zone, into a person who actually took a step, however frail and fragile such a step at first seemed.

In retrospect, it seemed manageable, easy. But transitions are always the hardest to take especially when one has no strong hold of everything that has shaken and has broken loose.

I still remember our house in the South, as that which one of my estranged friends referred to as my ‘fortress,’ for in there I was more than guarded, I was safe and sound. But more than that, I was watched upon. And isn’t this what’s missing in the world that is out there? For we look so much at what’s ahead of us that we don’t even look anymore at that which is in front of us, that we don’t look anymore upon each other.

I still remember my father’s eyes, and how they burned, tortured, arrested my soul with his steadfast surveillance as much as I burned with his steadfast love. In high school, I thought of love as chains shackled around my feet, refusing to give me movement. But in college I roamed the empty unfamiliar streets with boys begging for the same love that my father has so selflessly lavished upon me.

But arrogance stopped me from running back to my father’s feet, asking for forgiveness for whatever it was that had me sundered from them all. We always look at the present as something that ‘needs more’ of everything: needs more space, needs more time, needs more improvement. In high school I thought I needed more freedom than home was able to provide for me, but in college I thought of home, safe and adequate, for all that I was wanting, missing, longing for.

I look at this life now, with a vision that’s still blurry from all the things that has happened for the past three years in the university, trying to see what my Mom and my Dad would see, trying to carefully extract their perceptions of what has become of their divergent daughter.

There are instances when I would feel proud of my accomplishments, of my experiences; when I would send over to Mom a photo of a certificate I received from a seminar in a private university; when I would tell Dad about thoughts that were so conceived in the midst of my trying to philosophize about every fucking thing in the world. But in the end it would all seem so small, so insignificant, and I would hark back to a day when I was just a little girl and how my every action was more than enough to make them satisfied.

There is something about innocence, and the art of forgetting, that detaches man from all of the present and brings him face to face once more with his child-like self. And it is not just about the mere negation of what was already been situated in the here and now. But far from that, it is a return to the more aboriginal of being, that which is naive and infantile, a soul unblemished and uncorrupted.

Aren’t we doomed with our memories, we the remembering mass of humans? Would life be any different had it been the case that our minds could retain only a day’s worth of memory and discard them thereafter?

There are days when I would wish for a tennis ball, or even the big neighboring ball that is the moon, to strike me on the head, to make me forget history. But forgetting history would also mean forgetting the good and the bad, forgetting Mom and Dad, forgetting all people, forgetting even the self. But how could one live in oblivion? How could one live at all?

I think about the future, and in my projections of what is to come, I see nothing. A blank space, an eternal rivulet of the nameless and the nothingness. Back in the days when people asks me of my plans I would respond with a healthy enthusiasm and present them a delicately drawn portrait of all my hopes and dreams which include getting my degree on time, landing a job, taking all that there is to take in life with all the energy of a Spanish bull.

But when people asks me now, I would think about the void and how it engulfs us deeper and deeper into that which is uncanny. It reminds me of the ending part of Murakami’s 1987 novel Norwegian Wood where Midori asks Watanabe where he is. Watanabe’s response was rather eerie, belonging to the terrifying unseen. And in his place I feel firmly fastened as well.

Where are you now?
Where was I now?

Gripping the receiver, I raised my heads and turned to see what lay beyond the phone box. Where was I now? I had no idea. No idea at all. Where was this place? All that flashed into my eyes were the countless shapes of people walking by to nowhere. Again and again I called out for Midori from the dead center of this place that was no place.

Christmas is Dead

In 2015, I will look back to this year’s Christmas and I will think of it as a joke, a prank, a comical parade of everything ludicrous and shameful in our sorry lives.

In 2015, I will remember the silence and how it muffled every sound in the world when I wished everyone a Merry Christmas. But what do these words mean other than the vacant sound of a syllabic ho-ho-ho and the empty rhythm of an old Christmas medley?

In 2015, I will remember the look on my sister’s face, the crack in her fading voice, as she whispered to me on the night before Christmas, “Hey, it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all”, and in that moment I caught myself defenseless by the honesty of her expression, by the gravity of its truth.

Tell me then, what’s Christmas supposed to feel like? What thrill must there be in our hearts, what presents must we receive, in order to feel that it is Christmas? I had nothing more to say to her other than what we both already knew and felt. I peered into her young searching heart, into her juvenile soul, and saw my own dizzying reflection. I looked away for I know what was missing.

In 2015, I will remember my mother’s face and how I see in her eyes an attempt to reconstruct our lives after the image of her own ideals. I drown in my mother’s reverie and sunk into her vast ocean dream for in there I am nothing more than a speck of dust or a splinter of wood floating helplessly in the open possibilities of the things she dream for us all.

Continue reading “Christmas is Dead”

The Art of Locomotion

Are you sure you’re moving with us?

The world lost its blinding glow as I took a deep breath and thought of an answer which came to me almost too suddenly, mechanically. It was as if darkness swallowed me whole and kept me alive in its belly to prepare me for this dreadful moment when Mom will finally ask.

It was past 8 in the evening in a place where Mom and I were already too familiar with. The sound of her voice was cold enough to freeze whatever was left warm inside of me, but still warm enough for a space for breathing. There were five of us at the dinner table: Mom, Mom’s half-sister, her half-sister’s mother, Mom’s guy friend boyfriend whom for no apparent reason at all I found comfortable to talk to, and then there’s me: Mom’s most pathetic daughter, dressed in ripped-up jeans and Chuck Taylor. Beneath my feet was a sinking sand.

I need to know if you’re coming. The house should . . .

There was a bomb explosion in my head.

The house should fit all of us. It did not occur to me how many we were in the family. I did the math in my head: so there’s Mom and me plus my brother and sisters, subtracted by the apparent absence of Dad, multiplied by zero by which we get the product of the same. Then we add the unnecessary variables in the family multiplied by the exponential sum of Mom’s extravagant mistakes, of Dad’s silent withdrawal, of my frail indecision, and we get the equivalent value of a house that is not home, divided by the shattered pieces of our inability to ever calculate the equation.

The house should fit all of us. I imagine Mom in the broad daylight, cruising around the town in search for a new home: a two-storey house with three bedrooms, four. A nice large living room, nice kitchen, nice floors. The bathroom must be perfect. Verandas and balconies are unnecessary. No traffic jam, no flooding. The first thing Mom will look for is a garage.

I imagine Mom moving boxes, stacking them one after the other until it was high enough to come crashing down on the ground. I imagine Mom looking at her scattered stuff and blaming gravity for everything that has fallen in her life. She would scream for us to help her with her things but my siblings would be too busy saying goodbye to the almost empty house. She would turn to me, almost too unwillingly, and ask me to carry the boxes.

Carry me, Mom.

Carry me like when I was a child. Carry me like I was crippled. Take me from point A to point B and demonstrate the distance like you would demonstrate your fears. Teach me how you do this: this masterly mechanism of moving from one place to another in search of nothing.

I remember Mom that evening, and how her hopes glimmered like gold in the midst of the dinner table. She spoke like moving was an all too easy thing, as easy as moving a piece of stone from one side of the table to another. She spoke like it didn’t matter at all. And when she asked me if I was coming with her, I cringed at the thought of my own fear.

We moved hell of a lot when I was a kid. We moved for no apparent reason at all. It was always because Mom wanted to. There was no room for my protests. And even if there was, she would never listen. We roamed the country like nomads. And at night when we’ve finally settled at a new place: the smell of fresh paint still reeking from stranger walls, luggage bags and moving boxes still lying lifelessly by the front door, I would hear Mom scream about it: the rage, the madness, the incessant itch to run far far away — the hopelessness of it all.

When Mom and I met up for dinner that evening I knew at the back of my head that she was hoping for it. Hoping for her pitifully lost and neglected daughter to come home again. But I never knew home. I grew up in the strangest places in one of the most promising decades in the history of civilization but never did I ever understand what that fucking word meant: home.

She talked ever so enthusiastically about the new house and asked me what I thought about it. But when your mother asks you for your thoughts, you brush them all aside and invent new ones: ones that are more acceptable, more conventional, than the truth of things. So I said, my hands clutched a cup of sundae, my lips oozed with hot caramel and betrayal,

Yeah. I’ll go.

Go is a word that commands movement. In the army, in the race track, in the loud crowded corner of the intersecting street. Go stands for action. Go is when I close my eyes and imagine myself running away from my Mom.

We parted ways after dinner. We agreed to give things a little bit more time, like how she would give me until the end of the semester to decide. But time, I figured, was not the answer to it. Because whether it is the 18 years I lived with her, or the past two years I lived without her, it does not reverse the inevitable fact that time runs on without waiting.

The damage inflicted in my younger years will only remain just as that. No amount of time could ever heal the irreparable assault on my childhood just as no amount of eulogies could ever wake up the dead. We tread on unceasingly through life with these damages. We move from one place to the other, but remain unmoved just the same.

The World is Quiet Here

There was one thing that my mother didn’t teach me when I was young: how to stay at one place and learn to adapt. While my father would insist that we stay, my mother would scream that we move, in the soonest time, in the easiest way, possible.

We moved a lot when I was a kid that in my young innocent mind, I couldn’t help but ask myself what was wrong with Mom; what was it that made her want to leave; what pain it brought her in trying to stay. Dad would talk to me sometimes, explaining these rash courses of action that took its toll on Dad’s work and in my schooling, and try to make me understand the things that I was too young to even understand.

Looking back, I can see now what Dad was asking of me; what he demanded of my innocence. He wanted me to see my mother the way he sees her. He wanted me to understand my mother: what she is as a person, what burden she carry on her shoulder, what passion consumes her spirit. He wanted me to understand all of these because he knew this was the only way for me to understand why we moved a lot.

But I never understood. Not Mom, not Dad, not even myself. All I knew was the empty questions I used to ask Dad whenever I feel alone or whenever I feel the loud thumping sound in my chest and wonder about the painful indecision of the adults around me. How they stare blankly at night and realize that a new house never remains new and decide the next day that it is time to leave again; how Mom swallows her fear by moving, by changing scenes; how Dad feed her whimsical illusions with a meek submission to her every want, desire, wish; how Dad tells me to do the same, tells me it is all for Mom and how love becomes sacrificial and suicidal both at the same time.

I never blamed Dad but I did wonder what made him stop trying, what sent him to his room and locked the door and stopped him from listening to what Mom said and to what I said. I didn’t understand his submission because whenever I look back, I only remember a father who loved his wife and his daughter that he did his best to balance the world for them. Such balance, I would understand later in life, meant that we move to places and that I would understand why.

But I never understood: neither one of Mommy’s many decisions and indecision nor any of the sentences in Daddy’s careful and patient explanations about why the world is cold, unforgiving. I never understood why, on a calm typical afternoon in a time I can’t remember now, Mom would take a bus out of whim and leave home just like that without telling Dad or me. I never understood why Dad would bother to chase after her and look for her; why in the end the three of us (Mom, Dad, and me) would spend the next few hours out in the streets as Dad would try to talk to her and calm her down under the bright city lights while I sit at one corner and wait for time to pass, trying ever so persistently not to listen to their conversation but failing just the same.

And I sat there waiting, I would hear Mom speak words I could not quite understand but loathed, hated, cursed, with every iota of my energy as soon as she spoke them, until I realize that it was myself that I hated so much because I couldn’t be the daughter who can make her happy and make her want to stay at one place for the rest of her days.

I would watch the cars and the people form an invisible rope, which at one point I wished to cut, just so I could disengage myself from the life of these lost sad grown-ups. I would avoid the look of the people who stare at us (Mom, Dad, and me) like we were some kind of an exhibit⁠—a gallery of emotions on a street, in a city once upon my lonely childhood days where Mom is the piece of somebody else’s art and Dad is the painter trying to save a masterpiece he did not own.

I would bow my head down and wish for the people to leave, to stop staring, because in my young screaming head I knew what those eyes meant and how they slash through my innocence. The looks, the strangers, the hollow sound of all the people who never understand, a mass of lonely beings that float in an empty space, devoid of sound and understanding. I knew what they all meant: that in that cold lonely evening somewhere in our distant past, where Mom cried and Dad listened and I waited in the senselessness of everything that mattered, Mom, Dad and me were a lonely family. Is there even a better word for that, something more right, more apt for the gravity that weighed us all down other than the six-letter word ‘lonely’ that spoke to us in our darkest hour?  Continue reading “The World is Quiet Here”