Transition Girl

I’m the transition girl. The scary little footbridge you’re afraid to cross but do anyway to get to wherever it is you’re going.

We’ll meet under unusual circumstances. It can be at an art fair, or a pottery class, or a dingy bar you went to after a breakup. We’ll smile, exchange witty banter, and you’ll go home thinking you MUST know me more.

I’ll be interesting and funny and cute. I’ll introduce you to a new band each week. We’ll share a soda at some park listening to the new album of City and Colour.

And then you’ll think to yourself how the hell I ever got to be me. And why was I still single?

I’m the transition girl. The one you read in books, who leaves both protagonist and readers a trail of question marks, compelling you all to read another chapter.

You will mistake me for a dream girl, leaving “manic pixie” behind, ignoring the hair color and the disappearing acts, thinking everything I say determines the plot, treating my sadness as some sort of foreshadowing.

I will teach you how to be extraordinary. To try new things. To develop a taste for the wonderful and the crazy. Because sometimes they’re both as sweet as candy.

I’m the transition girl. I have mystery written all over me, and you’re welcome to try and pick me apart to indulge yourself in whatever stage of confusion you’re in.

You’re welcome to turn my words into your gospel while you figure yourself out, decide what it is you really want. Treat every moment we have as an adventure, while some indie folk song plays in the background.

But to tell you honestly, I’m so sick of all of it. People leaving the moment clarity hits them. While I fade along with the song.

People thinking I’m broken but held together by glitter glue so at least I sparkle in parts that hurt me the most.

I’m sick of remaining in people’s what-if lists, of thinking I become stronger anyway every time I’m abandoned. That at least I’ll get a good poem out of it.

I never do things for the story.

But the story always happens to me: the meet-cute, me thinking oh my god he noticed me. And he doesn’t mind that I sometimes get crazy. And he remembers this band I said I liked that nobody else knows. And he doesn’t think it’s weird that I change my hair color every two weeks because I desperately want to crawl out of my skin but this is the least I could do for now to become someone else.

I never do all of this for the story. I never wanted to be written off as a plot point, someone the main character meets to make him realize his worth—and in the end I am never worth it.

Because I’m the transition girl. The manic pixie dream girl. Only a few memorable chapters long but never the happy ending.

And all the time, when it’s over, you’ll remember me only when that indie folk song plays on the radio, which won’t be always. You will look back at the time we had with great nostalgia but not an ounce of regret. I was someone you had to know. A phase before you got your life together.

And while it’s flattering that I helped you get where you were going, I still think you should know. I never thought that you were only visiting.

Jess Mariano, my proverbial bad boy

If you are around my age and you spent your high school or college years watching Gilmore Girls during its original run in the early 2000s, I already know you have an affinity towards Rory Gilmore. Her personality resonated among us book nerds because we thought—or hoped?—that she was the type of girl we were headed towards becoming.

For instance, in one of the earlier episodes, she had an argument with Lorelai about what books she needed to bring to school, noting that the book she read during lunch was different from the book she read in the bus on the way to school and it couldn’t possibly be two different novels, one has to be a memoir. When she delicately tried to explain the difference and importance of reading nonfiction as a break from reading fiction, I knew she understood me. I was 18, I just started my first year as an English major, and already I was drowning in required book readings. But I was also stressing out about making time to read the books I wanted to read.

There just wasn’t enough time, I would whine. I had to develop a system. Easier-to-digest books are for bus rides to and from school because I could easily pick up from where I left off. Books that needed more focus and concentration a.k.a. Pushkin or Joyce—would only be read on school grounds or at home without the pressure of being interrupted.

I wish I could say that the fascination with Rory’s character stopped there. But Jess Mariano made an entrance in the second season, with his unruly but gorgeous hair and that scowl he wore except for when he was with Rory. Dark, well-read, and witty, Jess was a trap not only for Rory but also for us viewers. Who could resist a boy who not only could recommend the best books and music but also made an effort to be friendly with just you? He zeroed in his interest in Rory and, in turn, us. He cared only about what she thought, he showed his soft side only to her, and he was unpredictable which made him seem more exciting. And there was something irresistible about a bad boy who was good only to you. At least that’s what I thought when I was 18 and didn’t know better.

More than a decade later and I’m re-watching the entire original series on Netflix. And it truly has been a revelation to learn how much I’ve grown as a person. Rory’s character doesn’t resonate with me as much as before, because I realized how narrow and limited her interests are. She doesn’t like sports, and I was varsity player in volleyball when I was in high school. She’s very judgmental when it comes to music, and I basically listen to everything. She judges Lane for joining the cheerleading team and Dean for initially not wanting to go to college, and she separates herself from others in many instances by saying that she’s “not that kind of girl” with a condescending tone. While smart, she’s extremely elitist and divisive in her own way.

The first time I loved Rory’s character, it was because I didn’t know a lot of people in real life who liked the same things I did. She represented the kind of person I thought I was and I thought I wanted as my friend. But my interests have evolved since I was 18, so it wasn’t difficult to accept that Rory and I have grown apart over the years. And there is more to a person than the books they like.

Jess Mariano, on the other hand, was wilder to unpack because he represented all the bad decisions I’ve made in my early 20s that had to do with boys and relationships. Liking a fictional bad boy transcended into liking non-fictional bad boys. Unfortunately, there is no script to follow in real life. You can’t rely on an episode of Gilmore Girls to learn what to say next to your real-life Jess who hates your friends, or who acts out in anger when you say you’re not ready to have sex for the first time. It’s cute in the beginning when he pays attention to only you, but in reality, all the toxic attention gets exhausting after a few months. The unpredictability will soon become the main trigger for your anxiety. And you can’t really expect to talk about music and books for the rest of your life. I’ve held on to the image of dark and interesting Jess all those years without fully realizing that I looked for some of his qualities in the boys that I liked. The most dangerous of which is looking to them for the same redemption arc that Jess had after being with Rory. But it wasn’t anyone else’s job to save Jess from himself.

I’m not putting the blame solely on Jess for having a lousy, virtually non-existent dating life in my 20s. But he was one of the strongest imprints on my impressionable young self. And watching the series again now is seeing all the red flags shine so brightly like Christmas lights on that beautiful, troubled face. I romanticized that to the point of dismissing safe and sure as boring. I fell in love with instant and fleeting encounters and took them in as legitimate relationships. As much as Jess wasn’t someone to save, Rory wasn’t a savior. Neither was I. And this has been the bane of my twenty-something life.

I believed that being troubled gave Jess a more profound perspective on life and that hating on Rory’s friends made Rory all the more special, but I ignored how it could also have been a cry for help from an emotionally stunted intellectual. As a child of the 90s and worshiper of Spice Girls, what a blasphemous thing to have forgotten the mantra that every 8-year-old girl had when Wanna Be was released: If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.

Through the emotional roller coaster of realizing what Jess truly meant to me, I can’t bring myself to resent him or the boys like him that came into my life. The Jess Marianos of our lives won’t necessarily make a comeback to us years later to prove us right for believing in them, validating our judge of character. It’s not how real life works. Nonetheless, I’m a believer of mistakes being made to fuel our own emotional growth. And Jess had been my personal litmus test for that.

Is it a rite of passage to fall in love with the proverbial bad boy? I don’t know. I’d like to believe it isn’t. So much can be said about recognizing that someone is good right away. But people are more complex than that and we are all wired differently. I’d like to believe, however, in our capacity to learn, reflect, and adjust.

 

 

Love letter to a disappearing city

 

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This tiny town within a town. With all its sparkling new tiles and windows that reflect the sky. It is hard to imagine that it could be anything else but home. And yet.

I look around and I do not see my face in other people. I don’t see heritage. Instead, I see new structures that keep sprouting from the ground up, keen on replacing every childhood memory I’ve had with stories that will never involve me in a lead role.

Every few days, I see ten or so new people who don’t speak my language, barely familiarizing themselves with this city that tries so hard to meet their needs halfway like a lover that is thirsty for the relationship to work, and I think about how jealous I am of this arrangement. This life that’s slowly turning into a foreign movie without subtitles for me.

I used to know this place. When there were only a handful of buildings. When I would look beyond the window and all I could see were possibilities, spread out in a vast empty land. When the salty air felt like an invitation to explore the city more. And it never saw me as lost. Just a curious child who kept coming back, hoping to find herself.

I’ve witnessed countless sunsets and it still takes my breath away every time the sun dips in the water far out in the horizon. I used to tell people, do you see that? People come here all the time to see just that. We name buildings after that. We treat it like it’s holy. But somehow that doesn’t feel true anymore.

There are walls and gates everywhere to keep us out. People don’t come here for the sunset. People don’t come here for the people, either. We have become backdrops for visitors that keep trying to re-shape our home. Decide that our language is not worth learning. Keep their heads down when they walk because the sunlight blinds them.

But we can only translate so much before we tire our brains out. And I promise, they still won’t understand all this beauty. Not when they are too busy changing this city. The stunning sunsets. The quiet early mornings dotted by birds chirping. The mess. The streets that are mapped out in my veins. The dark corners that act as refuge for those stranded in their heads from last night. All its secrets only we know and keep.

I wish I could wrap my arms around this entire town and say, “Love, we don’t need them. They don’t see it. They can’t love you like I do. Like a heart homesick for its own rib cage.”

And I may forget sometimes–the same way we forget we have hands on days we don’t know how to use them–but no matter how different we become, it will always belong to me. I will always belong to this city.

Preview

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Track 1: Dodie – Secret for the Mad
Tuesday, 2:30 pm

Dear Jake,

They never tell you how difficult it can be to remember someone’s voice long after they’re gone. You can try to imagine and replay conversations in your head but these memories come out more like hard-subbed silent films rather than talkies.

It’s only been a week, but it feels more like a year had gone by without you. I’ve never been good at grieving. Or timelines. Or keeping track of the days. To be honest, the entire week feels like one long sleepless, staggering night I’m not allowed to see the end of. Like I’ve been waiting for morning to come, but every time I emerge from my sheets to check for sunshine, all I see is more darkness.

I hate everything about this, Jake. I hate that I need to cope with something I didn’t ask to be in. I hate that it happened so suddenly. Although to be fair, how do you prepare for something like it anyway?

It’s in the middle of summer and the heat is killing me. I’m looking outside the bookstore and I’m seeing a traffic jam at the intersection and it’s so weird to see it at 2:30 in the afternoon in the summer. I guess what I’m saying is that everything is an anomaly. You not being here. This unforgiving heat. The terrible traffic.

I will never get used to this routine, so I guess it’s a good thing that starting next week, something will change about how I spend my days. I can’t even remember the entire conversation I had with Dr. Silang about the teaching post, but I somehow ended up accepting a part-time teaching position at the university. Yes, the classes that you were handling.

If I could describe how I feel, I think the most accurate word I could think of right now is dread. About living up to everyone’s expectations. About interacting with the students you left behind and who adored you. About seeing you in each one of them. I know that this is a rather pathetic attempt to hold on to your memories and to pretend like I didn’t lose my best friend. But every day, I keep trying to remember your voice and how your laughter sounded like, and it’s getting difficult, Jake. So maybe I could find them in the classrooms that you occupied and in the students whose lives you’ve touched.

I know that it will never be the same, but here’s to hoping I still find you in other people, Jake.

Always,
Matty

Multo

Naririnig ko silang kumakatok lahat
Narininig ko ang mga sigaw nila
At pag tumitingin ako sa salamin
Mas natatakot akong
Hindi nakikita sa mukha ko
Ang pagkarindi sa mga boses
At katok ng mga sarili kong multo

May isa sa kanilang ginagamit ang kanyang kamao
Narininig ko ang dagundong nito kasabay ng tibok ng aking puso
Wala siyang sinasabi
Pero ramdam ko na dala niya ang aking pagkaguho

May mga iba namang bumubulong lang
Banayad ang boses nila pero napakalinaw
Ng nais nilang iparating
Na mas maliit ang tingin nila sa akin
At alam nila na konting pilit pa
Na bibigay rin ako
At pakakawalan ko sila

Pero hindi sila dapat makawala

May isa sa kanila, inuuntog lang ang ulo niya
Habang sinasabi paulit-ulit
Na wala akong kwenta

Naririnig ko siya
Sa pinakaloob na parte ng aking tenga
Yung pakiramdam na nakalubog ang ulo ko sa batya
At wala akong ibang naririnig kahit sarili ko
Pero naririnig ko siya

Naririnig ko silang kumakatok
Na para bang ilang siglo na silang nagpipigil
At oras na nila ngayon para lumaya at kumawala
Para maghasik ng lagim sa lahat ng gumawa ng mali sakin
At una sa listahan nila ang pangalan ko para puntiryahin

Walang ibang nakakarinig ng mga katok nila kundi ako
Mahirap itago ang isang bagay na hindi nakikita ng ibang tao
Hindi ko kayang ipaliwanag ang itsura ng mga multong parating nag-iibang anyo.
Tuwing akala kong nakikilala ko na sila, may panibago silang sorpresa

Silang pumapalakpak kapag nakikita akong balisa
Silang humahalakhak tuwing nawawalan ako ng pag-asa
Silang parating kumakatok sa dibdib ko at
Nagmamakaawang palabasin ko

Kaya paano ko sasabihin sa ibang,
“Sandali lang, kailangan ko lang patahimikin ang utak ko.
Kailangan ko lang maramdaman ulit na kontrolado ko pa rin ang emosyon at mga saloobin ko,
Na ako pa rin itong nakikita mo at kumakausap sayo.”?

Hindi ko sila dapat hayaang makawala
Hindi sila dapat makawala

Marami na akong sinubukan
At mga taong tinakbuhan
Sa pag-asang malunod ng mga
Tawa nila ang alingawngaw
Ng mga multong sa isip ko
Napiling manirahan
Para hindi ko na marinig kumatok ang mga ito

Paulit-ulit, gabi-gabi
At tahimik na akong makatulog

Pero minsan
Magsisimula pa lang ang araw ko
O kaya habang naliligo
O nagpapakain ng aso
Tatahimik panandalian ang mundo ko
At bigla na lang may kakalabog
Dito sa dibdib ko
At mag-uumpisa ulit
Na maririnig ko
Kumakatok sila

Strong Women

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Heartache doesn’t happen in isolation inside a closed bedroom door. All the crying isn’t held in by mere metal and wood. It can cross cities and oceans and reach another person who’s going about their day.

And heartache doesn’t run its course within a single day. I picture swallowing bombs. Grenades inside closed fists. Tiny fireworks in each vein. I picture the sheets as temporary backbone. Your whole being an empty shell. For as long as you let it.

But this will not be a story about defeat. Or even about glorifying it. Of painting the hurt a pretty colour for other people to like it. We will stop calling ourselves heroines for simply loving another person.

In all the strangeness of human connection, we can’t be outraged with what we understand. When we’ve always understood that we are built to endure and survive a storm, we don’t question when it finally comes crashing in. We don’t call it the devil for testing us. The best thing we can do is find warmth in the comfort of people we call our home.

And to the lovers who are left without a lover, this will not undo what you’ve given and what you’ve become. Strong women.