Invisible Scars

I went to see my therapist today. And she told me that I was getting better. That I was climbing up the ladder of my progress chart. That I should write again in my journal tonight. She looked me right in the eye and told me, “You’re going to be all right.” It would have felt good if it were true. But it wasn’t.

So I told her I was still lonely. I told her I never turn off the TV at night because I need some noise to drown out the clamor inside me. I told her I didn’t want to hurt myself anymore. That I’m tired of pretending that nothing is hurting me.

She asked what was stopping me from inflicting myself pain. She looked at me and I could tell that she didn’t take me seriously. She doesn’t believe that I am beyond lonely just because my arms don’t have any scars. But I don’t have to cut myself before she could call it self-harm. My thoughts are more than enough to make me bleed. By telling myself repeatedly how I’m such a mistake, I will bleed and bruise in places no one will ever see.

People die from internal bleeding, so why couldn’t my own shrink understand me? My wounds go deeper than the thin layer of skin that separates my fears from the rest of the world.

Sometimes I hear the bad thoughts louder than my own heartbeat. Can feel them more alive than the steady but weak pulse on my wrists. Can rely on them more easily than anyone who’s ever claimed to have loved me.

Next week, I will see my therapist again. And I will smile at her and say that I think I’m getting better. I will tell her what she wants to hear, make my voice a little louder and more crisp to hide the echoing emptiness inside my chest. I will laugh a little, tell her that I’ve been writing in my journal again for the past week. But she will never know that this is all I’ve been writing.

Because no one hears a cry for help if they don’t know how to listen.

Marshmallow Test

Between you and me
I am not used to waiting
Countless marshmallows proved me this

In bathrooms, I don’t wait for stalls to be available
I know what ‘Occupied’ means
I look for other options

In restaurants, I have a plan B
When my usual table is taken
Or my usual order is eighty-sixed

In coffee shops, I get antsy
When it takes my tea two more minutes to be ready
When I am usually set at waiting for just three

But to tell you the truth
This thing, between you and me
Astounds me

Because I can’t bring myself
To look for other options
Even when it’s clear enough
That you will never be available

Never Mind the Chaser

When I was seven years old, I had a boy playmate who constantly pulled my hair and then let me chase him around our neighborhood. It happened too often that the pulling of the hair became the unofficial invitation to play a game of tag. I would chase him for minutes, give him a light punch on the arm, and then the game would reverse. It was my turn to run away from him, as fast as I could, disregarding exhaustion or reason. I reckon we both enjoyed running, regardless of whether it was away or towards the other.

When we were 13, my friend told me that the reason he always pulled my hair was because he wanted me to chase him; and that he liked the idea of him chasing me in return. That it wasn’t just merely the love of running. It was the love of the chase. Because apparently he liked me.

It was the thrill of the chase. I’ve heard this concept over and over again when I was growing up, mostly in the context of relationships. The more he liked you, the more he’ll pursue you. Even Morissey sang about it. The more you ignore me, the closer I get. It somehow became a Relationship Rule. If he’s willing to pursue you despite multiple rejections, he’s a keeper. It means he is determined, and that equaled somehow to undying affection and love.

It wasn’t true with us, though, was it? Sometimes, the relentless chase is exactly just that–an endless game of pursuit, sometimes veiled with a more noble reason to make up for the fact the what both of us were doing is stupid and pointless.

For the record, I didn’t ask you to chase me. I didn’t run away. I didn’t want to be chased. I wanted to be left alone. I wanted space.

As a child, a game of tag was fun. As an adult, not so much. I got used to the concept of having someone chase me after I’ve already caught him. But I hadn’t really stopped and asked myself, “to what end?” Now at 27, I am ready to dismiss the game entirely. I am ready to tell him off, whoever he is, and say never mind. Never mind the chase. Never mind the running. Never mind the chaser. What I want, instead, are frozen waffles.

In the meantime, I’m alive

Over the holidays, I took a break for a few days, away from people and places I know. I’ve been too overwhelmed with everything that has happened in the last few months that I felt I needed to get away from it all to think about whether it’s really happening or not (I checked; it really is).

As cliche as it is, I went to Baguio. During most of the trip, we just ate. But one thing that stood out to me was the butterfly sanctuary in Camp John Hay, and I cannot stop thinking about it until now. To tell you the truth, there was nothing remarkable about the sanctuary. You need to pay Php50 to enter a small enclosure, roughly the size of a small garden with a rather pitiful attempt at landscape gardening–it hardly merits to be called a sanctuary. But the enthusiasm and passion of the “guide” more than makes up for how the sanctuary looks like. Cheerful would be an understatement. He violated our personal space by insisting we pose with the butterflies and hold a water-bottle-turned-vase so that he could take our photos. I said I didn’t want my photo taken, I just wanted to see the butterflies. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and took photos anyway.

After the brief but very awkward photoshoot, he went on to explain the life cycle of the butterflies, starting with the fact that they don’t like the cold temperature of Baguio and that this results with their shortened lifespan. He said this very casually, as if we’re supposed to readily accept the fact that butterflies die prematurely because of the cold. But knowledge doesn’t automatically follow acceptance.

He continued his explanation earnestly, showing us random plants that had butterfly eggs, catterpillars, and cocoons. And then he finished off his spiel by telling us that butterflies typically live for just four weeks, but in Baguio, they last only three weeks. He then gestured us to the rest of the sanctuary and told us to check out the butterflies on our own.

We did, but it was a depressing activity, to tell you honestly. They were so beautiful. They made the sorry excuse for a sanctuary actually look magical. I followed one particular butterfly feed on a flower. I saw two others who looked like they were mating, but I’m not exactly sure how butterflies look when they mate–maybe they’re just glad to see each other.

But amidst all the fluttering, there was one thought that kept nagging at me: in two or three weeks, all of them will be dead. All these complicated, silly creatures only have a few weeks to live, but they look so determined to go about what butterflies normally do. They don’t know that they’ve been robbed of seven, precious days just for being in the wrong place with the wrong climate. They don’t know that whatever it is that they are intent on accomplishing will be for nothing because they are enclosed in a small area and are meant only to be gawked at by paying guests. I wonder how many people have visited the butterfly sanctuary over the years and how many dead butterflies have been immortalized in photos. Thousands. Probably hundreds of thousands. I wonder how many people live the same way.

In the meantime, I’m alive. I’ve been alive for 27 years and still, most days I question my purpose and everyone else’s intent. I am easily overwhelmed by attention. My hands are getting filled with the Kindness other people are giving me, and on days that I don’t know what to do with it, I let it go gently. I smile, and I say I’m fine. I say that I’m okay with Sadness–Sadness I know just what to do with. My hands are calloused but are used with its rough edges.

But today is different. Today, I decide to make space in my hands for Kindness, if only in my fingertips. Today, I decide that it doesn’t matter how long or short I’m going to be alive for. Today, I decide to live.