Kate’s Song

Explosions in the Sky – Human Qualities

The night wanders away from me like every good memory from an aging mind. Slowly at first, and then suddenly it’s sunrise and I have to ponder over every decision I’ve made that got me here.

I broke his heart.

And in every minute that passes between us in silence, I can hear the crack grow bigger. All his questions wanting to get out of the little spaces between his hesitation and the sheer will to appear strong.

A coffee mug sits in the middle of us, so unassuming. It was the first thing I ever bought him. It says “Phony” in screaming red letters, a word from one of his favorite books. And now it screams back at me so loudly–I guess that’s how it works.

By the third hour, we have exhausted all our words, and we talk in head tilts and sighs. Our movements calculated, precise. He gives me a look that says, “I think I sort of understand,” and I shake my head to answer, “you know I’ll always love you, right?” But I keep the rest of it with me.

I don’t let out what kind of love is left in me for him. I make no movement to indicate that it’s the kind you will always wish you had more of, but don’t regret not having anymore, like a favorite TV show they cancelled too soon, but then the ending makes sense and you make peace with it.

Sometimes there are disappointments so great and palpable you know it had to happen for you to grow. And I know I’ve erased every role I had in his life with one mistake. I will never be Girlfriend, Best Friend, Confidant, Crazy Cat Lady, Murakami Fangirl. I will only be Cheater.

I circle my finger around the coffee mug rim and can almost hear his laughter from the first time he used it. I pick it up, wanting to channel whatever residue of joy was left from that moment. He stands up to look at me and says two words I never thought would ever hurt far more than anything else in the world.

“Keep it.”

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The Fall

These days, people come up with clever names for everything. We call sadness hashtag-relatable. Our heartbreaks prompts. Someone’s illness a beautiful phase. And somehow you become not just accepting but mainstream. Not just indie but hipster. Not just lover but savior.

I have been called many things. People tell me I’m weird, and judgy, and cold, and blunt, and denser than the Dead Sea. That’s okay. People also tell me I’m interesting, and strong, and lovely. They also tell me I’m brave.

We’re so slow in recognizing things.

Somehow it’s called courage rather than oversharing for telling these stories. Without flinching. Referencing everything in past tense or in third person as if all of it didn’t just happen to me last night.

But more often than not, I still can’t call it by its name, because it’s not permanent. It comes in waves. I convince myself I don’t suffer from it, I merely experience it. As if saying “experience” could make it sound like I go trekking or sky diving. When all I could ever imagine is diving from the 22-storey building.

And somehow that’s called poetic rather than unsettling.

On days that I’m doing okay, I question if it was even real. If what they always tell me had some truth in it. Am I really just overthinking things? Could I have made the day better if I forced myself to get out of bed? Would things have turned out differently if I didn’t tell them, that one time, that in my dreams I can clearly picture myself dead?

Will people still call me lovely after that?

When all of the sick scenarios I’ve imagined myself in are splattered on the concrete and passersby keep guessing what I looked liked with my head intact. But I don’t think I’ve ever kept my head intact.

People have clever names for everything. Phase. Episode. Incident. Attack. Clipped versions of my early mornings and dull afternoons that drone on and on. While that image of me becomes clearer. Dress perfect, arms outstretched; a ballerina frozen in mid-dance. And I think–

We’re all so fragile and careful on not breaking our bones, thinking flesh is more expendable. We always think the softer ones are more expendable.

But there is no redemption after this. There is no clever way of labeling depression. You can’t call it by your past lover’s name to make it more familiar, more tangible. Nothing poetic about the literal breaking of everything you are on your way to the ground.

I’m not here tell you flowers will eventually grow on that block of concrete surrounded by police tape.

On days I’m not doing okay, I forget what it means to be a person and all the clever names I thought had memorized and remember only that image of me on the ground. And I write it down. I write it down and maybe tomorrow I’ll remember to wash my hair. I write it down and tonight perhaps I’ll eat dinner. I write it down. The impact. The wind in my hair. The heart-stopping end. I write it down.

And then maybe I’ll recognize myself again.

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, 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.

Malapit Ka Nang Maging Tula

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Malapit ka nang maging tula
Depende sa ‘yo kung ituturing mo itong pangako o babala
Sinasabi ko lang na parating na tayo sa simula

Sinasaulo ko na ang bawat pagkalikot mo sa iyong relo
Pinapanalangin na hindi mo binibilang ang bawat minuto
At inaabangan kung oras na ba para tumayo ka’t lumayo

Nakikita na kita nang malinaw sa panaginip ko
Tuwing lumilingon ka, nginingitian mo na ako
Paggising ko tuloy, nakangiti na rin agad ako

Sa tuwing magkausap tayo, naririnig ko ang boses mo
Kahit puro letra lang ang nababasa ko
Kahit na nasa magkaibang siyudad tayo

Naiipon ko na nang hindi sadya ang mga alaala
Yung mga iilang segundong napapatingin ka
Yung tumatagos sa mga taong nasa pagitan nating dalawa

Pero hindi ko pa rin yata kayang aminin na para ‘to sa ‘yo
Na nakakalungkot dahil puro magagandang bagay ang dulot mo
At palagi na lang tayong maraming paligoy-ligoy sa mundo

Kaya ito na lang muna ang iiwan ko habang di ko pa kaya
Ayokong mangako, pero mas lalong hindi ito babala
Pero malapit ka nang maging tula

Morning-After Walk


I wonder if people know I’m having a morning-after walk and why it has such a bad reputation in the first place. But they must know. It must be the hair, I think to myself. No one walks along the streets of Ayala at six in the morning with a bad state of hair, all greasy and messy. I suspect my eyes are also still puffy from having gotten up too quickly and leaving that place in a rush. But I couldn’t stay there any minute longer.

So I soldier on despite my sorry state. Anyway, I haven’t experienced the city this way in a long time, and if there’s one thing that could change my mind about hating early mornings, it’s that I could have my coffee outdoors in peace, watching people panic that they’re going to be late while I just sit and relax.

I put my earphones on, play a happy song, and head for the nearest coffee shop. It rained last night, I realize when I notice the small puddles of water scattered like jigsaw puzzles along the sidewalk. Down the street, a steady stream of water is still coming from one building for some reason. I guess it didn’t get the memo that it stopped raining five hours ago.

I sit in one of the tables outside a quiet café, with my black coffee and my last-night face, and I reflect on what I’d done. It really wasn’t that bad, I bargain. People had done it before and lived through it. With all the evils in the world, surely it’s not the worst thing a person could do.

And yet.

I know people still judge morning-after walks of shame. The funny thing is that I didn’t even have sex last night. It’s what got me in this trouble in the first place. But I had to do it, I repeat to myself. I take a gulp of hot coffee and decide on the spot that it was the right thing to do.

Out of nowhere, there’s a little voice inside me that whispers, I would’ve named her Lulu, after her grandma. But I take another sip and shush the voice.

It was the right thing to do.