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.

The Scene at the Library

“He’s gay.” I heard someone say for the sixth time since I entered the library and started reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I was at the part where everyone was gushing over Viktor Krum, and for a split second I thought the boys behind me were commenting about him.

“Jesus Christ,” I murmured to myself. All I wanted in life was to read the book quietly without a group of underdeveloped boys ruining it for me by saying the same taunt over and over again. And it wasn’t even witty. What the fuck is so creative and brilliant about calling someone gay as an insult? I swear to god bullies are nothing but airheads.

I promised myself I wouldn’t react because it wasn’t what I came here to do. I came here in the comfort of the library to enjoy the silence and my new book. Why are these sleazeballs even here? Aren’t they supposed to hang out at the basketball court or an empty classroom or somewhere else according to clichés?

“His hair is the gayest,” someone else said behind me, and the rest of them giggled. What a promising mind, this jerk has.

“Excuse me,” I said while turning around to face them. “Could you please tone it down? I’m trying to read here.” I looked at the kid at the table beside them that they were referring to as gay and did a quick check. It’s the skinny kid who transferred to our school a few days ago. He’s reading a book called Flowers for Algernon and thought to myself damn, you’re really not helping your case here reading something that has flowers in the title, kid.

“Mind your own business, Jake,” this tough-looking boy told me with a scowl on his face. He was my classmate from a couple of years ago and he was dumb as a brick but was also rich as fuck, the combination I hate the most. I also remember something distinctly embarrassing that he did back in freshman year that earned him the nickname Doody. Of course he bullied most of the students into never calling him the name ever again or his rich daddy will expel them from our top-rated, private school. But I’m not most people and I could care less about being expelled.

“Listen, Doody,” I said, looking at him directly in the eye and making sure he absorbed those two syllables with which I practically baptized him again. “Get the fuck out of the library if you’re not going to read or I might just be in the mood to retell the Tale of the Doody.”

“I’ll have my father expel you, asshole,” he hissed at me but his voice was shaking, so I was encouraged even more.

“Sure, but everyone will still know you pooped your pants during last period in freshman year,” I answered in one breath, and his minions snorted, trying to hold back laughter. “Oops.” I said as a follow-up.

Doody was about to say something I suspect was incredibly witty and off-putting and possibly could even be considered the comeback of the year, but right then the librarian hissed at us to be quiet. And instead of staying without being able to answer back, to my relief, they stormed out of the library instead. Satisfied, I returned to my book and continued reading.

Precisely three sentences later, someone tapped me on my shoulder and said, “Hey.”

“Holy shit, can’t people just let me re—,” I said as I put my book down, yet again, and turned around. I stopped when I saw that it was the kid from the other table. “Oh, hey man.”

“I just wanted to say thank you for making them leave,” he said while staring at his feet instead of me. He looked like every cliché underdog in every teen movie and YA novel.

“You’re welcome. I really just want to read,” I answered frankly, but it came out more like a plea. The thing is that the book came out a few weeks ago and I found the time to read it only today because there was too much schoolwork that had to be done first.

“Yeah, I understand. Thank you anyway,” the kid said, not taking his eyes off his feet. And then he started rummaging for something in his bag and I just waited there for a few awkward seconds not saying anything.

“Here, take this,” he said, finally, handing me a sandwich. I was a little taken aback at the gesture, but took the sandwich anyway. “I don’t really like tuna, so you can have it,” he assured me.

“So to show me how grateful you are, you’re giving me your reject?” I said jokingly. “Yeah, okay cool.”

“No! I just mean—”

“It’s okay, dude,” I assured him, smiling. Man, this kind can’t take a joke. “I’m Jake, by the way.” I said, reaching my hand out for a handshake.

“I’m Matt.”

“Nice to meet you, Matty.”

“No, not Matty. I hate that name. Just Matt,” he said, a little panic in his voice.

“Whatever, Matty,” I said, ignoring him. “I’ll see you around campus, dude. Now get the fuck out and let me read, okay?”

Matt just nodded and awkwardly made his way out of the library. As I got back to reading my book and sneaking a bite of the surprisingly delicious tuna sandwich, I thought, that kid was alright.


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.