Love letter to a disappearing city

 

StockSnap_LTEDNE7CGQ

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.

Definitions

When you’re told you’re beautiful a thousand times over
At the same time that men keep cat-calling you
Even when you’re wearing jeans and a pullover
You realize that Beauty coexists with Malice
And that the latter is easier to believe

Because Beauty doesn’t have a face
It changes body size, skin color, and race
And it is difficult to believe that you are something
Whose definition keeps changing

But Malice is much clearer and more solid
You hear it in men’s whistles
And low whispers of “Cunt, let’s have it.”

You hear it in the way they ask you
Whether you’re heading home
But really hint at wanting to get you alone

You see it when they talk to you
But look you up and down like they have X-ray vision
That penetrates only the clothes that you’re wearing

You see it when they do a double-take to look at you
But focus their eyes on the neckline of your shirt
That they think is too low and could peep into

You feel it when they touch your knees under the table
After buying you one drink
As if that was enough permission

You feel it with their hands at the small of your back
Hands traveling downwards, set in a straight path
And they’re about as subtle as their erection

So the next time you want to reassure someone
And remind them that they matter
Don’t just call them beautiful

Take them out for a walk in the park
Buy them their favorite brand of candy
Thumb wrestle and maybe let them win

Ruffle their hair in the morning
Send a funny video of a puppy yawning
Sit with them through a scary movie
Through tears, through the pain of forgetting

Tell them that they are not locked drawers
Unlocked by the mere mention of the word beautiful
That their secrets are not always equal to scars

Tell them that they are not defined
By the sins that men have done to them
That their self-worth is not measured
By how little the same men look at them

Tell them that their character cannot be summed up in a word
And that their courage and heart take up more space than nine letters

Two

I met a man who told me he had always been
Happy and has all the things he needs
He shook his head and wiped his eyes
As he laughed out loud at his lies

I met another man who never wiped his tears
Whose wrists bear proofs of
Continued existence, of weakness, yes
But also resilience

If these two men ever hugged
I wonder
Could they make each other
Stronger?

Tsunami

Isn’t it funny
How you can sit next to somebody
And still be incapable to reach out
To touch his hand
Much less his heart
Let alone his soul

How it could feel like
There’s a brick wall
Separating both of you
In the form of two
Unspoken words
You’ve danced around
In circles before
The answer to the question
No one dares ask aloud:
“Not anymore.”

How after ten minutes
The bench where you sit
Is still chipped
In the same places
The day is just as warm
But the storm inside your heart
Has left you with a sinister calm
The way a tsunami wipes away a village
And leaves everything quiet
Because everyone is dead.

Flatline

FlatlineDid you know that when someone has a heart attack, that part of his heart dies? It stops receiving oxygen, so it stops pumping blood. A part of the heart actually ceases to work and exists only as scar from then on. So people who’ve survived multiple heart attacks could honestly say that only 70% of their heart is working. But the rest of the heart continues to work, it does what it needs to do to survive. It keeps beating. It acts like it’s still whole.

I’ve never had a heart attack. But every time you cheated on me, it felt like I did. Maybe it’s the reason I couldn’t breathe every time you told another lie, another excuse, another one of your I’m-Sorrys that you stack in a cookie jar. I always thought I was strong enough to handle heartbreak, but I never considered whether my heart could endure it. Perhaps this is why after the nth time, I can’t take you back anymore. Not because I choose not to. But because my heart could only take so much before it completely gives up.

And now all I can hear is the long beep when my hope flatlined.

Artwork by Jethro Lacson