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.

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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

Stay

I’m not an important person. People never get my name right. Baristas never know how to spell or pronounce it correctly. Strangers who see my name but have never met me always think I’m a boy. But this never really bothered me. Because we are never too mindful about things that are not important.

Oblivion has always been a most comforting promise. I could disappear and it wouldn’t make a difference. The world would stay as it is, not budging in its greatness. And this doesn’t break my heart. I’m comforted in the fact that my being gone wouldn’t make things worse.

I’ve never been scared of being forgotten. Friends and lovers have lost me way too many times and yet they’re happy and I’m still me and we’re all still here. I’m okay with people leaving without blaming them because in this lifetime, there are too many people to get to know and places to go and we can’t keep everyone.

And I have left people. Because sometimes caring gets too heavy for my already shaking hands. And sometimes, I don’t even care about myself so I can’t imagine how I can be good enough for somebody else. Like I said, I’m not an important person. It’s the most selfish thing–accepting too soon that nothing is wrong with being temporary.

But this is what I’m used to and this is what’s comfortable. But let me tell you something:

He kept saying my name. He kept saying my name and I felt my heart grow bigger. It looked so much like a smile when his lips curved to mouth my name. And I couldn’t help but think that maybe it isn’t so bad that someone chooses to remember it.

And he always remembers. I’ve gotten so used to repeating everything and people forgetting that my words nearly turned into a stutter. But he remembers, and now I’m slowly saying goodbye to repetition.

And I swear I’m not important. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t matter, and we will keep on letting people go and believe me, I’m not important.

But when he says my name, my god it sounds like a prayer.

When he says my name, it sounds so much like “stay.”

Monster

There is a special kind of monster that lurks in the hearts of those left behind.

This one doesn’t keep me up until 3 in the morning because I’m already used to that, the odd sense of peace when the world is quiet.

But it paralyzes me in the most ordinary situations. Somehow I will find myself in bed at noon and feel invisible roots digging through my heart, making their way to all corners of my room, and I will realize I won’t be able to move for days and can’t explain exactly why.

When I stare at my ceiling, my mind will automatically flash a montage of where I could have gone wrong, which move I miscalculated. Did I seem too eager? Was it too much for him? Did I not give him enough space? But I argue, “I was ready to give him the entire universe, so how could he have had too little space?”

I never like talking about this particular brand of hurt. It seems unnecessary to dwell in it. It’s a maze of emotions I’ve gone through before. No matter how many ways I ask why he didn’t choose me, it will always lead to the same answer. There is no diplomatic way of unloving someone.

But I have to get up from my bed at some point, try to wrestle through the roots, learn how to say it’s not my fault over and over until it doesn’t feel heavy anymore.

I will have to paint over the unanswered questions I see on my ceiling, maybe draw a few flowers instead so I can look at something pretty when I question myself.

I can pretend this monster doesn’t scare me. I can storm off from everything with all the willpower I can muster, but it still won’t matter then. I had only myself all this time. It had been only my heart.

And you. They will never know who you are. You will just be another pronoun in a poem I tried my hardest to brave through writing.

Because here’s the funny thing about this kind of heartbreak. Nothing technically ended. Because you were never there to begin with.

Netflix and Chill

I never want to have sex. This means that I never want anyone’s dick anywhere near me. This means that I will never be fascinated with your dick, so send that photo to someone else. This means that all attempts at flirting and getting me in the mood will be pointless. This means that “Netflix and chill” to me actually means “Netflix and chill…ing at the sofa binge watching The IT Crowd.” 

This means that pickup lines will be met with a resounding, “WHAAAAT?” This means that, “fuck me” will always be just an expression. This means that asking me to talk dirty to you means telling you the story of that one time at a bar, I drank a blue cocktail and the next day my pee was the same color. This means that if you really want me to talk dirty to you, I will tell you that one of my favorite bands is Garbage. I mean, how dirty is that, right??? 

Garbage???

I never want to have sex and I never talk about the boys I like in sexual terms. This means that I don’t care if Leslie Odom Jr. is topless or wearing a bespoke suit—he will always be beautiful to me. This means that yes I like this one boy very much but no, I don’t want to fuck him just to prove it. This means that I really just enjoy talking to him and listening to him talk about his music. This means that sexual innuendos will never come from me.

But this doesn’t mean that I don’t laugh at green jokes. This doesn’t mean I am less interested in making connections. This doesn’t mean I find beauty less appealing. This doesn’t mean I think sex is dirty. This doesn’t make me a prude, a tease, or a bore. This doesn’t make me a fucking challenge.

I don’t want to have sex. But this doesn’t mean that you can look down on my lack of experience or that I will let you “teach” me. This doesn’t mean that maybe I just need alcohol to loosen up. This doesn’t make me ignorant or incomplete or a freak.

I don’t want sex. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t want love. The holding hands, the butterfly kisses, and late-night drives. This doesn’t mean that I don’t fall in love sometimes with the slightest hint of someone’s kindness. This doesn’t make me a sexually repressed, un-feeling robot.

It just means that I never want to have sex. This doesn’t mean I don’t have anything else to offer.