At first, they tell you, Remember when? and then you would pretend to not hear. It was better to forget, everything was fine before the reminiscing. But then, it’s the times when they’re somehow possessed by a memory—that’s when it hits you. Without caution, all at once, right in the gut: a gnawing pain, a stabbing jolt, Remember, almost insisting, and you do, following the thrust of the knife to ease the throb, but it doesn’t help, nothing helps, and you can’t breathe as it takes all the sighs within you, Remember, and you could barely hold on to the Now, and then, Remember, all you could wish for is to hold your breath that’s there to be felt but never to be seen, Remember it never stops, and then, all at once, right in the gut, you stop and we were spun. Remember? When was it?
The year has been rough over the edges, a raw sculpture, as it has always been. The more you want to polish it — because you want to finish strong, maybe, the more it wants you to bleed. It was the usual you win some, you lose some. Months turning into hours; the days have gone without me seeing the sun rise and set. It still does that, apparently, even when we don’t look.
A friend once posted this poem of my Philosophy professor, Eddieboy Calasanz. The poem gently opened with these lines:
Maingat kong binuksan
Ang huling liham mo.
Magaan ang sobre
Sa aking kamay:
Hindi tulad ng nakaraan.
It had no title, much like there is no name for what I felt after reading the entirety of his piece: it shocks you, a forceful sting, and then melting, now becoming part of an already-scathed heart. As if on cue, I remember how he asked me what I would do after all the despair, after the storm is over and my ship capsized, white flag waving. “A silence will come,” I said, “The quiet that makes a house a home, and I will be alright.” To which he nodded, prodded, “Also, my dear, there are the stars.”
As Plath would say, we are “riding the earth’s burning carousel. / Day in, day out.” Writing this was a challenge: forcing myself to remember. I took it to be forgetfulness—but then when I tried to write again, everything was again crystal clear, as if I had waited a thousand few lifetimes to tell this story. But it is still undone, as we all are.
This year’s resolve is to skip the romantic and the dreary daydreams and keep feelings out of the way. Stolen moments aren’t a life, as someone once said. And I would want us to grow into people who know the value of keeping and then letting go of the things that leave us parching, almost sorry for ourselves for being this.
How is the heart? The heart is still here, warm and cold at the same time, as I hold it bare in my hand, albeit runny and thin on some parts, ready for the world to consume again. The lungs are lined a greying red, black as well from the soot and heaving of the city. Like a child’s outline to every single thing he wants to color: the lungs are dark on the edges, as if to mark the days, the long nights we braved only to seep through and breathe through the day. No skin was broken, the eyes are still poor for physical sight, but has been sharper.
Not a lot of people know this but I love long walks. It doesn’t matter where, or when, or who I’m with; just get these feet somewhere. Maybe it’s the quiet, or maybe it’s how the earth moves and you move with it, albeit different in pace. Earlier today, I went back to the bustling city to wrestle with the thoughts inside my head. We walked past so many old places that were now foreign to us. I had blurted out, “How could we feel so foreign in a place we once considered home?”
A volcano is erupting at the heart of my country: almost a recognizable phenomenon from the distance, but within its mantle lies a deeper story. That there are some truths that shake the rubble of this earth to wake sleeping men. That this is the time for these movements to form. It does not need any more of those blood-red rages of fire.
One of my beloved professors in college once shared to us: It is in open wounds that light breaks out. And perhaps, in these tiny fragments of thought, a new ray of somethings break loose. Perhaps a reconciliation with fear and doubt, taking that one giant leap of faith.
Today marks the first of February, the month I could never get the spelling right the first time. But does it matter at all, even so?
for Andrea, the bravest of hearts, who never gave up on us