We all have the same darkness, the same inky blackness tearing our insides apart; the same dark side that shows our level of imperfection and humanity. We so often say that the world is messed up, and that it’s responsible for how wrecked we are, but therein lies a consequence for our existence: we will destroy. However intentional or merely collateral damage, we are beings filled with darkness anyhow; shadows and silhouettes that will hurt and break even themselves. It calls on the need for unity and forgiveness, for compassion, for the need to rise against and provide betterment for the wrecked beings that we are and the wrecked world that we will cause.
How long has it been, again? Three months? Four? I don’t know when I’ll be able to see you again, and it’s not like I really want to. Now, wait – don’t take offense. You understand, don’t you? That every inch of you is teeming with memories, good and bad and bizarre, and all I do as each step makes them come back to life is think and repeat one word, over and over again: Surreal. This is all too surreal.
You’re the ideal place for a new family to settle down in; to buy one of your big houses situated on big roads. You’re the town where everybody knows everybody. Routine is evident in and embellished in the heart of the community. Mornings are cool and breezy, the neighbors water their plants at the exact same hour, and people are walking to the plaza to get a breakfast of hot pandesal with butter. The stores open. Last night’s rice is fried on the stove with hearty portions of sliced hotdogs and eggs, and kids are waiting blearily on kitchen tables, in sleepwear and school uniforms alike. By noon, the hubbub dies down after lunch, all televisions tuned into the local noontime shows; the lights dimmed and most snoring through their siestas. Children of the morning shifts at school assemble on the streets for hours of play, until 6:30 arrives and the mothers are calling them in. The lampposts makes your roads glow yellow, and after dinner, small groups are wandering, smoke furling into the air, murmurs slow; or they’re out with chairs and talking, looking up at the star-filled skies. Weekends find you noisy with activity, the plaza overflowing as people walked to and from the local church in their best outfits.
As far as a neighborhood is concerned, you’re perfect. Peacefulness. Huge houses. Big roads. A tightly-knit community. And as far as I was concerned, it was the perfect childhood home.
You were homemade delicacies I couldn’t find anywhere in the city. You were a family around a circular table. You were Sunday mornings and retro music on the radio. You were 6 PM rosaries. You were afternoon cartoons and sweaty games; you were skinned knees and Christmas carols with flattened soda lids around a piece of wire as accompaniment. You were laughter and days in the rain. You were braids and dresses and fairytales.
But you were also screams. You were also gaps in my memory I think I faked, just to not think about what actually transpired. You were blood on the walls and shouts of help; you were nightmares and haziness; you were the smell of stale beer and cigarettes; you were the dazed state of not knowing how to distinguish reality from fantasy.
You’re picture-perfect with all the flaws behind closed doors.
Every time I see you, I crave the star-filled skies that no longer exist and the company of my childhood mates I know left soon after I did. I crave the family dinners I know are impossible, and the embellished routine I was once a part of. I can make them out if I try hard enough through my memories, but they come up hazy and clouded with how much I tried to forget.
I’ll still go back, though, for the sake of family and nostalgia. After all, I do miss you.
Or rather, I miss how you seemed.
“Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them, that the people buying milk in their pajamas or picking their noses at stoplights could be only moments away from disaster. That everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary – a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen.”
“Oscar Wilde once said that to live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people just exist, and that’s all. I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that I spend a long time existing, and now, I intend to live.”
Life is the tragedy, Ezra. Or, rather, it’s a collection of tragedies happening one after the other.
His fingers gripped the edge of the small wooden chair he was sitting on, his forehead breaking out into cold sweat. He let his eyes close, trying to calm himself down. The box that he was in felt like it was closing in around him. He was suffocating, wanting to gasp for air, but the dead weight of his heart was pounding against his chest painfully – every shallow breath hurt like a knife to his chest; every shallow breath a hurtful reminder.
How long had it been? He had lost track of the seconds that ticked by, loud and clear, echoing behind him. He had never dared to look. It seemed like he couldn’t bear to move. He shivered and straightened. His eyes opened slowly as he let out a small breath. Each inhale felt like a stab in his chest.
He nearly shut his eyes again. He forced them open, forced them to glare right back at the accusing stares, at the fearful, bloodied faces, all of their mouths curled into the same mocking sneer, their fingers pointed with their hands down, their mouths closed with their voices screaming, sobbing – how dare you? How could you? The noise flooded his ears, the taunts and the snarls giving way to pleading cries. They were running and they were sitting, and then they were still, their silence thundering; deafening.
He didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t know what came over him. He didn’t know anything, now, except that he was guilty, and that he deserved to wallow in it, after he watched in idle fascination at how the blood was smeared on his hands and shirt and chest –
The gavel struck as he struggled to breathe through another stab of pain. When he looked up, he beared down upon himself, bloodied cheeks and frowning lips; the accusation clear in the mingled look of fear and disgust etched into his face. There were bits of gravel stuck on his chin, and he remembered the burning pain in his arms. He remembered the smell of earth, the contrast of her pale skin against the dark soil – the paradoxical contrast, he thought, of life and death. He had smiled to himself, appreciating the delicate grace of her lithe body against the uneven ground, before retching to his side.
How could you? the walls wailed, flickering in bright yellow and dark brown and green, and he wailed along with them, sobbing and laughing, one hand stuck to cold glass and the other over his eyes, avoiding himself, avoiding accusation, avoiding guilt – sinking down to a kneel, hands slipping, intertwining, begging for absolution.
Nothing matters, and at the same time, everything does. As far as we are all concerned, our existence as humankind is – though miraculous, though wonderful – pointless. As far as we as individuals are, it isn’t. However, the meaning that we give has to survive the search and the conclusion that it isn’t there to be found but within us, that only we give way to value. When we manage to come into terms to this, we, as individuals, and maybe later then, as a whole, will have the foundation of life; the foundation to thrive. When what we’ve reached the point that everything has fallen apart, that is when we can finally build our faith and will of and to life.