Behind the Words


As a child, I was preoccupied with the idea of “discovered” writing. I had been writing in diaries ever since I was six, and growing up, I was fascinated with the idea of a stranger reading it. The fascination turned into writing diary entries addressed to the reader, and every time I started on a fresh, new notebook, I’d write: “To you, dear reader, this is my mark in the world.”

It was nothing but some fancy sentiment for a nine-year-old then. Now, I think it was the beginning of awakening to what had pulled me to write in the first place.

I see initials carved into a tree with a heart locking it in. It’s not a testament of love, but a testament of fear: at the fact that the only thing constant in the world is change, that what and who you hold precious now will, inevitably, become obsolete.

Even in graffiti, even by children holding crayon and coal and chalk, inscribing ways of life and names on walls, and myself, feverishly writing miniscule details in journal entries, addressing the reader over and over; in love letters, where, as a romantic touch, I write that memories may fade but ink never will: there is an acknowledgement of the universal, centuries-old fear of demise and disintegration; of feeling like a mere spark in a bonfire; a speck in the world.

In whatever way, we write to cope, to commemorate, to prove: this is us. We exist. Let us tell you our stories. Let us carve our names into your skin.


An End to Ennui 


I used to live in a large apartment building, composed of five stories and white-washed, where there must be four main staircases and four fire exits. I explored all likely routes and exits from our floor; from the hallway across us; from the dangling ladder leading to a stairwell at the grounds. Vans that exist to sell internal organs of children and houses that become the prison of those kidnapped drilled into my head – as well as my address, parents’ numbers, and the correct answer to who do you approach for help? -, what was once just a simple pasttime became something vaguely useful. Throughout the years, when we moved from one place to another, I had developed the obsessive habit of checking all the potential escape routes. Large windows, fire exits. Ladders and stairwells. Rooftops low enough for me to jump onto the neighbor’s roof if needed. The more the escape routes, the more comfortable I was.

Perhaps it developed me into a fickle person, somewhat capricious – perhaps it was one of the symptoms of me being so. I could never stay as someone constant. Once something begins, it must have an end. Entropy increases; everything crumbles. Faced with people and new circles of friends; a new living space; a new school, I ask – how do I get out of this? How will it end? How do I save myself; keep my head above the water? What are the ways out? I look for the escape routes within people. I look for escape routes within situations. I look for escape routes in every place. I was running away from danger that wasn’t even present. In my thinking, it really wasn’t – not yet.

Maybe in some circumstances it was for the better. Most of the time, however, it seems I set myself up for destruction and run away before it could get worse. I start the fire and let it consume the bridges I’ve established; I let it burn down to ashes. I don’t look back and blind myself enough to think it was a natural occurrence.

It’s strange to feel contentment. It’s strange to want it; to have the comfort of everything the way they are even with the dust that’s gathered at every nook and corner. I know things will not stay static; I know things are bound to change. I used to be bored to death with the same people and the same damn things. Now I keep thinking of a daily routine as a luxury of the present.

Now, I’ll hold on to every moment of how things are. Tear out the memories from my mind and tear out pieces of paper and put them there. Ink and paper is not bound to betray us, unlike our fading memories and aging bodies, unlike time; unlike everything to be weathered down to be unrecognizable. What matters right this moment is how everything stands, as if we were indestructible. As if we are invincible.

As if we are timeless.

In frame: the universe conspires for you to grow, by me! It’s my most recent drawing.



The heat at the beach was one that puts you under a spell of comfort. I stand in its glare, feet buried in the sand, and feel as though its warmth was harmless at noon; the slight sea breeze its accomplice. 

I stand on the beach and watch the love story between the sea and the shore unfold before me: the sea, with its undulating waves, kissing the shore. It always leaves – but fulfills every promise of return.

I stand and wonder which one is more helpless; on which of them is the one succumbing to the whims of the current that pulls them away from each other. The waves rise and swell and crash – but leave quite calmly, only with the slight whisper of seduction, and I move my feet. The waves lap at my toes, teasing and luring me in, until I surrender and feel my whole body enveloped by the sea; the waves carrying me in every direction. 

I try not to look back at the shore; try not to watch a love story I am all too familiar with. I stare only out, at the distances the water stretches out, and wonder how much farther I could go. 

In response to the daily prompt: Undulate 

Mind Over Matter


I admit, I feel as if I am only deluding myself to think that you would ever read this. After all, you have disappeared without a word nor a trace. Your existence itself remains a mere possibility, and yet I hold onto it like a drowning man would onto his last breath. 

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City Lights 


Staring out at the city laid out below him, he wondered why he was so masochistic in spending his nights here. After all, the view just made him remember her.

Which was ironic. She hated the city. She never lost a chance to rant about it, either. She frowned the first thirty minutes she walks into a mall on weekends, and muttered curses under her breath when stuck in traffic. Then later, she’d complain about the crowd and the heat and the noise. Her voice would reach a pitch of such shrill indignation he’d fight back a grimace of pain – knowing she’d start on him if he so much let himself wince – and vowed, over and over, to live in the rural areas when she could. Somewhere isolated, she would specify, scowling at the long line of cars in front of her.
This was a girl who practically lived in cafés and 24-hour fastfood chains when she was bored. He had to hold back a smile.
“I mean, look at this,” she would say, gesturing all around her. “Wouldn’t you rather be in a clean, quiet place? Somewhere you can actually relax. Somewhere you can look up the skies and see stars, and not air pollution.”
Most of the time he’d just shrug in response. She took that as the cue to sigh in exasperation and give up on the subject – but not before romanticizing the possibility of moving right there and then.
Until one time, when he quipped, “The city’s pretty relaxing,” in an off-hand voice. She looked over at him with disbelief written all over her face. He would, too, to be honest. He couldn’t remember the last time he disagreed with her.
“Oh, please -”
“No, I’m serious,” he interrupted, thoroughly enjoying the way she wrinkled her nose at him in annoyance. “It’s not relaxing to be in it, I suppose, but it’s relaxing to see the city. Rushing cars. Lights. Skyscrapers.”
She shook her head and snorted. “Whatever. I’m not even going to bother.”
“Come on,” he said, laughing a little. “I’ll show you tonight. You’ll see.”
She rolled her eyes before fluttering them at him. “See how wrong you are?” she asked in a voice that would’ve been sweet if it wasn’t so out of character. It sounded threatening.
He ignored her question and raised his eyebrows, offering, “We’ve got a rooftop at our apartment.”
She settled back into her seat as the light in front of them turned green. “Why are you so persistent?”
A yes. He shrugged and smiled. “Just trying for a change.”
That night, he led her up series of staircases, dragging his guitar with him. She had looked at it in curiosity when he brought it out, but he didn’t bother to explain. He switched the guitar to his left hand as he reached for the keys to the door of the rooftop with his right one. He had borrowed them from the caretaker, who handed it to him without question. Probably because it was too damn late in the night for him to bother and ask why.
She walked a step behind him, her arms crossed. She had taken off her makeup and was in a tank top and pajamas, her hair still wet from the shower. He approached the little dining table set by the corner of the balcony to put his guitar down before beckoning her over. She was still scowling as she took his hand. He pulled her beside him, his arm going around her shoulders, before whispering, “Look.”
“I already am,” she whispered back, looking annoyed. He smiled and gave her a nudge, ignoring the way his heart seemed to beat faster. The view was eerie, and could almost be considered surreal. The dark outlines; the glow of lights. The quiet rush of the cars on dimly lit roads.
“You always say you’d rather be in a place where you could look at the stars,” he started, breaking the silence. “But if you think about it, cityscapes gets you under the same spell. The contrast of the glowing lights against the dark sky. The depth. There’s the possibility of life in outer space you can wonder about when you look up, but there’s the realization of the thousands of lives going on around you here. A thousand possibilities in each of them on what could be happening.”
She didn’t say anything for a few moments. Then she sighed, leaning against him. “Very profound of you.”
The closest he would ever get to her agreeing. He chuckled. “I try.”
Silence overcame them. He looked down at her, and he wished he was profound and brave enough to say what he really wanted to; what worried him in the years that had passed that he contradicted her in one of her passing moments of frustration.
Years. Of her, of him, of them – coexistent. Every now and then there was the irritation of going through the same argument; the tiredness of the same routine. Even the way he held her now was overly familiar, and as much as he hated it, there was the urge to release her and step back – even if she was practically putting all her weight against him. She was more than if not as easily bored as him, and he knew she felt the same way at times. Her venting was nothing new, he supposed, but goddamn if it wasn’t getting more frequent. And it always ended up in wanting something new; in being somewhere else. He couldn’t comfort her like he used to. When she wasn’t upset about something, they spent more and more time in silence.
He was caught up in paranoia. Maybe he was interpreting her the wrong way, but this was him showing her what he wanted to say: there was still beauty and love in them, in what has always been, and hopefully what will always be. He could still see it. And inside, he was practically begging her for her to reassure him that she could still see it, too.
He released her, and she straightened herself, looking over at him. He smiled at her as he reached for his guitar and leaned against the table.
“Besides,” he said, “what use do I have for stars when I could just look in your eyes?”
She grinned, shaking her head. It was an old line he started back in when they were in high school. He was a sucker for composing poems and songs back then, and he made that line the basis for one of his first compositions. For her.
He started to strum.
The way he did now, sitting on one of the chairs of the same table that he had leaned against two years ago.
He shook his head, strumming to the same notes of the same song. The pain of losing her had turned into a dull ache, but it was there nevertheless.
He stared out into the city laid out before him, the glowing lights blurring together. A thousand lives. A thousand possibilities in each.
A thousand possibilities in him. A thousand possibilities in her. A thousand of possibilities for the two them.
Maybe it wasn’t in the odds. Maybe it was just inevitable.
It was all over



I was going home. After track after track of rhythm and blues, I found myself unconsciously agreeing with the driver’s choice of music. Usually the jeepney drivers would be playing old love songs that had wailing choruses of devotion or party music that didn’t seem to agree with the city traffic’s own music consisting of curses and impatient beeps, along with the afternoon heat. This one was almost soothing, going well with the vehicle’s dim interior, covering the rumbles of the engine and the noise outside. If I closed my eyes I wouldn’t have known where I was – I would only know that I was moving, mercifully moving, and it would be enough. There need not be any destination, nor fear that I was going into the unknown.

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