Of Fears

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I have a fear of heights and the dark. Well, I used to have a fear of heights and the dark. I’ve read something – a book, an internet post, a message – that said I did not fear heights or the dark exactly, but the unknown that lies within them. It is not the dark that I am frightened of, but the countless shadows that seem to form, taking on personas of various monsters and demons with the purpose of harm. It is not heights that I am frightened of, but the answer to the question, what happens after I fall? and if you think that the answer isn’t “unknown” to the latter exactly – and yes, I know, I get it: my skull could crack and my bones could break and I could lie dying in a pool of my own blood, but there’s the uncertainty lying within the number of possibilities that could happen. There’s the uncertainty lying within the thought of how it’d feel to fall and hit the ground. There’s the uncertainty lying within the thought of death.

Do all of our fears lead to the same thing: the fear of the unknown? What’s your fear? Spiders, ghosts, banshees, blood, the death of loved ones – some of these we cannot even begin to explain the origin of dread that makes us shudder. Some are just mere possibilities. The idea that it could happen frightens us, despite circumstances that say there’s a higher probability it wouldn’t.

Then again, we never know, don’t we? It’s what has haunted mankind for centuries. We are born into this world unknowing, and we leave it the same still. We throw ourselves into exploring and finding what we can, but instead of arriving at answers, we reap new questions. The majority of us focus on making survival as comfortable as it can get, with our questions left to gather dust at a corner in our heads, manifesting as the universal fear; as the reason why we hold on to God and fate, and find solace in the promise of forever and heaven; in wearing lucky charms and blowing dandelions to the wind. You never know. You never know. you dread this at the same time it gives you hope.

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metathesio

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All my life, I never knew what exactly I feared. The eyes adjust to darkness, and a familiarity of a place eliminates any fear. Ghosts are rare to come by. Cockroaches are just pests, ones that give me shudders because they’re ridiculously ugly and unclean. I can’t say I fear heights when I’ve stood on top of mountains and I know my survival instincts will kick in if ever I do fall – and see, I’m afraid of falling and breaking my bones, not heights itself, which is sensible for any human being.

No, I never knew what I feared. I didn’t know what personal terror I possessed deep within me. It’s fine, really. The most frustrating thing I’ve encountered because of my lack of knowledge is that I can’t do a self-insert when reading about Harry Potter’s boggart, a creature that transforms itself to your darkest fear, or when watching It, where the freak clown weaponizes your fear against you. Maybe the boggart or It will turn into a cloud of confusion and I end up saving the day.

In the quiet lull of the morning, sitting in a bus bumping along a road I’ve taken for a decade, my fear finally dawns on me.

•••

To all beloveds and friends who talk of us existing in the far, far future, I always say:

“You can’t promise me that.”

“We never know.”

“We’ll see.”

“You can’t say that now.”

Or sometimes, I smile and never say it aloud, letting quaint fantasies delude both of us. The lovechild of Time and Fate is Change; powerful with its inevitability. It is in humanity’s nature to fight a lost battle, and even though I know better, I let myself hope and believe that despite billions in testimony it is all in vain, I – we – will defy the odds.

It’s romantic, and pathetic. I look back at those moments full of promises and images conjured of us years older and still together the same way we’ve always been, and I can’t believe myself.

It is change that I fear, and I choose to turn a blind eye to what I know to be true: that in time all that I know will decay and wither and cease to exist. I take my comfort in the monotony of routine; these mornings that, now looking back, are almost indistinguishable from one another.

And so I gladly sit through the traffic; on the road I’ve been on for years. I cannot promise even myself anything. I turn to the window, and try not to think of the day I will last set foot on this road.

Summer Syndrome

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Paris, and the fantasies of moonlit strolls, nibbling on bread outside of a dreamy cafe, feet tapping against cobblestones. Paris, with its streets covered in filth and the nights taunting crime. The Paris syndrome, where psychiatric breakdowns are caused by the reveal of the shocking reality of the dream city, is something I mull over. I thought about it, hair tied up in a bun, my eyes squinting at the odd juxtaposition of the brightness of the sun enough to blind me and the threat of rain just a few miles over. 

Summer entails mornings where you wake up with a parched throat and hair sticking to the back of your neck; your body sticky with sweat. It’s also the season of travelling, bodies bared glowing sunkissed, sipping from entire coconut fruits and taking endless video loops of your feet barely in the sea. It’s flowers in long, flowing hair and love found during beach bonfires that disappears as soon as the rain starts pouring. It’s the days where the slightest breeze feels like a blessing and being under the sun at the strike of noon a curse. It’s when the children run free on the streets and plastic cups filled to the brim with milk and ice are spotted on every street corner; it’s when the days seem longer, as if God willed the hours to go past twenty-four. It is these things, and so much more, but it is never the frightening amount of gray clouds that start to obscure the distant roofs of homes from your view. Yet the latter is what I first cast my eyes that afternoon, barefooted and groggy from siesta, on what was reported to be the first day of summer. 

Umaambon!” a child screamed, and three more snickered as if the announcement emboldened them as they ran across the street. I gazed down at a puddle underneath the shade of a store, holding an ice cream cone, and when the first drops of rain in turn made ripples I ducked my head further in defeat. I headed for home. It is not in nature to keep promises they never made. It is always in a frenzy; always brash, and how foolish of us to think it will the act the way we expect to because we said so.

Summer is freedom, and warmth, and happiness – yet the raindrops beat on the roofs loudly, like a vengeful lover, demanding that you remember her; like that small detail you chose to overlook but never do, your own eyes betraying you. It is the rattling reality check to the delusion; the lure of summer; the impossible fantasy. You do know that it is fleeting. Storms and frosted windows and floods drowning many last breaths as the bed takes on the shape of your body, eyes burnt blind from all of the screens’ glare are more common; less enticing, but you’ll choose to look at the neon lights reflected off puddles of rainwater and the lullabies of drizzles at night.

You’re a glutton for romance. 

Behind the Words

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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.

Glossolalia

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(i saw you, once, across the train station –
our eyes locked in the recognition of
limbo; set for different destinations.
i could not cross to you: i had to stand behind the yellow line.)

listen, i have flipped through all the pages –
i think they’ve made a grave mistake.
define lacking, and failure, and cages
and need – but where is the word for the ache
you suffer through for one who lived in your
peripheral view, on a parallel
line of a life you’ve only glimpsed; unsure
of the distance acquaintances can dwell
on; unjustified in the pain i
feel. how do you speak when the words
don’t exist? in glossolalia: sighs
towards the heavens, tears the angels and
i share, sobbing in the only language i know:
sorrow.

(i saw you, many times, in different places.
we could not cross over to each other – even then, we had drawn yellow lines.)

•••

Night excursions 

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Walking at night is a developed habit of mine over the last couple of weeks. 

I like it because there is less noise and less people, but also because of how things transform. There’s something about the houses, which I normally would never spare a glance for more than a few seconds, and how eerie and tall they suddenly seem in the dark. They seem to breathe quietly, as fast asleep as their inhabitants. 

You get to know the neighborhood more. The burger joint near our place claims to be closed by midnight but remains open until one in the morning; another serves hot meals until God knows when with a large flatscreen TV on, and a person or two is usually stood in front of it, watching. A group of boys huddle about at ten in the evening near my apartment and play music. The old man who lives in front of us takes calls for about an hour outside. It’s always two brothers or a group of girls drinking at the next block, and while I’ve grumbled about the shops that close too early for my taste, I’ve discovered three that stayed open past nine PM, and one of them has a bench in front where people drink. There’s a rowdy group of friends that like to hang out and brings out a couch to the street. 

It’s quiet and calm. There are rare noises I hear: glass breaking, men muttering the combination of numbers for a karaoke song, jazz music being played by a man on the roof; the engine of a motorcycle rumbling as it passes by. The pavements glow orange beneath my feet and when I look above, I’m always lucky to get a scattering of stars. I remember the sky being full of them and my neck aching staring up, but even when few remain, it’s still as enthralling.

I’ve always loved walking – and it sounds ridiculous, but it makes me think and the faster the pace the faster the threads of thoughts in my head untangle and make themselves distinguishable and clear. I don’t know how many times I’ve intentionally come home late to read and walk. I’ve done how many kilometers when traffic was bad at night. It’s always the same wonder at my surroundings that strike me; the same wonder at my perpetual motion; the same wonder of having a destination no matter how aimless the journey may be.

XVI

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Let me make a home
     out of you. Show
me which step to your
     heart creaks along
the way, let me
     see the dust that has
gathered in the
     corners; in the rooms
abandoned. Tell
     me of the hour in
which the sun shines through
     the window and through
the cracks of the doors
     half-opened, and
spills onto the
     living room floor – a
golden pool of
     light that brightens up
the walls. Show me
     which secrets are
locked in the bedroom
     drawers. What hides
among skeletons
     in the closet;
what creatures we
     must fight in the dead
of night beneath
     your bed. Let me
join you in hiding
     places. And then, at
eve, underneath the
     blankets, on your side
of the bed, whisper
     to me what you
wish to dream of,
     let me hold you in
the cold.

In frame: depth // most recent drawing!