February nineteen

my mother tried talking to me last night and i kept my eyes on my computer screen, stuck on the cells and rows of Excel. i didn’t look at her. my eyes stung. perhaps from the glare of the screen. perhaps from the tears threatening to fall. i thought to myself, just work like a machine please.

prior last night, the last time we talked to each other was two weeks ago. we had a big fight, but day by day, i’d feel her anger ebbing away. until three days ago, i came home late at night with my favorite food on the table. fresh spring rolls. she made it for me, i knew that, but she was nowhere to be seen and i didn’t bother eating it.  so i left it there, untouched. the day after the Spring Roll Surprise, i found my room and bathroom clean; swept and mopped, my dirty clothes on the floor were gone. my laundry bucket was empty. my bathroom smelled nice, my bath things arranged in rows, my desk organized. she fixed it for me, i figured.

but last night, i could feel her anger again. or perhaps it wasn’t anger. perhaps it was disappointment or regret for bearing me. i could feel her voice shaking. i didn’t go to church last night, that’s why, and she’s angry again. i made some dumb excuse and she told me that she and dad already has too many problems to deal with so “can you and your brother stop adding up to our problems?”

she left my room, locking my door as she did. i felt angry.  i realize that between my mother and i, i am the stronger one. emotionally, mentally. screw her. screw her for making me believe that there is no goodness in this life. screw her.

a few minutes later i heard my younger brother arrive home. i knew it was him from the way his footsteps sounded, the way he closed his door shut—not too hard, but hard enough to announce his presence. i heard his backpack drop to the floor. i got up from my own floor and went to him. a young man of 17, just at the peak of puberty. he’s turning 18 in two months and i wish he never had to because i hate that he’s growing up so fast… i knocked on his door and asked him to buy cigarettes.

my younger brother has been smoking since he was sixteen, i think. it got more frequent as he entered college last year. time and time again he’d offer me a cigarette and say, “just try it. try it once.” and i always said no. i’ve never smoked in my entire life. but last night seemed like that night so i thought, why not. i gave him a few bills and he went out to get a pack. i waited in my room, stuck on Excel again, wringing my fingers.

he came back a few minutes later and lied down on my bed while i sat cross-legged on the floor. he said, “i got you your own lighter,” and waved the violet Bic lighter in front of my face. i rolled my eyes. did he think i was going to turn this into a lifestyle? funny boy. he mentioned that he was supposed to take a break from smoking but since i asked him to get some tonight, he’s now inclined to smoke for the night. i suddenly felt guilty but i realized, he is his own person. we all destroy ourselves.

he smoked first, sitting on my floor, looking out of my balcony while i sat a few feet away from him, trying to work on my Excel file but deep inside, contemplating. i hated the smell, i realized. tobacco is the nastiest smell i’ve ever smelt. unlit cigarettes smell fragrant, a bit spicy and woody, but when lit, it is vile. when my brother was done, he took off his shirt and lied down on my bed, hugging my fluffy pillow to him. we always fought over this pillow because apparently it’s the only fluffy pillow in the house and the rest are flat, lame ass pillows. unfortunately for him, this fluffy pillow is mine. he is all skin and bones, my brother. a skinny tall  almost-man. he told me he felt a bit dizzy. i closed my laptop and took a stick of cigarette. i twirled it around my fingers. this little thing has caused so many deaths.

i sat on my balcony and my younger brother taught me how to smoke. i thought the whole arrangement was funny. “inhale the smoke,” he said, when all i did was keep the smoke in my mouth, swirl it around and blow it out. “you have to inhale it in your lungs.” the first time that i did, i gulped the smoke and coughed my lungs out. how do smokers get addicted to this? it’s repulsive.

the whole time i tried to finish the stick, he rambled on about his day. how he went to the art fair with his college friends, how he’s finally able to talk to that girl he likes, how they sat together in the movies earlier, how the whole thing went smooth and natural, as if they were old friends. i listened intently and suddenly forgot to smoke, too engrossed in his day’s stories. i like hearing about how his days went. i’m happy to see him happy. perhaps someday we will get away from this hell but for now we cannot and we have to keep pushing each other to keep afloat. my dream is to see my younger brother live a beautiful life, full of love and peace. i hope he finds real love with this girl. i hope to meet her.

i think he noticed i stopped smoking because he urged me to finish the stick. he said it would be a waste if i didn’t. ha-ha, i thought that was funny. as if we weren’t waste ourselves. i finished the stick anyway. he left my room moments later mumbling about getting sleep. i was stuck with my dumb Excel paper again and a pack of cigarettes. i suddenly felt sleepy.

i woke up this morning cramming my paper. i fell asleep on my computer while trying to work on my Excel file. with no breakfast, i decided to try to smoke again. i lit one in my bathroom and tried to do it “properly” this time. so i perched the stick on my lips, lit it and sucked the smoke in. it gave a burning sensation in my throat and chest and dizzied me, but i told myself to finish the stick. i did. i crushed the butt on my sink. i feel dizzy, but the good kind of dizzy. still, i don’t like the feeling. it gives me a bad feeling, but i guess compared to all the horrible feelings that i’m already experiencing, it really doesn’t make a difference. it tastes nasty on my tongue, like black coffee aftertaste. i have seven sticks left. i am contemplating if i should throw it away or finish it then vow to “never do it again.” before smoke addicts became addicts, did they rationalize smoking this way too? i promise this is the last one. yeah right. whatever.

this same morning my mother knocked on my door and she loves me again. her eyes are swollen and her voice is soft. she tried to smile at me, but i think she failed because she looked in pain instead. i only stared at her, my face blank of any emotion. i hate her. i hate her warring emotions. i hate her unpredictability. i hate never knowing if she’s going to lash out at me today or show her frustrations  or erupt in anger again. today she didn’t do any of that. today she loves me, but tomorrow she might not. i cannot count on her love. frankly, i’m counting the days and wondering when she’d hate my existence again. perhaps on Tuesday.

while on my way home last night, i walked slow and took every bit of my time. i had no desire to go home. home stopped being home when every time i’d come inside the front door, i would hesitate turning my key in because it felt foreign to me, as if i was invading someone else’s home. home isn’t home anymore. perhaps it never was. perhaps i am a snail, living inside myself, living inside my head.

as usual, i’m typing my feelings away in the cold library. i needed an excuse to get out of the house, but really, i just wanted to write down my feelings. i feel as if it is the only way to make this never-ending hurt finite: type it in, delete, edit, make another paragraph—it makes me feel in control with my emotions, it gives me the cold comfort that if i press the backspace key to delete these words, i am also deleting my problems away but i realize i cannot and my worries and fears are still here and my heart is a hollow organ and i wish i could stop myself from these tears because the librarian is fixing the circulations on the shelf beside me and i hate to look so weak and i wish i could just feel every emotion freely, to feel without ever having to repress myself again or feel underserving for the mere fact of feeling. i wish to see the goodness and beauty in this life, to love anybody i want, pour my soul out to that person and give him all that i have and all that i am but i can’t. i can’t. i am stuck with words.

words. words are all i have.

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