Untitled 3 (Common Things Series)

2:13 am

I just drank two cups of coffee (with a bit of cinnamon) and am waiting for my garlic heads to finish roasting in the oven. I wont be sleeping tonight; I’m really adamant about getting some writing done. I was able to finish the draft of one short story last night and I know it still needs vicious editing, but I’m now ready to move on to my next one. I just find that I really cannot write in the daytime, no matter how hard I try. I know everyone will say that I should discipline myself and force myself to write; I do do that, it’s just that I do it at odd hours of the night, from 12 midnight to 6 am. Last night (this morning) I got to bed at 4 am, and slept until 10 am. It might bet he same thing again tonight, although I’m starting a bit late because I’m waiting for my garlics to finish. I’d like to have a bite while doing some work done. Not much has been happening lately. I graduated two months ago and last week I got a job offer from the biggest daily paper in the country; I start work on the 28th. I’ll be writing content and news, with a little bit of digital marketing and social media thrown in the side; no, it isn’t lucrative, but I’m more surprised at the fact that they’re willing to pay me a cent for something I’d do for free. I’ve been freelancing for a couple of years now, since college started, and I’ve had some of the best (and worst) experiences ever; let’s face it, the writing industry, regardless if it’s journalism or creative writing, doesn’t get enough respect. And it pays peanuts. Until today, I still have withheld checks from the publications I used to contribute to. I’ve since given up on those; most days I feel as if I’m the one accosting them for following up on my checks. It’s nasty and exploitative and clearly unfair, but it’s something I have to accept if I really want to go this way. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I’m fine with this for now, as my first job, at least I know I’ll be getting a salary and benefits; there’s some kind of security as opposed to freelancing wherein you can be gunned down on the job and nobody would know or care. I know I have to start from the bottom pit of Hell, but I guess what I’m surprised by all this is that I’m not moaning about it. In fact, I am excited to get to writing again. I’d like to believe, like Odysseus, that I am still staying centered to my mast. If I really want to do this, if this is what I really want to pursue and make a career out of, there will be some huge sacrifices to make and I’m ready to accept that. I’ve moonlighted in a lot of jobs, and at the same time, also moonlighted as a writer while being bound by other responsibilities but this time, I don’t want to moonlight anymore. There’s just no point in lying to myself, trying to convince myself that I can work corporate and find time to write because that’s never going to happen. So there. I am actually quite happy with how things are working out. Hopefully in a year or two I can start pursing my masters; I’m still torn whether I want to pursue philosophy, anthropology, or literature—but I’ve always been partial towards anthropology. I don’t want to get ahead of myself; I don’t know, still, how to go on about this life, but at least I have some idea—although vague—about what I want to do. I think I’m gonna be alright. I always remind myself of Szymborska, that there is nothing wrong with not knowing and we, in fact, spend our entire lives in uncertainty. I can live with that, I’m not insecure about it; certitude is beautiful, but uncertainty is more beautiful still. And I don’t know is such a small phrase, but it flies on mighty wings. I will be alright, I think.

On another note, I am not best friends with my best friend anymore. I talked to her a week ago and, well, I ended our friendship. I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but I’m just not happy anymore. I’d like to believe that our friendships and relationships with people reflect our inner lives, and I hate what I see when I reflect about our friendship. She was my first best friend in college, having met her in freshman year, and now she’s on her first year in Law school without me. I though we could make it, but I guess things just really change. I’m not pointing any fingers and I’d hate to, but I don’t think we’ve been fair to each other, I to her, and her to me, and it’s something we cannot ignore. I don’t want to pretend it’s alright when it’s not. It makes me uncomfortable to label someone a ‘best friend’ when in reality, I cannot trust this person nor be completely open with her about myself. I wish it didn’t end this way, but I’m now at the point in my life wherein I have a strong sense of what I look for and want in a friendship/relationship, and I’m very clear about that. It just cant be called friendship—nor a best friendship— when I dread it every time, when I feel drained and depressed, fail to recognize myself, and hate myself every time I talk or see this person. I wish it didn’t end this way; I am just as devastated about it, but I cannot continue lying to myself anymore. When I told her, she didn’t contest and told me she understood; she even told me that she hopes that one day, we can be friends again, and that she loves me. I told her of course, that I would never close my doors, and that I love her too.  It’s just that right now, I cannot do it. I need to put myself first. After we talked, I went to bed and cried the moment I woke up. It was that sense of loss that dawned me, the feeling that I lost this special person in my life, and that we’ll never have the same relationship again, that things would have to be different now and we have to continue living our lives without each other. I am still so heartbroken about it, and there are times when I want to reach out to her and say, I take it back, but I stop myself because I know this is for the best. I don’t think I made a mistake, and I don’t regret my decision.

It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life, making friends. Frankly, I find the term “best friend” problematic and refuse to call anyone that. I know some might say it’s sad, but I don’t find it sad. I just don’t like measuring my friends that way, putting them in a hierarchy like that, and singling out the Good, Better, and Best. I don’t even like thinking of people in superlatives and to begin with, I don’t even have much friends, and so when I do call someone a Friend, I know deep in my heart that they are exceptional and extraordinary people who I deeply trust, respect, admire, and love. I am confident in never having to label a Best friend, because I know that all my Friends, with a capital F, (and they are very very few), have already surpassed the superlative. I know most people won’t understand this, but I think thinking of people in superlatives just cheapens them As a child, sure, because it definitely sounds like that kind of thing you’d say if you’re a kindergartner and you’re in the playground and you tell someone you meet, Let’s be best friends! I just find it so immature and juvenile. That’s just me, though.

It’s now 3:00 am. I just finished eating my roasted garlics. God, they’re so delicious. How come I’ve never done this before? So I roasted four baby garlic heads and one regular sized one until they were soft and creamy; I mashed them in a bowl and ended up with about 2-2 1/2 tablespoons of garlic mush? And I spread them on some butter crackers and holy fuck, they’re so so delicious and silky, like butter! I’ve never tasted anything like this, and the taste is so simple yet so exquisite, and all I did was put olive oil, salt, and pepper. It doesn’t even have the astringent taste of garlic; it’s so creamy and nutty and melts in the tongue. Hay. It really is the simple things in life that matter the most! I’ll most likely eat the same thing tomorrow and the next day and the next day, until I tire of them (or run out of crackers) but I just can’t get enough of them. I’ll try roasting a bigger batch tomorrow.

I know I’ve said there is nothing wrong with uncertainty in life, but I’ve been talking about certainty in what I look for in relationships and friendships, with how I look at friends, how I go about my (budding) career as a writer, pursuing graduate school in the near future, and all that. Well, there are just some things I cannot compromise anymore, and these are those. And to add to that small list of certainties, I would also like to confess (to myself! listeners, are there even listeners out here in the void of cyberspace??? lol) that I am certain about my feelings for this person. I don’t want to dwell on this too, but I’ve reached a point where I’m not even denying myself of these feelings. These are all normal and I know I’m very late to this whole thing (being 21 and being single since birth), but I mean, my emotions are valid. I really like this guy. The word “like” is something I find banal and “attraction” sounds too robotic so I guess the word I want to use is tenderness? I feel tenderness towards this person. He is very special to me; I’ve known him for a few years now and he’s actually a friend of mine, so that’s sort of a problem here, but I enjoy his company, I love hearing what he has to say, I love talking to him, and well, like what I said, he has a tender and sentimental effect on me. That’s all, HAHA. I don’t plan on telling him; I guess I’m more afraid of ruining our friendship and losing him. I hope someday when I’m not bound by my own frailties I’d have the strength to tell him, but even now, I am more than grateful and indebted to the friendship he has given me. I cannot ask for more (I guess, unless, my emotions get too strong and it starts affecting me in a negative way, then perhaps I would have to tell him at some point).

Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I don’t have else to say. I have to write. Goodnight. I’ll attach some pictures below just for the sake of it.

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I canceled my attendance to my graduation march, but I went to the recognition.
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Duchamp’s Fountain. I know it’s rooted in absurdism and dadaism, but the more I stared at it at the SFMoMA, the more I was convinced that life is not absurd. At all.
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I don’t drink, but this sweet wine was really good. I know sweet wine isn’t really considered wine by wine snobs, but I liked this a lot! It’s only 5% alcohol lol
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Rothko’s No. 14. You have to see the huge canvas in real life for it to have some kind of effect on you. First time I saw this on Google images, I thought, “How is that art?” But being there, standing in front of her, looking up at her, I was overcome with a wave of emotion, both profundity and melancholia. I was moved, I will admit, and I don’t know why.
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Finally got a copy of Charles Burns graphic novel, Black Hole. I enjoyed this thoroughly.
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Something of Raymond Carver’s. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, never been a lover, and in turn, a beloved, but I also think that I shouldn’t wait to love, that love doesn’t just happen when you’ve found “that” person. I’m in no hurry to have a partner nor am I desperate, but I’d like to believe that I do love purely everyday. I just find it highly simplistic and insulting to look at love as just romance.
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Reminded once again of Alan Moore’s greatness and brilliance. It’s why he’s in my top favorite writers, among the company of my highbrow literary writers, sitting right beside Dostoyevsky. They are both unmatched.
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Pappardelle affairs and modern dating anxieties

I caved in, people. It was Monday night when I finally brought out the huge bag of flour from the pantry and started rolling to make fresh pappardelle pasta, despite the boxes and boxes of different pasta shapes on the shelves. I was so desperate and my craving atrociously strong that I couldnt stop myself, but it was worth the hassle. Mind you, I didn’t have a rolling pin so I used a Japanese ceramic tea cup instead……. Don’t ask me how (it’s an experiential thing) but to cut it short, it went well. Perhaps I could’ve rolled the pasta a tad thinner, but all in all, it came out great and soft, and paired with my experimental sriracha bolognese sauce, I’d like to say the gastronomic affair was an orgasm in my mouth. And I finished everything in 15 minutes (compared to the 1 hour and 30 minutes of preparation).

On another note, I’d like to believe my “I have my shit together!” moment is when I am finally living alone in a wallpapered middle-kla$$ apartment and able to cook perfect fresh pappardelle for dinner while looking like 1980s Suzanna Vega—cropped hair and little pretty Tinkerbell face and all. And while my pappardelle bubbles on the stove, I—slim, feline, and doorframe-leaning—will announce, “It is I, Solitude Standing.” Self Transcendence! I mean OK I’ve got the fresh pappardelle down, I just need a proper rolling pin.  And perhaps lose a bit of my jigglies. And be more graceful. And a lover who can come by any time with cheap wine. Or not. Ahhah I gross myself out.

Or, you know, if I end up becoming a bum, at least I’d have an excuse to look like trash and dye my hair orange and wear blue eyeshadow and call myself Cyndi Lauper, you know??? I’ve accepted my two possible Fates, but I really need to cut it down on the carbs because I’ve been overeating pasta and bread everyday since Monday. It’s because it’s that time of the month; I’ve fallen to the Communists….. (please don’t make me explain this terrible joke further).

Anyway, I was just thinking and I realized I’m 21 and I’ve never been on a (romantic) date and never had anyone to call Beloved or whatever, although I’ve hung out with guy friends alone that felt inadvertently romantic, but those don’t count because there’s no agreement saying we both know and acknowledge that it is a romantic date. Am I making sense? Not that I’m bummed about it or desperate or anything because I don’t need an other half the way people look at other halves; I’d like to believe I’ve been whole my entire life; how can you only be half of yourself? But my best friend was messaging me last Monday night (while I was making fresh pappardelle) and she was on the way to a hotel to meet some horse-dicked guy she met on Tinder and apparently they were going to have loads of fun playing Chess all night or god knows what (Aha) and well, I just couldn’t relate…. At all…. So I told her, I’ll stay up all night, if you don’t call me at 3 am I’m calling the cops! So she gave me the hotel and the room number and she texted me around 12:30 am, but I—lame and a  terrible best friend—fell asleep and only got back to her around 2 am when I woke up from the scratching sound of a baby mouse trapped inside my Post-it box (and before you clutch your pearls, FYI the baby mouse was harmless and was far too cute to exterminate, so I set him free, believing that it knows Compassion and Gratitude and will one day help me create the best ratatouille in town. I’m probably reaching here, but it’s why I don’t eat animals, Deborah). So all my fears didn’t come true. She wasn’t raped and murdered and thrown in a barrel and covered with cement and dumped in a ditch, and I don’t have to be summoned by Forensics and look at my best friend’s body, see her dangling falsies, and identify that it is her, but well, I told her to be safe anyway. There are far scarier things than death. Like STDs. And pregnancy. And internal bleeding. And a bruised cervix. And feelings. I’m joking, if you couldn’t tell… Don’t hate me.

So let me cut this senseless rant short. The reason why I’ve never dated is because… I never really tried. I mean, I never sought it out, so I cant really sigh and say, Aw I’ve never been on a date, because I’ve put everyone at arms length all my life. But, I mean, what if I do go out on a date? And what if the guy I go out with isn’t… human?

What if he purchases things in MSRP? What if he laughs at me upon discovering that I’ve read only the Garnett translation of Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and not the Pevear and Volokhonsky? What if he doesn’t read Dostoevsky? (Forgivable!) What if he doesn’t get my Bradbury and Alan Moore references? (Unforgivable!) What if he asks me where I want to eat and I can’t answer because I can never decide where and what I want to eat and have to do extensive research days before eating out? What if he’s bothered with my teeth grinding when I sleep? What if he doesn’t like long, winding handwritten letters? Would he hate poetry too? What if he likes cars? What if he finds out I hate cars and is the reason why I’ll never learn driving or bother with a license? What if he doesn’t like pappardelle pasta? What if he’s loud? What if he doesn’t like Japanese jazz and Gabor Szabo? What if he isn’t openminded to listen to Japanese jazz and Gabor Szabo? What if he doesn’t love Eva Cassidy’s effervescence in Wade in the Water? What if he doesn’t read, at all?! What if he asks me about Game of Thrones or some other popular TV series or movie and I wont have anything to say not because I think I’m too edgy for such things (ha-ha) but because I don’t have cable TV, paying for a Netflix subscription gives me so much anxiety, and I super abhor the concept of Torrent? What if he uses Twitter and Instagram? (Just kidding, social media whores!) But what if he works a corporate job? How bureautragic! (Ha-ha, just kidding corporate slaves!) What if he gets grossed out by my seasonal eczema? What if he doesn’t like being the small spoon? WHAT IF HIS NICENESS TOWARDS THE WAITER IS ONLY PRETEND??!??!

Bah! Why bother! I have to read Man and His Symbols before going to The MET in an hour. I have more than a hundred pages to go and my quiz is in two days. I simply wont have the time tonight since tonight is the opening of our new exhibit so I’ll be overstaying for cocktails and fake small talk with a bunch of bougie millionaire saps from the government and the private sector. I don’t mean any offense; it’s just that it sucks that when we cry, they get to use hundred dollar bills to wipe their tears away while I only have Kleenex. Hopefully I’ll find me a rich single Senator who doesn’t believe in buying things in manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Did I mention I was joking? I hate Senators. Goodbye.

PS: Here’s something way way way cooler and more exciting than romantic dates. My reading list for today! Read them with me!

Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus- http://dbanach.com/sisyphus.htm

Emerson on Self Reliance- https://www.owleyes.org/text/self-reliance/read/self-reliance#root-219808-3

Chesterton on Wisdom and the Weather- http://www.online-literature.com/chesterton/wrong-with-the-world/13/

Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Keeping Quiet- http://www.ginnyhamiltonyoga.com/ode-to-keeping-quiet-by-pablo-neruda-2/

Sullivan Ballou’s letter to his wife- http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/civil-war/war/historical-documents/sullivan-ballou-letter/

When I Said I Wasn’t Going to Spend Money on Books This Month

I lied. I was quite surprised when I went over my purchases for the last month and realized that I had bought fifteen books in less than 30 days… but, well, I don’t really have any vices other than reading, and buying and borrowing books, so I thought this was better than, oh I don’t know, snorting lines of coke up my nostrils or nymphomania. So I passed by a secondhand bookshop on my way home today and told myself I was just going to have a browse. An hour later, however, I already had a stack of books that I wanted to buy propped up in my arms. Of course I had to kick myself and force myself to only get one, but after debating with myself for a couple more minutes, I finally settled on two: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes and Selected Fiction by Henry James. I had to put Sue Monk Kidd, Leo Tolstoy’s biography, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and a collection of letters penned by soldiers during the Vietnam War on the back burner for now, much to my heartbreak.

To be honest, though, the real real reason why I went to the bookshop today was to look for the book I hid there a month ago. I was planning to buy it, but never got around to because 1). I was already buying too many books at that time so I thought I should just go back for it some other day and 2). At that time, the book didn’t call out to me as strongly. I was adamant on going back for it today though, in hopes of still finding it. I wanted to give it to this really special friend of mine whose younger brother took his own life just this week. The book is called An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness and I searched and searched and searched with pigheaded devotion until my fingers were covered in soot, but I couldn’t find the book anymore. I’m honestly so heartbroken that I won’t be able to give it to my special friend, but I’m looking at other options. I am not the best in comforting and communicating my emotions, and most of the time I wish I knew the right words to say, so when I show my concern and love to others, I’m not very upfront about it, and I hope the warmth that I want to convey shows through little things I do such as penning long and winding letters and giving books that I believe is a perfect match to the receiver because spoken words always fail me. I can only hope, but hope is never lost.

Rereading Wislawa Szymborska’s New and Collected poetry collection. This poetry collection is the closest thing I have to a bible, and Szymborska is my favorite writer. If I were to choose only one writer across multitudes of genres–although I hope no one would ever make me do that because that’s fucking criminal–Szymborska would always be top of my list, right next to the Dons of my dreams Pablo Neruda and Federico Garcia Lorcaaaaa!!

Reading Man and his Symbols by Carl Jung (for my Philosophy of the Unconscious graduate class)

Continuing When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom

Something mundane: I finally utilized the full potential of my Evernote and made a separate notebook for all of my terrible poetry drafts and fragmented thoughts, AND made a separate note for each poetry draft. This is it, this is my life coming together… hahaaaa I hope to work on these soon so I don’t continue hating myself.

My forever mantra: Dr. Manhattan’s monologue on Mars. As I was on my way home today, I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken over what my friend is going through. I will never know his pain, and I will never know what it feels like to lose my younger brother, but in these darkest hours I believe that my friend is more resilient than he thinks, with an unmatched reverence and vitality for Life. I know he will keep on. I have the utmost confidence and faith in him. And so, while I was lost in my reveries, I pulled out the small folded paper from my ID case to read while walking; I keep this with me every single day, for times such as this. It’s got Daily Mantra scribbled on it. Here is what it says:

Thermodynamic miracles, events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter… Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold… that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle.

But the world is so full of people, so crowded with these miracles that they become commonplace and we forget… I forget. We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from another’s vantage point, as if new, it may still take our breath away. Come… dry your eyes. For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes… and let’s go home.

Most days I try to be like Dr. Manhattan and improvise a monologue in my head while, say, walking or sitting by myself during the morning commute, but I never sound as poetic as him, and never as articulate. But I try.

bad teeth

(i have a major exam tomorrow so obviously i’m writing about my fear of dentists, my mother, childhood, nostalgia, and other things that have no connection whatsoever with my exam)

i never liked dentists. my mother is a dentist. as a child i would often go to her clinic for my monthly cleaning. her clinic was in the middle of the busy town market, across the butcher shop and vegetable stalls, on the second floor of the rundown apartment complex we owned. there she’d sit me up on her chair and probe and poke around my mouth with her foreign metal tools. every time i am there she would scold me for my bleedy gums and cavities, and how i always have cavities even though she reminds me to brush my teeth every night. up, down, side to side, the backs of the teeth, the corners, the in-betweens, the tongue, never forget the tongue! yet i still had bad teeth, worse than my brothers who never ate fruits and vegetables. from this she surmised that i was just that: a child who never cared about my teeth. but she was wrong. i was very much obsessed with my teeth. or, perhaps, very much obsessed with ruining them. i’ve lost five permanent tooths since then, mainly because of all the sweets i secretly devoured. i couldve given her the brightest smile, but instead i gave her rotten teeth. perhaps unconsciously i was ruining my teeth on purpose so i’d get her attention, because even though she’d scold me, i know she was still focusing on me. only me. and that was what i wanted. it was only during my cleanings with her that i found tenderness and closeness. she made me nervous and afraid when she’d sit on her stool in her white, characterless coat, wearing soury rubber gloves and a mask that hid the planes and features of her face. i would feel nauseous. i hated the clinical feeling of it all, but in my head she was still my mother. i was being probed and examined and i felt naked and guilty, but this was still my mother.

and perhaps why i never liked dentists was because i always thought the insides of my mouth were only for my mother’s eyes. and i cannot let others touch my teeth and see the worsts of my mouth because only my mother can know of my secrets. because it’s for her. i still don’t see other dentists. i don’t think i ever can, because when my mother examines my mouth and prods it with her tools and fills my cavities with filling, she is gentle and soft. and if it was some other dentist it wont feel the same way because they wont have tenderness for me and they wont have the softness of my mother’s hands, they wont have the familiarity of it all. because if i look up at them from my seat, i wont have longingness for them. because when my mother fills the hollowness of my cavities, it was her filling the empty spaces inside of me that have always been crying for her. because even though she’s angry at me for not brushing my teeth, i know that if i scream or exaggerate my pain, she would caress my cheek and soothe me with her voice, and here i’d feel her love.  because the only time i saw tenderness from her was when she’d wipe my drool away and tell me to gargle well and not spill, when she’d touch my cheek and my chin and ask me if it hurt. when, deep inside, i wanted her to ask me instead if her distance hurt more, if it hurt me more to be right there next to her and still feel her detachment, as if we were never umbilically connected once, because she doesn’t know that when i open my mouth for her, i am letting her love me, that this is me reaching out to her. and that when she works on me, she is so close to me that i wonder if i may just be able to hug her and touch her hair if i reached up.

and i always dreaded the time when she’d finish with me, when she’d take off my bib and push me up from the chair and make me gargle one last time, because i know it would all be over. and as a child i wished our cleanings would last all afternoon, but they almost always took only an hour, and then i’d have to wait another month again to feel her. it felt too fast and ended too soon, and being a child i figured that if i had more cavities, she’d spend more time working on me, being with me. because when it was over, i knew she would go back to her awkward person, unsure and uncertain of how to love me.

perhaps because i push her away, perhaps because i am something she cannot figure out, because she isn’t like me. or i am not like her, or what she wishes me to be. because when she asked for a daughter, she wanted a daughter the way she wanted a daughter exactly, and not what ever i was going to turn out to be. because when she prayed for a perfect and unique model, what she got was an ugly pastiche. because i am not a box she can put things in with whatever she wants and adorn with frills and ribbons. because i am a stubborn box that refuses to open to her. because i do not want to be like her, do not want her failures to be my insecurity and failures. but it happens the other way, and i find myself becoming more and more like her—the worst of her. and i hate it. i hate it so much. because i am more pigheaded than i believe, because i said i will be my own person, because i said i will break the cycle. because if theres anything i don’t want to be, it’s to be like her. but here i am, and i am just that: an awkward person, uncertain of how to love and show my softness and tenderness to other people, and so i stand here, helplessly wringing my hands.

i’m 20 now. i think i am a young woman now. i don’t remember the last time i had a cleaning with her. i have a cavity or two that needs checking and filling, but i am afraid to go to the school dentist because they will only scoop my eyes out and judge me for all eternity. and i am deathly afraid of reaching out to my mother, because i am not a child anymore. i cannot pretend to be in pain and demand for her caress, because i know she will smell my phoniness., most of all, i am afraid—really, really afraid— that if i sit on her dentist’s chair again, i wont find love and tenderness there anymore.

tenderness

i need to rant. i went to an awarding ceremony today and was dressed down for it; i felt inadequate being there, with everybody wearing gowns and tuxedos, surrounded by a bunch of faces i did not care for. i didn’t take the dress code seriously and came in a polo tucked under a casual dress. my feature story was nominated for Top Award, but didn’t win. i won an Award of Excellence though, which i think is okay. i didn’t want to go initially because i was afraid. i thought that if i went, they’d tell me everything was a huge mistake and that they got it all wrong and that i didn’t really win the award and if i could just return the award and go back home please. i was afraid that they’d see me as the phony that i am, that i don’t really know anything, and that’ I’m not deserving of the award because i’m a quack. at the same time, i felt bothered because a part of me wanted to win the top award, but a part of me felt like an impostor. the feeling is obsessive. i am caught between my fear of losing and fear of winning. my pride makes me fear rejection and failure, yet at the same time, i fear achievement. how do you comprehend such a thing?

i will admit, i was disappointed i didn’t win top award. i was hoping i would, but we lose some and win some. the award went to a literary folio instead. the criteria is weird and apparently, you can only be nominated for top award if you win an award of excellence. i won that, so that’s one award. i guess a part of me was just hoping i’d make the top. apparently not.

but it’s really funny. it’s funny because i still feel the same. awards, i thought before, are something that would make me happy. it’s a slap to the face because what i thought would make me happy in this world doesn’t make me happy at all. with or with no writing award, i still feel like utter shit. i honestly really don’t know what makes me happy. not the top award. not recognition, not fame, not power. not money, though it would make things a little bit easier, i guess, but it wont make me happy, no. not a boat full of friends and admirers, even.

i don’t understand. i’m not speaking out of bitterness, i won an award myself, but it just gives a bad taste in my mouth how people make such a huge deal out of themselves. i was almost embarrassed going up the stage with my award. i don’t understand how anyone can think of themselves as being “up there”. i don’t understand arrogance. how can you be that way up in your head when you know that you don’t really know much? it’s a writing award and i should be happy and proud and i am, i suppose, i don’t mean to sound ungrateful or self deprecating (which is just as bad), but when i see people in award ceremonies, i cant help but cringe. it’s a night of glamour, yes, but when it’s over, we go back to our simple lives and we are not, all of a sudden, better writers. i still go back to a broken home, sit on my desk and break my back every night, forcing myself to write, hating myself more and more. this is what people don’t see. they don’t see that i don’t feel confident at all when i sit in front of a blank sheet of paper. i wish they saw this, so we can admit to ourselves that all these awards are nothing but white noise. it wont make me bankable or kinder nor will it make me love myself more. it’s just another thing to add on my resumé and i’ve decided long ago that i don’t want to live for my resumé or eulogy.

i read a poem by Charles Bukowski and it spoke to me because it is so real. the poem’s title is “this”. here’s a fragment of it:

self congratulatory nonsense

as the famous gather to applaud their seeming greatness

as the deathly talentless bow to accolades

as the fools are fooled again

you wonder where the real ones are.

if there are real ones.

i think we are all fools. i think we don’t really know anything and the more we learn and the more degrees and awards we accumulate, the more we should realize that we don’t really know much and cant ever know everything. and this shouldn’t give us a license for arrogance. not even a license to think that we are, in any way, close to being good.

i went to wabi sabi after the awarding. it’s a small restaurant in the ugly part of the city, inside a nondescript warehouse, a little ways past the costume shop down a dim alley. i always keep coming back to this place. i thought the place is so apropos for me. wabi sabi. welcoming imperfection like an old friend. accepting it. living with it. i go there every week and order the same steaming cup of suanong and, sometimes, a bowl of tantanmen or pho, depending if  i want something rich or something light.

i always sit by the single-diner table, facing the wall, beside the stack of old magazines with rat droppings sandwiched between each one for never being read. it saves me from the awkwardness and prying eyes of people in groups, which doesn’t happen too often because the place is almost always empty or occupied by single diners as well. it was raining hard and it was flooding outside. the rain’s still going and going—it’s persistent in its mission to keep me out of the house.

of course, i didnt tell my parents about this award. not that they care or anything, because they show no interest or support whatsoever with my writing. i don’t mind though. i’ve surmised a long time ago that this is something i have to do alone. i cannot dream around my parents. most of the time, they make me feel guilty for being alive. and they will never get the best of me. and i will never let them see the best of me. and i will continue working and transcending and i wont pay them any mind. i will continue to dream.

and my dreams scare me. they scare me so so much. i cannot even write them down here. i cannot even say them out loud. but they’re always in my mind, always. i will be flayed, stripped, and undone, but i guess it cant be called dreaming if it weren’t painful, if it didn’t break my spirit like nothing else can. i am so desperate to challenge myself beyond the blinkers of the little i know. though, i think, i unconsciously know what i want. i think it’s why i am here. i think my unconscious guides me to where i am headed, wherever that is. i cannot be doing all of this randomly, don’t you think? perhaps there are inner workings of myself, working on its own, as if unbidden, as if it has its own person. or, perhaps, it is me, still me, just an undiscovered side of me. well whatever it may be, i think it is unconsciously guiding me there. wherever there is, even though most days i fail to recognize myself.

it was a good time, being alone, by the way. the coffee came with a single cup filter and it was hot just how i liked it hot. the condensed milk rested at the bottom, and i watched as the coffee turned lighter and lighter with every swing of the spoon. bittersweet, just like this day. the pho had soft glass noodles, its broth minty, light, and refreshing, topped with little flags of cabbage and of celery, and bean sprouts crunchy and perfect the way they are. a dash of fish sauce and a nice squeeze of calamansi. i like talking about food this way, as if they were friends. i learned that from Pablo Neruda, who saw the beauty in everything, from a bar of soap to a chair to an artichoke and an onion! i think a good bowl of soup is quiet in its magnificence. comforting, like a long-awaited hug from someone familiar.

let me go back to what i said earlier, when i said i do not really know what makes me happy. i am not demanding for love or someone to complete me. i would hate it if i lived my life carrying everywhere a sense of lack that i so long to fill. i don’t think i am fragmented in any way. i think i am a whole person, and do not need an other half in the way people look at other halves. i think i am already whole. i’ve always been. i mean, how can you be only half of yourself? i suppose i just do not know how to accept this wholeness of mine, in all its nakedness and convolutions and complications. i am still learning to accept it, still trying to know it, and discover and be surprised in all its secrets (there are things i have yet to discover from my Self). i am still trying to love it, show it kindness, this wholeness of mine. i have jabbed it with hatred for so long it’s not fair. i wish i didn’t feel ashamed of it.

what i really want is tenderness. warm, brown hands that are always willing, ready, to take me into them. in spite of the bad days and bouts of doubt and insecurity and self hatred. i long for tenderness.

Reading and Writing Goals 2017

Reading Goals

In Search of Lost Time (Six books) – Marcel Proust

-I am quite daunted; I think this is the reading project I am gearing myself for the most! I have commitment issues. Meaning, I’m not entirely sure whether or not I’m ready to read raw all 1.2 million words / 4000+ pages of Proust’s magnum opus. I want to experience Proust, I want him to get in my veins and under my skin and inside my thoughts, but knowing myself, I always abandon a book and come back to it at a later time and In Search of  a Lost Time, I think, is no ordinary book. It’s a cumbersome read, and I don’t even know if it’s advisable to read it raw or buy a guide. I don’t like the idea of starting it and never finishing it but also detest the idea of reading it in one go. Perhaps if I can get into an agreement with myself, I can spread the six books out and make it my reading goal for 2017. I definitely don’t want to rush with this one, especially since I have a lot of other books I want to read, but this is a challenge I’m ready to take.

Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury

-I started reading Bradbury just last month and already finished The Golden Apples of the Sun and The Martian Chronicles. I found myself falling in love with his writing, the poetry and magic intertwined in his words. I think he will be a favorite of mine too; The Martian Chronicles affected me deeply and The Golden Apples of the Sun had a handful of gems that left an imprint on me as well. Truly Bradbury is a magician, and I cannot wait to explore his other works!

V for Vendetta and Swamp Thing graphic novels – Alan Moore

-Watchmen blew me away; right now, I’d rank Alan Moore in my top 5 favorite writers of all time. I seriously need to get more of his work. He is a genius, no doubt about it, and I cannot get enough of him!

The Sandman – Neil Gaiman (all volumes) 

-It has been far too long since I’ve read Sandman that I’m afraid I’ve forgotten most of its splendor. I need to reacquaint myself with The Endless

Ilustrado – Miguel Syjuco

I have seen the man in various protest rallies I’ve been to, but have yet to read his book. He’s one of our local contemporary writers whose book won the Man Booker Asia Award a few years back. I need to read more local authors and want to try his book as a challenge

Foundation series and Youth – Isaac Asimov

-One of the great scifi writers of all time! How can I not?

Hyperion – Dan Simmons

-A gem in the world of scifi.

Norwegian Wood and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami 

– I have only heard good of this man and am ashamed to have never encountered any of his pieces.

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden 

On Stories – C.S. Lewis

The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Some short stories by Anton Chekhov

No Logo – Naomi Klein 

Authors I want to read, but haven’t decided what to read from them: 

– Nick Joaquin

– NVM Gonzales

– Ninotchka Rosca

Also read: 

Poetry and prose, both local and foreign

Writing Goals

-Write thoughts and feelings in diary/online journal more often. Don’t keep anything from self

-Utilize bullet journal

-Make headway with novel / short stories

-Write more articles; do more investigative journalism

-Experiment with poetry

Film Goals

I’m not a movie/film person, I must admit, I hate watching from a screen thanks to my short attention span. I think I have to move on from YouTube videos and embark on a journey to explore the beauty of the world of film. Perhaps I can start with a few Fellinis!

Any book and film recommendations to kickstart my year? Your suggestions are welcome!

a quick write

I’m running late for my endorsement but when I promised myself I’ll try my best to write on my diary or online journal everyday for at least fifteen minutes, my only option is to be true to my word. It’s a Saturday and supposed to be a rest day, but I have to be in school in a bit. I cooked spinach pasta with garlic pesto sauce for breakfast and I realized it’s the first breakfast I’ve had in months. Due to my busy hours and hectic schedule, eating breakfast has become a luxury. Most days I only eat once a day, either in the afternoon or when I get home from work and school, around 10 pm, which is really bad for me. Nevertheless, finals week is approaching and it’ll be the holiday break soon, so that’s something I’m looking forward to. At least I can catch up with sleep and reading. Ah, reading. One of the greatest (and freest) things in this life. I went to school yesterday even though I didn’t have class just so I could stay in the library and read all afternoon. I also had an hour talk with a good friend before leaving school and it was good having to let out my emotions, because I never, but I know that I cannot keep things to myself forever, so I’m glad for good friends who are there to listen.

I finally finished Bradbury’s Golden Apples of the Sun yesterday (quite disappointed in myself for taking a week, actually, because it’s just over a hundred pages!) and lately I’ve been sticking to short stories instead of novels because I know my schedule wont permit me to devour a long winding novel in one sitting; reading short stories make me feel more accomplished with my reading goals because I get to finish a couple in just a few hours. In Bradbury’s Golden Apples of the Sun, a handful of stories moved and stuck with me, most especially the Fog Horn and A Sound of Thunder. My fixation and love for dinosaurs go a looooong way back—back when I was in first grade and memorized every scientific name of the dinosaurs from the Jurassic, Cretaceous and Triassic periods from my flash cards. These magnificent creatures affected me in a way no other animal ever has; I don’t exactly know what, but they are such beautiful and brilliant creatures. Whenever someone asks me what my favorite animal is and I say dinosaurs, they tell me, “But they’re dead.” And it annoys me so much because who cares? They’re majestic. I can blab about my love for dinosaurs all day long, but sadly I do not have all the time in the world anymore 😦

But yes, Golden Apples of the Sun, I’d say, is a 4/5 for me and I’d definitely read it again to go back to my favorite ones. There are other notable stories in there that I loved too, such as The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl, The Murderer, The Great Wide World Over There, and The Pedestrian. I then borrowed The Martian Chronicles and quite excited to start with it today!!! (After my endorsement, I suppose ugh) even though I am also supposed to be studying for my oral exam on Monday and quiz on Tuesday so I guess I have to put it off for now…or stay up late and read around midnight. I also borrowed a collection of Elizabeth Bishop’s prose. I’ve never heard of her; I don’t know, maybe because I haven’t read every book in this world so I’m not really familiar with her, but there’s just something about the book that called to me, so I’m excited to read her too. Of course I am still with Neruda’s Odes to Common Things. This book, in particular, is one I never want to return. I want to keep it to myself forever, scribble down notes on the margins of the pages whenever I find a phrase or a piece that strikes me. But I have to return it soon, and just thinking of it breaks my heart. I hate saying goodbye to borrowed books, but I also know there’s a next reader waiting and they must must must be touched by Neruda.

I love Neruda; if there is any writer in this world that makes me love the most mundane things in life, really, it is Don Pablo. He makes me see the Beauty in life. No one else. No one else. From the way he writes poetry about boxes of tea, bars of soap, scissors, plates, onions, tomatoes, a freaking spoon! He can make anything in this world magical with his words. It’s funny because every time I read Neruda, I am left overwhelmed, with a racing heart and tears in my eyes. What a man.