I can say now that every potential love who came before you–I didn’t love them. I thought I did. Maybe I did, for a while. What I know for sure is that I loved their taste in music. How I was this person’s “Yellow” by Coldplay, and our connection was “Just Like a Splendid Love Song” by Orange and Lemons. But they were full of “Excuses” by The Morning Benders even if there was a time we both “saw the light” like that romantic Todd Rundgren song I used to play on repeat because it gave me the butterflies.
I loved that they can play the guitar because when I was 13, I told my best friend with much juvenile clarity that I would fall in love with someone who was kind and smart, played the guitar, and wrote me poems and letters every day. But it was only a teenage girl’s fantasy.
I didn’t expect you. I didn’t expect to fall in love with you after all those lost years, and I never expected it would hurt like hell.
You are kind and true, smart and so humble, and I know for a fact that you can play the guitar. But it’s also unexpected that I’m the one who’s writing poems of love, longing, and heartbreak because I couldn’t tell you these things even if you were sitting beside me. And if by some unexpected twist of fate you get to read this, I want you to know that I’m like that Binocular song, “Deep”, and that my love is like that Zooey Deschanel song that goes like this:
Don’t look back, all you’ll ever get is the dust from the steps before.
I don’t have to see you every day, but I just want to know you’re there.
I wish I can just tell you, “Follow your heart and everything will be okay”. But I don’t know what’s in your heart or if you even feel the same. If the burden of what-ifs and things left unsaid also keep you awake some nights. All I know is that if you trust me, I’ve got you. And you’ve got me, my heart, and my hands–both of them, to hold through everything.
You would always be that James Taylor song that still gives me the butterflies. And yes, it would be so sweet to be loved by you.
Saying I had a rough night was an understatement. I’ve been having rough nights for quite a while now with sleep eluding me and thoughts circling my head like sharks going in for the kill. Insomnia is a lonely friend.
When I finally got up and found my way to the water cooler, a sharp, familiar scent rooted me to the spot. Insomnia may have slowed down my reflexes, but it hasn’t dulled my mind…yet. On instinct, I kept going through file cabinets of memories in my head, searching for the connection to that specific scent when the image just showed itself–bayabas. There was indeed a bowl of bayabas on the dining room table.
Bayabas is the native term for guava where I’m from. It’s a small, round fruit with pale green skin that’s sometimes smooth or uneven. It grows in the tropics. When you split one open, the flesh is white with small pinkish seeds that dot around the center. They remind me of teeth marks on a mold. When I was a kid, I used to bite straight into the middle because it’s the good part–it’s crunchy as an apple minus the juice, and with the seeds of a raspberry that’s unavoidable but edible and that also won’t get you teased by your elders that if you swallow them, you’ll grow a tree inside you. I think Filipino aunts and uncles used to say that just to get a kick out of teasing the kids. (Kidding aside, if anyone can relate to this experience when you were a kid, do tell me!)
What I love the most about bayabas is its scent–the sweet smell of just ripe bayabas that’s still a little bit firm. Not too soft and not overripe that it turns sickly-sweet and mushy. It always reminds me of childhood–we used to have a bayabas tree in our backyard, and at Nanang’s (1) where the ripe ones just fell off from the tree. When the fallen are bruised or split open, their perfume would follow you all the way from the old pig farm (2), past the langka (3) tree always swollen and smelly with fruit, the Indian mango tree where they say the white lady (4) hangs out at night, past the outhouse, and finally to Nanang’s back door which leads to the kitchen. When I was a kid vacationing at Nanang’s and would find myself heading back to her house at night, I would always run the entire length when I’m by myself or with younger cousins, nieces, and nephews. When I was with an elder, I would simply hold their hand and close my eyes until we got past the mango tree. Because even if it was just one of those old aunts’ stories to scare the kids, nobody in their right mind would want to see a white lady with Sadako hair and bloodshot eyes dangling from a tree when they’re all alone at night.
(1) Nanang was my paternal grandmother. My father is Ilocano, and their term for mother is “Nanang”. In Tagalog and Ilocano, “Lola” is the term used for grandmother, but since my generation grew up always hearing our parents, aunts, and uncles call our grandmother Nanang, nobody thought to call her otherwise. Nanang has always been Nanang–the core, the endearing Apilado matriarch who drew us all together. She was the reason I have fond memories of summers and holidays spent at my father’s childhood home.
(2) Nanang used to run a small piggery. On one of my memorable summer vacations as a kid, I got to see a new pig mama nursing her litter.
(4) There is always a variation to the White Lady story. I can’t remember who specifically told us these stories when we were kids, but it must’ve been Nanang and my aunts. In one story, a cousin saw a white lady hanging out on the swing by the mango tree. One version describes her as “nagkukuyakoy”–swinging her legs back and forth while sitting on a branch. Another version from an uncle describes her as looking lost, and when my uncle approached to help, he saw that her feet seem to have vanished and she was floating! This last version though, seems questionable depending on whether said uncle was sober or not at that time. But what’s always consistent with the “sighting” stories is that the White Lady always has long, black hair, dressed all in white (duh), and doesn’t make any sound. It might be better that way though. Imagine if she actually talked…well, that might make a far more interesting story too now that I think about it…
Fear is the easiest and safest choice, the path of least resistance. Love requires sacrifices and putting yourself on the line–being vulnerable. It’s a road paved with jagged rocks that cut you, and trees that obscure your path ahead. And let’s face it–sometimes, things don’t turn out well. But sometimes they do, and when they do, they’re worth all those shitty decisions you made before. I do believe that something true and worth it doesn’t come too easy or cheap. You have to earn it–you have to be willing to put in the work, and you need to understand that if this decision matters a lot, to the point that it’s even life-changing, this will test you and things you hold dear. And sometimes, it will define you.
I am no stranger to decisions based on fear–fear of losing control of myself, fear of making mistakes, fear of losing respect, fear of judgment, fear of disappointing people, fear of losing friends, fear of losing love. I have made them over and over again, so many times I ran the risk of putting fear on autopilot. But now, I am finally awake and a rosy halo of light is all around me. I don’t want to go back to a safe but unremarkable life where fear is the invisible captain that runs a tight ship.
Now that I’m awake, I discovered that the peace that comes from choosing love instead of fear is just like the relief you feel when seeing your beloved’s face after a long, weary day. All your worries just melt away. It feels just like home. And that is a choice worth fighting for, a decision worth making again and again.
December is the month of celebrations. It’s also the month where you take inventory of your life so far–an assessment of your overall performance, whether you touched down on your major goals and crossed off at least half if not more than half on your to-do list. Then you also declutter physical mess as well as mental and metaphorical clutter. Chuck and sever ties with whatever doesn’t serve you well–destructive habits, attitudes, thoughts, and people.
December is also a month for healing. To retreat and spend more time with yourself–getting to the nitty-gritty, the heart of the matter, your genuine self and asking:
How are you, really? Are you happy? Are you content? Do you feel loved, fulfilled, and secure?
These are the most important questions that we sometimes forego asking because they require us to dig deep and be honest with ourselves. It asks us to be vulnerable when most of us are scared shit at the mention of the word and don’t even want to go there. Outside is safer–in the company of friends, putting on our carefully crafted “social media smiles”, knocking off drinks to numb how you really feel about another person who’s been on your mind lately and can’t quite shake off, or that workhorse of a job that gives you all that prestige and promise of power but takes away your soul and freedom in exchange. You wake up one day and realize you’re a slave to the world’s whims and society’s norms. A cog in a wheel that never stops turning nor stopping for anyone. Being true to yourself and your heart–they don’t have a say in this matter. That’s just the way it is if you let it. Never has a silence sounded more deafening.
Patience, love, understanding, and trust are overflowing in a cup I am ready to offer. This cup comes from nothing less than a place of purity, honesty, and faith. But when your cup is denied, there’s nothing left to do but to take it back and guard it more fiercely than ever before. Hold on to it until the time comes when the Universe sends you someone potentially worthy again. But even until then it’s an intricate dance with free will.
Nothing to do about it but soldier on, hope for the best and release the rest. Hoping 2019 will treat you better.
I’m sorry I didn’t reciprocate before, but I liked you back then. I was just confused and so unsure. I thought it was a joke. That I was being punked. And if I went in for the bait it’ll be jigs up–haha!Fooled ‘ya! You can never be too careful. I just didn’t want to get hurt or give someone the chance to fool me. I learned early on that to survive in this world, I must protect myself and guard my heart.
It took a friend’s death and two extraordinary selfless acts from you for me to realize the kind of love I needed and deserved. Why I even felt the pull to reach out to you and took that risk is not a mystery anymore. You were kind and you were true and you made me feel special. Back then and now.
Is it too late? I want to tell you so many things without the prying eyes of another. I want to hear your stories. How have you been all these years we weren’t sitting beside each other? I want to make you laugh and smile again. I want to hold your hand and hug you until I am ready to let go. And maybe, find out we’re both not ready to let each other go.