Tonight I decided treat myself

At 10:17, I wolfed down the packed meal I had brought from home, threw away leftover chicken still with some meat on its bones, opened an umbrella and rushed out into the rain to catch the last full show of Begin Again.


A time for many little deaths

© Paul-andré Belle-isle | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I've been thinking a lot about death and dying recently, in the months since an uncle I had met only as a baby, one who shared a nickname with my father, passed away. That was late last year, and after that news followed news of more passing young friends, friends of friends, family of friends.

I've always been curious about death and dying, influenced largely by movies like Stand By Me, Flatliners, and My Girl, and in part by my first best friend's father dying outside the house next door when I was around eight years old. I remember looking inside his coffin and seeing the permanence of his passing and looking at my friend, wondering what would happen next.

I don't want to die and I don't want anyone to die, but this is the one thing of all the things I anticipate that I am certain is coming. How does that line from the musical Avenue Q go? "Except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now."

On good days, I think of making the most out of the time I have, of spreading joy and love and delighting in the littlest of things, like discovering a cheap Vietnamese restaurant in Manila that serves great ca phe sua da.

On bad days, I consider all my efforts to thrive amid the looming undeniable inevitability of all my work, huge and small alike, hurtling towards nothing.

On really bad days, I can think of nothing but that nothingness hurrying backwards in time, meeting me halfway. I want it to come, and come quickly, despite that familiar fear of my life, at its end, not amounting to anything.

The days have been mostly good, thank God. I have done plenty of living. I have loved deeply. I have enjoyed a million meaningful moments. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, I slept for three days on the beach, covered only by a blanket of stars. For those three days I was nothing but grateful, and I felt that it was enough.

The bad days (and the really bad days) are nothing that good coffee or some ice cream can't cure.

And yet this weekend, hearing again news of someone's passing, I took a hard look at my life and saw that despite all the good days, I have been slowly inching away from many of the things I care about.

Who died and made you me? I asked myself.

I didn't like the answer.

Also this weekend, I came across Amber Tamblyn's commencement speech on my Facebook timeline. She talks about crashing and needing to take a mental break, and then coming across a realization:
On the other side of this time in my life came revelation. Yeats once said, “In order to be reborn, you must die first.” I realized that all along, what I had craved and explored indeed was happening right before my very eyes. Le Petit Mort. A Small Death. A part of me was dying, like shedding skin. I realized that life would forever be a series of shedding skins, some more painful than others. 
And she closes with this:
Some form of this experience I’ve shared with you today will happen to you. It might be next Thursday; it might be when you’re 80. I want to say, simply, that it’s going to be okay. That when you start to panic, and feel like you want to throw a thousand teacups against a wall, shed that skin. When you want to run away from it all, shed that skin. When you want to float in your own darkness until you feel you might drown, shed that skin. When you want to turn your world upside down and see what falls out of it, shed that skin. When you want to tell someone “no” but haven’t figured out how to yet, shed that skin. When it’s time to enforce boundaries between you and the “you” that thinks you’re not good enough, shed that skin. When you want to wear fluorescent pink hot pants to the mall because, look at you, you’re amazing! Shed that skin that prevents you from wearing that skin. Have that revelation, and then have it again, and again, and again.
I understand now that this is the death I have been wanting. The idea of starting over again (and again, when necessary), and leaving forever the part of me that is dead, or even, dying.

Dream: Disaster

Last night's dream. This is a long one.

I was in a management class that suddenly became a cooking class. The teacher whipped up this Italian dish with pasta, meat and some mushrooms and vegetables. "Would anyone like to have this?" she asked us.

Nobody replied. A bit miffed, she handed it to the student in front of her: me. The dish looked delicious, actually, so I stood up and went around the classroom to get everyone to try it. Some of my classmates feigned interest, and some didn't bother to hide their annoyance, but most got some of the food.

The plate was soon empty, even for me, so I went back to my seat. The teacher, who'd been watching me serve her dish, asked, "Why do you have blood on the seat of your pants? Do you have your period?" Surprised, and suddenly anxious, I whispered, "I just finished my, um, girly thing, ma'am, but I'll go check. I might have just sat on something that looks like blood." I saw what looked like blood on my seat as well.

Still wondering if I'd been pranked, but also counting back to the day I did get my period (just last week in my dream), I grabbed a pad and went to the restroom. It was full of teenagers dressing up for their prom. I waited my turn, and -- the dream skipped -- when I left the stall, I was already wearing the pad and reading news about Godzilla.

I mention the pad because, later in my dream, as I was fleeing, I would remember that detail and wish to God I wasn't going to be an evacuee at the beginning of her menstrual cycle because that would be too uncomfortable. I thought of how the girls from The Walking Dead managed.

But back to Godzilla.

Godzilla was on his way to wreak havoc in Manila; there'd already been sightings down south, in Quezon. The thing was, he could dematerialize at will, so it was entirely possible you'd only know he was there when he decided to show himself. News reports said that people might want to get out of the city, especially from highly congested urban areas with tall buildings.

Still in the restroom, I bumped into a classmate. She said she'd read news about Godzilla as well, and she agreed that people should get out of areas with tall buildings. As we talked, young girls were still dressing up for the prom, giggling and whispering excitedly about their dates.

I thought I caught a glimpse of a huge scaly green lizard tail out the window. I need to get out of here, I thought, while the news hadn't spread yet and people still weren't panicking.

I was in Makati, and so were my mother and two brothers. We got in touch with each other and agreed to go home to Las Piñas, figuring that Godzilla would follow the SLEX to Makati and hopefully spare our city. But we had to leave immediately because we didn't want to be meeting Godzilla on SLEX -- even if he was surely going to take the northbound lane.

Mommy had to run to the restroom first, so I told my brothers I'd just check the horizon. The dream skipped and I was in an FX bound for Parañaque (Merville, again!), kicking myself in the butt for forgetting I already had a plan and a ride. We were hurtling down the Nagtahan flyover. I texted my family where I was and told them where to meet me.

In the FX, a burly man was complaining loudly about how another man reeked of cigarette smoke, saying he was going to have an allergic fit anytime soon. "Don't make the same mistake again," he said over and over, sometimes in a menacing tone, sometimes in between alarming coughs. A boy, around ten, cowering on the lap of his father, who was the accused, said it had been him who had been smoking. "Don't make the same mistake again," the complaining man said, this time only with urgency, as if he were giving fatherly advice.

I got off in Parañaque and asked my sister to meet me. As we waited for the rest of the family, she got a message on her phone: a text, with accompanying video, from a common friend who was about to go on a blind date with Derek Ramsey. "Can you check what I'm wearing and see me off?" The video showed CCTV footage of Derek on his way to the door.

But of course I wanted to go with my sister, Godzilla or no Godzilla. On the way, we met this fair-skinned man with ripped abs who was handsomer than Derek and wearing only a loincloth. He flashed us a smile with his perfect teeth. I knew he was from ancient times, but somehow I didn't think it made no sense for him to be walking around Parañaque.

Finally, we were at our friend's door. Derek had left, she tearfully recounted. And as she told us the story, we also heard that Godzilla was already in Makati, causing great destruction in what was, thankfully, a mostly empty city by then.

Still, there was cause for anxiety, because traffic was heavy in all the roads leading out of the business district.

The blind date had been set up by a friend, and she and Derek had only texted a couple of times. As he was walking to her door, she decided to do a video call with him to ask him if what she was wearing was okay.

"You look younger than I expected," he said. "How old are you?"


"Your dress is quite nice. It's so colorful, you could wear it on TV."

"Sometimes I do go on TV," she said, "I work in licensing, mostly for toys."

"You work with toys?"

"Yes! I have a Hogwarts name: Rebecca Luna Longoode."

"You're 29 and you have a Harry Potter name?"


"Hey, I think you've got a wonderful personality and we can be great friends. Friends?"

And I woke up, thinking: Disaster.

Sa may bus stop

I wrote this on May 5, on the bus, right after it happened, and immediately posted it on Facebook. I tried to write it in English, but it was better expressed in Filipino. 

Dati, tuwing hormonal ako, kung anu-anong kadramahan ang naiisip ko. Pero ngayon, at nitong mga nakalipas na buwan, ang nagpapaluha sa akin madalas yung nakikita kong pagtitiis at pagsisikap ng mga manggagawang Pilipino.

Di ako naawa ah. Nabibilib ako kadalasan. Pero minsan, nalulungkot din para sa kanila.

Nagsimula ito sa mga taxi driver na nakikita ko na natutulog sa may police station sa labas ng Eastwood. Eventually, sa pakikipagkwentuhan sa mga driver ng mga taxi na nasasakyan ko pauwi, nalaman ko na 24 hours pala yung shift nila, at kailangan talaga nila mamili ng mga lugar na kung saan pwede silang kampanteng mamahinga.

Kanina, dumaan ako sa post office sa likod ng Las Piñas City Hall. Pagbalik ko sa bus stop, may nakita akong matandang lalaki na nakaupo sa daanan at nagtitinda ng mga pekeng alahas. Napansin ko na walang suot yung kanan niyang paa -- ginawa pala niyang upuan, pangontra, malamang, sa init ng kongkreto.

May babaeng bumibili sa kanya. Habang naguusap sila, may biglang dumating na isa pang babae, empleyado ng City Hall. "Kuya, doon ka po banda," sabi niya, sabay turo sa gilid. "Kitang-kita ka sa camera," dagdag niya, sabay turo sa CCTV. "Nakakahiya kay Mayor."

Di naman siya galit. Di naman niya pinalayas yung mama. Pinatabi niya lang. Kasi nga daw nakakahiya kay Mayor.

Dali-dali namang tumabi yung matanda. Dinala muna niya yung itim niyang bag at yung mga alahas. Tapos binalikan niya yung naiwan niyang sapatos.

Nagkatinginan kami saglit. Di rin siya galit. Ang nakita ko pa nga sa mga mata niya, page-estima sa akin kung bibili rin ba ako.

Di naman ako naawa sa kanya. Kasi buti pa nga siya, naghahanap-buhay, nagtitinda. Pero naiyak ako habang nakatayo dun sa bus stop kasi siya pa dapat yung mahiya.

Naiyak ako kasi di dapat ganun. At naiyak ako kasi ganun talaga.

Dream: An invasion, love, and bioelectricity

I dreamt I was stuck in traffic along SLEX. Cars weren't at all moving. Suddenly, bombs started dropping on the expressway. Some country had invaded -- China, I think -- but it could bomb only the main highways.

We ran to an area around Merville, where the survivors eventually built a small community. For months the bombing continued, and sometimes other survivors would stumble into our little safe place.

I fell in love with one of them. He was a fighter -- I can't remember if he was Filipino; my dream was in English -- and he'd been hurt. We nursed him back to health and had strategic meetings -- none of which I remember, because we were holding hands every time, and I would marvel, sometimes half-awake, at how warm and dry and solid his hand felt and how perfect the fit of my hand in his.

One day, the bombings stopped. He said it was time to go; he had to return to the other fighters. He had to go during the lull or else he would miss a chance to go back to his team safely. I understood and did not despair.

"You are coming back?" someone said.

"Yes," he replied too quickly. Then he looked at me, and I saw the excitement in his face. He took my hand and said, "How do I get out of here? I don't know the way."

I gripped his hand tightly -- feeling, once again, how warm and dry and solid it was -- and replied, "I'll walk you out."

When he left me, he didn't look back. I was sure I'd never see him again.

So I moved on to searching for sources of bioelectricity, first in plants, then in animals. It got interesting when space fish started swimming in the sky.