The Last Day to Trek

I woke up to the sound of a busy home, hearing footsteps like giant leaps trailing around the wooden floor. I opened up my eyes in peace, then I was greeted with Bas’ booming voice which nearly shook my consciousness.

“Hey! Sleepy Taffyta,” said Bas. “Just because dad said that sleeping is good, it doesn’t mean you have to be asleep all the time.” My seven-year-old brother held my gaze for about two seconds then jumps at me and started to imitate pro wrestlers.

“Go back to bed, Bas.” I groaned.

“Mom, I woke her up!” He said. “Can I have two bananas on my lunchbox today as a reward, please?” He flies out the room, looking for approval.

What is up?

Wait a second . . .
It isn’t the day, is it?

Ah, I get it.

Today must be Friday.

My mom was standing in the corner of the room wearing traditional Filipino clothes. She adjusts and readjusts the garter of her saya on her waist and the hems that touch her shin. The light of the room made her lips look paler. Nevertheless, it was still identical to the same ones that she used to kiss me good night with, even though that was almost two decades ago. She’s still as beautiful, like my dad always said.

“Here, honey,” She hands me her wig. Her serene voice cannot be slashed out as one of her quirks. “Would you mind helping mama with this?”

Mama didn’t have to ask. I already had the wig grip headband in my hand. I traced her hairline gently; or what’s left of it, at least. I placed the grip band directly above her upper forehead and circled it around the head until it reached the nape. Once secured, I smoothed out her wig. I positioned it on her head like the way I’ve done it a million times before: laying it down the scalp and pulling the rest of the wig over her head. She stood up straight looking at the mirror, looking very pleased.

“I thought the doctor kinda forbid you to teach again, ma’am.” A woman’s voice said. I spin around and found my older sister standing in the doorway, her arms were crossed.

“Need some help?” She asked while grinning.

“It’s the last day of class, after all.” My mom replied.

We were like mom’s stylists, my sister and I. Pen took charge of the accessories while I was left with mom’s shoes. A couple of minutes passed and I still haven’t decided. Should she wear sandals? Flip flops? Slip-ons? Flats? Bakya? I was getting frustrated. And hungry.

The tension seemed to be building up . . .

. . . and that’s when she laughed.

“Look at you two,” she said. “You should’ve seen your faces!”

She lit up the whole room.

Tears were falling down her red cheeks. She was laughing so hard that whenever she comes up for air, she gives out a loud gasping noise. My mom’s eyes were twinkling in a slow ecstatic motion, like the first droplets of rain to hit the land. Never have I ever seen my mother this happy, ever. In my entire life.

I wish she was this happy all the time. I wish the stairs weren’t mountains for her. I wish she doesn’t know that it isn’t just only her last day to teach, but her last day as well. I wish she doesn’t know, even though she does. I wish she didn’t have to make that choice. I wish she had more time.

Suddenly, Pen started laughing with her, too.
And so did my papa and Bas, who just arrived.

And in that moment, I just wanted to freeze everything. I want to remember my mama this way. Someday, I will look back in this with a flash and recollect every single emotion that has resonated through me.

If I could just capture this fleeting moment with my family, I would be forever grateful.

For half a second, I was struck. I was afraid that I’m never going to be this happy again. This happiness might be the peak and nothing can surpass it.

And so, time flew.
I guess you could say that I was right.
I never was.

(image found on WeHeartIt from user @ElyceBerlinn)

Every Moment of It Shined

His pillows smelled like fresh laundry. The way his sheets lingered over me makes me think about rubbing pearls on your skin and how it leaves you feeling revitalized, slightly airy. We lay awake at 1 in the morning, unable to rest. Our heads were facing away from each other but our bodies touched. There was a small night lamp shaped like a tree that hangs near the door, on the far side of the room. On his side.

His lips are made out of faultless curves. I wonder if he has ever gotten the feeling of wanting so badly to kiss someone. I wonder if that someone is me. I turn around. Trace the length of his back. His body tensed up, surprised. A minute later, he watched me watch him hold both of my hands, facing me.

A hand cups my right cheek.

“Hey,” a voice said.

The room suddenly seemed so little, I must have fallen asleep. My eyes closed for a second, adjusting to the darkness. My chest felt heavier… his voice must have awakened me (literally and figuratively). He played with the strands of hair that fall on my face and tucked it behind my ear. He smells like vanilla, I kept thinking to myself.

“What are you thinking about?” I asked, my voice hoarse.

He looked up, looked at me, and smiled.
Oh, god.

“You,” he said, still smiling.

I kissed him, once. Just to satisfy my craving for his lips. “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” I said.

“Still, you like being lied to.”


“Like, when I told you I didn’t love you,” he said. “you were smiling.”

“That’s because you’re a terrible liar, I knew—”

“You knew it the whole time,” he finished.

I smiled.

He put his leg above mine, bear-hugging me. I shifted my body to come closer to him and pressed myself against his chest. I inhaled everything about him, not wanting to let go. We stayed like this for a while (we could stay like this forever).

“I’m thinking about how this world works, with all its monotonous twists and turns,” he said, finally breaking the silence.

I stared at the rise and fall of his lashes, unblinking. “I’m thinking about how we met—and grew, together,” he continues. “And how guilty I am not to see through you right away. Goddammit. You have the most beautiful soul. Even if sometimes you like to pinch my nonexistent arm muscles, talk in your sleep, and like to tell me if I’m being a little self-centered, which I am most of the time, as a matter of fact… You’re my favorite person. I’m a liar, and you know it, but now I’m thinking about telling the truth. The whole truth.

“I like to write about you,” he said.

A pause.

“I’m thinking about writing about you again, and how I would name it. How about ‘Every Moment of It Shined’? Does it sound a little out of place? Hey, most of the time I’m not this expressive, so think of yourself as a lucky woman. Wait—how about…” and he went on and on.

It was months later when I realized what he really meant.
He was thinking about writing a eulogy.

(image from Pinterest user Behance)

When I’m Not Around

Dec 28, 1991

It’s such a silly thing to love.
Believe me, no one is missing anything. You pour your heart out to someone and then—snap! Love is a parasite. It consumes your whole being and lives in your core to suck out the splinters of your fading false hopes just to replace it with worse ones. You become so used to the pain you’ll think it’s a good thing. Well, here’s the truth. Love resides in you to pester and paint your panting heart a plagued gray sky. It eats you up until you become nothing but a dark, unforgiving entity stitched up with regret.

May 28, 1992

I can hear them screaming again.
They stopped paying attention to me when I was seven. I was playing by the fireplace with Waddles, my stuffed pig and only friend. They were arguing about money when she put my hand in the fire. It didn’t seem to have any effect on him, though. He stood there blankly as if nothing happened. Then he burned Waddles. I remember that because it was my birthday.

Nov 9, 1992

No one has initiated any conversation with me for 139 days. I walk alone. I eat alone. 26 of us are cramped up in 1 classroom. 3 windows. 4 walls. 350 square feet of space.

Someone talked to me today.
He said his name was Crest/Chrest/Krest. I said I don’t care and why are you talking to me. He said that he has read all the pieces I wrote for the school paper. That’s odd. No one has ever talked to me outside of my club before, not unless I talk to them first. He told me he was willing to pay me for every poem—at any length—for ten dollars! This slick must really be desperate. I don’t know what it’s for. Anyway, I don’t care. As long as there’s money involved, there won’t be a problem.

Nov 11, 1992

Fasten Your Neck Belts

You feel too much, young girl.
Nobody ever fathoms the shallow sense of emotion you have.
They all look at you with amusement and pity;
whoever notices seems apathetic anyway.
You are in your self destruct mode,
please do not go haywire there.
Because they will not care
or will be too busy to even see.

You are not alone, young girl,
but others are hard to find.
They crawl beneath their own skins
to satisfy the guilt of being alive.
They scream in shades of fervor and anguish,
but you see, others don’t listen
even if their tear-filled eyes continue to glisten…
just like you, they retreat in their shells.

Stop asking why, young girl.
They do not feel what you feel because you are special,
and you deserve to be punished
for being who you are.
Yes, they see that rope too.
Don’t be afraid to wear it,
no one will ever notice even a bit
of how swiftly this will go.

Alas, they will now be asking questions, young girl.
And then they will suddenly care.
And then blame themselves for not realizing
how you were so different
and special
and unique.
They will put on their plastic frowns—
the same ones they wear twice a week.

After the years have passed they will not have known,
how you cared so much
you’ve seen the trees all grown.
They will visit your grave
but it will be too late.
You once tugged your mother at the hem
and you feel nothing now, just like them.
Aren’t they proud?

Jan 8, 1993

I am a product of love.
And as you see, I’m nothing exquisite. I am a bland mix of broken promises interwoven with ragged demeanor and I live in a house near the river. But a goof named Crest (he turns out to be a Crest, not a Krest or Chrest) insists on walking me, a bad news, home. I don’t mind, he makes me rich anyway. I have exactly sent him 17 poems. I didn’t get the reaction I wanted to get from him on my first one; he finds it appealing. It’s entitled as Fasten Your Neck Belts. It was about suicide.

June 11, 1993

I know what it feels like to be loved.
Love is when you lock yourself in your room for 28 hours, eating only your salty tears for the day. Love is holding back your whimpers while storing the fear of being slapped by your father inside a gray fanny pack. Love is when he shouts at you with boiling rage as he plugs off the computer from the socket while you’re busy with it, leaving your work unsaved. Love is stopping by your parents’ room at 3 am when you can’t fall asleep because of your allergies, then your mom tells you to fuck off.

Love is a lot of things.
Love is strange.

August 5, 1993

Someone gave me a gift.
I find it quite amusing to think that someone (who may be entirely nuts) had the guts to waste money on me. It seems that I have been given two cotton hankies and a bandana. “Lana,” the note says. “These are for your tears when I’m not around.” -TSERC

August 8, 1993

Apparently TSERC backwards is CREST.
It has been three days. Still no word from him. “These are for your tears when I’m not around.” Makes much more sense now. This weird sensation keeps on crawling inside me again. Why do I long for someone I don’t care about? What is this? And why hasn’t he called back?

December 7, 1993

I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane.
I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane.
I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane.
I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane.
I am not insane. I am not insane.

I am falling in love.

February 20, 1994

“I love you,”
were his last words
to me.

April 7, 1994

There are times when I can’t prevent myself from thinking about his bright cocoa-colored eyes that seem to always tell the truth. When someone passes by with the same flimsy hair-do and an identical back, for a split-second I swear it’s him. Then I’d see that the guy’s hair was more blonde than brown. I can’t help but think about how every random passerby reminds me so much of him it feels like I’m about to erupt a thousand fragments of a sunset’s hue.

September 3, 1994

Of course, I changed. I finally had the courage to step out of the rims of my abusive parents’ war zone. It’s breathtaking to see how your life suddenly redirects, as if an invisible switch is accidentally flipped open.

August 26, 1996

A beige notepad sits in front of me.
The package arrived two days ago, two minutes after noon. Before I opened the carton box I remember scooting over the wooden chair near the mirror to catch a glimpse of the bandanna wrapped around my head. I tried hard not to remember him. I tried. I recollected all my remaining courage to unbox the parcel and two seconds later I was lying on the floor with a notebook on my chest.

1 notepad.
31 pages.
23 poems.
1 name, 5 letters, and a handwritten note.

“I’m coming back,” it says. “Wait for me.”


((Inspired by Tahereh Mafi and Jean Webster))