Here be a short couple of paragraphs that a friend of mine asked me to write. Improvements could be done, yes, but here it is in all its raw, unedited glory. Yum.
I don’t see many trees anymore in the place where I go to work. At least not like the ones they have in UP. The trees I see nowadays are sickly, dying, branches limping, leaves drooping, the whole tree an equivalent of a starving child on the street. I imagine how these trees would be happier in UP with the healthier ones. I remember how beautiful those trees looked - bodies plump and arms that reached out towards the sky, lush, green fingers extended.
The view of the trees in the academic oval was particularly beautiful, especially at 4 o’ clock in the afternoon. That was my favorite time to walk around the campus. The sun was still up, but it wasn’t too bright or too hot; the air was cooler and, sometimes, there would be a light breeze. It was a peaceful time on campus. I would walk this personal scenic route of mine for about an hour before going home. I always liked how, when I look straight down the road, on either side of it, the trees seem to lean and arc towards each other, like the intertwining hands of two lovers. I would gaze up to see the sunlight glitter through the canopy of leaves above me.
You don’t see any of that sort of natural beauty around where I live. Everything here is rundown and as ugly as the residents who hate themselves.
Another assignment for my Intro to Creative Writing class. This time, it’s creative nonfiction. I still don’t have a complete understanding of what that is and how I can write something of the genre that can’t be called fiction either. But here’s my first (finished) crack at it.
At six years old, I had a nightmare where my own father tried to kill me. I woke up crying with my mother holding me.
“Shh. It’s not real honey, it’s not real. Mommy’s here. Tama na, ‘wag ka nang umiyak.”
That night I was afraid to go to sleep. I always feared sleep during my childhood. The hours in a day I had reserved for rest were plagued by blood and pain, by demons and screams.
“Ito honey o. Hindi ko nadala iyong krus mo e, kaya ito na lang.”
She handed me her red jacket. She had told me that the color red scares off bad spirits. It was something I could literally wear to protect myself. I slept soundly that night.
My mom was both religious and superstitious. When I was young, I learned to believe what she believed.
“Maxine, si Ate Malou ito. Kaibigan siya namin ng daddy mo. Taga-church natin siya.”
I politely greeted her and went about my day—I played with my brothers, I watched TV, I drew pictures. That night, my mom drew something in chalk at the top of my bedroom doorframe.
“Mommy, ano ‘yan?” I asked.
“Pentagram ito, honey. Makatutulong ito sa pagtulog mo.”
Before I went to bed, she handed me two pocketbooks of prayers. One was red and the other was blue. I often used the red one, because it had the prayers my mom taught me and they made me feel safe.
We prayed “Our Father” together. I made it a personal ritual to recite three prayers from the book every night and it became a chant of sorts when something my senses couldn’t pick up on gave me a reason to be afraid.It became automatic for my lips to utter these words, though I never truly understood what they meant.
I believed these words kept me safe from anything.
I am Catholic. I believe in God who gave us our salvation through the death of His son, Jesus Christ. I never questioned this.
I have encountered several people telling me how illogical religion is. They’ve tried to convince me with their reasons. I admit they make more sense than what I believe to be true, but it never shook my faith.
Only when I had my first Theology class did I begin to consider the possibility that I believed in nonsense.
“God is pure good. However, many people doubt this reality because they ask how it is this God is all good and all powerful, yet there is still evil in the world and He does nothing about it?”
Why doesn’t He?
“God is a reality that is beyond our understanding.”
Then how do you know He’s real?
“Everything is caused by something. It is a chain. However, it stands to reason that there is something holding up the link of chains. An cause without a cause, the first cause – God. God exists.”
I pray every night before I go to sleep, for protection for myself and my loved ones. I pray that the next day be filled with good things and for events that make me nervous to go well, such as when I have to give a speech or dance, so that I don’t embarrass myself.
But I realize that praying for such things is done out of fear.
I pray out of fear.
I don’t know if I pray for any other reason.
A friend came over to my house one day and we started talking about my Theology class.
“I bet that’s fun,” he’d say sarcastically.
“I find my professor’s logic kind of… flawed,” I said, “He’d say things that I believe in, but then when he starts to give explanations, I keep contradicting him in my head.”
“That’s a good thing. You’re starting to think. Hindi yung tinatanggap mo lang.”
“It makes me feel guilty.”
We were quiet for a while.
“Ok, ganito,” he had trouble finding his words, “Para kang bata na may nakitang laruan sa isang store at ‘yun na ang kinuha mong laruan. ‘Yun na ang gusto mo. Pero habang naglalakad sa store ang dami mong nakikitang mas magandang laruan. Laruan na mas “may sense” kaysa sa hawak mo. Pero ayaw mong bitawan. You’re fighting to keep the first toy you got, kasi nga ‘yun ang nauna mong makuha at nagkaroon ka na ng attachment doon.
“Pero hindi ibig sabihin noon ay mas maganda yung laruan na ‘yun. Just like how what you believe may not necessarily be the truth. You grew up with this and were taught to believe in it no matter what. I think that’s why you’re having such a hard time with this. Me, I’m kind of floating. Tinitignan ko kung anong mayroon sa bawat relihiyon, and from there, I make my own conclusions about how the world works. Objective observer lang ako. Do I believe in a higher power? Yes, and that’s because logic brings me to see this as possible. Do I believe it’s God specifically, the almighty entity that would smite people who do wrong? No. I like to keep my mind open, and by being objective, I find that it gives me peace.”
I sat there for a long time without saying anything.
“None,” I said.
“Are you okay? Did I offend you in any way? Hey. Come on. Look, I’m sorry if I did.”
“I’m fine, what was that movie you wanted to show me?”
I lay in bed, trying to sleep. Staring up at where the ceiling should be, but was instead carpeted in thick darkness, I saw something. It frightened me. My mind registered it to be a demon - some malicious spirit.
I attempted to do the sign of the cross, but my arm was not my own. Resistant, it pulled back. I fought for my fingers to touch my forehead. My arm fought harder to pin itself down onto the bed.
It wouldn’t let me protect myself. I realized I could still speak, so I tried to pray.
Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven
My jaw cringed and began to stiffen.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
What had taken over my limbs was encroaching on my mouth - my jaw, my lips, my tongue.
as we forgive those who sin against us;
and do not bring us to the test…
Wider and wider my mouth was forced open, my jaw extended to the limit of its hinges. I shrieked in pain as I heard them crack and split all too loudly.
I woke up, drenched in sweat and in a state of panic. I couldn’t figure out what was happening in that moment. All I knew was fear. I was unable to protect myself with the prayers I depended on for safety.
I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night. I feared sleep again. Just as I used to do, I retrieved my mother’s red jacket from my closet, and like my mother taught me to do as a child, I laid in bed and prayed.
This was the first writing assignment we had for my Intro to Creative Writing class. It’s also my first serious and completed short story since I was in the 2nd grade. Whuuuut. There are still some issues with it, but I’m still proud of it. :)
I pulled over after driving for hours in search of this place. I turned off the engine, leaving only the car’s indoor lights on and let out an exasperated sigh as I slumped back in my seat. I gazed out into the darkness, watching the rain glitter white on the empty street, listened to it roar like a waterfall and let it lull me into a hypnotized state.
I have no memory of my mother. I never knew who she was, or what she looked like. My father told me she had run out on us while I was still too young to remember.
I can’t believe I’m doing the same.
“So why did you tell me to drive out in the middle of nowhere?” I asked, snapping out of the past.
“What?” she asked, caught off-guard by the question. I glanced up at her through the rear-view mirror.
“Why here of all places?” I repeated, “This road’s been closed off for years now. Nobody drives through here.” Her eyes were fixed on mine through the mirror, her face suggesting genuine surprise, as if what I’d just asked her was the most ridiculous thing she’s ever heard.
Then she smiled and shrugged, “Why not here? As I recall, you had no idea where you wanted to go. Besides, it wasn’t literally closed off. People just avoided using it.”
That’s ‘cause the roads are bordered by wide ditches, I thought.I looked away from the mirror and glanced down at the picture I was fiddling with.
“I told you, I’m looking for something,” I said. She sat up from the back seat and leaned forward, resting a hand and her chin on the shoulder of my seat. She had a golden ring that twinkled under the dim light.
“Is that your wife?” she asked.
“She is,” I replied, smiling half-heartedly. Not more than two days ago did I leave them with only a note on my wife’s bedside table.
A note. Much like the one my mother left my father. She left us with nothing but a note saying she had to “find herself,” that she was going stir crazy with her way of life and that she had to do something different with it. To live the grand adventure she always wanted before she met my dad. She left a two year old boy, and her husband who was nothing but faithful and loving to her, for road trips and tours in all sorts of places around the world.
I continued to stare at my family picture. I ran my fingers over my wife’s face. I felt an emotional twitch - leftover turmoil from my childhood.
I cleared my mind of the painful memory and held the picture closer to the light for her to see, “That’s my son, and that precious little girl, that’s my daughter, Elle.”
“They’re adorable. How old are they?”
“My son’s almost eight, and my daughter just turned five.”
I drifted to that moment a week ago. My wife brewed coffee the way I liked it. She fed the children breakfast and packed their lunches of cheese sandwiches, orange juice and cookies. She kissed us goodbye before we left. I dropped the kids off at school and went to work at the company I owned. My co-workers and friends greeted me and the day ended with us all having done a lot of good work. It was a productive day.
My wife put me in charge of the cake while she took care of the present, and so I picked up a chocolate cake, Elle’s favorite. We planned to surprise her with the decadent cake she loved. When I came home, my wife greeted me with a kiss, and my children wrapped their arms around my waist. I smiled at them and set the cake out in the dining room. I watched my daughter’s face light up like the candles on her cake.
The birthday celebration aside, it was a typical day for me. Routine. I drop the kids off at school, I work, I come home and my wife kisses me hello.
“Then why are you out here with a total stranger and not at home with your family?”
Her voice cut through the reminiscence of my daughter’s fifth birthday. My attention returned to the present and I looked up at her through the rear-view mirror again.
“Don’t look at me like that, it’s a fair question and you still haven’t answered it,” she said smugly, crossing her arms and leaning back into her seat. This woman was odd. She wasn’t crazy; she seemed perfectly normal, but as normal as she appeared to be, she just struck me as… odd.
Somehow, she looked familiar. She had long brown hair and ocean blue eyes. She was simple, but not plain; a natural beauty. She was about a couple of years younger than me, in her mid-twenties. At this time of night, out here in the middle of nowhere, I would have expected any hitchhiker to be a scary, hobo-like mess of a person that emanated nothing but negativity and an awful stench. I never expected someone so neat and bubbly and full of life.
That was the thing about her. I only met her a few hours ago when I rescued her from the storm. We talked a little, and already I found myself admiring her free-spirit. She told me about her travels to all sorts of places around the world - Italy, Spain, Egypt - it was amazing.
I ignored her question and returned to fiddling with the picture of my wife and kids.
The day I would return to my family crossed my mind. I feared what my wife would say, if she hadn’t already left and taken the children with her. I did plan to go home eventually. I wouldn’t leave them indefinitely.
“Oh, right. You’re ‘looking for something,’” she said mockingly.
I thought it might as well be as good a time as any to tell her why I was out and not at home. She was an adventurer, a traveler. Maybe this stranger of all people would understand.
“I want… adventure. Like you,” I finally said.
Just then her lively attitude faded and her smirk twisted into a disappointed frown.
“I want adventure,” I turned to face her this time, “I want to travel the world like you told me you did in your stories. I want to see the world. I’ve always wanted to see the world, to go mountain climbing in South Africa, to, I don’t know, ride a dolphin, just anything daring, anything spontaneous.”
She looked up at me, heavily judging every word I said, and listened while my voice built up in anger with every word I spoke, “I’m looking for something different in my life! I’m looking for the life I always wanted, but never had the chance to live!”
“You don’t want adventure,” she scoffed.
I stared wide-eyed at her. I didn’t expect her to go against what I said. A desire to strengthen my resolve followed the momentary confusion that resulted in hearing what she said.
“Yes I do,” I replied, my voice firm.
“No, you’re bored. You’re stuck in an endless cycle - a tedious, mundane routine and now you want to break free from it and do something ‘different.’”
I didn’t get it. When I met her, she was so pro-adventure, a person who did and said what she wanted. I thought she’d approve. I thought she would understand.
I could feel the anger build up inside me. What a hypocrite this she was, this woman who never stayed in one place for more than a week, who refused to settle down into a life of stability and familiarity is now making the implication that the very idea of her lifestyle is idiotic.
“So what if I do?” I yelled at her, “What’s wrong with that? You wouldn’t have any idea what it’s like, doing the same things every single day. I know what I would be doing three months from now, because it would be the same things I did today, which were the same things I did for months, for years before! What would you know?”
I sat there, suddenly feeling shame for my outburst. I surveyed her for a reaction, for a cringe of some sort, but she didn’t move. She simply turned away from me.
We were silent for a while, with the harsh rain beating down on the hood of the car and only the dim glow of the car’s indoor lights reassuring us we weren’t sitting in complete darkness.
“I do know what’s like,” she muttered, breaking the silence, “I had people I cared about, too, and who cared about me.”
She didn’t glance up at me even once as she spoke. Her eyes remained fixed on the floor.
“I abandoned them for ‘adventure’ because one day, I got sick of the repetition. I got bored of a constant happiness and good life, like you,” Her fingers trembled over her gold ring, which I now noticed was a wedding ring, “I got tired of good people loving me. They loved me. I had everything. I had a family, friends, a fulfilling job and I was very, very well off, but I got bored of it all, so silly little me, abandoned them.”
I felt like I had just swallowed a rock. I didn’t even stop to think that she had a life before her adventures. Of course she did. Everyone has to come from somewhere stable at some point.
“This is different,” I defended, “You left them and never went back. I’m going to go back to them. I’m not going to abandon them for the rest of their lives. I’m going to go back!”
Her face hardened; her eyes locked onto mine, “I took them for granted, and left them for my own selfish reasons. I told myself it was for my own good as well as theirs, but I was just bored! I got bored!”
Tears slowly rolled down her cheeks, “It was the biggest mistake of my life!”
I listened to her quiet, gasping sobs. I could feel tears starting to well up in my own eyes.
“But being a family man isn’t me. It wasn’t the plan!”
“It happened,” she rasped, “You let it happen because you chose to let it.”
Her words hung in the air. You chose to let it.
“‘People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself, but the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates’,” she said, breaking the silence once more, “A man named Thomas Szasz said that, and it’s true. If falling in love and getting married to your wife wasn’t ‘you’, then why did it happen? Isn’t one defined by his actions? You did those things; you had a family because that’s who you were and you plan on returning because it’s still who you are.”
I faced forward and gazed out the window. The rain had stopped.
I couldn’t contradict what she said. I was left speechless. I looked away, trying to conceal my tears from her. The tears kept welling up, as did my guilt and shame and remorse.
I let her words sink in. This whole time, I told myself my actions were perfectly justified by the fact that I would return to them, that even though I would be putting them through the same pain of abandonment I had experienced as a child, it would be alright in the end, because I would return.
But this woman’s words rung true and the more I realized this, the faster her words deteriorated my logic and reasoning, my justification.
She packed her bag, slung it over her shoulder and scooted over to the door to open it.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
She left the door open and scooted forward to face me again, “I told you to come here to this spot for a reason. Do you still want to know why?”
I had almost forgotten that she brought me here. When I picked her up a few miles back, she asked me where I was headed, and when I said I didn’t know, she insisted we go here, the long, abandoned route surrounded by gravel and wide ditches.
“O-okay. Why?” I stuttered.
“Because this is the perfect place to find yourself and to see how misguided you actually are underneath the sense of certainty you created about yourself and your sense of judgment.”
“But where is here?”
“This was where I stopped almost twenty years ago while trying to return home,” she said looking out the open car door, “I realized here how stupid I was to throw everything away. I was so filled with regret. I tried to return home as fast as I could to see how much of my relationship with my family I could salvage.” I caught a look of sorrow in her tired eyes. The kind of sorrow that shows the resurfacing of past grievances. She started to get out of the car.
“Wait,” I called out, “Why did you say ‘while trying to return home?’ How come you never made it?”
She said nothing and only gave a sad smile before exiting the car. I sighed, exhausted both physically and emotionally. She reappeared at the passenger-side window and tapped on it for me to roll it down.
“I want you to know that it was really nice meeting you. I hope you choose the right thing and fix this before it’s too late,” she said leaning in the passenger-side window, but I didn’t want to look at her. I was too ashamed.
“My name’s Cady, by the way.”
“Cady,” I repeated, “That was my mom’s name.” I turned to look at her, but she was gone. I scrambled out of the car to look for her. She was nowhere in sight. It was like she just vanished. I was about to get back in the car when something caught my eye off the side of the road. The ground there was nearly vertical, dipping into a large ditch. One wrong step could send me rolling down where no one would find me. The nearest semblance of civilization was miles away from this spot. I carefully made my way down into the ditch where I spotted an old beat up car, twisted and destroyed, partly buried in the dirt, the paint weathered away by erosion and rain. As I approached it, I caught wind of a nauseating stench. I covered my nose with the sleeve of my shirt and looked in the driver’s window.
I had trouble identifying what the source of the smell was, but when I did, I immediately wish I hadn’t. Human remains sat in the driver’s seat, covered in marred clothing and mud and dried blood. Its hands were pressed against its chest, clutching as if protecting something. Much of the object seemed intact, and I was curious. Cady had brought me here of all places where there happened to be a body a few feet from where she told me to park.
I gathered my courage and peeled away the bony fingers away from the object. It was locket. Inside was a picture that was still somehow in pristine condition. I held it up to the light of my phone. The picture was of Cady, the woman I met tonight and next to her was a man who I made out to be my father.
I don’t even remember why or how, but I somehow got weaned off my addiction to blogging. It’s probably because I never really posted anything worth reading, actually, most were pictures and reblogs. Then again, it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve never finished anything I’ve started on my own. Sure I’ve finished stuff I’ve started, but every single finished product and achievement I remember was due to its completion being a requirement. It was always something I had to do, but something I set out to do on my own? I’ve never finished. It’s like I’m this pack rat for potentially great endeavors. They’re all half-done, unfinished and crammed into boxes in a dusty old room with all the other shit I don’t ever plan on touching again, but still keep in the hopeless chance that I may have some use for them in the future.
So why the sudden interest in blogging again?
I’m going to be taking my writing majors this year. I can legitimately call myself a Creative Writing major, but I don’t deserve to.
I’ve read the works of most of my blockmates and coursemates and hell, they’re good. Like, freaking good. Reading their works makes me feel like the gist of my works is a mash of unidentifiable sounds like “hnng” and “narg” - not the best I could do.
So I’d like to somehow, someway improve on my writing and my inability to finish the things I start trying, for what is like the millionth time, to write more often. I won’t unrealistically aim higher than I know I can go by saying that I have to have written something remotely substantial everyday. Not even once a week. I’ll take it slow. Slowly ease my way into writing more often. Sort of like trying to lose my writing virginity with the least amount of pain possible. Ok, that metaphor sounded better in my head, but I’ll go with it for lack of a better one at 12:16 in the morning.
Here goes my millionth try. Hopefully I don’t end up having a million-and-first try in the future.
We had a prayer session in school today. I remember thinking before it started why do I need to do this? Can’t I pray on my own time when I want? Isn’t having to force myself to pray like this a bad thing?
It turned out to be very enlightening for me. It helped me take out some thoughts and issues I’ve locked away, to look at them and deal with them.
It’s also been a while since I’ve let myself feel connected with God like that. I guess my private prayers when I’m alone have been prayers of greed or routine even though I try to sound sincere.
The guy leading the prayer session did the sign of the cross. I did, too. He said that he wouldn’t do it again at the end of the session, and he told us a story about his friend. This friend of his made him wonder one time why he wasn’t doing the sign of the cross to end his prayer even when he started out his day or work. His friend told him that his work is his prayer, that life, what we do throughout our day, is the prayer.
I don’t think I do end with the sign of the cross anymore, I just start the day with it.
Everyday, as I have grown accustomed to, I set an alarm on my phone before going to bed. At 5:30 in the morning on school days, it rings. I wake up, get out of bed and go about the rest of my day.
There was a time, however, when I was completely exhausted, but I had an exam in the next two hours and I still needed to study.
"I’ll just take a short nap," I said to myself. It was just to regain some energy that I’d need to keep myself focused on the subject. I got into my bed and set the alarm to ring at 3:30 that afternoon, an hour later.
I wake up. The alarm had not rung yet. I check the time: 3:22PM, eight minutes before the alarm was supposed to ring. I close my eyes because I figure that eight minutes is still valuable sleeping time.
I wasn’t able to sleep again. My mind kept me up, saying that it would ring soon and that I’d have to get up in a little bit. In what I assumed to be minutes later, I wondered to myself how much time had passed.
Will the alarm ring now? How about now?
I open my eyes and I realize - this is ridiculous. Why am I waiting for the alarm to ring, when I’ve already woken up? Why am I lying here waiting for something, an alarm, to ring before I got up and did what needed doing?
The moment that thought ended, the alarm rang and I got up to study for that exam.