Intoxication

“Tell me I’m beautiful,” she told him while she played with the buttons of his shirt. He was always amused when she asked him to do this. It was as if she was not the confident woman that many men fawned over; it was as if she was a woman-child, unsure of herself and her power. “You already know you are,” he said, unzipping her skirt and letting it fall to the floor. He kissed her as he worked on unbuttoning her blouse. “Yes,” she said breathlessly. “But I still want to hear it from you.” He trailed kisses from her jawline to her collarbone and acquiesced. “You are beautiful,” he said in between kisses “and your mind makes you even more beautiful.”

It was true, he found her attractive because of her passion for anything and everything intellectual, it was just a bonus that she also happened to be aesthetically pleasing. He could hardly believe his luck when she agreed to go to his place on the pre-text of checking his book collection. He knew she did not drink and hated the glass of light beer he ordered for her. In fact, she hardly even touched it which was probably a good idea as it assured him that she came to his flat unadulterated by liquor.

They were already naked and he reached behind her to turn off the lights. She turned them back on. “No,” she said rather firmly, “I want you to see me. And I want to see all of you.” They were hardly gym buffs and their penchant for rice has taken a toll on their bodies so he was rather perplexed by her request. All this faded away though, when she finally opened her body to him. He forgot all his questions, all his inhibitions about his beer gut, and all the rumors he heard in the office that soon, his boss will be giving him his walking papers. She was the only thing he could see, hear, and feel right now. She felt him shudder and knew it was over. She looked at him with the same wide eyes she had looked at him before they had undressed each other and saw his expression change from ecstasy to exhaustion.

His eyes remained shut for what seemed like forever. They finally opened and they were on the ceiling, the glass on the table. the clothes on the floor. They were on everything but her. She was not particularly surprised. He always found it uncomfortable to look at her and she never bothered to figure out why. Slowly, she disentangled herself from him and put her clothes back on. He lay in bed, both mesmerized and disturbed at the way she methodically put every piece of clothing on.

“Did you…” he need not have asked, she already knew what was on his mind. “Yes, I enjoyed myself.” Kissing him lightly on the mouth, she bid him farewell. It was the last they would see of each other.

He would always think of himself as one of the many men she ensorcelled but it could not have been farther from the truth.

He was her only indiscretion and that was already enough.

Maundy Thursday

It was nearly noon but she did not feel any hunger. Despite the sweltering heat outside, she remained cool inside her dark studio-type apartment. Face down on her bed, she wondered how long she would have to wait before it was night again.

The phone rang. She knew it was her mother calling from the province but she did not pick up. She can almost hear her mother’s voice on the other end of the line reminding her to take her lunch, to drink her vitamins, to be careful when taking a bath as the floors on her bathroom desperately needed cleaning. She was aware of that hidden in her mother’s chatty voice was a plea not to do anything which will hurt her.

The phone finally stopped ringing. Joan got up from the bed and her head spun a little, the way it usually does when one rises quickly after a long period of lying down. Squinting and fumbling her way out of the dark, she flicked on the light switch, thought against it, and turned it off.

Darkness is better, she thought to herself. A wave of nausea swept over her and she almost did not make it to the bathroom. This was the part she hated most. They told her it would pass after four months but she did not want to wait that long.

She did not want to wait for anything. Not for the tenderness and sense of fulfillment she’d allegedly feel after holding her newborn in her arms. Not for the reconciliation her friends promised would take place between her and Nestor if she would continue the pregnancy. Her thoughts were no longer on salvaging the relationship.

In her hands, she held three hexagonal pills. She hazily recollected what her cousin Sheena told her about taking these pills. Do I need to eat first before taking these meds? she thought then laughed at the silliness of of her question.

She had waited a long time before getting her hands on these pills yet now that they were in her possession, she didn’t know where to get the courage to take them. It felt surreal knowing that these three little objects had the power to change her life.

Then again, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they wouldn’t work and she would be a contented mother like her own mother wanted her to be. But these faint hopes were dashed when she swallowed two pills with a glass of orange juice. It wasn’t so hard. Pushing the pill up her womb was the one she was going to be squeamish about.

Taking off her shorts and underpants, she squatted and pushed the little pill as far as her fingers would allow her. Her internal muscles clenched at the intrusion but she persisted. Putting her clothes back on, she lay in bed and waited.

It was almost 5:00 PM when she felt her lower abdomen harden and finally start contracting. Up until that moment, she thought it wasn’t going to be effective. Maybe a small part of her had hoped that as well. But now, it was too late to turn back.

Nearly crawling to her drawer where she kept her personal effects, she grabbed two sanitary pads and a change of underwear. In the bathroom, she washed herself but the water pooling around her feet got redder and redder. Stumbling back outside, grabbed a chair. Doubling over in pain she sat and cried.

She wept for the debilitating pain she felt with each contraction of her uterus. She wept for her fear of blood and the possibility of her own death. She wept for her relationship with Nestor and what they could have been. She also wept for the emotion she felt welling up within her, one she could not fully recognize – that of saying goodbye to someone she will never get to know.

With each shudder of pain and each spurt of blood that passed her body, she became even more aware of the permanence of her act. It would be over soon, and her knowledge of that brought her even more pain.

In silence, she cried. In silence, she mourned.

Coffee and Ink

The tall plastic cup of mocha frap was making rings on the wooden table. He shivered a little but took a sip of the cold coffee anyway. One of these days, he will be brave enough to order hot coffee, he just did not know hot to say it unlike his adventurous and well-off friends – the ones who could afford the Php 180.00 cup of hot latte with two Splenda and extra shot of espresso which he almost always considered highway robbery.  Today was not the day to be adventurous or act well-off. He only had the energy to be brave today and so he ordered his usual (or at least the coffee he ordered every other payday) and plunked down on one of the oversized chairs

If someone from the busy café would look up from whatever it was he or she was reading, that person would see Miguel as the image he had always wished to portray: an artist on the cusp of making a literary breakthrough. One would think he was a writer hell-bent on creating a piece that would evoke the deepest emotions and catapult him to the highest success. The first part was true, he is an aspiring writer, but right now all the emotions he is capable of drawing forth are the ones voluntarily spilling from him.

It was the last time, he knew it. Things have always been ugly for him and Gary but last night was one of the worst.  Slightly tipsy from their night of partying, Gary put his arms around him and started nuzzling his neck and nibbling his earlobe, the way he usually did when he wanted the night to end on a high note with Miguel on his stomach, and him collapsed on top of his partner; but Miguel was not in the mood. He saw Gary flirting with one of the guests at the dinner party his sister hosted for Gary’s promotion. He could not bring it up because he knew Gary was just going to deny it; or worse, he would actually believe Gary when he would tell Miguel he was crazy and was just overthinking things. He hated it when Gary brushed off his worries, he hated it when Gary laughed at his concerns and would say to him he was the only one who mattered to him despite his past, despite his former lovers. He hated how Gary was so handsome that women could not help but flock to him even though it was so obvious that he is gay and his past relationships with women were nothing more than attempts to find out his true sexual identity. He hated how Gary was so open with everything that he was able to fish stories about his exes within months of being together.  He hated himself for looking at the Facebook page of each of these ex boyfriends/girlfriends and trying to find out anything that could be wrong with them. She was too homely. He was too flamboyant. Her features were too sharp. He sounded stupid in his Description. He hated himself, but he hated Gary too because Gary had a past, which in turn gave Gary more personality. Gary had a stable job. Gary brought in more. Gary stayed out later, because he was more busy with his job and this was like Gary slapping Miguel on the face with the truth that he was nothing more but an ambitious writer, not even capable of writing a decent break-up letter.

“I’m leaving you,” the scribble on the paper read, “because you have no respect for what I do or for what I dream about becoming.  You don’t listen when I pitch my ideas, you can’t be excited for me except when you want me on your knees. You finish too early when we are having sex. You never take me out on dates anymore, maybe because you think it is enough you already paid for the tuition fee for my MA.  There’s no longer romance, no spontaneity. I’m leaving you because it will only be a matter of time before you realize you want to be with another person. ”

His heart was beating a little faster, he did not know if it was because of the blatant manner in which he wrote the letter or because he tried to finish his frap. The frap that costs as much as the daily allowance Gary gave him. Perhaps that was it, his heart was beating fast because he did not know where he was going to find money to get to and from school when his measly salary would run out. That is what he always loved about Gary, he did not think twice about sharing his money. But it meant cutting back on the affection.

Taking one last gulp, he scanned the letter for any grammatical errors or misspelled words. Satisfied there was none, he retrieved his mobile phone from his pocket to call his best friend and ask her for help in moving out from the apartment he shared with Miguel, rather, the apartment Gary paid for but was mostly used by Miguel since Gary was often in Cebu, sweet-talking the clients into putting up another franchise. It would take at least two days before Gary would realize he was gone for good. Miguel imagined the look of confusion on Gary’s face when he would notice the shoe rack was free again. Miguel found himself liking this mental picture.

Anita answered and her knowing sigh brought Miguel out of his reverie. He could almost see her rolling her eyes on the other end of the line.  He told her this would be the last and he was not going to sleep over at Gary’s after a few days and eventually move back in after two weeks.  They hung up and Miguel felt a sour taste in his mouth from both the coffee and what he was about to do. Gathering his things, he heard his phone beep and saw that it was Gary “Baby, where are you? I’m in Ayala right now. Let’s have lunch?”

Miguel continued gathering his things and stepped out of the coffee shop, but not before crumpling the paper and leaving it on the table.

Fortune Is A Woman, Fortune Is A Bitch

Fortune is a woman, she favors the lion-hearted. No time for weak men, she bestows her blessings on the fighters. She is difficult to attract. She isn’t easily convinced by any man. You have to prove to her that you’re worthy. Sometimes, no amount of effort will do. She’ll just keep on ignoring you, refusing to see your hard work and heartaches. There are different ways to woo her, but there’s no saying which method is the most effective. Sometimes, it just takes a little nudge; other times it takes blood, sweat and tears. Once you have her, though, you’ll see that the suffering was well worth it. She’ll give you joy, satisfaction. Your heart’s deepest desires are finally satiated.

Her perfume is intoxicating, filling you with so much vigor that you feel you can take on anything. Ah, yes, you’re consumed with that sense of greatness she allowed you to believe you possessed. Spinning, spinning, spinning on top of the world, you demand everyone to take notice of you and the woman who made it possible. But just as they turn their eyes on you, you realize you’re the only one standing there. Slowly making your descent, you struggle to recall the exact minute you were left alone. Those thoughts are quickly dashed as your slow descent graduates into a quick fall from grace. Battered and bruised, you desperately look around, hoping she’ll be there.

She isn’t. You begin asking yourself why. What could you have possibly done to make her abandon you? Was it your pompousness? Didn’t you give her the attention she deserved? Or was it just because it was never meant to be?

None of the above. She was just too fickle to stay with you. As you slowly rebuild your life and as the wounds heal, you start to look for her again vowing to make it good this time and never let her go. But all this is futile because she refuses to notice you. Last you heard, she was already with a stronger, braver, more virile man.

Maybe in a few years’ time you’ll be better than that other man. Maybe you will get back together and she will bestow on you favors again, the way she once did. Then again, maybe not. Maybe no matter how strong and courageous and virile you’ll get, she still won’t give you the time of day. After all, you had your chance with her, and you blew it.

Maybe she’s still with that other man by that time. Or maybe, she disposed of that other man already and moved on to even greater men. And you… you’re left in the sidelines only with vague memories of a distant past which you will never have again all because she won’t have you anymore.

Fortune is a bitch.

Note: This appeared in The Spires, literary folio of San Beda College. 

Disclaimer: This is not a rant against anyone, it is merely a piece on fortune inspired by the philosophy of Niccolo Machiavelli as reflected upon by Hannah Pitkin.

Monster

Symmetry. That’s what makes a thing one of beauty. Harmony in lines, features, even in imperfections. Paradoxical? Perhaps. Yet it is recognized. And appreciated. Freckles showered across opaque whiteness, a mole to accentuate a well-curved mouth, a curl to break the monotony of needle-straight hair… A flaw to balance out a good point if you may.

A flaw. And then two. And then some more. The beauty is destroyed. What remains is an abomination. An atrociousness that is beyond repair. Sweetness covering up the lies, imposition masked as cordiality. Selfishness. Pure, unadulterated selfishness rising like bile from your insides, all the way up to your throat, coming out of your mouth, your ears, your pores. Drowning every little aspect that once fooled people into loving you. Submerged in the murky water are all your pretenses, all the untruths that spewed forth from your treacherous mouth.

And the world sees you for who you really are: A puny shadow of a person, naked without the put-on glory, the self-proclaimed adjectives, the pre-packaged identity.

And what of beauty? It was all an illusion, like the thick make-up you wore, the fake charms you made us believe you possessed. It is not gone for it was never there.

You were never beautiful for you were never truthful.

Muse

The night is balmy yet I shiver. I shiver in anticipation of what is to come. It is murder, planned in cold blood to rid me of the innocence that has for so long surrounded and plagued me. It is gruesome death yet I will smile through the entire process. Yes, there will be death tonight, but in many ways, I will also be reborn.

Then again I have been dying little by little the past few days. It is a fate I have brought upon myself ever since I agreed to your visitation. Ah, yes, your visitations which will rival the visions people have of any saint. You are like a vision yourself, with your coquettish smile and taunting ways. I am enthralled by your vision, even more so by what I feel when I touch you, on those times you actually let me touch you. Your smooth, alabaster skin speaks of purity yet I know you are hardly chaste. You are worldlier than all the Biblical harlots combined but I still worship your body, your essence. As my fingers run down your smooth skin, I can hardly contain my excitement.  I tug at your clothes, hesitating, hardly believing you are allowing me to do this. I kiss your neck and breathe in your fragrance mingled with a hint of sweat; I want more. I fight the resistance to rip off the garments covering your body because I know my enthusiasm will never be equal to your power. You will consume me, I am aware of that, so I continue taking in your body little by little, loving you inch by inch.

I am heady with exhilaration; I know we have barely begun. You have a lot more to show me and I remain steadfast in my prayer to endure what will happen next. You sigh a little and I look up, expecting to see you with your eyes half-open, but they are wide and are pointedly staring at me. I take it as an invitation to be bolder. Cupping your breast, I marvel at how it has remained firm even after nursing ten children. Suddenly, I am envious of your offsprings. They have satisfied their hunger with the milk that comes from you, and I want to experience what they have experienced. I hungrily suck on a teat, but I am not content. If anything, I am more famished now than I was before. I want you, all of you, but I know I cannot have you fully. I can only have what you decide to give to me.

My mouth reaches yours, and greedily I drink in your beauty. I will never have enough of you, you know that. Forgive me if my tight hold is bruising your arms. I can no longer control myself. I have descended into madness which no asylum can treat. Let me devour you. Sliding a hand in between your legs, I realize that you have long been ready and waiting, I just did not hear your pleas. Laying you carefully on the ground (for not even my wantonness will take away my respect for you), I brace myself for the pleasure and exhaustion. Finally, I enter you and it is sweeter than I ever thought it would be. I try to match my movements with the grinding of your hips but you are too fast, too experienced for me. Your face is devoid of any reaction but I am certain this is not due to frigidity; you are only concentrating on giving me what I can take. I want more. I need more. Please, give me more.

Almost too soon, we are done. I collapse in fatigue and mutter to myself that I will never do it again but within hours, I am back to wanting you. You cannot stay long, even as I beg and whimper. You have done your job, you say. It is time for me to try it with others, but I am afraid. They might not experience the same joy I have experienced with you. All my arguments are for naught, because you have already disappeared, leaving me wanting for more.

I knew what was going to happen; we planned this. Something died in me, but something was also born, and with it, a craving that will never be satiated. I yearn for you day and night, I curse you during those times you do not come to me, but I renew my passion for you with each time you are kind enough to throw a glance my way. I anxiously await your sporadic visits, cursing my own mania. All this disappears when you arrive and I am once again consumed by your splendor.

This is madness. This is an obsession I willfully embrace. This is beauty.

This is life.