I'll be damned

I’ve developed a week-day habit of skipping breakfast to get to work on time because I have to commute, because sister decided to sleep longer and can't get me to work with the car. When I get to the office, a cup of coffee would suffice to get me through the morning. Then at lunch, to avoid cafeteria food and going out in the scorching heat, I soothe my hungry stomach with oatmeal. When 3pm comes, I would be attacked by headaches and my hands would be shaking from hunger. That signals me to get a cup of coffee plus snack or get something more sustaining, like a proper meal before I pass out. I was not aware of my limits till today. On my way down to get some food at 4pm, the world suddenly darkened and tipped. I was able to grab hold of the banister and with the support of walls, make my way down to the cafeteria to revive myself from the impending gloom.

This must stop. Even now, I can feel my hands turning to jelly and my mind in slow motion. Must make conscious effort to eat even all I can have is fish and rice. And I'm tired of feeling sorry for myself. Even I can't stand my whinning. Must grab the bull by the horns and twist it.

I got an invite for a weekend in Boracay at the 2nd week of March. I know I’m broke but I’m seriously considering the change of scenery. If my brothers keep their promise, I will have my weekend break and get that peace of mind that has long eluded me.

Damn the splint. Damn the bills. Damn the bloody heat.



While talking with friends just outside the gates of my house, the on-going conversation was ended abruptly by something that whoooshed by. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It can’t be Superman – he died and gone to heaven. It must be Road Runner (beep, beep). But no, it was the ex -- on a fast-racing bike -- at top speed. And my friends can’t stop themselves so they shout out to him, asking him to drop by, say hello, see how he will react that I’m right there in the midst of them. But he didn’t. Which is good … I think. That was the whole point of the whooshing by, right? As if Satan was at his heels and he was running for his life. He knew I was there. They were at my gate after all and he knew that gate by heart after 8 years of talking in front of that same gate.

The problem with breaking-up with your best friend, is that you both can’t be together with the same group of friends at the same time. So it doesn’t sit well with me that he had to avoid our friends because I am there. Or me, avoid them because he’s with them. Which is so the case for the past few months. But it must be done. I have moved on. And so must he. It’s just been very difficult for him. He has just put-up a business, with my name on the signboard (purely coincidence – really weird, too.) doesn’t help either because he has to see it every day.

Anyway, one of my friends sent him a message, asking him why he couldn’t drop by. His answer was: “I can’t. Because you’re behind enemy lines. Hahaha.”

It should piss me off that I’m marked as the enemy. But I’m not. I’m relieved that he hasn’t lost his sense of humor. And I’m glad he has decided to whoosh by my life to preserve his peace. It's such a comfort that I haven't messed up somebody's life because I just didn't want to be with them. I look forward for the day we become friends again, without the extra baggage. Whoosh he must amd whoosh he has. I'm happy for him.


Wish I had a Luke

I always look forward to Saturday Nights mostly because of the Gilmore Girls in Channel 23 at 8pm. I love the sarcasm and the wit of Lorelie and Rory Gilmore who have both manage to live a life of maturity and silliness all at the same time. Tonight, Lorelie and Rory individually found things too much to handle and had gone over their heads looking for solutions. They've been told things that were difficult for them to hear, and the pressure kept packing until they've reached the point of explosion. They kept trying to contact each other for comfort but couldn’t get in touch because of the 101 things that needed to be addressed. So they ended up crying on the shoulders of the two different men they're not used to crying to. Lorelie summed in up by saying: "I always had things under control. And I was alright. But now, I just wish I was married. So that someone can let me have time to take care of my hair, or meet the man with the sink before it gets shipped off to Canada." The episode tonight somehow mirrored my life, and it hit home. Instead of the usual cheerfulness that the series brings to my outlook on things, tonight, it just underlined my desperation.

I long to talk to somebody about this but I couldn’t bring myself to talk to just anyone. There are specific persons for things like this. But such persons are not available, no longer in hand or too distant to be disturbed. So I’m going to the bathroom and drown myself in the sink. Maybe it will wake me up a little and put me back to my senses.

I thought of ignoring my mood with a book but I can’t stand Gregor in his beast-form (Metamorphosis, Kafka) tonight. His hopelessness brings dark clouds to my reality and I’ve thrown the book 5 times already today, in exasperation of his situation. Am I regreting my break-up now? No. Staying in a relationship where I was not happy would just have made this worse. My regret centers around not having that someone to let me have time to take care of my hair. And though I don't have that sink from Canada, if I were married, I could have worked hard to get that sink. (smile) What am I talking about? (deep breath).

So after writing off my silliness on a text message, and this blog, I’m off to sleep. I’m just going to hug my pillow tighter tonight. And wish I had a Luke.


Morphing Into Spinsterhood

Question: What is the difference between a newly encashed dividend check and a used-book sale?
Answer: One hundred and seventy-five pesos change
(Canned laughter!)

I started the day delving the deep waters of Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka on the jeepney ride to work. Gregor Samsa, a saleman, has woken up this morning to find himself a beast in his bed; but still, with great effort, continued to try to go through his daily routine, and please his family and superiors despite the horrendous change in him. I had to stop reading mid-trip because I was turning into the beast that Gregor was.

Got in early for work and spent the morning in a staff meeting over coffee. It’s so much nicer now that I’m not the only female in the office after being the only rose among valiant thorns for several months. There is nothing better than having a brief respite of girl-talk in between discussions about systems and networks. I spent the next few hours investigating Rules and Regulations of Network and Internet Use and cutting the 50-page research down to seven. Finally got hungry and had a late lunch at 3pm.

While sitting alone in the hushed cafeteria with my batchoy (it's another type of noodle soup), I got to thinking how alone I was. After I broke up with best friend/ex-boyfriend, I have managed to entertain myself with my online buddies. The hours in between were spent with lady friends where I was then a much needed company; and then there was my church group who had filled my time with humanitarian activities. Then Christmas came, and New Year and I got myself entangled with the busyness of the season. January was spent tackling some financial issues that had blown over after a two-hour cry. Now, a month and a half later, I have began the process of … mulling over my present state. Uh-oh!

I am alone. My best friend/ex boyfriend has put up a restraining order against me so he can keep his good sense. My lady friends found themselves involved in their male-devotions so my evening soirees have stopped. Good thing too because I’m too broke to eat out. My church friends have limited themselves to Thursday prayer meetings and Sunday mass which I truly appreciate. I can't deal with being humanitarian right now because I am morphing. My online friends are still around but the distance between the monitors have become more pronounced in the calmness of the cafeteria. Somehow I have managed to alienate myself from the rest of my world. Am I on my way to spinsterhood?

My sick writer friend assures me I am not. So I asked him that whatever the outcome of my civil status, he must immortalize me in poetry. The problem was he can’t write in English. But he promised to translate it for me as best as he can. I think I have been immortalized in song too … years ago; but as far as I can remember, the songwriter broke up with the muse so the song was never finished.

On my way home, I ran into a used-book sale and bought three books – all female authors, costing a total of 225 pesos. (V, u get them after I’m done with them!) Which means I will be forced to eat oatmeal for lunch in the next two days – GRIN! Small sacrifice really for the treasures I’m adding to my bedside table. A picture of a librarian suddenly came to mind, with hair in a bun and spectacles as thick as magnifying lens. I fear that I’m going to die reading books.

When I got home, I took out a mirror and examined my face for signs of spinsterhood. I’m no longer twenty-five. I have wrinkles that betray the bit of wisdom and the loads of foolishness I have gathered through the years. I have laugh lines that I hope add more character than age. I no longer have the body that mocked men I had ten years ago (naks! as if! hahahaha!). I now wear spectacles when I read. But when I remove my ponytail, my hair hugs my face and covers it like I was some pretty model in a shampoo commercial – hahaha. Humor me please. It’s been a rough day. Practicing my smile, I manage to cheer myself up. Lucky will be the man who marries me – Hahahaha! Talk about being narcissistic. (Didn’t we argue about that, doc?)

After I write this blog, I will crawl in my bed and morph into Gregor.

I knew bad things happen when I start thinking.


A bigger what?

A friend IMed me to ask if I’ve lost weight because of my splint. With a diet of oatmeal, rice and soft foods, I haven’t really noticed. I feel the same. So I checked. It’s been two weeks and four days. I lost 2 kgs. I discovered I have cheekbones. My neck is longer. My slacks seemed to have stretched and become a bit loose. I’ve started to slouch again. Because my boobs have seemingly grown bigger.

I don’t see the big deal with boobs. As Julia Roberts say in Notting Hill, every woman has it! While other women pay so much to have a few more inches added to their chest, I wish the opposite. I had the bad experience of men talking down on me in college. And it was not because of my tantalizing eyes, but because I had cleavage. I try to avoid sales ladies who make it a point to announce the bra size all over the lingerie department because they don’t display such. I abhor knitted blouses and tight T-shirts. I have trouble fitting in RTWs meant for short women - who had smaller breast size. While other women worry about push-up bras, I fret when my nipples jut inside my blouse even with a bra. And I detest tenderness during my period. And being single and old, I also need a mammogram every six months to make sure nothing goes off-center. I have undergone minor breast surgery to have a lump removed 9 years ago. The ordeal required me to expose the upper body to a few nurses, one of them male, and to my male cousin who was then the surgeon. It was an experience I don't care to repeat. It didn’t hurt but it was not pleasant. Safe to say that I will probably provide good milk to my kids. I know I'm the envy of flat chested women. But at four feet nine and a half inches in height, I wished that God could have given me a bigger brain or a bigger heart instead of bigger chest. You can't have everything.

Straight Books

“You’re choice of books are straight!”, my dad declared as he returned to me two books he borrowed. The first one was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee which I so love. The 2nd was The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka - one I have not read and just borrowed from a priest friend. Puzzled, I asked, “What do you mean straight?” “He just shrugged his shoulders and repeated, “Straight.” And he turned his back and sauntered off to his garden. I stared at the books in my hands.

What does he mean straight? Straight meaning boring? Or straight meaning not-gay? I tried to remember the books I’ve gave him to read. Let’s see ... there's J.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit, J.K. Rowling’s young Harry Potter, Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, Isabelle Allende’s House of Spirits and Daughter of Fortune, Amy Tan's book, Peter Mayle, Catherine Levine’s The Eight … what makes them straight? These books are not straight! Tame maybe, but not straight!

Could straight mean the absence of hot sex? Or at least not the Iris Johansen steamy wooo-hooo!! fan-self-with-hand kind of sex? Is my Dad telling me I’m a prude? Or is he telling me he prefers books like those? Ugh! Let's not go there.

I watched my 74 year old father inspect his garden unhurriedly. He is a man of few words. But his words, when spoken digs deep. He seldom gets mad but when he does, he would speak calmly and deeply, explaining your transgressions so you would understand the graveness of it all. Then leave you to think about it. None of us siblings could get away with a dry eye after a scolding with him. Although some of us has experienced the hard spank of tsinelas (slippers), most of the time, his words were punishment enough. My Nanay would scold and nag a lot but her words would fall on deaf ears. It was my dad’s rare words that stung.

The first few things I remember learning from him is wonder and the appreciation of what is out there. So as to expose us to the world, my dad once took the lot of us to a fancy restaurant and bought this expensive dinner. He orders us wine, and though we were too young to drink, he would persuade us to take sips and we would exchange goblets as if we were wine connoisseurs. And he would explain, “White wine goes with fish. Red wine goes with meat.” And the encounter would just push us to ask, “What more is out there?”

When I was 14, and just survived chicken pox, my dad had some out-of-town guests from the office to entertain. So Dad and guests took us to our first disco, Tivoli, on a school night. He explained to his guests that his children need to be exposed to such things so we won’t end up “manol” - the nearest English translation I could think of is naïve. He gave us a taste of our first alcoholic drink, pointing out the names, as if they were important titles to note. He didn’t expect us to drink all of it and would laugh out loud when we made faces because the drinks were too strong. And though it was embarrassing to dance with your dad in a then hip dance floor (He was doing this weird chacha-boogie combo!), we did anyway, because we were experiencing something new, and we were too young to even be aware that it was ‘uncool’.

In due course, we learned to reason. Our family discussions were loud, and in English, because it was the best way to stress a point. Nanay later described these discussions in her journal in a most humorous way, but that’s another blog (I will post it, I promise!).

There is just one vice my dad wouldn’t tolerate and that is smoking. When he discovered cigarettes in the hands of my older siblings, he bought an additional pack and had them smoke 3 cigs at a time until their eyes watered. Being a chain-smoker himself, he epitomized the idiom, “Follow what I say, but don’t follow what I do.” It was like Donald Duck punishing Huey, Duey, Louie and little Daisy (hehehe) for smoking cigars – remember that cartoon? He stopped smoking only when his brother-in-law died of lung cancer.

My parents encouraged us to read. I remember looking forward to dolls and tiny plates for Christmas. It broke my heart to open my present and find a box full of Children’s Christian storybooks. My Mom was so proud of that gift that I had to swallow my disappointment and start reading. I learned to love books after that.

My father had this huge library of paperbacks and never tried to censor the books we read. So that’s how I got my hands on Goodbye Janet by Harold Robbins when I was 10. It was my first thick novel. After that, I started reading Sidney Sheldon and Danielle Steele, moved on to Mills and Boone when I was 11, then Sweet Dreams when I was 12, and when I reached my teens, I discovered Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and much later … the Bobsey Twins. I digressed! – hahaha. My choice of books finally caught up with me in college. I finally started reading John Jakes, Cynthia Freeman, and Stephen King - the right books at the right time.

So as you can see, my choice of books have mellowed with age – hahahaha. So you can understand why it bothers me that my dad declared my choice of books ‘straight’!



Finally, an ‘aha’ moment. Brother no. 3 called this morning to talk about my Dad’s cell phone. In the middle of the conversation I started to snivel, then sob. After three weeks of keeping it together, I just broke down and wept. My brother, who had no idea why, panicked (so like a guy!) and I was forced to tell him my not-so-quiet-anymore desolation. He tried to comfort me and assured me that help was coming without me having to ask. The problem with suppressed emotions, once the waterworks starts, it’s difficult to stop. So after hanging up the phone, I had to lock myself in my room and sob some more for about two hours. It was like re-living Gethsemane. I don’t know if it was from being too burdened or PMS that brought about the sobbing. But it felt damn good to finally cry. Fell into deep slumber after that and when I woke up, I had this text conversation with my bro:

He: Help is coming, now cheer up. You’re beginning to sound like your mother and it gives me the creeps. Hehe.

Me: I am sounding like nanay and it scares the hell out of me. But I’m also in her shoes right now because I’m paying the bills. I don’t want to be acting-nanay anymore. Can I resign? But nobody wants to take my place. It’s not funny anymore.

He: You’re not the only one in a tight spot. In any case, our needs are not as compelling at the moment. You better take the help now. You’re doing a good job. Don’t resign. There will always be shitty days likes this wherever you are.

Now, just so you don’t get the wrong idea, my mom was a good woman. She was just a bit too good – a martyr as I have said; and she had a flair for the dramatics – like what generally all daughters see in their mothers and fail to see in themselves. So maybe there are daughters out there who would like to be like their mothers. I don’t belong in that category. It’s not that I don’t admire my Nanay; It’s just that I would rather be me – opinionated, complicated, silent yet loud, weird, unique … me.

My brother telling me that I was doing a good job was the ultimate picker-upper. I guess I just needed to hear it. I don’t like to sound cheesy but this is exactly the reason why I need a man in my life – or at least a best friend. A back-up that tells me I’ll be okay when I on my way to crashing.

I also realized I am not superwoman. Not that I was trying to be one. But being in a habit of trying to solve my own problems, I was unaware that I was desperately trying to be Darna. I was not. There will be shitty days like this. It’s Lent after all. Christ waited for 3 days to get resurrected. It took me 3 weeks, but on the bright side, I didn’t have to die.


I'm not mad, just grumpy

The first comment I received when I made my first blog entry last July was “You’ve got issues”. Hahaha! Thank God! For a while there I thought that I was losing my mind.

I’m having one of my dark days. My home computer crashed. I’m food deprived because of the splint in my mouth. My maid’s mom got sick. And I’m at the end of my rope. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the money, which is about two months over due, is not coming. And I’m trying to deal with the thought that I might not be able to put food on the table next week. I secretly hope they cut off our phone lines so my brothers will know how hard-up we are. And that they will realized that they will have to help and not wait for me to ask for it. But nobody is cutting our lines just yet. Maybe in two months time, someone will. And hopefully, by that time, I can do something about it. You see, I’m too proud to ask for help. My sisters and I discussed our options, but that’s the problem with discussing it, we still haven’t come up with a solution. And it's depressing me. I’m seriously considering selling some of my stuff (sob! Not my cd player!) – stuff that I bought with my own hard-earned income. I’m tired of being acting-Mom. I’m tired of trying to be responsible. Can I resign, please?

I’ve been losing sleep. And I’m also losing my sense of humor. And even worst, I’m starting to question my faith. And maybe I should inquire about my sanity as well. My sisters and I realized we need to be rescued. But that’s always been my problem. I can’t ask for help. I don’t like asking for help. I don’t like owing other people favors. If they give help, it’s because they know they can. Sometimes, I even can’t pray for help. So you see, I do have issues. Oh my God! I’m becoming like my mom! She’s this martyr that suffers in silent tears. But I’m not very quiet, am I? And I’m sure I’m no martyr. I find other ways to vent up my frustrations. Like wearing a t-shirt that a friend sent me from Canada. It says “I’m Not Mad – Just Grumpy” with Grumpy the dwarf in his best vogue pose ever. I also draw very ugly pictures. And I have dark days like this one. I now understand what they mean when they describe this as quiet desperation. This has got to stop. I need my mental faculties about me in this time of crisis.

Last night, when everyone else was asleep, I turned on my cd player, loud enough not to wake up anyone … and in the dark and emptiness of the livingroom, I danced.

I’m not crazy. I just have issues!!!


Coughing Guy

Having convinced myself that I need to simplify my life in order to survive this financial crisis, I made it a point to wake up early today to get to work. I can’t afford a taxi anymore and the car can’t be revived back to life - so I must leave the house early - so I can commute - so I can save on transportation fare.

So by 6:15am, I was freshly showered, hair a bit damp but combed neatly into place, bag ready, waiting for a jeepney to pass in front of my home. I basked at the freshness that surrounded me, the newly risen sunshine peeping behind the leaves of the trees, the smell of new morning air. Mm-mm-mm (in manner of Queen Lattifah). I could see my dad across the street watering his bahay kubo garden. Bahay kubo because it has everything from singkamas at talong (beets and eggplant) to sitaw, bataw, patani (different kinds of beans – I think. Somebody translate this for me please.) Despite my financial crisis (I’m nearing broke), I was relaxed by the atmosphere. New day. New hope. I figured, as long as nobody in the family gets really sick, we will be able to handle this. Then I boarded the 1st jeepney that came around the corner.

It’s a typical Monday, so the jeep is full of students and workers all anticipating the weekly routine. I squeezed between a man in shorts who obviously forgot to shave, and a young girl in white studying a huge textbook. A Tita (older lady friend/relative) was in the same jeep. I offered to pay but she declined politely saying she has paid fare already. So I paid fare and settled for my 15-minute jeepney ride, the first of two I have to take to get to work. I propped up my eyeglasses and got out my current read: Susan Isaac’s Long Time No See, a book which People magazine promised to be ‘hilarious’. I’m four chapters into it but I’m still waiting for the punch line. But maybe it’s too early to judge.

As I started scanning the pages, the man beside me started to cough. I uneasily hoped he did not have the flu or cold that he could pass on because I can’t afford to be sick. “Bawal Mag-kasakit” (Sickness Not Allowed) – as the commercial states. He coughed again, this time towards my semi-damp hair. I closed the novel and turned my head toward the window, hoping I’m sending a signal that says, “Ooops! Excuse me!” And he coughed again, and I could feel hot air in my hair. He didn’t even have the decency to cover his mouth. Didn’t his mother teach him that one should always cover his mouth when sneezing or coughing or doing anything that would throw air in the direction of other people’s hair? But the guy kept coughing in between clearing his throat with "ugh-humph" sounds. I closed my eyes and wished I had worn a hat, or better yet, a raincoat. I thought of turning to the guy and asking him to cover his mouth. But he looked like someone who would take offense. And I had no plans of embarrassing him in front of a crowded jeep where everybody is within hearing distance. Besides, it’s not my habit to make other people feel small when the difference between us is just a bit of soap and water. I considered offering him a tissue but I remembered that I had left my mini-tissue pouch in my other bag back home. All I have was this handkerchief that was too feminine for a guy with a face shadow. And as I said, he looked like someone who would take offense. So I just counted the minutes till I get to my stop. The guy coughed again. I winced but kept a straight face directed towards the window, hoping that what I was breathing was uncontaminated air.

Finally, two passengers left the jeepney and the coughing guy moved away from me. I breathed easier.

I pity the guy for being sick. I pity me for not having the guts to ask him to cover his mouth. I pity all people who have to commute to work.