What I remember most from the day I turned 21 is a toilet bowl. Matte pink porcelain, pretty and pristine, just scrubbed. Hunched over it, I gazed at the silhouette my head made against the fluorescent, reflected in the toilet bowl water, the movements of my index finger tickling the back of my throat barely noticeable inside the shadow. I retched and retched, teeth scraping skin, saliva sliding down my wrist, as my cellphone played Adele, her throaty voice drowning out the sound of my retching. As I heaved and watched brown-grey blobs muck up the toilet’s mouth, scattering my reflection, I thought of the color of vomit, the sound it made dripping on the ceramic rim. It still had the taste of strawberries and blackberry merlot, and smelled like rain and rat piss evaporating on concrete.
THE PERFECT BIRTHDAY
Sun salutations minutes before dawn, a bowl of oatmeal and dried fruit for breakfast, a cup of Earl Grey tea. A long walk in the tree-lined avenues of the UP Diliman campus because the nearest mountain is too far away. Listening to Eraserheads while making out pictures through the acacia’s netted branches. A trip to the bookstores along the AS Walk and the UP Manggagawa building, and the attendant book-hoarding. California maki and green tea ice cream from the Shopping Center for lunch. Ambling around UP Village, the afternoon spent in Froyo reading a Discworld novel. Light rain on the commute home, musing inside an FX while looking out the window, listening to Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan. Dinner and banter with family and a few close friends. Snuggling in the couch with sisters while watching a jun’ai film. An hour or two spent writing about the past year. Lunar sequence on the yoga mat before heading off to bed.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
Late rising. Hurried breakfast. Eight-hour workday. Insane traffic. Busted earphones. Inane conversation. Sweltering night. Tardy dinner. Everybody tired. Quiet meal. Solitary drinking. Rilke’s Letters. Existential angst. Fitful sleep.
You know how sometimes a mood surprises you, comes out of nowhere and trips you up? It clambers up your back and perches on your shoulders, clinches its arms around your neck, holds fast and holds tight so you can’t shake it off. The mood insinuates itself through your pores, filling your head with nimbus clouds, corking up the vessels into your heart, building up sediment in the pit of your stomach. So when the rain comes, it pours, it floods, and the days become a matter of flailing, half-drowning, and you never learned how to swim.
Sometimes tears and ink spilled on sheets of paper don’t do, and so one seeks relief in purging — in reenacting the body’s response to poison, in the resulting sense of temporary emptiness, in the thought that formless sorrows, with grey-brown barf and bile, can be flushed down the drain.