After Leve

When I was five, after a scolding, I ran out of the house to the front yard, plopped down on a heap of stones, looked up at the stars with tears streaking down my cheeks, and asked God why I had to live. When I was six, my grandfather died. I tailed my mother for months afterward because I was convinced that she would meet a terrible accident and I’d decided to perish with her. At seven, I dreaded the night. I dreamt of being swallowed up by the earth or falling into quicksand. I dreamt of following strange creatures in the moonlight and never being seen again. At eight I sneaked out of the house on December evenings to sing carols with other children in the streets. I walked fast, expecting to be snatched away by hooded men at every turn. I have seen a man point his gun and shoot another in a melee. I have seen a man’s bloody head under the wheels of a bus. I did not see the body of the student who jumped from the top storey of the mall. I did not see my high school senior squashed between a jeepney and a truck. I did not see the body of my cousin hanging from the spiral staircase of their home. I find comfort in musing about the manner of my dying. I am more afraid of aging than of death. I identify the former with helplessness, the latter with rest. On my third day of no sleep during the hell week of my senior year, I fantasized about getting run over by a car in front of my college building. I have written down a long list of directives for my wake and funeral. I once told my mother that I wish I’d never been born and she refused to talk to me for a week. I will never have children. I do not plan to get married. Even if I do get married, I intend to keep a separate room to house my solitude. I like to think of myself as a wanderer, but I need a place to call headquarters, if not home. I do not dread dying alone. In large parties where I don’t know most of the guests, I stand in a corner, take out my phone, and pretend to text to evade small talk. I would rather be in pain than be bored. When I am sad, I wish to dissipate in the atmosphere or sink underneath the floorboards. I do not like to impose my loneliness on other people. I prefer listening to talking. I am touched when friends long for my company. When they tell me that they love me, I am surprised. I do not think that I am likeable, and I am fine with that. I do not care about pleasing other people, but I am loath to be found wanting. I think that I am finally in love and I don’t know what to do. When in doubt, I am paralyzed by overthinking. I have kissed a stranger in a faraway place to forget the taste of another tongue. I have been kissed on a hanging bridge overlooking the city skyline by someone I wish I had never known. Constellations and distant lights fascinate me. I prefer dusk to dawn because I anticipate nightfall. I take long walks in deserted streets past midnight. I have walked barefoot on asphalt at three a.m. with someone I hold dear. I have walked from Manila to Quezon City in high heels under a drizzle, crying. I have clambered up and down the steep slopes of two mountains in a day, muttering a litany of curses. I feel happier in places where I can see mountains, sky, and ocean. I think the city is only beautiful when half-erased by rain. When I feel crowded in, I have difficulty breathing. When a stranger brushes past me in the street, I growl. When I ride the MRT during rush hour, I imagine meter-long steel spikes pushing out of my skin, impaling anyone who comes near me. I have plunged a knife into the flesh between my left thumb and forefinger. I have slit my right forearm on broken glass after pushing against a windowpane. I have burned my right leg against the exhaust pipe of a motorcycle. I have fallen backwards down a flight of stairs and landed with my derriere up in the air. I have jumped off a cliff into the sea without knowing how to swim. I have not learned how to swim because I panic once my feet lose contact with the ground. My expression looks forbidding in stolen photographs. Being photographed unnerves me, because sometimes I do not recognize myself in the shots. Until I was twenty, I found myself fat and ugly. Now I just find myself fat. On most days I put effort into applying eye makeup. When I intend to intimidate, I put on lipstick, too. My weight does not bother me unless I try on a dress that does not fit. I never want to faint or get too drunk to walk, because the idea of having to be carried repulses me. When I am plastered I laugh a lot and speak too much and too loudly with a Valley Girl accent. I do not like to drink alcoholic beverages if they are not sweet. When someone is sweet to me, I get suspicious. When someone calls me “sweet,” I cringe. Receiving compliments embarrasses me, even when I think that I deserve them. I am seldom upset by criticism from others because they are never more caustic than my criticisms of myself. I am prone to brooding and melancholy. I think things through before offering my opinion. I usually think that I am right, though I don’t mind being proven wrong. I derive the highest pleasure from learning. I enjoy teaching because I get to compel others to engage in nerdy discussions with me. I believe that I have found the kind of work I would like to do for the rest of my hopefully brief life.

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2 thoughts on “After Leve

  1. Pingback: On a little hope and gratefulness | tenant on the top floor

  2. Pingback: Small Talk | tenant on the top floor

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