I don’t know about most people but I envy the Hare-Krishna’s sometimes. They’re a group people robed in pastel and they sing “Hare Krishna” all day. They’re usually at Union Square Park, occasionally underground at the Times Square subway station, or rarely, at the Jackson Heights subway station in Queens because why not.
The Hare-Krishnas can be contagious. They chant in a key that is contagious. I’d use the word “intoxicating” but really, it’s a happy key that sustains above the traffic, the crowd, and the rest of the city. Like that one moment in a casino where everything hits the same major key simultaneously and the place lights up literally and aurally. At that very moment, more than just a handful of people are happy; that very moment euphoric.
I saw them underground at Union Square after a long day. They were chanting at a pace that resembled a stroll in the park. Their voices a glorious unison, their music thronging like a heartbeat, and one lone dancer, her eyes closed and arms gracefully floating in muggy subway air. It looked like heaven and it sounded like home. I wanted to go to it. I wanted to join them. I wanted to hear it, taste it, feel it, bask in it. I would have danced naked in a meadow at that moment.
Personally, I have nothing against the contagion of the Hare Krishnas or against the Hare Krishnas themselves. One of these days, I’ll be chanting along and dancing hand in hand with one of them for all of ten minutes at the most because whatever they are doing looks fun. Joy can be so appealing. It also looks like a good time. I might even get a free book which is the frosting on your grandmother’s red velvet cake.
Walking by the Hare Krishnas one afternoon, I spotted someone whom I know is a Christian (I may know who is but he may not know who I am; that kind of thing). He was walking by them, and what I saw kind of ruined my joy buzz:
He rolled his eyes. Then he gave a jeering once-over to a random (aka struggling and probably high) b-boy dancer who obviously didn’t care that his spastic attempts at b-boying was fueled by the joy of that moment. The unsuspecting dancer may have known about someone rolling their eyes at them, but still. He didn’t deserve that. Also, eye-rolling is unacceptable. Worse, it is a turn off, if not a disappointment, to see a fellow Christian rolling their eyes at someone who is, in more than one, different.
Interlude: The former Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that God would never tell Ghandi “I love what you did for humanity, but too bad that you’re not a Christian though.”
Also: I submit that when Jesus said you ought to love your neighbor, I believe that he meant to love those who are not included in your family. If Church is your family, then anyone outside of it deserves your love just as much as those whom you see Sunday to Sunday.
Christian eye-rolling should be stopped. It’s kind of like casting prejudice on someone based on the kind of music they listen to. Like shooting someone for something that is clearly not their fault. (Shooting them would be your fault if it ever came to that) If Christians would stop thinking that anything or anyone who is different from what they supposedly believe in is “inferior” or “silly” or “ridiculous”, they’d have much more unselfish lives and their capacity to love would be near infinite. If Christians would stop rolling their eyes within earshot of anything that seems different from any Christian “norm,” we would be known for our compassion rather than the rigid fundamentalism that has closed us off from the rest of the world God loves. If Christians would stop rolling their eyes and actually see what’s going on, they would be the ones that society could rely on for help, hope, and love.
I was eye-rolled by a friend who didn’t want to hear what I had to say about what I thought of the zodiac. Here’s the gist of what I wanted to say:
Star signs have unique qualities and in my experience, my reading of people based on their signs and/or birthdays are for the most part very accurate. However, you can’t make your sign define you, or make it as a go-to excuse. Personally, I don’t subscribe to horoscopes because they trap you into thinking that your sign is all there is, that there is no room for improvement, that you have no other path other than what is typical to the dictates of your birth date. Your sign is a stereotype that you have to defy, not an excuse to your typical uniqueness. On the other hand, if you think about it, each person has a star chart uniquely based on their date of birth, time of birth, and specific location. I consider that a gift that God could only put together. Whether or not you can take something from that chart is up to you, but I think that that is absolutely beautiful and worth looking at.
I never got to finish my point. Instead, I got shot down and this is what I was bombarded with:
“I don’t worship the stars; worship the God who made the stars.”
End of story. Like what I had to say didn’t matter. I get what they meant though. I just wish they had pondered, that they allowed a “selah” moment before dismissing what would have been a conversation with what seems to be a canned response that doesn’t really hold any other meaning other than carrying out the purpose of not wanting to hear something worthwhile.
They didn’t even give me a chance to finish, and more awkwardly so, they expected that we could carry on with our fellowship over pancakes and bacon and pretend that a conversation was aborted.
Christians can make the worst conversationalists. Ever.
It’s got nothing to with consulting who or worshiping what. It’s got to do with how all of creation is unique but connected and united. It’s also about how God can somehow speak through his creation but it’s up to us to listen or obey or ignore.
I won’t lie though, I love seeing the Hare Krishnas. Their endurance is champion and their joy is amazing. I’d stop by them for at least 2 minutes to take them in, sway a little bit, and let myself feel God for a moment. If God works in mysterious ways, then why should his presence be limited to things we “ought” to know, or by the things we think we should say? For all we know, we roll our eyes because we are blind to certain things. So stop doing that. I promise you it doesn’t look sexy. Ever.
Artie and I developed our own language. We had several looks that mean “Look there!” and then “I know right?” and then “That was stupid” or “Unbelievable.” “Unbelievable” mind you would have different tones of looks in and of itself. Then we’d have our own silly baby talk, which funnily stems from how we talk to animals and/or other people’s pets.
Whenever talking to cats, he puts on a voice that makes him sound like an old cat lady. This old cat lady would have little southern ping to her consonants and a guarded swing to her vowels.
He also had his own vocabulary.
He had terms of endearment for animals by way of describing them. Adam couldn’t have done a better job in the Garden of Eden:
"Fuzzy butt!" "Ferrocious!" "She’s a squirmy! She gives me squirmies!" "Aaaaah! Look at that silly cat! She’s a silly cat!" "Stupid dog."
"Fudz!" and "Ssup!" all mean food. Or lunch or dinner.
"Teep Tayneez Fudz" would be our go to for when we are hungry. Another variation would be "Teep Tayneez Ssup!"
"What ah the wudz" means "So what she text you back with?"
Most morning’s he’d say he had “Eggies for breakfast.”
He had a handful of endearments for me, and for some reason, these would be paired what seems to be a silly English accent:
"Where the little person?" "Silly person" for times like when I forget things or misplace things and eventually find them. ALSO, when I say something that one-ups him. "Crazy baby" is for times like when I dance with a kid out on Union Square Park on Sunday. "Crazy person" is for when he has nothing else to say after I myself say "I love you."
"Kees!" Is very self explanatory.
I haven’t spoken this language for a while except when I’m alone and playing with a stray cat. His words and nuance would come out, starting with a gentle hiss to call the neighborhod cats to come out. This works 70% of the time. When I see one, I whisper out to it “Hey!” And she’d look at me in mid-stealth crawl. At that point, she’d either crawl into a car or stop and sit to look at me. If she stops and sits, she will most likely squirm around my ankles and anoint me as her familiar.
One time, I saw a cat chilling on a stoop a few blocks away from where I live and she saw me as if she had waiting for a human with a cat touch. She squirmed and purred and kissed my nose. She even let me carry her.
But using our secret “Wuudz” to a cat isn’t enough. Indeed, the kind of connection Artie and I had was unique. Even when I was telling hurricane Arthur to away, it obeyed.
Last weekend though, I met a kid. His name is Billy. Billy the Kid is my cousin Mellie’s nannying ward. When I met Billy, he himself opened the door for us at Mellie’s encouragements. An only child, his toys were sprawled all over the living room, and it’s apparent that he’s been at it for a few hours. As soon as I sat on the couch, he started showing his little knick knacks to me. I just smiled and let him do his thing - it’s his house.
Soon, the show and tell was getting a little overwhelming and I walked towards the back of the house where I saw that they have a cat named Puddy. Puddy Tat for short, I’m sure.
Puddy let himself approach me. Mellie yelled from the living room that the little fuzzy butt is actually 13 years old. He leaned against my legs and pushed his head against the palm of my hand. I went berzerk. One year of being disabled from using Artie’s silly wudz finally came out. I was calling him ferocious and fuzzy butt and he didn’t seem to mind.
Ten minutes of Puddy Cuddles, the old timer wanted to go back to his spot. Who was I to deny him of that. I went back to Billy. He was showing me an action figure and then he showed me a book.
Then all of a sudden, all of the things I did playing with my sister when she was little came back. I let him fly as Superman as I lay with my back on the floor and he was floating on my knees and feet. I bounced him on my knees and he would laugh and say he wanted to be Superman again.
Then It happened again. I tickled Billy and started calling him a Silly Little Person. Then I’d calm down and ask meekly for a Kees. Then he’d run away from me and I’d grab an inflatable toy sword and poke him and go, with an all out Artie play voice:
"Kees!" "Kees!" "Kees!"
For about an hour, I spoke his language. As much as I’d love to create another language, another syntax for love, with someone, I know I’ll be speaking the same silly way Artie spoke with. At least our language is by no means dead.
Losing a partner is devastating. It warps reality, stretches time, and opens up your perceptions to a million other things to think about.
Tonight, as I think about the fortunate fellow who will eventually be called my husband, I also think about the face palming, finger wagging, joy riding, third wheel of this future relationship: God. I figured out that with a relationship with a Force who knows all and is in all and is around all, I don’t have much to worry about fishing for fish. So, whoever you are out there, Jesus and I will have to talk about you, because that’s what’s people do when they’re still out waiting for the rest of the party.
I’ve been thinking out loud to God about loss. About the future husband. About losing said future husband if not future husband losing me and grieving me. It’s a tough thought to swallow, but because I had been there before, I’d rather not go through all that again.
Artie and I had this conversation before.
I told him that I’d want to have his babies one day.
Then he said “Wow, how’d I get so lucky.”
"I’m serious." Which was doubly serious with a serious face.
"Because I’ll need a part of you to remember you by."
He nearly cried. He kissed me to hide his tears aka his pride and then walked me home.
If it were a choice, I don’t want to go through loss again. Tough thing to ask for, immortality for everyone until I finally die. On the other hand, I might be better at grief by then unless I go numb or stoic, or unless I slip into a stasis of shock.
I’d imagine this is a conversation that couples have when their relationship has reached a solidifying point. It’s a brave conversation to have if not a truthful and honest one. For Artie and me though, it was pretty obvious but death is inevitable either way.
Either way, it’ll be like leaving one party to walk into the next one.
I'm sure Rumi has a poem about looking and gazing and love. I just can't access that to put on this title right now.
My friend on the other line talked about his wife.
"She’s look at me and I’d be like, freaked out."
I asked him what he meant by that, that it sounds like she stares at him with a Death ray.
"No no no," he said. "She just looks at me and she just, you know, loves me."
I know what he meant. Artie would look at me while I’m texting, or when I’m rummaging through my bag, or even when I’m walking away to grab a water at a deli while Scottish Octopus play at Union Square.
I look at him that way too. As soon as he’d realize that I’m watching him, what follows next is akin to a Meisner exercise.
"You were looking at me."
"I was looking at you."
"Stop looking at me."
"I am loving you, you idiot."
Sometime’s he’d be more of a sap about it that I would normally be.
He’ll be looking at me and I’d catch him in his stare. His eyes were their own shade of a loving blue.
He wouldn’t say anything then he would be startled at the fact that he as staring at me for a long time and had lost his mind for a few seconds. Then he recollects himself.
"I just love you so much."
I smile back at him, waiting for the next thing he’ll say.
"Baby, I don’t know what I’d do without you. I just love you so much."
He shed a tear, or at least I heard his voice shimmer at the sentiment.
There is so much loving in the act of looking.
Just because he’s gone, it doesn’t mean I won’t practice this.
Without a shadow of a doubt, I am convinced that I am one of those people who have figured out quite much. I am also convinced that I am special. I know that I am special because of how things fall into place, or even hit my face.
These are the things currently happening or about to happen in my life::
Shooting the final scene of our film project, in which I hold the ashes of our dead drama teacher. In the course of that, I’ll be singing. Whew.
In a nutshell: death and rebirth.
Last year, I dreaded May 2014 because every year, for three years, I lost someone dear to me on that month: Edgardo my voice teacher in 2011, Elvie the favorite aunt in 2012, and then Artie.
On that day, I remember how harsh it was to live. How could the leaves be this green when he’s gone? How can the sun shine that way? Why is the moon still full? As if beauty is the rudest thing ever. But there is nothing you can do to make the world stop for you. You can either chase it or slowly move on.
For what it’s worth, grief is a wonderful thing if you let it happen to you, if you let it run through your body just as it would your mind. Grief is when spirit tugs at your body and your mind stands still. Grief is the worth of your love. Grief is when all your forces try to bring everything back together and the impossibility of it yields despair as a byproduct. Memory will never be enough but it’s all you will ever have, as cruel and bittersweet that is. Grief is only real when you deal with it. You cannot always say “I’m okay” because often, this is a lie you tell yourself. It’s always better to deal with it rather than pretend it didn’t happen.
Grief is also when time and space and your existence stretches. It feels like yesterday when Ann called me and told me he had died. It also feels like forever to not have had him to hold, call or kiss. I feel expanded and enlarged because someone who has never known me the way anyone else will, is watching over me from a different plane of existence. I’d like to think that of all the riches in the world, he has a piece of me with him.
If anything, not only did I gain wonderful friends from Forest Hills, Glendale and Miami, I also gained a legit Queens accent. Just as much as I have a crazy angel watching over me, I have the chops to be legit in the city.
New York is one major city that kept it real. Of all the major cities on the globe, New York is the one that was defined by its grit, dirt, and struggle. As the city is in a constant, grueling and convenient process of tidying up, the struggle is being glossed over, and the concept of earning is being taken for granted.
The Real Sheba’s first single brings that all back. There’s no need for glamour, no need for manufactured production, no need for fake smiles pretending that we’re all okay. New York will always be gritty and dirty and beautiful.
There is SO much to say about the week I just had. So much to say about love, and so much to say about challenge.
It’s ridiculous how, at several points last week, I was made to defend my choices to love, and explain why I love. Three to twenty-four hours later, I was brushing my teeth in front of my bathroom mirror, and had an epiphany:
God never had to defend his love for me. He just saved me. Neither did he have to explain why he loves me. He just loves me.
If a situation arises and you find yourself feeling bad about whom you love, get out. It’s a waste of your time. Walking it hardly exerts any energy and talking it is exhausting.
I met a new teacher this week. Initially, there was so much ambiguous fear surrounding this person, and whenever I’d ask other students about them, I’d get the same vague response. So I waited until they actually walked into the room.
When they walked into the room, I recognized my dead voice teacher in this person. My voice teacher in Manila didn’t need to tell me how great it sounded. Instead, he read me. He told me that I had anger issues, that I should stop thinking like a teenager, that I have what it takes, that I have a right to show other people how I feel.
This week, we were intimidated and afraid of what this new teacher might read off of us, but I leaned in in spite of that because I knew I could trust their guidance.
Most of what the new teacher said of me was accurate. His first impression of me cut me to my marrow.
Today, I literally ran into someone at an intersection while questioning certain life choices. Also, a prayer was answered.
My extended weekend was too lax. It was so lax that I thought my brain would explode. I was too bored for my own good, and could feel my existence rot as I scrolled down the unending ennui if my tumblr dash and my Facebook feed. I chalk this up to depression, but even my morale is fighting against that justification.
Being Sunday, I originally, I wanted to be out of the house by 3 pm. But that wasn’t happening. I needed some work done and my old laptop wasn’t up to speed with email attachments, and my ipad wasn’t cooperating plus it doesn’t help that our Internet connection at home is as sluggish as a nap on a beach.
Finally, I was able to get things done, heading out of the house in time to be at Irving Plaza by 5 pm.
But I hated going to church alone. I was kind of getting sick of that sinking alone feeling.
So I head out anyway, knowing that the questions I will get at resource will make my life. (Feel free to pm me about those…)
But I needed to go the bathroom.
But my roommate was cleaning.
I didn’t want to ruin her cleaning by peeing onto her labor.
Solution: hope for the Q60 bus to come and take me to the Sunnyside Starbucks.
Yes! My hope was met! The Q60 was right at my corner, waiting for the light to go green. It lets out that hiss, opens its front door and I was bouncing.
I get off at 48th street. I make my way to the Starbucks. I question my need for a Starbucks. I was thinking to myself “Am I really doing this? Is this smart? Am I really going to a Starbucks just to use their toilet? Haven’t I made enough questionable purchases already?”
It was then that Melissa miraculously in front of me, arms wide open, happy to see me. She saw me from across the street but wasn’t sure if it was me. She also saw how my face was debating over Starbucks and ethical bathroom use. Turned out, she was debating whether she should come to church. She was asking herself “Do I really want to go to church in scrubs? Do I need a nap? Do I go to Irving with a whole thing of girls scout cookies that I bought from a friend at work?”
It was inevitable that we’d run into each other. It was also inevitable that we found each other whilst questioning our life choices. And literally, in that moment, God didn’t have just my back, but hers as well. A gentle reminder that I am not alone.
She said she was so happy to see me, now that she has no reason to say “I’m tired from work, I’ll pass this Sunday.” (My girl Melissa is a nurse.) We chit chat for two hot seconds and we end up going to her apartment so she can throw on normal people clothes while I can actually use her bathroom.
After about ten minutes, we decided on taking a whole box of samoas, she treats me to Starbucks, and over conversations about yoga, cookies, and an impending sugar rush, I wasn’t alone on my commute to church.
I lost Melissa not ten minutes after entering Irving Plaza. Social life is rapid at Hillsong. You see someone and you want to give them a hug. They’re a table away from you but on your way around this table, you see someone else and give them a hug.
Once I made it to the resource table, my soul let out a sigh of relief. I made it. I’ll make it the rest of the week.
Not to mention the shenanigans with a new found friend. I just love it knowing that Sunday never really ends.
Oh and the tall, good looking Mormons who briefly sat in at the 7 pm, looking so fine in their so-called uniforms, their name tags so shiny and new. (They didn’t look like pen salesmen, no sir.)
This morning, I felt happy on my own for what seemed to be the first time in a long time. It was a fight as intense as a space shuttle reentering the earth’s atmosphere in a blaze of fire. It was scary and I didn’t know if I was going to survive.
It was overwhelming. Too much to handle. Like my heart didn’t know what just hit it and couldn’t recognize it to the point of rejecting it because a) happiness shouldn’t really feel like this, and b) this will be happening again.
Yet my heart fought it. She was pounding in my chest, telling me that I needed this. That I need to remember what happy feels like inside of me. She was beating me up on the inside, fighting. Telling me it’s okay. Telling me I’ll be okay. Telling me that I’m doing great. Telling me that I owe it to myself to be happy.
As if being molded, trimmed, and fashioned, the worst was over, like waking up from a coma and saying “So that’s what happiness felt like. Now I remember.”
At least the next time this happens, I know it won’t be as overwhelming. I ever it does, I should be okay with it.
All the crap hitting the fan brings out the best in me, and by best, I really mean: Ilocano. A germination of a thought.
My mother and I have a close, practical relationship. I really love how can be very hands-on and very down-to-earth, but…if she were cloned five times and then all clones merged into one, she would have been a shrewd business woman, and an untouchable politician.
I am more than a decade older than when my mom got married, and a few years older than when she gave birth to me. Putting my life side by with hers, I can make sense of who learned what at which point, and I’m pretty sure we are neck and neck. Either way, I am glad that my mom paved the way for things she said that she must have figured I’d understand in due time.
And guess what, mom…I kind of get it.
Mom always would say: “Life is like politics.”
Initially, I didn’t understand this life view. Neither did I like it. Of course, her understanding of politics is from Ilocos. Unless you’re Filipino, and know what Ilocano politics means: it’s cut throat and mafia like. It also involves exchanges.
Mom actually said: “Life is like politics. There is a give and a take.”
If I got my mom right, there is power play, and seeing her move in and around the affairs of our family, information was her strength. She keeps her cards to herself allowing more rope to hang others with.
Ilocanos are tactful. I’d say we make for good undercover agents. We are unassuming and shrewd and we can keep, people, things, information and ideals close to us for a reason. I look scoff at the Maguindanao massacre and I immediately thought that it would have been more dramatic if the family and media entourage came home that day to find that their father was assassinated in his own home, instead of the mess of bodies and vehicles haphazardly buried in an open field. Too messy.
I’m just saying. Even my immediate family thought that was stupid.
It’s a bizarre thing to be writing about, but I am in a helpless position of trying to figure something out. Quite a bit of proverbial shit has hit the proverbial fan, and it seems that the mess is cleaning itself up in a way that, if I told you that it was cleaning itself up, you’d think I’m smoking pretty good crack.
Things have been said that no one would have appreciated, often repeatedly to the point that it makes recipients appear stupid. (In a former life, I used to say: the stupider you make me feel, the more powerful you allow me to be)
Information half received that didn’t need to be relayed. And this makes me ask: what motivates all this?
Confusion regarding the interests of various people in significant positions.
Problems that were once there suddenly disappeared, and you’re made to take flack for a) pointing that out, and b) pointing out that it’s gone because well, it’s all gone.
It’s all muddled, but there is a sense that I should keep my tail between my legs.
But see, this isn’t the year to do that. While I am getting the sense that explosive things will happen in mylife this year, I have a feeling that something is brewing that will leave me no choice but to lean on my mother’s wisdom, trust in God’s machinations.
In the Bible, the prophet’s protege failed to see the angels on chariots that have come to fight for them. I prefer that I don’t fight at all, because this takes away from what im supposed to do. I have the same defenses surrounding me and I don’t need to lift a finger. I’ll let God fight for me so I can just be as fabulous as he wants me to be.
All I need right now though is a phone call from mom.
You try to get through your day, try to do what you’re supposed to do when before you know it, you just stop. Then you feel numb. Then you ignore the fact that you haven’t had dinner or that you’re thirsty. Then, without even thinking of your dead boyfriend, you start to cry. Then your roommates come home, fearing that it’ll be worse when they start to talk to you about it so you just say hi and make the most of asking them how they are to pretend. You can’t read to get it off your mind. You can’t listen to The Moth, Neil Degrasse Tyson, This Amerian Life, Mars Hill in Michigan, or Radiolab. Radiolab can be freaky late at night so that one is skipped sometimes. You ignore how you used to love taking a hot shower at night, so you brush your teeth haphazardly, then go to bed. You try to ask for help on Facebook because it’s convenient.
You will feel better in the morning but it won’t last long.
This isn’t about missing Artie, or being in a different place every weekend. This isn’t about wanting someone new just for the sake of having someone new. This is probably about being alive and experiencing this pain that you can’t feel anymore.
But at the same time, I don’t think I’d be who I am if the source of this grief hadn’t happened. Yet asking for help can feel like pulling teeth.
Then I think of Hillsongnyc. I love how those wonderful people were and are still there for me. Then I think of how beautiful they are. Keeping that in mind, I realize how broken they are yet are still smiling, dancing, running, jumping, exploring.
There is something’s staggering about, how, when someone tells me I look great, awesome, or pretty, it’s almost always after I’ve gone through a numb nightmare of hell.
Almost every Sunday, someone tells me that I look great or pretty. But how can they possibly know when I had spent the previous hours feeling numb and dark and sad? Then again what do they care? Is that relevant to how beautiful I can possibly look?
Someone said I must step over this. The only way I know that’s happening is that I’m out of my house, making myself eat, and that I will be with people who are just as beautiful as I am.
Thinking and writing about meeting someone in a romantic context can be all kinds of nerve wracking and maybe awkward. It’s either I have met them already or I haven’t. A shortage of options for paths my story could go has never been so staggering. This gives me a heightened sense of accepting what happens next.
Good intentions never translate well when my mom and other aunts told me “It’s never meant to be. You’ll meet someone better.”
Well what a way to put pressure on someone I haven’t even hypothetically met yet. It was meant to be. As much as the meaning of my presence was for Artie, there is more to be said about how he changed my life. So to say that it “wasn’t meant to be” negates how much he was redeemed and how I was transformed into this odd intensity that I never knew was there.
There is no such thing as “better.” Not for me, and not for the fortunate daredevil who will love me (or already loves me if they’re around and kind of knows what’s going on). Competitions are futile, and so are comparisons. Also, no one wants to compete with a dead guy.
Certain about the uncertain, or a post about this past year.
With the year I just had, it’s kind of hard to recap it. Just today, three posts on death appeared on my news feed. Just sitting still to write what I have to write feels like climbing a wall.
7 months after Artie’s passing, I’m glad to be alive. Meeting Artie, loving him, and knowing him are such milestones. When we started living consciously about our relationship, he talked about his ex girlfriend, Patty.
He talked about her with so much care, even when talking about moments when any other person would have abandoned a drug addict on the verge of killing herself. In that half hour of listening about Patty, I learned that she read a lot, loved cats, And loved making things with her hands. I asked him where she was because I was becoming fascinated with her.
She died, he said.
A year after she walked out of rehab, her heart just stopped and couldn’t keep up with her. Within that year, she found a job she loved doing, met someone, fell in love and married.
Good for her, Artie said. I want that. I want just that one year to be happy.
It’s hard to deny that when he was telling me her story, I heard a voice whispering to me that I should love him, that I already do. There was a depth to this “command” to love. It was tender and urgent. It was heavy and with an ultimatum. It was like I was being shown something from a veil.
It broke my heart that Artie didn’t understand what unconditional love is. There was no time to think of solutions for that. All that was needed to do was just to be with him effortlessly. At the same time, Artie lived like passion on two broken legs. He saw through people, and felt nothing but high regard for everyone he spoke with. He could get people to talk with him and he could make them laugh so easily. In spite of the rage that he would feel about the world he thought was so broken, he had a heart of gold.
A month after he died, I would still get phone calls from his friends scattered around Queens. They all sang the same song and they were all singing about me, as if singing me back to a completion that only makes sense if I live the exact same way he did.
Grief is amazing. I was told that I’ll be sad for a very long time. I read that grief only means that he was worth it. I also read that each persons’s grief has a different meaning. Grief is when your soul is stretched but you will never be torn. It is when your questions will only be answered by the wind. It is a thin line between pain and joy. Pain because your body feels the sorrow so tangibly like tingling under your skin or migraines after crying for days or weakness and a halting of duties like cooking a no eating.
There is joy because in a way my existence has expanded through him, and through the others that have gone before me, and made an imprint on my life. They’re all looking down on me, and after me and where they are is where I sit with them in their hearts.
I miss him. It’s been seven months and I still think he’ll come around or call me. It’ll never happen, but it makes sense in the same way the impossible is possible: we will see each other again soon.
Joyce Carol Oates said that the cardinal rule of the widow is that on the first anniversary of the death, she is to be glad that to be alive.
In five months, I know I’ll be alive. I know I’ll be okay. I’ll still have stories to tell about him.
This year has been an adventure. So many beginnings and endings and probabilities to be afraid of. So much anxiety to pull out of. So much living.
Before talking about being high on coffee one Saturday night in Manila, let me just say that machine brewed coffee doesn’t taste as good as French pressed coffee. I’ll also insist that cream is for pansies. I’m no coffee connoisseur, but I am a better tea drinker. If anyone wants to gift me with coffee beans, please make sure it’s Kona.
John, Micko and I did things regardless. We didn’t do things on a dare. We just did them. Period. Our friendship was such that our heads would turn at the same things, we laughed at the same things, and also, we could communicate just by looking at each other.
One Saturday night, our family had a late dinner/get together at our casa. Micko and John were invited. The food and the clan wouldn’t be ready until about 8 or 9, so we had time to hang out.
I had a French press, and a bag of Kona beans. Micko had Ghirardelli melting chocolate. John had an appetite and was really hungry.
Micko’s family are staunch coffee drinkers. Micko likes his with a hint of creamer, making the contents of his cup looking like a mestizo. John had variable tastes. The boys ooh and ahh-ed at my press. They gasped at the Kona.
Micko’s Girardelli was a gift from a coworker. Or from an aunt. No one in his household knew what to do with it, but it seemed to make sense for us to have a cup of coffee and dump a stick of chocolate in it.
So there we were in Micko’s kitchen. We threw lines at each other while waiting for the water to boil. We bitched about work while the coffee brewed. I did the honors of serving them, and Micko passed the chocolate the disappeared into our cups.
It was amazing. I was so good. It was so good we were laughing so loud that Micko’s dogs were barking at us from the backyard.
We looked at each other and the inevitable was realized.
Let’s do that again.
By this time, we were giggling. The verbal jabs we were making at each other and the one ups were reaching a height of comedy gold. My skin was tingling. Micko was shaking his head in approval. John was making some proclamation about being the Master of the Universe.
Soon, it was 8 pm, and my brother Rod was asking for us to head over to the house for dinner.
I’m not sure if we actually took public transportation, Micko’s car, or if we walked. I do remember walking through the back gate of our huge house and cousins, uncles and aunts were shoveling food onto their plates.
After presenting Micko and John to my mom, she had seen enough to actually take me aside and ask “Nakung, are you high?”
"We had coffee."
"You’re acting like you’re high."
"We had chocolate in our coffee! TWICE!"
She looked at me and she must have realized that she didn’t smell anything sketchy. Then she happily handed my buddies a plate each.
Making someone's 13-12-13, or, missed connection anyone?
I returned an overdue book the other day at NYPL. It’s a graphic novel about the Knights Templar aptly called Templar. It’s all things swashbuckling, quirky, smart, with a dash of Ocean’s 13, and the bittersweetness of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was that marvelous.
I wanted to hold on to it for another borrowing duration but it was on hold and cannot be renewed.
I’d like to think that I made someone’s Friday the 13th, on the off chance that the book is available to be borrowed 706 years to the day of the arrest of the Knights Templar.
Whoever you are, consider yourself lucky, or better yet, blessed. Because sometimes, the universe conspires around people who need a better day. I know I had a great day. I hope you had one and I hope I made awesomer.
The only thing helping my anxiety is the 70’s rock station on Pandora. Reading a fictionalized graphic novel about the Templars had to be out on hold for the moment.
I feel on edge. I hadn’t had a phone conversation with anyone in more than a week. I hadn’t written in a week. I can’t even bake, cook or crochet.
It’s so weird how the drastic changes in my life ironically make me forget that I’m young. When my family moved to the Philippines, it was never explained to me what was going on. My parents just told me that we were riding an airplane. I met adults who loved to pinch my cheeks and spoke to me in an language I couldn’t understand. It freaked me out how the money coming out of my mother’s wallet wasn’t the same green.
I needed answers for questions I didn’t know how to ask. And I’m in that same spot right now. The sense that things aren’t the way they were is deeply felt. At the same time, it’s like there’s nothing I can do to go back.
Sometimes I hear Artie say “I can’t believe I’m dead.”
Walking along 5 Pointz the night after it was whitewashed, I thought I heard him say “It’s alive in your memory, baby, like me.”
I still hear him call me Little Person, Piglet, Baby.
One day, I happened to be on the phone with Irene and Ann. Irene was the cool mother figure and Ann is his actual mother. For some reason, they both spoke to me in that sing-song way that Artie does.
There was so much love in his voice. So much hope for others, if not for himself.
When I went out with him for the first time, I felt so lucky to be in the presence of someone who lived New York at a certain time. They were the generation that missed being drafted to New York by a hair. They were the burgeoning middle class that set out to do whatever they wanted. They started bands, raced cars and motorcycles, they were smart and daring rebels.
Meanwhile, he’d marvel at how I know every band name he’d talk about. He thought he hit a jackpot when he landed a cute Asian girlfriend who understood drum beats and saw the movies that he saw.
We were too good to be true, holding hands in Manhattan, being stared at, being wondered at. We laughed at the silliest things, we cried at how out lives would have been different had we not met each other.
My mind has gone to a place where it is easily convinced that he’ll call me. He’ll say he’ll see me again. He’ll say that he’s met my dog, found his cats, and met my amazing aunt Elvie. He’ll say that he’s hung out with Patty and that she thinks that I’m such a cool girl.
Because of his death, I feel like my existence has expanded. Someone who knows me, felt me, touched me, held me, loves me from beyond this familiar world.
Knowing that is sad and peaceful. But I know Artie.