Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Monday



Monday has a bad reputation

Before dawn,
Already frowned upon.
A lousy onset
Before it even started.

Monday has a bad reputation
I am dragging myself out of bed

When I should be clenching my fists,
Going in for the kill.

The titillating hope of the beginning
The victory dance when one wins
You gave me Friday this morning.

I have been in love with you
Since that first night
I laid eyes on you;

Still turning it around
Eight years in.

You and I,
An empty bar,

Rewriting Monday's light.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Three weeks


One more time!, my three-year-old nephew exclaimed ebulliently after the nth time on the merry-go-round. We had been there for the last twenty minutes, engulfed in his enthusiasm, waving at him and cheering him on each time he reappeared before our eyes. It was a stupendous sunny afternoon; scorching under the blazing sun, and cradled by a cool breeze under the trees. After months caged in winter, the stark comeback of spring time encapsulated in our toddler’s glittering joy. We had nowhere else to go after all, loafing in the shades was the plan all along. Another round, then, was impossible to resist. Alright, as his father bought an additional stash of tickets. 

Ever since I became an aunt –– and godmother –– almost four years ago now, the very notion of growth took on a whole new meaning for me. I had been around babies and children in the past. Coming from a typical Filipino clan, practically all the members of my huge family set off to, how shall I put it, work on their offspring pretty early on – before I even hit puberty. I was an eleven year-old Auntie. However, all my first cousins lived on other continents, so the witnessing part of their children growing up was rather restricted and sporadic. It was only in 2014 that someone from my direct family brought new life into the world. I still recall the day my sister announced to me that she was pregnant. And still completely in the unknown, I was already in love. 

Yohan Angelo was born on August 5th 2014 — and even if I live three hours away from him, I have followed him from up close since the first minute. I do not want to miss a thing. I may always have my misgivings on how technology affects our modern-day society; but being able to stay updated with photos on a daily basis via WhatsApp or making a video call that stretches for hours without spending an excruciating amount of money is really something I cannot thank the tech geniuses enough for making it possible.  

I will take every waking opportunity to visit. I do – and I have established that if I wait longer than three weeks to see my nephew in flesh again, it will absolutely astonish me how much he has already grown. Indeed, the last years were synonymous to change, continuous change. For my sister and her husband. For my family. For me. Thanks to Yohan. The thing is, it was not only his big baby steps that we toasted to, such as turning on the stomach on his own or being capable of sitting without any assistance, his first time crawling, crawling fast, taking the first step, the first correct step, uttering the first word, his first comprehensible sentence. Those were positively fascinating triumphs of course; but reality is, I recognized that even the most basic factors such as height, weight, the features of the face –– even the hair; only three weeks and it was almost like hugging a different (minuscule) human being. De facto, when it comes to new life, growth is simply gargantuan, more importantly, it all happens at such a fast pace. It is cliche to say that children grow up so fast, but one still gets surprised when they do. I assure that I am. The physical aspect dazzles me, notwithstanding, it is only but a fraction of how much I profoundly enjoy pursuing his mental, emotional and intellectual development even more. How a character is made. Now he is an accomplished speaker. He is bursting with emotions: expressing happiness, sadness, fear, stupefaction, anger, jealousy or love so candidly — sometimes portraying all of the above within the same day. We are exposing him to everything that will benefit his learning curve, child-friendly naturally, and he is testing his likes and dislikes. From his taste in food to his book preference to making his first friends. He is a suction pad to his environment: everything is raw, his reactions instant. In the end, I grasp that he is discovering his own character at the same rate I am discovering his. 

Though Yohan’s growing up phase is far... further... furthest from being over, my family was blessed enough to welcome the birth of his baby sister six months ago. What I went through – and am still going through with Yohan is not only happening once more with the arrival of our latest cutest sunshine Malaya Solène, but having a (not so) older point of reference makes this constant evolution in our daily lives believably consequential. Yohan was this tiny not long ago. And I know — and appreciate that, in the most enigmatic way, it is only a matter of little time til Malaya will also blurt out One more time! on the carousel. When babies enter our lives, they disrupt everything. They change everything. They make us feel every second. One can only be so lucky. Let me have these few incredible years experiencing physical, mental, emotional and intellectual growth from this close. 

There is a photo I take with my nephew every couple of months that has become, so to speak, prototypical of us: standing side by side, holding hands, looking at each other. Same posture, new photograph. If babies epitomize noticeable change, each time we pose that way; I, too, am reminded that I grow through change as much as Yohan does. Sure, we grown-ups stop adding centimeters after a certain age. We actually work hard to alter (or keep) the number of kilograms between takes. We might also be at that stage when we aspire to cover up the maturity our faces endure. But in times when it seems that our hair is the only thing that is growing; it is crucial to remember how baby steps are, quite literally, gargantuan. It applies to newborns, and it honestly does to us in adulthood as well. We go with time. We also advance. We still progress. We, too, can change. The well, as long as we live, is infinite; and ultimately, there will always be room for surprises and stepping stones. The question is whether we can let ourselves feel like children do, wonderstruck when we go for an nth round on the merry-go-round of existence. They might be the ones looking up to us, but oftentimes, children make the best teachers in life. As it goes for baby Malaya and not-such-a-baby-anymore Yohan, growth lies in living every day as if it were our first; not our last.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Breakfast



The wipes do not work
My eyeliner, smudged;
Words at war
Words when calm.

The Einstein hair
Bad morning breath;
A shadow of a smile
You standing against the light.

Ravaged by tragedy
Fresh bread from the bakery;
I lean in
For my forehead kiss.

Last night at war
The morning calm
–  Coffee is ready
Did you sleep on it?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Paper plane

I opened the door with the frantic urge of collapsing into my bed; though overly smitten, I was physically drained from the past four days I had just spent in Belgrade. I could barely drag myself up the four flight of stairs, a herculean effort, only for me to trip over an obstacle on the last few meters: a large box of whatnot placed right in front of my bed. I startled before suddenly recalling that my brother decided to spring clean the basement while I was away, throwing out what no longer belonged, saving room solely for essentials. Old diaries, handwritten letters, scrapbooks and photo albumsMy first thought was to call him and ask why he would bring these up from the basement, my second was to jump over the box to land directly in bed. I did neither. I sat down, and for the next few hours, the past consumed me completely. 

Between tears, laughter and Eureka moments, I could not help but howl at the naive girl I used to be — and on some level, I howled because I am still that idealistic today. Then, turning the page, I could not help but smile proudly at the studious and disciplined student I once was – and on every level, I smiled because I still am an eager learner today. I had a harder time flipping through some photographs though – not because my sense for fashion was downright generic or because my baby fat followed me well into my twenties; but there it was, in the midst of essentials, a collection of moments I very much remembered, with faces I had nearly forgotten. 

Sure, a few of these people are not entirely out of my life if we consider the facebook friendship state of affairs. We have not seen each other, even less talked in long, long time – but I do know that you had coffee at Starbucks last Saturday. By all means, it is a vice versa phenomenon. I post a lot; and often. I am fairly certain I have been unfollowed. Do not get me wrong, I am not undermining the intricate power of social media, but it will always only be a parallel universe that is far from being a reflection of real life, real relationships and real friendships. It serves its purpose, allowing us to stay connected — or rather updated (of course the irony of it being whether we want to or not). I fully accept it, thankfully so, harmfully so. Then on the other hand, many of these individuals I dug up from this box never even made it to a digital friendship. Now I do not know which is worse.

I reread declarations that promised forever, that heralded being there in good and bad times, foreshadowing that things would never change. Truth be told, I think I have heard it as often as I have said it. We all have. And we all meant it when we declared it. Nevertheless, in time, and with a handful of bad experiences under the belt, we discover the (hard) way that forever will not necessarily last a lifetime, some friendships cannot survive the test of hardships and ultimately, things do change. 

There are various reasons as to why some friendships fall apart, partly or categorically. A monumental fight becomes the point of no return, on other occasions, it is a slow yet gradual regression. At times, the realization that shared history is the only thing keeping an alliance alive can be, yes, insufferable. As I was scanning the faces of those who were once part of my everyday life, I could actually pinpoint the exact moment I or we decided to bid farewell. I am aware that I let a few of the people go because regrettably, they somewhat morphed into artifacts of a time frame that caused me pain. The delicate downfall, unfair as it was, meant that we gave less and less news, assured one another to catch up one day, only never to fix a date. And it bothered neither of us. I grew up with some, then absolutely everything made us grow apart. I also embraced that others were, quite frankly, nothing more than on-demand acquaintances: time- and circumstances-specific. It was good while it lasted. Finally, more often than not, the answer to what happened?, no matter how trite this might sound, is really the bullshit, cheeky, by-the-book response: life happened. And you stopped caring about each other. Point blank. Is it sadder to have a reason for a friendship to go astray? Or not having one?  Life indeed happens, we spring clean our social circle: throwing away who no longer belongs, only saving room for essentials. I have learned that we choose the company we keep, gratefully so; and if there comes a time I have to put in a herculean effort to light it up, it is the sign that I am no longer comfortable, or rather not as comfortable as I used to be, in their company. The thing is, there are enough odd situations in life, a friendship should not be one of them. 

The more I analyzed when, how and why a handful of people became strangers again; flipping the coin, the more it made me appreciate why and how most of them hold their ground in my life. And I still, always and forever will want them to. For sure physical presence is not the reason: I have not lived in the same city as a number of my closest friends, since Vienna 1998, Stockholm 2004, Geneva 2006, Oslo 2008 or Zurich 2014; but not only do we "jump start" as soon as we talk, message and/or meet; in my heart, the bond is indubitably as solid as ever, perhaps even stronger, after phases not connecting on a regular basis. Furthermore, having an array of things in common is not that will make us soul mates for life: the dearest whom I am glued to, day in and year out, cannot be any more different from me. But together, we blend like a tasty smoothie, coping – accepting – where it would usually shatter. What constitutes a long-lasting, and confidently a life-long friendship, I believe, fundamentally comes down to one simple thing that applies on all premises: whether we know a friend since birth, since childhood, since university, from traveling, from work, from a night-out — or even from the most random point in time; and regardless of whether we meet every day, once a month, a couple of times a year –– or once in a blue moon, if we are still in each other's lives, it is because we grow -- continue to, are still able to -- not always together, but definitely always alongside each other. 

There was a huge black chalkboard that read "Before I die, I want to..." placed in front on the serene Ada lake in Belgrade. I surveyed all the answers. One could chuckle at absurd messages such as "... have sex in Miami" or be touched by hopeful ones such as "... love again". I had to think twice when I stumbled upon the last one that stated: "Before I die, I want to be alive". When people get to meet my boys Simon, Andreas, Daniel, David and me, they often ask us when, how and why we became friends. When is that we knew each other prior separately, but a fateful night put the five of us in the same room back in April 2012. Immediately, it seemed like a beginning we had been waiting for -- the one we were preparing for -- on the spot admitting how unique this could become. Geilovic was born. How is because our personalities, so multifaceted, so multilayered, sync. Effortlessly. The different characters utterly compliment and complete each other. And as to why? It is easy. Reality is, "some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss; but every once in a while, [we] find someone who is iridescent, and once [we] do, nothing will ever compare." (Flipped, 2010) I found that unfailing spark in these very special men and they found it in me. I have honestly never been more free or more at ease to just be myself than when I am with them -- caught in winds that change, yet still feeling like I am breezing on a paper plane. This little web we made defined –– more accurately, redefined — my yen for this kind of deep, pure, inspirational, intangible connection. Having experienced it, nothing really does compare; and I cannot settle for less ever again. Before I die, I want to live.  I want to be alive.


I am. I am alive when we are together.

We never see hardships, difficult days or fights in a photo album, but those are the ones that get us from one happy snap shot to the next. We took a million pictures during our extraordinary stay in Belgrade. More than committing our moments to eternity, it was to celebrate that we are still hereWe grew. And we continue to, are still able to – not always together, but definitely always alongside each other. Caught in winds that will change, forever flying on paper planes.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Life fragments


Something pretty sensational happened during my recent trip to Georgia and Armenia. As I found myself on foreign lands, there were quite a number of times – quiet ones, reflective ones; while dancing among hundreds, or striking up a sweet conversation with locals in restaurants – there were defining moments where interestingly enough, I was experiencing a kind of déjà-vu that was not really one. A sip of Armenian coffee reminded me of a delightful rose-shaped salmon sashimi that a chef friend concocted for me when I was living in Oslo. Perhaps because the coffee mug had a print of a rose on it. The first bite of the incredible Georgian national dish Khachapuri propelled me back to that spring years ago when my oldest brother invited me to a Cheese Ham marathon. I am convinced Pizza Hut's prime inspiration is this specialty's heartiness. And for a second in the sublime techno club Bassiani in Tbilisi, the peculiar face of a man that walked past me the very first night I arrived in Berlin in 2005, which truthfully I discarded until now, crystallized in my head; a blur suddenly clear as day as the music fed my soul in that darkest, most wholesome of clubs. 

The uncanny thing is, these are illusive details that I had not only completely forgotten about; but I am fairly certain I did because they do not necessarily count as so-called journey-altering, key hours. Those we are supposed to immortalize. An average day at Pizza Hut, an odd stranger or that cute sashimi surely did not make it on a picture – even less on paper: not because they did not matter at all; but they just did not matter enough. This was not the first time new sights, tastes or experiences somehow induced random life fragments. Of course, I am not implying that rescuing involuntary memories happens only while on the road. I have studied Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time one too many times to appreciate how a delicious Madeleine can awaken episodes as far as in our childhood. However, there is something about being somewhere else that manages to resuscitate hidden gems easily – and unwillingly; especially serendipitous snippets.  Chapters we usually leave in parenthesis. These memories, no longer fickle, come alive in full force. They mattered now.

I am someone who does not tend to forget and I have been an avid moments catcher, devout diary keeper and relentless absurd items collector from an early age  –– naturally to document it all. I guess it also goes hand in hand with being a writer. We are obsessed with the moment. See eternity in it. We preserve feelings. Write both to set them free and hold them prisoner. We write to remember. And we write to relive things. Whether recounting, embellishing or even downgrading our musings, writing is genuinely living a point in time twice: in the moment, then in ink. Three times if, by all means, we consider reading as well. Notwithstanding, I have lived long enough to know that some days truly get lost in the mass, some thoughts will not care much for an afterthought – and even the strongest of emotions will be tamed. We simply cannot remember it all even when we keep the greatest days of our lives in shrines. Obviously, all the more when it comes to the trivial. 

I have always regarded traveling as the utmost privilege; and fact is, when the routine is disrupted entirely, we tend to think that we leave who we are at home. Actually, I discovered that quite the opposite happens: we bring our entire being with us. This time frame has a subtle way of letting the banal and the extraordinary meet; and in a trice, the past, present and future version of ourselves seem to mesh perfectly in unknown territories. Memories and dreams become one and the same in the present moment. More importantly, the more we explore, the more there is revival. The more we are disoriented, the more dissimilar the other culture is from our own, the more we understand that many things are wonderfully universal: kindness, laughter, freedom. In my case, I wondered why these atypical episodes stemming from former lifetimes all of a sudden crammed up in my head. They matter. They have always mattered.  Then, the thread of my life felt flawless: every stage -- including the most ordinary, nearly forgotten ones -- led me to exactly where I was supposed to be. I found my vein as a writer in the ordinary long ago. Yet sometimes, it does take that extra to see beauty in it.

Glorious Mount Ararat before me in Armenia took me back to all those nights I was in the gutter – at the same time, that majestic view also summoned my ability to successfully pull myself together. Over and over again. Without question, no photograph will do justice to seeing the unique cave city of Vardzia with my own eyes. I had planned on going there, and there I was. Then, it had me be confident about the grandeur of my endeavours. I was so free because of techno in Bassiani, and it breathed life into those memories I had already felt that way. In thirteen years in the scene, there have been plenty. Still, this was another one that would go down in the books. Beautifully so, the past, present and future version of ourselves mesh perfectly on foreign grounds. Old impressions and new become one and the same in the present moment, this time frame subtly letting the banal and the extraordinary meet. Indeed, something sensational occurred to me during my trip to Georgia and Armenia: I celebrate the ordinary. I always have. And sometimes, it takes that extra to write about it.
  

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Filter



Close 

But not intimate;

Friends

Without benefits;


Love of my life

How do you stay 

In my life.


We snap a picture

Immediately

Look for the best filter.


Lovers to friends

A relationship on diet.


Lovers to friends

Pillow talk outside the bed.




Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The finishing line


Do not judge a book by its cover; and true to form, I do not think I ever have. People are made of so many labyrinthine details that I uncovered early on, with the utmost pleasure, that (first) impressions never last. Nonetheless, when I take this most beloved idiom down to its literal sense; when every book is flirting with me while I roam past them in bookstores, each one begging to be the one to be picked out... Rest assured, the saying is not just a metaphor: I never judge a book by its cover either. 


I actually leave it to so-called chance when I am searching for my new read. The genre and author are not necessarily main factors, the recommendations-of-the-week table – though always eye-catching – will not automatically hold the winner of the day; in fact, the title cover and the back page with its inviting summary and rave reviews do not even have to be extraordinary. How, then, do I ultimately make a choice? When I locate a book, I immediately go to the last chapter, the last paragraph, the last sentence –– and it all comes down to those last words. If they are not perfect, they just aren't. 


I am not really sure when or why I picked up this habit. It probably began sometime during University when huge reading lists were simply dictated; often not leaving time nor energy to read anything else in our free time or for our own amusement. Since I could not decide on the read, I could at least see what I was looking forward to. I know what you are thinking. Why on earth would I read the last part of a book? Do I not live in a world where we flee from spoilers as best we can, knowing all too well that a revealing, voracious key element will inevitably wind up on the news feed? Truth is, it is not the ending per se that matters most to me, because since I know neither characters nor plot at that point, reading it beforehand like I do will not make much sense anyway. However, if the words are indeed written beautifully, it will positively push me to unearth how the author gets there. Of course, an amazing (finishing) line does not imply that the book was good on a whole and a masterpiece I will recommend. Still, with certainty, there will be that famous enlightening bulb at the turn of the last pageNow it makes sense.


Oftentimes, I wish I could start life with the last page. I would like to think we already do on some level. We all have endeavors, plans, dreams and goals we work ourselves up to; and from the onset, a tiny peek at those last words is enough to inspire us. We draft an endgame. The ideal weight. Dream holidays. A tailored job. That house we are not able to afford today. The last sentence appears to be the one and only thing that helps us begin in the first place. In a way, we think forwards then live backwards. Reality is, similar to roaming ever so slowly in a bookstore, a lot of decisions, especially quite ambitious ones, rely on the same conditions as my book of choice –– based solely on the outcome. We do not know exactly what we are venturing into, even less how long it will take us; but we know for a fact that the ending is at least written beautifully. 


Naturally, it does not work that way at all. I am well aware that our lives are written as we go along. A stage towards a certain goal, even a small one, can become an epic novel rather than the short story we originally intended it to be. And even when we are willing to take the story in a certain direction; although we might hold the pen, life will always settle on just writing one word after another, and taking it day by day with not a hint of certainty. We may be able to review; unlike in writing though, there is no possibility to erase – or even edit – a past chapter. Not the good parts, especially not the bad parts. Sure, we all understand that life is a journey, not a destination; but I will be damned if I hear someone claim s/he never gets tired of journeying on some occasions. It is given we are proud of how far we come on good days. Nevertheless, when we get writer's block on difficult chapters, it will not be the journey that makes us want to write better, but the fact that we penned the destination already. Now it makes sense. 


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Enthusiasm, unlimited




It is good to be careful, but there is nothing worse than being too careful.




Thursday, February 1, 2018

Bad habit


Twenty-one days,

They say,

Only twenty-one days

Til a new habit

Has a face ;

Kicking the one out

They wish to replace. 


I can and I will,

I have

Worn change

As a second skin.


Twenty-one days,

They say,

Rather a lifetime,

If I may. 


For true smokers hate quitting

Who are we kidding –

No switch for a cigarette lit ;


A new regime

To be a little more fit,

Ending cravings that will never leave


With alternatives. 


We persevere.

Like an alcoholic giving up the bottle ;

Not taking a drink will always be a battle.


Twenty-one days,

They say,

Forever, if I may.


I love my bad habits ;

Glory is in continuing 


(to quit).



Thursday, January 25, 2018

Wobbly chair


I am sitting
On a wobbly chair
Off balance, is there still a chance

It is not all bad
But since when
Is that enough

At least two have to be strong
One leg solid, the other consistent
Last two well built 
Uneasy til I fix it

Lean back, I may fall
Find the centre of gravity though
I could rock.