The Breakup

The breakup wasn’t in fact a breakup because, to begin with, they never had a relationship. All the affection came from his side, not hers. He sent her flowers, but she thought they were impractical because flowers die quickly. He wrote her poems, but she never had romantic notions. He was endlessly curious about her, but she never once asked him about his life. So it wasn’t a relationship. It was more of a long-standing flirtation on his part. She responded to it merely out of curiosity and perhaps amusement, but she never reciprocated. Therefore there was no “breakup”. There was no relationship to be severed.

“The Language of Longing”

The language of longing is expressed
Not just in words but also
In the space between sentences.
Between greetings.
Between “good nights” and “good mornings”.
Between the last time I said “hello”
And this moment now
When I once again say “how are you?”
Though the language is not
Always expressed
My thoughts have not ceased
From finding their object in you.
You rest at the center
Of my system.
Like a planet in space.
And I’m a moon
Always drawn to you like gravity.
Always longing for the moment
When I might touch you.
So whether in verse
Or in the silence between words
I long for you.
I long for you.

Circe

Circe, sometimes the enchantress
In Greek mythology
Seducing Odysseus with her wiles
Sometimes a bottle of wine
In a Spanish resto
Enticing a random passerby
With its enchanting hew

Wine

You might not know it or
Maybe no one has ever told you
But your beauty is like wine
Because it intoxicates
That is the reason why
Each week I head for the shop
To get myself a bottle of red
Because it’s the closest I can get
To being near you
Because you’re a million miles
Away from me
Your eyes, your face, your smile
Makes me heady
Makes me swim for the moon
Makes me swoon
If that is possible for a man
Your arms, your shoulders, your hair
Your ears, your nose, your jaw —
Is there any part of you that
Isn’t perfect?
Whether you smile or not
I’m inebriated by you
And because you’re not near
I content myself
With being drunk
Alone
Until I’ll have you close
Beside me

The Ritual

You fixing your hair
In front of the mirror
On the dresser

Is the ritual I look forward to each night
You dab your fingers
With the cream and toner

And apply them to your face
I can look at you like this
Forever

The night waits patiently
Around you
And you’re lit up

In the corner of the room
And on the bed
I wait for you and your perfume

Love is Poetry

Love is poetry
It’s your scent filling my nose
And every molecule of air
Inside this electrically-charged room
It’s the image of your face
And eyes perpetually embedded
In my brain
It’s the beating of your chest
Against my arm and
The pressure of your touch
On my skin
It’s your shadow
And the motion of your body
As you move from place to place
It’s your voice that lingers
In my ear even after you have
Stopped speaking
It’s you in my memory —
You, years ago when I first saw you
And you right this moment
When I see you in pictures
Love is poetry
And it moves the way
A dew runs slowly across the
Petal of a flower
Or a drop of rain
Against a window
On a dark and wet afternoon

Friends

My friend Dee is coming over for dinner tonight. She called me this morning to say that she’ll probably get off from work at around 5 and that she’ll stop by the grocery store to buy the ingredients for her recipe before going to my place.

“You like to drink, right?” she said. “Well, you’re in luck. I’ll make you something called Penne Alla Vodka.”

I told her I only drink wine, but she said it doesn’t matter because the amount of vodka in the pasta will be negligible. “I’ll only add a spoonful to enhance the taste of the sauce,” she added.

My relationship with Dee is kind of unique in that we are not “friends” in the ordinary sense of the word. I first met her some years ago at a friend’s despedida party. This friend of mine was leaving for Canada and he wanted to gather all of his close friends together one last time before his departure. He also wanted to introduce us to his then-new girlfriend, Dee. She arrived later that evening and my friend proudly paraded her before our eyes. I was dumbstruck when I saw her. I couldn’t speak for the rest of the night because I became too conscious of her presence. I couldn’t look away from her but at the same time, I was also frightened that she might catch me staring at her. So I drowned my sorrows with wine. In the kitchen, I bumped into her, but instead of saying “sorry”, I thought out loud, “You’re the most beautiful creature I ever beheld.” She gave me a fierce, displeased glare and walked away without saying anything. She told my friend about what I said and he would’ve punched me in the face if she hadn’t intervened. 

After the party, my friend dropped me off at my apartment because I was too drunk to drive. He brought Dee with him and I could hear their conversation. I sat in the back of the car. They thought I was sleeping.

“Are you sure about this?” Dee said. “Let’s just leave him alone.”

“Yes, we can’t just let him drive his way home. He’ll kill himself for sure,” my friend said. “He’s not usually like this. I’ve never seen him this drunk or rude. I don’t know what’s the matter with him, but we also can’t leave him at our place.”

My friend left for Canada that same month and I didn’t see Dee again until three years later. It was at a cooking class in Davao, of all places. I enrolled in a short course on Spanish cuisine but ended up going to the wrong class. Just as I was about to leave the room, I saw her. She was standing alone near the chef kneading some sort of dough with her bare hands. I asked one of the people in the room what class this was and he told me “Pastries 101” and the lesson that night was croissants. I immediately changed my course and braved my way into the front of the class so that I could stand next to Dee. She didn’t recognize me at first, but when she did, she asked me point-blank and loudly so that the other students would hear, “Aren’t you that drunk who nearly ruined my ex’s despedida party?” The whole class burst out laughing, and I felt so embarrassed I wished I wasn’t there. But she warmed up to me eventually, partly because she had no choice — the chef paired us with each other for our baking projects — and partly because I was the only familiar face for her in that unfamiliar city. We also complemented each other because she loved to cook and bake while I loved to eat whatever she made.

One night, as we were cleaning our spoons and spatulas in the kitchen, I suddenly blurted out, “Do you remember that night in Cebu when I got so drunk and I told you that you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met?”

“Yeah, that was one of the weirdest nights of my life,” she said.

“I just wanted to say I’m sorry,” I said.

“Three years too late but I’ll take it,” she said.

“Thank you,” I said. After a pause, I added, “It’s still true, you know.”

“What’s true?” she said.

“That you’re still the most beautiful girl I know,” I said.

She stopped me and looked me squarely in the face. “Dylan, I’m sorry, but there’s one thing we need to straighten out this early,” she said. “You and me, we’ll never be more than friends. Do you understand? I’ll never be your girl.” After driving that stake into my heart, she said, “But you can tell me anything that’s on your mind. Your feelings, hopes, fears, anything. I can be your best friend, at least.”

So we became best friends after that and I took her advice seriously. For example, while driving her home, I would say things like, “You take my breath away.” And she would say, “Cheesy, but thank you.” Or in cooking class, I would scribble a note that might say, “My heart skips a beat each time I see your face” and pass it to her, and she would scribble her reply on the same slip of paper and say, “Noted.” Or in the grocery store, I would move closer to her and say in a half-whisper, “I’m mad about you,” and she would say, in a perfectly audible voice, “For your sake, please stay sane.” I often cannot sleep well at night because of her, so one time I texted her, “I’m crazy about you. When I close my eyes at night, it’s your face that I see. And when I open my eyes in the morning, my very first thoughts are of you. I can’t bear to be not in the same space as you and I can’t wait to see you again today. In fact, I’m dying as we speak and you’re the only one who can bring me back to life.” She responded moments later with, “OA.”

So that is how things stand between us. We’re friends but I can tell her things friends don’t normally tell each other. It’s a very peculiar kind of relationship.

It never worked out between her and my friend. They broke up a year after he immigrated.

She arrived at half past 6 with a couple of paper bags in her arms. I took the bags from her and placed them on the kitchen counter. I then brought out the tongs, measuring cups, and wooden spoons from the cupboard while she emptied the bags. She cooked the pasta. Then she sauteed some garlic and onions in butter and olive oil. She then poured a couple of shots of vodka into the pan and mixed it with tomato puree. She licked off some sauce from her thumb and bit her lower lip. She then sprinkled some pepper flakes and added a pinch of salt. Smoke was billowing from the pan and she tried to wave some of it towards her so that she could inhale the smell of the sauce. The scent was quickly filling up the kitchen and I felt my stomach rumble. She then drained the water from the pasta and poured the sauce on top of it, making sure to sprinkle some Parmesan and more pepper flakes.

“I’m starving,” I said.

“Patience,” she said.

Just as she was setting the table, I brought out a bottle of Merlot and a couple of glasses. She then brought the bowl of pasta from the kitchen and heaped a big serving on my plate.

“Bon appetit,” she said, smiling. “Tell me what you think.”

“About you or the pasta?” I said.

“The pasta, of course,” she said.

It was delicious, as usual. In fact, she rarely makes anything that wasn’t absolutely delectable. She’s a great cook. She would’ve been a chef, eventually, if she pursued that path, but she told me she only wants to cook for fun.

After dinner, we sat on the living room carpet. She was holding the remote while I held on to my glass of wine.

“What shall we watch tonight?” she said.

“Do you want to do something else than watch TV?” I said.

“Like what? That’s enough wine for you. You know you start talking nonsense when you’ve had too much to drink.”

“Anything. What do you want to do?”

“Watch TV. What do you want to do?”

“Do you want my honest answer?”

“No.”

“Okay then, I want to talk.”

“What do you want to talk about?”

“How was your day today?”

“Exhausting. I have a slight headache.”

I lowered my glass to the floor. “Do you mind if I give you a quick massage?”

“Yes, I do mind.”

I chuckled. “You don’t trust me.”

“Of course, I don’t,” she said, with a smirk.

“I promise you, my intentions are pure, and the kind of love that will animate my hands and fingers will solely be Platonic.”

She laughed. “You’re super OA when you’re drunk.”

“I am not drunk, I am just slightly inebriated.”

“Whatever.”

“It will be a quick massage, I promise.”

“How quick?”

“An hour.”

She scowled at my answer so I said, “Ten minutes.”

I sat behind her. Then I touched the side of her neck with the tip of my fingers. I ran them down to the base of her neck. Then, I pressed both of my thumbs on her nape and stroked them downwards. Then I kneaded her neck in a methodical manner; first vertically, making sure each muscle is stroked, then horizontally, diagonally, and finally randomly. I could feel her petite frame heave and sigh as I moved from one muscle group to another. I then kneaded her trapezius muscles. I could feel her tense up so I made sure to massage her carefully but firmly. I increased the pressure of my fingers and then worked my way carefully to her shoulders, deltoid muscles, and arms.

“What are we?” I asked her.

Her eyes were closed and she rolled her head to one side.

“I’ve answered that question a thousand times, haven’t I?” she said.

“So we’re still only friends?” I said.

“Of course,” she said.

I smiled and continued kneading her. I imagined her muscles as a kind of dough that has several layers. Each stroke of my finger opened a layer, and the more I massaged her, the more she unravelled and became pliant and tender. Her skin glistened under the lampshade light and I let her rest in the strength of my hands.

Unrequited Love

The greatest stories about unrequited love in human history, if stripped of all the drama, prose, and soul-crushing heartaches, can be summed up in these words:

He loved her madly. She didn’t care for him at all. End of story.

What My Friend Said

My friend, who is an artist, told me once that every piece of art begets another piece of art. It could be anything: a poem begetting another poem, a song begetting another song, or a painting begetting another painting, and so on.

I wasn’t sure if I agreed with her. But this morning, while listening to a Rachmaninov piece over the radio, I suddenly had the urge to pick up a book. So I did. It was a collection of short fiction and while reading it, I suddenly had the desire to look at something pretty, so I went down the hall where the paintings were hung and just stood there for some minutes. While gazing at this portrait of a lady in 19th-century dress (oil on canvas), I suddenly thought of my friend and had this longing to write something.

So I’ve been sitting here all day writing stories that are, directly or indirectly, related to her. I’ve called in sick and have been scribbling these notes for hours now. Meanwhile, the vinyl records are all out of the closet, and I’ve played all of Mozart’s piano and violin sonatas at least three times. A couple bottles of wine have been uncorked, and there are books strewn all over the floor.

I forgot to ask her, how do you end this loop?

Reading Lydia Davies

This book that I am reading is by Lydia Davies. The stories are brief. Or let me rephrase that. They’re long enough for a cup of coffee in the morning, a piece of sonata in the afternoon, and a glass of wine in the evening.