#3

My love, you don’t have to cry anymore

Learn to forgive, take a step forward

Too afraid? Take my hand

I promise I won’t let go.

But if you feel like you can’t just yet,

That’s okay.

At least for now let me stay with you

Until you feel like you don’t need me anymore.

 

My love, you have nothing to fear.

I am clumsy, but I am strong.

I won’t promise that I won’t hurt you

But I promise to make you happy.

If you just let me.

 

Will you open your doors for me?  Will you let me in?

I will not tear down the walls you built

I will let you decide when the time is right

For you to step out into the light

 

You’ve been in this darkness for too long,

Carrying too much, you can’t let go

Will you let me give you a hand, a home and a heart?

Together, we can wander down this path

 

My love, it’s okay. I can handle it all

A life without you will be unbearable.

How can I convince you not to fall?

Hold on, my love, hold on.

Understanding the Struggles of My Teenage Years

There is a lot of news going on about 13 Reasons Why. It tackles major issues such as mental health, bullying and suicide. It has become highly controversial for many reasons.

The digital media has made it easy for everyone to voice out their opinion about an issue and be heard. Everyone makes a good point, which is the point of a discourse.

You have to understand that not all teenagers are capable of dealing with school bullies or pranks. Not that they are not raised to have a sense of humor or to be strong enough to handle such situations. Some things and some people will break you and you will fall.

Not everyone is capable of just shrugging things off. At the age of 26 I still get affected by what other people think of me. But then I will process things internally, learn if I should take your opinion to heart and then I will move on. A lesson you learn as you grow old, especially when you have dealt with a bully—but for teenagers, they’re still learning. In fact, we never stop learning. As we grow older, we deal with more difficult problems and more are expected from us. People might think that as an adult, you should already know what to do. You should already know how to level your head.

So keep that in mind. In our teenage years, we were still learning not to care about everything. We were still learning how to filter the things that should bother us.

So let me tell you the story of one of the most damning bullying I’ve ever experienced.

A little background. I went to an all-girls catholic school run by Good Shepherd nuns. We were sheltered and we don’t get a lot of interactions with other schools and boys. Every year our class gets shuffled. You meet new people and you make new friends.

I was thirteen at that time and an incoming sophomore. The friends I made the previous year weren’t in the same class. I just happen to live quite close to 2 of my classmates and this one girl who’s always with them. They’re quite popular. Pretty, cheerleaders, liked by  a lot of people. So when they started hanging out with me, I am not going to lie, it made me feel quite good about myself.

I treasure my friends deeply. I tell them all my secrets, all my insecurities. So one day, I told them about this crush of mine who lives in our neighborhood. He had a girlfriend back then, a friend of my sister. It was a stupid crush. Again, I didn’t really see find myself attractive and had very low self-esteem so I never really entertained the idea. But they encouraged it, told me I had a shot and should just go for it. But I never acted on my feeling.

Then one day, I got a letter. It says open your Friendster and I’ll find a message there. And so I looked, and there was a message from an anonymous sender. In the letter, the sender pointed out how ugly I was. Every single thing I was insecure about was written there; my weight, my skin color—this person just went on and on listing everything that she found ugly about me—things I didn’t know I should even be insecure about.

By the end of the letter, she warned me about my intentions to make a move on my crush because he was her boyfriend. If I do, she will post embarrassing things about me and my friends online.

From an adult’s point of view, the logical way of looking at it is to simply delete the message and ignore it. But for a teenager who lives in a world where status is a big deal and self-esteem is as fragile as an egg-shell, this is pure destruction.

I’ve written a reply, I can’t even remember what I wrote. And this anonymous sender sent another one. It went on for a while, until one day, one of my so-called friends broke down and admitted that they were behind the letter.

My sister saw me crying the night I found out the news. She was furious and asked me how could I be friends with such horrible people. It didn’t make me feel any better. It made me feel stupid for not seeing it.

I became cynical towards everyone who tried to get close to me. I thought everyone was horrible, even the guidance counselor who had nothing better to say but “believe in yourself” and that I shouldn’t be affected by what other people are saying about me.

What a load of crap. It didn’t help me whatsoever.

And do you know what’s crappier than that? After their apology, I started hanging out with them again. I endured months of a toxic friendship before I finally gave up.

I let go. I wasn’t the person I am when I was with them. I wasn’t cool. I wasn’t sexy. I wasn’t girly. I was awkward and brute.

When I finally did, when I finally embraced the true me, I found people who accepted me for who I am. 11 years later and we are still the best of friends.

What am I trying to get across here? We were all young once. We were fragile and we were trying to discover ourselves. We all encountered bullies, and we had different reactions. Some are fortunate to have a good support and others have to find their own way. Not everyone is built to shrug things off and walk. Some needs more support. So just because you were able to walk away fast, just because you are able to care less than others, doesn’t mean everyone can.

It is important to listen and to show genuine support. I think more than anything, at that time, I needed someone to tell me that what I was feeling was valid and it was okay that I was hurt and angry. I needed someone to listen.

I didn’t get any of that. I had to stand up for myself and find a way to get over it. It wasn’t easy. That feeling of isolation and wanting to belong, yet too afraid to trust and open yourself to someone is not something I would wish on my worst enemy.

All I wanted was to get out. I wanted everything to stop, but I couldn’t. I know that the world will not stop just because you did—the people that surrounded me certainly showed me that.

In a way, I was lucky that there was a competitiveness in me. I wanted to show that I can get out of this hell hole and live my life the way I want to. I wanted to show that this will not get to me. In the midst of that struggle, I discovered the strength in me. This is something I hope I could help others with. Whenever someone comes to me with a problem, I take their every word seriously. I try to be there for them as much as I can and listen to what they are trying not to say.

Pay close attention to the unspoken words.

Curfew

4:45 PM

Ana was just finishing up an email she was sending to one of her clients. The radio was on and the DJ announced that traffic is relatively light. She was thankful for that. These days the nights are getting long and sun sets pretty early. It will take her 45 minutes to walk from her work to her house. If she takes the cab, it will only take her 20 minutes max. She expects that by the time she gets home, her husband Miguel and their two daughters Clary and Dale are already home.

4:50 PM

She needs to type faster if she wants to leave 5:00 PM sharp. No one stays late in the office anymore. Everybody leaves at 5:00 PM sharp, not a second later. You are lucky if you manage to leave earlier than that. Otherwise, you’ll have to spend the night in your office and explain to the area captains why you decided to stay in the office and you must be persuasive and believable. It’s not like she has anything to hide. After all, she is a good, law abiding citizen of this great nation.

That’s something she got used to saying and hearing every morning. Every time the clock strikes 6:00 in the morning, all radio and television channel will broadcast only one thing: the pledge of allegiance:

I am a citizen of this country, the home of my ancestors
this land nourishes and protects me
I offer my heart, mind and body
to this great nation

I am the citizen of this country, the home of my ancestors. Ana was sure this is not how her parents remember this country. Democracy was truly practiced; citizens are free to speak their minds and to rally on the streets to express their defiance against the government. But three months ago, after the bombing at the plaza where 89 people during the light festival, the government declared a State of Emergency. Two days later the country was under martial law.

4:59 PM

“Oh fuck!” she cursed, slamming her laptop closed and rushed out of the office, forgetting to clock out. No matter, her boss is nice enough to understand. Just as she got to the terminal, the last cab left.

She looked at her phone: 5:01 PM. Twenty-nine minutes before sundown. She started walking briskly, not something she wanted to do in heels. A minute passes and her toes started begging for life.

She heard a ring behind her and sharp break. She jumped back just in time, but broke her heel the in the process.

“How’s it going, Ana?” asked Jared, a local newspaper delivery man in his 40s. Jared doesn’t deliver the newspaper approved by the government. In fact, not a lot of people know that this is Jared’s job. Some would say it’s a crack newspaper full of conspiracies and a paranoid’s theory. But for someone who’s coming from the lower middle-class, for someone who runs away in fear from men in uniform, she knew better.

“You made me break my heel, that’s what,” she sighed as she took off her shoes. Buying a new pair of shoes is not in her budget for another six months.

“Sorry there, love,” he scratched his graying hair. “Need a ride? It’s almost sundown.”

“Do you plan on staying in our house?” she chuckled as she took off her other shoes. Hopefully, she won’t look too suspicious running without any shoes on. “Get going already. You don’t want to get caught now, do you?”

5:02 PM

And with that, he saluted her and pedalled away.

This land nourishes and protects me.

 She has a lot of things to say about that. Ever since martial law was declared, people started disappearing like bubbles left and right. People like Jared who voice their dissent to the government are in constant danger. They must learn to hide, else they’ll disappear. If they’re lucky, they will find them—but they will be broken. They’d made sure you are. They will break your spirit and your strength, and when they’re done with you, you’ll finally be a good citizen of this country. Her former co-worker Lena learned it the hard way to be a good citizen.

Lena was one of the first people who stood against the government last election. It was the dirtiest election in history and people, well people have voices back then.  After the plaza bombing and the state of emergency, the government pointed their fingers at those who activists—blaming them for destroying the peace in this great nation. The following day they, one by one, people got picked up by the military. Lena came back after two weeks. Her eyes are dead, black and blue spots all over her body. After one month, she found out she was pregnant. She never left the house again.

Ana wouldn’t say that Lena is lucky to be alive. In fact, she doesn’t know who are luckier; the survivors or the dead. Some of those who survived went underground. Some even say that they went to the outskirts of the city to join the rebellion. Wherever they go, it can’t be any worse than where they are now. Miguel’s brother Gabriel, was one of them.

She doesn’t know if he’s still alive. According to the news, the government is relentless in hunting all of them and will not stop until the rebellion has disbanded.

She looked at her watch.

5:15 PM

She passed by a small supermarket owned by Mike and remembered that she needed to buy cabbage for tonight’s dinner. She bit her lip, looked at her clock and decided not to. The store looked almost empty now. Mike might close the store soon.

With a 40% income tax, everyone is barely making ends meet. Almost half of her salary goes to the government. Miguel had to sell their car in order to keep the house. Even though they want to leave, they didn’t have the money to do so. Every day, they have to ration their food and come up with creative ways to find food. They learned how to plant. Their backyard is a small vegetable garden where they grow tomatoes and potatoes. But they had to keep it from everyone. They don’t want any unwanted attention.

For a country where 90% are Christian, it seems like God, or whatever deity they believe in, has abandoned them.

This is a cruel world to live in. This is a world where you are beaten down the moment you try to stand—where you are killed the moment you start to fight.

It’s been three months. There isn’t any form of media available for the people. You can only hear the static sound and the cries of the family.

5:20 PM

She’s only a three blocks away. She started running. Eyes were on her, she knew. They’re just waiting for the time for it to be legal to pick her up. They’re like vultures waiting for her to crumble and die.

5:25 PM

She finally reached the gates of her house. Beads of sweat drips down her cheeks, nonetheless she is grateful she gets to spend the night with her family and survived the day.

Miguel greeted her at the door, but there was something wrong. She can see the darkness behind his glasses.

“What is it?” she asked, but too afraid to hear the answer.

“It’s okay,” but his tone wasn’t. “Everything’s fine.”

Silently, she entered her house. There was mud on her floor and too many shoe prints.

“What happened to your shoe?” Miguel took her shoes from her.

“Jared made me trip,” she suddenly became very aware of how raw her soles felt.

“I told you not to talk to Jared anymore,” he said in a low voice. “You never know who’s looking.”

Her husband, unlike his brother is a very formal man. He’s always in a suit and he keeps his nose in his own business. When Gabriel left, he didn’t come to say goodbye. He was afraid for their safety, he explained. She didn’t press on the matter. She thought they’d never hear from him again. So when she found him sitting on her couch and six other strangers scattered all over the living room, she felt all the blood from her face drain.

“Hey there, Ana.”

He looked scruffier than the last time she saw her. His beard is unkempt, shadows are under his eyes and blood stains on his clothes. The men with him are all injured. Bloodstained bandages are wrapped their heads, arms and legs.

“Gabriel,” she nodded and turned to her husband.

“Where are the girls?” she whispered.

“Upstairs,” he answered. “I told them to lock their rooms.”

“There’s no need to keep my nieces away from me,” he interjected. “I won’t harm them.”

“The people looking for you will,” she snapped. Miguel held her arm.

“Gabriel, what are you doing here?”

“They found our base,” he explained. “They bombed it. Our people are dispersed. I figured the closer we are to the city, the lesser chance they’ll find us.” The bandages and wounds suddenly made sense.

“Your face is all over the city,” Miguel explained. “Wanted poster signs of the rebels are posted everywhere.”

“I just need the night, Miguel,” the desperation was clear in his eyes. “Just to rest, we will not wait for sunrise to leave.”

A loud siren blasted outside. Everybody was on their feet. The strangers in her house took their guns and checked the windows. Ana checked her watch.

5:55 PM

It was the five minute warning before curfew.

“Stay away from the windows,” Miguel warned the strangers. “And put those away!”

Gabriel asked his men to calm down. It was too late. They can’t ask them to leave. The security is tighter at night.

“One night,” the words made everyone look at her in disbelief. “One night and before sunrise, you leave,” Miguel took her arm, trying to silence her.

“Do you understand?” she looked at Gabriel.

“Yes,” he lowered his head. “Thank you.”

8:30 PM.

The additional five mouths to feed threw off her budget for the month. Seems like buying a new pair of shoes must wait for four months. Her vegetable garden is almost empty now. Did she do the right thing, she wondered. They were fighting for the freedom, for the democracy they used to have. She thought it was the least she can do for the men who do what she can’t. But there’s no way Miguel will understand.

He fixes a lot of things, like the financial problem and currently her broken shoes. But he’s a man of peace, at least that’s the way she’d put it. He’d avoid fights and confrontations as much as possible.

Clary and Dale joined them for dinner, but not before Gabriel and his men were sent down to the basement. Miguel insisted no one shall look at their daughters. Not his brother, not his neighbors and certainly not the city guards.

Miguel created a system. He memorized the patrol’s route. Every morning when she walks them to school, he’ll cover them with big coats and a baseball cap, whether it’s  summer or winter. He created mapped the route where they can avoid the eyes of the patrol. Not that he had anything to hide, he just doesn’t want any eyes on their daughters.

Miguel also asked Ana not to wear any make up and loose clothes for work. Moreover, he asked her to gain ten pounds. Again, to avoid unwanted attention. She simply complied. The fear on her husband’s face was enough for her to fold.

“How was school today?” Miguel asked thirteen year old Dale.

“There was a school project,” she answered. “I would’ve done it if you didn’t drag me out of the school.”

“You did what?” Ana asked.

“We already three minutes behind schedule,” he explained. “You know how important it is for us always be on time.”

“I heard uncle Gabriel’s voice earlier,” eight year old Clary said. “Where’s Uncle Gabe?”

“Uncle Gabe’s not here,” Miguel said.

“Enough of that girls, lets—” a knock on the door disrupted an almost peaceful dinner. She could feel the tension of the men in the basement and the fear of the ones with her.

“Go upstairs,” Ana whispered to them. Without another word, they went.

Another knock. It was louder this time. Miguel took a deep breath and went to the door. He fixed his glasses and opened it.

“Evening Sir,” said the man in uniform at the door. “Ma’am,” he nodded at her. He is big, she thought. Twice the size of Miguel.

“Is-is there something we can do for you, officer?” Miguel tried desperately to keep his eyes on him. But the officer looked at the living room, at the couch, at the floor, at the ceiling and at the dining table.

“Sorry to disturb your dinner,” he answered. “We just want to ask if you’ve seen anything unusual in these areas.”

Miguel was frozen.

“We have some witnesses claiming that a group of heavily injured men passed by here.”

Three officers entered their house. Normally, people can say that it’s trespassing. But these are not normal times. These men have too much power, and no mercy.

“Sorry, we didn’t see anything,” he simply answered.

The leader looked at him, examining him from head to toe.

“I think our daughters go the same school,” he said. “Yes. I saw you at school today. You were eager to get home this afternoon,” he chuckled.

“My wife was waiting for me,” he didn’t miss the shake in his voice.

“How are your girls?” he asked. “Maybe they saw something. Where are they?”

She felt her heart drop to her stomach. She could almost scream and run upstairs to bolt the door. She looked at the kitchen knife. How fast can she kill him, she thought. Can she kill all of them?

“They’re at my mother’s,” his voice is a lot calmer now. “Outside the city.”

“Oh, well, that’s too bad,” he said, unconvinced. “Perhaps I could visit some other time. Get a good look at your girls and see what I can do for them.”

Miguel was pale and sweating.

“Maybe I can babysit for you sometime, what do you say?” he tapped his shoulder. “Officer Kirkpatrick here is a big fan of little girls.”

The malice was clear in their faces. She felt tears building in her eyes.

“That would be nice,” Miguel chocked. “But we got it covered. Thanks.”

“Well then,” he motioned his men to leave. “Have a good night, Sir. Madame.”

None of them answered. He simply closed the door and locked it. Her knees gave out and realized that she was holding her breath. The basement door opened, but didn’t reveal the man hiding in the shadows.

“Stay in there,” she whispered. “They’re patrolling the house now.”

“I’m sorry, Anna,” said the voice. It was low and sincere, but provided no comfort.

“Close the door, Gabe,” she picked herself up and fixed herself. “I’ll bring you your dinner.” She checked the clock.

8:40 PM

10 minutes felt like an eternity.

***

10:00 PM

They all ate in silence.  A single light bulb illuminated the dusty dark basement. It wasn’t ideal, she was sure,   but nonetheless, they expressed their gratitude. She also changed the dressing of their wound and injected them with antibiotic. The perks of working in a hospital. She just needs to come up with a convincing reason why she had to use hers.

They were all asleep by the time she finished cleaning Gabe’s wound. She slowly rested his head on the pillow and silently walked upstairs. Miguel was waiting for her in the living room.

The room was dark. He’s sitting on the couch, elbows on his knees and hands clasped together over his lips. He’s staring at nothing. Even in darkness, she can see the intensity in his eyes. It wasn’t fear. It was something new Ana couldn’t figure out what it was.

“Are they still out there?” she said lowly.

“I heard three patrol cars pass by in the last 30 minutes,” he said, still staring at the darkness.

She sat beside him and placed her hand on his lap. “What is it?” she asked.

He shook his head and pressed his index finger on his temple. “He always does this,” he said. “Involving everyone his problems. He did it to mom and dad, and now us!”

“It’s not just his problem,” she said. “It’s our problem too.”

“Yes, because he barged in here without any consideration for our safety,” he met her gaze for the first time since she entered the room. “I have done everything I could to keep us safe and I have. He ruined everything.” He sighed, holding back the tears. “And now they’re after our daughters.”

“It’s always been our problem,” she cupped his face. “We just chose to ignore it. And now—it just came knocking at our door.”

He laid his head on her lap, searching for any sort of comfort in the night. It was over, they both knew it. The attention they both tried to avoid has found them.

“So what do we do now?”

He didn’t answer and simply stayed on her lap. Ana turned on the radio, listening for any news about the rebels in the area.

***

5:55 AM

Neither of them got any sleep. Five minutes from now, they have to put on their uniforms, the most innocent face they could muster and face the day.

Miguel’s head is still resting on her lap. They could stay home, she thought. But that would seem suspicious. It might raise questions.

The radio didn’t say anything about the rebels. They reported about bombing their base and encouraged anyone to come forth with any information. Anyone who can point in the direction of any rebels will be rewarded. She figured that maybe, one of her neighbors is desperate enough to turn them to the authorities. She couldn’t blame them. These are desperate times.

Both of them jolted when they heard the basement door open. They looked better than last night. They had more color in them. They’ll live another day, Ana figured.

“It’s not yet safe,” Miguel said. “They’re still patrolling the house.”

“Once the street is busy, we’ll sneak out in the back” Gabe explained. He didn’t move and held their gaze.

“There is still time,” Gabe continued. “You don’t have to bring a lot. Just the necessary ones.”

They knew what he was suggesting, but that meant leaving this comfortable house they worked so hard to protect. But it wasn’t safe anymore. It never was. The night had shattered that illusion.

They had to make a decision fast. How far can they get? How long will they survive? How will they survive.

The clock is ticking.

6:00 AM

The radio went static and a familiar voice came

I am a citizen of this country, the home of my ancestors
This land nourishes and protects me
I offer my heart, mind and body
To this great nation

Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

It was out of curiosity. A fine day it was, I remember. I was looking upon your serene face, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you so calm. The world has gotten into us and we just had to escape. And we did. With one click, we were out of the city, away from the noise and the angry strangers that we had to deal with every single damn day.

We wanted to escape and it was so out of character for us to just pack our bags and leave the next day.

“Wouldn’t it be nice—” I uttered, “to simply fall in love?”

I didn’t know what I was getting at. Maybe it was the beauty of the fields of flowers, or the serenity of your face, or the gentle breeze that’s touching our skins—It was pure and real. It seemed like a scene out of the books of our childhood. I did not know, what caused me to dream and just to try if this dream can be our reality.

I wanted to see what would happen. What kind of face you would make? What poetry will come out of your lips?

“Yeah,” you whispered, soft enough to keep it from the world, but loud enough for me to hear.

I smiled. It was futile, I thought. It had to end, soon. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually it will. All things do, after all. That’s something we both learned.

This is only a dream, a short one at that. I had to remind myself. How I wish this was my reality, to wake up to this much green, to this much earth with sun shining upon me, where everything is beautiful because we are happy. Everything is bright and everything is alive because we are. Where everything is simple and love is not complicated.

But I saw the pain in your eyes and the sadness in your smile.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if it was just us?” I whispered, soft enough to keep it from the world, but loud enough for you to hear.

And you held my hand, a simple gesture but it meant the world to me.

This would have been the part where you tell me you love me and I, you. But it was best not to say things that had to be silenced as soon as we look back. It was best not to utter beautiful words that will cause us to cry.

The moment is pure and innocent and it was enough to make me smile for a lifetime. Even though the time will pass, this moment, right now, what we have, no one can take it away. It will always be with me.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to part?

I could not say the words out loud.

Six Years of Bottled Emotions

I learned the day that I was hurt, the day that I cried myself to sleep and woke up crying that emotions is like an internal black hole sucking the life out of me.

It wasn’t fun! I was on my senior year of college and focus is an absolute must. Instead I find myself crying over a giant loss on my final and biggest competition as a collegiate athlete and a broken heart. Yes that’s how I ended my college life. I wished it was easy for me to simply shrug everything off.

No I was not like that. I was the type of person who embraces her emotions. I acknowledged the joy, the pain, the love, the anger and the grief that I feel. I cry if I must and I laugh when I should—and whenever I feel, I write, I draw, I express myself through art.

That day I woke up crying and unable to get out of bed to face the beautiful morning which felt like the post-apocalyptic era where everything is dead and all hope is gone, I wondered, if I had been the type of person who just ignores, who just hides her feelings, who just dismisses her emotions to avoid having my feeling etched deeper into my heart, my soul and my mind, could it have been easier?

Was it supposed to be easy, had I not felt the way I did? If I didn’t feel the need to be friends with the people around me, to impress the people I admired, to fall in love with a man who clearly did not feel the same way about me twice, could it have been easy?

I was, or at least I’d like to believe that I still am, a passionate person. My emotions drive me to do my best, to give it all. Whenever I step on the mats a crazy scenario enters my mind. That person in front of me is the enemy. If I don’t defeat her, the evil empire will take over the world. I am the heroin in the story. Of course that scenario will fade as soon as the match is over. But that’s how I worked. That’s how I studied, that’s how I came up with stories and how I express myself through art.

But one day, when everything is too much, when I had no idea what to do with all the pain and grief, I just decided to turn everything off, keep my guards up and hide behind the Wall of Castle Black. Keep the Others away, and swear that I am the Night’s Watch and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife… wait.

Okay we’re getting off topic.

Basically I just turned off the feelings and when I start to feel which is sometimes I could not help, I convince myself not to get attached, don’t trust them, don’t tell them anything about yourself.

It’s been pretty lonely. For six years, yes I haven’t had any strong emotion for any one. It didn’t hurt but I didn’t feel anything either.

And then the writing stopped, and so did judo and art.

Sometimes I try to write but midway I stop. I just couldn’t. I didn’t know what to do next.

Recently, when I was clearing my room, I dug up my old stuff from high school and college. It was a habit, to carry a small notebook where I can write and sketch whenever I feel like it. I also found my old essays from creative writing classes. My professor told me I had a distinct voice in writing and that my short stories were beautiful. My art professor told me that he can tell in my art if I was inspired or not. All of these good pieces were inspired by a very emotional event or a person who caused me to feel raw, jumbled, confusing emotions and the only way for me to express them is through art.

I wanted to write again. I wanted to paint again. I wanted to freely express myself again.

And so I did it. I finally faced the dark shadow behind me and lit a bright light. No more hiding. I let myself feel and admit that I was happy, I was hurt, I still cared and I still loved.

And I cried, and I wrote and I laughed, and I painted. I found my voice again. And I felt light, as I carried a much lighter past.

And I am much older now, much wiser, but my heart and my mind will be forever young.

Art is an expression. Neil Gaiman said “make good art”. When you stumble or when you fall, make good art.

So that’s what I will do. I will feel and I will make good art with it.

Home

For most people, when the clock strikes 6, it means freedom. That’s not the case for Adam. Adam dreads the end of the day—when the sun goes down and work day is done. He has to go home. He has to go home to her.

He sighed as he admitted defeat. This is a low season for the company. Work is light and people should be happy. Adam would give anything to bury himself in piles of work.

Slowly, he made his way home, trying to find an excuse to go elsewhere. He looked at the supermarket and decided to shop for unnecessary goods. As he passed by the international food section, he remembered that she love eating Korean food. He hated it because he never got used to the taste, but he endured all that when they were dating. He thought maybe, just for old time’s sake, he’ll cook her some kimchi fried rice.

She was in the same spot as always when he gets home; sitting at the left side of a two-seater sofa staring at her reflection on the television. She greeted her with a small smile. He shook his head and made his way to the kitchen.

“Did you have a great time at work, dear?” She loves using that word when she teases him. He thought that maybe, if he ignored her, she will stop and just disappear.

Adam knows that it reached pass delusion to hold on to something that’s already gone. Maybe this would help. Maybe if he decides to stay out late or to finally move out, then he can finally start anew.

“You hate Korean food, why would you buy some?” she asked. He looked at her but didn’t answer. She was still smiling, like nothing happened. He cursed and threw the bag of grocery in the trash can.

He took the seat beside her. He was careful not to make any contact. He massaged his temple, trying to find reason.

“What are you still doing here?” he asked eyes closed as he massages his temple. “You’re not supposed to be here.”

“What do you mean?” the pain was clear in her voice. “I thought you want me here. You said it yourself before. You didn’t want me to go.”

He rested his elbows on his knees and looked at her.

“So, I’m here.” She said happily again.

“You were not happy like this before. I just didn’t see it.”

“You keep blaming yourself for what happened. It was my decision.” The way she said it struck him deep and hard. It was as if it was the simple and obvious answer.

“This doesn’t really answer any of my questions,” he said. His eyes still locked on her.

“No, not really. Sorry.”

He remembers her apologizing a lot, even for the littlest things, and things she shouldn’t apologize for. Yet she smiled, she laughed and she loved. And she was loved. It just wasn’t clear for him, for anyone—and he blamed himself for that. He laid beside her every night, ate meals together and talked at the end of the day. He didn’t see it. How could he? She was always smiling.

“I’m at peace,” she said, or at least what he thought could be the simplest way to accept it.

It was a comforting yet haunting thing, he thought. For now, maybe this will do.

He stared at the golden band on the table that has been cold for three months. Though the room is dark and empty, she’ll certainly be back again tomorrow.

 

Three

I touch the ground and hold on to three things

I count three steps back and breathe in

Waking up is getting hard, but I’ll be fine

By and by, I’ll learn to smile

 

I hold three things so dear to me

Hoping they won’t go or give up on me

I count three things, so near to reach

And somehow I feel a little happy

 

I count the days I have survived

That I wake up and find three things I like

Three months has passed—things are getting fine

By and by, days will be bright.

 

I hold three things from the past

Deep in me, I cannot cast

It may stay with me until the last

In this heart made of glass