Old Friend

Old Friend

When we were in grade school, you were the artist and I was the thinker. You make my aprons and my pajamas for work ed and I make your book reports and math equations. You salvage my art works and I catch the volleyball for you when you are too afraid to get hit. I listen and you talk and talk until the bell signals the end of lunch and we walk back to class. With you, I don’t have to say anything. You fill the silence with your endless chatter. That suited me just fine. I’ve always found talking too tiresome. With you, I did not feel the need to say anything. You did the talking. I did the listening ( and sometimes, the punching).

In high school, you got your period first. Mine did not come until a few years later. It was so funny watching you walk with those bulky pads between your legs. You never were lady like, and having your periods did not make you anymore so. Puberty however also made your mood confusing. Your arts became as intense as your feelings. The change made us clash every now and then, but we always make up. There is something about your early puberty that kept you from being who you used to be. You were growing so fast and leaving me behind. That was kinda sad.

We did not get into the same university in college. Your NCEE score did not reach average. I got 99. Maybe because there is no work ed or practical matters included in the test. You had to select a course and a school that does not give weight to that. I started my university life and I was overwhelmed by how big a world I’d be in without you in it. You started your college degree and became your very own version of “the renegade”.

We were eagles taking off with a wing missing. Several years later, it was not surprising to find each other all broken and conquered. Life isn’t like high school, where the bullies only play pranks on you. Life is meaner, nastier. And we faced it alone.

You got married before I did, and had a son. But it was not a happy ever after kind of thing like you thought it would be. The fate of your marriage left you angry, and broken. You attacked life just as you thought it attacked you. You were self destructive, vindictive, and out to cause pain – because you were so wounded you did not know any other way to deal with it. The world had no time to listen. You were left alone in your own misery, while the world continued to live.

I got married after med school. Had two kids. It’s no fairy tale either. Mine was a roller coaster life. I tried my best to hang on but I got thrown every which way. It had always been a bumpy ride – this life. But we get used to it. We learn. We adapt. Eventually, it’s no longer all that bad. I learned to put everything in writing, like how we used to do when we were kids. That way, I put the ambiguous into a perspective I can understand. When I do that, it ceases to be overwhelming.

I know you started painting again. That’s good. The burden of living sometimes make us forget who we really are. We played roles for far too long we’ve forgotten how to live with only our bare skin. You are your paintings. Those vibrant shades that used to represent your excitement is still there deep within your heart, within your soul, untouched by scars and by broken idealism.


The Wish

I wish I could sleep. The real sleep without needing to swallow all those pills. I wish I could dream real dreams, without the terror of relieving the horrors. I wish I could recreate a world where I no longer have to pretend to smile, while being drenched in my own tears; to belong without the need to play roles, to hide behind characters that is not me.

I wish I am not so tired to crawl in between the crevices of your perfect life; and to get away from the torture that haunts my own. I wish I am not too defeated to stagger into the crackling blaze of your hearth, to touch the fire, while I watch my frozen soul defrost and ignite; to be consumed and be nothing. I’d rather be nothing…than to be so cold…

I wish I could be whole enough, to be able to walk the day, without falling apart; like old paint peeling off me, exposing the scars I’ve tried so very hard to hide. I wish I’m whole enough to dance in your music and to sing your song. But I am all wrong. My parts are all misfitted, like a ragdoll haphazardly sewn back together. I hold my heart into the palm of my dirty right hand, while the other drag along a deflated dying soul. An unwelcomed blackness, in your perfect universe.

I wish I could hear your laughter, but I’ve grown deft. I wish I could make you see me, but there is nothing of me left.

Do You Remember?

It’s been years since I last saw your eyes. Since I last saw the shadows haunting your soul. I can only imagine the sorrows you carry. The demons crowding your head. You once wished you were dead.

But time makes a difference doesn’t it? It may not clear away all the cobwebs, but it sure allowed some flickers of light. It’s still dim but it beats the blackness you once existed in. Time can’t heal all wounds, at least not the kind of wounds we have, but it made you get used to the pain. You learned to dance in the rain.

It’s been years since I watched you sleep. Your nightmares masked by your peaceful face. The throes of terror tamed by sedated slumber. We were both each other’s monsters. Do you remember?

Did the years erase the history of pain in your heart? Was a path created in place of the needle tracks that marked your way? I remember the ugly shadows underneath your eyes. A reminder that ghosts need not be dead.

I stared into your sad eyes, and you peered into the emptiness of mine. We were two souls lost somewhere in between the crumpled pages of a forbidden yesterday. Two monsters, once lovers, now fearing each other.

Do you remember?

The Burnt Pages

A long time ago, I was given the magic of writing, to weave meaning out of the meaningless

I started writing at a very early age. While children my age were still learning their alphabet, I’m already putting it together; while they were dreaming of fantasy land, I’m already creating my very own version of magic through words.

My pen and paper became a major means to communicate. Because while my writings blossomed, my verbal capacity to communicate regressed. I was not just the timid child who sat at the far end, I was the ghost no one noticed, except when I write, because it’s through it that I make the most noise. The kind of noise that offended the sensitivity of those who find the abstract meaningless.

I did not learn to make sand castles that collapse when licked by even the gentlest tide, nor fold paper boats that float awhile before the water consumes them into nothingness. I created worlds amidst the blandness of what is; painted without shades of colors, and touched souls from a distance. Yes, always from a distance.

And then I was told to stop…

Because my creations were dark; because they touch on matters that should not even enter the mind of a child; because I scare the adults with what I write. Because I scare the adults, period. I am a ghost, therefore I should stay as a ghost. My writings make them hear me, it makes them feel me, and that frightened them.

On the burnt pages of a child’s magic

There is something tragic about suppressing the magic of writing in a child. It suppresses expression and personhood. It implants in a young mind a constant feeling of guilt every time an urge to create is experienced. Darkness is subjective. My darkness used to be magical, full of stars, and wishes and childhood dreams. They used to be fearless, until fear introduced itself. Shadows were companions and ghosts were children, just as I used to be. Only, I grew up, and my friendly Caspers became monsters. The magical darkness of a silent child fading on a book with its burnt untold pages. A dark canvas dismissed as evil simply because no one else saw the magical stars.

Dark Alleys

Dark Alleys

I looked for love in all the wrong places. Searched for significance among drifters. And at some point collected broken dreams by building sand castles and paper boats. Mistakes are valuable teachers. I learned to find my way out of a sad maze by learning to read the hieroglyphics on my skin. Scars are like treasure maps.

It is when we make the mistakes that threaten our being that we begin to value integrity. It is when we are broken that we begin to value wholeness. It’s when the deafening silence erode our sanity that we clamour for even just the subtle whisper of the wind. The world did not betray me. I betrayed myself, by digging deeper and deeper into the cold earth to find a hiding place, only to realize that the only niche down under is a misfitted, dark grave. I betrayed myself by choosing to look for who I am in dark alleys, searching for my imprints on dirty gutters and broken windows. By sharing heat among the lost, and the ghosts of the night. By daring to touch fire and expecting not to get burned.I orchestrated my parade, with flares and confetti made up of the torn pieces of my very own humanity.

My soul still shudders in remembrance. Getting lost inside an untamed forest full of beasts and predators belonged now to a distant past I’d rather forget. The cold betrayals of trust long forgiven. But the memory of horror should be kept within easy reach, to be used just in case, as a blazing fire on a guiding torch.

​Looking out from a porch, a story would just be a slideshow of beautiful things. Superficial like a cover of a book. A fairytale backdraft in a tragic play. Reality is bolder behind closed doors.
No life is picture perfect just as no person is without fault. Sometimes though, we kid ourselves by painting a happy mask to wear for people to look at, so that our darkness wouldn’t have to take center stage. We hide our brokenness because it is intimate, because it represents weakness. Like broken hinges that can’t be mended. No one wants to play the role of a loser, the one who dies first in a low budget motion picture. 
Who we are when no one is looking, behind closed doors when all the lights have been shut off, is reality; With our fears and our sadness, with our scarred skin mapping our journey, with the tears crashing down, and our pieces falling off and scattering around our bare feet, is the story behind the sunshine covers of most of our lives. A clown does not fall asleep a clown. 
We do what we have to do to cope. Some hold on to glitter, to mask the blackness surrounding who they are. Some immerse themselves with beautiful things, to forget the ugliness written somewhere in their storylines. There are some however, who ironically cope by befriending their demons, by remembering the darkness, by revisiting a tragedy. Different strokes for different folks. I write to continue living. I write to survive. And unlike those who try very hard to present an idyllic scene, I write about my darkness. I write about a tainted and imperfect life. By doing so, I am liberated from the distorted images I have of myself inside my head. It is a mirror from which I see who I am, because I am someone I never really got to know very well. 
I play many roles. Some I play well, some quite poorly. Some I am extremely proud of, and some I’d rather forget.  But who I am when roles are stripped off, and I am presented in my barest form devoid of masks and illusions is my unedited story. The stories I journal directly as my thoughts run haywire. It is the story I give directly to you. I am my only story.

I Am A Healer

I’ve walked these sterile corridors for so many years but not once did I walked it without my chest drumming like crazy. I remember April some years back when I first walked on these floors as a newly minted physician, proudly clutching my very first lightweight cardiac stethoscope ( I used to have the disposable kind that one can buy in drugstores for P250), amazed and frightened at the same time at the chaotic scenes before me. “I’m ready”, I told myself. It was not long after when I realized that no one can ever be ready for the battles a doctor faces. No one. Not even a dreamer such as I am. I witnessed how people I’ve been with in the starting line all transformed into someone unrecognizable halfway through the journey. I lost my idealism somewhere along the tiny spaces I tried to curl up in one night too many, to steal a desperately needed sleep; maybe I lost it somewhere along hallways where charts fly, and voices are raised, where hearts are broken and pride are pulverized; when my worth is challenged again and again, until I could no longer remember how it feels like to be secure in my own skin. It is only in Medicine where people are stripped off all pride and self confidence so that one day, they can trust their very own judgement. Ironic that doctors are broken in pieces before they can be trusted to heal others.

“Being a doctor is not just putting on that long white coat”, my Dad used to say to me. Being a doctor is that drumming of the heart before facing every patient, that fight in the soul every time we wrestle with death for someone else, and that stony façade we’ve been trained to wear when we wanted so much to cry. Emotion had always been a doctor’s great nemesis. It slows us down when there is so much work to be done. It taints objectivity, and it weakens the resolve to face more sufferings.

We can’t be healers forever, in fact, we can’t be healers for too long. Doctors die young, go mad or both. And the length of time to create a doctor (or mutate one) is simply too complex to compensate for those we lose along the way. Some die from stress related illness, a huge number commit suicide and more are murdered for mundane reasons. Is the long white gown still worth it?

My life may be worth more than the stale coffee I’ve consumed from the old hospital vending machine all these years; more than the blinding light of day after going on duty for 35 hours; more than the piles of census and case reports; more than the social media shaming; more than the accusing words from disgruntled patients and relatives who thought I had all the answers; more than the family holidays and birthdays I’ve missed; more than the money I could have earned; more than all the disappointments I’ve learned to collect one by one. But one life I make better is what defines who I am as a healer. The day I decided to walk the hospital floor, wearing the white long gown that represents the profession is when I ceased to be just me.