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Well, this is a surprise.

You'll have to excuse me; I haven't had visitors in so long.

Questions I'm Still Too Scared to Ask

A. Do you ever think about us?

B. Would you like to go out with me?

Maybe, I Tell Myself

1. Maybe he'll come around.

2. Maybe you'll meet someone better.

3. Maybe you need to wait for him.

4. Maybe you need to move on.

5. Maybe he'll never change.

6. Maybe you shouldn't stop hoping.

7. Maybe you're too intense.

8. Maybe you're not intense enough.

9. Maybe you need to try getting through to him again.

10. Maybe it's his turn to reach for you.

11. Maybe you need to change.

12. Maybe you need to accept the way you are.

13. Maybe you need to stop questioning yourself.

14. Maybe there's something you haven't considered.

15. Maybe he thinks it's too late.

16. Maybe it's too late.

17. Maybe you have to be patient.

18. Maybe you've waited long enough.

19. Maybe he thinks he's beyond help.

20. Maybe you can't help.

21. Maybe you wanted too much.

22. Maybe you deserved more.

23. Maybe you assumed too much.

24. Maybe you didn't take what was yours.

25. Maybe you really aren't his type.

26. Maybe you smothered him.

27. Maybe you weren't there for him.

28. Maybe you should have been content.

29. Maybe you would never have been content.

30. Maybe you need to go away.

31. Maybe you need to stick around.

32. Maybe he'll remember how it used to be.

33. Maybe he prefers things this way.

34. Maybe you're better off now.

35. Maybe it will never get better.

36. Maybe you should remember only the good things.

37. Maybe his faults will help you see how much worse it could have been.

38. Maybe you need to stop wallowing.

39. Maybe you need to get this all out of your system before you can feel functional again.

40. Maybe you should tell him how you feel.

41. Maybe that wouldn't change things.

42. Maybe that would make things worse.

43. Maybe he's too proud.

44. Maybe you're too proud.

45. Maybe he's moved on already.

46. Maybe you should leave him alone.

47. Maybe you need to be more persistent.

48. Maybe you need to sleep on it.

49. Maybe you need to seize the moment.

50. Maybe it will work out.

51. Maybe it's over.

52. Maybe it'll never be over.

The Archaeology Lesson

When they dig us up at reunion dinners and birthday parties, they will find the ruins of an unfinished temple, abandoned because its builder-priests had simply run out of time.

To be sure, there had been a deadline, though it had been pushed back and back by so many interruptions, until the priests simply agreed that they would finish in good time, eventually.

The diggers will climb the gentle staircase of the temple's foundation and note that early construction had been easy enough, with slabs of granite faith and the cement of ardent promises. There'll be the memories, too, painstakingly carved into the inner walls and preserved in glass jars, made airtight with fondness.

"Look here," they will say, "dirt and flaming petals from an old ledge, crumbs from a crispy catfish salad, pine needles from Sagada, a boarding pass to her hometown, a paper star."

Then, where the next walls went up, there will also be the first crack, hastily filled with panic's plaster.

"Here is where the morning priest had some sort of crisis, the kind that's notoriously difficult to avoid but always looks childish in hindsight. See the receipts from Butter Diner, and the keys to different houses across the city? She put off building to seal herself off in a room for 90 days, and the evening priest, annoyed by the delay, occupied himself with the blueprints of the treasury."

They will see that building resumed after the cloister was torn down, when the morning priest had heard silence without its walls as well as within. Its cracked stones form the base of the pillars, which might still have stood solid and majestic, eagles and lions carved into the basalt, if lightning hadn't struck one evening.

"Worn bandages, a broken crutch, an empty golden tin that once held methyl salicylate--and the story is here in this tear- or beer-stained scroll. The evening priest was abed for nearly a year, and building slowed to a near standstill."

Somehow, the foundations were strengthened, but nothing was to rise until the builders themselves were stronger. In the meantime, the morning priest made new blueprints of the city that would surround the temple: smooth streets for easy walking, simple houses that shared single courtyards, markets and barracks only as large as necessary, and parks larger still, for children and grandchildren who already had names.

"Here the movie ticket stubs mark the new year, and the evening priest vowed to continue their great work. Over the beautiful pillars, which they would finish first, he said there'd be a gilded roof to last for all time. But look, the limestone blocks never left the quarry. He'd received a regency, and crowns are heavier than hammers."

After dinner, they'll climb the steps, see the invisible pillars, and gaze from the dais over the trees that have grown where houses would have stood. They'll explore the niches, open the jars, and catalog everything carefully for display in their own faraway museums.

They won't know how we passed hammers to one another, admired our own handiwork--how I'd trace your eagles' wings with my fingers; how you'd caress my lions with your palms--and promised with tears in our eyes that this would be the greatest temple, a shining marvel to all the world. They'll see only the bones of the morning priest, sealed off in a stone room to die, clutching blueprints to its chest.

--
Cross-posted.

Who is the hero?

I dreamt that we could be in movies. We'd buy tickets and popcorn, enter the theater, and then be in the movie.

I was in a movie with four other friends (Martin was there), and the movie started out as a parody of epic movies but quickly became the real thing. We were a band of warriors helping a prince complete his quest, and I got to be the tough girl.

There were five monsters we had to kill. The first was in a prison, where the soldiers of the prince's own kingdom wouldn't let us go. They battled us and brought out a balrog-type monster to help them once the good red nuns and red knights were out of sight.

The second monster was waiting underneath an overhang, near the opening of a chamber where I think there was treasure. As we entered, we passed a screeching bird with the head of a woman on its shoulders. It looked harmless, but I had the feeling it was the monster. Sure enough, it attacked once we had all entered that dark and narrow chamber.

The harpy became another woman in armor, and she was beautiful (her head actually resembled the Sphinx in Subnormality) but still out to kill us. She did battle mainly with the prince, but it was i who found her weak spot, under her arm, and there I plunged my sword to the hilt.*

She looked at me a moment as though impressed, like I'd passed some sort of test, and then she stumbled back out of the chamber and (I think) she died.

We didn't take any treasure and almost immediately followed the harpy. In the bird's place on the natural stone table was an old woman. We had to walk past her in single file to return to the road. I led the way because I knew she was the harpy, and sure enough, she pulled out a shiny new butcher's knife.

I blocked her attack with my sword, and the others slipped past us to retrun to the road. The old woman didn't try to kill me, only pushed with her cleaver so she could lean close. She hissed at me something about fighting and love. She made me repeat it to her and, satisfied, she got off the stone table and joined us on the road.

(I'm kicking myself right now because I can't remember what she said. But I suppose my subconscious does, so I'll be okay.)

The harpy walked with us only a short way. Then she quietly took the other path when we reached a fork in the road.

Then we left the movie theater, happy with our achievement and eager to return for the other three monsters, but shaking inside form how actually life-threatening it was. Martin, tired, went to the concession stand for a large soda. Lemon-lime.

After that, I'm not sure if we went home and started a new movie there or went back inside the cinema.

It was supposed to be a children's movie with a similar theme. We were helping five toys prepare for an epic quest. As we were about to leave, the youngest toy, a little yellow potato-like ball named Weegle, disappeared into the house to get his favorite hats. I took the pirate hat to give to a tough little Lego girl, only the hat turned into a dead Lego pirate mummy that she sort of had to carry piggyback.

We set off on our quest--it wasn't the toys anymore, but us, and we rode in our choice of cool superhero vehicle. I had kind of a hog bike.

We ran into a bunch of black bikers in the desert, and they challenged us to a race (a deadly one, of course). They brought out their big cars and bikes, and something was wrong with the vehicles of the guys on our side. They wouldn't start, or they wouldn't go fast enough. I decided to try anyway and took off on my hog.

There was a slim chance I'd win, but I was having fun. Just as I started to speed up, though, I suddenly had no bike. I was walking down the white track, and there was a tall, black-as-night man walking with me. His bearing was noble, even if he was completely naked. Maybe because he was naked. We walked at a normal pace.

When we got to the cluster of bikers, they parted for us, and I knew that the black man was a prince and a god, maybe a lesser god, but still a god, and I was safe.

But not for long. The biker men couldn't do anything, but an older woman came out of a hut by the track and began performing a ritual that would capture me and the god. There were purple chalk circles on the track, and I knew if we both stepped in them, we were lost. The god walked on as though nothing was happening, even though I knew he knew perfectly well what was happening. It was me protecting him now. He got weaker with every spell, it seemed.

i did things to break the circles, I really had no idea, just did what came to mind. Picked up the cloth edges of the track to shake it and scatter the chalk. Stepped on or kicked purple flowers. At one point, I thought to mix dust into the chalk, and the elder woman wailed.

She got more desperate now. She cried out that she could give me shelter from the rain. For some reason, this made me cry. Scared, I ran to the god, and I curled up at his feet, and he covered me with his body and said the only thing he ever sad that whole walk, "Take shelter in the rain."

When the woman's magic passed over us, we continued on our walk along the track. I was weak now, but the god was weaker still and leaning on me for support. The elder woman, still following, must have been really desperate. "You must be hungry!" she cried. 'I have siopao. Do you want siomai rice?" Because this was really ridiculous, I gave her my snottiest "No!"

She followed us to the end, right up to the edge of our homebase. Up to this point, the men of either side had done nothing and had simply watched our progress along the track, because this was the way. Once the god and I stepped over the boundary line (really, a low cement line sticking out of the dirt) and onto our own damp soil, our warriors closed ranks around us and kept the woman out.

She continued to make her pleas, but I ignored her and lifted the god up against a crumbling rock the size and shape of a pyramid brick, or a tomb. A young man came to help and began wrapping the god up in fresh linen bandages. By then he was rotting and struggling to breathe; he would be dead before the young man finished. But it was okay, because we were with our own people.

The men were chanting something, three alien words, which were still booming in my head when I woke up.

In that fading phase where you can still feel the dream even though you're awake, I returned to the tomb rock at night. The god-prince was standing there in his bandages and a tricorner hat. I somehow felt that he was one of the monsters, but also that this part of the quest was past. He embraced me and then kissed me, and then the next moment it was morning and I had to take his body to the sea.

Later in the morning, while getting ready for work, I realized that it was actually the second time I've walked with this figure in my dreams and escaped those purple circles, but it wasn't such an elaborate, ritualistic even the first time, and I didn't see all this bandaging stuff.

Interpretations, anyone?

--
*This is only the second time I've ever dreamt that a strike had the force and effect I'd intended. The first was when I kicked that gangster in the balls. But that's another dream.

Cross-posted from
Blogger.

I've defected to Blogger.

But I still log in every now and then to read you guys. Anyways: http://asterozoa.blogspot.com. Let me know if you want me to link you. :)

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I hope I don't get fired for this.

This week, I found myself in that gray area between pleasing advertisers and sticking with the old journalistic principles that my job is supposed to have. I talked about this in an older entry on whether I should allow myself to accept gifts; you can click to read it if you like, but I'll quote the relevant part right here:

On Monday, I will interview someone from a real estate company for an advertorial to appear in this supplement. I will also write the lead article, and because I don't know many bigwigs in real estate (my uncle maybe, but tapping him as a source is an ethics issue, too), I might have to use quotes from the advertorial interview. In fact, the AM's e-mail to the real estate people tells them that the interview is for the lead article, too. This is not the first time he's told advertisers this.

I admire my SF editor for standing up for our immunity from advertisers' influence. She has always told us that we are not obligated to even mention the advertisers in our articles, we can only quote advertisers if they say something relevant to the topic, we are free to pursue whatever angles we want, and we must be balanced. Knowing that she has held this stand consistently (whenever a writer or AM says that an advertiser is complaining about their inclusion/non-inclusion in an article) gives me both confidence and motivation to be fair in my coverage. The ads may determine what I write about, but they don't determine what I write.
 

I think I spoke too soon.

I hope I don't get fired for this. In fact, to make sure I don't, I'll skip as many of the little details as I can, to forgo spilling too many of what may be confidential company practices (I don't really know; I'm still pretty new).

To please the advertiser, my account manager found a way to put them in the spotlight via the lead article without making it too obviously deliberate. I wrote about a third-party standard for which, of its entire field, only the advertiser was currently reaching. The topic was a certification process, and the advertiser's project became a kind of case study in my article. And to my surprise, the editor said that this approach was okay.

I don't have any hard feelings for the advertiser. They were very pleasant and helpful, the interviews were substantial and even enlightening, and I personally feel that this project of theirs deserves the attention, if only for their competitors to emulate it. In the end, I was happy to write the article. And I'm not saying that because they bought me lunch.

But then, this is just what our economics teachers mean by, "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

While they were fine with the editorial policy that I couldn't show them the article I was writing--and I was as balanced as I could possibly be--I did have to show them the advertorial I was also writing for them. And again, my account manager worked out a way for them to be happy.

But unlike writing the article, this advertorial business made me feel dirty. Why? Advertorials that SF writers produce always go through the editor. My AM was essentially working out a way for my writing to bypass her. While I liked the advertiser, I knew that ultimately, my loyalty should be to my editor. I'm an even bigger fan of her now because she stuck to her guns for the most part and protected me from having to do some of the backflips my AM requested on behalf of the client. But I'm a little shocked by how she seems to think nothing of this bypassing stuff despite being completely aware.

This experience has me even more confused about the nature of my job now. If what my AM did was okay and in fact common practice, then how much authority does my editor really have? What should I expect when I find myself in this gray area again? How far backward can a newspaper writer bend for the folks who essentially keep her section in business, without forgetting that she is still the newspaper's writer? 

(No) thank you.

 When I was in journalism class, my teacher cautioned us against accepting any kind of gift, as this might mar our journalistic integrity. Regardless of whether you actually allow sources to influence your editorial slant by giving you a gift, receiving a gift tells other journalists that you are open to compromise, and that will affect your image as a media practitioner. It's not just money, by the way. Reporters refuse food, drinks, loot bags, etc. at press conferences and other gatherings because they consider these gifts, too.

As a Special Features writer, however, I find that the lines are not so clear-cut. My writing is occasioned not by current events or exciting stories, but by advertising. People pay to place ads in our paper, and I write related articles to go around the ads. The account manager who secures the ad contracts, not an editor, sets the general topic or title. So, if a bunch of car companies are advertising in Special Features next week, I have to write a motoring article.

Often, my editor still sets the more specific topic--"The AM wants an SF on postpaid plans? Okay, you write about existing plans and their perks, you write about loyalty rewards, and you write about the best plans for executives and entrepreneurs." So, we churn out articles in the usual fashion, as one might articles for any other section of the paper. An SF supplement is more like a magazine than a regular newspaper in the sense that each "issue" has a unifying theme.

Occasionally, however, the AM has an especially narrow topic, and the advertisers are the same people who hold the expertise/experience that you need for your article.

Once, we had an SF on successful executives who were alumni of a particular school, printed in time for that school's foundation anniversary. I had to write a profile of the head of a manufacturing company. The catch was, the same company was advertising in the supplement. I went to the man's office to interview him, and he served me tea and gave me product samples on my way out the door.

As I walked away from the company premises to catch a jeepney to my next destination, it occured to me that to a reporter, the tea and product samples would constitute a gift. Did I just damage my journalistic integrity?

Well, I had accepted the tea and samples not just out of common politeness, but also out of the vague worry that a refusal might violate some social convention (my interviewee was Chinese). Second, I had also been assigned to write his company's advertorial, which would be about their various products, so the samples had something to do with what I was about to write. Third, maybe he was just being nice. During the interview, he was careful and guarded with his answers, but he was also honest. There was never a point at which I felt pressured to portray him a certain way.

In fact, I can say that about the nearly six months that I've been flashing this newspaper's employee ID. I can count the occasions in which I interviewed advertisers on one hand, and I never felt influenced by them when writing my articles. My fellow SF writers produce balanced pieces, too. But I can still see how an ethics issue might come about.

I've already explained to you the basic workings of Special Features. To make it clear, I am not a reporter; I am an SF writer. Reporters are under Editorial. Special Features is under Marketing. In effect, advertisers pay my salary. And one day, an advertiser might take this to mean that I should include them in my main article and put a halo over their heads.

For instance, we're about to come out with an SF on "Cosmopolitan Living." On Monday, I will interview someone from a real estate company for an advertorial to appear in this supplement. I will also write the lead article, and because I don't know many bigwigs in real estate (my uncle maybe, but tapping him as a source is an ethics issue, too), I might have to use quotes from the advertorial interview. In fact, the AM's e-mail to the real estate people tells them that the interview is for the lead article, too. This is not the first time he's told advertisers this.

I admire my SF editor for standing up for our immunity from advertisers' influence. She has always told us that we are not obligated to even mention the advertisers in our articles, we can only quote advertisers if they say something relevant to the topic, we are free to pursue whatever angles we want, and we must be balanced. Knowing that she has held this stand consistently (whenever a writer or AM says that an advertiser is complaining about their inclusion/non-inclusion in an article) gives me both confidence and motivation to be fair in my coverage. The ads may determine what I write about, but they don't determine what I write.

That said, it's my call when it comes to accepting so-called gifts. Free swag is sweet (that tea was some of the best I've ever had). It can even be relevant in the case of the advertorials we have to write every now and then (a pizza restaurant once hosted me in a food tasting because I was writing about their holiday menu). And sometimes, people are just being nice.

I know well enough to turn down anything that gives off a bribe vibe. What I want to know is, is all the other stuff okay? A fellow SF writer said, again, that it's my call.

What do you think? Does not being an official reporter exempt me from holding to the same no-gifts-whatsoever standards that some official reporters uphold? Will the fact that I'm in Marketing and not Editorial protect me from whatever image-tarnishing there may be in accepting a gift? What effect would accepting gifts as an SF writer have on my image if I were to become a reporter later on? What standards of journalistic integrity are expected of newspaper writers whose topics are determined by the ads?
I walked out to the ballpark to take some pictures of the yellow trees, and on the way down the street, the wind picked up. "Hello, mother," I said. It's funny, by that's who the wind felt like--not my biological mother, but a mother, and mine. And the way she blew at and around me made me laugh.

The afternoon sun made it feel so much like summer that I said, "Thank you," to no one in particular. The spirit of the place, I guess. And while walking toward the ballpark, I couldn't help but be filled with nostalgia. Everything seemed to have tendrils creeping out, reaching for me: the way to C street, the pine needles forming a new floor beneath the trees, the line of pitcher's mounds, the space in the backyard of our old house where my treehouse tree was supposed to be, etc. All these sights pulled at me.


On my way back up the main road, a breathy "This is my second-to-last day here" rushed through my mind. My heart began to beat faster, and I stopped at the crossroads the road formed with the street where I lived. No, no, no. Clear your head, I thought.

After a while, I walked on home, as if to ignore the voice. The wind picked up again, but I didn't feel it. Instead, I heard it at my back, calling me and calling me away from home. No, I thought. Please.

How can a place with so few people feel so much more alive than where I've spent the past year, and that much more dangerous? Why do I feel so betrayed?

--
As I punctuated the first question and began the next, the wind came briefly through the window as if to nag or intimidate me and jiggle my elbow. Then it drew back, and the room felt as though no wind had been there.

This is not the first time I've written about the weird wind in Kalsangi; one of these days, I should post that old essay.

Be quiet, Dory.

I couldn't help noticing at our high school reunion the other day that nearly everyone there had decided not to leave home. Most of those present had not gone farther than Davao for college. If they weren't pursuing further studies there now, they were putting down roots. Those who were nurses had applied to or were working at nearby hospitals. Those who had family businesses to sustain (and sustain them) were content. One of them, a longtime crush in high school whose family controls a huge chunk of the city, has such huge dreams for the place, you can almost hear Jay-Z and Alicia Keys singing "Empire State of Mind" in the background. He loves the place.

One thing about this guy, he can make it anywhere. He's got the resources, the looks, and the personality. Not a wonder that mousy me was attracted to him in high school; in a way, he was everything I wanted to be--popular, outgoing, and included, without losing what made him stand out. With what he's got, it doesn't matter what part of the world he chooses as his home; he'll be fine. He chooses GenSan.

It's not a bad place. The diminishing schools of tuna threaten the fishing industry that fueled most of its development, but it looks like GenSan is starting to diversify. In recent years, "civilization" as my mother likes to call it has come to town. Malls have gone up. Stores have renovated and updated their architecture and offerings. Restaurants of a type other than bar'n'grill have set up shop. The local college is now a university. If you lived here or around here, you'd have all the comforts of a bigger city, but little of the traffic, noise, pollution, and--my all-time hate--need to rush. There's no Starbucks yet, though.

Why leave home? my classmates ask--not me, just aloud. Everything you could possibly need is here.

Why indeed?

I usually tell people, I left home because my parents said I should. "There's nothing for you here," "Nothing will happen to you here," or "You'll end up like [an unmarried middle-aged lady in church]," were the usual reasons. The past year has shown me that I don't need to be in Manila to make a decent living--and when I say living, I mean the act, not the pay slip--and find happiness. But I highly doubt that the feeling would be so strong or so pronounced if I hadn't gone to Manila in the first place. This bothers me.

Parallel to this is the long-running story of my not belonging with my high school classmates. I resented them for excluding and at times bullying me when I was fresh from the States in grade school. This impression of them did not improve in high school when I couldn't find more than a handful of people who shared my interests and seemed to like me. Perhaps to make myself feel better about it, I looked down on those who couldn't match my intelligence, creativity, and perspective. If they truly did think of me as a snob and a geek, I probably gave them good reason.

The trouble with high school was, I was all for embracing nonconformity; it was just lonely, having no one else to embrace it with. I did have a barkada who have stuck by me till today, but in high school, I just wasn't content.

We're all supposed to have grown up now, but whenever my classmates invite me to hang out, I remember that feeling of not-belonging and don't want to go. "We're all supposed to have grown up now" is the reason I go anyway. And when I go, I still sit on the fringes of the conversation, quiet until I can throw in a short comment or until someone asks me something. At least it's no longer painful to be just on the fringes.

What becomes clearer and clearer to me is that I willfully put myself there. Somehow, I equated not being like them with not being with them, and that has taken its toll.

We held our little reunion at the Tans' resort in Gumasa, Glan, Sarangani. After taking us tubing, Van, the aforementioned former crush, had the speedboat drop us off with a raft a little way out to sea and let the current take us back to shore while we snorkelled. I knew as soon as we hit the water that we'd have to fight the current a bit to avoid hitting the rocks instead of the sand. I eventually took off my life jacket because keeping it on actually made it easier for the current to take me away; I just used it as a floater whenever my arms and legs got tired. Those of my classmates who stuck to the raft ended up on the rocks and needed the speedboat to rescue them. Those of us who swam away from the raft made it safely onto the shore.

Nobody seemed to want to go swimming again after that. Instead, they started taking pictures of themselves, posing by the rock wall and in the shallows. But I went back into the water, because I wanted to see the reef; I'd been too busy fighting the current to enjoy it the first time. And while I was frog-kicking over the coral--magnificently massive, if not very colorful--it occured to me that once again, I had set myself apart.

Swimming far out to the reef, into the deep water, instead of staying on the shore--some people would call that a metaphor for my life. Flying out to Manila instead of staying in Socsksargen, leaving the raft to fight the current in open water, diving into a new world instead of sticking with the safe and familiar, taking the bull by the horns and seizing the day and all that carpe diem shit--that makes me the more adventurous one, the one willing to take bigger risks, right? Does that make me better than my classmates?

Honestly, every time I came up for air and looked back at them on the shore with these thoughts in my head, I didn't know. I don't know. I don't know who took the bigger risk, at least as far as career is concerned--are employment opportunities harder to come by in Manila, with the whole world jostling for the slots, or in the province, where you don't even know whether the slots exist?--but it does feel like I took the bigger risk with regard to the rest of life in general. And it doesn't feel good. They all seem pretty settled, they're close to home and family, and they're living life at the pace I've craved since I left. I have no idea what's going to happen to me in the coming year. Why can't I just be like them?

I know that I never could be like them, because I didn't want to be like them. What I want to know is what keeps pulling me into the water. I know now that "My parents said I should" is no longer the reason I've stayed in Manila. If at any time in the past two years, I said, "I can't do this anymore. Let me come home," I would have been able to go home. But I stayed, because I wanted to prove, more to myself than to anyone else, really, that I could figure things out for myself.

I'm tired, though. I don't even know why I'm trying so hard anymore. I don't know what else there is to prove.

When you swim in the sea, you're supposed to know enough to keep the distance between you and the shore swimmable. If all you've got are your arms and legs and a borrowed pair of goggles, you're supposed to ignore the urge to see just how big the reef is and to see how far and deep you can go. You shouldn't let the powerful feeling that swimming like this is how flying must be take over, not when the current makes swimming back twice as hard as swimming away.

This feeling I've got, that I can't stay home even if I want to, is like an undertow.

In with the wind

I've done a lot of moving around in the past couple of months, so travelling here yesterday didn't feel as big a deal as it usually does. I walked into my room and felt completely blank. Tossed my stuff onto the bed and plugged my laptop in as if I'd always done that at the end of the day, in this house.

But maybe that's the sign I'm home--the blankness. I always feel a little sad when I go to my room at the boarding house at the end of a day in the city, or anxious, or a little angry. Here, it's as if everything is as it should be.

The only other place I feel that way these days is at Martin's house in Paranaque.

There are other, more prominent signs than a blankness, of course. In the car, Mikko pointed out that the last time our whole family was complete was at Christmas last year. "So, we haven't been together in a year," he said. Man.

Whenever I go to bed here for the first night back in Kalsangi, I feel a bit of dissonance. Just last night, I was sleeping in Ortigas/QC/Merville. Suddenly I'm here. My mind tries to recover, I think, after stepping so abruptly from one world into another. I didn't get that feeling last night--maybe it hasn't sunk in yet that I'm back, or maybe, like I said, it's because I've done so much moving around. But I got another sign and a little dissonance when I woke up and saw a childhood painting on the wall. The wind came into my room and opened the door--kind of freaky, if you don't remember physics for a moment and see an inward-opening door being pried open by wind from across the room.

Waking up and writing something first thing, that isn't strange; I do that in the city, too. But I'm hearing the footsteps of my dad going to the bathroom before he heads for work. I'm smelling a hint of whatever is on the breakfast table today. I'm a little afraid to look out my window and see the view I've always had from my bedroom.

Holy shit, the last time I slept in my own bed was in February.

Okay, it's coming down on me now. Dad, breakfast tables, unkempt bougainvillea, sitting on my bed in my effing room. I think my mind's chosen to take it piece by piece, rather than hitting me with it all at once. Slowly, slowly, I'm coming home.

--
It's Christmas Eve here. Merry Christmas to you and yours. :)