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IKY

Nov. 6th, 2011 | 02:09 pm

I’ve been thinking about my uncle recently. It’s been 10 years since he passed away. I stop to think about that for a second. Has it really been a decade? 2001-2005 marked a period of my life where I lost two people who were very important to me. Lately, I’ve been getting a few random reminders that make me think about my uncle; random text messages and conversations.  A month ago, our family took a trip to los pines and over dinner, we take a sentimental trip down our family history that eventually brings us to talk about our “Tito”. My mom speaks of him with fondness, how nice and how sweet he was.

A week after, my cousin and another friend of mine ask me about the watch I’m wearing. They ask me how I got it and out of curiosity, how much it is. They don’t necessarily believe me until one of them finally “googles” it. I tell them that it’s an heirloom and how my uncle was obsessed with watches and how it was given to my dad when my uncle passed away; and how it was the last watch my dad wore before it ended up on my wrist. So I tell them the story of my uncle Iky, a story I haven’t really told anyone in the last few years.

I realize that in the last few years, I haven’t really thought about my uncle as much as I probably should have. I feel a sense of guilt in saying this. Maybe it’s just the passing of time but regardless of the years that have passed, I don’t forget my memories. I can still draw them vividly like it was yesterday. I remember how my uncle took care of me and my brother during one of the harder times in our lives. I remember how he took us to the movies every Sunday in Shang-rila Plaza. I remember how we often he took us out to eat.  I remember how he would drop us off to school every day (and how he would leave me sometimes if I wasn’t ready).

I remember how critical my uncle was with the way I dressed, spoke, and wrote, how I shouldn’t be wearing socks with my Birkenstock sandals, or how I should stop mumbling when I spoke, or how none of my text messages ever made sense to him. I remember how he told me that all the baggy clothes I thought were cool to wear would be decisions I would later regret. I remember how he would comically intimidate the friends of my brother who would come over.  I remember how he taught me how to fight, how he bought me a punching bag, and how he once told me that when someone talks shit to you, the appropriate response would be to punch them in the face.

I remember how my uncle, my dad I would go out late at night looking for some “penoy”, or some random street cafeteria, or some Burger Machine. I remember how he would embarrass me when he saw porn in the vcr (which he would later watch). I remember our countless conversations going home. I remember his infectious high pitched laugh. I remember that on the last day I was with him, he brought me home a cheeseburger from McDonalds. I remember how much I loved him.

I don’t really know why I find myself writing about him tonight. I think it might be because of these random reminders I am getting, or how some of my friends have recently lost loved ones…. or maybe it’s because I’m realizing how big of a role my uncle played in making me the person I am today. My uncle thought me how to be thoughtful, sweet, and sensitive to other peoples’ feelings. He taught me how to laugh like you don’t care, how to be respectful, and how to enjoy life.

We share a lot of the same traits, characteristics, idiosyncrasies, and frustrations. I find that his actions are echoed through my own and his image is part of my own image. If by some cosmic reason, he happens to read this, I want him to know that I remember the lessons he taught me, that I wear his name on my sleeve, that I remember him every time I look at my wrist, and that I most certainly don’t forget how much he made me who I am today .

Listening to Pink Floyd - Wish you Were Here



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Masks

Nov. 6th, 2011 | 02:05 pm

I’m slowly realizing that people wear some sort of mask these days. I obviously mean this in a figurative sense but the observation leads me to wonder when people stopped saying what’s on their mind or how they really feel (inebriated states and liquid courage notwithstanding).

When did we develop this idea that being honest is a quality that turns people off? Instead, we chose to hide behind jokes and subtle hints thinking that people in the last decade have somehow developed mindreading or telepathy.  I see this most in dating, which for the time being, I have temporarily suspended and moved to my queue of things not to do. It just feels like dating has gotten more complicated these days. Even if you don’t want to play silly games, you end up doing them anyway; mostly out of necessity.  Who came up with these unwritten rules? The “if you like someone, you can’t show them you like them too much rule,” or the “you should never be too readily available for them just to make them think” rule, etcetera…etcetera... And aside from the occasional exemption to the norm (I.e. genuinely nice girls) you pretty much have to play the game in order to get in (no pun intended)

I like mystery as much as the next guy but I definitely find honesty, and a mutual feeling of attraction more attractive than some created mask made to project some illusion of mystery.  It makes me wonder how much you really get to know a person sometimes and whether or not  you are infatuated with the image they have built, and not the actual person themselves.

I don’t know if other people share the same frustration as I do but in general, I’m just wondering why communication has gotten so tainted and jaded… Why people chose to hide their honesty behind the games they play and the words they don’t say. Does it really take a bottle of alcohol to digest or a moment of vulnerability/sadness to say what we really want to say 

It seems like people will go through lengths to not say how they simply feel… but honestly, despite this tangent or these current feelings of cynicism, all it really takes for me to change my current perspective is to meet someone who shares the same intolerance for the aforementioned bull shit. Other people can hide behind their masks all they want, but that doesnt mean everyone else has to.


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Elements of Impatience and Shades of the Superficial

Jul. 13th, 2011 | 02:02 pm

Forgive me for generalizing but it seems like these days, we belong to a fastfood culture that is not only obsessed in instant gratification, but is fixated in everything easy. We pull out our phone and we can Google virtually anything that comes to mind, communicate with anyone in a second, find any song on youtube, take a picture, upload it on facebook, play with some angry birds, and tell our phone to guide us home.  Do we appreciate this? maybe, when we think about it. Most days? Probably not.

So what does all this convenience and instant access do for us? It makes us complain more… omg omg fml fml fml <insert stupid="" reason="" here="">. It probably makes us a little unappreciative of what we have; and probably a lot more impatient than our predecessors. Maybe it even makes us superficial. We see something and judge something solely based on its appearance rather than bothering to find out whats underneath it. We want everything in an instant with the least amount of effort possible. Instead of having a conversation in person, we choose to communicate on fb, ims, sms, or any other acronyms…yet we expect everything to fall in place for us, just like storybook endings and television scripts. We imagine our friendships to be the same as sitcoms on televisions and our relationships to be the same as some romantic comedy our significant other made us watch. We want perfection microwave ready instead of actually trying to develop it and work for it ourselves. So what happens when we don’t get what we want? We give up. We perceive failure or rejection and see finality; less effort and more ease. We forget that life isn’t as easy as just googling it.</insert>

But I guess I should stop generalizing everything and end this on a more personal note. The aforementioned generalizations are more of observations rather than judgments because I myself do the same things. I can be impatient. I can be superficial, and I sure as hell cant be exempted from wanting to have things easy. I’m a product of my environment and a creature of habit… but lately, Im slowly realizing that these qualities and tendencies are something I can still change.  There’s more to life than its aesthetics or seeing things on its surface level.  I just need to remind myself to appreciate the small things, to actually get to know a person on a deeper level, and understand that I can’t crave instant perfection, but I can at least develop something close to it by seeing things in a less superficial and much clearer perspective.


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The Fictional Journal of Johnny Santos - Chapter 4

Nov. 8th, 2010 | 01:56 am


My name is Johnny Santos and last week was the first time I’ve seen my father in over a year. My father was admitted to rehab over a year ago and aside from this week, the last time I’ve spent time with him was the Christmas before last.

Everything seemed to be fine that Christmas. We had our Christmas dinner at my Uncle Peter’s house. My dad shortly left after midnight and my uncle offered to take me in for the night. The next day, my uncle offers to treat me for breakfast at the country club across our apartment.  As soon as finish ordering food, my uncle’s pleasant expression shifts to a more serious one. He tells me, “you know your father has a problem right?” I simply answer, “Yes Tito.”

He continues to tell me how strange my father was acting at the dinner last night and how his friends all tell him how often they see my dad in the Casinos. My initial reaction is to defend my dad but that gut feeling inside of me knows my uncle is probably right.

Our food finally arrives and my uncle informs me that my dad’s best friend and my god mother will join us shortly. He doesn’t say why, but his tone sounds ominous. The food smells great but my appetite suddenly escapes me.

Our two guests finally arrive and after the “how are you’s?” and the pleasantries, my godmother comes out with it quickly. “Johnny, we need to get your dad into a rehab clinic… today.”

These fucking drugs, the fucking gambling, they’ve been things I’ve had to worry about for the better part of the last decade. We talk about the situation for hours and I know they’re right as well. This has to be done. It’s only gotten worse after my uncle E passed away. He’s only been gone for few months and my father has gone through most of the money that was left to him. Most nights, he doesn’t even come home till daybreak.

I talk to my godmother one last time to tell her how I know my father is, I know he’s going to fight back if someone tries to take him in. She reassures me things will be fine and tells me that this is the reason she’s here. As soon as I give them the keys to the apartment, she’ll be one of the first people my father will see. I run out of objections and before the clock strikes 6, I sign the papers of consent to admit my father into rehab along with my other uncle’s signature.

As soon as I come back to my uncle’s house, my 3rd home in the last two years, I reflect on how sad this is. It’s the day after Christmas and I have no idea when I’ll see my father again. I think about how he’ll be spending New Year’s and the following holidays and some foreign place with no family or friends around him and I feel a sickening feeling in my gut. I wasn’t even able to say goodbye or greet him merry Christmas one last time

 A couple of years ago, I was living with my uncle E, my father, and my brother, and now, none of them are with me on possibly the shitiest dec. 26th I’ve ever had. My uncle took his life, my brother is now in the States, and I just agreed to admit my father into rehab a day after Christmas. I feel completely alone for the first time in my life.

Fast forward to last week, it’s been more than a year and my father is now allowed to have visitors. I will be his first visitor. I didn’t exactly know how I was going to feel seeing him again. My uncle’s house is one of stability and I’ve gotten used to not having to worry about the drugs, the gambling, and all the other problems those two things come with. It’s hard living with people who aren’t part of your first family but they’ve done their best to make me feel welcome. I will be honest; it’s nice for a teenager to not have to worry about the things he shouldn’t be worrying about. I feel indifferent towards this visit. I feel numb

The rehab center is an hour away and I try to block any emotional thoughts for the duration of the ride. I sit quietly and listen to my Discman. I go through album after album not really listening to the music or they lyrics.

Once we get to the center, a security guard greets us and checks to see if my name is on the list of visitors today. The guard sees my name and tells me how my father always talks about me and how glad he is to see him get his first visitor. He leads me to one of the rooms which is occupied by a couple of counselors. Apparently, my visit will be monitored and observed by the staff.

After a few minutes of waiting, my father finally walks in. He’s grown his hair longer and he seems to have gained some weight, but he doesn’t seem to have that tired haggard look he’s had these last few years. He smiles at me and seeing him, I suddenly feel a wave of affection for the man standing in front of me. I’m unprepared for it and I realize that despite my indifference, and despite some cynical thoughts about him this last year, I do truly miss my father.

I grew up having many heroes. I used to watch videos of Muhammad Ali and think about how he was the GOAT (greatest of all time). I watched his airness, MJ, dominate games and do things people have never seen done in the hardwood court. I remember watching countless Bruce Lee films and documentaries that inspired me to get into martial arts. I remember idolizing the excellence of execution, Bret Hart, and despising the show stopper, Shawn Michaels… But before I looked up to any of them, the first hero I ever had growing up was my dad. I idolized the man. He started his own business which flourished, and become one of the pioneers of bars and discos for manila’s night life.

All my life, people will tell me stories of his past success, his glory days, and random anecdotes about my dad. My uncle E used to love telling me stories of how he smashed a pot on the head of one of his customers for harassing one of his waitresses, and how he beat up a security guard who abrassively disrespected my aunt. I was strangely proud of these stories.

Despite what some people may say about him now, in his sobriety, my dad is one of the most charming, and genuine people you will meet. His good nature seems to be contagious and he seems to always lighten the mood as soon as he steps into a room. He’s quick witted, extremely affable, but also maintains the playful humor of a ten year old. Anytime anyone ever says a remind them of my dad, I immediately take it as a compliment

My dad’s generosity and thoughtfulness became a major influence in my life. Anytime ever compliments me for giving them a thoughtful gift, I credit it to my dad because in spite of the alpha male exterior, my old man was one of the sweetest and most thoughtful people I have ever known.

For my 8th birthday, my father arranged my first date. During that year, I developed a crush on one of the Pinay celebrities who hosted this late night variety show. My father knew this and on my birthday, he arranged for her to meet me at my favorite restaurant, McDonalds, as my date. I was eight and this night is still vivid in my memory. That actress was gorgeous and surprisingly sweet. I look back at this now and wonder why a Famous local actress would even bother spending time with an 8-year old kid in some unhealthy fast food joint. But then I remember how my dad used to always do things like this for me when I was younger, and in my eyes, he was capable of doing anything for anyone.

 

Today, I’m finally able to spend the day with my dad outside of the rehab center. We decide to go to the mall nearest the center. We are accompanied by one of his “big brothers” who is another patient that’s supposed to keep tabs on him. Luckily, my father has befriended him and as a favor to my dad, his “big brother” leaves us alone for the most part.

We start the day by using our per diem to grab some sushi and a couple of bento boxes at a small Japanese restaurant. I can tell he misses Japanese food because he practically inhales the miso soup, the tempura, and the sushi.

We pass by an AMC pool hall and I ask him if he’d like to play a few games. “I haven’t played in years but I’d be glad to teach you a listen in pool,” He says.  I smirk and find us a table. Rather than studying, I’ve invested a lot of time in playing this damn game this school year so I’m pretty confident that I’m about to whoop my dad’s ass in nine-ball. I have a better and more consistent shot, and I use ball English much better than he does. However, as the game progresses, my dad constantly surprises me. He’s much better at straight shots and bank shots and unfortunately, he’s much better at getting into an opponent’s head.

Throughout the games, I hear things like “it’s much different when you aren’t playing by yourself isn’t it?” “Are the sweaty palms you got from your mom bothering you? Cause your missing pretty badly.” “Who taught you how to make that shot? Terrible…I know it wasn’t me who taught you that.” “Go ahead, make your shots, clean up the table… you know that nine-ball has my name on it anyway.”

 I have a shot at the nine-ball at almost every game but I manage to choke and short-arm my shot almost every time. Final score is 7-2. My dad just schooled his son.

I am slightly irritated about losing to my dad and playing terribly. I blame all the MSG that was floating in my head after lunch. After we finish paying, we step outside because he wants to smoke a cigarette. I’m still slightly annoyed about losing and I want to light one up myself but my dad has no idea I picked up the habit a year ago. As he lights his cigarette, my face frowns. He looks at me and figures it’s a look of disgust, but really, it’s a look of desire. I wanna smoke a freaking cigarette.

I excuse myself to find the restroom and once I find myself out of plain sight, I light a Lucky Strike cigarette and take as many puffs as I can in two minutes. However, there is a slight miscalculation in my plan. I actually can’t find a bathroom to wash my hands and remove the odor of smoke.

 I’ve been gone for awhile and I have no other choice but to go back and pray that my dad has a sinus problem momentarily.

I walk nervously back to him and at first, he doesn’t seem to notice anything, but as we walk, he starts sniffing and looks at me, “did you just smoke??”

Before I answer, he quickly and playfully smacks me in the back of my head. There is an awkward pause for a few seconds, and then my dad reaches into his pocket, pulls out his pack of Marlboro lights, and offers me one.

There seems to be a new found openness to my conversations with my dad today. He talks to me like an adult and I feel comfortable talking to him as more than a son now. My girlfriend, Kathryn has been texting me all day and checking up on me and asking me how it’s going. He notices my frequency on the phone and starts to ask me about her. I answer his questions, tell her how we meet a couple of months ago, describe her, and tell him that he’d probably love her once he meets her. As we have this conversation, a store right across us keeps on distracting my train of thought. It’s a piercing/tattoo parlor.

There are two things my dad despises… piercings and tattoos. I take advantage of this new found openness to our relationship and ask him if he’d have a problem if I had my ears pierced. He remains silent for what seems to be a long minute, and finally says, “You’re old enough to do what you want.”

I’m pretty sure my uncle Peter will object to this but luckily for me, my father has parental veto over this matter. I finally get my left ear pierced with a silver stud and my dad laughs at how ridiculous he says it looks on me.

The rest of the day is spent grabbing some food and dessert at the food court, watching movies, and smoking cigarettes every time we finish doing something. We watch Underworld (Kate Bekinsale à Damn) and the Hulk. My dad snoozes throughout the Hulk. The more I converse with my dad today, the more I see how he seems to be reverting back to his easy going manner and his playful disposition. I feel a pang of regret that my brother, who hasn’t spoken to him in years, and my sister, who barely knows him, can’t see him like this; sober, genial, optimistic, and good company

The next thing I know its 8pm and my time with my dad is finally over. I recollect on the events of today. My ear is pierced. I can finally smoke cigarettes with my father without any fear, and I finally get to spend time with the person underneath all the harmful addictions. All in all, I’d say I just had a really good day.

My name is Johnny Santos and today marks the day that things finally seem to be going in the right direction for me. My father seems to be back on the right track, I have a girlfriend who I am very much in love with, and maybe soon, I can move back in with my father and I can help him get his life back.

Today, I remembered how my first hero was. I remembered why my father really is, and I remembered how big of a sucker I am for comebacks.  Tonight, I sleep hopeful for the first time in years.

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The Fictional Journal of Johnny Santos - Chapter Three

Oct. 27th, 2010 | 02:31 am


My name is Johnny Santos and today is my first day in Texas. I am officially a permanent resident of the United States; a holder of a green card (which is unexplainably white).

 

As I come down the escalator to baggage claim, I think I see someone who I think is my sister, Joyce. Aside from pictures my mom has sent, I haven’t seen my sister in almost a decade.  We make eye contact and her face lights up. Yep… I think that’s thats my sister

 

She comes towards me and gives me a big hug. Beside her is a guy with long brown hair. He has it styled in that “Little Nicky” way but in a relatively cooler way. His ears are pierced with big black gauges. I am assuming that this is my cousin Christian. He looks at me and says, “What's up cuz?? I cant believe youre finally here.” He has no Filipino accent whatsoever and by the way he speaks and dresses, you can tell that he was definitely raised here.

 

As we are all walking, my cousin pulls me back and asks me a questionI have been asked numerous times in my life, “Are you stoned?”  I reply, “No man! How would I have possibly gotten stoned? I just came from two airports!” I’ve always had sleepy eyes but I realize that my eyes are probably deeper, tired, and slightly swollen from all the tearful goodbyes in the Manila airport. Jeez, my family is going to see me and think I’m a pothead.

 

Before we get to the car, my cousin pulls out a cigarette and we share a cigarette for the first time. He looks at my hair and refers to it as a “butt cut.” I ask him what a butt cut is. He explains it by saying it’s when your hair is cut and parted in the middle. My hair is parted slightly to the side…I guess that makes it a semi butt cut. I’ve never heard of the term before which makes me wonder if I should get my hair cut pretty soon.

 

Joyce is already ranting and complaining about how disgusting and unhealthy cigarettes are but me and Christian just laugh and continue to have a conversation about how girls are in each of our respective countries. I already feel closer to both of them and I’ve only been here for a span of five minutes.

 

As we get inside the car, I ask my sister if we could listen to one of my cds, Nirvana’s Never Mind. She says yes and I sit quietly in the backseat and try to observe the scenery around me. Two things immediately stick out about my new home. 1. There is A LOT of land in Texas. 2. There’s a lot more trees… A LOT of fucking trees actually. I try to remain quiet for the rest of the trip but being quiet only makes me think of Andrea. I try to district myself by listening to my cousin and sister bicker. 

Listening to my cousin and sister, I notice that Christian is overly critical towards my sister. He scrutinizes her on her wide turns and her sudden stops. They argue and bicker for most of the ride and I realize that dysfunctional relationships naturally run in our family.

 

We stop by a gas station and Christian continues to make fun of my sister because she can’t seem to fill up her tank. I think about this and I think about how I have never filled up my own gas tank in my entire life. There are “gas boys” in all gas stations in Manila and I have never once bothered or even given the oppurtunity to fill up my own gas tank. I think about how idiotic I will look doing this for the first time. I really don’t want to look like I am fresh off the boat so I quietly observe how my sister is filling her tank in hopes that I will remember how to do the exact same thing when I need to do it myself

 

I’m hungry from the long flight so I ask my sister if we can stop by for some fast food before we have dinner. Christian asks me if I’ve ever eaten in Jack in the Box. I say no. He grins and directs my sister to the nearest Jack in The Box.

 

One of my favorite things in life is fast food... with all its preservatives, high cholesterol, and high fructose corn syrup. It is the epitome of a guilty pleasure. As we enter, I see the large menu and I feel my heart skip a beat. I order a Jumbo Jack with cheese, a side order of tacos, large curly fries, and a large Nestle Crunch milkshake. After I finish, I think I actually feel my heart stop for a split second.

 

I finally arrive at my new home. Our home is a bungalow. Its brown, has a garden, a back yard, and has a very cozy and homey feeling to it. I see my mom and my brother by the living room.

 

The last time I saw them was two years ago when they came to visit. knowing I was going to see them again was one of the only things that comforted me about leaving Manila.

 

My brother’s hair is a lot shorter than it was last time I saw him. When we talk, nothing ever seems to change. I start talking to him and it just seems like we spoke yesterday. My brother, Jean, is insanely smart; the type of person who gets straights A’s with minimum effort. He’s witty, sarcastic, and at times, a bit of a condescending snob, but in a good way. He is also gay… something that I only discovered a year after he left the Philippines.

 

This is how my exactly how my brother comes out to me. “Hey bro, remember how I was telling you I was seeing this girl named Chrissie? Well her names not Chrissie, its Chris.” A long and awkward pause follows that statement. This fact does not bother me though. It doesn’t change anything. My brother is still the exact same person I grew up with and his humor doesn’t seem to have missed a beat.

 

Jean – So how was the flight lil bro?

Me – It was ok, mostly spent it reading a book and listened to my Discman

Jean – You still have a Discman?? Ghe-toooo… buy a freaking iPod Johnny. Weren’t you embarrassed carrying the thing around?

Me – …. thanks Kuya, I love you too.

 

He smiles and gives me a brotherly hug. I see my mom and she seems like she’s crying as she watched me and my brother greet each other. This is the first time in ten years that I, my sister, my brother, and my mom have been all together. Even my cousin points out that my mom has been waiting for this moment for such a long time now. I give her a kiss and pinch the baby fat of her side. “Johnny boy!!! Do not do that!” She says. You can still hear my mom’s Filipino accent when she speaks…. Which is adoringly cute when it comes from her.

 

My mom is the sweetest and one of the strongest people I know. She grew up as a spoiled kid with multiple maids and parties at yachts, but a series of unfortunate events lead her to move to the United States with my baby sister. She moved her with nothing, not even the knowledge of how to wash her own clothes.  I think about all of this and seeing my mom doing well for herself now, I feel a sense of pride and decide to give her another kiss on the cheek.

 

After our first family dinner, my cousin comes back to the house and asks me if I want to play some pool. I should be tired. I should get some rest but back home, its only 11 AM and I am still wide awake at midnight here. I ride in my cousin’s car and I can tell that he’s seen Fast and The Furious way too many times. His car has one of those loud mufflers, seatbelts made for racing, a sporty rearview mirror, and a touch screen sound system that seem way too expensive for his older car. Surprisingly, out of all of this, I notice my cousin does not have an AC in his car. How does someone spend all this money on all these things and not buy a fucking AC unit? My cousin is a funny guy.

 

We get to the bar and unlike everything my brother has told me about how our place does not feed into the stereotype of Texas, this bar actually seems the epitome of Texas.  There are long bull horns on the wall, they are playing country music, and a lot of Texas memorabilia is plastered all over the place. We are the only Asians at the bar and part of me feels like I am about to get shot.

 

Surprisingly, Everyone I meet is friendly. I come over to the bar and order a bud light from the bartender. This is the only American beer I know of so I assume it’s a safe bet. The bartender is wearing a really low top and she does not seem to care that her boobs are almost hanging out of her shirt as she bends over to get my beer. I am unintentionally staring at her chest, distracted by it but unable to look away. She does not seem to mind this at all. Her gigantic boobs look like they are trying to rip their way out of her shirt. Me thinks Texas isn’t so bad after all.

 

They start playing alternative rock music and I am starting to enjoy myself as me and my cousin switch from playing pool to foosball and vice versa. I’ve cut way too many classes and played way too much pool back home to lose to my cousin or any of his friends in pool. I do however discover that I am a terrible foosball player.

 

As we are about to leave, a song by Vertical Horizon, plays in the background. The song is “Best I’ve ever had.”  I don’t handle my alcohol well so at this point, I am slightly tipsy and I listen to the lyrics of the song, and the song depresses me. I don’t even like Vertical Horizon! The lyrics are a bit on the cheesy side, and it’s just not my sound but at this moment, the words of the song stab me like a dagger. I miss Andrea. Seeing my family has managed to distract me to this point but once I think about her again, I feel a wave of melancholy hit me.

 

The ride back home is sealed with silence. The first thing I do when I get home is grab my sister’s laptop and e-mail Andrea. I told her I would as soon as I got her but I purposely delayed doing so because I honestly don’t know if it’s a good idea for us to still talk. We never talked about doing a long distance relationship and I don’t know if writing letters or e-mails is gonna make anything better. I give in and start composing my e-mail. I don’t really know what to say so I describe my day the same way I described it in this journal. I tell her I miss her and to please take care of herself.

 

I wake up in the middle of the night. I can’t go back to sleep so I go to the bathroom and wash my face. I stare at my face in the mirror and realize that I am no longer back in the Philippines. Philippines is no longer home to me. This is my new home and every time I fall asleep and every time I wake up, I will realize that I am a thousand miles away from Manila. My situation still feels unreal to me.

 

I check my inbox and I see that Andrea has already replied. 

 

From: Andrea05@yahoo,com

To: Johnny_santos@yahoo.com

 

I swear, the minute I open my eyes, I cry coz I cant believe you're not here.. I go about my day doing whatever just to keep myself busy. Sometimes I check my phone or something waiting for the plans.. I keep forgetting that you're not here anymore.. There aren't any movie dates, no poker and idle time with your friends… I really miss you…

 

We all miss you.. Take care and be good..

 

I love you still… Very much so

Your Quas.

Her e-mail breaks my heart.

 

My name is Johnny Santos. I am writing this because I can’t sleep and because I can’t stop thinking. Today, I am home but it doesn’t feel like home… because half of me is here and the other half is still thousands of miles away.


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The Fictional Journal of Johnny Santos - Chapter Two

Oct. 20th, 2010 | 11:07 am

April 10, 2006 (Manila/Houston)

 

Listening to “Bluest Light” by Bloc Party

I just came from the airport. My name is Johnny Santos and today is the first day of the rest of my life, because as of today, I am officially an immigrant….

My day started like any other day. I woke up groggy, I pressed my snooze button several times, and I laid in bed half conscious for several more minutes while the bits and pieces of my dreams drifted away. I finally collect my thoughts and realize that today is not any ordinary day. Today I leave behind everything I have ever known in my life; I leave my friends, my relatives, my girlfriend, my city, my home, and the country I love very dearly. I feel the tears that are wrestling in the back of my eyes as I finally get up for breakfast. Before I leave my room, my phone starts to ring and I see my ex’s name on the screen.

Kathryn – Hey Johnnyl, Im outside your house, can you come outside?

I completely forgot about Kathryn dropping by today. I’m wearing my torn up white wife beater that everyone here detests and I think about changing, but I remember Kathryn telling me she cant stay long. I go outside the house and hope that Kathryn won’t remember me this way; torn up wife beater, hair all sticking up, and generally looking like shit

Kathryn’s wearing her typical solid tee. She’s also wearing a headband which I’m still not used to. This conversation seems weird to me for several reasons. Mainly, it seems weird to me because I’m surprised it’s even happening. But that’s the great thing about being friends before getting into a relationship, if the relationship doesn’t work out, there’s still a small possibility of reverting back into friends; in this case, good friends. She tells me how she used to dread this day when we were still dating and how much things have changed for the both of us in matter of seven months. I gave her a long hug and we say our final goodbyes. I have no idea when I’ll ever see Kathryn again.

My sweet aunt planned the menu for my breakfast and lunch today. She wanted to give me one last taste of traditional pinoy food. My meal for breakfast today is sirloin tapa with a sunny side up egg and some fried garlic rice. I am sad, depressed, stressed out, but nothing will stop me from devouring my last Filipino Meal. I eat with authority and quickness and quickly go out to smoke a cigarette and have some coffee… breakfast of champs.

As I smoke by the terrace, I see my friend Seth’s car pull up to the driveway. Seth is accompanied by my other good friend Mamoo. The last time I saw both of them was the other night, a night filled with alcohol, drunkenness, tears, and a memorable poker game.

Seth – How you feeling bro?
Me - …feeling steady.
Seth – you ready for this?
Me- fuck no I’m not, I’m anxious, I feel like I forgot to pack all my underwear, and I don’t know how to act when I see Andrea.
Seth (strained look) – Just hold her hand man.
Me - … You know you make a lot more sense when you’re not drunk

We’re at the living room and the door bell rings, Andrea’s here. She says hi to my aunt and she gives me a hug and a kiss. I notice her eyes are slightly puffy but she turns away quickly. They are all here to see me off but the moment I saw her face and her puffy eyes, the idea of seeing me off suddenly seems like a bad idea.

I get around to saying my goodbyes to my aunt. She told me last night that she did not want to see me off because she did not want to cry. I hug her and begin to thank her for everything she’s done for me but she is already starting to tear up. If my aunt is tearing up now, I can only imagine how this is gonna turn out when Andrea drops me off at the airport. Again, having my girlfriend and friends see my off is quickly becoming the worst idea ever.

I look for my uncle’s dog, a golden retriever named Chester. Chester is my favorite dog in the whole world. It sounds childish to say something like that but there isn’t anything to not love about Chester. He doesn’t bark, he cries the moment he sees you after a long vacation, he always comes up to you to be pet, and he spends half the day laying down and sleeping. He does have a tendency to steal your dirty underwear and occasionally sleep in your bed, but those are just things that make him Chester the dog. I reach down and give him a hug… He has no idea that he will no longer see me at this house again.

We get in Seth’s white gallant and start our drive to the airport. I’ve ridden in this car so many times it only seems appropriate that it will be the car that takes me to the airport. However, this time around, there isn’t much chatting or joking around. I think about my current situation and how this all came about. I wasn’t supposed to leave anyone when I migrated to the States. There was no way I was going to break someone’s heart and break my own by leaving someone behind, but I met Andrea and she basically charmed me off my fucking feet. She was witty, smart, and a great conversationalist. She read books furiously and listened to the same music I did. She went out a lot and liked to enjoy herself (sometimes too much) but like me, she was a closet dork too. I don’t know why either of us kept on seeing each other. She just came off a very long and unstable relationship and I only had five months left before leaving. I didn’t trust her, but she didn’t trust me either, and both of us knew what each other were capable of; which is probably why we were on our best behavior these last few months 

Andrea's the most endearing girl I’ve met so far and despite the sadness of seeing her for the last time, I can’t find it in myself to regret the last five months. Andrea’s always had a great knack of making stupid jokes in awkward moments to lighten the mood but this time around, she remains quiet. When I wasn’t on the phone saying goodbye to someone, she was mostly laying her head on my shoulder. Occasionally, we would kiss silently, both set of eyes slightly tearful. I feel bad for Edgar who is sitting beside us but right now, I’m sure he understands that this isn’t some type of drunken make out session, its pretty much a goodbye and an end to our "quasi" relationship. We haven’t talked about it, but we both know it is.

We finally arrive at the airport and we look for a place to park. I don’t want them to just drop me off and have one of the rude airport personnel rush them to leave before we say our goodbyes.

The last time I was here, I saw Pete off and I remember that there was a small café by the entrance where we could hang around and smoke cigarettes, but I don’t think I am in the same terminal. It looks different and as we park, something doesn’t seem right. We start walking toward the gate that leads to the Airport entrance but I notice that there’s a crowd around the gate and as we get closer, I notice that they are not letting any visitors in. The guy checking I.D’s looks at me and quickly says, “Sorry, passengers only.”

Fuck. I step aside from the line and look at my friends and Andrea. Seth gives me a fist bump and a long hug. In typical Edgar fashion, Edgar gives me a quick and awkward hug. I look at Andrea and she has her eyes towards her feet. I pull her toward me and give her a very tight and long hug. I imagined this a dozen times but in my dreams, I imagined it to be this long passionate last kiss, but there are so many people around. It feels like I’m in some B-movie about to give a cheesy kiss where the camera is circling around the two people kissing. She tells me she loves me and she tells me to please be safe, I give her a soft and lingering kiss before I say my goodbye. I finally head towards the gate and force myself to not look back. I am also doing my best to hold the tears back.

I check in my luggage and my damn balikbayan box, go through security and all the typical procedures, and finally see my eldest cousin and Uncle waiting for me with their airport IDs hanging in their necks. My uncle pulls me aside and gives me a small notebook. Inside the notebook is a checklist of the things I need to do from the moment I depart from the airport, to my layovers, and finally to my arrival in Houston. I have to love my uncle. He is the most responsible, detail oriented, obsessive compulsive person I know. He is tough, stern, and very strict but behind the facade, you can tell he cares very deeply. He gives me an envelope of money, tells me to take care, and gives me a hug. I can feel tears in the back of my eyes again. I remember thinking, “Shit, how many times am I gonna fucking tear up today?”

 My uncle has a flight to attend to so he leaves me with my eldest cousin, Chris, who guides me through the airport terminal. I’ve gotten closer to him the last two years or so. He reminds me of my younger uncle Enrique a lot. We watch DVDs together, he treats me to pizza and all the good fast food I love, I bum cigarettes off him, and much to his annoyance, I also finish most of his snacks in the kitchen pantry. He asks me how I’m feeling and other general questions and I answer all of them with mostly one word answers.

Chris is the alpha male of the family, the bad boy, and the guy who always gets in trouble, so despite our closeness, I don’t envision another tearful goodbye… and at this point, I am very thankful for that. He points to where one of the airport cafés are and tells me to get in there. “Johnny, I don’t think my dad’s anywhere around, so go in there and have yourself one last cigarette. It’s gonna be a long ass flight.” I don’t think he knows how grateful I was for this. I go inside, order water and smoke my last cigarette. I take long and slow drags from my cigarette and think about Houston Texas. I don’t really know much about Houston aside from the fact that my favorite basketball team and favorite player, T-Mac, plays for them. Not to mention the ginormous and sole Asian NBA player, Yao Ming.  Aside from that, I really have no idea how Houston is. For years, my friends would joke around about how I’ll be wearing cowboy boots, spurs, cowboy hats, and a dialect that uses the words, “howdy and yall” when I get back, but my brother reassured me that the place we live in is nothing like that. He told me that the place we live in is basically the suburbs and it almost feels like a retirement home. I don’t really know if I’m terribly excited about that.

The next thing I remember is being on the plane. I was lucky enough to get a window seat and as the plane lifts off, I take one last look at manila and the city and country I am leaving. I know I’ll miss this place terribly but for a split second, I also feel resentment. I feel it because if things weren’t so bad and if making a living here wasn’t so hard, than I wouldn’t have had to fucking leave in the first place. Right then, I make a silent vow to myself that the next time I move cities, countries, or do any major change in my fucking life, that it will not be because of circumstance or fate, It will be because of my decision. Once I make something of myself in Houston, I will never ever let anything or anyone control my fate again.

We arrive for our first stop In Hong Kong. I am told that we have to transfer to a different plane but it will be another three hours before we board.

I love Hong Kong. The airport seems like one huge mall and I wish that I could spend a day or so in the city. I visited here a couple of years back and I enjoyed every moment, from eating authentic noodles in the side streets, to visiting the malls and bars, to walking the clean streets of its lovely city. I am tempted to spend some cash from the envelope my uncle gave me but I decide against it. Instead, I try to find a Starbucks. The only thing I don’t like about Hong Kong is the language barrier. I ask a few of the airport employees where the nearest Starbuck/coffee shop is but I do not understand them well enough and manage to get myself lost for at least thirty minutes.

I finally find the Starbuck’s several escalators later. I order some tea, grab a seat, and start to read a book Andrea gave me for my airport reading. The book is called, A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey. I haven’t heard anything about it but I am immediately hooked. It is a story about a guy named James, who is a drug addict and is currently spending some time in a rehab center. He certainly has issues but you can tell that he’s good person deep down. He makes me think of my dad. A girl named Lilly is finally introduced in the story. She an addict herself and has a self destructive personality. James is in love with her and something about how the author writes about her reminds me of Andrea, but in a milder degree. I think about Lilly and she makes me think about Andrea. I’m already worried about Andrea. She has a slightly unstable personality and some self destructive tendencies. What’s worse is that she cannot be single. She will jump from bad relationship after bad relationship without even taking care of herself and maybe figuring what she needs to do in her own life. I know her past, I’ve seen her past, and her past isnt filled with good people.That worries me. I wish I still had my phone right now. I wish I could send her a text. Instead, I'm forced to drive the thoughts away and wait to board my plane.

The flight is another fifteen hours of my life, and very uneventful. The two people sitting beside me are Vietnamese and do not speak English. The airplane food is good. Airplanes serve food so sparingly that by the time you get it, you’re so hungry or so bored that anything they serve you becomes ten times as good as it would normally be.

I keep to myself for the entire flight. The flight is a cycle of me listening to the Eraserheads Anthology on my Discman, watching reruns of “Friends” and “Everybody Loves Raymond”, a Harry Potter movie, and reading my book. I finally fall asleep and the next thing I know, I wake up to the sound of the flight captain welcoming me to Houston Texas… yipeekayay.

My name is Johnny Santos and I’m spending my first night as an Immigrant sleeping on a plane. Today marked and end of an era. Today marked an end to my carefree days. Most people who move away tend to forget where they came from. I plan on fighting this trend as long as I can. Tomorrow, I begin making big decisions about my life. Tomorrow, I grow up… but once I start looking forward, I’m hoping part of me will never forget my past.


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Uncertainties

Oct. 13th, 2010 | 02:22 am

A simple gesture goes a long way
Or so people say
An extra second when someone passes by
A shade of serendipity, a hint of a smile
What does it mean?
These moments marked by uncertainty,
Their answers sometimes kept unseen

Our hopes and dreams
How delicate their realities sometimes seem
Dreaming about aspirations unrealized,
Our secret wants and needs
These things blemished by uncertainty
The dissapointments,
And the countless impossibilities

The paths behind us seem inconsequential
Compared to whats hidden inside of us,
Our pursuit of Happiness
And the paths that lay ahead of us
Its our fear of failure,
Against our hopeful vision of our future
These moments blessed with uncertainty,
And its unknown number of possibilities


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The Comfort of Tomorrow

Sep. 13th, 2010 | 02:22 am

 

There’s a natural flow to most things in life. I’m bound to smile and laugh. I’m bound to learn things. I’m bound to get hurt. I’m bound to grow old. How I react to these things is completely up to me. None of us deal with these experiences identically. We all tick differently. We’re all shaped in different molds. Some of us move on without looking back. Some of us get stuck in these moments; whether it affects us positively or negatively

t’s sometimes difficult to live in the now because the now becomes part of the past a second after. Everything moves forward and time doesn’t account for where we’re standing when it does move on. Change always happens but the beautiful thing about this is that at the end of the day, you can choose to recap and revisit the moments that mattered to you, because those memories are yours to remember. And all the sad moments? The moments you wish you could forget? Well in time, those moments will eventually be distant memories wont they.

You’ll never know what will happen tomorrow. Tomorrow, you could be in a different zip code, a different country, and a different life. The future always gives you an option for a fresh start. The future can change our life for better or worse, but why focus on the negative? Tomorrow, you could stumble onto your passion in life… you could meet someone and fall for them… you could change someone’s life or have them change yours. All it takes is a random second to change your life.

I don’t think anyone knows how things will play out in their life. I don’t think we’ll ever know if there’s such a thing as destiny, but if the past has screwed you, and if the present doesn’t do anything for you, then the future will always offer you the comfort of tomorrow.

 


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Honestly Slash Comma

Aug. 24th, 2010 | 02:22 am

I've always believed that the small things in life are actually the biggest things. I don't remember if it's a quote I heard, or if it's something I've come to learn but for the most part, the sentiment rings true. However, I've realized that it shouldn't apply to everything. Mainly, it shouldn't apply to perception and communication.

Anytime I meet someone for the first time, it takes me approximately 7 seconds to make an assessment. I don't intentionally do it but subconsciously, I am looking at the small things... looks, diction, clothes, facial expressions, tone, etc. It a natural reaction fostered by the way I grew up. For me, it's an exercise to see if any of these things can be indicators of whom the person is, what we might possibly have in common, and how much time I want to spend getting to know this person. Throughout the night, the perception grows by what this person does or doesn't do, but herein lies the problem... By reading into these small things, I'm judging and forming a perception of this person without any real basis. I've realized the small things don't matter in this case because my perception is not reality. You can never really know a person unless you actually get to know them.

Enter communication. I converse with someone when I want to get to know them but it's not the actual act of communicating that becomes a problem; it's the honesty of the communication. Aside from those handful of really close friends, how often are we really honest to people?  How authentic/sincere are our conversations?

Subliminal culture dictates a lot of the authenticity of our small actions. In films, music, television, and art, were told that actual meaning is better shown indirectly. Anything that's hidden behind symbolism, irony, sarcasm, and metaphors are perceived as better ways of saying what you really mean. When were attracted to someone, were told to abide by imaginary rules of dating (i.e. Guys have to make the first move, never seeming too eager to respond, the 3 day rule after getting a number), pushing us to play the game. We're always told to play it cool rather than play it forward. Culture also tells us to be polite rather than straightforward. For example, most of us have developed fake laughs because we think its the polite thing to do. Since most communication today is nonverbal, we've also developed fake laughs through writing (haha... LOL). In all the years that I've used lol, I've probably only laughed out loud 3 times, yet I still end sentences with lol. Its almost like that apologetic laugh people do after saying something stupid. It's as if I have to add lol to let that person know it was a joke; something meant to be light hearted and not taken seriously. Other times, I use it to hide what I'm really trying to say. Sometimes, I hide my true sentiments behind humor and I think at some point, we all have. I think we hide a lot of our true sentiments behind a lot of things

I always find it refreshing to meet someone who is blunt and honest because its something I find difficult to do myself sometimes. Every time I have casual conversations, part of me is being watchful about saying something too personal or saying too much. Why? Because I don't want to be too honest... because honesty is awkward. Which brings me to this thought, how often do we really say what's on our mind? How often do we really say how we really feel?

Everytime we log in, Facebook asks us what's on our mind but aside from the twitterers, (24/7 updates who love to tell me if they're running, having a fantastic afternoon, or how yummy their food is) I wonder how many people actually type what's on their mind? Personally, any time I even think of status updates on facebook, I am already aware that people are gonna see it, which is why anything I type is rarely what I'm actually thinking. What comes out if version 1.5. It comes out as something random or maybe a vague sentence, but mostly, it comes out as a slightly edited thought. This is basically why I'm writing this. Every time I write, I am always concerned about how people will perceive it so I keep the honesty to a bare minimum, but as an old friend recently reminded me, writing is an expression, as well as an honest extension of who you are. This note is a tangent on how I shouldn't take every small thing too seriously, and how I wish people were more honest, and how I wish I was more honest myself, because I've come to the conclusion that being honest is one of the hardest things to do. Being honest is much harder than being nice or being an asshole.


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The Weight Of Your Soul

Jul. 28th, 2010 | 02:22 am

The light washes away our sweetest of dreams,
Our simplest thoughts and the purest of scenes
Time turns us into cynics.
And as the cynic speaks
The sinners sin

Experiences shape us,
Mold us, create us
Change us,
And sometimes destroy us

It is the darkness our of depth
Against the lightness of our soul
Because behind our eyes
Behind our skin
Behind our color
And inside of us,
Lies the weight of our soul

It is the darkness of our depth
Against the lightness of our soul

 

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