Reflections after dawn

It's five in the morning. I have been in my phone for hours now, stuck in a loop of aimlessly playing songs that got me through the lowest points in my life. It's scary how clearly I can remember the moments when I sought solace from them. Now, I mostly find comfort in their familiarity, how they make me feel like I'm back in 2009- erratic, illogical, as if my life was not in the verge of collapsing before my eyes- yet still conscious of the solitude of my current detachment from the world knowing that I already took the wrong turns though with a clearer understanding of the disasters that still lie ahead. But, god, there are nights, like tonight, when I am just unconsolably sad and these songs just tug me back to a place I find peaceful; when it hits me that the best days of my life were defined by melancholia and mindlessly playing on loop songs that instill an illusion that I am still alive.

A metaphor

The other night, I was cleaning my closet when my younger sister pointed out the obvious-all my shirts look the same and my closet only has three colors- as if I was never aware of it or took some late night reflection to question my choices. She, coming from a date, wearing some sunny dress inappropriate for the cold weather, thinks I should wear a different shade for once.

The thing is, I never wear print. I cannot remember the last time I wore something with a bold color on it. When I go shopping, to the disgust of my younger siblings, my feet would march straight to the section where the store displays its plain, mono-toned shirt. Stripes are okay, as long as it's still blue, black, or white(or maroon, because, yeah, school pride). But always the bland style, the same boring color that already permeates every corner of my closet. I never entertained the idea of wearing anything other than the colors and hues that I have now.

But once in a while, when I have the time to spare or the sweet scent of capitalism takes over me, I take a trip to the other aisles- where the colors flow, the prints cheer in zest, and the bold makes a statement. Most of the time, I like what I see. I'd think of my friend Andy who would look great, in his own flamboyant way, in a bright pink shirt while strutting the streets of Taguig on the way to his work. Or Jan just chilling by the beach with a button down with print of coconut trees and the sun. Or Louis and his penchant for hipster prints and bright shorts. In my head, it will fit them, or some other friends or that random guy I met on a social networking app who wears floral cap; the boldness of the print and the mania of the colors would fit the array of hues and images they collect for themselves, proper for their personalities or whoever they pretend to be. It would look great on them.

But not for me. I cannot even remember the last time I consciously bought a shirt with color outside my usual spectrum. Loud colors and print don't drape me the way I want to be clothed. Once, I took a chance and tried a yellow shirt with prints in some clothing store's dressing room. In a second, it's back in its rack, ruffled and unappreciated. The intense hue and daring print and I don't complement each other well.

Keep your hands to yourself when you follow me home.

Sex has turned into a chore lately, a forced combustion of two heated bodies, desperate for a five-second release to fill some vapid void in time. The aftermath- the constant ringing of my phone from random hook-ups who, for some reasons I cannot fathom, think I might be interested in whatever dreamy and starry-eyed episode might come after orgasm- has left me dog-tired the only recourse left is to block them from my phone and forget they never existed. Except I cannot get myself to do that. I need the validation, the gratifying satisfaction of knowing that someone out there yearns for me and seeks for my solicitude- whether it's just for another quickie or a cup of coffee.

Maybe its envy, or just some evanescent pang of want to be needed, like the curves of  your body craving the fit of my hands, but I look at people holding hands in the gym , the park, the inconspicuous alleys of Malate, and think of all possibilities.

But no. I cannot get myself yet to enter another passage of early morning texts and irresolute caring where I am stuck in some maze constantly trying not to sate myself from all the dissatisfaction of this world. This is the biggest crack in this plastered and self-bandaged persona I construe as my self. I can hold your hand when we fuck, whisper breathy incomprehensible words in your ears while I caress your back, look you in the eyes when your tongue explores all the nerves and edges of my dick, smile at you when I know I hit some banal spot which your moans cite. But no, I cannot, I am not able, not now, maybe never, find myself satisfied with this fleeting moment and be compelled to bottle the woes and discontent intrinsic in my fucked-up mind just so I can have the pleasure of being affirmed by this society as whole, as normal.

It's no longer a constant tug-of-war between black and white. The greyscale does not even seem to be a perfect spectrum to stay. I don't know what I want anymore.

Not there.

Yesterday, my youngest sister finished junior high school first in her entire batch.  A few months from now, she's going green, heading to that bourgeois university in Taft- all smiles from the ecstasy of moving to the city, leaving traces of wasted youth, yet still carrying the burden of proving herself to the people she will eventually leave behind. There's this certain pressure, so haunting and skin-deep, nobody talks about in the family. To parents, relatives, family friends we only know by face, church members who think they know us because we used to sing to gospel, and even random strangers who my parents used to teach- we are trophies. We are but self-operating robots surrendering to the ons-and-offs of the makers, subjected to their will.

At 8, after Sunday school in the church, people would flock over Jay and his treasured achievements while I sit in the corner being asked questions about him in class. On the way home, comparison was inevitable, and I crumble deep inside only to mask the frustrations and agony by watching a quiz show on the television until the maid calls me for lunch. At 12, when people started realizing I have something ahead of me, I expected a truce, a plateau. Instead, I get more of the shitload. I only got a runner-up trophy in a provincial competition when last year, the school's representative won the grand prize. That's great, you were good, not just good enough. At 15, I wanted to take film, but no, there's no money in that craft. No one is spending thousand of crap for an art so unappreciated in the country. You're wasting your life, they said. I can always shift, I said. There was negativity in the air, coming up with the compromise that I take a course they want, in turn I get the electives I prefer.

Ten years ago, I left the silent, suffocating sanctuary of my parent's home for the city. But the lingering echos from all the talks and expectations still resonate from one hundred miles away. It was so ingrained in my system, and it seems that there's no escaping. I used to ask my sister every end of the academic quarter her standing in class. Now, the question, rather, focuses on what she did not get. It is easy to blame my parents, all the shitty people who made me feel worthless, who instilled this self-imposed mantra of always proving myself better than what a crappy cousin said a few years back. But at twenty five, there should be no excuse.

Two weeks ago, both my grade school and high school invited me to give their graduating classes commencement remarks. I gave the lamest excuse- taking advantage of this new job, the pesky persistence to please the new boss, to blend with the crowd. But I know. How the heck can impart wisdom to the unadulterated yet stubborn minds of today's youth when I am on the peak of questioning the decisions I made in the past, so abrupt and uninspired, that make me doubt whatever glint of prosperity possibly lies ahead. No, I cannot move others when I am stuck. And the pit is so deep, it will take a miracle to get out of this hell hole.