These days, I couldn’t seem to get to bed without first having coffee and peanut butter sandwich, then watching at least two hours of Suits. Even when the day is long and my legs are dead, and I’ve already eaten some 500 calories (food-court pad thai, sometimes two Goya chocolate bars), when I get home I’d still make myself coffee (three-in-one Kopiko brown) and scour the kitchen for every last bit of leavened bread I could find. Then, after I’ve showered and brushed my teeth, I’d let myself be sucked into the glass offices of Pearson Hardman. It’s become a habit, one which I’m not too keen to break just yet.
Maybe that’s what you do when unemployment is staring at you in the face. Or when your salary is withheld and you realize you’re basically living on your savings now. You feel very queasy, you start to lose motivation, and suddenly you could only find redemption when engrossing yourself in fictional litigation.
I recently had a dinner with a close friend who’s still in school and, listening to her stories, I couldn’t help but sorely miss the life I used to live–that she still lives. I don’t want to go all Thought-Catalog-y here and say I’m “lost” but okay, and that I’m living one day at a time. It isn’t okay, and I haven’t spent one minute not thinking about what I’m going to do next.
Maybe tonight I’ll make a second cup of coffee. I will hold sleep–and dreams–at bay. Maybe in the zone between grogginess and perpetual anxiety, I might come to an epiphany.
I clung to the overhead handrail for support, like everyone’s shirts clung to their backs with sweat. I didn’t know which was worse–to be out under the sweltering noonday sun, or be boxed inside the train’s asthmatic air conditioning with human beings whose hygiene were already in varying degrees of deterioration. Everyone had a sweaty nape. And I was going to utter, for the millionth time, a silent plea to God–he could redeem murderers, so maybe He could also redeem an incompetent management board–when I espied, not more than arm’s reach from me, a couple animatedly talking to each other. The short, plump girl, a nurse, was facing away from his boyfriend, towards the glass window smeared with palm and fingerprints. She was fanning herself with a notebook while her boyfriend, equally plump, but taller, spoke to her hair. The suddenly boyfriend took out his MRT card, and I thought he was going to preposterously fan himself with it, too. Instead, he began scraping his face with it–left cheek, right cheek, forehead down to the nose bridge–so that when enough dark brown material had caked on the card, he wiped it clean on his shirt sleeve. My plea lodged on my throat, and I turned away, to my biceps and the antiseptic scent of my morning soap. The station of my salvation was still far away.
You discreetly pick a bit of meat stuck between your teeth, then triumphantly flash a smile again. Your living room is more cramped than usual because it’s your lola’s birthday. Her friends, a gaggle of old ladies from the neighborhood, have gathered around you. Their cackling sounds hostile, and you can’t believe you feel threatened at your own home. You stretch your lips even wider, hoping that your smile deflects their probing questions. Across the room, your cousins, all tall and self-conscious now, deliberately avoid eye contact. Never have smartphones been so handy.
You’re surprised at the amount of information they know about you. They know you work in Quezon City. They know you work for a government agency. They know you went to Hong Kong for your birthday. But there’s one thing you know they’ve been dying to ask. One thing they’ve been at pains to get from you. You see it in their quivering brows and knowing glances as they muster the subtlety they don’t have. You know it’s coming, because your twenty-three-year old cousin is there, and he’s brought along his baby and the baby’s mother.
But you are far smarter than any of them. So you pick up your plate, load it with a fresh slice of cake, and smile to them before they can even so much as give each other another glance. “My phone’s dead, I’m just going to charge it.” They don’t see it, but as you rise from your seat, it vibrates inside your pocket, like a writhing fish waiting to be unhooked.
Art from society6.com.
When, every once in a while, my mind takes a life of its own and gallops out of control, I become a nutcase and lose all hope in the world. My bouts of overthinking and anxiety are longer and graver than most people’s, and many times my otherwise mundane problems have become exacerbated by futile over-analysis and problematization.
In the past, I’ve obsessed over a wide range of concerns: ambiguous romantic relationships, failed applications for other degree programs, and fundraising for alumni homecoming galas. I look back on those times with fondness, glad that they’re over and that I’m sane again. But sometimes I also remember them with dread, because I know how crazy I can be and how anxiety can consume me to the point of depression.
Now my latest episode is over an incurable disease. I am actually sick right now, and every time I sneeze I feel little bits of my life tear from me. Every bump, every undulation on my skin feels suspect. Every time I go online to read about it I almost immediately find symptoms on myself.
It offers no consolation that I actually need to wait before I can see someone about it. It’s a disease that waits, that never really shows itself, that, when you’ve finally calmed down and forgotten about it, pulls a fast one on you with a wide, malicious grin of a grotesque clown.
I don’t want to see that clown. I’m scared of him. But I think about him just the same. All the time.
I mean to read about the earthquake in Bohol, really. Already my newsfeed is filled with speculation–did the Chocolate Hills crumble? what could have happened if it struck Metro Manila instead? As I aimlessly click on the links however, I find my whole screen dissolving into your Facebook profile. It is hard not to go away from your wall and your photos. Yes, I have seen them, but I can’t resist ogling some more. Your beach photos are my favorite: you wearing so little and flaunting so much. I almost wince–smile?–as the familiar tremors begin to creep up my body. With a sigh, I topple from my swivel chair into the frothy depths of midweek delusions. I know you aren’t two hours away, in the city built over a fault line, oblivious to my devastation.
I sang along to Joey Ayala’s “illegal” rendition of the national anthem, then laughed as Justice Marvic Leonen threatened to sue us all for singing it wrong. I welled up at Marina Cruz-Garcia’s adoption story, and marveled as Don Salubayba created complex shadow images out of a piece of paper and water bottle. I sat enthralled during the whole three sessions, braingasm after braingasm washing over me as I listened to the speakers talk about their passions–from sea charts and maps to books and indigenous music instruments. I was nodding wildly all throughout Professor Rica Bolipata Santos’ talk as she stressed why it was important for us to read, and to read Philippine literature more than anything else. Like everybody else in the room, I burst into applause as Reina Reyes, a Pisay graduate who proved Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity on her doctorate at Princeton, declared she is staying in the country to help foster the love of inquiry among our youth. At the end of it all I was feeling buoyant, sure that one day I’d be up on the same stage giving my own TED talk!
I come to in the middle of my morning train ride, someone’s elbow jutting against the small of my back. Someone’s sweaty forearm brushes against my forehead, reaching for the hand rail. I try to wipe my brow, but my right hand is stuck between someone’s backpack and someone’s beer gut. My left hand is on the wrong pocket, my phone is on the right. I feel it vibrate, and I think about who it could be–certainly not my boss, whose favorite time to call is in the wee hours of the morning; maybe it’s Baker Boy, who’s always inviting me to their place. He says his mother takes sleeping pills, so everything’s going to be fine. The train rumbles (in approval? disagreement?) and I try to summon the weekend back in my head–burritos with my best friends, Insidious 2 with my sister, the late-night Downton Abbey marathon. I look at everyone’s napes around me, at all the hair, at all the pudgy noses. I sigh, but nobody hears it, not even me. My own breath is lost among my thoughts, and the nearby chatter about the country’s latest beauty queen.