It Ends At The Start

If I could write a story about us, I would start at the beginning. And that beginning ends there, just there. Some people call it a cliffhanger, I call it a missed opportunity.

The first time I saw you, you didn’t see me. After all, before you knew my name, I was a ghost to you when you weren’t one to me. But knowing a name isn’t the same as knowing the face, the body, and the mind. Who are you? How are you? What are you?

“Hi,” you took my hand quickly, in our effort to be formal. “Hi,” I whispered back, your voice rumbling at the back of my mind. I fall behind as you strode forward, the sun at your back.  I wasn’t shaken at first, maybe because you didn’t scare me in the way others usually do. You were distant all on your own, but as the seconds turned to minutes, even the coldest person bathed by the sun turns warm. And even if we didn’t see eye to eye the first time, I knew that you were something. Not just something, were.

“How is this city treating you?” I piped up, as I felt that familiar feeling of fright in me. Your eyes flickered in my direction. “It’s all right, but it’s not the dream most people believed it to be.”  I don’t know what led me to believe that you were even a possibility, even if I know you usually have to treat every person as an opportunity to connect. But even some beliefs are proven strong by faith, and I’m glad to know that later on, we would find common ground in some aspects at least. We existed in the same space, but not necessarily together. There was a slight fence between us, and no one reached a hand out until I did. And you took it with openness right away, your stories spilled onto the table and flowed towards me, like your words yearned to come out. But that was your personality, that was who you are. You flowed, you flowed right into me.

But I wish we didn’t stop with the stories, because I had questions on my own that I wanted answered. “What’s your favorite television program?” “Do you read?” “If you were the last man on earth, what brand of beer would you want to keep you company in your solitude?” Even if I didn’t ask, your eyes crinkled with a refreshing innocence that doubled as “been there, done that” and as I watched you color your world for me from the sidelines, I knew that maybe this could be. This could be– I don’t know, a question worth asking? Someone worth?

“So, yeah, nice meeting you.” You said, as you took a stride forward and your arm took me in. I fell into your ten-second embrace as I wrung my arm around your neck. “Good luck with everything.” I rubbed your back a little, like I wanted a wish. A wish for you to stay longer, a wish for you to ask me to stay.

I knew that the story was already written. Journeys end in lovers’ meeting, as Shakespeare said, but we weren’t anything. We just met, and the journey already reached its end.

I wish I knew it was the epilogue right there, so I knew how to say goodbye. But some endings were meant to be put there. And now as I stare into the blackness that is the ceiling of my room, I try to remember your crinkling eyes, your deep, throaty laugh, and the sound of your voice (or admittedly, the way your eyes would briefly flicker towards me), but instead I only remember you in stills and in faces I have associated similarity with. It was as if you were a memory made to be forgotten.

Dear Mr. Munich,

Aside from the fact that you were clad in one of those cushy, velvet sweaters I liked, you were a prime example of a chance that I overlooked. Smoke billowed from your mouth as you laughed and turned to face me. “Prost,” as we clinked glasses. “Prost.” before you turned away.

What could I have said, seeing as how we were seated inches from each other, and the words could have sealed it. “Hello,” as I could have tapped your shoulder. “Wie heißen Sie? (what is your name?)” was what I should have said. But again, almost is never enough.

Could those words have began a story of how we met? After all, distance does not have to be reached by transport, but only by pushing yourself from where you are. Only in this case, the words could have done enough, so much in fact — that I didn’t have to be afraid, that I could have known you and the rest of it falls into place right after.

But again, there is no hoping in the almost. It is after all, a bit to where it’s right, but only a bit. And a bit may be just a bit more, but again, it’s just a bit and therefore not yet.

A Sadness I’d Never Admit To

I’m not usually one to delve into sadness, or at least I don’t like delving into things that disturb me.  This is one of them.  It’s not the on-the-surface one with the obvious tear tracks and red eyes, or where my head is on the shoulder of someone else’s.  It’s a sadness that misaligns with the personality my world knows, the personality that I came to be.

After she arrived from her seminar, my aunt asked me if I wanted to explore Freiburg even more.  “Go around the city.  You have still so much to discover — behind the Munster, or at the back of the Theater.” Don’t get me wrong, I love to explore, I really do.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have scoured through London three weeks ago with my eternally out-of-battery phone.  My feet will never know that kind of pain I went through.  But instead, I replied with, “I have explored enough.”

Lately, this has been rippling within me for the past few days, and the vigor I used to have back in August waned.  I’m not nearly as cheerful as I liked to be, or at least I still am but more measured and more restrained.  It’s like my growth is measured in seconds instead of days and everyday I am bound to the one thing I hate to explore: my mind.

I can’t even compose this thing properly because I am torn between wanting to share this truth with the world and wanting still to hide it.  I am surrounded by people, the very ones I love, and yet I feel as though I am imprisoned, like I owe my happiness to them or something to that extent.  And I am bound to them through the words they say, and their opinion matters too much to me.

Words are what I love, and yet somehow all I want is for them to go away.  Everywhere I go, my mind tells me otherwise, and I perceive people silently watching me as I go about my routine.  I wish I could make them understand what it’s like to be lonely, to be trapped by your own mind into thinking that people have to like you or treasure you and that their opinion matters so much it’s Law.  I wish– I wish that they didn’t matter.  I wish that the strangers who are supposed to serve their purpose of being people I shouldn’t have to know stay that way.  Yet what they say matters so much to me, and I hate that.  I hate that I have to depend on them all the time, that I have to harp on their words and praises.  Why do I have to be praised to feel secure? Because my own mind does not do the same thing.

I try so, so hard to be the person I have to become, and in the process the saddest thing is I don’t even know who I am anymore.  Nomads do still exist, and I’m not talking about the ones that leave their homes.  My soul is an undefined state and all I want for it is to go back home — home in a sense that it is finally where it belongs, and it definitely is not in this city at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I have met so many lovely people here, and I have changed in some way or another but I’m still finding it so difficult to be restrained.  I have to because people don’t understand the way I live and breathe, that I have to have someone beside me not for the sake of having someone per se but because I want them to be.  But again, it’s not the people’s fault.  They, of course, see me as an outsider and I, in turn, have to adjust to them.  When they throw labels at me, it’s okay.  They just can’t find a single word to describe my personality and it’s their attempt to understand who I am, even if they don’t at all get it.  But I wish they did.  I really wish they did,

(I don’t know what this entry’s about at all, but I’m just spewing thoughts.  This is what it’s like to be in my head.  It’s kinda hard to figure out.  I just hope someday that I will finally be content with what I have because I just yearn for something I have yet to seek, and in the process, all I want to do is hide.)

9:40 PM

The rain has fallen silent, and the streets have returned to its serenity, as this city is on Sundays. But in solitude, my mind comes alive– thoughts coming in and out–memories usually that I know will never come back.

I have that feeling of love within me, like my heart beats for someone again, but that person is nonexistent. It’s easy, so easy to fall for an idea. But you can’t embrace an idea, you can’t hold an idea, you can’t kiss an idea. It’s like I can’t not love. Believe me, I try to build a wall like the others do, but the material isn’t strong enough. To build a wall, you have to have the strongest will to hold off anything that will hurt.

But what if you care more for someone else than your own? It’s like I’m compelled to love, like it’s compulsory for me to share it with people, even to those who do not deserve it.

A Choice to Close

It has been a few days since I unfriended him on Facebook, a decision that has gone noticed by anyone but him (noticed only because I told my friends – to which this piece of news brought them into a bit of shock). This brought about a chorus of Whys, Whats, and a whole slew of other questions begging for reasons. “Don’t you want to wait for him to apologize for being a dick?” “What if you will never get the closure now? Why did you unfriend him?” “Do you still stalk him?”

Aside from this being a documentation of a closure I can call my own, this can be a little commentary on the thin, flossy string everyone calls a friendship on Facebook. I know myself to be a person who hates unresolved business. I hate things that are left hanging (with the exception of sequels because well they serve a purpose and a promise of continuity), I hate things that are unexplained, and I hate things that aren’t finished. And I know that my relationship/friendship/usemanship (whatever) with him was something that will always be unfinished. It will always remain to be, even if we both moved past it, even if we moved forward.

It will always be unfinished until one of us has the gall to wrench the other by the arm and say, “Hey, we need to talk.” Then the reasons come spilling out, and finally my heart will stop turning in its grave. The pieces, at least, will hold stronger even if I know that the heart can never be whole again (whole in a sense that a piece of it belonged to the loved and shattered with the dead promises). But what if there will never be a confrontation? Or a long sitdown going over the issues that came to be because of what happened? It will never be, “please love me.” It will always be, “did you love me?” A measured tone laden in the simplest yet complicated question.

Facebook, in the most frank statement I could ever state, is the most insincere and laziest way of building and maintaining relationships with other people. You add a person and you don’t even have “because I know him/her” in your head any longer, but a thousand and one reasons other than that. A few examples include:

(A) “We have 7282822288282 mutual friends.” – more like “she/he will know me eventually. Even if you will have a million mutual friends, there must be a reason why you two haven’t met.

(B) “I chanced upon your profile and you look really beautiful–” WHOOP better go and WIPE OFF FACE OF EARTH delete that message and friend request right off the slate. This is not the time to be holding the byline of “There are still decent people on this earth…”

(C) “They’re convenient to keep around/I’ve known them from elementary even if we never breathed in the same environment or exchanged a word or two–” Yeah, okay, just go on checking what Mona or Mila or whatever-her-name-was doing at four in the morning in some island/city. Have that kind of gratification that in some weird and creepy way, you are connected. “Hey I’ve been to that island. No way, kindergarten-classmate-who-i-dont-even-speak-to (are u even my kindergarten classmate WHO ARE YOU???), we practically walked the same strip of land. Now I just need to know your name but we’re totes friends.”

He called it “instrumental good.” We were sitting in a cafe and he told me how he keeps his exes on Facebook still, and he calls it that. “I don’t unfriend them, but I don’t speak to them either. They’re just there.” I realized over the years that people walk away from your life. There are certain people who make an effort to stay, and there are the stupid lot who just disappear so quickly, you thought them dead. Seriously, how do you just zap yourself out of this world?

Come to think of it, it was easier to walk away when the world was sans technology. You could just stop the snail mail and hope to God you won’t bump into said ex. But why is it so, so much easier to drop a girl or guy dead with one SMS/Facebook message (Or a lack of it even)? “Sori its nt u its me” or “bye” or the most recent “SEEN” with the timestamp at the side. Or you could always have the iconic “NO MESSAGES” in your inbox. And the terrible thing is, you still have this prick dalliancing and living his life in normalcy flashing on your news feed.

It’s like you never existed, then you begin to ask yourself, “Who was he with me?” Or “who was he without me?” You subconsciously blame yourself that it’s your fault. How can you counterargue? You don’t know the real reason and you probably never will! And even with its most useful (but ineffective, at least for me) UNFOLLOW (notifications) function, you fly back to his profile and sadden yourself with all the new things he’s done that were just pure words and ideas when he was with you. What made YOU counteractive?

And those were the very reasons why I finally decided to unfriend him. It may sound like such a petty problem, but this process has given me a clearer idea of just how fake Facebook has become in terms of friendskeeping. Having him on my friends list is making it convenient for him to “keep me around” and in the process devalues my already devalued whatever-ship I had with him. He can still keep tabs while still refusing to speak to me, and WHAT FOR? What is the purpose as to why I have to keep him around? If friends come and go, make sure they stick by it. If they go, all ties are cut. Having him as a friend on Facebook gives me a false hope that I will ever be reunited with him the same way we started. I know it will never be the same way again. It no longer saddens me to have this reality in mind because going through all the pain and stupidity, rationality (finally) comes into play, asking, “What person in their right mind would keep a person that had hurt them so badly?”

Alternative question could be “Do you make a living by becoming a sadist?” And I am proud to say that I’m not a sadist (whew). I will not subject myself to keeping a string of floss I call a Facebook friendship to a guy who doesn’t value the real friendship and in turn clams up like a sissy and refuses to face the truth. If you want to come out of your itty bitty shell, come find me. It’s not that difficult to do.

The End: Thoughts on The Creative Writing Class

(A note given to me by my classmate Kate during Thursday’s session.  Today after we all said our goodbyes, I saw her on the street and she gave me a big hug and said, “It was so great meeting you, Tiffany! Thank you so much for the words.  I hope you accomplish everything you ever dreamed of in life.  All the best.)

I was on my way home from the last session of the Intensive Creative Writing Class when I bumped into three of my classmates Holly, Andrea, and Ben.  I have already conversed with the two girls, but not with Ben, not ever.  But today he stopped me, grabbing me by the wrist.  He then told me: “I have been meaning to tell you all week that your writing is so, so brilliant.”

And all I could come up with was, “You remind me so much of Ricky Gervais.” (He really did look like Ricky Gervais, and with the voice too.  And who could forget his humorous pieces?).  He laughed luckily, and he continued on to say, “Age doesn’t matter — hell, it’s irrelevant.  Keep doing what you do.”

To be honest, I entered the class with a nervous heart.  I mean, it was London for God’s sake, and I was learning more about my craft in the heart and soul of a city that I love.  I was tossed in with older, more experienced writers — “Hi, I’m Natalia and I’ve been working on this historical fiction piece in three parts” and “I’m Holly, I’ve been in the publishing business for a couple of years now, and I’m working on a screenplay.” It was just unbelievable.  “I’m Tiffany, a twenty-one year old fresh graduate with a lack of life experience.  I need more life experience.”

For the first few days, I let that fear get to me.  Y’know, that fear of knowing that because I was thrown into an ocean of experienced beings, I backed away instead of opening myself up.  I read my work, yes, but I only stuck to the subject of love, because I reasoned that it was what I knew so much about.  It was then later on I realized that it may be something I have so much knowledge on, but it didn’t mean that I was only capable of writing hurt.  I was also capable of reflection and dialogue, two things I thought I could never compose.

It was a calming process for me, and at the same time a maturing of sorts.  Petra told me that she loved my imagery, Natalia marveled at the way I could create internal conflict with dialogue, and so on.  Slowly, that fear dissipated and I finally felt like I belonged with a group that only loved to read and to create worlds and words.  They treated me like an adult and did not pity me because I was the youngest.  I got no special treatment.  I had to read my work aloud like the rest (a commitment I told myself to do in order to expose myself more).

At the end of the session, Maggie [Hamand] and Naomi [Wood] told us to choose an exercise we did over the week and rewrite/improve it.  I redrafted the random object exercise (to be posted later) and did a reading of it, with the shaking hands and breaking voice to boot.  “Brilliant, lovely,” Maggie spoke as I set down my paper.  “That was such a great piece.  You took such an ordinary object like a pine cone and already you got so much deeper into it.  I remember on the first day you weren’t even interested in the pine cone at all.” 

“And I would just like to add–” Holly interrupted, her hand raised in the air (she read to us excerpts from her screenplay and she was such a brilliant and funny writer.  I especially love the way she delivers her lines.). “It’s quite interesting that you have such a deep and thorough reflection, taking into consideration that you admitted you lacked life experience when the course began.  I mean, with someone who says that, I think it’s quite the opposite, really.  Your message was so powerful.” 

All the words from them haven’t settled in yet, because I’m not used to stomaching those kinds of compliments.  It’s not because I hate compliments (I don’t hate compliments, in fact, shower me with a lot of them!), but because the fear of showing my work to people I don’t know finally happened.  And it wasn’t such a bad experience.  It’s just so great how I not only got to discover the great people who have become my peers and classmates, but I got to discover that I’m not just a single-dimension writer.  I can do so much more than just writing about love.  And it showed.  It really did.

So these words today are simmering slowly, and I hold these statements in my heart and mind.  My dream of touching people’s lives is coming true, one person at a time.

Diary of a Lost Soul: A Portrait Exercise

A Note: In order to understand what I have written, it is important to know what this exercise is all about.  I am currently taking an intensive four-day Creative Writing Course under the tutelage of Maggie Hamand, Rachel Knightley, and Naomi Wood.  We visited The National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square for the morning half of today’s session, and we were required to do the following things: 

(1) Select two or three portraits you want to focus on.  Describe them in all aspects (physically, emotionally, etc), and whatever means necessary to fully form the character you got from your chosen portraits.
(2) Write a secret that they are most likely hiding.
(3) Write a lie that they have told others/will tell others.

We spent an hour and a half writing the material down and when we got back to The Groucho Club in Soho for the regular agenda, Rachel and Maggie gave us another activity in connection to what we did in the morning.

(1) Write a diary entry based on the secret of your chosen character portrait.  Select only one of the three.
(2) Write the thought process of the said character down or the reaction of an outside character when he/she discovers that secret diary entry.
(3) Write the resolve or the reaction of the character after finding out that an outsider has read the diary entry.

 

(So for my character portrait, I chose her.)

I envisioned her to be either a transgender/transvestite or Lady Gaga at first, but as I studied her more, I felt like she was a lost soul.  The clothes she’s wearing and all the mixes and matches were pieced together in an attempt to find herself.  Here is the portrait exercise I wrote down:

(1) My fingers run over the soft silk of my blouse.  Another day, another day.  They always talk about the journey and not the destination, but what if I have always been on this road and forty years into my life, I still haven’t found the end at all?

I guess that’s the consequence of being one with society.  You are so focused on the togetherness that you lose sight of a life apart from that.  You piece yourself together — the etiquette of my mother, the brusqueness of my father, the liberal attitude of my best friend Sammy — all these expectations and anti-expectations can throw you off somehow.

“Have I found her yet?” I ask as I coat my lips with a red shade.  Red is a fiery color, but is it my color?
“Who am I?” I think as I wipe off the excess liner off the corner of my eye.  I get out the front door and immediately the noise of the city streets fill my ears.  Another dawn, another day to find me.

(2) Mum thinks I’m going through a nervous breakdown.  She runs outside my room, the laundry disarrayed.  “Do ou need me to call Dr. Peterson? He says you haven’t seen him for over a month — KRISTINE! Are you listening to me? You better be here, young lady!” 

And she calls me the whack job.

(3) At first I thought it was a stupid idea to be immortalizing my crisis in a notebook.  Who does that anymore? But I guess my fickle, weak mind couldn’t stomach all the nauseating “Woe is me because I don’t know who ME actually is.” 

But you see, I’m not alone as I see all of you here before me — kids, teenagers, even you old folk for God’s sake.  It just goes to show that we can never really give a time where we can honestly declare THIS IS WHO I AM.  It’s a long journey and we all become different beings as we go along.  At the end of it all, it’s safe to assume you’ll find something that sticks.  And like all the ornaments displayed on my body — these clothes, these pieces of jewelry — you can piece the missing ones together to form some semblance of who you are, whatever that might be.  Thank you.

(If you didn’t get it, I made my piece as a TED Talk speech. Teehee.)