Hands

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Photo by Jared Sluyter on Unsplash

i.

My mother always said I was good with my hands. She used to call me her ‘little artist’, and said I took after her father. I never met him, of course, but I could tell she missed him every time I showed her my work. I think maybe that was why she was always so proud of me. She loved anything and everything I made — from roughly cut paper hearts stuck randomly on a flimsy board, to crayon strokes haphazardly strewn across an innocent page (channeling my inner Kandinsky, I guess). They all found a spot on our refrigerator door at one point or another, and then to the inside of the pink little box she now keeps safely under her bed. She told me that my hands could only make beautiful things. I was around six or seven then, and for a while, I actually believed her.

Look, mom, I made something.”

ii.

At fifteen, a boy held my hand for the first time. I don’t remember the hows, the whens, and the wheres; only that the magic lasted for about a minute or two. The profuse sweating of two nervous teenagers obviously got in the way, and our hands melted into a damp, entangled mess — it was simply best for both parties to let go. Over time, however, I began to get better at holding other people’s hands. I never knew it was something you could actually get better at, but I did (or so I like to think I did). Skin on skin, I learned the fine art of interlacing meaning and comfort in the spaces between my fingers, and onto the hands of another. I hold hands the same way I write my letters: honestly and ardently. 

“I‘m here for you.”

iii.

When my grandmother died, I couldn’t remember what her face looked like or how her voice sounded. Instead, the only bit of memory I could conjure up was the last: holding her bony hand in mine as I felt the warmth disappear crease by crease from her withered skin, and having to gently place it back on her still chest as they rolled her away. Years have passed, and life has been constantly giving and taking since then. A few more loved ones were consumed by the earth, while others simply decided to walk out the door. I haven’t really gotten any better at letting people go, and quite frankly, I don’t think I ever will. My heart may heal over time, but my hands were always meant to hold.

“Good-bye.”

iv.

Lately, however, my hands have done nothing but let everything that matters most to me slip away. But the more I struggle to keep them close to my heart, the tighter my agitated grip gets. Tighter and tighter, until shrapnels are sent flying in the air, and I am left with nothing but the broken pieces lodged deep within my skin. My fingers are red and sore from unraveling heartstrings, and combing loose ends through empty promises. The weight of my unsaid words slowly cracks open my chest, while the weight of the ones I did say cracks another’s. I look down at my hands now, and all I see are razor-sharp edges ready to cut through anything they touch. Who would want to hold these now? Mom once told me that my hands could only make beautiful things, and for a while I actually believed her. I wonder if she would still be proud of these hands now.

“I’m sorry.”

・・・

 

3:03 AM  My insomnia is obviously getting worse, and so is my writing. My words are all over the place with this one, and that’s because my mind is, too. Hoping to get back on track with my weekly writing challenge soon, though. I also signed up for a writing workshop on the 26th. I am deathly terrified and excited at the same time.

 

Dear Mr. Brightside

A Letter to the Sun, From the Moon

150,000,000 kilometers —   

You take your place at the heart of this intricate celestial web
Planets falling for your lure, stars lusting after your luster
As I sit here in the shadows (150,000,000 kilometers away)
Eagerly waiting to be written off with a morning kiss good-bye   

150,000,000 kilometers — 

Your magnificent light radiating throughout a galaxy once dark
The warmth of your passion breathing life into nothingness
Your dawn giving weathered hearts hopeful tomorrows
And your dusk a chance for lost souls to follow the stars home

150,000,000 kilometers — 

A distance I hoped was enough for me to hide
The craters left by meteors I was too helpless to stop
The scars marked by flagpoles of men who tried to claim me as theirs
And I, the lifeless, lightless satellite who allowed them to

150,000,000 kilometers — 

Your days, my nights; your summers, my winters —
I wax and wane through this far, cold end of the Milky Way
Stardust trickling down my sealed, forbidden lips
As I let your burning gaze pierce through my pale, arid skin

150,000,000 kilometers — 

We move across this space in an agonizing pas de deux:
Seemingly within reach, but never to feel each other’s touch
Swirling and twirling in a tragic, lonely coexistence
Until one day we started dancing around the truth

150,000,000 kilometers — 

A little closer, and spring tides will start devouring islands
Seasons brought to a pause, hearts left to freeze or burn out
To cross the constellations is to carve out trails of hurt and havoc —
Should we make a run for it as Nature’s fugitives?

150,000,000 kilometers — 

Yet I still feel the warmth of your breath tracing the side of my neck
Open up your eager eyes, Mr. Brightside, and pull me in closer
Because damnit if our gravity has always been this strong
Then perhaps California should disappear after all

150,000,000 kilometers — 

Sometimes 7,000, sometimes 20;
Sometimes laws of nature, sometimes self-inflicted doubts —
and yet somehow you have always been the one
who gives me light.

— The Moon

UPCA 2017 Valedictory Address

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Last Sunday, I was granted the greatest of  honor of standing before the graduating class of the UP Diliman College of Architecture, and sending them off with pieces of hope and gratitude carefully woven into the seven-minute speech. I’m sharing my composition here for posterity (and publication convenience).

・・・

Two days after his thesis deliberations, a close friend of mine told me that he immediately started looking for career alternatives. I’m looking at you right now, and I’m telling you that you are not completely alone in how you feel.

I don’t mean to start this speech off on a negative note, and I certainly don’t mean to alarm our proud parents on this happy occasion, but the reality is this: we are straddling the threshold between the relatively predictable life of a student, and the chaotic volatility of life outside our beloved college. It’s way too easy to get lost in our heads, and caught up with doubts and fears at this point. We suddenly end up being so cautious of every step we take, and worry that the choices we make now can miserably chain us to a life we don’t want.

Continue reading “UPCA 2017 Valedictory Address”