Tag Archive | RandomBlog2011

Island time

An old man sets his traps among the mangroves, praying for a good catch. It is an ancient craft, the weaving of baskets, the luring of crabs with expertly baited traps. He does this in a siran, a salt bed, unused and flooded with sea water during the rainy season.  During the summer, the siran is a busy place, bustling with people making salt the same way their parents and grandparents did before them. Today, it is quiet, serene, with nothing to scare away the myriads of crustaceans that make their home in the mud among the roots of the bakhaw. The old man is hopeful.

Such is the rhythm of life in the siran: in the summer, they make salt, in the monsoon, they harvest the abundant marine bounty flourishing in the shallow waters. Year after year, season after season, the sea, land, and sky support and nourish life in a finely tuned cadence that the islanders have learned how to dance, generation after generation.

In the cities, skyscrapers are being built higher than ever, information is transmitted at lightning speed, and whatever natural rhythms are being played are drowned out by blaring noise and bright lights. It is exciting for some, I suppose. Certainly convenient, and these days convenience is the holy grail. You pick up a cup of coffee from a convenient drive-through window, check traffic reports from your car for the most convenient route to work, and off you go to the office, where you offer a product or service that you promote as the most convenient in the market. The city does have its own rhythm, and it’s fast and ever-changing. There’s a wild adrenalin rush to be found in keeping pace.

But I find it soothing here. I love the sense of continuity, the feeling that some things do stay the same. Yes, Cuyo is gradually moving forward into the 21st century, and that’s also a good thing. There is, after all, nothing romantic about stagnation. But for the most part, the years turn more slowly on this island than anywhere else.

There’s comfort in that. Heaven knows there’s enough instability in my own life, with bipolar disorder drastically changing my world from vivid to gray several times a year. I wake up from my depressive slumber to find myself left behind, scrambling to catch up with people and things that have moved on without me. It’s disorienting, and more than a little lonely.

So while I’m here, I’m soaking up the rhythm of the island, letting it permeate my skin and settle into the center of my body. When I leave, when I have to keep pace with a more frenetic beat, I can pause for a while and remember that somewhere else, in my somewhere else, the world is moving to the slow and steady beat of a peaceful heart.

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David

You know what I found this morning, in a long-unopened compartment of my wallet? It was a letter from you, dated several years and a lifetime ago. Tucked into the folds were three balayong blossoms, dry and fragile from being pressed for so long. You loved me then, I remember. You recorded these promises for posterity, so that I can read them over and over again and know what I meant to you. And then you changed your mind.

Dammit, David. How can I still be hurting over this now? People’s hearts get broken every day. People get left behind, and people move on. So why the heck am I here, plenty of time and plenty of adventures later, crying over sheets of paper that no longer hold anything real? It’s not like I spent my days wallowing in heartbreak. Eventually, I stopped missing you or even thinking about you. I loved, I laughed, I engaged. I did things that matter. I grew up a little every day, and I stopped wanting you back. You are no longer a part of my life — most of the time.

But some days just catch me off guard. It could be the little details, like the sight of my own palm, messy with squiggles and lines whenever I write with a ballpoint pen. I can almost hear your exasperated laugh,  almost see you trying to figure out why the ink that should have landed on paper ended up on my hand instead.  Or it could be the big things, David, the wounds received in the process of living.  Somehow, every goodbye is still an echo of yours, every person walking away steps in your footprints until they are out of sight. And suddenly there would be tears flooding my throat all over again. After all this freaking time.

So here I am today, writing on tear-soaked paper, thinking that’s enough. That’s more than enough. I want to love again like I loved you, in spite of risk, in spite of fear. Loving you taught me just how much I could give and how far I can go, and I don’t want to lose that. I want to offer myself again to someone, the right someone. You didn’t stay, David, but someone else will. Someone else deserves this misguided intensity of emotion that I wasted on you, long after you didn’t want it anymore.

I’ve always been the one who remembers. In a way, I’ve come to accept that, the inability to really forget what was once important. The memories will remind me to be careful, but I could stand to let go of the souvenirs. It’s been over for so long. This is the part, I think, where I stop letting it hurt.

Of doppelgangers, accidental meetings, and letting go

It’s insane how much you look like my first love. You walked up to me on the seashore early one morning, and the shock of recognition was followed by a strong sense of disorientation. What are you doing here, Alex? I thought. Here, of all places, in my somewhere else. When you said something (it was about the sunrise, I think, but I was still too unsettled to remember), I realized that you weren’t him, just someone who looked remarkably similar. Several days of running into each other, and sort of becoming friends, haven’t dulled the resemblance. You even move like him, for goodness’ sake.

You made me surprise myself, you know. There was a time, long ago, when any reminder of him would have hurt, or felt bittersweet. Not anymore. I take pleasure in your smile, that wonderfully familiar grin that automatically makes me want to smile back, and it takes me back to the laughter that made me fall in love. There’s a feeling of being in two places when I’m with you: one in which I’m enjoying your company, and another where I’m wandering in the past. None of this is painful, just odd and funny and surprisingly easy. Twice, I almost called you by his name, just luckily catching myself in time. It’s a double world I’m living in, and meeting you has taken me there.

This isn’t really about you, I’m sorry. I don’t truly know who you are beneath your likeness to another man. There isn’t enough time to find out, because you’re leaving the island soon. We’re both transients here, you and I, and it’s a funny twist of fate that brought us together that day under the sunrise.

I think it’s okay, that we won’t really get to know each other. Perhaps our meeting is a gift, one that I needed more than I realized. You showed me that I have what it takes to move on. I have a problem with that, you see, with moving on. I linger at the spot of every important goodbye, watching the person walk away until the final glimpse is gone, hoping for one last backwards glance. I’m never the first to turn away; I’m always the one who’s haunted. Meeting you, enjoying the ease of looking into eyes that take me back to a different time, have reminded me that even if it takes longer than most, I do move on. Maybe I never forget, but I can eventually remember without pain. And that gives me hope.

When you go, I won’t ever see you again. You’ll be one of those significant strangers, the ones who stay just a little while but leave a lasting imprint. In this case, I think you’ll take away something, too, the fear that I have a heart that doesn’t heal. It’s enough. It’s more than I thought a stranger can give, but that’s what you did, even if you didn’t know it. Thank you. I won’t ever get to say this out loud, but thank you.

At the edge of the earth…or of the island, at least

“Capusan” is a Cuyonon word which means “endpoint”.  There is a place here in Cuyo called Capusan Beach, on the western tip of the island, so named because it is where the last long, graceful stretch of sand extends to the sea before finally surrendering to the waves. It has captured my imagination.

The name fits. Geographical location aside, Capusan Beach, it seems to me, is where old boats come to the end of the line. One big outrigger fishing boat lies stranded on the intertidal zone day after day. The high tide gives it the appearance of still being in use, but when the waters recede, it tilts drunkenly to the side, unmistakably abandoned. Closer to the shore, the skeleton of a banca lies half-submerged in the shallow waters, and farther ahead the bare ribs of another stick out of the sand, reminiscent of an elephant graveyard. The places of honor, however, belong to two old wooden ferries, stranded on the beach, slowly succumbing to the elements. With their chipped paint and rotting wood, they look like decrepit old royalty — obsolete, but somehow still regal.

 

It should have been tragic, seeing these sea craft that once mastered the waves now beached and forgotten. Yet somehow, they seem to me hauntingly beautiful, like old men contentedly sitting on a park bench, lost in reminiscence. What we call their “decline” is actually an evolution into another kind of beauty — nostalgic, wise, and incredibly poignant.

While the presence of these dilapidated boats evokes mortality and endings, it does nothing to negate the incredible vitality of Capusan Beach. Birds of all kinds abound, foraging in the shallows, wheeling across the sky, or sweeping low over the waves. Their calls blend with the crashing of the waves, some loud and shrill and harsh, others high, sweet, and melodic. In tidal pools,  fish dart around in clear water, while crabs scurry across the shore. Where the sand ends and grass takes over, there are grasshoppers, ladybugs, and butterflies playing peek-a-boo among the wildflowers. This place is undeniably, vibrantly, gloriously alive.

I come here every morning, to watch the sun rise and the world wake up. There’s poetry  in starting my day here, amidst the contrast of nature’s vitality and the strangely beautiful decay of these boats. And as my time on the island goes on, I find that it isn’t such a contrast after all, but perhaps a continuity, a connection. In Capusan Beach, endings and beginnings are two old friends nestled against each other in comfortable intimacy.

Perhaps it is here in Capusan Beach where I will finally learn to let go of the girl I was and claim the woman I have become. I know now that that is what I have come here on the island to do. There is no moving forward until I shed the safe but ill-fitting shell of my younger self’s idea of who I should have been, and start growing into the skin I have — flawed, vulnerable, but not without redemption, and not without strength. The change, if it comes, will not happen in one day, and may not even be completed in Cuyo, but hopefully it can start here. This seems to be a place where a girl can bury old hurts and disappointments in the sand, then rise up to greet the sun.

Lady in the red dress

Her sultry, sensual voice held his attention.

“I want it hot. Sizzling and intense. I want to feel the heat on my tongue, licking down my throat, consuming the rest of my body. You see, I’ve been playing it safe for too long. Now let me burn. Make me sweat, make me beg for relief, make me come back for more. I don’t care if you think I’m wanton for these gratuitous demands. I don’t know you and I don’t care. Just don’t you dare leave me cold.”

 

The waiter nodded. “Ma’am, I’ll be back with your Thai Pepper Steak.”

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(This is a response to the 100 words challenge in Velvet Verbosity. The word for the week was “gratuitous”. Everyone’s welcome to join!)

Every ounce of confidence I have

I don’t know how to swim.

If you knew that I grew up on a tropical island, this would be even more surprising.

You see, I almost drowned when I was  a child, and the memory of it was seared into my brain: overwhelming panic, an acute, painful longing for air, a desperate reaching for anything that could save me. Even the rescue left me weak, as the adrenalin drained from my body. I never wanted to feel that way again.

So even though I loved the sea, I loved it in a safe way: peering into the tidal pools, wading in the shallows, looking for shells on the shore.  I stayed away from the depths.

Until that summer.

He took me there, to the island where he grew up. And despite my caution, I could feel myself being drawn closer to him. For the nth time, I wondered when I would stop being afraid of what I wanted.

The gorgeous beach in that sleepy little town reminded me of home. His childhood friends were there, too, enjoying the sugar-fine sand, the crashing waves, and a sky so blue you wouldn’t believe it. Tired from the beach games, I lay on the shore by the waterline, eyes closed, feeling the sunlight on my lids, letting the waves caress my body, letting my hand float a little bit closer to where his upturned palm waited. Closer.

The world moved around us.

Shouts of “Hey, you two!” and “Come on!” intruded upon the sleepy rhythm of the waves. We sat up to see the sky no longer blue, but an equally unbelievable shade of radiant orange.  The whole universe was a temptation to fall in love.

His friends were laughing and calling to us, beckoning as they made their way to the nearby cliff. It was their favorite jump-off point, he told me, with the water below just deep enough for the 20-foot dive. We hurried to catch up.

When we got there, we were greeted by the most stunning vista imaginable. A golden, glowing sun hung just above the horizon,  so extravagantly glorious that my heart literally skipped a beat. Seriously, the universe was out doing itself. The group’s high spirits kicked up a notch.

Kevin went first, inexplicably yelling “Happy birthday!” as he jumped. (His birthday was in December.)

Larissa was more graceful, her flawless dive silhouetted against the dazzling sun for one captivating moment.

Javier and Elena jumped together, holding hands and laughing, then sputtering as they splashed into the darkening water.

We were the only ones left. He stepped onto the edge, grinned, and said, “You have to do this, too.” Then he dived.

“What? No! Wait—” But I was talking to empty space. Gingerly, I stepped closer to the edge and looked down. They seemed impossibly far away, treading the waves.

“David, I can’t swim!” I called down, wondering if he’d forgotten.

“I’m right here,” he shouted back. “I’ll get you as soon as you hit the water.”

My heart was pounding too hard to reply to that. Swimming in deep water was one thing, falling into it from a height of twenty feet was an entirely different level of dread.

The others were also shouting encouragement, but his was the only voice that made it past the buzzing in my ears.

“Abby? Come on, before it gets dark. I don’t want you to miss this.”

“I can’t!” My knees had started shaking.  The shimmering edge of the sun touched its reflection in sea.

” You’re safe; I promise. Abby, I promise.”

I stood there, a breathtaking sunset before me, an incredible man waiting in the water below, and twenty feet of fear and empty air in between. A lifetime of cowardice suddenly seemed awfully exhausting.

I tried to call out a warning, but my throat was too tight. I simply jumped.

And fell.

And fell.

Just because he promised.

Before I knew it, I plunged into the water, nothing but the deep unknown under my feet. Then I was pulled into his arms.

“You’re okay,” he said. “You’re okay.” I will remember that smile for the rest of my life.

Sheer exhilaration made me laugh. “Let’s do it again!”

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The brilliant beyond brilliant writers at Indie Ink have come up with the Indie Ink Writing Challenge, which I’m joining for the first time. This week, the lovely Jen O. gave me my prompt: A moment of living dangerously.  Just a moment. As prompts go, it was perfect for making me write about something I never would have thought of myself. Thanks, Jen!

And here I thought I was the only one who wrote letters to the future

So there’s this guy. He has a blog. He writes to his future wife.

Even though I’ve written to my future husband several times, I didn’t think guys were into that, too.

He says things like, “I want to hear how you say my name… in various instances. I want to be able to tell that it is your favourite thing to say. And that it spills out over your lovely lips so damn naturally because you’ve been annoying your friends by saying it to them all the time.”

And  “I’d like to have kids. You know, with you. I can almost see already how it will unfold. I think our first baby will be a boy. And I’ll hope, with every ounce of my being, that when he finds someone to spend his life with, he’ll be half as lucky as I’ve been.”

I stayed awake the whole night reading. And afterwards, I still couldn’t sleep, because his words had peeled the protective crust off my heart, and all my deepest, most honest longings lay throbbing and naked on the surface.

I want to be loved like that. I want someone who will write letters on paper, and stage a sock puppet show when I’m sick, and promise me cupcakes for breakfast to get me to fall asleep at night. I want to share root beer popsicles, and cuddle in bed, and kiss while making dinner. I want to be cherished, not just needed.

And I need to love someone like that. Someone who will receive all the tenderness I have to offer and never stop seeing it as a gift. Someone who will let me give myself and find joy in the giving, because I’m not afraid that anything will be taken for granted.

Someone who will never make me feel invisible. Someone who will never let me go.

Just thinking about it makes me giddy.

Just thinking about it makes me terrified.

Because, who am I kidding, it’s one thing to write letters to the perfect girl, and it’s a completely different thing to meet…me.

I used to think waiting for the right man to come along was difficult. Now I know it’s gotta be harder when he finally comes. Because then I — the messy, complicated reality of me — would have to stand up to this man who’s been dreaming of his ideal girl all his life and say, “Hi. It’s me that you’ve been looking for.”

And, for all my imagination, I haven’t yet figured out what he will say to that.