Holding Smiles

August 14, 2012 - 2 Responses

I held my smile while I cursed the corner of my right eye. Hardheaded eye, I thought, seriously considering getting a damn eye patch, or just moving away from where I stood, but decided against both ideas because they were as usual, stupid.   I couldn’t seem to stop catching glimpses of her while she stood in her favorite sandals. She used to say they were her most comfortable pair, that high-heeled number. I never understood why though, when they looked extremely uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I used to text her that those sandals of hers demanded my respect, all with a slight smile.

She used to say that about me too.  I was comfortable to be around with.

But then I may have worn out a bit. I’ve frayed around the edges.

I turned my back slightly so I wouldn’t have to see her. In the pit of my stomach, I felt a strong force trying to get me to turn around again. I willed myself not to.

Someone cracked a loud joke amidst the already noisy clinking of glasses and chatter. I heard her laugh. I swear it felt like a dozen bulls came charging my way as I held a slightly warm cup of soda on one hand, pushing me against the gigantic glass windows and forcefully crashing into them, causing me to fall aimlessly from this corporate building straight down to the hotdog vendor’s cart right outside.

Dear crap, I need to sit down somewhere, I thought. But corporate parties, of course, had an abundance of booze, bad taste and narcissism but a terrible lack of available chairs.

I found an available spot near the wall. I found one without a problem. Not everyone was on the prowl for spots like this so I have it made.

Now, if I could just find the bigger man in me to find comfort out of seeing her dance with that one guy. A new guy, I heard he came armed with enough industry smarts to render 55% of us little company drones useless.

Joke’s on him, though. We already are pretty much useless even before he entered the picture, I thought while drinking my soda. I made a grossed-out face and scanned the room for the nearest receptacle.

My eyes caught her again. She moved fluidly as she danced to music I would never even think of listening to. She never danced like that for me before.

To be fair, she never did a lot of things for me anyway.

We worked on one project together almost three years back. I found myself conversing with her a lot afterwards. Like a dopey teenager, I saw myself all, in a word, crazy, whenever my phone notified me of a new text message. My Super Mario ringtone equated to exhilaration and excitement. I must have smiled for hours without me even noticing it.

We would talk about the littlest things. She appreciated my humor which no one else has ever seemed to get, except one English professor I had in college, who used to write small notes on my essays, saying that he’ll happily grade me based on my sarcasm and not on my poor sentence construction. She said I was comfortable to talk to and be around with.

She would text me often on one particular day, like we were engaged in a texting marathon, then she’d stop altogether for a number of days. I’d wait for it patiently, while I thumb my old comic books and try to distract myself from the anticipation. Then she’d text me again, then out of nowhere, stop texting me again.  Looking back I could’ve texted her daily, prodding her to respond. But I guess I’m just not that kind of guy. I would never prod. I would never pry.

Sometimes, she’d call me at 3 a.m., as she was getting home from somewhere. I could hear the automated voice of the subway lady, telling everyone what stop’s next so they could cross it off their imaginary lists. She used to sound tired, and she’d say that she had a bad day, and wanted to hear my voice. She said that I should be more talkative, but not with everyone, just with her.

I never got to fall back asleep after those phone calls. My heart made too much pounding noises and I didn’t know who to file a formal complaint to about it.

After one particular sleepless night (not that I complained), I heard a couple of girls talk about her as they were standing up from their chairs to take their lunch. Office talk, I never got too much into it – mostly because I had very few people to talk with anyway. But I heard that she was on her way to becoming a top executive. I felt a certain degree of pride creep through my old shoes making its way upward my thin cheeks. That girl, she is so amazing.

I waited for her to send me a text message. Or pass by the aisle on the seventh floor, where I can see her from my cubicle. I wanted to congratulate her and give her a small smile.

One time, I saw her in the cafeteria; she was talking to a group of people. They must be working on a project. She was at it, even at lunchtime, leading their group into project victory if there ever was such a thing.

I sat at the far end, waiting for her to finish, trying to get her attention. As I took small bites of my tuna sandwich, I made sure that I was ready to smile for her when her eyes did drift by my location. Unfortunately, I only had an hour break. I had to usher myself out of the cafeteria, while she made empathetic hand gestures with her spoon as she talked to her group. This was five months ago. Not that I’m keeping track.

Right now she’s dancing with this new guy our company stole from the competition. I stand at this corner, peering into her direction. I fiddled with my blue tie.

I’m still trying to hold this small smile.

Saving Heroes

August 7, 2012 - 2 Responses

Looking back, I did remember the bright light hitting her face like a Rembrandt. Her hair, in a perpetual bun, glowed an extra glow. Her lips were in a withdrawn line, her naturally thin eyebrows almost in a furrow. Almost, yes, not fully. I guess even her eyebrows were too tired of me to even finish expressions anymore.

Her eyebrows used to dance. They danced for me. At least 10 years ago they did.

I was a gangly-looking college kid when I first saw her. It was a stereotypical summer in Manila – hot as a furnace. They used to say that you could cook an egg on the pavement with the heat. But who in the world would want to do that on a dusty road where rodents and roaches and drunkards tread? I’d eat that over my dead, gangly-looking body.

The afternoon sun was about to jump to the sea to give way to the moon. People were headed home, most of them with slightly irritated, scrunched up faces. With the heat, the crowdedness of the jeepney and that irritating man’s voice booming over the radio with his ridiculously phony drawl spitting up million-peso ads disguised as news items every three seconds, who can blame them?

Inside the jeepney en route to Baclaran, there she sat in her college uniform, right in the middle of a chubby old woman with a remarkable amount of greasepaint on her face that she looked like a deranged geisha, and a regular Juan, with a black tattered backpack on his lap.

Yes, right smack in the middle of two regular(ly unattractive) persons, she sat all prim-like, with her looming flowered backpack on her lap. Her brown skin looked fresh and natural, and contrasted with the rest of our tired and haggard ones, a sight not too often seen at that time of the day. She seemed to have something on her mind for she held her own blank gaze for quite a while.

I found myself trying to catch her gaze.
I found myself looking like a serial killer so I stopped every now and again to look at something else, like my old school shoes that badly needed cleaning. Then I would look at her face again.
It was a cycle.

I was staring at her eyes and saw how her pupils start to dilate. She looked slowly at me. This is the part where I usually stop staring out of sheer humiliation but I just couldn’t. She held my gaze and made her eyebrows dance – it elevated and fell like a rollercoaster and I know I should have tried a little harder to decipher what she was trying to tell me, but I was just lost in that dance her eyebrows made. Something was crawling its way out of my stomach, like butterflies in heat, trying to make their way out, flying frantically in the pit of my stomach.

Then I felt something move in my backpack. The old backpack that my aunt from America sent me a couple of years back. The one on my lap.

It was definitely not butterflies.

Then I looked at the girl, she was still looking at me. This time I was able to read her dancing eyebrows well. She was warning me not to look left. Sit still. Don’t move.

I felt something sharp slide slowly out of the side of my backpack, which now probably has a hole on its side.

I never got to see the man who butchered my bag. Right after he got what he wanted he signaled the driver to stop on a random curb and got out. All I remember was looking at his back as he swiftly stepped out of the jeepney. A real pro, I thought. But then again, in this economy, he had no choice but to be a pro.

I looked at her again, my heart pounding from what just happened. Her eyebrows, now furrowed, tainted with concern.

I peered inside the hole on my backpack. I lost my wallet, my old cellphone. I may have lost a couple of heartbeats as well. I lost track.

Then I heard her voice.
Are you okay, she asked.
It was that simple. Like in the movies. And until this day I still couldn’t believe it.

I never intended to get sappy, never in my life, but it was that moment that I realized that I found the girl who may have very well saved my life with her dancing eyebrows.

That was the beginning.

I found myself being saved by this woman countless times. And after years of marriage, my affair with that one intern, my missed anniversary dates, and the many fights I started and caused, I should have at least tried to be the hero in the relationship. Even just once. I could have tried.

I looked at her, sitting on the passenger seat, her face was still and calm. I yelled like a madman, not knowing if I had enough time to steer left or right, or just maybe hold her hand like I used to. And apologize profusely for being me. Or say that I loved her. And tell her that I don’t deserve her. Or hold her. Or anything like that.

And in the small spaces between the shards of glass and rubber and metal, and the small crevices between the loud noises and screams, I thought I saw her smile a small smile at me. I thought I saw her close her eyes and calmly smile in my direction.

I could have saved her life, even just this once. I could have been her hero.

Inspired by this non-profit group’s project to promote driving awareness and education for Filipino drivers and mechanics. As long as there’re people willing to make projects like these, there’s hope. On behalf of all Filipinos, I salute this endeavor with a small literary piece of something to help promote their good deed, all the way from the other side of the world.

Counting

April 16, 2012 - 11 Responses

Approximately fifteen seconds after 1:35 in the morning, Belle’s vent machine talked to me. Its green, blinking light went up and down as Belle’s mouth simultaneously opened and closed in tune with the cryptic rhythm.

Hey, it said. Sit down, you’re bugging me.

Sorry about that. I don’t really want to sit down yet, if it’s okay with you, I responded. I cleared my throat.

No it’s not. Just sleep. She’s asleep for crying out loud, it retorted, lights blinking.  She’s been out of it since 9.

I know, I said. It’s just that – I feel, I want to just watch over her now.

Suit yourself, but you’re really being in the way right now.

I apologize, I said as I looked at Belle’s bony face.

Can I ask you something? I asked, unbuttoning the last button on my plaid shirt.

Shoot, it said.

What do the numbers mean, why are they changing all the time. Is that a good thing? I asked all at once.

Buddy, I’ve been attached to your wife for five days now. That’s never a good thing, it said rather apologetically.

I see, I said. I heard my voice break in three different parts. I buttoned up the last button of my plaid shirt.

I sat down. I stared at the numbers on the vent machine again, and found myself lost in it. Numbers were never my strong point. I remember when I was nine, and I had to memorize the multiplication table. 6×7 always made me want to run away from home.

I’m just not a fan of numbers.

I looked at Belle as she laid there, all 80 pounds of her beautiful frail self, in her white hospital bed. Like a fish out of water, she gawked, unintentionally because the tube keeping her from not breathing is keeping from closing her mouth as well. Her mouth has been open for days now; her lips were dry and blistered.

I stood up. I stood by her side.

Belle, I started to say in a hushed tone, but stopped myself for a complete lack of something smart to say.

To ask her if she’s okay is pointless.

To ask her if it hurts is just stupid.

To ask her what she wants is plain fearsome.

I started to hold her swollen right hand in mine. It was cold, like a plump tomato that’s been sitting in the crisper for three hours. I held it like it was something precious, corrected myself for it honestly was exactly just that, and proceeded to slowly massage her fingers.

She tried to open her eyes, but I can see that it was nothing short of a battle. The whites of her eyes peeked through her very heavy lids.

She can’t talk. She made a grumbling sound and it made my heart jump a skyscraper’s height.

It was 3:17 in the morning and I was still standing next to her when the vent unit talked to me again.

I see this all the time, it said, trying to make conversation.

You must be used to it, I commented.

I’m used to ailing people, sure. But the likes of you? No. People like you bother me all the time.

How so, I asked with raised eyebrows, now looking at the lighted machine.

You come here, you look at your wife, right?

Yes.

Count.

Excuse me?

Count.

What?

Count, I said.

What should I count?

Silence.

Hello?

Silence.

I looked at Belle’s face, like I was waiting for an answer.

She breathed heavily. She grumbled.

I remember when Belle would grumble by my side too. We’d talk about the most unbelievably regular things, like hopefully spending a week or two in Florida, or Chicago, and she’d end up grumbling about something random like an imitation origami set she bought six years ago from somewhere totally different like Chinatown, and how it upset her. I would laugh despite of myself, and her grumble would take on a deeper tone.

I miss her off-topic grumbles.

One by one, memories of Belle filled my brain like a good, long movie.

I started to count each and every one of them.

I have time, I thought.

I have the rest of my life to do this.

I smiled.

Attention

March 4, 2012 - Leave a Response

Today I looked at my garbage bin

It was full, it was brimming

The flies were all swarming

Dancing, copulating

Right next to my dining table

My table, with the red table cloth

I bought last winter

Where my five-day-old tomato soup was

And still is

To this very moment

I heard a stirring in the library

It was probably the cat

Though I don’t own one

 

 

I looked at something else.

 

 

I looked at my nails

The ones on my toes

They were chipped and un-cut

My nails

Are different

Like a weird shade of tan

Only murky

Like silver, almost

Only dirty

Like they are dead

Or just ugly

Hey, a voice came from the middle of the house

I heard some of the books fall

On my hardwood floor

Hey! Hey, you! he said in a loud voice

 

 

He kept at it while I sat in my corner

My mind is filled with a droning sound

Like my TV in the 90s

On channel 9

At around 3:30 a.m.

While the world waits for the morning news

Bzzzzzzz in my mind

While he kept at it

He shouted at me from the center of the house

Get up!

Move!

 

 

Bzzzzzzz in my mind

 

 

While he bellowed at me

To take out the trash

To clip my nails

To get up

To move

He yelled

He bellowed

He shouted mad

 

 

Bzzzzzz

Bzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

 

I looked at something else.

 

 

It might just be the cat

Though I don’t own one

 

I looked at something else.

The Pigeon Girls of Neverland

July 25, 2010 - 13 Responses

Two ladies passed by me today to find a vacant bench on this small Brooklyn park. They looked at me with contempt.

I don’t blame them.

Sitting next to me are my three-year old brown loafers, my backpack, and the curvaceous, lingering scent of the woman who helped me make a mess of my bed sheets last night. I couldn’t have cared less about the gray-haired pair’s stink-eye stares. They didn’t have a trace of womanhood left on their veined legs anyway.

I sit on this bench in hopes to find someone interesting. Someone who’d question my choice of clothes, or just someone who’d tilt her head towards my direction and ask me why I laid my things about the way I did atop this leprechaun-green park bench.

I would want that interesting someone to be a girl, by the way.

So everyday, I would sit on this very spot. I would wait for the wind’s crescendo, and count from one to three. And as always, on perfect cue, 57 pigeons would make their superfluous landing on the grass. The last thing the grass needed were 57 pigeons. It needed watering. But these pigeons are funny little creatures.

I meant it too, the thing I said about the pigeons. You see in a flock, when one says “I want to go there, croo, croo,” and decides to fly away, the 56 will croo in agreement and lift themselves off from the ground, in a grander, more superfluous movement, flying off to somewhere nice. Somewhere pleasant and jasmine-scented. Somewhere like Neverland.

Girls. Girls are funny little creatures too.

You see when one decides to go for you, all of them will come a-flocking. They’d go to someone nice. Someone tattooed and night-scented. Someone like Neverland.

Someone like me.

My first Pigeon Girl, the Pigeon Girl who started it all, met me in this park. She sat next to me and for a while, we stared at a man with blue overalls pull down the nation’s red, white and blue from its rightful pole. My gaze caught hers and they started talking. Her eyes said they wanted to lock with mine for a little while, if it’s possible. Mine screamed yes, oh yes.

Soon, our lips started talking. We talked and I took her licorice breath in, took it with me in my mind, and before long, I took it in with my dry, excited lips.

That afternoon, the wind blew and I knew then. The flock was a-coming.

Pigeon Girl the First, she told me all about Brooklyn that day. She told me why the whole borough mattered. I told her I wanted to get lost in Brooklyn, Brooklyn the town that mattered.

Her eyes sparkled. In that park, where trees you can never ever climb bragged green, green leaves that glistened, her eyes lit up. I felt like molasses.

I saw Brooklyn on her face that night. I even saw it on her freckled back. I heard the J train pull over, it pulled over on my bed post, and she got in. Draped in my bed sheet, she got in and waved at me as I lay down on my bed, with a small smile on my lips.

After that night, oh how the Pigeon Girls came a-flocking. They cocked their little necks and crooed and pecked, and I gave them all a piece of Neverland.

I’m Neverland, I’d tell them with my eyes. And they’d recognize me right away.

On this very same bench where I sit, a preacher once sat and our eyes had a conversation. His eyes were tired yet elegant. They were the most beautiful pair of eyes I ever did see. He wordlessly looked at me and I felt like the shade of ten thousand red chili peppers invade my cheeks.

Wake up, son. Wake up and live, he spoke with his eyes.
I furrowed my brows and told him that I am fully awake. That I am fully alive.
No you’re not, he replied.
I am, I insisted. I’m Neverland!
Neverland. Neverland doesn’t exist. And neither do you.
I do! I feel, I touch. Pigeon girls see me! Ask the pigeon girls!
Pigeon girls only exist in non-existence. They only exist in you. You’ll see. So wake up, son. Time’s a-ticking.

And then he stood up, he shook his head. He stood up straight like a retired soldier. Like he had the world’s repository of truth riding on his shoulders. His black hair glistened in the late afternoon light, and I stared at him in awe. The preacher man, he left towards a direction I’ve never seen anyone go towards before. His strides were long and fast, and I stared at him, wanting to speak to him but not wanting to know more.

That night, a Pigeon Girl lay sleeping on my left arm. My arm fell asleep but I was wide awake, paralyzed by the preacher man’s hauntingly beautiful eyes. The moon, she turned and fumbled in the sky.

I am the amazing Neverland, I thought to myself. My arm finally woke up, and sleep came to me as the sun came chanting its way towards its rightful spot in the western skies.

I woke up late with a headache. I stared out the window and I swear, I felt like the sun’s moved closer to my third-floor apartment while I slept. Something was off. Something went wrong.

I walked about my apartment, paced around and around, feeling like I’ve lost something but I don’t remember what. I drank coffee. I checked my pockets and my bag, but I still felt agitated. I felt like I’ve lost something.

I drank the three drops or so of coffee left in my cup and stared out my window. My headache worsened and I felt like the screws of my left arm were unhinged. Then I remembered Pigeon Girl the 47th. Where’s the Pigeon Girl from last night? I didn’t hear the train pull over. I didn’t feel her stir and leave.

Then the thought hit me like typhoon.

I may have lost the Pigeon Girls.

I went to the park without taking a shower. I needed to see if I’m still Neverland. I needed to see the pigeon girls. I laid my things about the leprechaun-colored bench and sat down.

I waited for four hours. Then I saw her.
I saw her and she was radiant.

She was summertime and candied apples as she sat on the bench. She did not ask me about my shoes, or my bag. Not even a peep about my tattoo. She just sat there, all peaceful. I stared at her, and with my eyes I told her my name.

I told her I was Neverland.

She looked at me and whispered, I know who you are, with her enchanting eyes.
Do you want to talk about Brooklyn? I asked her.
No, not really, she said.
But Pigeon Girls talk about Brooklyn all the time, I said.
I’m not a Pigeon Girl, she replied.
What are you then?
I’m a girl. I’m a jobless girl sitting on a bench.
So where are the Pigeon Girls then?
There are no Pigeon Girls.
There are Pigeon Girls! They stay the night and fly away. Pigeon Girls see me. Pigeon Girls see Neverland! I exclaimed.
Maybe you’re not Neverland, she said.
But you said you knew who I was! I’m Neverland!
I know what I’ve said. I do know who you are.

You’re no one.

With that she left. She went away and the small breeze that accompanied the late afternoon weekend died abruptly, as if it decided to follow her wherever she went.

I stared at the things I’ve laid down on the leprechaun-colored bench. I stared at my shoes, my bag, and the cloying and obese scent of reality next to me. As if on cue, one pigeon flew by from a nearby tree and walked towards me.

The pigeon stared at me with his red dots for eyes and I tried to make conversation. I tried to ask him where the Pigeon Girls are.

Hey, man I know this is a long shot, but do you know if the Pigeon Girls moved to another park? Or hey, did they move to another borough? Do you know where they are right now? I asked him with my eyes.

But this pigeon, he didn’t want a conversation. He moved in, pooped on my right foot, and flew away.

Pigeons. What funny little creatures.

The Day Madison Blue Left

March 28, 2010 - 19 Responses

By Pol Arellano

Madison, that’s her name. She stirs my metaphorical cup of joe, if you will; she is fine, so fine.

Madison goes for a daily swim in my mind as I ride my beat up car to work. There, I would stare at her for brief moments from across the hall. She would tinker with her computer, hum a few songs, eat her small lunch, and be on her way home.

Madison had the simplicity I always wanted to see in a person with a real pulse, the kind that they describe in novels and cornball romance movies. She was the girl who would become the prom queen in that irritating high school movie you once watched with your friends, the one you watched out of curiosity. Only she never became the prom queen. She never had a transformation in the end – she never wore the red slinky dress and the slutty black shoes. She never left her charming self behind for a yearbook photo op with the popular quarterback and the canned applause. She remained to be her simple self, with her chunky glasses, her empty pocket and her lopsided smile.

She’s just your queen, but never the prom queen.

Madison was part of my perfect weekday routine. She’s the reason why I don’t mind the ten-hour shifts, the non-existent career advancement, the stale coffee they brew on the yellowish pot in the pantry.

Madison. If you keep perfectly still after saying her name in your mind, you’re bound to hear a pretty song or two. That’s her.

It was a cold post-winter day and Madison wore her ocean blue scarf to work. She sat down, removed the tattered scarf that matched her last name, placed it on her desk, and smiled at me from across the hall.

At the office, you can always tell when the boss is coming. You hear her heels tap-tap-tapping on the clear white floor, and the exaggerated type-type-typing sound as everyone’s keyboards scream with pretentiousness.

After a series of loud tap-tap-taps, the boss showed up at Madison’s cubicle. Madison, the boss said. She looked up from her pile of papers for the day. With a furrowed brow and a smile she greeted the boss.

Come with me to the office, she said. Madison stood up, straightened her skirt and nodded.

I didn’t have lunch that day. I just stared at my computer monitor, and typed random words just so it would seem like I was doing something productive. In reality, I really was doing something productive. I was waiting for Madison to come to her cubicle.

The ten-hour work day became eleven, eleven and a half and finally twelve. But I sat there, donning a blank face, typing in words that didn’t make sense. Madison never came out. She never went back to her cubicle.

I went home but had no sleep, and the prospect of drinking some of the stale coffee the office offers tempted me in ways I cannot even imagine. As I entered the office door the next day, I walked fast, hoping to finally talk to Madison, to ask her what happened yesterday, to maybe finally invite her for coffee after work.

As always, Madison’s cubicle was clean. But this time, her piles of paper and her computer were gone. Everything was gone, even her ocean blue scarf.

I waited for the tap-tap-tapping sound on the floor so I can ask my boss what happened. I have never spoken to her before, my boss I mean, aside from when I applied for my position 7 years ago. She seems like a swift robot, ready to pounce on any opportunity to break your neck by making you work long shifts and dismissing you curtly if you ever try to weasel your way out of it.

Before the day was over, I found myself standing in front of her office, staring intently at her door, thinking of how to ask her where Madison is. I remember thinking of starting things off with a small joke, or maybe an off-the-wall limerick. But robots don’t believe in jokes. They wouldn’t get limericks either.

I almost fainted when I heard her say come in, with a clear-cut voice. I looked up and tried to see if there was a camera above my head. There wasn’t. I went in.

Did you have a fun time staring at my door? She asked, without looking up from her laptop.

Uh, well. How did you know I was there ma’am? I asked as I fiddled with the pen in my pocket.

What do you want? Tap-tap-tap she went on her keyboard, as she purposely ignored my query.

I meant to there’s this uh, a colleague that uh, well she

For the love of sanity spit it out. Be a man for once in your life.

Where’s Madison Blue?

She left.

Where did she go?

Where do you think people go when they leave? They go far away. Liberia? Around the corner? I don’t know where she went. She just did.

But you talked to her. You made her come here, to your office. You were the last to speak to her ma’am.

That doesn’t mean that I know why she left.

But what did you tell her?

I told her that she was doing an excellent job, and that she was finally up for a promotion. But she just smiled at me, declined and left. How the hell am I supposed to know where she went?

But.

Some people can’t handle change. Ms. Blue might be one of those people. She’s resigned to stuffing her nose with dusty piles of paper for the rest of her waking life. What can you do?

She can’t just leave. It just doesn’t make sense.

She doesn’t make sense. Now if you’re done ranting like a little girl, please get the hell out of my office.

As I closed her office door, I realized that she never looked at me during the whole conversation. Not even once.

And so today, like the rest of my ten-hour workdays, I sit here, typing random words just so it would seem like I was doing something productive.

In reality, I really am doing something productive.

I am waiting for Madison to come back to her cubicle.

My Kite

October 30, 2009 - 8 Responses

By Pol Arellano

An inner child’s view of love and possession.

I was getting worried
I thought my kite wouldn’t make it
But then I saw its tail flutter
Like a butterfly in heat
Amongst the ink-blotted sky
And I smiled

This isn’t the season for kite-flying,
Or so they said
But I couldn’t disagree more
Kites will dance
Even if the wind
Refuses to cooperate
Yes, my indigo-bellied kite
Shall fly
High up in the sky
And the rhymes will get better after
Each flutter
Or
They will just stop
As I smile

My kite beats hers
And any other kid’s for that matter
Because my kite can
Grin
And enunciate
The words spoken by your grandmother
When she was still in her flour-sack undies

My kite is unlike any other
It smells like bread rolls and
Buttered onions
Laid out on a Midsummer’s day picnic
My kite smells like a virgin
For my kite is a virgin
Flirting with nothing
Not even the sky
Or the Eagles
Or your brain

My kite sounds like
A concerto
Of one-legged violinists
All ninety-nine of them playing
For the last time
Crying for glory
And roses
And canned applause
And maybe even a goodie bag

My kite beats all iPods
And all Tower Records
My kite is a symphony
Created by strangers and sweethearts
Under the white and blue protection
Of the trusty transit

My kite beats hers.
My kite is unlike any other.

I need not worry.
You’re already mine.
Smile.

The Meek Man Who Could

September 29, 2009 - 8 Responses

By Pol Arellano

DSR

He’s meek, this man; the man who could

And all who walk like he be should

He captures light and traps each beam

And puts the Lord on prime esteem

Good odes he keeps in heart and mind

And teachings of the One most kind

Service, he draws on talent; flair

For those who need the utmost care

How meek! This man, this man who could

And be like he I pray I would

With works of good he mutely plods

He trusts the truth – that praise is God’s

Dedicated to a man who believes that service is sacred and for all the people who share the same faith.

On Lost Things and Insomnia.

August 28, 2009 - 13 Responses

By Pol Arellano

Some people get angry when strangers open their mail. Seeing their husbands getting it on with their blonde dental hygienists does it for most 30-something, middle-class wives.

Me, I only get angry when my wife dies.

I’m one of them simple types, I guess.

She had a problem with her heart, the doctor said. They did everything they could – opened her up, made her drink millions of serious-blue and sterile-white capsules. They took pictures of her insides, stitched her back up. They did that to her for eight years until that humid day in August.

On that same humid day, a crow hung out at my mailbox. He didn’t move, nor screech his signature screech. I went out and approached him. He shook his head and flew away towards Mr. Diaz’s yellow-brown chimney, never to be seen again.

I should have known that it was the day that she was going away, going away with the crow.

The doctors gave her a break that day – at long last – because no one deserves a break more than her. I watched as they pulled a blue blanket over hear head and I could have sworn I heard her sigh and mutter “Finally!” under her breath.

She does that sometimes.

*

Eternity is what five months and two days feel like, and after she left, I’ve grown accustomed to this spot on our porch where I sit and wait for my tears to finally arrive from who-knows-where. That’s all I do everyday. Work, eat, wash the dishes, and wait on our wooden porch.

Losing the ability to cry is not too much of a bad thing, really, I don’t mind at all – it’s just that my wife was a great wife, and she deserves to be grieved upon.  I want to give her at least a couple of tears, or a sad face, or anything that would express how terribly I miss her and her “unbecoming” burps and the way she brushes her hair and the way she’d smile when I made love to her.

When Stalin died, some people cried.

My wife, she’s no Stalin.

She deserves the tears.

*

On the seventh day of the seventh month since she went away, I dreamt of her. She was wearing her favorite robe, the blue tattered one. Her hair was pulled up like a ballerina who’s off to rehearsals. She moved towards the porch, looked at me, made her eyes smile, and sat down next to me.

She was stunning.

Ned, honey, she said in her soft bedroom voice, what the hell are you doing?

I’m waiting for my tears to come, sweet pea, I replied.

You know that they’re not coming, they’re contented where they are, she said while fiddling with her robe a bit.

I swiveled and faced her. Where are they? Why wouldn’t they be coming back to me?

They didn’t leave a note? Last I heard they went to New York to go after their dreams.

Why would they have dreams?

Honey, she said patiently, not having dreams is your thing. Not everybody else’s.

I have dreams; I’m dreaming right now, I said all defensive-like.

Dreaming and having dreams are like ice cream and gelato. They’re both good, but one’s just better than the other.

Yes, I sorta figured that out too honey.

Well then, take your butt inside the house; your ass is beginning to dent our porch.

Okay.

Oh and honey?

Yeah?

Go get ‘em hard.

Will do, sweetcakes.

*

It was a chilly, almost starless night.  On my way to the Skyscraper City, three vehicular accidents welcomed me. It was a Friday night after all, the man on the radio said, and people were coming from all over the world to dance in the famous clubs, or eat at the famous restaurants, and they were always in a hurry.

Hurrying to get to the City That Never Sleeps strikes me as odd – why would anyone need to hurry when it never even closes its lids for a quick nap anyway? She’s going to stay up for you, no matter where the hell you’re coming from.

She won’t lock the door.

*

I woke up feeling lightheaded. Asked myself twice where I was, and answered once – I was at the Holiday Inn. I got up and brushed my teeth before I could ask myself what I was doing going on a 2-day hiatus from work, driving for seven hours straight without even stopping to pee, just so I could look for  my tears.

Yes, I’m a 48-year-old balding man looking for his dream-filled tears in New York City.

*

I stopped by a McDonalds and ordered coffee. Outside, hundreds of people swarmed by every direction, holding their mobile phones to their ears, talking to people somewhere in the universe who’re probably just walking alongside them.

After only about seven sips, the coffee went cold. So I went out and started my search. I saw two potbellied policemen sitting on a bench, waiting for something evil to happen. I don’t know if I’m the evil they’re waiting for, but both of them looked at me and nodded slightly.

Good day, officers, I said.

Yes, sir, what can we do for you? The older of the two asked.

I was wondering where in the city I could find lost tears? Ones with actual dreams?

Lost tears, lemme see. You could try Times Square, heard a woman found her childhood there. It was sorta a big deal and everything. Happened late last week I think. The other policeman said, while chomping on a blue gum.

And how do I get there?

Walking’s pretty much how, the older policeman said.

Thank you, officers, I said with a smile.

No problem sir, be careful. Lotsa crazies. The gum-chewing one said.

*

Walking around Times Square is like walking around a small multicolored, neon-lighted room filled with a million or so people walking around with cameras hanging from their necks. Every now and then you’d have to duck or wait or walk faster because you’re in the way of a glorious picture-taking.

No sign of my tears anywhere.

I noticed that traffic lights were treated just like the fancy billboards. They’re just there to look at. Red doesn’t mean stop, green doesn’t mean go, and yellow is just that color mustard is made of. Here, all you have to do is to not hit a pedestrian. No, scratch that. Just don’t hit a New Yorker and you’ll be fine.

I saw an African-American man wearing a Spiderman outfit, his hair braided and thick. He was trying to sell me one of his $10 designer bags, but I told him I’d have to ask my wife if she wanted one. He looked at me, winked, and smiled for the Japanese boy who was taking a picture of him, probably to show off to his friends back home.

The afternoon came like a thief, agile and unnoticeable. I sat down on one of the red chairs and contemplated if I should ask the get-a-freakin’-room teenage couple if they could move a little, just so it wouldn’t like we were having a threesome. But then one of the pigeons landed near me, and cocked his head to the left three times. I noticed that the Indian family that used to be there had already left and I could move freely to the left. So I did.

Thanks, I said to the pigeon.

Yeah, well, he replied, eyeing a piece of bread an old lady scattered on the ground for the pigeons to devour.

Shit, those freakin’ maniacs, he said.

Do you want me to carry you there? I asked.

What the hell do you mean “carry me there”? I can effing fly there if I wanted to, you idiot! He exclaimed, his eyes bulging with anger.

Sorry, sorry, the last thing I wanted to do was offend you, believe me, I apologized.

Idiot, he muttered, cocking his head towards the direction of the seventeen hundred pigeons on the ground trying hard to get a piece of whatever edible it is lying around on the ground.

Would you mind if I asked you to eat a hotdog with me? I asked, trying to gauge his facial reaction.

Now you’re talkin’, the pigeon said. He gave a slight smile and flew on my left shoulder.

*

What brings you to New York? Came here to watch other tourists spend $15 on a stupid mug too or what? The bird asked after he’s eaten the last of his hot dog.

I’m looking for my tears actually. Do you know where I could find them? I asked him while wiping my mouth with a napkin.

Chances are you’re never going to find them. He said while looking at a Chinese man jumping up and down the street, ecstatic about something he heard on his phone.

Why not? I asked.

Because then you’d have no reason to come back. And she doesn’t do things like that.

Who’s she?

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

No, not really.

Who the fudge else? New Freakin’ York, that’s who she is! What the frick do you think she does when she stays up all night?

What?

She makes sure that everything everyone loses stays lost. She keeps them in her cupboards and cabinets and Ming vases and underwear closets. She hides them behind subway seats, underneath the Empire State building, scatters them all around Chinatown, hangs them on Liberty’s torch, and tucks them inside every I Love New York shirt known to man.

Why would she do that?

She keeps it hidden so you’d come every damn year to look for them.  So you’d have all the reason to come back. All the freakin’ reason to come back here and waste time with her. She’s a very lonely girl, you know.

Oh. I said.

So chum, the pigeon asked, when are you comin’ back?

*

I dreamt of her again, my beautiful wife. This time she was next to me on the bed, reading her favorite cookbook. I snuggled close to her and hugged her with all my might.

I felt her warm skin tingle, and for a moment, I felt like swimming the English Channel. One-handed.

Hon, she said, her voice all bedroomy and wonderful.

Yes? I asked, closing my eyes.

She told me to tell you that she’s still not sleeping and that she’s waiting for you.

Yeah, tell her to keep the door open till next weekend, will you love?

After you kiss me, she said, maybe I will.

Silangan. (East)

August 10, 2009 - 8 Responses
By Pauline Arellano

By Pauline Arellano