I wish to be in the same room with all the memories I regret. We’d sit on mangy waiting room couches and steal furtive glances on dog-eared magazines strewn haphazardly on a coffee table, looking for momentary reprieves as we shift in our seats at every affected cough. In the silence of time passing, we’d learn to be civil. We’d learn to be acquaintances who never give each other anything more than a nod, a gesture of acknowledgement that yes, you exist, are existing, and will continue to exist as I do in this world, so let’s live in peace.
When you were a kid, you had a
theory. One that aimed to satisfy the question that always made itself heard
inside your head whenever your parents handed you a “you’re not a kid anymore” for wanting to be carried out of the car
after a nap, only to contradict themselves later by saying “you’re still too young” for wanting to stay out late with friends
with whom you shared whispered conspiracies against the universe. The question
you had whenever you wished your family was more like the ones you saw on TV, families
who played on their yards and smiled and laughed and had the sun burn gentle halos
around their heads, families whose parents drew pencil scratches on the wall as
a way of documenting their children’s lives.
The question you spent
more than your childhood trying to find the right answer(s) to: How do people
It seemed easy enough
to answer at the start, especially after you spent days bedridden with your life’s
first, real flu. In the midst of the invisible fire wrapping your body like
second skin and the dizziness and screaming lights that greeted you whenever
you tried to sit up, you found yourself at home with an answer: People don’t
grow. They change souls. An individual changes souls throughout his/her life,
much like how most of us steer from one dream to another at different periods
in our life, finding the previous one to be a sweater that needs to be washed
or replaced permanently. There is no schedule, no fixed period in life where
one changes his/her soul. It happens involuntarily. You could wake up one day
and find that everything feels different, or you could be in the middle of
something—you could be doing your homework, losing yourself at a party, masturbating
under your bedsheets, or simply talking with someone—and just suddenly feel that things are different. The common denominator is an
awareness of a difference that you cannot quite place enough to find ways to make
everything go back to how they once were or how they once felt, no matter how
painfully you want them to.
Your first soul-change happened after
that first flu. You woke up on the third day and found yourself no longer sick.
You sat up and felt convinced that your soul has changed somehow.
A week after that soul-changing
flu, you stopped going out to play with your friends.
Your second soul-change happened after
that one day in your third year in high school, during which you slammed your bedroom
door, dropped your bag on the floor, and cried hard yet mute against your
pillows as a way of announcing your arrival at the house you once called home.
That house, you thought, would never see a family laughing with genuine mirth
even if it had a yard. The sun would only cast shadows on the seemingly
permanent creases on your parents’ face. The pencil scratches on your wall is
your way of documenting the days you spent locked inside your room crying
without anyone noticing.
That day, you counted the lines on
your wall, and taught yourself how to not feel, how to not personify the ruins
you saw all around you and inside of you, how to not speak only to choke up
with shards of things that were once whole. That day you threw away your childhood
theory on soul-changes and drafted a new one. And from that day onwards, you
believed that people weren’t made to grow nor change their souls; they were
made with hearts as warm and welcoming yet also as prone to callousing as their
hands can be.
People don’t grow. Their hearts
So you took everything that was ‘you’
and hid it where no one could find it easily, not even yourself. Everything
that had calcified within and had started to weigh you down—you buried, so as
to appear a blank slate, like how your bedroom wall looked like before you
And, to tell the truth, you almost
succeeded. In those years you chose to personify a nondescript rock, nothing
ever came close to weathering you. Nothing until She.
She came and she was ultra-violet. She
beamed halos not around your head but around your irises. She saw through you
and helped you see through yourself.
You didn’t ask for her to come. You
didn’t ask for her to unearth the ageless fossils you spent years guarding from
grave-robbers. But she came, and she offered you a hand. Your third
soul-changing moment was taking it.
And the hand she lent you, though
calloused by her own experiences, was warm. She was warmth, and she made you
feel like the graveyard you’ve curated could grow flowers.
At her home, in her charcoal-lineless
bedroom walls, her sunlight-trapping arms, and against her mouth whispering conspiracies
against what you’ve thought the universe to be for so long, you learned why you
always gravitated towards the cold. Whenever she wrapped her arms around you,
kept you close and made you feel the way your first flu did—except that, during
those times, the dizziness, the breath hitches, and the sudden weakness in the
bones and the sinew and everything that was you were more welcome—you learn,
more and more, that there are many ways a person can grow.
And that, for now, in your grave garden and your calloused
winter, with your first flu of wanting to feel and make feel, you choose to
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