our space

there have never been parents more proud of their child than us as lovers
looking at the cheap plastic dresser we pounded to entirety with our hands,
squatting over stained tiles, space for miles. we were building hopes
on weak dividers and mattresses an inch and a half thick each; making plans
of making arts with stomachs fed with tuna and Lucky Me

when nights grew quiet and car lights dimmed to turn open roads, as if reminding
Quezon Ave. that it, too, must rest, on nights as quiet as ours, we reached hands
over bodies, like sprouts seeking sunshine in each other’s breasts. i remember
as nostalgic dreamers do, warmth in the darkness of our dusty patched up room

our plates, we lifted from the floor with a bed tray we called chabudai.
my mother, she pitied with a mini-fridge, a mattress, and a washing machine.
the wide room, which grows even bigger with your occasional leaving, is now shrinking
in square feet. can you count, my love, as I do, the foundation of our romance
in the things we told ourselves we needed: one dining table, two creaking chairs,
one couch that is now, as I write, cursing our combined weight, four pillows, two bed
sheets, four towels, five shared shorts

one cat. except no one ever really told us that cats multiply in heat and that our family
of three will grow into six, then five, then eight, then seven and i would just watch
as our intertwined lives take shape at midnights over ashes and conversation

and i thought at second year, i’ll have realized that i’ll never be happy with a lover
and that i will always be ready with the certificate to prove that i am the cats’ mother;
and that warmth will always give way to the cold when we’re sleeping
and that some people are better left writing poems over things that once were,
counting furniture at a quarter past eleven. but looking over my shoulder only
to have cheeks meeting your lips, talking about whatever, i will
throw away all the money to fill all of this space until we lose the way to the door       

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Orange

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She turned to me and asked, “And how do you spell orange?” A smirk played on her lips. That and the cheap lipstick she just bought from the pharmacy.

I wanted to tell her that orange is what happens when the sun of her smile kisses the sea of her lips. That orange is a flower blooming on her perfect mouth. I wanted to tell her that orange is the fruit Eve tempted Adam with and of which he happily partook. I wanted to tell her that orange was what I wanted.

But the truth was I wanted more.

“What do you think?” she asked again.

I went to her and pressed a thumb lightly on the corner of her lips. Orange rubbed off on my finger and I sucked on it, running my tongue over the color, looking for the faint trace of her taste. I wanted to drown her in my poetry and shower her with complicated words which will never explain half of what I feel. I wanted to breathe my literature into her mouth when she finally gasps for explanations. I wanted her to die with her last breath in my lungs. I wanted her more than anyone or anything in the world.

But the truth was I wanted more.

“You look pretty,” I said.

She looked pleased as she held a palm to my cheek, her eyes examining my face intently. “But I’m still not as pretty as you.”

I never thought I’d

Your arms, your arms

I never thought I’d
Not hold hands, not
understand the ways you
believe, exist,
hurt,

          I
          beg

End the night,
Sleep, see again, tomorrow
Trade chances, I
think I’d want to
Stay with you

Your arms, For a while
I never thought I’d

Miss
the most

*Words plucked from someone’s tweets, rearranged for someone else

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t have what others have.

We are not ruins, we told ourselves. At least not in the way most people imagine it.

It’s been three days since I last spoke to him. Three whole days, seventy-fucking-two hours. The last time I saw him, he walked right past me to the bathroom without so much as a look. In a house as small as ours, you’d think that the walls would push us to get sick with each other’s presence. Except he’s been cooped up in his studio for the past three days. The sink is half-full with dirty plates and I cannot be bothered with dish-washing when there are words, turns of phrase, that I cannot wrench out of my head.

He understands.

I understand.

There’d be days like this, we tell one another, when we would get lost in our respective worlds. There are healthy breaks for and from people sick with images constantly darting back and forth in their heads. We are balls of energy, too much exposure to which can cause nausea, mood disorders, and even mental derailment. This is also why we don’t keep too many friends.

One of these days, he would finish his art. I would know it when he finally summons me for a reason as to why the house is a filthy mess. I would crawl up to him with a piece of paper in my hands, three days’ worth of words that would never fit the proper meter. He would read it and kiss my forehead. I’d look at his work and tell him that it’s the best he’d come up with so far. We would never ever come to terms with our worth.

This is how we are.

We’re down to our last five hundred pesos with two weeks remaining till the end of the month. Money has never run stable in this household with the couple of us never really learning how to spend like proper adults. We splurge on sudden cravings, five-course dinners washed down with the finest merlot. The following week, we’d hoard the cheapest noodles and the cheapest cans of tuna for the charity case that was ourselves. There are times when I feel like money is the root of the evil that will eventually lead to our ruin.

We are not ruins, we told ourselves. At least not in the way most people imagine it.

There are nights when he would come home to silence and consequently find me in fetal position on our bed, my arms a crisscross of red lines and my skin a patchwork of black and blue. A number of men had left me to die but he would look at me as if I was the most beautiful piece of art to ever breathe. I look at his ability to hold me despite my constant breaking as tragic. He would make love to me like our lives depended on it and they did. A few hours later and we’d be laughing over plans of moving to India or Brazil.

Sure, there’d be days when memories of childhood dreams and the mainstream definition of the words “happiness” and “success” would eat at his heart. He would cradle my neck in a choke and would curse the day he says I destroyed his dreams of becoming something else. I’d scream my own frustrations into his ear and share with him the horrible adjectives I reserve only for my self. His mouth is cruel, seeking to pain, but the fire in his eyes would assure me that we’re good and we would be moving to Cambodia or Cuba. This is our music, our art, our lives, ours.

One Christmas eve, I got him the present of a black eye.

He sent me to the hospital with a broken wrist.

We spent the next week apologizing with sheets upon sheets of love letters. My mother, she worried over the bruises, the unpaid bills, and the absence of a grandchild. I laughed and told her that she could never really read me even as a kid. When I smiled, I wondered if she thought me as beautiful as I felt.

If you had asked me at fourteen what I wanted to be when I turned thirty, I would have told you that I wanted to be a respected journalist. If you had asked me at twenty-two, I would have told you that all I ever really wanted was a home. If you’re going to ask me now if I think I made it, I’ll just tell you that I feel like I finally understand everything I sought to understand. From where I’m sitting, the words are clear on my notebook in the exaggerated loops of my handwriting.

“Let love be the name of their lie.”