When the Blues Hit


a place to breathe and suspend sad thoughts

I watch her as she walks down the halls, her weary eyes almost blank, and her shoulders struggling not to slope down. She must keep up appearances of a cheery disposition that actually belies a mind tormented by anguish and a heart buffeted by the opposite end of Cupid’s love arrows. She has tried to push the thoughts – of him, of what went wrong – from her mind, but like a boxer trapped in a vice, the blows rain heavy and incessantly. She tells me her heart’s agonies, which break mine as well, but all I can offer are words of solace that seem ineffectual in easing the dull throb. I know her; no, I know her very well. She never goes into something without her entire heart, she takes risks, and her understanding is to the point of fault. Unknown to him, it took her seven years to give her heart to another one having turned into an unreconstructed hard-liner against intimacy. Who could fault her? Blinded by Cupid, she followed and waited for this man who had awakened her love but had no intention of loving her in return. She wasn’t into playing games, but he was. She had realized only after she felt that hard twinge in her chest as if a hand had plunged into it and grabbed hold of her heart and, within a blink, yanked it out. Wide-eyed, she had watched him cast it aside like cotton waste. Never again, she vowed to herself. Never again will anyone have her heart, she told herself. But the universe has had always a soft spot for her, a spot for making light of her decisions and making her believe everything would turn out all right, but, like a well-crafted Poe story, would end on a saturnine note.

Now, she is dealing with the risk of having opened herself to the possibility of love – something she dared not talk about because of the inopportune situation and timing. She wakes up every day with a tightness in her chest and an urge to cry but no tears roll down. She has difficulty in breathing and is assailed by throbbing pains in her stomach. She is wallowing in wretchedness with each passing day. She has been shunned because of a perceived slight on his part which caught her off guard. She would never hurt him! Reeling from the painful brush-off, she turns the exchange of messages in her mind hoping to find an opening to explain again or for that abrupt and painful closure to a budding relationship. She argues with herself inside her head: she, of all people, knows when to back off from a situation that is fraught with drama. She actually runs away from drama: it’s a trait she inherited from her mother. She could be a drama queen if she really wanted to, but she only sees the futility in such a role.

She’s not fatuous having learned from her mistakes. What her intelligence cannot comprehend at this point is the spitefulness of the universe. She is no angel. She is far from perfect, but she has striven to not commit the same mistakes she did during those years she calls blinded vacuity. Ironically, it is the year of the Rooster – her year – and it’s off to roaring start. She doesn’t want to be mired again in emptiness and self-doubt. She knows she didn’t make a mistake this time, but why won’t he listen to her? Why won’t he talk to her? I am at a lost too at what to say to her to alleviate the silent pain running up and down in her. I can only tell her to not forgo her workout regimen with her personal trainer because happy hormones are good for her. Then there’s the beginner’s yoga class she leads, which, thankfully, I see her doing with alacrity.

The last time we met she told me she has found a respite from the steady barrage of her sad thoughts. She has a found a cozy nook where her past and present can’t get to her. It’s a breathing room she hides in which helps her to suspend the ugly thoughts doing the cha-cha on her heart and mind. I praised her for it – the universe knows she needs a break from its battering.



I started writing this blogpost eons ago, but stopped not because I was choking with memories. Life got in the way, primarily work; there were voluminous essays and other papers to mark. Now, it is a few days before the end of another year, and it is high time to close the narrative that started more than a decade ago. It is the narrative of C. 

C is Charles who used to make my tummy do flip-flops and leave me breathless every time we’d meet. But that is all in the distant past now. I have blocked him from my mind and unfriended him. The late epiphany that our lives shouldn’t have, in the first place, intertwined finally hit me like an anvil dropping to the ground. But he “sauntered” again into my life close at the heels of the memories of my paternal grandparents who left all too soon. His visitation, however, was met with a lot less felicity. He broke my heart. No, let me rephrase that, he blew it to smithereens, and putting it back together took longer than I expected.

How do I describe Charles? As a younger me looking at the world with rose-colored spectacles? Or a maturer me sans the filters? I first met Charles when he was 18. Tall and a bit on the lanky side, he was pulchritudinous with his Chinese-Indian features that had heads turning and hearts throbbing. My head turned and throbbed for more than a decade. He was a young man finding his place under the sun while combatting prejudiced notions about his mixed lineage and life-altering family issues. But he seemed to have handled everything with aplomb or so my younger self thought so.

“Damaged Heart on Old paper” image courtesy of fotographic1980 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

He was certainly above timidity when he sat down at my table in Starbucks and, in a nonchalant manner, asked how I was. I loved the confidence that exuded cockiness, which others completely abhorred earning him the label of blowhard. His face taunted me, silently telling goading me, “So, what are you going to do about it?” Picking up the gauntlet thrown at my table, I offered to buy him a drink, but he declined cocking his head to the left – in the direction of his group of friends – saying that he’s already got a drink. Idle banter ensued. The drink offered did not go unclaimed. It was followed by more coffee dates at Starbucks or Coffeebean, dinners, and movie outings. Younger me loved his company and I thought he did mine too. I was tickled pink when he actually sat through two shows, fighting the urge to walk out and just wait for me at the lobby. The first was a Scooby Doo movie, which seemed tenable for him judging from how he looked – a tiny smirk and mien that said he’d get through the film without keeling over. Naturally, it was payback time when I had to sit through this Hong Kong film starring Stephen Chow that he raved about. He was having a whale of a time and, like him at the Scooby Doo outing, I sat through the flick and survived it. The second show was a ballet, which I am truly into and he wasn’t.

These were some of the happier memories. Some are the heart-breaking ones that make you question yourself, your sanity. Becoming a couple should be a happy memory but it isn’t. Our relationship was short lived and certainly not to be bandied about. I ended it because it was lopsided and my inner voice was telling me he wasn’t into it. We lost touch – why bother to communicate? But the universe has a warped sense of humor making him land in my world again via a text message. He asked me how I was doing. I didn’t give it much thought when I cursorily read it, distracted by the members of Singapore’s water polo team practicing at the pool area, as I waited for my yoga class to begin. Looking at the message again a few minutes later, I felt that tug in my heart. I had deleted his number from my phone but I still knew it by heart. I answered and, as they say, all is history. I found myself on the nerve-wracking roller coaster ride again which I vowed never again to be on. Foolish me, stupid me, vacuous me.

I went through this rigmarole a couple of more times until I entered into a new relationship and had to cut ties with Charles. To his credit, he did pull through a couple of times when I needed a shoulder to cry on and when I needed to rebuild my life after the relationship collapsed. He seemed to have matured or so I thought. I was determined to prove to people – to society even – that people can be friends with their ex, so I rallied on being the best ever best friend. I deluded myself into thinking he saw me as a best friend too.

The warning signs were there but I berated myself for being negative and not giving him a chance despite the fact that it was getting difficult reading the signs. And the statements he would drop during our phone conversations were mind boggling. He actually would call me from overseas – I had relocated to Indonesia from Singapore by then. Statements like “It would be good to feel loved again”, “It would be good to see you” and the like had my mind roiling. I wouldn’t dare drop such statements knowing our past but I brushed them aside, telling myself everything is platonic now. I should have walked away yet I didn’t although I nearly did. It was when he openly blurted out our past to his friend that I had just met when I went to Singapore to visit him then later on blamed me for it. He said I set him up. I was dumbstruck at the accusation, but foolish me, stupid me, vacuous me decided to sweep the incident under the rug. 
Two more incidents had to happen in order for me to decisively put an end to the song and dance. The first one had to do with a request I made to all my friends to send me a birthday card to mark the start of a new decade age wise. He had forgotten: he couldn’t look me in the eye when I jokingly asked him about my birthday card. So much for being my best friend yet I remained hopeful and let it go at that. The second one was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He was scheduled to visit me which I was excited about; we talked endlessly about it over the phone. Then he cancelled it saying he had to report to a training seminar as a new recruit of his country’s national air carrier. I was disappointed and proud at the same time. I certainly didn’t want to be a hindrance to his new career, so I said we could always reschedule. He agreed. All was copacetic until the universe revealed the lie via Facebook. Call it providential, I was able to read an exchange of replies on a Facebook upload that detailed the opposite of what he told me. His training seminar wasn’t on the week I expected him in Indonesia- it was after. He was enjoying his video game that time he was to have caught a plane to Indonesia. Right then and there I closed the chapter on the narrative of C. I finally opened my eyes to the truth that he wasn’t to be counted on, lover or bestie. 

Image courtesy of Geerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is truly cathartic – that I am able to write about him after all those years tells me that this is the closure I have been wanting for in a chapter of my life. I drew courage and inspiration from two women who had taken to writing about their tumultuous relationships. They are author Elizabeth Gilbert who outlined her struggles in her best seller book “Eat, Pray and Love”, and Taylor Swift who turns her experiences into hit songs. It is not meant to be recriminatory although others might think so. I see it as getting something off my chest so I can breathe easier and, pardon the triteness, as a way of finally letting him go. It is also for me to turn a new page in my life. After all, to move on is imperative for a happier life.



“Changing Dislike Into Like By Magnifying Glass” by Tanatat courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when you swore it off, it comes – pardon the cliche – like a thief in the night. It sneaks up on you with a huge, annoying ear-to-ear smile plastered on its face and – the nerve – greets you like a long-lost friend after that fiasco six years ago. It – you preferred not to personify – never looked a day older. How infuriating! And here you are battling several strands of grey hair that greet you in the mornings. One time you had a medical scare: you woke up with your left eye unable to read anything! Thoughts of a detached retina or going blind filled your mind, making you nervous and agitated. It was looking youthful, fit, and lithe. The universe wasn’t being fair.
Actually, you had a strong inkling of its presence but you opted to wallow in denial. Its mephitic vapors were wafting through the air, meandering through your office, but you quickly dismissed it as a dead rat somewhere in the ceiling. Dismissing was easier because acknowledging it would mean you were ready, you had moved on, and that both C and Z were shadows – ghosts even – of that depressing past you chose to forget. Admittedly, you had noticed its presence, mephitic odor aside. Didn’t you start noticing some of the gym goers whose perfectly cut muscles were the very vision of your definition of macho pulchritude? How about the fact that you were starting to admire people in general? Weren’t you listening to Tom Hiddleston read George Durrell’s letter repeatedly and imagining he was reading it to you? Moreover, some people have remarked cavalierly of how less jaded you had become recently. There was less of the eyebrow going up whenever you were displeased, which was quite often back then. You were – to your horror – beginning to be described as genial and approachable.

There was only it to blame. You hadn’t seen each other in years after that gut-wrenching showdown that left you incapacitated in every sense of the word and filled with so much hatred for the world. Talk about deja vu. The initial meeting was cordial and brimming with hope, as your head swum with visions of togetherness and the proverbial white picket fence surrounding the house. The meeting, this time, is awkward, but somehow your thoughts are gravitating towards a relationship transcending differences, location, and personal pain, of one reminiscent of Adam and Eve in the film “Only Lovers Left Alive”.

You concede to a certain degree: the mephitis was slowly starting to take on a more fragrant aroma.

Poetics of Language



For a time

I was a canvas of pallidness;

eyes dark abysses of nothingness

when they used to dance, glitter like stars above.

Lips curled down,

the blissful sentiments eclipsed by

pitch-black, morbid thoughts;

breathing raked though the chest

where pain sat comfortably.

My heart?

I wondered if I still had one – could I have?

It stopped beating the day

your well-kept secret of eternal love given previously 

walked into my rose-color reality,

shattering it into smithereens.
People cast me friendly smiles,

unsure of what to say,

wary of probing but ultimately 

annoyed at the dark cloud in their midst.

For a time

the world revolved around you – 

you with your grin that catapulted me to the stars

you with your saunter that sent shivers up my spine

you with your endearing awkwardness 

you with your stubbornness that piqued me

you with your own obsessions that niggled me and

you with your cockiness that put me on edge.
Blind to your cavalier ways,

You emptied me – you cast my heart into a void and frayed my soul into nothingness.

Prayers to heaven to open your heart were

met with silence while copious tears were shed

in my room.

I sat in a corner for a time, a mere shadow

of my former self, not daring to stir.

For a time

I grieved when you vanish for no rhyme or reason and

wallowed in self-doubt.

Absentmindedly, I caressed the silky texture of pain reposing on my empty shell;

I hurled recriminations at my ghost, cursing and shouting until I was hoarse.

I was a wreck and alone with my withered self.

I viewed Time with enmity – it was my foe.

Or was it? Was my judgment clouded?

Had I dwelled in sorrow for far too long that

I couldn’t see right from wrong, good from bad,

positive from negative?

Like a magician with another trick up its sleeve,

Time dealt me another blow,

revealing its impartiality in Eros’ petulant games –

He is his mother’s son after all.

Bad as a cliché might be,

Time did heal all wounds- gone were the dark clouds,

tears, recriminations, and searing pain.

Your ghosts still traipse through my thoughts,

beguiling me, 

taunting me

but now, unlike before, I watch with stoic detachment,

at the two hazy figures in my past.

This time is different, as Time is on my side,

a steady guide and mentor in Venus’s senescent 

game of hearts.

Shall I fail? Shall I succeed? 

Que sera sera.

I will let Time steer the course – for this time.



Unlike most singles, I have a few weeks respite from being badgered about my marital status. Big holidays are always hard on the singletons as they are plagued by queries about their love life and poked fun at for being without a partner. The big holidays with its endless get-togethers are Christmas followed by Chinese New Year. Valentine’s Day isn’t a big family affair but the whole community – from restaurants to shopping malls – is in on shining the spotlight on the singletons. I don’t observe Chinese New Year although I join in the festivities so I get a few weeks off from the harassment.

Finding Love Shows Heart In Maze by Stuart Miles (www.freedigitalphotos.net)
Finding Love Shows Heart In Maze by Stuart Miles (www.freedigitalphotos.net)

In my 20s, Christmas was when the singleton in my family took centre stage when kith and kin speculated on my status. The nosey ones did not relent with their catty remarks (“Time has left me.”) and crude jokes (“I should be less opinionated so I can find a partner.”) that riled me to no end. It got worse when I was compared to my cousins who were in committed relationships. Attending family gatherings transformed into a difficult chore because there was nothing endearing about being cast as the black sheep of the family.

Twenty plus years later, age has mellowed my otherwise belligerent stance and caustic retorts to the relationship-police who never fail to try and wheedle out of me my state of romantic affairs. I have learnt since them to let everything slide off like water on a duck’s tail. In a way, it seemed like I wrote the scenes beforehand and went over them in my head in preparation for the usual grilling.

One scenario went something like this.

A relative would ask, his tone a mixture of sarcasm and mockery: “O, kailangan ka ba ikakasal?”

Me: “Oh, am still waiting for the answer from the guy am courting. You will be the first one to receive a wedding invite. Promise.”

Relative was gobsmacked at my retort because, for him, it was completely sacrilegious. Sacrilegious in two ways – my singlehood and that I was “running” after a man and, on top of it, proposing. In his prejudiced view of women, the man should be the one proposing marriage. It was completely unthinkable for a woman to express her feelings; she had to wait for someone to claim her as his. I was kidding naturally although I am not averse to the idea of being the one to propose. I knew he was going to go apoplectic once he heard my answer, but I just wanted to shine the light on his atavistic thinking and make him squirm with uneasiness in his seat.

Scenario 2 was something like this.

Relative: “O, wala pa bang kasalan?”

Me: Not in the near future. I can’t find someone young and good-looking.

Gobsmacked as always, my relative (a different one) was grappling with the thought of moi dating someone my junior. Again, within the biased mindset of women and marriage, an older woman in a relationship with a very young man is unacceptable.  The exchange would never progress after my retort. Had I said something sounding like an apology for my “sorry” state (sorry state in his mind) and was looking worried, he would have launched into a speech of what I should do to solve my “problem”, which always amounted to just one thing. That is, settle for the first one that comes my way even if the man is a class A schmuck.

A new scenario played out in a recent get-together at the start of the New Year that caught me by surprise. It was, admittedly, a pleasant surprise. In the midst of waiting for my order of fish balls to cook, my aunt from my mother’s side asked me nicely if I was married. I said nicely because, one, she had a smile and, two, the tone was far from jeering. Running through my mind for the list of my ready answers, I settled for “Not yet. Am enjoying my life and I can’t find anyone good- looking.” I said it with a smile and she smiled back.

” Tama yan. Mag-enjoy ka,” she said genuinely.

I nearly dropped the fish ball I was about to eat. It was such a refreshing remark. There was no trace of sarcasm or pity when she said it. The fact that her sentiment was echoed by her former nanny- turned family-friend made it doubly refreshing and mind-blowing to see the age-old cycle of perpetuating the bigoted notion of unmarried women finally broken in my family, at least on my mother’s side. I chomped on my plate of fish balls with gusto after that.

Valentine’s Day is just in a week’s time and the ambience is somewhat different from the previous years. My atavistic relatives are nowhere in sight. The community I am living in right now has a different take on singletons – it is none of their business although you feel this silent, unobtrusive wish that they soon find someone to spend their life with.  The wish, I realized, smacks with unfeigned sincerity in wanting one to be happy because there is no judgement that comes with it. A singleton isn’t viewed as an anomaly or as a lost cause. Saying “I am single” on Valentine’s Day is a mere statement of fact, not a badge of shame.

So, yes, I am single.

Poetics of Language


They escape from your lips without preamble

Your furrowed eyebrows not disguising the rising annoyance –

“You demand a lot”

You pause as if to stay the direction of the arrow pointedly

Heading towards my bosom

I elude the arrow and utter with a grin:

“Yes, I do”

The quiet soliloquy continues:

You have had my soul and heart for

Almost an eternity

I only ask for several hours

Poetics of Language


Here we go again round and round
Not going here or there
Not heading anywhere
Forging on with determination
Only to be swept back into the
Tides of uncertainly
And emotional upheaval

Your face appears again
Skimming the surface of my mind

Here we go again round and round
I move forward
You pull me back
I ask for a reason to stay
You remain quiet

Here we go again round and round
The past has resurfaced
And so has the searing pain
I’ve pushed you out of my thoughts
Why have you returned to taunt me?
I’ve forgotten you
Or have I?
I don’t need you
Or don’t I?
Here we go again round and round
Poetics of Language


What should be said?

Words of desire carried by the wind slowly flutter to the ground like leaves in autumn

Winter’s sonata waft through the air eclipsing the mellifluous rhythm of eternal bliss

Was it wrong?

She locked horns with Mother and Son in their wily games of love

Unexpected love blossoming, obscuring the path of single blessedness

Sparring stances dropped for an embrace, a kiss and whispered sweet nothings

The Queen triumphed with her ancient rules of engagement

Where to now?

Suspended in time, she floats like driftwood cast away at sea

Memories slip like sand through her hands

Fiery nights have long since dimmed, icy fingers tiptoe around her heart

Love has slipped through the cracks

She half-turn to look at you, but you’ve long since gone

Poetics of Language


If you were to part the curtains of my mind

Here’s what you’d have discovered

I never left that moment when our lips met

Tongues intertwined, bodies pulsing

Undulating like waves rolling and unfurling at shore

I think of that space when a gulf separated us

Now drowned by the meandering river of passion

Whenever you walked through my mind’s eye

I clutched my heart fearing you’d hear my cry of joy

Your presence eclipsed the din of the room, closing the space between us


Parting the curtains of my mind at this moment

I wish for that space which separated us

When my heart remained oblivious to your presence

When your smile was but one among a thousand

When your gait was the rhythm of a stranger

 When I didn’t desire to hold you

When you were simply a face in a sea of faces

Poetics of Language


Lips curl into an impish smile

His gait mirrors a dancer’s grace

His complexion smooth as golden honey

His deep set eyes beckon with a lover’s gaze

Pure energy runs through like rapids of a raging river

The voice of doom loudly echoes in the mind –

 “You shouldn’t let him affect you. Be strong.”

“Keep your distance. Be strong.”

“He’s a charmer. Be strong.”

His deep voice resonates like a stroke against the harp’s strings

Each word drips with a flower’s early morning scent

The lips quiver

The heart throbs

The hands shake

An ocean of energy collides within besieged by Poseidon’s wrath

The voice of ruin shouts frenetically –

“Resistance is not futile! Be strong!”

His fingers trace the curve of the back, stoking the fire of desire

He speaks softly of sweet words to unlock the gateways of heavens

Lips lock

Tongues probe

Bodies sway

He enters and then an explosion

He lies in repose after a night of passion

A sweat bead runs down his philtrum

He shifts and murmurs words of love

The river of ecstasy still rages on.

The voice of tragedy is silenced