07 December 2012

Letter No. 9

Last night, I went to Letters Out Loud (LOL), a sort of open mic project by Candy editor-in-chief Marla Miniano. It's basically to encourage people to write more to other people, and to be brave about reading that writing out loud.

Most of the readers wrote/read about romantic relationships — breakups, waiting for someone, waiting for someone new. I think the standout in that category was Omi CastaƱar, who addressed his lovely Tagalog letter to his girlfriend Laila about how he'd remain ("Mananatili ako... Nananatiling iyo, Omi") while she went to Australia to study.

Then, there were three readers who wrote other things: Chinggay Labrador started what sounded like a really bitter, "I'm so over you, I'm moving on with my life, and yet I'm writing this letter" letter and managed a neat twist when she revealed that the ex-boyfriend was cancer.

Lia Cruz had a sweet letter to her mother about growing up, womanhood, and coming to see things from her mother's point of view.

Then, of course, there was the reason I was at LOL at all: Cris, who had been pressured by Marla (his friend from college) to read something. He read one short letter from him to friends in the Philippines while he was in China, and one to friends in China about the difficulties of getting to know someone through a shared second language:

"It really frustrates me how the meaning of everything is dumbed down to the textbook vocab and grammar that we conveniently string together during our conversations. We want to sound smart and witty, and dazzle each other with our eloquence. A line from a song here, a movie quote there. This is how i feel about you today. We want to say exactly what we mean. More importantly, we want to let each other listen to what is unsaid. But we still haven't learned the cues in this language yet."

Reese Lansangan closed the event by singing Exploration No. 5, an original song, and playing her cool box ukelele.

Anyway, once I'd stopped being Judge Judgey McJudgerson, I actually enjoyed the event, and it got me thinking about the letters I'd like to write:

+ To all the lonely and waiting, before you write a letter about how you're lonely and waiting
+ To two people whose overtures of friendship I've ignored
+ To everyone else; I apologize for being unfriendly; do not be surprised if I end up an old lady alone
+ To my brother Mon, on his 16th birthday

Yesterday was also Mon's 16th birthday. I texted and then called him but didn't really know what to say. Whenever I think of him, or try to think of something we can talk about, I only see how poorly I know him. I just know he likes computer games, plays the drums, doesn't read much, and doesn't talk much, so any other information I get is secondhand.

I know that because I've been living, studying, and then working in Manila, I haven't seen him get through the past eight happy/horrible years of middle school and high school. So I don't know how he and his friends hang out, how he gets along with teenage girls, or even what he's really good at in school. This time next year, he'll be waiting for college acceptance letters, and I have no idea what he's hoping to study. And when I go home in a few weeks, I have no idea how to start conversations about these things without it being really awkward. Maybe awkward is the best I can hope for, though.

Other things: the other night, Cris joined me, my dad, my uncle, and Grama for dinner, and I thanked him. He thought it was weird for me to thank him for what I guess is a standard girlfriend request, but I found myself explaining that it was because —

I'm trying hard not to compare Cris to my exes, particularly to Martin, or to boast or gloat about how great things are with Cris. I'm trying not to let the past dictate my hopes and expectations. But more than once in the past year, I've found myself explaining to Cris, "Well, I said this / I think that / I assume you won't agree to this because I got used to being treated a certain way / to things being arranged a certain way." And it wears me out.

I'm definitely in a better place, I'm definitely doing better things, and I'm definitely — okay, fine, I'll compare — with a better man, so I think I'm done with a certain way of being. Then some little thing, like feeling like I have to thank him for joining me and my family for dinner and having a good time, makes me wonder if there isn't some old crap I still haven't sweated out, if I can't enjoy the good things in this relationship without the sad specter of the old one there for dramatic comparison.

I want this stupid ghost to just go away already. I'm trying to be busy being happy, and it does nothing but reopen cuts I went through hell to heal. I want it to just leave me, leave us alone.

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