to the boy who gave me flowers

outside the apartment lobby where the stone benches and worn grass and oak trees were, with acorns nestled in beds of waiting dandelions, where people went to take the air and watch the world pass them by.

i was wondering why you and your mom and brother were wearing good clothes stepping out of the wilson rocket, walking to the flimsy iron gate. didn’t realize at age six that you were coming from the mosque downtown, not the church across the street.

i was wondering why you looked up at a tiny human in stolen tank top and shorts, swatting at bugs and tossing acorns up at the sky, and stepped onto the grass yourself. i saw you from the corner of my eye, but i thought maybe you wanted to play catch or something. i didn’t look at your mother’s face, didn’t look at mine.

but maybe if we both did
we would’ve seen
that they agreed
hijabs and butterfly sleeves
were never meant to be.

i was wondering why, as you tugged on one of the dandelions, there was tension in the air, for one brief moment i was never able to experience while i was in it. but a dandelion lay in your hands, and then you came over and smiled.

i’m sorry i didn’t smile back, i can’t look at people in the eye very well, and definitely not at age six.

i was wondering why you pressed the decapitated flower to my grubby hands and giggled, but i waved back as you ran back to your mom and walked away, and i sat there, stupefied, with acorns scattered around me, and i stopped wondering, and i wanted.

i wanted to follow you into the lobby and up the elevator and maybe to whatever number your door was at, play cars and legos the way that kids usually do in 2011 in the complex, and tuck the flower into a straw and leave it forever and we could be good friends and maybe you could come to the park and then had someone to play with in my own floor.

i wondered why the mother gave me a face of stone and told me to drop the dandelion into the ground. her eyes darted from the street beyond the fence to the guest parking lot where the window washers were having lunch and she was in fear. she said to wash my hands with soap and tugged on my back, stomping the flower beyond recognition. we waited to take a different elevator, and we didn’t go out to the grass for a long time.

and i wondered why.

i tried looking for you, but i think you moved. that’s for the best, a couple years after there were alerts in the neighborhood for people who looked like you, and nobody was sorry about the older boys who stepped on grass and never came back, and i wondered and wondered and i haven’t stopped since.

i’m sorry i didn’t ask you for your name. i didn’t know that was something you could do.

i’m sorry i couldn’t form words to thank you. i’ve been grateful all this time.

i’m sorry i didn’t give you an acorn. they were my favorite thing because they were so prickly and i think maybe you would’ve liked how they spun as they plummeted toward earth.

if you gave me flowers now, i would keep them, all cultural clothing put aside. i would’ve given you a really cool rock. because flowers wither. but i bet you know that.

wherever you are now, kid, i hope you’re at peace. and i hope we step on the same grass soon.

if not, well.

i’ll be wondering why.

unsent voice mail

if i wanted to hear that you were fine, i would’ve unblocked you.

if i wanted someone to control my life again, i’d come back to town.

if i wanted things to be the way they were, i’d let my old demons take control.

if i wanted to be hurt again, i would take your hand.

if i wanted to hurt you, i would drown you in words.

if i wanted revenge i would’ve sought it out the day it all went up in flames.

if i wanted peace i would’ve deleted all your contact info.

if i wanted my life back i would’ve left things the way they ended.

if i wanted you to care about me, i wouldn’t do anything because that was never in the equation.

i don’t know what i want.

i don’t know who you are.

but i know i don’t want you.

~jo~

roof

 

I am a monster of my own choosing. I let the cracks split open and show. I am the one who caused the ruins. I raised my hands to poison my soul.

“Now that’s cheery,” a thin, slippery voice murmurs in the darkness.

The sound of a notebook dropping is immediately followed by surprised cursing, some stumbling upon the cold cement, and the shaky attempts of a terrified child to stand up.

It is night on the rooftop and two shadows lie on the ground.

“W-who are you?” she whispers. Whether she is hyperventilating or not remains to be seen. Her hands dust off on ripped jeans and brush against matted hair, trembling.

The source of the longer shadow stands in the brightness of the moon, face unseen, cane in hand, hat on head. As if this was a quintessential noir film, he drawls his words and walks forward, propping his weight on the balls of his shiny leather clad feet and his arms on his knees.

“Shouldn’t be up so late sweetheart, it’s bad for your body,” he says gently, grasping a shaking wrist. “Shouldn’t be writing such drastic words, it’s bad for your soul.”

In a swift motion he tugs her to his feet, tucking some stray hairs behind her ear. She doesn’t flinch, but she does step back, hands tightening around notebook.

“Do I know you?”

“You should.” He nods at the book. “That holds a ton of powerful words. You’d wanna be more careful with what you will into existence. Maybe try something like the weather, eh doll?”

The girl takes a good look at him— what she can of the darkened figure before her— and furrows her eyebrows.

Will into existence?

Her hands think for themselves and flip the pages of her book to an earlier list of words, just as disastrously written as the latest. The wind turns a chill as the light shines brighter on an old piece of work written long ago. Where, the memories refuse to say.

If I could will into existence. A friend with whom to live with. I would hardly care what they are. The devil seems a good place to start.

The.

What.

“Babe you gotta stop speaking your thoughts aloud so often,” He chuckles, watching the words make little pangs of realization pop on her tired, worn out face. “You okay there?”

She takes an eternity to respond.

“I’m going mental. This is schizophrenia. Or- or something. I’m hearing voices. They seem so real.”

Her words run over themselves and run them flat, shallow breaths working themselves out of her system as she claps her hands to her forehead, the night seeming to swallow her alive. Perhaps it already has.

Another pair of hands wrap around her own. “Now, could a voice look this good in eighty degree heat and a suit to match?” The moon was bright enough for a wink to appear.

“But you’re not actually the…”
“No.”
“Thank God.”
“And you’re not actually a monster.” He places the smaller girl on the ground, sitting as casually beside her, enveloped in darkness.

“What are you then?” She doesn’t address the last sentence. Probably too shocked to believe it.

His coat ruffles in the wind. “Have you heard of guardian angels?”
“Uhm…”


“That, but evil.”

sitting crosslegged on holy ground

if you ask God “ ‘sup” is it a case of situational irony or modern irreverence or both or neither?

i think about this sprawled on a kitchen chair at four am. a candy clock pendant is waiting to be demolished on the kitchen table. a bunch of flights got cancelled. a kid left this earth on sunday. depression rests on more than one lonely soul. last night’s dinner was pizza with salad. life is messy like that.

i’ve stared at these walls for 306 days with almost precisely the same kind of absurd thoughts bouncing about in my head and honestly, i’m surprised i’ve made it this far.

when does it end?

when does life stop being suspended from midair?

am i gonna start freefalling anytime soon?

need some confirmations out here, God, anything at all would be great. maybe one miracle.

as a treat.

*stares a little too hard at the sky for five minutes*

aw come on, man, we really need someone to pull through right now.

i suppose i shouldn’t refer to the maker of the universe as a man, but my mind is too distraught to use the correct terms and i will hate myself for the hypocritical behavior later, another time, when everything has calmed down, in happier days.

will there be happier days? when? any answers?

anyone out there?

huh.

i guess it can’t be too bad to ask ‘sup as long as you have the right intent. as long as it’s meant respectfully. maybe? is it crazy that we make discrepancies on how to address an all powerful, all knowing, all present being and we barely check in that we can… just do that? no go between, no fill out form, no nothing?

just

‘sup, how’s it hanging? also please make this work because a lot of people are gonna be hurt if it doesn’t happen and bless my aunt’s cat who’s sick with a cold and also this mental stress really do be hitting hard tho send help

and

that counts as a prayer?

what even.

to be heard regardless of what we come with and how we come.

whaaat even.

that probably doesn’t excuse how i barge into God’s office and slam my problems on his desk like it is the end of the world (i mean you never know am i right) and go “ay, you mean what you said, right?”

silence.

“right?”

silence.

“bro i got nobody else out here. literally, nobody else. what do i have to do?”

the crickets are chirping.

and then the painfully true realization bonks me on the head:

who the heck am i to bargain with God?

God, who does what he pleases. God, who literally let his son die instead of a world of tiny selfish humans. God, the creator of the cosmos. God, whose sole concept alone has been the object of so many different religions in the world since humans gained sentience?

bonk, tiny human. you’ve got nothing to even deserve this audience. and yet it is given.

i have not come to bargain. i’ve come to ask. beg. plead. for the universe. for the world. for the country. for the district. for the block.

for myself.

hypothetically speaking, perhaps God’s office has carpet, but hardwood works for collapsing on too.

i wonder what he sees from his seat in this heavenly place. a rough small kid with choppy hair and stolen clothes sitting on the floor waiting for an answer with more stunned silence respect than they previously displayed coming in. is he ashamed? is this old hat? does it maybe bemuse him to watch one of his own re-realize the undeniable truth that they seem to forget all the time?

does he still care?

but he finally answers.

trust

trust.

that’s it?

man.

that’s it.

i lean against the walls of a God’s office that is really just a kitchen in the middle of nowhere because he’s everywhere and chew on a crumbly candy pendant.

‘s cool.

‘sup God.

and thanks.

~that’s a made up word/all words are made up, jo~

adulting? in this economy?

“you don’t know what you wanna do with your life?” “nah”

“don’t you wanna get married and have children” “nope”

“aw, you’ll figure it out when you get older” “like you have”

what does it mean to be a child in these years of disaster? do we even get to be children?

i have friends that depended on making good grades this year to go off island. now they’re stuck home on their phones, same as me, only they don’t have the luxury of people who are willing to chip in for a flight out anytime soon. for that matter, they don’t have luxuries.

i see kids who don’t have a choice in whether or not they have to stare at a screen, trying to learn but wanting to play, frustration swelling from the online plane within two minutes of trying to understand a livestream, tears after finally ending a call. some of them range from age five to age sixty.

i’ve seen visas and permits expire and waited anxiously with friends who don’t know if their being in country will give them the freedom to stay or danger to their families’ lives.

i’ve seen more lonely kids than the years i have spent being lonely, people in my grade freaking out that their friend is gonna relapse that night because they couldn’t handle the stress of listening to the lashing outs of a child in need of help, kids searching for advice on how to hide their cuts and information and personal treasures that would immediately be seen as trash once spotted by the grownups who are supposed to care.

i have had to give that advice.

no wide areas of skin, make backup emails, delete your history every other week, use a vpn, stash outside the house, memorize your apartment’s stairs route and times of entry.

it got to “record what they’re doing so you have a case when the uniforms come knocking” that i just jerked back from what i was typing and sat shocked for a full minute.

i’m supposed to prep for the driver’s exam, and here i am trying to comfort a kid in case their parents do find out about their anxiety.

why do i have to say that sentence? why do we have to pass advice for how to survive? why are we dependent on our grades to be considered a respectable useful member of society? why do i have to check up on friends to see if their area was okay after a shooting? why do we hear our parents laude so much praise for a system that has shown no respect of life whatsoever solely because they claim they care for the unborn?

they don’t even care for the born.

“all kids’ lives are wanted!” but when have any of us felt truly wanted by those around us? when have we felt wanted and not guilty for existing, for the cost, for our fear, for our lack of skill, for the trouble we assume we make by breathing?

i don’t know how great a world can be in in which we’ve causally accepted our trauma. in which your existence is judged on how many labels you fit and the amount of melanin in your body, but never accepted for the fire in your soul or the light in your eyes or the pen in your hands or the heart that still beats in you despite everything that has gone wrong.

how is that world even sustainable to be an adult in? it’s barely possible to be a kid in it.

but you can’t say that. because everyone already knows about the depression and anxiety and general angst of our generation, and they’ve simply closed their eyes.

and if you jump they’ll probably cry bloody murder instead of ever thinking that maybe they were the murderers.

maybe, there is something wrong with the world, and it’s not on kids being lazy and addicted to their phones. and maybe those kids want to see the world become lighter for just two minutes. maybe those kids want to live their stories and create their art and not have their lives at stake for doing what they could to help. maybe there is unbelievable beauty in treating the human individual and collective like they are human.

maybe kids deserve to be children for however long they can get. maybe their lives matter.

but until that’s a truth self evident and not something we need to chant in the streets, and far beyond that, there is so much work to be done that somehow will be left to us to pick up. because sometimes the adults don’t do the jobs they’re proud of having.

i don’t doubt that good will win. and i don’t doubt the tenacity of people fighting for that good. and i think there will be a day where we can look back at this time in history and marvel at how far we’ve come—

but it’s tiring.

what do i want to be when i grow up?

alive.

~running around night, running for a light, jo~

to those who reside as aliens

and then i started sobbing.

not even the dramatically beautiful-yet-so-despondently-tragic tears trailing down cheeks sobbing,

like snot and plugged sinuses i can’t breathe because my chest is shaking violently red faced and absolutely ghastly sobbing.

to those who reside as aliens.

oh, God.

i told my sister that i felt like i plateaued in my faith on the phone a few hours ago, which is a little weird even for me to say as a self proclaimed romantic nihilist, because for me to have faith would mean to accept that something and someone matters, and that’s a black hole of words i don’t have right now.

the truth is of course, yes, they do. someone does.

i just…

i have been an alien for a very long time.

residing as one for a couple years give or take. living and feeling, reluctantly accepting for… what feels like my whole life.

alien.

i joke about it and it sears itself into my soul so much that i forget anything else.

alien. don’t belong, don’t belong, don’t belong.

i guess i just assumed this was universally accepted so i… didn’t bother checking with God about it? or? you know?

dude i haven’t been to church without zoning out in a year, this is rough even on my ears.

but like, at some point in this freakishly hot night i’d decided to read through the bible app.

because totally, that’s what you do in 100 degree heat when you’ve been half-religiously avoiding the social distant services starting back up because you know, you know, you know, that you’ll just sit there and you may as well sit anywhere else.

so

you sit in your hot room with two fans running and then you decide to read a bit of the bible.

t-to pass the time.

how the heck does God not give up on my pathetic self, i don’t know.

but i turned to 1 peter and boom

there

to those who reside as aliens.

and then, in that second of reading and rereading in disbelief i think some wall of casual apathy and suppressed fears broke.

it was like he was speaking to me.

to those who reside as aliens.

God wrote a letter to an alien and invited them home. he got it. he crossed space and time and technological difficulties to let me know.

dude.

i still can’t stop crying.

i don’t plan on writing any enlightened christian gospel living posts anytime soon, and to be honest, i’m aware how often i toe the grey area of agnosticism.

but in this space and time, in this lonely messed up ugly weird strange insert words your parents would not want me to say, the fact that i am seen and loved and accepted in totality by God has captured my full attention and left me speechless. (well, speechless enough to write about it. what a hypocrite.) and maybe that is enough.

to those who reside as aliens.

i asked God for proof that existence mattered, and he didn’t just follow through, he whacked me personally and said that i did.

wipe your tears, they say, you will start to heal.

i know not everyone reading this looks to faith for the peace they seek, that there are many many places that offer what we all search for, and it’s not my place to insist on any specific way or attitude or time. that’s not what this is.

this is to those who reside as aliens.

i hope you find it, like how i accidentally stumbled on it at an ungodly hour of the day.

(that’s hilarious, the ungodly hour bit. it would seem that i met God at this time. amazing.)

~but God i want to feel again, jo~

7. 18

next year, where will you be?

next year, will you get everything you were working so hard for?

next year, will you be lonely and hurt and sad again?

next year, will you suffer from going mad?

next year, would you be stronger?

next year, would you be alone?

next year, will you be wandering an empty hall with nobody to hear you scream?

next year, will you be singing and dancing?

next year, will you be awaiting the next semester?

next year, will you even be anywhere with a semester?

next year, will you be happy?

next year, will you have anyone?

next year, will you be okay?

next year, will there be a next year?

until i can’t think

red and white wall with graffiti

“Individuals with ADHD often become quickly immersed in one salient emotion and have problems shifting their focus to other aspects of a situation.”

“For many people with ADHD, the brain’s gating mechanism for regulating emotion does not distinguish between dangerous threats and more minor problems. These individuals are often  thrown into panic mode by thoughts or perceptions that do not warrant such a reaction. As a result, the ADHD brain can’t deal more rationally and realistically with events that are stressful.” – some article i found from ADDitude

“nothing is wrong. everything feels wrong. that’s what’s wrong.” on mental disorders (simple explanation), our favorite weez

well.

that doesn’t make this easier.

if anything, it could very well make this.

worse.

worse like groan a little and rock back and forth for an hour because it would’ve been nice to have known *before* all this happened. stare into the abyss and not imagine dragons waiting to take me away because i still have homework worse. scrolling through instagram and feeling overwhelmed worse. so much worse that it feels scary to address the worse because what if it gets worse

i’m trying the breathing exercises and they’re kinda helping, but they just make me feel dizzy and have a bit of a headache. and i already ate so it can’t be that. and i don’t have anyone that actually know know what it means to have a mind with a million tabs open and one sound coming from all of them in unsion

“oh! no! oh! no! oh! no!”

and what do i say to the tabs?

“you’re! not! real! you’re! exaggerated!”

and then what? lie because everything in the world is going

“oh! no!”

and me saying it doesn’t make it more or less true?

i hold no power as to the truthness level of a situation, and that scares me more than the actual situation. i’m not sure what to think about that, and i’m not sure if i *can* think, because then it’s like

realize that everything i’m processing and experiencing will always be received by hypersensitive, maxed up senses,

leading to questioning everything i hold dear and i speak up about being actually important or just important to me,

then leading into panicking as the things and people i love don’t get better and don’t get anything at all and the world and the governments and how itchy my left eye is,

then trying to shut my phone off before yet another cry of how the people who need to listen won’t listen and are just trying to maintain order and calm, and how can i blame them when i’m trying to do the exact same thing, but the difference between me and them is i’m actually trying to change for the better and they only want to surpress the cries,

oh the room is cold now, oh, there’s a bag of groceries where the table is, that’s not right, oh no, a million little things are inscrutably different than how they were yesterday and oh no that is not okay, not okay, not okay!

sometimes it ends in a meltdown and sometimes it ends in long periods of feeling nothing after feeling everything for so long

but everything seems to set me off today, like

all the lovely things friends write and put up and share

and all the mean things the outside does and the bills they pass and the doom they bring to make everything great again! no you’re not you just want you to be great again

and that someone brought me crackers and now i feel priveleged because nobody else asked for crackers

and then lonely because nobody else asked and i feel like i can’t go home and i don’t know where home is

and i know that i don’t know but it doesn’t make up for the fact that i don’t know

i want to save the world. and i also want to save myself. and i have to make peace that having both is okay. that i am okay.

that even with all the unokayness it will be okay, because we’re just humans and everything we see is filtered through the confines of our minds, and that’s why when we’re united it doesn’t feel as lonely as it tends to be, but *why* is so much, why is there so much why

why

why

perhaps… perhaps feeling, and caring is a superpower that… that i can’t control yet? and therefore… and therefore the opposite, to be normal, to be apathetic, is my weakness?

but then…

but then…

when does it stop?

~then i try, try to deny, jo~

mudbloods, but make it worse

flag of Philippines
do i have my own photos? yes
am i still using these unsplash stills? yes
do i have issues? oh yeah

there’s a caste system in everything. the philippines is only one of many countries that employ one.

it starts with what we associate with success and fame and the “It” goal: being white. sometimes this can be replaced with being american on a good day, sometimes it’s just anyone with unbelievably fairer skin. either way, this ingrained goal, despite not actually being stated, is why the skin whitening industry is so successful and why most representation of filipinos is unbelievably lightskinned. or, in nicer terms, “fair.”

then it breaks down into being mestizo, which is a fancy colonizer way to say having mixed blood. if your genes are good and you’re “fair” then you have a pretty secure grip on the societal ladder. if you don’t, at least you have a “fair” parent. having mixed families is, for some reason, romanticised and fetishized, which isn’t cool, but somehow nobody talks about that? anyway.

the more melanin you have, the less you’re seen as equal to the “It” goal, or seen as equal, or even seen in general, and it’s this weird horrible phenomenon of internalizing colonial thinking that’s led filipinos to either:

favoring the system

or

favoring the exact opposite, which spurns anyone who isn’t pure filipino.

enter the anomaly that is having both biological parents mixed themselves, growing up in a different country, absorbing three cultures without really knowing where they come from, and finally, going back to the place it all started, and being unnaturally, atypically, ungodly, different.

enter me.

i don’t say all of this to the old guy sitting on the plastic chair by the street though. his confused reaction at my sudden spout of words would just confirm my point, and despite knowing it solidly for about all my life i’m not ready to hear it from another person. so i don’t say any of that when he says

“are you chinese?”

do i LooK like i want to scream, but i realize that i probably do.

“ah, my dad’s filipino, my mom’s chinese,” i answer.

i’m lying. my biological parents have so many different elements in both their dna, chinese included, that just transferred onto me. genetics people, genetics.

but i can’t bring out a punnet square and clarify to this interesting wrinkled person who eagerly waved at my camera just a few minutes ago, not to someone that probably doesn’t even know what genes are, not to someone who doesn’t know, period. easier for him and me.

that last bit’s a lie too. this sucks.

it’s a cruel world, one in which my skin isn’t dark enough to be oppressed and not light enough to be fetishized, in which i’ll still be asked if i have an accent or where i come from or applauded for having perfect english, in which i am a surprise because i’m not like “the others” but that just makes me an other. is that really much of an improvement?

being a token diverse person in the eyes of those who haven’t yet come face to face with the reality that a person can be so complex in every single sense of the word isn’t the worst thing ever, but it… isn’t fun. and it makes connecting with what little of this culture and of being a person of color i can call “mine”, because none of it seems to be, really.

like i can’t infringe on the specific opportunities for one people group despite not having those for mine either, or go to community centers created for priority neighborhood kids despite growing up one.

i don’t have any happy conclusion, but i imagine hermoine and all those other kids must’ve felt the same struggles in their weird fantasy world, somehow, in some strange way, must’ve related to not belonging. i don’t know much about fantasy worlds, so don’t kill me.

all i do know is we all have a bit of that magic in all of us, especially in the mixed and the barely there and the very much there that it makes no sense to divide ourselves by arbitrary lines that get blurred every single time.

and i wish i could answer this guy when he asks

“where do you come from”

and i wish i didn’t have to answer this question again.

~hey guys it’s me, the biggest disappointment you know, jo~

if we pull out all these causes to fight for

when do we stop fighting?

where do we draw the line?

how do we not lose our minds?

i’ve been thinking– about the way we obssess

over squares on a grid on a screen in our hands

and reshares and likes and opinions

that are worthy of attention but not of this division

like how can we save the children

when you spend your time fighting

over which ones first need saving?

the kid at apartment 128

and the kid being forced to work too late

are still trying to survive as you argue and wait

how can you ethically expect all babies to be born

without suffering in this toxic atmosphere; what was your arguing for?

it goes so much deeper than your 280 word caption

it’s not just an instagram story calling people to action

it’s the person behind the words

it’s the community trying to stop the hurt

it’s a movement crying for a moment of silence

it’s saying that we deserve to have peace and quiet

without fearing for our lives

without wondering if our kids will make it home in the night

is that a problem you worry about as well

that you’ll be grabbed out of your car

and pushed down with your hands

tied behind your back,

pleading for someone to understand

but do you?

can you?

should you?

we are not the same, our problems are unique

yet our pushing against them should make us united, not weak

over trying to fight an online comment

over generalizing a whole group of people

because they aren’t what you thought of

when you hear the word “justice”

when you see the word “lives”

they are seeking the same thing you are

only they have realized

that it is better to be a warrior in a garden

than a gardener in a war

we have lost too much already

we do not need more blood

please think about what makes you feel justified

what you support and what you deny

at the end of the day, we shouldn’t be in this rut

these issues shouldn’t have to

be divided into “me” and “you”

when it can be “us”.