and then he cleared his throat and said

“what are your plans?”

“i don’t have any.”

“bull. i’ve seen the look in your eye.”

he reached for a bottle from the fridge and leaned back, rough plastic chair scraping against the hard cold cement. there were crickets along the quiet streets if you listened hard enough. conversations if you gave a half hearted attempt. and tension, if you didn’t try at all.

his companion shuffled on the ground. “it’s not important,” she muttered under her breath, eyes studying the ground.

he raised the bottle to his lips patiently. “tell me.” as an afterthought, he added, “i have no reason to blabber about it to anyone in this godforsaken place, even if it was interesting.”

“comforting much?” she lifted her head to the sky, eyes falling shut. “i’m… i’m gonna leave.”

the crickets stopped chirping, but they may as well have kept going.

“that’s your plan? just getting up and going?”
“yup.”

he cackled, nursing the poison in his hand.

“invite me to your funeral.”

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.

how to make lunch

it’s 4 am.

why is it 4 am?

nobody shall know. we answer to no man.

even yourself?

especially yourself.

(as you can see, man is gender neutral but used here instead of person because the word “person” reminds me of those bathroom signs with the little blob figure and the world “man” reminds me of mulan and, visually, mulan is cooler than a bathroom sign.)

what have you done in the hours that have spanned between this one and the one in which you were doomed to wake up, find some old oatmeal, hope it was decent enough, and eat it?

let’s see, now shall we

you have:

  • sat, for many hours
  • washed a towel, rather unusually, since towels aren’t things you associate with needing to be washed
  • texted a good friend about hamilton (hamilton, just you waaaait)
  • spammed your sister (she is at work, and you are a whole lot of it)
  • tested a couple of photos on the strange internet sharing site (my goodness, which one)
  • cursed the strange internet sharing site for ruining the nonexistent quality of the photos
  • took more photos
  • sat
  • hopped from internet place to internet place
  • and sat
  • much sitting
  • some ukulele

and now, through no arbitrary methods such as a schedule or a time, you decide the feeling in your gut is for food, not to actually do anything. lovely.

the fridge holds some leftover rice and meat-thing. it’s stale. the dog whimpers as you ceremonially chuck it out the window.

some strange demongorgom thing or whatever they call the monsters that lurk in the night will probably come and get it, and then mistake it for a peace offering, and then gag at how horrible it is, and then come for your head and take you to a secret lair and force you to eat pineapple pizza til the end of time, but for now, there’s nobody except yourself, and you’re still hungry.

ants crawl at your feet and you stamp to clear them away, these are your house chinelas, be respectful ants.

you open the fridge again and wince as the putrid smell of plastic invades your senses. it’s… it could be nicer. but it isn’t. shame. your eyes catch a square little package, and hope gleams. or is that evil? either way, the jig is up.

next, you smuggle the crunchy plastic wrapper in the folds of your oversized shirt and make sure to close the door before the cat attempts yet again to yap in. wouldn’t do at all, that cat, bad thing. she will enact revenge later, but for now, the cat yowls as you arrive back at your original location and attempt to create something edible.

there’s a tiny bowl on the countertop. you grab it, check if it’s cracked, then slam it back down as you rip out the carefully snitched sustenance wrapper and place a block of pale, dry hard wavy noodles in the bowl.

it doesn’t fit.

a travesty.

after chipping away at the corners, it looks like it can hold water. of course, there’s only one way to test that. you head to the sink and behold, it has not exploded. (yet.)

that taken care of, you put the strange dehydrated carbohydrate with flavoring concoction into the tiny oven of potential zapping death and await the results.

ding!

you arm yourself with oven mitts cloth hand protectors and inch toward the smoke and imagined horror.

the moment of truth.

you inhale, yank the door out, and await your death. and behold.

20 peso instant beef nami ramen.

you brave soul.

~you make no sense/thank 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.”

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?

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”.

to dance

group of people dancing

is to revolt.

to dance

is to be aware of the people staring

and choosing not to care.

moreso, to shift your care into the wave of your hands

the jump in your feet

the toss of your hair

the freedom that runs through your soul

and bursts from your skin.

to dance

is to listen to a beat that you can hear

loud and clear

even if it goes unheard by anyone else.

to dance

is to smile at frowning people

staying still on the ground

whose eyes roam over your body

and attempt to make it still itself

and to move on, anyway.

to dance

is to refuse to be weaponized

by a system that demands rigor mortis

by the fear that has always controlled us

to raise your head and laugh.

to dance

is being willing to go it alone

to trust another person

to join a group

united in individual movement.

to dance

is a love letter

encased in melanin

and tendons

and stretch marks

and beauty.

to dance

is a fist extended into open palms

knowing directed force

has more power when applied to certain points.

to dance

is freeing, joyous,

when you can learn to dance for yourself

that’s where it starts.

to dance

is to let go

of the positions you have known

afraid of moving on

but ready to do so at all costs.

to dance

is a protest

is a performance

is perfect

in its own way.

to dance

in whatever shape or form

whoever your feet move for

may in every little way

you find your dance

today.

it’s beginning, it’s beginning, it’s beginning

“tell me about it,” my sister asked a few weeks ago.

i responded by mumbling and laying dramatically on the kitchen chair, which by the way, is the hardest thing to sit on for days at a time. “i don’t know how.”

“well you’re gonna have to figure it out if you’re posting about it.”

blah.

“it” in this case is referring to a very cool person’s book that’s coming out in a couple days or months, give or take, and by now you should know that cool person’s name, which is weez, and her book, the lightest heaviest things, or at least heard *some* kind of iteration of the concept known as subpar art. if you remain oblivious, well. i feel sorry for you. and will probably enlighten you by yeeting a copy at your face.

anyway, weez must’ve made the mistake of entrusting me with something, because she asked me to help her out with throwing books at people’s faces getting tlht out to the people, whoever the people may be. and i must’ve made the mistake of assuming i could, because the next thing i knew i was swiping through a copy for review and going “what what whAT” for an hour.

so anyway, here’s me figuring this out and here’s the book of potential cult classic status, per weez’s interview with clara (read that or i will fight you).

roll film.


“The trees are tall, and the giants are not actually taller than the trees. You told me that the giants aren’t real. I don’t know if they’re real. They look real, to me, but they also don’t seem real. You don’t see them, either.”

Peri, alone in her house, has spent a lot of time observing the silent, strangely sad giants that move just on the edge of her vision. They never speak. They never laugh. They are always alone. Drowning in her own loneliness, Peri doesn’t think much about where the giants came from, or what they might need from her.

When Peri’s best friend Wink starts seeing the giants too, though, they decide that they need to find out why the giants are so sad and alone. This sets them off on a quest that neither of them is quite prepared for, through the woods and up the mountain.

Magic, melancholy, and myth collide in their lives, showing them a world both worse and better than they ever knew.

It’s beginning.


liked

the atmosphere. HHHHH. i’m a sucker for the ambience of a place, and the lightest heaviest things did not disappoint in that regard. there’s many ways the stereotypical country story can go stale, but the way this one went was refreshingly simple and yet heartwarming, like a place you’ve seen before but don’t really know. the instant i read through the first few pages i remember thinking “yep. i wanna explore this place a little more.”

the characters. peri, the main character and the newest fictional love of my life needs a HUG. i admired her complexity and really connected to her fears and thoughts and the way she saw her world. the little details weez spun along the journey and the way she revealed peri’s story bit by bit was very cool, to say the least. wink is a fascinating best friend/foil character that has a lot of pluck and nerve and also needs a hug. she reminds me of samwise gamgee’s character but with childhood angst, as we all tend to have. ull, my dude, is a friendly hungry magic kid with excellent rhyming skills, and i would’ve liked to have met him. his arc is bittersweet, and i think it was very well done. all of the kids have a lot of story that gets revealed through the people they meet, that for a moment it’s like they could be real kids.

the dialogue. the oneliners and quips and back and forths were hilarious. to prove my point:

“we’re going to save the giants.”

“we’re on a quest.”

“we’re hungry.”

*chef’s kiss* i rest my case.

this banter and the humor behind it carries on throughout the story in a very endearing way, and i simply don’t have enoug hwords to say how much i like it. it’s just that good. go read it for yourself.

would’ve liked

more backstory. i think the plot is solid in terms of how engrossed can you get in a book and end up crying a few dozen times, but could’ve done with having more exposition, more details, more development into each character and the world they interact in and with. there’s so much for potential and if anything this feels like a teaser of being so close and yet not close enough to actually entering paper and ink and living in that world ourselves.

giants. i say this because even though the giants are peri’s catalyst and a big part of the book, and even though we get descriptions of them and why they’re here, i didn’t feel like i saw them exactly? that may be something left to each reader, that may be something that comes with rereading, and that may be because all that needed information will come somewhere else. who knows?

just more in general. everything in this book was great, full stop. no denying that. but i think in the way a bunch of little kids want to know what’s next when someone tells them a story, readers of this one will be absorbed enough to demand more, simply because it’s at a level that can only get better with more of it. so go read it and get weez to write another one because i won’t be able to rest otherwise *nods seriously and gets attacked with incoming pillows*

overall

this book feels like childhood. it feels like growing up and adventure and food and friends and running and bravery, sadness and pain and fear and all of these elements of our younger selves woven into magic and fantasy and it feels nostalgic, and it feels foreign, and it feels right, and it feels like this search for home, like coming home.

but in many ways, it’s a beginning. not just for these characters and the story, but also for the indescribably talented weez phillips and her not-so-secret superpower of making me people cry. i really think that ability and the creations that come from it will only grow, and how amazing to be at the start of it all watching it happen. i also can’t believe i’d lasted this long without realizing the periwinkle pun. dang.

i’d recommend this book for people who enjoy filling in the blank details of a book with whatever their imagination gives them,

readers who enjoy growing up stories and adventure,

and kids who feel alone, and scared, and just need a little shot of hope to go bravely.

it’s a feel think hope kinda thing, and this book presents that wonderfully.


click here to preorder The Lightest Heaviest Things on Kindlehere to add it on Goodreadsand here to see the Redbubble merchandise collection. (and leave reviews and posts wherever you do that so weez has to write another one : D )

(also. that merch. hhh.)

did i do it? was it okay?

~been running for so long, jo~

^^ that song reminds me of this so go listen to it while you read it

w

assorted bottles on display in store

w

walmart shopping after work, after the end of the day and everyone’s ready to grab their frozen pizzas and go home.

“uhhh.” you stare at your camera, and then you stare and the rows of mini backpacks that hang before you. your sister slings an arm around your neck and pats a sleek looking black half pint.

“see anything you like?” panic. how are you supposed to choose anything? the idea of getting something absolutely brand new is foreign, almost dirty. everything you’ve ever possessed with the exception of your precious camera has either been stolen from dumpsters or carefully picked from thrift store racks. there’s something thrilling about getting something for your very own, something terrifying.

“the marvel ones look cool,” you mumble, eyes a captain marvel one in the kids section. you’re still a kid, after all.
“unless you wanna explain a flaming superhero on campus, i’d settle for something more discreet.” they rest their arm on your head simply because you’re short and you glower. “or not. whatever catches your eye.”

you pause. “do you mean that?”
“always.”

the walmart is left with one bobbing brown leather backpack and a jojo siwa balloon punched in the face.