Neighbours

(Day 24 — Something that you’ve learned)

I should never have set my feet upon this road. They warned me, you know. They said that I was likely to get beaten. They said that I was likely to get robbed.

Well. I was both beaten and robbed. What more, I am stripped off the very fabric that just this very morning had clothed and covered my skin.

I’m almost naked. The sun is beating down upon my wounds. I can’t feel my legs. I can’t feel my arms. I can’t feel my — Oh God, what did they do to my arms?

Water. I need water. If only it would rain. Perhaps that would wash away the blood and grime off my skin. Perhaps that would soothe my parched throat. Perhaps —

Wait! What is that I see? I fear I’m in the state of delirium — but is that a wayfarer there yonder? Tassels in his robe — oh, he’s wearing a robe — and —

Gone. My first hope of rescue. Lost.

I squint at the dust. The brown particles, they lull me to sleep. They fly up into the air, swirl around my nostrils, conjuring up unidentifiable images that only make my head spin.

Linen. They’re forming patterns that look like linen. Linen??? On a Levite? Could it be? Is that a Levite down the road? Oh kind-hearted soul —

Gone. My second hope of deliverance. Lost.

I shall die today in this road I never should have taken.

What will happen to my wife? She shall have to find a kinsman redeemer. Oh, I can not bear it. Her with another man! But I can not bear the thought either of her facing the stigma of being a widow, of being a —

What are these? Hands. Hands touching my wounds. Is that oil dripping on my skin? Are those bandages being wrapped around my shoulders? Are those —

I can feel my feet again. I can feel my arms. My fingers — can I move my fingers again? A tiny twitch. That’s good enough.

The hands. They are lifting me up. Into the back of an animal. I am saved. I am being rescued. I am —

My mind goes blank. After a second, I remember nothing more.

* * *

“Well look at you. I was thinking you’d never get up. You’ve been out for three days now, you know.”

“I was? Wait. Where am I?”

“Jericho Inn, my dear friend. Jericho Inn.”

“How did I get here?”

“A Samaritan fellow took you in. Haggard fellow, really. Kept fishing around his pockets for some denarii that could at least keep you here. Said he’ll come back. Got some more expenses to cover. Was that guy your friend? You mightn’t see him anymore though. Dunno if you’ll catch him. Or if he’ll catch you. You’re good to go by this afternoon, you know.”

I imagine my eyes are as wide as saucers as the innkeeper and I engage in this exchange. A Samaritan? A man from an opposing camp? A Samaritan fellow helped out a — a Jew?

How totally unreasonable.

Moments later, I hear footsteps. My heart jumps in my chest. Seconds after, I see him.

“Innkeeper, is he well?”

I clear my throat. My eyes meet those of my deliverer.

“Yes, I am well. Thank you. My life is indebted to you.”

End.

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be the neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

The Good Samaritan. The Helpless Jew. It’s a well worn tale I grew up with in church and in Sunday School. But revisiting the story this Sunday gave a rather fresh learning — and yes, a fresh stirring — to my soul.

The lawyer had asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit life eternal. Jesus had asked him in turn, “What is written in the law?” The lawyer knew this well. It showed in his reply — “Give your all to God. Give your all to your neighbour as well.” (See Luke 10:25-28)

But who is my neighbour? And — this is a tough one — based on the story and based on Jesus’ and the lawyer’s exchange — am I a neighbour?

“The neighbour is the one who showed the man mercy.”

This be my Sunday learning. Truly, it is not right to say that you love God but not love His people. Indeed, it is incomprehensible if you give your whole heart to the Invisible but withhold every part from those visible around you.

So. Today. Tomorrow. Will I be like the priest, like the Levite, who just drifted by? Or will I be a neighbour? Will I be like that Samaritan guy?

Time Stands Still

(Day 23 — Favourite Movies and TV Show)

I wanna be the very best that no one ever was…to catch them is my real test, to train them is my –

“It’s starting! It’s starting, Sistah!”

“Oh! Oh! Oh! Wait, wait, wait, press pause! Wait, there’s no pause!”

I scramble over to our big bushy sofa with a bowl of frosted flakes teetering in my hand. My brother and I ogle at the screen – we’re just two little kids anticipating the appearance of Ash, Pikachu, and that famous red and white Pokéball. Our eyes are glued onto what Mum and Dad jokingly – yet often begrudgingly – call “Mama TV”.

I will travel across the land, searching far and wide. Teach Pokémon to understand the power that’s inside – Pokémon!

“Gotta catch ’em all…” We sing animatedly along with the show’s theme song. Pokémon is an integral part of our morning ritual. We’ve already donned our green and gold Sandon Uniforms and – once the show would end – we’d skip off into the day, going up and down O’dell, Blake, and Niagara streets to enjoy school sweet school. But first we must have our round of morning cartoons.

But the show is only about to begin. For a moment, time stands still.

In last week’s episode of Pokémon, our heroes Ash, Misty, and Brock faced the terrible wrath of Team Rocket. How will they get out of that mess? Join us in today’s episode – ‘Charmander Strikes back’!

For a moment, time stands still.

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started wait –

“Quantum, your shows are really funny,” I chuckle to myself as the Big Bang Theory episode takes over the laptop’s screen. I had pilfered the series from my brother’s machine some weeks back and now I’m finding myself addicted, watching four episodes in a row tonight.

“Penny, Penny, Penny.”

“Sheldon, Sheldon, Sheldon. What???”

“Oh nothing. I just wanted to ask you if you wanted a cup of hot beverage.”

“No Sheldon, I do not want a cup of hot beverage.”

“Oh. Pity.”

I release a loud guffaw at the exchange. Thank God I am alone – any onlooker would find me crazy laughing like this on my own.

The night is just ending. After a long day at work – and after a long month of dealing with life – I let the four stooges take their place in my “cheer yourself up” routine. I’ve already donned my pajamas. Dinner is in front of me — next to my makeshift laptop — and I’m ready to laugh the night away.

“Sheldon, are you crazy?!”

“No. I’m not. My mother had me tested. The doctors said I’m not.”

“Sheldon?! What in the world – ?”

“Ha. Ha. Bazinga!”

Chuckles.

Well, now the show is ending. Time – no longer still – begins ticking.

Daydreaming

(Day 22 – What do you want your future to be like?)

Pardon me while I get a little bit mushy. A girl can dream, can’t she? More like daydream. Funny how quickly these words poured out. Is it true that out of the abundance of the heart the pen leaks? Or — in this case — the keyboard creaks? Right. And because I don’t do this very often, enjoy this slightly cheesy piece. :)

* * *

Vermillion, Viridian, Bright Ochre. Red, green, orange-yellow.

“Hey, do you think I should mix in that bit of aquamarine? It wouldn’t look too weird, would it?”

“Weird? Nah, go ahead. That looks very pretty.”

“If you say so. How was your gig?”

“Uh-mazing. I met some awesome performers today. I’ll introduce them to you next time. How’s your story coming along?”

“I’m stuck. I don’t know whether I should kill off one of the leading characters or not. It would be too morbid, too sad, too tragic. But then again, it would give the story much greater depth.”

“Ohh. Kill him off then.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. Here, let me read the piece.”

“Okay. He’s a ‘she’ by the way.”

“Haha. Okay.”

His eyes run through my computer screen and I allow him to scroll the pages down. A smile plays on his lips at some instances, slight crinkles cross his brow at others.

“It’s good. Kill her off.”

“Why??? Hulio would be devastated!”

“You said it would give the piece greater depth.”

“Fine. She’ll be dead in a few paragraphs then.”

“Alright. Have you had dinner?”

“Ugh. No. Have you? I think there are some leftovers in the refrigerator.”

“Leftovers? I bought pasta. You want?”

“Yes! Wait, I’ll get these paint off the table.”

He carefully gets two Styrofoam boxes out of a sienna paper bag. I twist the lids back onto the bottles littering the workspace-slash-dining-table. “I called mom and dad up this afternoon, by the way. They’re asking how you’re doing. How we’re doing. I told them we’re having the time of our lives.”

“I’ve had the time of my life… and I never felt this way before…”

“You just had to sing that out did you? Haha. Anyway. I also told them this wonderful piece of news I got this morning.”

“And that news is…?”

I smile at him.

“You’re going to be a father.”

A girl can dream, right?

The Little Lady Who Could

(Day 21 – Something that you’re proud of)

It was either bindies or gravel. She could have chosen to make do with the tiny thorns on the lawn which latched onto her jacket and pants when she fell, but her hardheadedness compelled her to suffer through the biting pebbles littered throughout their flat’s spacious driveway instead. She got up, rolled her woolen sweater’s sleeves to her elbows, and checked on her cut.

The wound wasn’t that bad. It was just a scrape really. There was some blood, there were some tiny stones that somehow made their way through her woolen armour, but, on the whole, her elbow was still okay. She rolled her jeans up to check on her knees. Not too bad, either. She’d have to tell her mum to get her a new pair of pants soon though.

Her bicycle – just a few ungraceful paces away from her – was mercifully still in good condition. She made her way towards it and forced the blasted apparatus up. I can do this.

“You can do it, Pangging!” Her dad’s voice came from the other end of the driveway.

I can do this.

* * *

“Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Okay, your engine died again.”

This was getting frustrating. She couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t get the clutch-accelerator mix right. She turned the ignition key on for the n-th time, revving the car back to life. Her left foot pushed the clutch, her left hand shifted the gear stick to primera, and her right foot tapped the accelerator ever so lightly. Please don’t die, please don’t die, please don’t die. Slowly, she released the pressure that her left foot had on the clutch. The car started to move.

“Okay – stop. Go. Stop. Go. You can do this, Mari.”

You bet I can. I can do this.

* * *

“Okay guys, let’s all race each other to the other end of the park!”

“You’re on! Ready, set, go!”

She was speeding through Burnham Park, her friends several feet, several inches away from her, and she felt the wind wave about her jacket, ruffle through her hair. She allowed one hand to let go of the handlebar and she raised it up just to enjoy the cool Baguio June air.

This was fun. Her friends’ joyful laughter rang throughout the park and she found herself laughing along. She pedalled quickly, knowing that, this time, she wasn’t likely to even fall.

I can do this.

* * *

What was up with today? Traffic was worse than usual. Did everyone suddenly decide to leave the office at the same time? She shifted the car’s gear to neutral and pulled the handbrake up. Jesusculture’s heavenly sounds echoed throughout Caleb’s interior.

The car in front of her finally started to move. Clutch down, primera in, accelerator down, clutch up. Clutch down, segunda in, clutch up again. Accelerate. We are moving! Clutch down, tricera in, clutch up, accelerator down – okay just a bit more – clutch down – and we are now in gear four! She let out a sigh of relief as the stream of traffic started moving steadily again.

In twenty minutes, she’d be home. Traffic was nothing compared to the two-hour waiting time she once had to endure at the Bandar Tasik Selatan KTM station. Oh sure, there’d be another parade of cars she’d have to brave through once she’d get to the Sri Petaling junction, but she was already very much used to that. It was really just as easy as pie.

She hummed along to the song being played in Caleb’s radio and sped through the Maju Expressway.

You see? I really can do this.

A Return to the Lake

(Day 20 – Something you wonder “What if…?” about)

I was at the Lake of Imagination again the other day. For some reason, the water’s pull was stronger and, when I got there, I found that I was all alone. Alone was good. Solitude had been hard to come by lately – I needed time to just be with myself.

I made my way to my usual spot – the large mossy rock by the east bank – slipped of my shoes, and inched my feet into the refreshing pool. Crystal ripples swirled around my ankles as distant thoughts and memories swiveled their way around my head.

Thoughts. Memories. They were funny things. I looked at my fragmented reflection, pondering about the woman who was pondering back at me. It was amazing what three years and a few months had done to her. She had grown so much in that short amount of time.

I closed my eyes and wondered. What if I hadn’t left? What if I had stuck to my original plan, submitted my papers to my old university’s graduate school, and stayed? Would the woman staring back at me be just as mature, just as adventurous, just as flexible, and just as strangely melancholy?

Well. She might’ve met Rick Pino. She might’ve rushed into or out of love – or perhaps she might not have found it at all. She might have…

She might’ve what? Or rather – I might’ve what?

It was strange. There were times I found myself wanting the life I lived back then. But as I opened my eyes and gazed at the fragmented image, I realized that the truth was that I honestly didn’t because I was right where I needed to be in that very season of my life.

I was at the center of His heart and that’s what mattered. I was smack in the middle of His will and that was enough to dispel every single “what if”.

I lifted my feet out of the water and bent over to take a closer look at the woman who also wanted to take a good look at me. Little by little, the ripples subsided – the image became more distinct, more defined. It was fragmented no more.

And so I left the lake, perhaps to return to it still – another day.

Phantoms

(Day 19 – Things you want to say to an ex)

Whimsical. That place was utterly and magically whimsical. As my feet touched the ethereal carpet that surrounded the Lake of Imagination, I realized I wasn’t exactly sure what it was that brought me there. Was it the allure to tuck the busy office overnight sessions away into the back pockets of my mind that seduced me to the lake? Was it the need to simply get away and get lost in a world of dreams and imagination? Was it just the ferns and the vines and the prospect of gazing into clear reflective waters that led me to the its mossy green banks?

Or was it “him”? I was there for only a moment or two before he eventually arrived. Him, with his wavy hair and his playful yet deep, melancholy eyes. He sat next to me. I looked up at him and smiled.

“Hey. How’s your day?”

“Great.”  The air between us was light and easy. I was restful, as I always was, in his company.

I was about to get into a more detailed discourse when “they” started to appear. They emerged from out of the trees and out of the bushes. They started peeping through the ferns and began dancing through the woods.

Strange. Why were they suddenly showing up? They – men who were ghosts of pasts I never had?

There was that chocolate-haired boy. There were the friends I had back in primary school. There was my seatmate. And there were the guitarists, the pianists, the writers and – were they really that many?

I wasn’t sure if he could see them. I wasn’t sure if their spirit-like presence would even be of any importance to him.

Not that they did matter. Nothing actually happened between those guys and me. If anything, it was all one-sided – me writing cheesy poetry and whatnots. But since I did inexplicably give shards of my heart away to them… That might matter to him.

The phantoms hovered over to me. As they drew near, I felt my defenses rise up. Why were they here? What did they plan on doing?

“What do you want?” I asked apprehensively.

They stared at me. Their faces were unrecognizable and I couldn’t really be sure if they were looking right at me or not, but I could just feel their blurry eyes boring into mine.

“I know what you want,” I attempted. “You want release, don’t you?”

That seemed to get a response from them. I had no idea why they needed release or that I even held on to something that needed to be released. But I wanted them to go away. So I went for it.

“Okay. Guys from pasts I never had. I release you all. I release all the parts of you that have latched on to those hidden crevices of my heart. I hold no grudges against you. I forgive you, I now declare all the pain that you have unknowingly inflicted upon me to be gone. Null. Void. Non-existent. I wish you joy, love, and lives well lived, lives full of glory and abundance. You are all free. I now proclaim you all to be free.”

Their phantom eyes seemed to light up and, like wisps of smoke, the ghosts of my past vanished into the foggy air. So. That’s what they all needed. I let out a deep sigh of relief.

“Who were those people?”

I started. “Did you see them, too?”

“Yes.”

His brows were furrowed, his eyes held that concerned look that I’ve learned to be familiar with. “Are you okay?”

“I am. Are you?”

He smiled at me, his eyes real and full of soul.

“Am I? I am.”

On Walkathons

(Day 18 – Something that you miss)

One step. Two steps. Three steps. Four. My feet go thump-thump-thump-thump as I weave around the neighbourhood. As I walk, twilight is planting its kiss on the pavement, on the streetlights, and on the houses that I encounter along the way. It paints a serene picture, calming me down, dispelling the anxious thoughts that have made their way into my mind during the day.

I missed doing this. Going out on a walkathon. I had wanted to do some runs on one of the condo’s treadmills but the lights were out – the gym was probably under maintenance – so here I am, walking, just going wherever my feet decides to take me. I am unconstrained by time, unhindered by walls. Simply unrestricted. I had left my wristwatch at home and I will only cease walking once my strength has given out.

Walking has always been therapeutic to me. As a child, I used to “make-dabog” across the wooden floors of our house when my parents didn’t let me have my way. As a teenager, I took it out on the concrete pavements of Los Banos when life didn’t.

“Okay lang ba kung mag-lakad-lakad nalang tayo?” “Okay lang. Saan?” “Kahit saan. Sa Sta Fe. Sa Agapita. Sa may EBC. Sa Umali. Hindi ako makapag-isip eh. Kelangan kong maglakad.” “Sige, tara.”

Walkathons are always so much better though when you’re walking it out while talking it out with someone. Or certain someones. I miss those people who took walks with me, you know, once upon a time. Like when I had my heart broken in high school. When I had tantrum attacks in college. When I faced crossroads after graduation.

I wish I had someone to walk it out with me right now.

But solitude is sweet. And though I walk these roads alone for now, I know I won’t be doing so for long. Twilight brings in darkness, but dawn will bring forth newness and light, soon enough.

So I will keep walking through the night.

Twilight plants its kiss.

Buffy on Shuffle

(Day 17- Put your iPod on shuffle, first 10 songs.)

So I don’t have an iPod. I do have an external hard drive named Buffy (The Vampire Slayer)* though and, to comply with the “30 day” writing challenge, I decided to put her on shuffle this morning. She’s still shuffling as of the time of writing, generating random songs, giving music to this very random Wednesday.

So. First ten songs. You’ll laugh at the randomness – but hopefully smile at the mari-ness – of them all.

Please excuse my beautiful handwriting.

1. Simon Says (1910 Fruitgum Company – why does it say 1920 in my files???)

I had no idea I had this song in my hard drive. I probably got it from one of Ate Mian’s old CDs. Okay. Let’s go retro.

2. Miss Invisible (Marié Digby)

Napangiti naman daw ako noong narinig ko ‘to. Someone sent me a copy of this song back in 2008 but I didn’t have much of an idea who Marié Digby was back then. Listened to the song, got hooked, and now I’m pretty much what you would call a Digbyholic. Miss Digby is Miss Invisible no more.

3. Sure Looks Good to Me (Alicia Keys)

Yes, I do have Miss Keys in my playlist. :D

4. Love Shack (The B-52s)

Oh groovy! This one made me laugh. I seem to have many old school songs in my HD.

5. Eagle’s Wings (Hillsong)

This one is old school too – old school worship. Oh, but oldies are goodies. Truly.

6. Ordinary World (Duran Duran)

May Duran Duran pala ako??? Anong song ito??? <– My reaction when Buffy played this song out.

7. Call to Worship (Mercy Me)

Contemporary Christian. I love this genre. You know. Switchfoot, Mercy Me, Jars of Clay. David Crowder. Those bands.

8. Change (Taylor Swift)

And Miss T Swizzle makes it to the list. Hey, I like Taylor Swift. I like John Mayer too, but I don’t think they’re in particularly good terms right now.

9. Bless Me Lord (Bishop John Francis)

From the “This is Gospel 2” album. Old school gospel music. Oh yeah. I like gospel.

(But I can’t find a youtube vid. Tsk.)

10. We Win! (David Crowder* Band)

I. Love. David Crowder. And I love this song: We’re gonna shout loud, loud/ Until the walls come down/ Shout loud, loud until the walls come down/ Loud, until the walls come down / Cause we’ve already won and you don’t have a chance/ Yeah we’ve already won and no, you don’t have a chance/ Yeah it’s already done and you don’t have a chance/ Because we’ve already won/ We have already won!

O-ha. So. There’s my music. My musical taste is very diverse. And judging from the rest of the folders in Buffy’s directory, it gets even more assorted still.

I hope you enjoyed the music. And I hope this random Wednesday found you well.

*Her name’s Buffy because her box says she was manufactured by Buffalo Technologies. :D