3:30. My date is late. Where is he, I wonder. I look around the cafe, hoping to find distraction in the browns and greens, but, every few seconds, my eyes still flicker over to my tablet’s screen. I push the gadget away after setting the ringer’s settings to loud. A couple is taking selfies three seats away. Behind them, a pair is snogging unapologetically. Meanwhile, these lovers next to me are scrolling through their phones’ respective feeds. Kids these days. Finally, my tablet rings and his apologetic face fills the display. “You’re late, love. Anyway. Waiter, one cappuccino, please.”
Pick a letter, any letter. Now, write a story, poem, or post in which every line starts with that letter.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us SYMMETRY.
Home. He would be seeing home soon. He would be feasting his eyes upon the twinkling lights that dotted the mountainsides like ornaments on a Christmas tree. He would be looking at the pale moon that shone over Mt. Kalugong, welcoming him back after him being away for ten plus years.
His heart warmed at the thought of highland coffee, of soyfee, of drinking these brews while basking in the fog and chilly wintry air. Highlands coffee was the best. His grandmother always had a cup or more waiting for him at the dinner table.
Happily, he snuggled into the worn out provincial bus seat.
He would be seeing home soon.
“Lord, do words matter? Do stories even mean anything at all?”
She looked at her almost finished book, eyes wistful, heart falling in disdain. Would anyone even read those simple tales? In the world of instant information, would anyone even stop to linger inside the magical world of stories, of deep and lengthy fiction?
“Nobody really reads anymore,” she whispered sadly as she let the precious pages flutter away into the midnight air.
Off they drifted. The storyteller retreated quietly into her heart, deciding to hide herself from her love of words. She’d bask in loneliness and solitude forever. She preferred this to the torment and agony brought about by the frustrations of her passion.
“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1:1.
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18:1.
“Then He told them many things in parables saying…” Matthew 13:3a.
He spoke to them in many parables.
A tiny flame flickered in the storyteller’s heart. It was true. The Great Creator was the Master Wielder when it came to words. He chose to reveal Himself throughout the ages through writings in parchments, in old Jewish scrolls. And He turned to stories whenever He spoke of the Kingdom.
He turned to stories.
Slowly, the flame grew large enough to warm the girl’s almost frozen heart.
A lonely piece of paper sailed through the darkness before her. She saw it because it gave off a somewhat radiant light. It landed right next to her feet and, carefully, she bent down to pick it up.
It was a page from her story. It was stained with doodles and tears, but they weren’t hers. It was accented by distinct fingerprints, but they looked like they belonged to different people. Scribbled at the end of her story were words of thanks, written in varying handwriting, in varying languages.
The flame began to overtake the storyteller and she knew she had to write again.
Midnight. I hold a key in my hand. My fingers tremble, my breath comes in staggered gasps, but I will myself to calm down.
This is it. This is the moment. This is the night I will unlock that box and dare to take a look at the book hidden inside. This is the night I will finally get to know what is written in those pages, what secrets and stories are scribbled and scrawled concerning these two lives that were somehow caused to collide.
I feel an arm on my shoulder. He is here. He smiles warmly. I smile back.
We make our way towards the chest. In silence, we stand. In silence, I put the key I had been fumbling with into hands which are stronger, surer, and more secure.
True, it was he who gave me that key. But though I’ve been already keeping it for a month, I wanted him to be with me in the grand unlocking of the greatest love story. He had already given me the right to do the key turning, but I wanted the person to do it to be him — not me.
And so after 3 years of watching and praying, after 18 months of courting and waiting, after 1 month of Lala Land bliss —
After anticipating God’s perfect timing — finally.
Finally, I see what is scribbled in the silver-lined pages.
And finally, I see the abundant spaces where more stories are waiting, waiting to be written in.
You should also read:
A boy plays in his front yard. You have three paragraphs to help us imagine this boy. What country are we in? Which details help communicate this? Is there an elm tree or an olive tree in his yard? Maybe there is no tree at all. How old is this boy? What color is his hair? What is he wearing? You get the idea.
“Felipe, halika na, uwi na.” Murky brown mud sludges in between the gaps of his moss coloured rubber tsinelas as he makes his way through what had been his family’s front yard. The boy, barely seven years old, walks with the gait of one who is seventeen. His wide brown eyes carefully survey the wreck before him — aside from the refuse of soil and water, there are bits of rusty ochre tin scattered around. There are also spikes of mud-covered wood thrown about the ground. Yet his eyes are searching for something. A hint of red gingham submerged in muddy debris catches his attention and he quickly scampers towards that.
“Felipe, halika na, uwi na.” The boy pays no attention to his elder cousin’s voice — the treasure he’s been set on finding is just inches away from his reach. His slight fingers wrap around the fabric. He gives a gentle pull. The treasure is buried deep. He carefully digs through the rubble with his bare hands until at last the prized possession is uncovered.
“Felipe, halika na, uwi na.” The pretty little rag doll is not as damaged as he had thought it would be. He had thought it would need a lot of good sewing, but upon inspecting it, it seems that all the limp, pale toy with the red checkered dress and big black button eyes with faint chew marks would require is a good washing. Ate Ella washes clothes really well. His school uniform — the faded blue cotton one adorning him now — was in an even worse condition when his cousin found him floating through city’s cloudy flood waters in it. Yes, Ate Ella can wash Lily. A small smile makes its way into the boy’s dirty brown face as he imagines his younger sister’s eyes lighting up as they meet Lily’s button ones. He skips towards his cousin, charcoal hair bouncing; his springy steps full of childlike innocence. For that brief moment, Felipe turns seven again.
Yey! We’re almost done with this year’s song. In a few hours, it will be a brand new year, a brand new start.
I’m supposed to share a picture of what I am seeing for my 2013 and what better way to do that than to paint the scene with words and phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and interjections? Oh, but I shall add an accompanying illustration as well — an original which looks like it was taken straight out of a Final Fantasy fanfic site, in my opinion. But I “drew” it myself. Okay, enough intro. Here’s a painting of my 2013 for you:
Brick upon brick, upon brick, upon brick, upon brick. Slab upon slab, upon slab, upon slab, upon even more dazzling gemlike slabs of stone. I spread a layer of cement between each one, the glue unusually silky but dependably strong.
That should do the trick. That should keep them steady. That should hold them in place.
That should be enough to keep them from toppling over.
I scrape off the excess putty and take a look at the brilliant wall. It was no joke trying to build it. But it was all a work of love, a labour of devotion, an endeavor of enamorment. All that made lifting the heavy bricks, touching the jagged slabs, and putting every single thing in place so much easier than it would have been if love hadn’t been part of the equation.
I pause, daring myself to believe it. Completion. The word resounds in my ears.
Sure it’s just a wall. Sure it’s just a portion of the house, of the Cathedral, of my castle of dreams.
But what I have been putting my focus into building is now — well, technically “are now” —
(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.
(Day 14 – How have you changed in the past year? I’ll let this little story tell mine.)
So. This is what it’s like here. The tiny sprout looked around the lush terrain surrounding her, quivering in delight as she beheld the iridescent hues of the outside world – the world beyond mud and soil – for what she believed was the very first time. A cool springtime breeze welcomed her, planting a gentle kiss on one of her fragile leaves. Surely, the sprout thought to herself, this place would make all those dark days trying to push through the ground well worth the effort and the wait.
She remembered how it was like being underground and shuddered. It was a disheartening mixture of darkness, nothingness, and hopelessness down there. But she had pressed on steadily, through unforgiving gloom, and here she was now, in a whole new world, filled with renewed hope and expectations.
This new world holds a promise, the little sprout breathed out.
Indeed, those very words proved true. But the sprout could never have imagined the challenges that the new place also brought with it. For, along with all its magnificent splendour and beauty, the world above also contained trials more difficult than the troubles the sprout experience in the world beneath.
There was the wind. The tiny sprout almost forgot its gentle welcoming kiss when blistering gales caused her to sway and bend over. There was the heat. Sometimes the burning sun turned the sprout’s leaves yellow, sometimes it made her transpire until all the water left in her poor body was gone. Then there were the rains. Kind drizzles were gladly received, but relentless outpourings were terrifying. Sometimes thunder and lightning joined in the merciless assault and the poor sprout would have given anything to find a big tree to hide under but alas, she had found that there was none. Her surroundings were lush and abundant when she first broke forth, but, as the seasons passed, shoots were transplanted, trees were cut down, and crops were harvested and brought to the storehouse. Now the world around her seemed almost desert-like.
But in her loneliest hours, she found out that she was not alone. A Great Gardener always came to her rescue. Pruning. Watering. Singing over her, even. He shielded her from the strongest winds. Covered her when the sun was harshest. Revived her when the rains almost brought her down.
For this she was grateful. Though it was tempting to go back underground, though parts of her desired to hide from the challenges that she knew still lay up ahead, she knew that she had to stand firm and hold her ground. Her Gardener would not leave her to wither and die. Her Gardener would see to it that she would bloom and blossom like into a tree of life.
Yes, this is what it’s like here.
The tiny sprout looked around and smiled when she saw fresh green leaves shooting out from the ground surrounding her.