Tag Archives: the city

The Things That The City Tells Us

Inside the train, the bodies are still. Everyone is rushing home, hoping to catch what everybody else will be watching on TV. Strangers avoid each other’s stares, thinking the same thoughts. Outside the tinted windows, large squares of imposed ideals are lit brightly. The same brand of age-defying cream sits inside an old woman’s plastic bag. The girl beside her wears the very pair of shoes that overlook the highway. She is thinking of the man in the picture. He smiles at her through the camera lens and poses for the rest of the world.

The train speeds past. Nobody takes note yet they all remember. The brand names go on the shopping lists, usually never tried nor tested. They believe the ladies that smile and the hunks that stare. They hold the truths, the ones who can afford the size and height over everyone else. These are the things that the city tells us, we take it all in and believe.

In a moment, everyone is exactly where they should be, thinking exactly what they should, knowing just about enough of the rest of the world. Their thoughts are to themselves, like everybody else. The doors slide open to give way for people to move in and out. The train moves through the city. One path, back and forth, never-changing. The same view blurs past empty stares. Inside, everyone is still. 

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Under Dim Streetlights

Here is something I copied and pasted from the notes section of my iTouch. Even during a cab ride from Makati to Quezon City, the city tries to get through past the tinted car window. You just have to catch it before it gets lost at the next corner. The journey provides the process, the thoughts become the story to tell. 

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May 14, 2012 9:32pm

I’m inside a cab snaking through Manila, from a different city towards another city. The rain taps on the window I stare out from. I stare out far, thinking of what deep thoughts to occupy myself, internalizing the moment like a sequence from a film. Maybe something about families and the struggle with distance. Or how to get the kids off the streets. Or the problem of garbage. And water. And hunger. Or maybe just him. Maybe just hoping to hear from him before I sleep. Then the light will fall the way it does in the movies while in my head the soundtrack of the moment plays. Fundamental loneliness might fit it. Or that’s more like a song that will play while I’m biking to meet my lover at sunrise. The thing is I don’t know how to bike. Haha. And that’s the needle that pops the bubble. Im back in my cab. Now a lady sings in Spanish and the driver rants about men looking more and more like women. What’s the world come to, he asks. I think of all the men I did not choose and then all the men who didn’t choose me. Manong driver takes a sudden turn, a detour. It will be easier this way, he says. He chooses the way, I do not complain. The street we are on is called Sobriedad and the children play in the rain. It is past their bedtime. And I haven’t had dinner. Actually, no decent meal the entire day. I think of why I made my choices. The woman sitting under a dilapidated waiting shed reminds me of why I chose to leave a man who wanted to take me away. I do not know where we are anymore. The street names are unfamiliar. But we are moving fast. I think we’ll be there soon. I do not know the way but I’ll get to where I have to be. I am after all in a city that owns me. There is no running away. There is no need to run away. The driver steers clear of roads that can get us stuck. I let myself be taken away. Somewhere, the cameras are rolling. Another song, still  in Spanish: quizas, quizas, quizas.

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Kingdom of Concrete: Born from the Gutters

The rains have stopped but the city continues to sweat itself out onto the gutters. It flows down the drains. Down there beneath the paved streets where  the secrets pile up to give birth to the creatures of mud that appear at each street corner, arms outstretched, feeding on pity, living off chance. We see them everyday. And they see us. Their stares, awfully real and yet dismissively ordinary, pierce deep. They touch us with their frail fingers that always seem to be about to break. So unlike us yet parcels of our soul is what gives them life. They have no parents, no homes, no ancestry. They are the city’s children, belonging to no one but to the concrete kingdom alone. They form in the ditches and return to dust. We know them well yet everyday we forget. They are everywhere we look,  faceless in our memories. They wait to be born from the gutters.  They wait to fill our streets. 

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The city has all these stories waiting to be told. Every now and then I hear one from the fire escape, or it comes to me as I walk through a dimly lit alley. I’ve told a few before. So here it is, words coming together to create the world of the Kingdom of Concrete

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Conversations with the City

I wonder what tonight will bring.

Polished nails, a decent dinner, another bottle of beer (or more), a cold breeze? Today there is no orange sky. What will I long for then, after the gray heavens stop rumbling, when Wednesday has sneaked up on me?  

The cars crawl through the city while the children smelling of afternoon sweat rush through the dimly lit streets. My hours of work are finished, the reports pile up on my desk. Outside the window, a horde of problems wait to be solved. There is no rest. I walk through the alleys wondering what  needs to be done. A motorcycle speeds by and I catch myself  swept off to the side, clutching a sense of reality that almost escaped me.

The sun is down. The ones in uniforms are on their way home, worn out books inside bags weighing down on their backs. The soles of their shoes crumble with every step on the concrete. The day’s heat rises from the ground, stinging tired feet. At the end of the street a mother waits, forgets about the rice boiling over the stove.  Her child cries in her arms. I hear these things from an opposite corner. The sounds bounce off other bodies, dragging with it another banter, squeal, whine, scream.

Tonight, the city brings me a new story. She whispers something in my ear. 

But I am still behind this window. Still staring at the lampposts light up one by one, illuminating the metropolis inch by inch. The sun has set. Another day ends. What am I waiting for?

Why am I waiting?

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Triggering the Rain

In the middle of a hot afternoon at the end of April, I am taking down notes about telling stories. The people inside the room begin to lose themselves in details of objects that hold the secrets of the character in the story. The story is about leaving.

The atmosphere around me changes. I begin to lose myself in a memory. 

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I remember the rain. Drops fall from the gray sky and shatter themselves on the hotel window. Shards of water pass in front me and get lost in the puddles below. I press my palm against the glass. I feel the city shudder. I pull the blanket tighter around me. The cloth is soft against my skin but offers little warmth. I trace a line from my lips to my neck, and lower, to where his kisses lead and end. My fingers feel like ice. I shiver and the city shivers with me.

Inside the room, music plays faintly. The soft melody is drowned out by the patter of rain running after each other on the surface of the city. There are all these sounds and yet it is as if he breathes into my ear. The air in the room is still. Cold. Below, people hidden beneath their umbrellas rush through the streets. They do not look up. They keep on running, running away from or running to something. They all have to be somewhere else other than where they already are.

I feel him asleep on the bed behind me, in a room I do not own. I look out the window at a view I will never see again. I turn around and look at the man sleeping on the bed. The sun rises in the rain. I turn around and continue to stare out the window, waiting for when the rain will end.

—————-

Yeah. So I did get lost. But that’s just that. I’m back taking down notes from the workshop now. 

Maybe waiting for when the rain will come again.

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50 for 25th: Gray Area

Nothing stands between you and the city except for the glass walls. The rooftops of rust  pop out against the city’s gray, hiding between skyscrapers, dodging our eyes. They wait to be found beneath those crumbling roofs. The wall is easy to break, but are you ready to jump?

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March 24, 2012.

It was a building with a view. We had the luxury of the metro’s skyline punctuated by free-flowing coffee, cookies and leftover fancy lunch. To be able to see what the world looks like from that height, we’ll have to choose between the actual bigger picture or the dominant view. The details need attention, but they need first to be seen. Are our eyes open? Are we really looking?

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In The City In February

—this is what it’s like, being out in the city, in the frenzy of the anticipation for the 14th of February. All around me are couples of all breeds and buds. They either rush ahead or trail behind. Others stay still. I strain to see their faces, decipher the codes in their looks, find a message there somewhere. In the distance, I listen to the movement of their lips and wait to hear the truth bounce from their skins towards me. I could make out some affection, some real love, some pure desires, and occasional lies. I look at the way their skins touch. My mind magnifies the movement of their pores, breathing each other’s scent. I try to see which ones are ready to take on forever. I shake my head at those I see who couldn’t. I pity them. I shrug. I permit myself these moments of judgement.

Today, I gain a sincere understanding for the cynicism of those who used to put a countdown timer beside the label of my own romantic undertakings. I’d do it myself right now but I’d really rather not engage in anything pretty stupid at the moment. Kidding.

There will be couples that will fail the meaning of the word the next time February comes. Some will be strong enough to withstand a few more years. And there are those, gifted by the universe with such honorable values and magnificent timing in every circumstance (the minute he walked into the room, the moment she dropped her phone, when the train doors closed, when the lights finally came on), who will persist. For the meantime, let them all cling to each other and litter the streets.

It’s a tricky thing, the way people commit themselves and lose portions of the self to that commitment eventually. Eventually, they will be left alone figuring out where everything else went during the times they were so immersed in the fever and frenzy of it all. And they will have their days of non-belief, too. They will have their questions, doubts, fears, anxieties, apprehensions, spite, disgust — they will nurse the inner cynic, even for just a while. There is no definite measure of how long it lasts or how short it should be. Or of how brutal the truth becomes, albeit sometimes unnecessarily so.

Don’t worry, the phase ends. It doesn’t last forever. Cause you know why? Nothing does.

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