001. z & g

z
Three things: There was something I wanted to tell her, there was something I didn’t want to tell her, and there was something I couldn’t tell her.
I wanted to tell her that she was the most beautiful girl to me. Her smile, the sweetest. Her hugs, the warmest.
I didn’t want to tell her about the rose I am desperately trying to keep alive in my locker. I carried all my textbooks and whatever trash I used to store in there for the whole day just so the rose can have its space to breathe. So that it can stay alive a little bit longer until I can tell her the things I wanted to say.
I couldn’t tell her I was afraid. I wanted to promise her the world, that I’d guarantee her happiness, that no one will hurt her. I wanted to promise her my life, but I only have one rose and some made-up words.
I wanted to promise her one special night.
She was just with her friends. She walked over to say hi and asked me what’s up.
What’s up was my heart about to burst because of the things I wanted and couldn’t say. But I kept my cool. I’m a cool guy, sure.
I nodded at the right times, said some words, and paused. I try my best to get it together, but there are moments when she makes me feel like I could be better, that I would want to be better.
I wish I could promise her everything. But best I can do at the moment was a secret promise: to keep that rose alive in my locker until 2 PM.
g.
I saw him and walked over. It was always like that, like there’s a magnet that kept me wanting to be close to him.
I asked him what was his plans for the pep rally. He said he wasn’t sure whether to go or not. I shrugged it off.
There are moments when I want to tell him everything, every single feeling I have for him, but something always holds me back. Fear, or something. I’m also not good with words.
So I have two defence mechanisms: the shrug and funny gibberish sounds that guaranteed a smile on his face at least.
It was difficult, but I walked away. I had to. Or else, I would have hugged him in front of everyone. Sometimes I just know when he is trying to hide his heart.
I went to the pep rally with my friends. My feelings confused me a lot, it’s frustrating. Given the choice, I’d be with him. But I also know that most of the time, that’s not on me.
And I learned the hard way that sometimes you don’t always get what you want.
So I try my best not to want so much.
z.
I knew it. I couldn’t even promise her one night, so how can I promise my entire life? Her happiness?
The words I’ve prepared, words I’ve saved only for her, were useless at this point.
I was trying my best to hide, but she saw me.
Game over.
g.
What was he doing here?
And why does it look like someone broke his heart?
I have it, don’t I?
And I promised not to break it.
z.
hey.
g.
hey.
z.
I’m sorry for everything I couldn’t do. But here’s… a rose. For you.
g.
What’s it for?
z.
It’s for the dream of a dance I would like to dance with you.
Just with you.
Only with you.
g.
Come here.
z.
How is your hug so warm?
g.
I don’t know.
But, hey listen, your dream is enough.
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yesterday

Yesterday was my birthday.

On my seventh birthday, my mother rented a McDonald’s branch to hold my party with hosts, games, Grimace and Ronald McDonald mascots. I wore a special yellow flowered dress and a white flower headband. I had light pink lipstick on my lips that made eating spaghetti hard. But I thought, hey, I’m a young woman now. I’m seven. I have a bit of make-up on. This must be how grown-ups are: eating carefully, nice dresses, protecting face, smiles on cue.

I watched my friends and cousins play games that the party host led. And as the birthday girl, I had my special seat in front where I got to watch all of them run around, play, laugh, have fun.

Parents and other grown-ups sat around the play area and watched. And I felt a bit better thinking I was doing the right thing: sitting and watching and clapping along when a winner won and the party host would ask me to hand a wrapped prize.

***

On my 18th birthday, my house was almost empty except for a few furniture left. I counted my friends who visited on my hand. My clothes and some books that my mother approved I could bring along with me were already packed. My bed was naked with no sheets nor pillows.

I watched my life slowly changing, getting replaced with a new one on the other side of the world.

My 18th birthday was a goodbye, not just to childhood but to my first home.

I didn’t want to grow up this way. But I must.

***

Yesterday was my birthday.

It was quiet, peaceful, calm. No big balloons, no mascots, no games. Our furniture was complete, and my family wasn’t going anywhere. Not anymore.

The man I love was beside me and gave me a birthday card with grammar jokes and a special edition of a book that has defined my life. My parents got me my favourite red velvet cake and my favourite chicken. The people who matter remembered and left me the warmest messages.

Yesterday, I felt loved. Just as I have everyday before yesterday and everyday after yesterday. Yesterday, I realized being a grown-up doesn’t mean accumulating more things, more people, more parties. Growing up is celebrating the people who have come and stayed, the life left behind, the life being lived, and the life waiting.

Yesterday, I wasn’t a grown-up.

I was just loved.

And today, I am loved.

Tomorrow, I know I will be.

And growing up is remembering this, holding on to this, in my highest and lowest and limbo days.

the other two doors

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Just a Dream.”

You’re having a nightmare, and have to choose between three doors. Pick one, and tell us about what you find on the other side.

The First Door.

It was a door to the past–but not just any past. A particular past. The kind of past worth cherishing, fondly remembered. There were four people standing beyond the door:

a friend who was happy and told everyone to be happy,

another friend who smiled to me and gave me that encouraging “Okay!” thumbs-up sign right before my speech,

a friend who stood beside me and stroked my back as silent tears blurred my eyes,

and another friend who took my hand and danced with me with the kind of dance that could have gone on forever.

To walk through that door would be a dream; to forever stay with them, impossible.

The Second Door.

It was a door to the present–but not my present. The other kind of present happening at the moment but outside my awareness. The tears my parents shed in darkness, the sighs of my friend giving up, the quiet prayers of another friend asking for hope against hope, a friend talking to a wall and asking questions with no answers, my grandmother calling out to me, a neighbour touching his wife with heavy knuckles and ringing slaps, my aunt wondering who the stranger sitting inside her daughter’s room is and who looks exactly like my cousin, and my high school teacher controlling but succumbing to that urge to touch those faces sitting inside the classroom.

The Third Door.

It was a door to an empty room except for a window that showed me what was beyond the first two doors.

The third door was the one I opened.