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Dear Lost & Confused Me,

“Thank u so much, elly! Ur the best talaga…swear!hehehe! :)”

I stared at the Arial letters glowing from my cellphone with this weird feeling. Well… mixed, to be more exact.

I was happy to have helped another damsel of a friend with her relationship concerns. For weeks I empathized with her (“Fuck yeah! Let’s get wasted!”), listened to the detailed accounts of her story (“Wait! I’m crossing the street! …Hello? Okay, go on.”), and encouraged her to do what she thought was right. (“Just so you know, I know someone who knows someone who's cousin knows a hit-man.”) I was also honest about giving advice from that unbiased, third-person point of view (“Seriously, he’s an asshole! And you know it!”) and constantly assured her I was just a few digits away if she needed anything. (“Yes, you woke me up! So start talking!”)

She found her way through eventually, and got around to taking the first step in the moving on from heartbreak process. Like a single mother ready with her camcorder at some piano recital, I was very proud of my friend.

And now here I was – lying in bed and staring up at the thankful text message she had just sent me.

(** Buzzkill! This is the part where I get weirdly serious...)

Paired with feeling happy for my friend was that little side of me that somewhat felt empty. And I knew it was because I, too, wanted so badly to benefit from my own words and advices.

It didn’t take much for me to realize how helpless I always seemed to be when I went through dating boo-boos and pangs of heartache. Here I was thinking: I was always ready to help people out, but why couldn’t I be that same person to myself? It was so easy when my friends needed me to play Oprah; but when it came to me facing my own predicaments, I shut down. Countless were the times I found myself not knowing what to do with the simplest of problems made answerable with the most “duh” of solutions.

Despite not knowing why I was disabled like this, I was certain about not being the only person who sucked at taking her own advice. I guess that’s why even the most independent "I-got-this-I-always-do!" people still need other people to hear them out. Because sometimes, hearing a voice other than the one coming from the back of your head is better. It’s that extra push to do or not to do something. It’s that validation of your thoughts. And sometimes, it’s that smack on the head you need to bring you back to reality. ("Sweetie, he's just not that into you. Now, slowly... step away from the phone.")

Shifting my position in bed, I replied to my friend’s message with a “No problem! :)”. Then after seeing it register under the Sent folder, I laughed.

Because my message was too damn ironic.

It Only Took Him a Day

We were already the last two people left drinking in the resto-bar when my male friend tells me about getting over his long-time girlfriend in a day.

I repeat: In a day.

Ignoring the “WTF”-look plastered on my face, he continues going on about how ready he is to enter into another relationship because he isn’t afraid of getting hurt again.

(Ladies and Gentlemen! I now officially change my answer to the common survey question, “What super power would you like to possess?” It’s always been the automatic “I want to fly!” response. But after speaking with this amazing freak of nature, and admiring his superhuman-like ability to get over heart-break that fast; I was all ears and ready to learn like an eager Padawan!)

“I think most people, instead of focusing on moving on, focus more on re-living the memories… and staying in the past,” he casually says before taking a drag off his cigarette. The confidence in his voice cloaking years worth of experience got me hooked in an instant.

“But wait, you have to go through that process!” I protested.

I have always thought that experiencing heart-break was the most painful thing in the world. (And that’s not just because I’m a hopeless romantic.) I also strongly believe that one cannot skip the grieving stage, the in-denial stage...and jump straight to parading around the hook-up market with floating hearts and promising cupids.

What my friend meant though, was not brooding too much on the past and acknowledging how everything will eventually be alright. In other words, shutting the heart up and accepting in his mind that whatever happened was for a reason. Simple as that. No But’s. No If’s. No rocket science. No Mandarin translations.

Metaphorically, you can’t keep looking at the rear-view mirror while driving. The focus should be on the windshield – wiper stains, splattered bugs and all.

But in a day?!
My skeptical mind still won’t shut up.
Is this a Men are from Mars thing?

Is moving on simply a matter of the mind’s strength?

I mean, I admit to brooding over my failed relationships -- the countless Kleenex boxes, the replays of “One More Chance”, the unpublished emo blogs, the hard partying… (and crying in the bathroom stall after getting seriously smashed), the torture of playing love songs over and over again, the re-reading of lovey-dovey text messages, the staring at old pictures, and last but not least, (the one 90% of girls I know have been guilty of) – the waiting for that one text message from that unknown number you know is his, which you’ve deleted from your phone-book to keep yourself from calling or texting him, only to realize you have it memorized anyway. (Haha!) So I’m a chick, and we estrogen-filled creatures thrive on all that futile, pathetic drama…

I kept this to myself of course, in fear that my friend from across the table would curl his upper lip at me in disgust.

“So what was the shortest time it took for you to get over an ex?” he quickly interrupted my thoughts.

I paused for a while. “Shortest? Um… three—no, wait! Two months.”

He looked at me steadily and cracked a small grin. “Wow. That is long…”

I guess I will never arrive at an absolute answer to my question. It must be qualified to tailor-fit the experiences of different people and must be applied on a case-to-case basis. I, personally, found it helpful to go through the “slow but sure” process of drowning myself in my tears, denying how single I’ve become overnight; only to later find peace in accepting how I shouldn’t put all the blame on myself or how I can get comfortable with calling him an ass.

Not all people have the same emotional strengths. Some may find it better to let all the baggage and pain beat them up in a day, only to promise themselves they’ll be back up on the horse by the next day.

That being said, I clinked glasses with my friend; secretly wishing a day was all it could take for me too.

Just My Imagination

It is another sleepless Saturday evening, and the monotonous ticking of the clock didn’t need to remind me of this. Tonight’s choice of music was that of Nat King Cole’s greatest hits. The last song on the play-list began to play; and the familiar tune made the corners of my lips curl in delight. There in my room sat a young dreamer, yet an oldie at heart.

I closed my eyes as his hauntingly beautiful voice sent me off to a completely different dimension…

“The very thought of you,
And I forget to do…
The little ordinary things,
That everyone ought to do…

I’m living in a kind of daydream,
I’m happy as a king.
And foolish though it may seem,
To me that’s everything…”

My almost-always active imagination leads me to sitting at the corner of a downtown bar with a cocktail glass in hand, way back in the year 1947. I smile at my vintage taste. My eyes fix on a handsome, young couple making their way from the jukebox to the middle of the empty dance floor.

The man is suited in a crisp navy uniform; his flat cap left resting on the bar beside two consumed drinks. His stance is carried by the natural commanding presence of a naval officer. The woman beside him beams in her classic and timeless beauty—moving in her dress with confident yet trusting elegance; the swaying locks of her dark hair framing her face perfectly.

Holding her hand, he guides her to the center of the floor and pulls her towards him with the flick of his wrist. A comfortable silence falls between the both of them as they come face-to-face.

They are a pair. And one does not need to take a second look to know that they are completely, undoubtedly, and utterly… in-love.

He leads her steps with such gentle yet supporting strength as they began to dance around the tiled floor. I watch meticulously from the distance as he handles her with gentle might—as if afraid to break her.

“The mere idea of you,
The longing here for you…
You’ll never know how slow the moments go,
Till I’m near to you…

I see your face in every flower,
Your eyes and stars above.
It’s just the thought of you, the very thought of you…
My love…”

I light my first cigarette and look around the place. The waitress flips the sign from “Open” to “Closed” by the entrance. Door chimes sound at the exit of the few remaining customers; leaving me as the lone spectator to the happenings around me.

Fixing my attention back to the couple, I find them lost in each other’s eyes. I surprise myself with the inability to gag at the scene before me. I take another drag off my cigarette.

A lighthearted chuckle slips from the lady’s red lips as the man spins her around and dips her. It was so playful, so sweet, yet so innocent at the same time. Upon recovery, both her hands immediately find themselves around his shoulders, and they are back to looking into each other’s eyes as if nothing else seemed more important than being there with each other at that very moment. Placing his mouth closer to her cheek, he begins to sing the rest of the song softly into her ears…

“The mere idea of you,
The longing here for you…
You’ll never know how slow the moments go,
Till I’m near to you…

I see your face in every flower,
Your eyes and stars above.
It’s just the thought of you, the very thought of you…
My love…”

And with the fading sound of the string orchestra ending the song, the handsome couple began to slowly disappear before me. It was the perfect finality—an image of them lost in their love and euphoria as they both vanished into the darkness.

I open my eyes and find myself back in my dark room. The music that has left me is now replaced with the soft buzzing of the air-conditioner. The bar’s tiled dance floor is now the hardwood flooring beneath my feet. I am partly coated by the yellow light streaming steadily from the lamp positioned above my bed.

There it was, staring back at me.

I tried to ignore it. But once again tonight, just like on every other night -- it didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

It was the cold, harsh, reality that I could not fake happiness in choosing to be alone. The inescapable fear stared back at me when my imagination stopped playing along to the hidden wants of my heart. They had been carefully tucked away to protect me, and it was in playing the music and feeling the lyrics that I had inadvertently discovered my need to be held… to be wanted… to be needed… to be loved...

It was with the acceptance that I had no one to dance with that I forced myself to sleep.

In Singing my First Year Blues

“I am such a failure!”

It was as if those words were put on repeat at the back of my mind yesterday. Not only was yesterday the last day of my first year as a law student, but yesterday was also the day the secretary of the Dean told me I failed in my Obligations and Contracts class with a seemingly apathetic shake of the head, “I’m sorry…”

I will not say her statement surprised me, for my almost-innate defense mechanism had me expecting the worst in all situations. Though I must admit, I did expect a little. I was in feeble hopes my efforts would be recognized after all those attempts to recite (revalida style) better and bounce back from the preliminary examination. After all, Dean Aligada couldn’t be that bad, right? I mean, though he was only known for arbitrarily passing 3 students at a time in all his classes, the demigod seriously couldn’t be that bad.


How wrong was I?

The possibility of getting debarred is probably the biggest fear of any law student, next to not passing the bar examination after graduation. To me, it was that and failing to meet the expectations everyone had on me – my parents, my relatives and my friends.

And hearing “Aww… Sayang naman…” (“Aww… Such a waste…”) from my mother did not help. To me, that struck harder than the secretary telling me I failed my 5-unit subject. Mom had other words of encouragement but for some reason, her previous statement filtered them. I love her to death and still think I have the best mom in the entire world; but could she not have told me she was proud of me for at least trying my best? Then again, she was a frustrated lawyer.

Every single day is a fight and a struggle with the constant and desperate attempt to stretch my worth 256 KB mental capacity of a brain in memorizing statutes, understanding doctrines, looking up (to-sound-smarter)-Latin terminologies, and reading bulks and bulks of cases; topped off with hard-core commuting to fill my already weak lungs with more Manila pollution everyday. Looming over me was an ominously heavy feeling I wasn’t going to meet the expectations people had on me, despite my best efforts to pass that particular class.

So I went out with my law school friends last night, poker-faced and ready to drown out my sorrow with some hard partying. I was in desperate need of diversion from the oppressive loneliness that was beginning to eat me up.

A little more than 10 shots of tequila and 2 bottles of Red Horse later, I was already looming over the washroom garbage can, puking my guts out in all my Catholic school-uniformed-glory. This continued 10 minutes later at the parking lot with my guy friends telling me to “let it out” while rubbing my back. I had never gotten to the point of bad drunk-puking (let alone in front of 5 other people and for academic problems at that! WTF, right?) until last night. And the best thing about puking, I realized, is how you have every excuse to let your tears freely fall.

Funny how it was with those tears and waking up ten hours later to read text messages from concerned friends that I realized the things that mattered more than excelling and breezily passing in life…

(And it’s that damn cliché I keep forgetting.)

It’s in knowing that you are not alone in what you go through, because you still have the people you need to tell you to it’s okay to “let it out” while rubbing you back, albeit seeing (and smelling) you at your worst. It is in knowing that it’s okay to stumble because you have certain people to catch you when others won’t, and it is in knowing that winning can be but a mere shallow fruit of a feat when you don’t have people witnessing and embracing you at your failures first.

So here's an open thank you to those who still believe in me and in themselves...
Optimistically Disenchanted | TNB