Monday, November 29, 2004

My Tank Top Girl

There was this girl with long, wavy hair. Her face was kind and she wore a stunning, tight tank top, slightly see-through, revealing a dark bra. She was beautiful.

She had a booth at the Ateneo bazaar yesterday, selling shirts and handbags.

I couldn't resist seeing her up close, so I took a look at the stuff she was selling. I took my time, asking questions slowly, like dunking a tea bag into my cupful of hot water one lazy afternoon. Do you make these? Pause. Look at a bag. Do you have any other designs? Pause. Pretend to be mulling over something. How much if I buy five bags? Pause. Change topic. Do you have a store? Pause. Then I slip a personal question. Are you an Atenean? Pause. Do you have a mirror? I want to see how this bag looks. Pause. Can I see that bag down there, by the chair?

She turned around, looking for where I was pointing.

Her hair moved slowly, swinging like a mist of rain. Her body flexed and her shirt shifted, revealing the skin above the waist of her jeans.

You look familiar, she said to me, handing me the bag.

I know, I exclaimed. You remind me of a friend. You could be her sister.

At that moment, we were officially acquaintances. Her cell phone rang and she answered it. Excuse me, she said, turning her eyes away. I took her in, head to toe. Perfect. I wonder how it feels to be with her.

There you are!--a voice from behind me.

It was my date for the day. I was trying to shake him off, because I wanted to look around. So many pretty girls here.

I'm not yet done, I said in the girliest voice I can make. I gave him a peck and squeezed his hand. Can you please go around for a few more minutes while I shop?

He agreed and wandered off. I'm so mean. Poor boy. I needed a ride to Ateneo from Makati, and back, of course. I may have to kiss him tonight, maybe even wrestle a bit. Nothing more. He's a nice boy, but no tingles, you see.

Unlike now.

Sorry about that, she said. Oh, no problem, I said. Is your sister P---?

Yes, she is, she said. Her eyes lighted up, confirming a connection.

But usually, that's as far as it goes. We may become good friends, trading kwentos about boyfriends and dates and clothes and families and magazine articles. It's hard to find women who are looking for women.

I don't like hanging out in dyke clubs, because they're all so aggressive and smelly, with all that cigarette smoke and beer. I prefer bi groups. At least they're kinda normal.

This girl in front of me feels like a girl. I feel like a girl. Women are so lovely. This is what straight women will never understand. It is like returning to that mirror stage in our life, where the world is part and parcel of yourself. Being a bi, a lesbian, allows me to indulge that. As I touch a woman's body, it's as if I'm touching myself. And it all is like that.

Say hi to her for me, I said, nearing my closing statements. Then I took a dare--

Um, I'm going to look for something to eat. Do you want to join me?

For a moment, I saw that look in her eyes. That awkwardness of being surprised, hiya, and confusion. Then it changed quickly.

She turned to her partner--I'll just take a break, ok? Her partner nodded and smiled.

Ok, let's go, she said. Let's get a drink first.

Yes, yes, yes, I said inside. In my head, I imagined my date getting slightly pissed at having to look for me. Happily, my new friend and I joined the milling bazaar crowd. Damn the world--I smiled.

Monday, November 22, 2004

My First Digital Camera

I decided on my first subject: feet.

Mainly people's feet. I've taken a dozen photos of my own feet, at various times of the day. I even have some close-ups of my toes. Then over the weekend, I started sneaking in shots of other people's feet.

I didn't want to be obvious, so I turned off the flash on my cute white Canon Ixus i and held it like a wallet or cigarette pack. Then I put my jacket on my arm, partially covering the camera.

After an hour at Glorietta, I concluded that it was easier to just sit down and let people pass and stop by, then click. Usual problems include: wrong focusing and moving subjects.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Getting There, To That Place

It's like throwing away old food in the refrigerator, food that I saved and hoped to eat one night but never did. It's the space that appears and the air and light that circulates.

I feel I can breathe again, for some reason.

For the past few months, I resisted being neat and clean, because I was lazy and tired, but mainly because I was following a thread of hope: I had hoped I was being led to a realization, a rare insight.

Quietly, in bits, I have been getting my insight. A few key pieces in a giant jigsaw puzzle. I am so excited to see how it looks like.

Back in college, I nursed an ambition to become a writer. I rationalized that I had to be egotistic, to never doubt myself. It didn't work. It doesn't work that I forced the feeling, and the will, and the confidence. These things, I am slowly realizing, cannot be forced.

Everyday, you have to decide to be a writer. This is so far from true.

Nowadays, to get a glimpse of this new horizon before, I simply have to pause and listen to my thoughts. It's as simple as turning a street corner or reaching for a glass of water.

And it's not just in writing. It's also in everything else, especially errands and housework.

There it is. I am moving my hand. I am not judging myself, or forcing myself.

I am waiting for the moment where I can sit down and whip up a draft of a novel or short story. I look forward to letting my mind explore itself as I document the words that come out.

I still do want to be writer. An artist too, and everything creative. Maybe this is the time for me. Maybe this is the time. Maybe I am arriving to where I should be.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Like a Kitchen Knife

How long can I pretend to be someone else? To keep on hiding like this.

It all depends on a red wheelbarrow, and white chickens. On James Bond and Vin Diesel and Julie Delpy. On the rain and garbage truck. On the cat crossing from building to building. On the piece of plastic surfing on the wind between buses.

All these words blanket me, like a nest, protecting me from the elements, from scrutiny, criticism, and intimacy. But I don't want to be known, to anyone nor to the world.

For the longest time, I've known I had the skill for words, writing. I was afraid to write because I had nothing to write about. These past few years, I was forced to use writing as therapy, as self-excavation, as exorcism. I learned I can wield writing, like a kitchen knife.

Cut, dig, carve, drop accidentally, throw: let me tell you stories unlike any other.

So there.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

My First Cuddle Party

I went to a cuddle party last Sunday. The rules are simple: wear sleeping clothes, like pajamas, no sex, kissing allowed but no tongue, and cuddle all afternoon.

I was invited by a friend. She just came back from New York a few months ago, where she experienced her first cuddle party, which had the same rules. It's strictly by invitation and you pay 1,000 PHP to participate, which covers the food and facilities.

As far as she knows, this is the first cuddle party in Metro Manila. At least, of this kind anyway. She was holding in her Makati condo.

I didn't know what to expect. I had visions of my high school soiree, with boys on one side of the gym and us girls on the other, and this huge basketball court in between. When I got there at quarter to seven (it was scheduled to start at 7:00 AM), there were already a handful. About three girls and two boys, plus my friend and her boyfriend. They invited ten people, and all confirmed, just to see how it goes.

No one under twenty-five years old. This is their own rule, not a New York rule. They have this theory that being a quarter of a century old means something. They oldest person they invited was 39 years old.

I was introduced to the group. It wasn't so bad. They were already in their pajamas and everyone looked so comfy. They each gave me a hug, it was part of it, just to break the ice, so to speak. I went to a guest room to change clothes.

By 7:00 AM, we were nearly complete. One guy was missing. We were all told beforehand that late people will be turned away and invited to the next party. This will be strictly implemented: they had to build trust within the group, based on a strict agreement on the rules.

Again, they ran through the rules. Anyone who breaks any of the rules will be asked to leave and not be invited again. The goal is to establish boundaries and intimacy.

And then they told us to begin.

Go ahead, hold each other.

My friend and her boyfriend approached us and started steering us toward each other, guiding us to the floor of the living room, covered with rugs and pillows and sheets, like a giant, endless bed.

Instinctively, I approached the girl next to me, about my age. I opened my arms and looked at her eyes. She agreed, and we hugged. I didn't know what to feel. It was scary and comforting, painful even. We fell to the floor and never let go.

We chatted a little. Hi. What's your name. What do you do. Then we just hugged. Her breath smelled good, minty, like mine. You had to brush your teeth and use mouthwash: that was one of the smaller rules. Bad hygiene is disrespectful.

After a few minutes, we quieted down, and I closed my eyes.

Bit by bit. I remembered all hugs and touches and holds and nearness throughout my life. The good ones, the bad ones. I remembered the violence.

I felt a breath on me, then a voice: you're crying.

I opened my eyes. My hug-mate was looking straight into my eyes. Grabe ano? she said. Want a glass of water? I nodded.

We let go and she stood up to get water. I looked around and the room was littered with clumps of people. I was in the middle. We looked like a litter of new-born puppies. We were so cute. It must have been the soft morning light and the pastel colors of the room.

Only then did I realize there was music, softly playing in the background.

She came back with the water and I drank it gratefully. She wiped the tear lines on my face with her thumb, then she gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Come, she said, let's join the others. And we did.

The cuddle party lasted all afternoon, until four o'clock. We were all shooed away, gently of course, even lovingly, to resume our regular lives. We were all invited to next month's party. Tell your close friends about it, they said.