All These Places Have Their Moments

Portrait of Toby the Cat by Joan Brown

Portrait of Toby the Cat by Joan Brown

1 November 2013
11:38 PM


November has exploded in my face. I’ve had a turbulent afternoon–some shouting was involved. Chicken. Writing letters. Cabs. Ill-fitting pants. It sounds like a mystery but it really isn’t. I’m just trying to skirt around the dysfunction, which is not worth talking about.

Have you ever been gaslighted? I won’t go into too much details. For awhile there I felt like I was in one of the scenes in Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Suffice to say I have never been more glad to hold two years’ worth of journal entries in my hands, my past self telling me what was true.

So let’s talk about places. This is the beginning of our writing map for the whole month, and I’m quite excited to be including new prompts daily with our letters. I’ve picked fifteen; you’ve picked yours. I’m honoured that we are starting with mine–it has also played a large role to what happened to me today, so perhaps this is the universe speaking (again).

The kitchen is the best place in the house to find someone to talk to, because there is always someone there–sneaking chocolate out of the refrigerator, washing the dishes, reading the newspaper. It is also the worst and most common place to have a fight. It is the scene of the crime, a crowd favourite for unleashing pent-up rage and angst. It is where a red dwarf lives–the most evil of them all, who harnesses all our negative energy and makes us get into bad arguments–or so says my father’s ex-feng shui master.

Manila is not my favourite place to be born in, but only because I wanted to be by the sea. For better or worse, I call it home. It’s the only home I’ve ever known, after all–with all its noise and grit, its shadows and smiles. I can’t say at the moment if I love it or I hate it. It used to be much easier to decide when I was younger, because things were simpler: Manila Zoo was where we have picnics, and Quezon City Circle was where we rode bikes. I rode on a lot of sidecars, with my father taking us around until I was old enough to go on my own. The street in front of my house was the best place to learn how to ride on two wheels, and where I repeatedly crashed and skinned my knees and palms. I loved that red bike, and when I would fall down with my face almost to the canals, I loved watching the dirty water flow between my fingers, wondering if this was where ants and worms and insects take a bath.

1-B is the best apartment where I have memories of my grandfather. Lopez Jaena Street is the only place where I would find him as he grew older and more frail. His house has the best chicken barbecue I’ve ever tasted, because it came off his grill all juicy and hot. The hospital is the worst place to watch a loved one die. The elevator near the lobby is the worst area I found myself in after receiving a call from the nurse’s station, where I watched the numbers go down one by one as if a ticking time bomb.

The stairwell near the old publications room at the university is my favourite place to read Bruise by Ramon Sunico, one of the books whom I offered my heart to (and I’ve been offering my heart again and again over the years). It is also where I wrote some of my first poems–at least those that would amount to anything. It is located above a small chapel, and if I sit facing the windows, to my right I can smell fried food from the cafeteria. On afternoons when it rains, all I can smell is earth. The small pocket garden outside the management building is my favourite place to snuggle and get almost-kisses. You know–the kind where noses and cheeks graze, but never the lips. The lips always find their way to a shoulder or a cigarette, or an eyebrow, or my hair, if I’m lucky. These almost-kisses are the kind that I shared with a boy I didn’t even know if I was in love with, and I am probably exasperated by him as much as I thought I was infatuated with him. He was bad news, and yet we sat together anyway, every Tuesdays and Thursdays after the last class in the evening ends, in a corner by the big tree, sometimes sharing an umbrella when both of us need badly to smoke even when it’s raining and everywhere is wet. The Mongolian restaurant is the worst place for a not-date, and so is the Sta. Lucia mall. A retreat house somewhere out of town is my favourite place to see other writer friends get drunk. It is also where relationships are built and lost, and where I sat many years ago, listening to mentors discuss my poems–or rather, how some of them are almost certainly not poems. It is the worst place to confirm my fears, and the best place to reaffirm my dreams.

Tuscany is my favourite place to have a villa, and France is my favourite place to have a vineyard. Barcelona is my favourite place to go to during the summer where I can find a painter I can fall in love with. But these are memories that don’t exist, and these are films I’ve watched over and over again. Tagaytay is perhaps another place I would like to call home in my near future, and I’m going there again for a few days in December, probably some time after Christmas. It is my favourite place to have coffee in, and where I can almost forgive myself for fucking up. Quezon Avenue is the worst place to get mugged at gunpoint while riding a jeepney on my way home, where I was forced to open my bag, where time stopped as I waited to die. It was also the worst place to get my left shoulder dislocated, after the cab I was riding was forced off the road at two in the morning by another vehicle. Parañaque, meanwhile, is the most ridiculous place to get mugged at knifepoint by a teenager while riding a bus on my way to work, where I was forced to give up my wallet and my umbrella. My umbrella! The hotel a few train stops away from here is the best place to hole myself in for a few days, where nobody knows me, where I can write poems until the wee hours, where I can bring The Insistence of Beauty by Stephen Dunn to the bathtub.

Cambridge is my favourite place to meet an old love, but that will never happen. The stretch along Edsa is one of the worst places to be in during a typhoon in 2009, where I walked for more than an hour in waist-deep flood, and wondered if I’ll ever get home, if my friends were safe, if my family were safe, if I will fall into an open manhole, if I will get sick with leptospirosis, if a lot of people are dead. Switzerland is the worst place a boyfriend could fly off to, because this eventually lead to my heart being broken. Singapore is the best place for exquisite Buddha temples, but that is the only place I’ve ever been to outside my country. If you say there are better ones, you are probably right. It is also the worst place to get caught chewing a gum, but I’m just passing along information.

My university is the best place to go to the library, and where I found a big chunk of my life waiting for me. The Kelly Writers House is one of my favourite places which has given me back a lot of myself that I thought was lost last year. Someday I will get there, be there. The internet is the best place to find friends like you–or perhaps I should say, to be found by you. It is also where I’ve met beautiful people like E., who inspired me to write this in the first place, and who is, at the moment, changing my life. ModPo is the best damn place, anywhere in the world, for talking about poetry. Manila Bay is the best place to see the sunset, and so is Matabungkay Beach, especially during the low tide.

The garden is the worst place to bury my dog. It is also the best place to sit and pet him when he was alive, and we had nights just like this, where we would just look at the moon, with Bach playing in the background, wafting through the open door. From time to time a cat would walk past the gate, look at us. It would sit and lick its paw, taunting. Mitch never minded. He loved staying by my feet. Oh, I miss him.

The floor is the worst place to sleep in in this house, but it’s almost four. I should go. It’s time for bed.



5 thoughts on “All These Places Have Their Moments

  1. What a great space you have here, T. Thanks for inviting me to visit your Places! I’m about to go to sleep, but shall return tomorrow to explore further — what an absolute treat. Eleanor x

    • Got your email address, Eleanor! Will write you soon. Edited your comment so you won’t get unnecessary spam. Thank you for inspiring me. Now you’re here and I’m all giddy.


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