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When I was little, members of my family would take me on these endless bus rides. Mostly my grandpa, or apo, as strangers and family alike called him. I remember how comforting, as if I am being cradled and rocked gently, sweetly by invisible arms. I’m not the kid who asked if we were there yet. I never did want to get there, wherever “there” may be. I only wanted to stay where I was, seated on the cushioned bench, leaning against a hard wooden back slatted tightly together, the uneven edges pushing against flesh. I loved it! Watching the sun slowly paint the sky red from behind the mountains, the rice fields glowing, the vendors at every stop hawking food and souvenirs – a keychain, a toy with moving parts… Some too young yet faces already weathered, smiling a jaded smile, skin burnt dark by the unforgiving tropical sun.
I remember my sweet grandfather, so full of love for me and I for him. His face beamed whenever he saw me and all the other cousins were resigned to the thought that I am the favorite. So much unconditional love…
The promise of rain makes my body ache. Barometric drop. Barometric rise. Humidity that seeps into my skin and wraps my joints in a pin-studded elastic. It’s like a punishment each time. Trapped in a storybook nightmare with no one to nudge me out of my comic frame. Have you had those dreams? When you wake up before your body does and you can’t move a limb, not even a finger? You see the light from the street lamp peering through the curtains, the vague outline of the clock above the door. You can hear the sound of the fan whirring, your husband snoring like the night before. You are in the room with these sights and sounds, and yet you are not there. I remember sitting on a wheelbarrow as a child, watching my friends play, but my old people joints wouldn’t let me. Juvenile arthritis, the doctor said. Well, even diseases grow up, it seems. I’m old but the pain is new each time.
Some days I can’t fake it. This living like I want it. Can’t access my sane brain neath the pain. All you can do is distract yourself. Breath and play scrabble on your phone. Check on IG posts by your family and friends. Summon that smile. But then another kind of pain rises. The kind you can’t really feel.
Sirens sound like ululating ghosts. These troubles in my head are open wounds, throbbing needlessly, swallowing sleep, decapitating time.
Sometimes I want to mix in dog food with your food
saute it in garlic and onion
pour in eggs beaten in milk and cream cheese and voila!
Gourmet dish fit for kings and queens who send cake thieves to the gallows
Just a little, just a bit
to teach you a lesson that
mother does not mean maid,
or mindless machine
She can’t always be the cheerleader cuz
Happy pills wear off
Mother is tired of looking for things that she’s missing,
feeling guilty for getting sick,
that second cocktail,
buying sad coasters that bow their heads in failure
Even now as you read this you think what?!? No!!! Dog food?!? Are you trying to kill me!?
Who do you think you are???
believer of bullshit
buffer of blame,
smeller of stinky underwear,
rememberer of things forgotten,
fixer of fractured walls and furniture
beholder of cliche body art, torn shirts, ripped jeans, the rift between time and space continuum
Mother is also
she cannot always fix what’s broken
Mother is sick of this paradigm we’ve mimed for centuries, her body mimicking mothers before her who grew calloused egos, displaced ids, wallowed in drink and self annihilation thinking
This is okay.
This just cannot go on
Can’t keep apologizing for my meekness
I want to stop looking over my Asian shoulders when I walk at night
I can’t keep worrying about my friend when she’s a few minutes late from putting coins in the parking meter
My Asian father who doesn’t like being called Asian
He is Chinese
He is Korean
He is Filipino
He is American
Why should he be called names he doesn’t even have in his lexicon?
My mother should not have to worry that she’ll be bashed on the head when she’s buying fish at fresh farms
Call your senators please!!!
Why must I worry about my Asian ass being kicked?
I know more Spanish than Japanese
My palate may be Asian but I cook Mac and cheese for my kids
I take them to Great America
I walk my dogs at Horner Park
Please call your senators right now
This just can’t keep going on
We are not the virus
It’s the hate we need to stop from spreading.
On this day of reckoning, when women all over the world should be celebrated and uplifted, when we commemorate the sacrifices of the women who came and fought injustice before us, I just want to sleep!
I’ve been alternating between studying and working and this entails, well, mostly reading. When I encounter text-heavy material with academic research, I want to sleep. When I am grading unimaginative, deathly boring essays, I want to sleep. I don’t even mind the stomach-turning grammar. I just want some imagination, some creative language, por favor. But napping doesn’t seem to be in my DNA. Not since I was in kindergarten waiting for the brush of tassels to rouse me from pretend sleep. This aversion toward napping most certainly came from my mother whom I never saw take a nap growing up. I mean, not that i can remember.
Tell me, have you ever seen your mother take a nap? It seems they are constantly moving under the radar, and if we, for a moment, stop to observe, we will see them in action doing something, like the stars in the nightsky that twinkle and fall unobserved by most folks.
Today, I took my daughter to a medical appointment and after that, we had our little IWD brunch. It was sweet. And the day was usually warm and sunny! A bonus indeed. We talked about how important this day is, looked at some fun tiktoks, then the day passed like it always did, with studying, grading, cooking, streaming, feeding and walking pets melding with loving, laughing, kissing, and hugging my loves. All this, and still no napping. Can’t complain though.
Please make a fucking fuss
I traveled halfway around the world to be something
You will not not cry as if my dying means nothing
Once I thought I was
I thought I could disappear and no one would even know
I liked disappearing
I made a career out of running away
when I first discovered the power of flight.
If I die tomorrow I hope it will be easy
I denounce difficulty
Hard work is too hard
Yet I did wash dishes 10 hours a day
I did walk in below zero temperature to get to work
clutching my lungs as if they were going to fall out
I did wait tables and dealt with messy eaters
Filled up empty condiment bottles with ketchup, soy sauce and vinegar
Smiled until my face hurt for an extra dollar tip
I did take care of children who colored their sky pink and their monsters, purple
When first I crossed the border and my savings ran out
I wanted to go back home
There, where people thought I could be something
I wanted to stay a teenager on my friend’s porch
Drink gin and seven up at dusk
Play mahjong all night
Smoke stolen marlboros until my lungs hurt and my throat, torn to shreds
Pray I do not wake choking in puke and blood-tainted phlegm.
Sometimes the things that keep us alive are the things that kill us
Remember the white guy in Kung Fu found dead in a closet?
Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston?
The water was still warm in the tub when they found her
And what about that pretty young thing who inched her way to the brink to catch that perfect selfie?
Did she even get to post it?
If I die tomorrow, sure, say some prayers, although I prefer poetry
Toasts and tales and yes, a little karaoke
My dog would lay on my side of the bed waiting for me to pet her
I know at least my daughter would cry
She always cried when sending me off at the airport
I know my husband would tell jokes
And my son would smoke weed all day and hide his grief in the fog.
I know I casually talked about feeding the farm in my last post, but we didn’t always have these many pets. We had Ringo and Gidget when we moved to our new home in 2019. Ringo was our elderly schnoodle, black with specks of grey, and the appetite of a hungry school of piranhas. Gidget is a 6-pound possibly Maltese terrier whose boundless energy and sweet disposition endear her even to the pet-aversed. My husband and his coworkers found her abandoned in a community garden untagged and unchipped; they all thought she was a rat as her fur was covered in dirt. I thought we would just foster her for a few days as we already had a dog and my 16-year old cat Mila, who passed away in 2018, same year my mom died. Well, Gidget had me at first lick. My friend Anna aptly named her after the mischievous teen played by Sally Fields in the ‘60s.
When the pandemic hit, I started imagining a garden in our living room. Couldn’t go outside so why not bring the outdoors in. I took an old curtain rod and installed it above the windows. Instead of curtains, I draped it with hanging plants. One, two and now there’s eight of them.
Luis wanted a project too, and he thought about getting aquatic turtles. Where you gonna put it? I asked. He said downstairs with the bearded dragon and the snake my son decided to raise. But I thought it was perfect to have a pond in the indoor garden, and so we built it with a concrete mixer tub and some rocks, one of which was from the ruins of the old building where I used to work.
The turtles came in the mail. They were the size of a silver dollar! Luis named them Bonnie and Clyde. He has an affinity for any old-school gangster. We got Curly, the goldfish, along with Larry and Moe, at Petco. They were feeder fish worth 18 cents each. Larry and Moe died within an hour of release in the pond. Curly lived and is a hefty four inches long! He steals turtle feed and holds his own among the growing turtles.
The parakeets came after. My friend’s co-worker has had enough of their squawking during zoom meetings and the mess they made with their bird food husks. I wanted to get a canary after I read that they learn songs the way humans learn language — from their caregivers! But I didn’t want to spend $150 for a male canary! The females are worth half the price because they don’t sing, or their songs are “broken”. Parakeets sing too, just not as melodious. And these ones came as gifts. I named them Pepe and Pilar.
I love working among the plants and with the sound of water running through the filter. I think my plants have kept me from being sick and the house, oxygenated. The birds, I notice, do like joining in on discussions. Needless to say, I can’t teach remotely in my “office” unless I cover their cage but I don’t like doing that in the middle of the day. So, I drive to work to teach remotely. Well, it’s not the only reason. I leave home to teach remotely elsewhere because sometimes my garden is not enough. I need an actual workspace. Because when you’re a parent, the “Do not disturb” sign on the door is just a suggestion.
So today I drove to work like I used when remote learning was not a thing. Talked about writing a definition essay to my students via Zoom. (Note to self: I have to write a definition essay.) Chit chat with my embedded tutor Josh who was a former student and is now becoming a friend. As I was packing my stuff to leave at the end of my “office hours,” I found out that my colleague and good friend just lost her best friend to covid. I had texted her about a deadline we had yesterday, and she texted back distraught about her friend’s passing. I told her to take a break. I got this. I got her. I asked Luis to take care of dinner. I unpacked my laptop and took off my jacket and got our task done within an hour.
At home, I lay in bed to rest my abused screen-weary eyes. We had yummy Mexican food from the carniceria. Always a winner. We saw an episode of 90-Day Fiancé, our 15-year-old’s current obsession. I tried to do homework in vain. Rinse, repeat.
This is the first day of my birth month. To be honest, I’m not as excited to have another birthday. Not anymore after I turned 50, and then later on, my birthday became a grim reminder of my mother’s death. In 2018, she died three days before my birthday after being in a coma for 15 days. I stayed with her every night, probably the longest time we stayed together in one place after I became a teen and her worst nightmare. We cremated her the day after I turned 55.
I do so much in a day but I think the thing I do the best is waste time. I play scrabble after every thing I do that I deem worthy of taking a break for. I stream shows on my device and, if I’m feeling too carefree, on the big screen TV.
Today, I woke up at 6:40 and did what I usually do. Drew my face on with tinted moisturizer and an eyebrow pencil. Turned on my plant light and fed the farm. The turtles, goldfish, parakeets, and two dogs. Made coffee and had it with an egg and buttered blueberry toast. Walked the dogs and made breakfast of fruits and ham and cheese sandwich for my remote-learning high school freshman. Then I embarked on grading papers. In between, I set up a doctor’s appointment for my child and appliance repair for our broken Electrolux dryer. This is the nth time since we bought it that we had had to get it fixed. Why they refuse to replace it when it’s the same damn issue frustrates me to no end. It’s like they’re waiting for the warranty to expire so we can just buy a new one or pay for repairs cost ourselves.
In the evening, I made Filipino paksiw na pata for the meat eaters and panang curry mung beans for the vegetarians. (I decided to be vegetarian with my 18-year old son three times a week!) I snuck in an episode of Law & Order as my husband rested in our room and then we all watched my daughter’s current obsession— 90 Day Fiancé. At least not Dr. Pill Popper or 600-Pound Life, thank God.
My son came home from work washing dishes at a chicken place bringing food that customers forgot to pick up. We’re getting a bit sick of it, really, but he’s so sweet to bring it home. Like most teens he rarely thinks outside his own needs and wants. I tried to finish my homework for my Linguistics class called First Language Acquisition. Truly fascinating how babies acquire language over a very short period of time. More about this later. I didn’t sleep til midnight but still didn’t finish my homework. I’m worse than my students sometimes!