Particular Moments

More Stars than There are

Tag: essays

Bruised Knuckles & Intangible Things

“Hey man, how long have you been here?”

“Oh hey, you mean…here?”

“Yeah”

“Since noon?”

“Oh no no, I meant, the area. I was wondering how long you have trained.”

“Well, haha, uh, I’ve been around town for several years, but I’ve barely started doing this. Recreational.”

“Really?? I watched you some, you don’t look like you’re new to this at all.”

“Beginner’s luck; I guess anyone could look good doing this.”

“Dude…quit downplaying, you’ve got a tremendous punch. The bag’s flying all over the place.”

“Oh I mean, I just do this for fun.”

“You are powerful, but when you throw your punches, you’ve got no guard—ever thought about more professional training?”

“Not really…I just haven’t been looking.”

“Hey, you’re welcome to train at the boxing gym I go to. Just tell them Neil sent you here, and they’ll let you in for free.”

“Thanks, I’ll try to swing by when there’s a chance.”

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It would have been nice to equip yourself with more proper techniques, but you never did found your way to that gym. The whole thing started out more as an escape than anything else. You’re not too entirely fascinated with learning the most efficient ways to take down another man, perhaps to even fatally wound him.  It could be useful, but there’s always another time for that.

You only wanted to feel the intimate aches of your own flesh and bones.

In the earlier days, when you’d been less conditioned, you’d take off the wraps, and the four protruding notches at the end of each fist would be scarlet red, numb, and coarse—their finer skin covers scraped into a sandpaper-like texture. Then the next morning, they’d be purple, nearly transparent, staining the native color of their once undamaged skin; they agonized your senses upon contact with anything remotely firm. And then there were your busted wrists—must have been the straining of their ligaments, which led to more severe consequences: you were banned from simple tasks such as turning door knobs and holding on to shopping bags, among countless other things that required turning of the wrists. For months on end, your wrists were barely more than useless.

In the earlier days, in was easy to achieve what you wanted out of it. A tangible hurt, the kind that overpowered everything else you had felt. It was a solution, a desperate but effective measure. It pained constantly and brought forth inconveniences, but it felt good, absolutely, to be outwardly broken.

But the body, the body is too perfectly efficient. It adapts, hardens in response to former abuses and injuries. Time after time, it took longer, and more, to leave yourself wounded, until one day, no matter how vicious your lefts pounded and how sharp your rights bit, you were to walk away with nothing but sweat, fatigue, and exhaustive breaths to catch.

You wanted to, but ultimately desired not to project, translating your needs into the swollen face and cracked ribs of another man. You cannot step into a ring of any kind and spar with another; it’d be too tempting to turn him into the outlet that was once yourself. There are other ways to drown out the intangible hurts.

 

 

November Her

Running her long, refined fingers past your hair—the smoothness of her skin made it feel thinner than you’d like to have remembered. Standing before you, silent, her belly leveled with your helplessly down-tilted and slumberous head, she emanated waves of almost intangible, lulling warmth that was all the more irresistibly unsettling.

“…go to sleep.” Tiresome, you slowly seized her by the wrist, too spent to look up and into her face.

The night was dark, and it had rendered everything dim. Even the small lamp in the living room corner seemed somnolent, unwilling to illuminate expressions.

“But you are the one who actually needs it” she said, quietly, as she gently broke away from your refusing hand.

It didn’t occur to you before how firmly your drunken hands had clasped around her well-intended reach—you were blindly hurting her and her kind caressing. How could you have been so in over your head, so much so, that you failed to tend to the her, right then so close, the her whom you adored like no other?

“I’m fine, and uhhhum, strong. I’m a trooper, remember?” You let out a slight chuckle, stubbornly clinging to your light-hearted and nonchalant shtick.

That was the kind of humor you exercised, to her and yourself, to kick anything you dared not to confront under the carpet, and to lead conversations to their desired dead ends.

In truth, in that particular moment, as you sat on the sofa, leaning forward and struggled to prop up your sinking head from falling under, you felt more worn and vulnerable than ever—one nudge from her crafty hands and you’d been side ways like a dead log.

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Are men really, deep down, all helplessly prideful and self-contradicting creatures? 

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“Even a trooper needs some comfort” moving your futile hands away, she let her hand run through your hair once more, allowing it to rest by the base of your neck.

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That’s the way she was, able to discern all your boyish pretense with such ease; yet she did so while having managed to acknowledge it—humoring you without sacrificing the authenticity of her own ideals. She knew, that you knew that she knew, in the face of her, you were forever powerless. Even then, in spite of the occasions when you grew indelicate, she never took the convenience of jabbing at places you were the most tender.

For she was all-powerful, and kind like that, like the way she is.

Neighborhood Tomboy

Down the street lives a family of newcomer-neighbors. Parked next to their side walk is a red, bulky pickup truck that rendered its respective portion of the street only wide enough for one car to pass through at any given time. The truck is always parked there. Other neighbors do not complain, neither do you—rumor has it that the husband is afflicted with brain tumor.

The adults are rarely seen out, but ever since their move-in, this side of the community has lightened up several notches. The children of the Red-Truck residence, being such active roamers as they are, really brought about a new air in this neighborhood full of folks who have settled here since the 60’s.

The boldest of the little ones is a girl, no older than 5 or 6 by appearance; she stands out like a protagonist before a subordinate, background crowd. More so an outside kid, she is always seen sporting slightly oversized T-shirts and knee-length athletic shorts; every now and then she’d have a baseball cap on backwards—a quintessential tomboy whose childhood is fortunately left untempered.

Never prim and pretty, but she is beautiful, no amount of androgyny could mask the conspicuous elements that so clearly identify her as who she is.

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In the summer, she frequently rode her bright yellow, 4×4 motorcycle. Judging by the implied personalities associated with the parked truck, one could presume that the motorbike was a result of her father’s influence. But regardless of where her habits arise from, it was evident that she naturally enjoyed speeding up and down the steady incline leading to the turnaround at the end of the street.

The 4×4, designed more for rougher outdoor terrains—was let loose on flat asphalt roads.  She’d unleash waves of loud rattling throughout the neighborhood. As she made her way, one would hear the gradual amplifications her automobile’s distinctive droning: getting louder, closer, more and more vexing; then right before the noise burns through one’s last straw of tolerance, it’d slowly fade away as she drove off into the distance. The whole process would repeat; the volume of her motor revving would go up and down, getting closer and further progressively, like the affairs of a sinusoidal wave.

She’d wave her hand and smile with her dimples, showing an un-corrected set of juvenile teeth—squinting her eyes against the summer sun, she was a cheery rascal.

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The fall comes and the place grows quieter. Perhaps due to some neighbors having finally made their confrontations, the Red Truck now belongs to the driveway. You often come home to a vacant scene, with no children playing in the streets. School, maybe—is summer the only and true time to rightfully be a kid?

You don’t like the mood change, for it has gotten so deflating.

Much to your surprise, a few afternoons back, as you pulled into the driveway, there she was again, walking down the street with the sun on her back; her pony tail had gotten long and frazzled, subtly fluttering from side to side as she walked in her distinctive gait.

The sight of her made you smile—how could this little person, merely a feet taller than a fire hydrant, while waddling down the sidewalk, encompass such promise and livelihood?

For a second, you couldn’t help but to have envied her untamed stage in life. Age and all that you have irreversibly become. The things that chronically cause you to beg, ‘how did I get like this?’ The things that you’ve become as time moved on; you have become them—without a clue as to how. You are terrified at how things have turned out; all the things that are seemingly stuck and cannot be shed off. Oh how you wish for an impossible shot at backtracking your steps.

But it was all okay. Just like the little tomboy is still around—just like how you and everyone else had accepted, even cherished her summer-time, deadening engine thrums.

Nothing hampers the spirit of youth, especially its embodied symbol of ever-uplifting hope. With age, certain things gray, and chance begins to offer fewer and fewer prospects, but there will always be youth to keep its neighbor’s lights on—its time defying innocence and energy manifesting themselves time after time, bearing the torch-flame of life forever long.

What Do You Have In The Garden?

“You really love your plant, don’t you?”

“It’s my best friend. Always happy, no questions. It’s like me, you see? No roots.” Chuckles, innocent and sheepish.

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Hesitant, after days of neglect, you decide to set foot on the back porch; it’s been too long since you last checked on the tomatoes, cucumbers, and the flowers in their distinctive pots.

They have been left to the worst of this year’s blistering sun, as you have left the corresponding portions of yourself to catch dust. Oh, what have you done to these garden greens (among other colors)? You have abandoned them on your way to a mindless degeneration, and let them wither into each of their own desiccated hues.

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Beautiful. We live as we die, alone. 

How cruel. But a glint of true.

Don’t deny it. Accept, so then you can hope again.

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Objectively speaking, these damn plants aren’t where they belong anyways. It’s not your damn fault that these damn plants cannot survive a damn week without any nurture. Either way they’d die on you. This backyard is…Simply. Not. Their. Natural. Habitat.

To be truly good, one must occasionally acknowledge his/her innate evils—the best detectives often think like the worst criminals. You like an occasional expression of viciousness, for it is brutal, malignant, yet nakedly human and therefore true.

Spill all the bad blood as you wish, but know your place.

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Then again (return to your angels, please; every night, before bed, do it), phew…are these things not just like you?

They do not recall a place to go—their home lies right where you desire to place them—everywhere, anywhere, and nowhere. The fluidity of their comfort allows limits that extend beyond the confinement of any particular pot; all they require are the essential nourishments of life; you simply need to heed to them, here and there.

They are the seeds you sowed, now you take responsibility and look after them, for they are none but the very extensions of you. 

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In your recollection, how much you know of her perfectly coincides with the only conversation you’ve ever had together, in which she did the talking while you performed the juvenile, intimidated yes’s and nods.

Great grandmother was lying in her death bed when she directly spoke to you for the first and very last time.

No, no Hollywood death scenes where the person passing on gets to squeeze in a few sensationalized words before they drop dead. Father and I had to return to town, where he held a job as a university lecturer. The students couldn’t have taken long before their study in plant sciences became a farce at the hands of substitute teachers.  She passed away roughly a month and half later.

“Young, get on an airplane and fly overseas; go be with your mother” she said, gesturing with her feeble hand, raised and slowly moving through the air, mimicking motions of flight.

To an eight-year-old, an elderly lady so often silent and solemn was unmistakably a figure to be feared; her outwardly stoic dispositions exuded a demand for old fashioned, almost hierarchal respect, the kind that intimidated. But when her voice finally made its way to your ears, all your preconceived constructions of a harsh, strict old lady melted away.

She was stricken and sounded ancient, like the cracking of centuries-old, hollow branches. She was very sick and was on her way to an undoubtable decease, yet her words were clear as day, and infinitely warm—every single one of them spoken without a vestige of ambiguity, as if when she spoke to you, there wasn’t a second person in the world, and that all you had was her voice, which echoed and engrained itself permanently into your thoughts.

(be very, very careful of  what you say to children—their sponges pick up certain things that will travel with them for life)

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Mother. The Voice on the other end of the telephone. Early kindergarten memories: her long, sage colored dress in the summer; her studying through piles of paper; her getting on a train one day and seemingly disappearing forever.

Why would I have wanted to be with her? 

Somehow, a few years later, what your Great grandma said manifested itself into a physical truth. Your memory is still blurry on the series of spontaneous events that abruptly led to it. It is only eerie because it was the last thing you had ever wanted.

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Years of unexamined living, growing older, brushing off the ones who loved you, receiving hand-written letters and not having enough patience and perhaps compassion to deliver anything of equal value in return, have you not let your garden rot and become entangled with undesirable weeds?  Leaving all the good wells to run dry and the youthful flowers to die.

What an asshole. What would the old lady think of this—her well-intended prophecy having been fulfilled, but what has become of the seed she had sown? 

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Father. Years later. Different university; different town—a long stretch from the where years before. Same occupation, a professor, or more humbly a teacher.

You see him most significantly as a gardener. He used to subtly praise them (he still does)—paraphrasing:

“Plants are reliable, given the proper nutrients and a suitable environment, they thrive—growing day and night to yield desired results—bearing fruits. They are efficient, unlike us humans, who rarely display signs of growth when our basic needs are satisfied.”

He used to squat next to his garden vegetables and study them, pruning them here and there, sometimes binding them to stick scaffolds to create order and induce upright extension. During crop season, he would visit them morning after morning, making sure they were well hydrated and in good development.

The old man smokes a pack a day; he used to (and sometimes still does) drink prolifically.  For how much he puts his body into harm’s way, you cannot help but to envy him—how he undeniably sees a very special dimension in life that which you are doomed to overlook—how, there seems to persist a subtle yet insurmountable passion in his life, something that you are in a constant failure to maintain.

He loves and nurtures his garden, and its constituents love him back, each year blooming and bearing desirables past their expected portions. Your father’s garden is one of miracles. Why can’t you be more like your father in that aspect?

Perhaps, it’s an age thing. It is the only way you would prefer to rationalize it.

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“If you really love it, you should plant it in the middle of a park—so it can have roots.” 

*Face pauses. “Yeah.”