Her Bones, Marvelously White

Slides 1 to 3: Skull X-Rays
Here, this is her skull, collapsed in one cheek, bridged with cold gray metal. Examine the large forehead, the hollowed eyes, the clenched teeth. On top of the cranium, almost imperceptible, are markings of self-inflicted stab wounds. This skull belongs to a girl who tried to escape the limitations of her body.

_Slides 4 to 6: Chest X-Rays
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This is her rib cage, enclosing the apparitions of her heart and lungs. No broken bones here, except for other stab marks on the heart area. The ribs blocked the blows to the heart during a time when the girl wanted to empty the blood from her body. Heart normal, lungs normal, besides a few tar masses from a decade and a half of cigarette smoking.

Slides 7 to 9: Pelvis X-Rays

This is her hip bone, protecting the ghostly ventricles of her ovaries. The pelvis has slightly widened, after a miscarriage from an unwanted pregnancy. No child has been formed since. Prior that, infertility, hormonal imbalance, chemical imbalance. Girl has been prescribed with various sorts of drugs since 12 years old.

_Slides 10 to 12: Legs and Feet X-Rays
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Tears on the cartilage from running and mountain climbing. Girl experimented with the limits of space, pushing to the farthest and the highest peak the body could go. The experiment failed, however. The body, she says, isn't mobile enough a vessel for travel. She adds, The body is incapable of flight, except through imagination.

_Slides 13 to 15: Notable Scars and Tattoos
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Scar tissues from self-burning, three tattoos from adolescence, other scar tissues due to absentmindedness. Girl continues to collide with her surroundings. No body, no collision, she says. One day, she promises, one day she will rip herself out her body and spend an eternity marveling at everyone else's marvelous bones.

// Jul 2013

The Big Blank House

Our vision is concrete: it begins with a house.

With whatever funding we will generate, we will build a house. This is not just an ordinary house. This is a special one. It's called The Big Blank House. It is a house that will provide free accommodation to traveling writers, artists, and photographers. It is a house that, in the beginning, will be blank and white as a sheet of paper and bare as a canvas, save for a few furniture. It will be pure and innocent as a newborn child. That is, in the beginning.

Each traveler staying here will leave behind a travel-inspired piece of art. It may be a short story, a painting, a poem, a sculpture, or a photograph. It may be something as simple and useful as a blanket or a pillow. It may be something as big, heavy, and intricately designed as a bookshelf. It can be anything, anything at all, as long as it's crafted with the traveler's own hands.

Scribbled somewhere on that piece of art is the traveler's name and country, the date it was made, and the place that inspired it. The traveler may also choose to leave it blank and anonymous. The anonymous object may bear no name and date, but it will flood a handful of other travelers with memories about the person who made it.

The traveler will create it with passion, and may carry the thing with him wherever he goes as a work in progress. The finished product will be a physical evidence that others can see, smell, and touch. By the end of his stay, he will leave it on a wall, on a table, on the floor, or stick it to the ceiling. It will be a physical evidence that the traveler was there once, so briefly, but now no more. His last day will be as sad as a funeral, and all the travelers currently staying in the house will witness it, remember the object and the memories associated with it, and grieve.

With each traveler and each piece of art installed, the house will grow, evolve, and transform into something else: the house will become a home. A warm one, with many cozy rooms, cozy beds, cozy couches, and a nice, cozy living room. "Cozy" will be written all over it. And it's the only word that will strike you on your first visit.

During the day, the house will have wide open windows, overlooking an impossibly blue sea. At night, it will have the lingering smell of freshly brewed coffee. It will have homemade beer, the good company of artists, and a small organic garden, which the travelers will tend to in the morning to soothe another terrible hangover. The walls of the house will listen to these strangers' endless adventures and misadventures, and all the dullest and most boring stories in between. The walls will listen to every word, every whisper, every idle moment, every ticking silence, and they will listen quietly.

With all the stories stored in its walls, this home will become a character itself, suffused with the celebration of freedom, creativity, life. Like the pure and innocent newborn, we'll nurture this house and dress it with hand-knit clothes. We'll watch it grow and take its first few steps into becoming a living museum. It will keep on growing. It will keep on changing. Changing into something better, something more beautiful with each passing day, that, in due time, no amount of money can ever buy. When once it was a Big Blank House, in the future it will be the complete opposite. Everybody else will wonder why it's called that way, and the house will tell its own story. It will tell its story of how it was built. It will tell its story with every little object and scribble inside it.

Above all, it will be a home that will cleave an impression on every visitor, that will shake you, that will move you, that will make you cry, that will make you bleed, that will make you want to die, because you will believe that life is short; it will pass and you'll be gone. That, like traveling to this house, you will be here once, so briefly and traceless as the flight of a bird, and then, in one blink, you will be no more. And yet short as life is, you can turn it into one colossal adventure if you only go, create, and inspire.

This piece is just a short story. It's a very, very short story that you can finish reading while sniffing a flower. It's a story of imagination and a story of creation. Soon, it will be a story that will inspire like a wildfire; just like the wildfire that we witnessed in one of the deadliest mountains in the country, Mt. Sicapoo: a bright orange glow in the middle of a mountain range's silhouette, backdropped with a starry, starry sky, one starry, starry night.

For now, this remains a vision, a promise, something you can keep in a corner of your heart. And then one day, we will start this fire, you and I. It will kindle this vision and piece together the wide, empty lot, the blocks of concrete, the planks of wood, people flying in to build and help. Soon, oh so soon, so soon it's just right there when you wake up: tomorrow, this story will be The Big Blank House, text morphed into form, a real house that you can enter and run around in and live in and be happy.

But you say, Oh, this is just a daydream. Oh, what a fantasy. But when one day you come around a bend, find this curious museum barely remembering its name, and you encounter this text on a wall, you will say, Now I remember. I have read this when it was just a dream. You will walk around the house and say, This feels so real I thought that dream was mine. And it is yours. It has always been yours as it has always been mine. Pure potential, indestructible, a fire that we are starting together as you read this and dream of growing. A fire that will start other fires. It begins with our vision: it begins with our house.

// Mar 2013

Gravity

One of the science classrooms in UP exerts far less gravity than anywhere else on Earth. When you step inside you are in a constant state of free fall but you never hit the ground. It's the same principle behind microgravity in the International Space Station. You're technically falling towards the Earth but you're falling so fast while the Earth is spinning at 1,670 kph such that you never ever get the chance to hit the ground. Thus, you float around like you're inside a fish tank. You push and pull yourself to whichever direction you want to go. Every time you sneeze, you shoot back at the same speed of your sneeze. If you drop an egg it will not drop. And if you light a candle the flame will always be perfectly spherical.

According to my findings, the presence of one life form is to blame. The specimen is a male homo sapien about 5'9" tall, dark, and wears dorky glasses. Whenever he's not around, the room exerts the same force of gravity as anywhere else on the planet. But once he opens the door and steps inside, we glance at each other and everything just starts floating. Notebooks and pencils start rising in the air. Our hair swishes around, our clothes loosen up. Then our bodies float. The short and pudgy professor floats. Our armchairs float, and so do the desk, the laptops, the projector, our bags. The projector, it swirls around the room with a pyramidal ray of light. And wherever surface the light hits that's where our lecture is. The bulky television and the massive stand-alone air-conditioner too slowly rise in the air.

But for some reason, only I notice this. The short and pudgy professor continues his yawner lecture on permaculture and flush-free toilets like nothing is happening. My classmates continue to bob their heads droopy-eyed or scribble in their notes. The laptop hovering above the professor's desk floats toward the window and the professor simply pulls it back and taps on the keyboard to get to the next powerpoint slide. The length of everybody's arms starts stretching out as notebooks and things float away. But everybody just pulls them back and write as they were. I, on the other hand, start floating out of control. I flip and swoosh, I thrash my arms and kick my feet. I'm in a forever dive in a bottomless pit towards I don't know where.

I look at him and my muscles relax. Tension drops as his eyes seem to say that everything is alright. This is normal. We've been in constant free fall since the first day of class, right when he and I sat next to each other but never really seen each other, never talked, never noticed each other's presence. And the more I look at him the more I feel all right. I float and he floats as much as everybody else floats. We float pleasantly and just surrender ourselves to the force of gravity. We fall and we fall helplessly, without warning, without choice, without any way out. And then some sort of natural high oozes in my head.

Stop doing this, I want to say but I never do because I wanted it to begin with. This constant free fall. This constant floating. This constant staring. This constant wispy dreamworld that exists maybe only in my head and his. Nobody notices but we seem to understand. We know, we just know. How we know it, I don't know. All I know is that he knows that I know that he knows that I know. And that's all that matters. Beyond that, perhaps nothing else does.

When the class ends and I step back outside, everything slowly resumes to the natural laws of physics. Gravity grows heavier in proportion to our expanding distance away from each other, as I walk to my next class about a kilometer away, and he pedals his bike going elsewhere. Everything falls back to normalcy and my toes touch the ground. But instead of going to my next class, I walk to the direction where he disappeared. I search the sea of faces of people walking and biking around campus. I try to go to where I can find him. I inspect bikes I find along the way, bikes chained to bike parking lots and trees and poles and rails and grills and things. I walk on and on and on, searching and searching but never finding. The constant free fall, it's all I seem to always think about. Free falling next to him, and just falling and falling and falling forever and never hitting ground. Maybe I'll just see him next class, and we'll fall again and again and again.

// Apr 2012

Sniffing PGH

You rubberneck at the towering Oblation from the outside: a statue of a naked man facing the watery gray sky, palms up, arms spread like an eagle. It says outright: Look at me! I'm free! And I'm naked! Except for the leaf covering my genitals.

It just rained. The street is wet and muddy. Vehicles speed by to splatter black mud droplets on your pants. An ambulance siren is wailing distantly farther away. Vendors have claimed property of the sidewalk. Around you is the mixed smell of vehicle exhaust, roasted peanuts, and boiled sweet corn.

Inside the gates are oxygen-generating trees. The air is cooler and nose-friendly. There's the overcrowded parking area bordered with rusty chains. Up ahead, the main building of Philippine General Hospital is redolent of Rome's Pantheon. You step inside the grand entrance, tread on red carpet reeking collectively of people's feet, and begin working on your olfactive sense. The guard greets you a pleasant morning and frisks your bag with a magic wand.

Instantly there is a whirlwind of people shuffling around and queuing from teller windows. They smell of sweat, cheap cologne, and bathroom soap. The walls are painted haystack-yellow, hanged occasionally with oversized paintings. There's a whiff of sneeze and Jollibee hamburgers. A middle-aged woman dragging along a little boy approaches you and says she needs P18 for fare home. But you don't hear what she says. You're attention is focused on her missing upper teeth. I'm sorry, what? you say. She walks away.

You realize your bladder is about to burst so you scuttle to the nearest restroom. You queue before five women all covering their nose. The restroom is badly lit, five out of six fluorescent lights broken, and it smells like a stockroom of hoarded piss and roach droppings. Your turn, the toilet is at floor level. You notice a string of a mop's thread on the floor in between your shoes. You unzip your pants and sit to piss. Upon closer inspection, the string isn't really from a mop's thread; it's actually a dead brown worm.

Your consultation with your surgeon is an hour away, and you dawdle along the corridors to kill time. You pass by the Obstetrics and Gynecology ward which reeks of talcum powder and breast milk. Two maintenance men block the doorway rolling out six giant garbage bags while saying, Makikidaan lang. May trabaho din kami. The four people walking against them flatten themselves on the wall.

The walkway to the next ward is filled with the dull hum of air-conditioning. A uniformed boy mops the floor and the odor reminds you of a claustrophobic locker room cramped with unwashed monster mops. You pass by the Trauma Division ward and your nose is stuffed with the stench of rotting fish and undusted mattresses. An autistic young boy plods on the corridor, seemingly spellbound by the sound pattern of his heavy leather sandals. Two doctorate interns talk conyo, one of them wearing a sunday dress beneath a lab coat. Her face is freckled, melanin-deprived, foreign, but she speaks with a thick Filipino accent. She has the height of a beauty queen, and her skin is as white and soft as toilet paper.

At your left is the morgue, its glass windows obscured with grime and protected with metal wires. A stone appears to have been thrown at its glass exit door, leaving a hole where you can peek into. You shut one eye and lean toward the peephole. Inside is a morgue converted into a kitchen. Next to kitchen sinks and stoves heating giant pots and pans are the morgue drawers. The ceiling fan filters the light casting fluttering shadows everywhere. People in dark uniforms roam around staggering like zombies. Kick in some satanic chants and a zombie soundtrack and this could pass off as a cannibalistic horror video. You move along.

Contrary to popular belief, Philippine General Hospital doesn't smell entirely of antiseptic, isopropyl alcohol, and festering open wounds; only the Emergency Room smells that way. Some wards smell of scented air-conditioning and oxygen tanks. Some smell of lemon and hand wash. Some smell of wet paint and concrete dust. At a particular ward, the Pediatrics Department, there is the omnipresent smell of soiled diapers. And there standing on one bed bunk, a kid with protruding ribs and a swollen belly is dancing while singing the Madagascar theme song: I like to move it, move it. She likes to move it, move it. He likes to move it, move it. I like taaah. Move it!

The hallways have the incessant stench of wet earth and those filthy rags used for wiping tables in restaurants. The canteen smells of fried rice, silog variants, and sizzling salisbury steaks. Occasionally you come across someone with a balloon neck or someone with a tube plugged up his nose. Then a polio-stricken doctor passes you by like a macho dancer trying to walk and wave his body at the same time.

You glance at your watch and figure you still have fifteen minutes left. Straight ahead are two ATMs, one being refilled with bills ten inches thick. Three gorilla-faced bodyguards wearing black combat suits stand feet apart looking for suspecting assailants. Tied at the nozzle of a guard's rifle is a misplaced white ribbon. What is that innocent white ribbon doing there? The owner of that rifle stares at you staring at the ribboned nozzle which is pointing at the other guard's foot. The guards look at each other, look at you, and you all look away.

You head toward your surgeon's office at the next building and pass by the Immaculate Conception chapel. A broken car horn is blaring forever from the parking area. There's the smell of rubber and plastic flowers. You glance at the altar and notice the pot of tulip flowers looking like a congregation of sex organs. The Jesus on the cross is Caucasian, and his abs reminds you of an abs-toning curling machine from Home Shopping Network. The priest is saying, Do not wait to get rich to help others! Do not wait to win the Lotto to donate to charity, to the orphanage, to this chapel! Do not wait to get rich before you start helping people because you can start helping right now!

Then you realize it's raining again. You take a folded umbrella from your bag and press a button with a flop. But the moment you step at the wide open space to the next building, the rain stops. It doesn't even grant your umbrella a bloody raindrop. This pisses you off, but you move along anyway.

// Feb 2009

Anatomy of a Penis

The first thing you ever do is kneel before him. He is your god and you are his minion. You strip off his pants and underwear and bow down to worship the phallus that completes the hole in your cunt.

The first thing you ever write is the title Anatomy of a Penis. You are not a scientist. You are not a biologist. You have nil knowledge about anatomy, much less a penis. But you do know "penis" derives from the same Latin etymology of "pen" and "pencil". The penis is the fountainhead of all generations of humans since the Big Bang. The pen is the fountainhead of all literature spilled from its infinite inkwell. The penis is the extra body part that fulfills your missing body part. The pen's ink fulfils the blank pages in your head.

You take his balls and put each one in your mouth. You nuzzle it. You lick it. You sniff it. It smells of stifled sweat, hot breath, and heavy groin mist. It tastes salty and acidic, its texture soft with many folds of skin. This is the sweatshop of the millions of sperm cells that has bred mankind.

Of the pen and the penis you must choose only one. Either you satisfy the hole in your head, or satisfy the hole in your cunt. Back in ancient history, the pen and penis were one and the same: the prolific instrument of men. Women were banned from writing. Their sole function was domesticity. To cook and clean and scrub and wash the dishes. To watch their stomach grow and tip their swelling breasts until the water breaks and their legs are forced wide open. To nurse babies and raise and nurture them without question, without denial, just because they are made from your own blood and bones and flesh. You suffer twenty, thirty, forty years. Pump out more babies, who will pump out more babies, who will pump out more babies. Then once again you turn to your blank sheets of paper. But before you know it, it's too late to write. Your children have sucked all the juices. You are barren and empty and useless. The thought of a wife-mother-grandmother-writer is just unacceptable. It's not just unacceptable, it is impossible. You are a female writer, and your immortality lies one way: to swell and burst with babies, or to swell and burst with ideas. Either you follow the normal course of life: working, breeding, dying. Or the one you have in mind: living, writing, publishing. You can't choose both; either bear children or be an artist. You have a calling.

You take his penis and wet it with your mouth. You lick from the balls up to the head. You are a kid and this is your first ice cream. You lick it slowly, but instead of melting, it hardens. His penis is the darkest part of his body. It has the same color as your lipstick. The color of your lips represent the color of his penis. And in the art of fellatio your lips and his penis are one and the same. Inseparable. Fused. Liquefied.

You are what you eat. You are what you dream. You are what you daydream. You are what you wear. You are the films you watch. You are the music you listen to. You are the books you read. You are the places you go to. Everything that you do is a reaffirmation of who you are. He wants to settle down. You don't. He wants to get married. You don't. He wants to spread his genes, have babies. You don't. You can't be a housewife and daydream instead of cooking dinner. You can't read books instead of cleaning the house. You can't develop your writing instead of looking after your kids. You can't think of revolutionary ideas instead of jumbling grocery items in your head. You can't express your creativity through the recipes you experiment with. Your taste buds lack the sophistication of your vocabulary. Words are your world. A family is not. Ideas make you excited. Sex, only temporarily. The pen is an extension of yourself. The penis you are sucking is not. The idea of children just doesn't appeal to you. They're no more than an unwanted responsibility, a termination of your freedom. Who ever told you you should live your life just like everybody else?

The most sensitive part of the penis is not the head but the frenulum, the strip of skin at the underside of the head. It looks like the skin beneath your tongue. You hold the shaft and trace your tongue up the underside of the penis. He begins to relax. He closes his eyes. The penis elongates and stiffens. The veins around it thicken and become more bulbous. You circle the head with the tip of your tongue, clockwise, counterclockwise, reverse. The head pushes out, its skin smooth and taut. Behold, the penis rises.

You are to give pleasure to this phallic god. He is your muse, your object of obsession, the phantom of your dreams. No matter how ordinary he appears to be in other people's eyes, he is your religious icon, the paragon of your superstitious idolatry, always powerful, always dominant. You want this penis more than anything in your life. You want to be a man not because you're a lesbian but because it grants you the right to become an artist. But the closest thing you can ever have a penis is to put it in your mouth, the opening right next to your brain. Your mouth functions what the pen cannot. But in the act of fellating, your mouth is elevated to the status of some superficial purpose: to make him come. Semen, like speech, flies in the air for a moment, and dies. Words on paper do not; they are immortal. Words will outlive you long after you are bones and ashes underneath the ground.

You encircle the shaft with your fingers, your middle-fingertip connected to the tip of your thumb. With your free hand you fondle his balls. You caress them, tickle them, tease them. You wet the entire penis by putting it in your mouth. You will not gag. You will not choke. You will not vomit. You glide your fingers up and down, and twist your wrist as you do so. You suck the penis in and out, while massaging his balls. You follow this rhythm with the internal clock of your heartbeat. It looks easy but it's actually more complicated than you think.

You are not a slut. You are not a whore. You are not a prostitute. You are simply a lover. The greatest pleasure you can ever have is to give pleasure to someone else. His pleasure is your pleasure. Together you complete the yin and yang of hedonism. Your submission is your domination. He moans and forces his eyes open; he is under your spell. You are liberated, but for a moment you are his slave. Freedom and slavery are blurred out of focus. But really, freedom is all you ever want. You don't want to be attached to anything, to anyone. You have no concept of possession and possessiveness. But the contradiction is that you are attached to this man and his penis. Your pen is the height of your freedom. His penis is the height of your slavery. And the only way to merge them together is to write something like the anatomy of his penis. P is for pen. P is for penis. P is also for procreation, pleasure, pride, and power. Unfortunately, P is also for pregnancy, which is the loss of control over your own life.

Think of multitasking: your hands, your lips, your tongue, your mouth, your heartbeat, and your brain are all at work. Up and down your hand, in and out of your mouth, the penis slides at the roof of your mouth and at the tip of your tongue. It turns into a moment when nothing else exists. Every second is amplified such that even time ceases to tick. Both of you are in heaven where everything is pleasurable, eternal, pure, holy. Suddenly, you cream on your pants.

Sex is the closest thing you can get to immortality. It's not health. It's not youth. It's not beauty. But the worst part is that writing is your salvation, the only thing that can cement and seal your immortality. His penis' semen is not the same as your pen's ink, however you want to fuse them together. Sex is power the same way words are power the same way wealth, health, youth, and beauty are power. What humanity wants is power, except that power manifests in different ways. Virility is power, stability, force, and muscle. Femininity is passivity, instability, submission, mood swings. Or so the stereotypes say. The term female writer has words that cancel each other out. You are in your twenties, with raging hormones, perpetually horny. You are a nymphomaniac and you are a writer. How do you compromise the two? The thing is, you can't. Writing is a calling that equates to priesthood if you have a cunt.

After enough rhythmic sucking, the penis hardens in its full glory inside your mouth. It thickens in a diameter that your fingers break off its circle. Its head puffs up like a balloon that's about to burst. He represses his moan, and all you hear is his heavy breathing, his heart palpitating, all his blood rushing to the tip of his penis. His breathing synchronized with your sucking synchronized with your heartbeat. It goes in a loop that ends with his penis spouting jets of semen in your mouth. You suck his penis dry, and then you swallow.

The real problem with you is that you mustn't go on always trying to adapt to men's theories of what a woman should be. A woman should be soft, sensitive, compassionate, understanding, yielding, emotional. You are phallic, narcissistic, castrating, domineering, rational. You don't possess any female quality, except for having breasts and a cunt. Long after you've realized you can never be a wife, a mother, a grandmother, domesticated and always homebound, after you've decided the pen is mightier than the penis, after you've accepted this and let go of this man and his procreating instrument, after spilling your thoughts and creativity on sheets of paper, will it be worth it? How could you compare domesticity with being a writer if you haven't tried both? But then you take the option all other women won't. It's worse to do what you hate; worst you can do is nothing.

// Dec 2008

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