4th Stage

Star

Stage 4.

“You’ve prayed for this night. Okay? Seize the last chance. Que sera sera—whatever will be will be.” I told myself while facing the wall. I have to be reminded that tonight, I must let these—everything that was keeping me from moving forward—go, go where it truly belongs. “This too, shall pass.” I added while tapping my chest.

“Hey.” I suddenly froze when I felt a hand touched my left shoulder. I know that voice, that exact same voice—the one that I don’t want to lose in the deafening noise of this world.

I tried to calm my heart before facing him. “Hey.” I said, assuring myself that my smile wasn’t an uneasy one.

“See? I told you.” He said while handling me a bottle of water. I assumed he was talking about my performance tonight—and how my doubts consumed me and how he encouraged me to try my best out. “You really are something.” He added as his glance fell to me.

And he smiled. That damn smile, the smile that fixed the misalignment of galaxies in my universe.

Before I fall to that obscurity, “Dino, can I have a second with you, later tonight?” God knows how I trained my heart to calm while I spat the words out.

“Sure. Ikaw pa.” Dino purposely patted my head to muddle my hair.

“Don’t.” I said as I tried to run away from him. Well, I hope I really have the courage to do so.

Letting my gaze travel to the whole event place, I can say that: we did it! The event was indeed successful. I would be happy with the notion of marching out from this school—let’s talk about my incoming graduation—knowing that other people saw me being devoured by what I love the most and where I find comfort—music. I am a member of this school organization called the Music Bureau. 3 years ago, I just found myself auditioning for a spot in the club and through God’s grace, I was in. And the rest was history.

“Star! 9pm? At the university park?” Dino shouted while putting his guitar inside its case.

“Oh. Looks like our lucky Star and Mr. Perfection’s going to have under-the-vastly-night-skies-with-glistening-dust-date.” She said, she whose smile is perfect—she who stole his heart.

“Jans.” He said, with touch of seriousness on his voice.

“I was just kidding.” Jans smiled widely while saying this. Maybe that was the smile that has fixed the misaligned galaxies in his—the same way his smile did to mine.

She bid us goodbye, but his gaze followed her.

We were both standing in the midst of the isolated event place. I can sense the awkwardness on my part. Well, later tonight, the awkward atmosphere will plummet on his world too. I just hope that it won’t burn the bridge between me and him—wow, me and him, those words, existing in my world as something, existing in his as nothing, nothing at all.

“Shall we?” He told me when he was all ready to go.

“Can I have a minute with myself? You can now go there. Just wait for me.” I said without looking at him. I’m still putting my ukulele inside its case, and God knows how I’m trying to slow everything down. I’m so nervous that I can feel all the feels in my chest, trying to find their way out.

“You know what? I’m sort of nervous about this talk. I’ve never seen you so serious. Did I do something wrong?” He said, and I can sense the awkwardness in his voice.

Stage 4. Confession.

According to this book that I’ve read, entitled; Karmic Hearts. They said that there are 5 stages of connection. In order for the angel of love—cupid—to connect you to your soul mate, you both need to reached the 5th stage. Awareness. Realization. Acknowledgement. Confession. And lastly, Commitment.

And here I am, playing fool to myself. I know from the very start that I will reach this stage—alone.

“Hey. Earth to Star! Spacing out?” I was suddenly out of my musing when I saw him in front of me, gently holding my wrist. And when I was brought back to my reality, I immediately pulled out my arm from his grasp before the electricity travel its way to my heart.

“I just need to go to the wash room.” I tried to hide the uneasiness but no to avail.

“Star can you please tell me what’s wro—“, before he can finish his sentence, I was already running away.

“See you later. 9pm.” I shouted my lungs out without looking at him.

I have to teach myself to not look—at his perfection, at his being, at him… everything about him.

***

9 PM.

56

I saw him sitting at the bench under the 5th lamp post standing in the park. He’s holding the guitar, patiently waiting for me. I assumed he’s listening to something because of the earphones plug to his ears. I gave myself some seconds to admire the totality of this picturesque night before breaking the news to him.

I inhaled all the insane courage I have praying that it won’t asphyxiate me.

“Hey! Kuya Dino.” I blissfully uttered before sitting at the space beside him.

He smiled. That annoying smile of his, that ear to ear grin that made his eyes transmute into thin curve lines. That smile, the one that made me knew trouble. “What’s with the Kuya? You’re at it again kiddo.”

We both laugh until silence came.

“Hmm so… what’s with the sudden talk?” He asked, looking straightly nowhere.

The organ inside my chest started pounding erratically. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to say this. I was never wrong when I told myself that all the courage that I have inhaled will suffocate me. My hands are trembling and my stomach’s churning—here comes the butterflies.

Instead of saying anything, I uncased my ukulele. This is the good thing about music. It can speak when your throat can’t—when your heart can’t.

Oh I teach myself,” I started to delicately strum the four transparent-colored strings while letting the words out.

“…Not to get hurt. When you’re looking while she’s singing as if you’re doing some star gazing.” I continued singing.

“…Oh I teach myself, to lessen the heartbeats. When you’re smiling while she’s talking don’t you know it’s kinda…” I stopped for a moment.

“…damaging.” I finished it out, praying that he will at least have a hint of what are we doing here.

“Wow. New composition?” He asked. And based on my surveillance, he didn’t get it.

“Yeah, for someone.” Straightforward and fast. I answered him that way. I didn’t let any doubts devour me at the moment. There’s no turning back.

“Woah. Let’s slow down to that. Are you sick, Star? You’re actually admitting that you wrote this song for someone.” I can sense the surprise aura sinking to him. I received quizzical look as he scrutinized me. I know that he’ll fish out. “So who’s the luckless guy?” He added.

You.

I was about to vomit another shot of straightforward and fast principle of my life but I gave nothing; it’s just me, him, the moon, my heart and its silence.

“Dino, I will tell you the whole story. Tonight, you’ll have all the because of those why’s running in your head since I asked for this talk. But can I request for a little favor?” I put up all the hint of seriousness on that statement. “Let me end this story that has been on hiatus for too long. Do not speak. Just let me finish this.” I just want to end this great dilemma. “Just let me.” If after this, I’ll have to withstand the brokenness of not having the same intensity of what I gave, then let me, ‘cause I know, it’s all worth it—he’s worth it.

He gave me a nod and a smile—that smile, the start of the labyrinth of trouble that I’m still finding my way out.

“I don’t know where to start.” I uttered. I chose to start by being true. And tonight, I’ll be uttering the truest and surest words that I have long hid within me.

“This too shall pass.” I said, while tapping my chest. “I’ve been playing fool to myself since.” I am straightly looking at the other side of the park, trying my very best to not let my gaze fall to him. Let me save my gaze, something I didn’t get the chance to do with my heart. “For two years? Yeah, two years. I’ve been trying to tell myself that it will pass, that it wouldn’t devour me. I was so stupid to trust myself that it will go away, that it will just be a short-lived one. But apparently I was wrong ‘cause it stays—the feeling stays.” I can sense that I caught his attention. I can feel that he’s now looking at me. So I inhaled all the insane courage before facing him.

And just like that, I fell… again and so were my tears.

He’s looking at me with sense of seriousness. I can’t read the things that are running inside his mind— suddenly, I was blinded by my thoughts, by my heart beating insanely, by my feelings.

I pulled myself out from the oblivion of looking at his eyes. I saw the galaxy and I don’t want to be consumed. Sadly, it’s too late. I was already there, just traveling my way out.

“Ha ha.” I laughed, wiping the tears away. “It was not love at first sight. Don’t flatter yourself that much.” I look at him again, this time, I elbowed him. I hope that would somehow lessen the discomfort sensation lurking around.

He’s just giving me that look—that look—so indescribable.

“Hey don’t yo—“, I was about to say something when he suddenly pulled me for a hug. And just by that, I felt like I’ve got the chance to ride a rocket ship to get a glimpse of the stars, the milky way, the planets—the galaxy. To witness how beautiful they are together, in one picture, in one depiction.

“Why? Why didn’t you tell this to me before?” He stated while still hugging me. “Why me? Why me Star?” I can feel his hug getting tighter and tighter.

Right at this very moment, I’m praying my heart out. Can we stay like this? Can we just stay like this? If this is the jail of oblivion, then I don’t want to be freed. But I have to pull myself out from his embrace ‘cause we both know that this hug isn’t meant for me. So I did. It’s time to let go of my daydreams.

And now I curse you for being so sweet and so kind.” I still tried to sing it. I still tried to wipe my tears away. I still tried to talk to myself that this will pass, that it will never stay. I still tried.

“I hate you Dino. I want to hate you. I want to hate you for being so good to me. I want to hate you for always being so gentle. I want to hate you for having that voice; for always walking me home; for always being there. I want to hate your smiles; the way you sing; the way you encourage me; the way you look at my eyes. I want to hate you for being so good; for letting me see that delicate universe inside your head. I want to hate you for always asking me to sing you to sleep; for always allowing me to hear your new compositions. I want to hate you for our late night walks, your poems, your humorous snide, your imperfections; your love for music. I want to hate you for making me feel this way. I want to hate you. I really do.” I have exhaled all the toxic out. I want to breathe. And I feel like, the notion of me peacefully breathing means that I’m finally out from what’s keeping me annihilated—and it’s him, it’s always him. “I want to hate you for smiling when she was talking. I want to hate the way you look when she was singing. I want to hate you for always bragging about how good she is. I want to hate you for inviting me to the universe inside your head. And I want to hate you more for welcoming her to the entrancing home you have created inside you heart.” And the tears started falling, bit by bit, until I can feel the need to wipe it all out. I don’t want him to see the huge amount of tears that I could shed by being fond of him. But who I was kidding? I’m broken and he can perceive the wall I have built, slowly shattering—piece by piece—until it can no longer protect me from shattering too.

“I want to hate you, to despise you, to tell myself that years from now, this scenario would disgust me. But after years of putting prank to myself, I finally understood that my wants would not surmount what are meant to be. The universe conspired for the collision of stars. And in my story, I’m praying that we will collide but sadly, I was never the other star. I understand. You just want to be seen by her the same way I want to be seen by you. You just want to be heard, the very same way I’m hearing you. I can’t hate you ‘cause apparently, I love you… and that ruled over.”

With that, I stood up. He’s intently looking at me while I’m putting my ukulele inside its case. When I’m all set to go, I stood straightly in front of him—with the ukulele in my grasp, my wobbly knees, the moon above, the nightly skies, the indescribable atmosphere and my heart that I have worn on my sleeve.

“I hope nothing will change.” I widely smile. I hope the falsity wasn’t that obvious. “Stage 4. I was finally done.” I fake-happily told him knowing that he wouldn’t understand.

“Go. Digest everything. Let’s just meet outside the campus when you still want to walk home with me.” I added with a smile. This time it was genuine. Trust me, it was. I gave him enough space not to open his heart to the idea of me but to simply let go—the way I did tonight.

***

Dino

She left me there, still in awe. And as the words that came from her mouth blazes back to me, waves of regret started drowning me.

“I was on stage 3 when I apprehended that everything’s going to be better when we don’t reach the stage 4.”

I telepathically whispered to her retreating back. And maybe, my story—our story—will never reach the 5th stage.

High-strung Man

They say that a rough man don’t cry, as if crying is an incurable disease that can never be cured once detected. Men don’t belong in the vulnerable sector—they can handle themselves, they are the heavy-duty ones, those who can cross the road without any fear of being hit even by the fastest car, those who can jump to the depths of scary black hole without any fear of letting crimson liquid touch the floor, those who can move fast without being tired, those who can swim in the ocean of despair for the people they love, those who didn’t bother themselves to look at the weakest point of this so called life.

The first time I saw my father cry was when his hero died. My Lolo used to be his shield, his rainbow, his savior, his true love, his king—his Achilles heel. The day God opened his arms, tightly embracing my Lolo, he was raging mad. He was howling his voice out to the moon to ask where he went wrong. Why did He take his angel away?

As the first tear fell from his eye, I saw how tough he was.

The second time I saw my father weep was when they fell out of love. My mother was and is his Queen—but at some point of a man’s life, he tried to wander. Tempted by the enflaming fire of his heart’s desire, he gradually opened his being to the world of lost innocence and lures. He hugged the devilish side of this world and un-kissed the beauty of an angelic girl given by God. No, I was wrong when I said they fell out of love—he was just once lost and by saying “Sorry.”, and hearing “I forgive you.” back, he was found.

As the second tear fell from his eyeI built the walls up to the skies, as the resentment took over my heartI, I didn’t feel anything.

The third time I saw my father shed a tear was when I turned my back on toys and started wearing the big girl shoe. I never saw myself as his princess. I never saw myself as someone who will hear “I’m so proud of you.” He was the authoritative one. He was the final say. He was the huge wall that you just can’t simply bump yourself into. He was the cold one, the stone. So, I made up a barrier where only laughs and smiles can be passed to the other side, but weeping and sadness cannot be seen or felt by his being—he whose blood’s running on mine; he whose heart was used to build mine; he whose being was just an ordinary being for me. But that special day, I took down the upper part of my walls and he kissed me on my forehead; without any words need to be uttered I felt the warmness of being protected.

As the third tear fell from his eye while uttering the words for me, in frontage of crowd, I saw how loved I was.

And tonight, for the fourth time, I saw my father withdraw a doleful wail when he said; “I’m tired.” He got home, drunk and not ware, not in his usual knack. He was peacefully lying on his bed while articulating words that long filled his heart; “I’m getting tired too, I’m getting really tired.” with his voice slowly breaking, his eyes producing the water of grief that have convinced me that he belongs to the vulnerable zone too—with his words trying to get out, bit by bit, all the broken pieces of his demolished wall was in front of my feet.

As the fourth tear fell from his eye, to impossible quantity of pieces, it broke my heart.  

 

Maybe the beer didn’t lessen his strength. No, it didn’t.

“Do you love Me more than these?”

“Do you love me more than these?” each of them asked.

And without any doubt you answered, “Yes”, full of conviction and assurance to give your all—and so you did.

You offered them the moon with the glistening dust in the vastly night skies. They became your poem, your prose and every word in your vocabulary. You sing them to sleep even when your throat can’t function well anymore; you endlessly played the guitar even when your hands were already full of blisters due to too much use of it. Every good morning text and wake up call, every good night sigh and write-up song, every blissful hi and ecstatic let’s-go-out, everything… everything was devoted and only for them.

You gave too much, and that’s the entry point for hollowness.

Void.

You found yourself, in the midst of nowhere—alone and finding no comfort in solitude—enduring the heat of the sun on your bare skin, the roughness of the road on your bare feet, tasting the salty water of grief coming from your beautiful eyes—covered up with your smudge mascara—and barely breathing, walking with no direction at all.

“Do you love me more than these?” each of them asked, for the nth time.

And without any doubt you answered, “Yes”.

You answered “Yes”, the “yes” felt like the last coin in your pocket, the last piece of pizza in the box, the last strawberry flavored cake in the counter, the last butternut—the last breathe of serenity; the last hope you have; the last sigh of relief and the last smile your face could display.

“Do you love me more than these?” It was your turn to ask.

But you heard nothing. You heard nothing but the sound of footsteps intending to walk away from you. You were standing in the core of darkness with not a single soul to stand beside you. The entire yes’s you gave led you to all the no’s this world could offer.

“Do you love Me more than these?” Someone asked. The voice was different from the others, so soothing and so calm. But the familiarity of it faded, as for the last time you heard the question, emptiness found you.

It hit you. “These” sounds massive, big and wholly, as if it would take your life, the totality of what makes you, all your possessions, all that you could breathe and all that you could give—all your all.

You have decided to be selfish. You have decided to give none. You chose to stay silent despite of the question haunting you every minute.

“Do you love Me more than these?”

“Do you love Me more than these?”

“Do you love Me more than these?”

No response.

The statement was answerable by “yes” or “no” but it was like a lump in your throat—to answer is to break you.

“Do you love Me more than these?” The voice asked, over and over again.

Patiently waiting…

Until, “Tell me, how? How to give when I have none? How to love when my heart is no longer functioning the way it that should? I have nothing but this hollowness inside my chest, this darkness in my soul, this heart that is broken and this soul that is aching to surrender what’s left. How? How can I say yes when I have nothing but no? How can I love when I have nothing at all?” You blasted out as your knees touched the ground, with your hands covering your face that was full of tears.

He stared at you for an ephemeral moment, until a smile find its way to His face.

“Do you love Me more than these?”

“…more than these—these heartbreaks, mundaneness, this pain, this agony and these tears. Do you love Me more than these—these resources, these approvals, these school works, and this wealth? Do you love Me more than the “yes” from others, the moon and the stars the world had already gave you. Do you love Me more than these—all these, everything that’s keeping you from seeing me, from loving me?”

“…because I love you beyond these.”

That was when your heart started aching. How could someone possibly break a heart with such gentleness? How could someone possibly light the whole town with such words? How could someone possibly give hope to the hopeless, how could He possibly replace strength to one’s weakness?

“Do you love Me more than these?” He asked. And there was no other way to count on your fingers how many times.

You have never seen a love so faithful—adhering firmly to one’s soul, a love so selfless, a love that endures—until you saw yourself, standing before the cross, blood dripping from the wounds of a Man, and the hammer within your grasp. You have nailed Him but He was still smiling, praying for you, waiting for you to hold his hand again, and loving you with all His will and heart. He is a victor over sin and death; He came from the grave to the sky in pursuance of you.

That was a love; a love that is so worthy of every “yes”.

“Yes.” You finally responded, full of conviction and assurance to give your all—and so you did, this time for the right person for all the right reasons.

 “I love you, beyond measure.” God retorted back.

Hey

“Hey.” You said as you took the seat beside me.

“Oh. Hey.” I retorted; and I pulled out the earphones from my ears. I tried to hide the uneasiness that I was feeling but no to avail. The carpenters in my chest started hammering my heart while these butterflies in my stomach started hovering illogically.

“What were you listening to a while ago?” Your gaze traveled to the enmesh wire in my hands.

“Nothing, just some random song I’ve wrote.” I looked on the other side to avoid his gaze.

“Can I?” My heart abruptly lost the beats when your hand brushed on mine as you tried to get the earphones in my hand.

“Can I listen to it?” You added up. I was so afraid to look back. The totality of my being betrayed me; from my reddish cheeks to the irregular heartbeats; from my trembling knees to my wobbly hands.

“Sure.” God knows how hard I tried to utter that word without faltering.

You grabbed the earphones from my hand. You put the other half on your left ear and the other one on my right. You nodded at me and as if on cue, I pressed play. Everything seems picturesque.

 

I’m closing the books that I’ve wrote for you,

Those late night thoughts, you’re into,

The poems I’ve wrote,

The words I’ve quoted,

Things that will lead me back to you…

 

That entire moment, I tried looking at the stars, at the vast nightly skies full of glistening dust but I found myself, just staring at you—the you that I’ve fallen, wait no, the you that I’ve figured out this overpowering feelings, just overpowering feelings.

 

“Beautiful.” You said arbitrarily. My gaze traveled to where you were looking at. Then I saw her—this beautiful lady who has everything that I have living without.

“Yes. She really is.” I smiled. But there was this heaviness inside my chest, something I couldn’t figure out. I pulled out the earphones from your ear. I pulled out the linking thing, the connection.

“I need to go.” I stood up, still wearing a huge smile—my façade. And you smiled back at me; the very same smile that made me baffled, so mystified.

 

“Hey.” She said, as she took the seat beside you.

“Oh. Hey.” You retorted; you tried to hide the uneasiness that you were feeling but no to avail.

 

I turned my back. Finally, I did.

I put my earphones back and instantaneously, the music started traveling its way through my heart.

 

 Things that will lead me back to you…

Cause tonight, is the night,

I’ll let go of my fictitious mind.

Cause I know for a fact,

That you’ll never ever be… mine.

Hidden Universe Inside Her Head

She has a hidden universe inside her head. They said.

The physicality of it showed how she could transpire a soul who was too in love with the idea of life and the beauty that lies within it. Those smiles of her indicated nothing but optimism, as if a destructive thought can’t beat her ready-to-fight soul. Her voice that sounds so sweet can make you wonder; what’s the taste of sugar that’s lingering on her tongue. Whenever she feels hurt, she put a frontage that can make everyone think that her difficulties aren’t big. Just one smile, one smile, as if that curve on her lips can conceal those bleeding wounds, as if one smile can make the pieces of her shattered world back together, as if one smile can bring back the normality of her life, as if one smile can glued back her broken pieces. She looks unyielding. People around her think that she can only be bended, but up to what extent? She’s bend to the point that she felt too close to be cracked, to be broke, to be crushed. She’s living in a world full of lies that none of them ever troubled themselves to hear the truth. The truth that she wants the pain to instantaneously stops. The truth that she wants to take a permanent vacation in a world where she could no longer feel the agony of always being the girl who cried happiness but deep within the core of her soul, she’s the girl who cried pain. And the truth that her obnoxious thoughts are slowly and slowly and slowly killing her. Whenever she’s close to exploding, she immediately run to the bathroom to lock herself in the cubicle. She simply wants to end the misery alone, as if saying it would only cause weariness to her friends, one thing that she don’t want to happen. She tries her best to hold on even though all she ever wanted was to push them away, away from her sufferings, away from her world, away from the idea that they can still save her. She has deadly thoughts. Her 3am-self isn’t her best form. Actually it’s the raw yet worst one. It’s the fragile and defenseless one. With just a touch of your hand, you can break her big-time. Solitude is where she finds peace. But solitude is also the monster who have had long convinced her that she’s better off that way, she’s ugly, she’s worthless, she’s nothing, she’s dumb and failure. Her lone time with her mind convinced her that she was a failed experiment to the mutation.

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She’s the girl who amazes everyone by the things she can do but the only thing she see is the level of her worthlessness. Whenever people gives her compliment, within her she’s thinking that such dumb mind of her doesn’t deserved any appreciations. She’s tired but she can only surrender when the fight is just for her, alone. But, no, everything she has ever done and everything that she will do isn’t going to be just for her own good. It’s for the people she love the most. She keeps going even though her anxiety still monstrously attacks. She acts so strong as if she can’t be beat. She acts so strong, so strong… so strong.

Undeniably, she is. Because she can smile the pain away, she can drive out the sorrow and deny her own pain to save others. She can. She still can.

She has a hidden universe inside her. They said.

A universe that no one ever concerned themselves to visit.

12:00am

11:21 pm
Alone in the dark room
With nothing but thoughts-inflicted wounds
Painstakingly whispering the prayer
Before the declaration of game over.
11:36 pm
Before spreading the hazmat
None of them let her wear gas mask
Suffocated, asphyxiated
Annihilated, extirpated
Devastated.
11:49 pm
Heard the whirling of the roulette
The metallic bang of the gun’s barrel
Saw the withered flowers on bouquet
As the life went decayed.
11:59 pm
Everything went light
Then hazardous thoughts subside.
12:00 am
She internally died but externally, alive.

I found you 

I found you in between;

Noise and silence,

Lies and truth.

Sea and land,

Square and round.

Approximately and exactly,

Magic and reality.

Clear and opaque,

False and true.

Softy cotton and hard rock.

Lone wolf and cheerful cat.
I found you in between;

Hi’s and hello’s,

High up above and down below.
I found you in between;

Stay and bye.


I found you in between;

my tries and almost-giving-up sigh.