Thursday, July 28, 2011




I woke up alone in an empty hotel room. Plastic cups were scattered all over the tables, couches and on the kitchen sink along with some McDonald's fries and chocolate cake leftovers.

I looked at the clock and saw it was eight in the morning. I had barely two hours of rest. My head was hurting from the lack of sleep and alcohol intake from last night. I took a deep sigh and started cleaning up the mess.

So this is how it feels like to be thirty one, I told myself.  Just when I had gotten used to the sound of thirty, I had to add another syllable. Thirty … one.

Thirty one is such an awkward age. Thirty was the end of a decade, the start of a new one. It heralded so many things; the promise of maturity, a more comfortable life, fewer issues, less drama, and perhaps love.

Or so I thought.

I was feeling strangely sad as my birthday approached. I brushed it off, told myself it was just the usual birthday blues. I guess birthdays are that one day in a year that you long to feel special. I haven't felt that way in a long time.

I missed spending my birthday with my family. I miss my Mom and Dad, my Shobe. I don't have a boyfriend and my friends have been … well … busy with their own lives.

A couple of days after my birthday, Neil and I had a chat. He had just spent the previous weekend partying during the gay pride celebration in Toronto.

"Gay pride was a blast but it always leaves you empty," he said. "One million faggots and not a single one to … oh whatever. LOL. Birthday mo na Kane."

"Well… it was actually two days ago."

"Akala ko 5? Kaya naman ako nag text kasi sabi sa kalendaryo ko 5. Sorry!!!"

"It's okay Neil. I heard old age does that to you. Makes you forgetful," I teased him. "I still appreciate it."

"How was it? Did you do anything special?" Neil asked.

"Well, it wasn't one of my happiest. But it taught me something important," I said.

"Not the happiest, but it was still happy I hope. What did it teach you?

Vackie, Edward and I had decided to rent a room at a hotel and invite a few people over on the eve of my birthday. Nothing fancy, really. Just a quiet night with friends. Vackie, Edward and Arlan didn't show up.

Vackie and Edward eventually apologized days later. I accepted their explanations and told them it's okay. But I realized, just because you understand, it doesn't mean you don't feel bad pala. I haven't heard from Arlan.

I have been grappling with the changes in us; these people are some of my most cherished and loved among my friends, and I miss them.

"Hay Neil, I was sliding into depression when out of the blue, a wise friend told me a simple fact. Life has its different seasons. Even friendships, I guess."

"Nangungulila lang siguro ako. I'm tired of being alone. Pero perky na uli ako :)," I told Neil.

"Mabuti na lang you have wise friends. I usually have to face that battle alone," he said. "Count your blessings. Buti naman at perky ka na."

"I do, I do. I guess it's because I give myself so much to my friends. They're my family here kasi, but people do disappoint you. But you become more understanding rin pala. More forgiving. Gawd, is this maturity?"

They're not just my friends, they're my family. Because my family lives far away, my friends have become more important to me. They're the ones I talk to everyday, to ask how your day was, to share your stories with.

Sometimes, when you give yourself to a person; be it a friend, a lover, a husband, a wife, you expect certain things in return. That they value you, that they give back. That things won't change. But friendships are relationships too, and like most things in life, they change too.

As André Aciman said in his essay in the New York Times titled The Day He Knew Would Come

"...this is how it always is and has been: things come and then they go, and however we bicker with time and put all manner of bulwarks to stop it from doing the one thing it knows, the best thing is learning how to give thanks for what we have."

Perhaps, that day had come. If last year was about learning to be fearless, this year was about teaching myself to be grateful. And I am. I am incredibly lucky, and I realized despite the hits and misses in my life, I am happy.

Rudeboy once said it may be too much to ask for a life without regrets. That perhaps all we can do is to hope that our joys outweigh our sorrows.

"Sige na Neil. Don't text back anymore. I'll call you soon. I'm really happy you remembered.

Neil, kung wala ka pang boyfriend next year, puntahan sana kita sa birthday mo. (Neil, if you don't have a boyfriend by next year, I was thinking maybe I could come visit you on your birthday.)"

He didn't reply.

A few days later, I was drinking at a bar near my place with a friend, catching up while dancing to 80s, 90s and pop music. I don't think I've ever heard Beyoncé, the Spice Girls and Cyndi Lauper all played in one night.

We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves when sudddenly, my phone beeped. It was a message from Neil.

"Ano? Sa birthday ko?"

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Slave to Fame


We all start as nobody.

Every blogger begins with no one reading his stories. They lie there, in the World Wide Web, among the trillions of pages all seeking attention.

"Read me! Me! Me!"

"No!! Read me first!"

Slowly by slowly, a trickle of people start reading your blog. Some of them are nice enough to leave a comment. Then you begin to attract followers.

Ten, twenty, then fifty, then after a while, a hundred. A hundred twenty, and so on and so forth. At first, it's just fun. A delight to see someone talking back to you, arguing with you, agreeing with you. Then bit by bit, you begin to get obsessed.

I didn't notice it but I had started checking my blog more often to see whether someone had added another comment, whether my followers had increased. I'd wake up in the middle of the night to pee and I'd check for comments to my latest entry. I'd look at the statistics over and over again.

Little did I know but I had become a slave to fame. But who can blame me? Let he or she amongst us who is not guilty be the first to point an accusing finger. At one point, we all crave and desire that. To be admired, liked, loved. Who wouldn't?

When people tell you that they never forget certain stories you wrote; that you made them laugh, made them cry. When some of the bloggers you admire most tell you you're one of their favorites. When strangers from uhm, well Grindr, would message and say "Oh my God! Are you Kane the blogger? You're like a star man!!!"

But the thing with popularity is; it is never enough. Like money and beauty, you always want more. So what if I have a thousand followers, I want ten thousand more. So what if one hundred people commented on my last entry, I want five hundred more.

It went on for months until one afternoon, I found myself clicking the refresh button every three minutes hoping someone added a comment. I caught myself and suddenly, I felt very foolish. I began to laugh at the absurdity of it, for allowing myself to be consumed by the desire to be popular, for letting fame get into my head. It was enough.

Some of the more observant readers noticed I don't have a followers widget in my page. I had one but I removed it. To stop myself from being an attention whore and focus on what I truly care most about.

Writing. Not fame, but words.

Having said that, it is not my intention to say that you, my readers are not important to me. As the writer Barbara Kingsolver once said, "We are nothing if we can't respect our readers."

I think I have some of the most loyal and intelligent readers and I am grateful to you for accompanying me on my journey. I know that in a world full of great writers (and bloggers), I am humbled that you took time to read my stories and put interesting comments.

And the thing is, I think I can be a very difficult writer. I try to write about different things (topics which some may like, but turn off others), I write long pieces and given the rather, uhm, short-attention span people have nowadays, it's a wonder people actually take time to read the entirety of a story. But some of you do, and I am genuinely touched.

It's audacious enough to send a piece of writing into the world, to ask people to take time to read it, shut up, ignore lovers and kids and officemates, delay work, just to listen to me. But that is what we all do, we ask people to listen to us. And the reason why I appreciate your loyalty is because I am a terribly demanding reader myself. And I make no apologies for it.

I have long ago accepted I will not live forever. I will never be able to finish all the great books and movies out there, never have enough time to see all the museums and mountains and castles in the world. Time, indeed, is gold.

And therefore, when it comes to reading blogs I have to choose. Let's face it. Though the number of bloggers has increased dramatically through the years, the amount of time we have has not. Each of us still has the same twenty-four hours in a day.

And believe me, I know how you feel when it comes to reading long entries. In the introduction to the Best American Short Stories 2001, Kingsolver said

Once in a workshop after I'd already explained repeatedly that brevity is the soul of everything, writing-wise, and I was still getting fifty-page stories that should have been twenty-page stories, I announced: "Starting tomorrow, I will read twenty-five pages of any story you give me, and then I'll stop. If you think you have the dazzling skill to keep me hanging on for pages twenty-six plus because my life won't be complete without them, just go ahead and try."

Over time, we fall into a pattern. There are bloggers whose every entry you read, there are others that you don't visit as often. And eventually… some you never visit at all.

Either there were too many grammatical errors, they didn't know how to structure and edit their work, or their stories simply weren't compelling enough. Similar to what some readers probably felt with my blog.

Some of those who used to regularly comment on my stories are gone. Sometimes, I ask myself: where are they? Why did they stop writing to me? I miss them. But the world changes, people come and go. But some of you stayed. Ain't that something.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Paid Love



DISCLAIMER: Although some things were borne out of the writer's imagination, certain events may have transpired and resemblances to actual events, people, and places can exist.

Christian and I were lounging in his bed, talking about the trip we were planning next month to Cambodia. It was one of my favorite moments with him; watching him as his face become animated and his gestures get bigger and bigger.

That's what I have always loved about him, his fascination and eagerness for life. At 35, he at times seemed no more than a boy. Though life had dealt him its own fair share of joys and sorrows, it never seemed to have aged him. Unlike me. I always say the years are heavy on my back. The years are heavy on my back.

"You know what? They say there's a river near Siem Reap where we can see carvings made by monks in the riverbed more than a thousand years ago," he told me, his eyes widening as if he can't believe what he himself just said.

"Really? And they haven't faded away?" I asked.

"It seems they haven't completely. You can still see the faint outlines of Hindu gods and creatures. Isn't that amazing?" he replied, shaking his head.

"We should do that," I told him. "It sounds gorgeous. Plus we probably will be tired from all the temples. A river would be a nice distraction."

It was getting late and I needed to wake up early for work tomorrow.

"Hey love, I have to go," I said. I got up and started packing my things. "It's almost bed time."

"Noooooooooooooooooo," he said, pulling me back to bed. "Stay here with me." He started kissing my neck and pinned me to the bed.

"I can't. I left some papers at home and I need them for a presentation tomorrow," I told him. His lips felt so good and I loved the way his body felt next to mine. It was hard to resist.

"Pleaseeeeee?" he begged.

I looked at him and those big wide eyes. "I would love to but… I can't." He nodded but he was quiet, downcast. "How about if I leave you a present?"

"What kind?"

"The good kind," I said, smiling mischievously. "I want you to lie there and close your eyes. You don't have to do anything. I want you to pretend I'm a paid hooker you picked up for some nice blowjob. When you're done, I'll just slip quietly away."

"Well … you know … I always had a thing for hookers," he replied. The lights went out.

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