on ‘documentaries’ and ‘sweet misery’

There is a scene in Jean Pierre Jenuet’s Amelie in which Audrey Tautou is sitting on her red bed, in front of her green television, watching what appears to be an imaginary documentary about her own sad death. She weeps as it showed footages of crowds attending the funeral procession, as the documentary paid tribute to the noble causes she has supported in life: feeding the poor, tending the sick, etc.

We know of course that Amelie is merely depressed, and this is her way of “letting it all out.” Moments earlier in the film, she is grating cheese for her dinner pasta when she stops suddenly, looks out the window, sees her recluse neighbor having the same exact meal she’s preparing, and decides her fate is sealed.

Why is drowning in misery so cathartic—that momentary tightening of the chest as one imagines a successful suicide, that split-second when your head is clear and you recognize truths you have so far otherwise ignored?

It’s a situation I’m not entirely unfamiliar with. The other night, I lay in bed admiring my bedroom ceiling, dead tired after having a rough day of making myself busy with tedious chores just so I could avoid checking my phone every few minutes for a missed call or an unread text message.

I wanted then to see right away if there are any more furniture undersides left for me to dust, dim light bulbs to replace, or dining table stains to scrub. But the pull of the alternative is simply irresistible. I searched instead through my memory for my own “TV documentary.”

While mine does not involve funeral parades or soup kitchens, I have perfected it by diligently cutting out some of the more awful scenes and adding in some good ones. Of course, in the end, it’s no longer a documentary but a set of disparate short films. Considering the advanced level of despair I had at the time, I picked two of my favorite short films and “played” them.

The first one is set in a rather expensive restaurant—the waiters are dressed in tailored suits and the crystal looked real. Nothing really happens, except I am closely watching two people on the other table. The other is set in a hospital room and I am afflicted with a rare skin disease caused by some unknown strain of virus.

And then my phone beeped and I scrambled for the wretched thing in the dark. When I finally discovered it beneath one of the pillows, I found out that it’s just an automated alert, reminding me I have enough reward points to subscribe to some unlimited texting promos. I threw the phone away and went to sleep.

In the morning, as I woke up, I decided to become a good person with nice thoughts. At least until today when I once again remembered the ingenious Amelie and her indispensable TV. ▣


on winning the “lottery”*

The sun had already stolen into the bedroom through the gaps between the blue window curtains when I woke up. What time is it? Early morning? Late afternoon? I wanted to go back to sleep and ignore the clock that stood on the bedside table.

I was just about to close my eyes when it dawned on me, to my utter horror, that I am naked beneath the covers, that there is an arm hugging my chest, and that this same arm is possibly connected to an actual human being lying beside me.

I could feel hot breath against my neck, just below my right ear. I suddenly knew that if I so much twitched a muscle, I would feel someone else’s lips against my skin.

I stared hard at the ceiling, horrified by what I might discover if I look at who was sharing the bed with me. I struggled not to look at the curtains again—I remembered that my bedroom curtains are not blue. And suddenly, I knew, too, that if I check the bedside table, I would find no bedside table and no clock.

So far these details point to a single horrifying reality: I was not in my own bedroom.

At this point, I knew the average, normal person in my place would have started to panic. I should have jumped out of bed, dressed hurriedly, and stormed out of the place. But I did not panic. I concentrated on the ceiling, my heart beating furiously against my ribcage. I thought, okay, this is strange, but isn’t this the exact situation that would require me to be cool-headed?

I took a deep breath and made myself look at the actual human person who owns the arm wrapped around me. Actual Human Person sleepily murmured something as I got up to sit in the bed. Round, smooth face. Wavy hair tumbling across the forehead. Long lashes. Boyish shoulders. Who the hell is this stranger? The last time I checked, I lack the necessary gorgeousness to bag such a treasure.

Okay, that’s done. I then surveyed the room. Within approximately five seconds, I realized whose bedroom I was in. Oh. Crap. The Neo laptop that stood on a propped up box on the floor. The neatly stacked Japanese CDs. The sketch pad and tin box of pencils at the foot of the bed. I was suddenly washed over by embarrassment. What was I doing in my friend’s bedroom, naked, with someone else?

But I managed not to panic. I always prided myself over my self-perceived abilities to remain calm under duress. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my waist and went out of the room. I stole a glimpse of the living room. No sign of my friend, thank God.

In the bathroom, I washed my face in the sink. My beard felt unusually rough and I made a mental note to shave when I get home. Then I finished washing up and looked at my reflection in the mirror.

That was when I finally panicked. Before I knew it, I was already screaming. I was not just simply in my friend’s house!

I stumbled out of the bathroom and slumped down in the sofa, my head reeling. I wanted to calm down, to take deep breaths, to start thinking about what to do. But if you wake up one morning/afternoon as someone else, I don’t presume it would be easy to handle. Most especially, if someone like Actual Human Person barges into the living room wearing nothing but a worried look, asking what happened to you.

“Are you okay?” AHP asked me tenderly, fetched me a glass of water, rubbed my back. “Did you cut yourself while you were shaving?”

Then I felt a kiss on my forehead, and at which point, who am I to begin complaining?

*Sometimes, if you know too much about other people and you are not exactly fond of what’s going on in your own boring existence, you wonder about what it would be like to swap lives. After seeing “Here Comes The Bride,” Citybuoy, YJ, and I decided to give it a shot.

**photo is from the Star Cinema flick “Here Comes The Bride,” starring Angelica Panganiban, Eugene Domingo, John Lapus, and Tuesday Vargas

the shrink option

There are several ways people deal with personal crises. My friend Genghis Plan resolves them grimly and determinedly, as if dilemmas were mere entire civilisations which needed conquering. On the other hand, Heidelberg and Vanderbilt, former officemates, regard narcotics as their primary option. On yet another hand–which makes that three hands, in which case I’m a mutant–I know yet other people who rely on other people, mainly shrinks, to solve problems for them.

I have been thinking about the shrink option for quite a while now. For someone who had always tried to keep to himself his greatest doubts, this is quite a development, and perhaps this only shows how hopeless urgent my situation is–which is correct in ways more than one, because there is so much at stake, at least for the next ten, fifteen years.

Movies tell us that stories involving shrinks spell danger. In Prime (2005), Meryl Streep is ruinously meddlesome. In Gothika (2004), the doctors are either incompetent or mad. In Silence of the Lambs (1990), Anthony Hopkins is a cannibalistic psychopath. In the German classic Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari (1919), patients are hypnotised to carry out a few murders here and there.

Luckily, my life lacks the cinematic plot necessary for such stories. This is why I have given the shrink option a lot of thought lately. How do I find one? How much do they charge? How long is each session? Do I want to see a shrink because I genuinely want to be told what to do? Or do I seek professional advice just so I could easily reject it? Will it bother me if the shrink is… attractive?

Too many things to consider. So little time left. Honestly, I think it is highly probable that I will end up doing nothing about this pickle that I’m in. I am lazy. All I do is fantasise think. It wouldn’t be the first time I thought and wrote and thought until it is too late. It is what my shrink in the future would possibly call a chronic–and incurable–“disorder.”

365 days of summer

This is a story of how a twenty-one year-old met his match: a hellish summer of a year with endless nightmares: financial meltdown, natural disasters, crazy politics, a global epidemic, extrajudicial killings. But you should know upfront, this is not a typical year-in-review.

Let’s do away with the extra six hours and stick with 365 days. I am utterly convinced that I had too much on my plate this year already, without another quarter of a day as a side dish. Also, I want to write this blog entry as if the year is as good as over—barring of course the possibility that I might just manage to commit another stupid mistake before 2009 ends.

You see, I have reason to be fed up with my own blunders—and they are many this year. Where to start? Oh right, at the beginning.

To start with, I had long periods of extreme poverty for the first time since I turned eighteen. Late last year, I decided to move out of my mother’s house and kept a smallish apartment so I could live on my own. Everything was going well at first, up until the beginning of this year. But just as 2009 was done saying hello, I had to quit my call center job, partly because I was beginning to get bored, but mainly because my boss threatened to terminate me “due to impressively chronic tardiness and absenteeism.” I was not exactly your idea of a model employee, if you get my drift.

By February, I had to look for employment elsewhere. The transition between my last payday at the old company and my first one at the new company was naturally difficult and I had to scrimp. I incurred debts and I fell behind my bills and the rent. By around June or July, I was already living off instant noodles. Then I had to pack my things and go home to momma. Never in my whole life had I felt so embarrassed.

I talked to my mother, discussed our little arguments that made me move out from her house in the first place, and vowed to get a new job. I eventually did get hired at another call center, the third in a span of one year. And I guess that earns me the right to call myself a “hopper.” Let’s all toast to that, folks.

And then around this time, there was Ishiguro. Then after that, there was Ishiguro and me. And then there was just me. Yup, this is the point where you feel sad for me, the point where you decide to tell me that everything will be fine, be a man, the right one will come in time. I thank you from the bottom of my wasted emo heart.

Before Ishiguro, there were of course other failed affairs. But none crushed me as decidedly as this one did. Maybe it’s because I knew that this time, I am the one to blame and nothing hurts more than the fact that I could have done better.

After three months of countless fights and heated arguments, Ishiguro chose to end it for good. And like any other wise guy, I sought refuge from alcohol. I began forcing my miserable company upon friends who were too polite to tell me off. I stalked Ishiguro on every possible social networking site on the web. I even started calling him many times on his cell phone whenever I become too drunk. I only stopped harassing him when he expressly forbid me to contact him in any way and threatened to change his number should he receive another call or text message from me again. I suspect that he even contemplated informing the police. I would have probably ended up in jail, if I had not realized in time that I had become disgusting.

Now that I look back at all these, I am actually amazed that I have managed to live through them all. Yet I know I should not be surprised. For aside from having intelligent and understanding people for a family, I have also met the most extraordinary set of friends this year. Their wit and humor fascinates and impresses me endlessly. Their sincere warmth and encouragement sustains me. The stories they tell on their own pages inspire me.

This angst-ridden, semi-emo entry hopes to redeem itself by doubling as a thank-you note to Jeff, who nursed me through my worst days; to Nyl, whom I suspect to have the ability to read my thoughts; to Ewik and Dabo who are my newest blogger friends; and to Herbs, who has the uncanny ability to bring bloggers together. You all made 2009 seem a little less crappy than it really is.

Because this year is certainly not one of the good ones. And even this statement seems to be not sarcastic enough to capture the shit most of us may have gone through. In the spirit of Christmas, though, I forgive those who are responsible for the crises this year that are not of my own doing. I know you guys didn’t really mean to make our lives exponentially more miserable. Especially you, Mrs Gloria Arroyo. Bitch.