The Cruelty of Waking Up

We were walking, you and I. UL was there, too. He was a little ahead, and you were in the middle, and I was behind you. We were in a wide square (my elementary school’s quadrangle, in fact), not a narrow sidewalk, but there we were, not walking side by side.

You were asking me questions, and I was answering them.

After I answered one question, you turned around to face me. You kissed me on the cheek. I was so surprised, I didn’t move. Then you faced forward again, and we all continued walking.

You did it a few times, kissed me on the cheek after I answered a question. The kisses were slowly approaching my lips.

I don’t remember your questions now, except for the last one. “We’re not just friends, are we?” And you kissed me before I could answer, still on the cheek, but the edge of your lips just about touched the edge of mine. My response was to shift my head, in a leap of faith across three centimetres, to kiss you properly.

I woke up then. It was cruel.

I decided to go back to sleep, in an attempt to return to the dream. I can do that, y’know. I always wonder if other people can do it, too. Sometimes, if I’m awake for only a second, my dream can pick up right where it left off. But this time, I didn’t close my eyes right away. I wanted to linger in the false memory of you.

When I finally slept and the dream resumed, it was already the end of the day in the dream, and somehow we hadn’t seen or talked to each other since I kissed you back. I wanted to text you, “Good night. I love you.” But my fingers couldn’t type the second sentence.

Still in the dream, the following day came, and I was in school but you weren’t. I missed you terribly.

Then I woke up again.


I had a dream

that there were tornadoes and I could see them from inside my house and I was holding on to pipes, and the house’s roof was gone, and then the tornadoes were gone and there was a big concert at the town square, but then the town square turned into my school, and KE was there and Ish was there and Joey was there and Joey’s sister was there and Coney was there and Gino was there, and other people from high school and college were there, and the Beatles were playing, and Ringo had me carry one of his drums when the band was setting up, and then everyone was dancing, and then there were games, and everyone was running around and winning challenges, and then everyone ran into one building, except for Ish who turned back, which was smart because there were zombies in the building, and then everyone became a zombie except Ish.


I see the same thing whether I open or close my eyes — black. Occasionally there’s a bit of grey, which gives the black an impression of depth that I can’t understand, as if there’s simultaneously a black wall right in front of me and one so far away, but I can’t touch either of them, and I can’t run towards them because there’s nothing, no walls, just black.

I’m kneeling on dry earth, and my hands are dropped to my sides and I can’t move them. I don’t feel any restraints but–

“Resist the urge to reach out.”

My phone lights up on the floor in front of me. I can’t move, I can’t get to it. Two seconds after the light startles me, I wonder: What was that voice?

“I’m your fortress, your depressurization chamber. I’m holding you here to protect you.”

“You don’t seem very comforting.”

“I didn’t say comfort, I said protect.”

I sit back on my heels. I feel tired. “Can I please keep them?”


“But they love me.”

“Do I need to remind you of what happened the last time someone loved you?”


“They said they’d see you through. They thought they could. You thought they could.”

“I remember.”

“And then it all became too much.”

“I remember.”

“And they walked away. And you felt so hurt that there was a constant tightening in your chest. And then you felt hollow.”


“Shh, I’ve got you.”

I relax.

“I’m telling you, resist the urge to go to them. Come, lie down.”

And the dry earth is suddenly a carpeted floor, and I can move my hands again, but all I do is lie down and fold myself into fetal position. It is cold, but I trust my fortress to slowly warm the air around me. It’s never a quick process; it’s like turning on a rusty heater. There is never any immediate relief. I get that elsewhere.

“Don’t even think about it.”


“You’re not going to shut me off by implementing one of your insane tactics for achieving immediate relief. What do you call it these days, mind blanking?”


“Let me distract you. Think of the city. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Remember when you’d leave your apartment at night just to walk around downtown? Catch a movie by yourself? Cross the bridge on foot? The mountains are beautiful, the waters are beautiful.”

“Thanks, but just stop. I’ll be fine, there will be no tactics. Your distraction isn’t working.”

“That’s because you still haven’t let them go. You know this won’t work if you don’t co-operate. I’m all you’ll ever really have.”

I fall asleep.

Dave and Taylor of the Foo Fighters

It was my graduation day. I woke up around 9 a.m. Both of my parents were awake. I talked to them, not about the graduation. They took whatever I said as a sign that we could all go back to sleep. When we all woke up later in the day, we sort of had to hurry towards the venue for the ceremony.

When we got there, my fellow graduates were in a long line. I was relieved to know I wasn’t late.

I was wearing a sky blue top and a sky blue skirt. They had ugly, mismatched patterns. My mom was wearing a plain, sky blue dress.

Not wanting to fall in line right away (there was really no rush; the line was rather long, and besides, I didn’t want to go and talk to my… friends… who were already in line), I looked around the building and bumped into this pretty famous rock band that was going to perform at the ceremony. I excitedly talked to the band members. While I was dreaming this part, I knew exactly which band they were, but I’d forget later in the dream.

My mom realized she had to pay for something she owed right away because she had just heard that the rates were going to rise soon, and she already owed over 12,000 (dollars or pesos — I don’t know) as it is. She, my dad and I got in the car and left the venue.

Outside, several men were guiding a nervous-looking horse down a grassy hill. My dad drove off the road and onto the hillside. He drove alongside the horse to help it stay calm.

Later, we were in a large room in a building. The room had a high ceiling, and there was some sort of backdrop made up of discrete stacks of bricks, with plants crawling around them. There were four columns of numbers. The first two columns weren’t aligned, but the last two were.

Dave Grohl was there. He was tugging at different parts of the backdrop, trying to get the first two columns to align. He couldn’t. Eventually he ran off somewhere, in search of someone or something, part of his attempt at fixing the backdrop.

I didn’t follow him. I stayed in the building and talked to Taylor Hawkins. It was an easy, pleasant, comfortable conversation. I ended up mentioning that it was my graduation day and that I met the members of the band that was playing at the ceremony.

“Which band?” he asked.

“I… can’t remember,” I said.

“Well, they must not be that famous then.”

“They are… hang on… I think it’s Linkin’ Rejects.”

“Everybody knows the Linkin’ Rejects!”

“Oh, wait, no, it was the All-American Rejects! Oh, wait, no, hang on…” I turned to my sister, who was apparently behind me. I asked her, “Which band was there at the graduation venue?”

She said, “OSM”.

I turned back to Taylor and said, “Ah, it was One Small Miracle, after all.”

He laughed because I forgot who OSM was, when OSM was apparently quite the famous pop rock band.

I said, “Well, you can’t blame me for forgetting them; you guys are my favourite band!” I laughed.

And then I woke up.


I was in a classroom, and the students were taking turns doing their group presentations, and I was in a group with Ish and two other girls I don’t remember. Ish walked up to the front and started presenting, while I and the other two groupmates remained seated, but Ish wasn’t alone up there because there were like a dozen other people, I don’t know who, and then suddenly the aisle to my right caught everyone’s attention because there was a pool of blood, and everyone was freaking out, and Ish and I tried to clean it up but there was too much, and then suddenly for some reason it was time to go to the next class, and I don’t know what happened to the blood, and then I was standing outside the door, looking back in, and the professor, Eden, was standing inside, looking out at me, and I said, “I don’t want to go,” and she said “4:30” and I said “okay”.

And then I was on my bike, riding past crowds on narrow streets, and riding up and down small, grassy hills, and even up and down stairs, and then some student asked me, “Is it faster that way?” And I said, “it’s about the same,” and then I ran into Tonet and KE, and Tonet was in a marigold-coloured baro’t saya, and she had just come from a dance recital or something, and she was excitedly telling me about it, but I had to go.

And then I was in a bookstore, sitting next to Eden, who was talking about how to negotiate wages, and then a woman walked up and said to her, “You told me you were busy but you’re just here discussing contracts with that girl? You’re treating her like a colleague, but me — an actual colleague — you turned me down.”

(And then I woke up. And then I went back to sleep.)

I was in a car, in the passenger’s seat, and Eden was driving. It was night-time. Laurie and Mae were texting me about our previously arranged dinner plans. They were already at the restaurant. I replied, saying I was going to be late (obviously). I checked the time and saw that it was 10 pm. I figured I should text my parents, tell them I was having dinner after a long day of schoolwork, but before I could do that, the car pulled up at the restaurant, and we got out. We walked in to find my friends, and we said hello, and Mae was down to her last slice of pizza, and we didn’t actually sit with Mae and Laurie and the rest of them, because we got our own table. I decided I wanted fried chicken.

(And then I woke up.)

Apparently it’s a Frank Sinatra evening

I love how music (or art in general) can whisk me off to a different place and time. I’ve listened a few times now to The Night is Young and You’re So Beautiful and Strangers in the Night. (All titles link to Frank Sinatra versions on YouTube.) The room I’m in seems filled with the air of Old Hollywood, and everything is in greyscale, including the Mickey Mouse cartoon playing on the television. The setting is ripe for reminiscences.

When I was six, I had a small piano keyboard and a book of piano sheet music for beginners. Strangers in the Night was one of the first songs I learned to play (just the melody, since it was a book for beginners). Another song I remember playing from the book is The Girl from Ipanema. My grandfather liked Frank Sinatra.

I’m listening to The Way You Look Tonight now, and I’m thinking that it was a good job, figuring out how to play songs on the piano from a book at age six.

And now it’s Moon River playing, and I remember how every “that was a good job” came as “well of course you should always do a good job, otherwise what’s the fucking point of you? Are you just going to be a worthless piece of shit all your life?” 

Now it’s Are You Lonesome Tonight playing, and I know that that six-year-old girl won’t have any measure of self-worth until she’s much older.

And now it’s You’ll Never Walk Alone playing, and my heart aches for her.

Explain “could”

Ish donated blood, and Joey donated blood. I watched the nurse inject the syringe into Joey’s arm three times in the same place. She was bleeding out pretty bad from the needle hole. Afterwards, Ish and Joey both changed their Facebook profile pictures to ones that showed the post-donation bandages on their arms. And then my brother also donated blood. He bled out pretty bad, too, and the nurse had to attach some cables onto his arm — cables that connected the veins from his shoulder to his wrist, bypassing the needle hole entirely. And then I found myself at a Foo Fighters concert in the Philippines, and Monica and Chandler surprised Dave Grohl by getting on the stage. Yes, Monica and Chandler, not Courteney and Matthew. Monica was wearing a black lace dress. Chandler was wearing a black shirt and a red silk skirt. It was kind of a strange concert; there was a giant dragon head above the stage, and Dave Grohl seemed confused. After the concert, I was backstage, looking for the band. I didn’t get to see them. They were in a private room with a group of young female high-school students — some sort of meet-and-greet, I guess. So I just decided to leave the auditorium. Before reaching the doors, I noticed I wasn’t wearing my trainers. I backtracked, running, and I saw this guy who said he found my shoes. He threw them towards me. I put them on and left the building. Outside, there was an expansive field of grass. As I was walking, this girl came up to me and said she knew I wasn’t in the technical support department, but she needed help with a customer. She led me to what looked like a computer lab in a school, where there were computers of various shapes and sizes and languages and brands I had never heard of. The customer was there, a girl about my age. She had her tablet with her. She was with her mother. The customer wanted live-streaming stock quotes. She explained she had already subscribed to receive that service, but she wasn’t getting them. I said I’d check out her tablet for her. I did a screen print, and it appeared her tablet was showing only the left half of what it should’ve been showing on the screen. We tried the computers in the lab, but we couldn’t get any of them to work. They were either incomprehensible or too slow. One of the computers had a Google search page up. The last search was “explain ‘could'” under the “Korean filter” search setting. I took this to mean that a Korean person was searching for the meaning of “could” in Google. Anyway I told the customer I couldn’t help her. And then I woke up.