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Life and Lemons

Life and Lemons Maj Guanzon

March 17, 2017

I’ve always been afraid to forget. I thought of that constantly, when the wounds were fresh and new, and I could still hear your voice, our last conversation, because it’s only been a day after all. Two days, then three, four. A week, a month. A year. I didn’t want to forget, and I’ve kept that thought and thought it often with the passage of time. At first the hours were slow, excruciatingly so. Other days, time would flow in sharp bursts, when grief would give way to moments of joy and relief and triumph. And grief would return, and I would welcome it, because it came with memories of you. It was a blanket, warm and soft, heavy and mine. Sometimes I wonder if it was all real. Your love and the swiftness of our friendship. Sometimes even the pictures are not enough receipts.

This day, I forgot. The calendar, your mother’s sorrow, the birthday greetings reminded me. There came guilt. It settled in and it was familiar. There came memories of you, and pictures, and receipts. And I remembered. I remembered everything.

Cheers to your birthday, hon.

Life and Lemons Writing Now

2016 Gratitude

The tougher the year, the more important it is to look for the good things, because they are all there. In red letter dates and normal dates, in moments and in people. Ines has been reminding me to write down my 2016 gratitude, partly because she knows she’ll be in it, but also because she’s right. Remembering and taking time to be grateful is important, even more so now.

I am grateful for family. For fights over unwashed dishes and barrel-bolted doors, and un-knotted garbage bags and missed curfews. (Curfews! Curfews, still, mother??) Because these mean I have sisters and parents to have the fights with, and we’re never really that angry anyway.

I am grateful for friends and safe spaces. They say it’s harder to find friends as you get older, but maybe not. I think when you grow older it gets easier to spot a kindred spirit, your panic room, someone who will understand even just one small corner of who you are. Maybe it’s that small, dark corner that gets wider, deeper, and hurts more some days, and you’ll find someone who will be ready to pull you out, or stay with you, whatever it is you need. I am grateful I found friends like that this year. Ines, Caryn, Agay, Six, Tara, Dawn. Thank you.

I am grateful for travel, and for Aze, Chuks and Sunny, friends who are willing to get lost and found with me, endure what I turn into when I’m hungry, hot, excited, frustrated, and weary. I am grateful for spring and summer, for long walks and mosh pits. 2016 was Tokyo and Osaka. Cherry blossoms, a stock market field trip, Tsukiji again for mind-bending sushi, takoyaki and okonomiyaki, Summer Sonic with half-naked, half-baked Charlie Puth, wonderful, swaying Matty, Weezer and Panic! and Baby Metal (will stop here, this is a long list).

I am grateful for food. Dear God, thank you for food. I sure ate a lot of pancakes and sushi and cake this past year.

I am grateful for work. For people who make it just a little bit more intense, but still more fun, less like work. For officemates who take time to visit my cubicle and distract me from work, because sometimes I need that. I always promise not to take work too seriously, and I always break it. Maybe serious is okay? Maybe serious means I don’t hate it like I did the old one, and I appreciate it for what it is, and what it allows me to do.

I am grateful for art. For art fairs, museums, postcards, movies and theater, so much theater. For music. For borrowed acoustic guitars, for OPM and gigs. For that moment when you’re in the middle of the crowd, swimming in sound, the drumbeat moving inside you, and you’re there, you’re present, so present, but you’re also somewhere else. In that line of the song that talks about your life in abstract, or in minute detail. In that beat when the vocalist’s eyes catch you, and you both smile, because maybe that was his favorite line in the song too. I listened and liked a few new local acts last year, but the standouts remain to be the greats from my high school days. Sandwich, Ely, Ebe, Parokya ni Edgar (with Vinci, please). Rakenrol hanggang umaga.

I am grateful for books. Dawn said there are still so many songs for me to listen to, and I said that’s like telling me there are still so many books to be read. Both are true, and it makes me panic a little sometimes. But it just means we will never run out, doesn’t it? There will always be words that will take us places while we’re reading in bed or in line at the grocery or sneakily in our cubicles when there’s a report to be finished. I am grateful for books I have written, books I am writing, books I still want to write.

I am grateful for #romanceclass, because you are friendship; a safe space. You are work, and you are books. And you are a promise of more things to look forward to. We will never run out.


Life and Lemons

November 9, 2016

The past few days made me feel like I need a long, scalding bath, the kind that strips off skin and exposes brand new flesh yet to be sullied by the pollution and wretchedness stifling the air. I need cake and chocolate and ice cream (together and all in one sitting), and really loud music. That Rebel Girls of Rock playlist I like, or something comforting on loop, like ‘Minsan‘ or ‘As Long As You Love Me,’ or just the jagged, winding, one-word chorus of ‘Maps.’ I want to go out dancing (the awful-looking crazy kind), or go on screaming at the top of my lungs inside the recesses of my head, and then find the doorway to Narnia, or to the now much sought after route to Canada, or to Mars.

But even Narnia had tyrants, and people doomed to forget history, and people doomed to doom themselves. So I will stay here, in this realm we have created and we are now bringing to ruin. I will pray, sing out loud, cry a little. Be silent when my heart needs it and speak out when I must. Talk it out—with real people and not with share-happy, Internet-spun historians and critics trolling social media. I will hold on to hope, because hope is one thing that keeps me human—my pockmarked skin, decaying flesh, frayed sinews, throbbing pulse, and bright slivers of hope.

Life and Lemons Maj Guanzon

October 19, 2016

I’m going to try to remember how it happened.

The night before was spent online. It was still Yahoo Messenger then, so vintage. We talked about icky boys and homework and group reports, well into the morning. I said good night before you, as my usual. Or maybe I fell asleep on you (that was my real usual). I woke up the next day expecting two things from you—a good night message laughing at whatever letter I’ve slept on. Ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp. And a good morning text sent hours before my brain would be properly awake. I was disappointed on both points.

Strange, I thought. But okay. I texted, good morning. Sorry about the deluge of P’s blahblahblah MRT complaint blahblahblah work’s gonna suck like usual but I hope you have an awesome day. Hours and people and emails passed. The morning passed. Still nothing. That afternoon, a few hours after lunch break, my phone rang, blinking your name. Weird, I thought. We were texters, not callers, unless there was an emergency. Like, ‘our gross classmate thinks you like him, ew’ kind of emergency. Like, ‘our group report is not making sense and it’s due this week. HELP.’ Why only now? was my other thought. I’ve been waiting for your texts since this morning! I picked up the call, let out the words to lovingly berate your tardiness. It was so unusual of you to be late, by the way. You were always prompt. Early, even.

I didn’t hear your voice at the end of the line. There were hiccups instead, and sobs. A low wail that formed my name. This is her mom, said the voice. She’s gone. She died this morning. But what about my birthday? was my first idiotic thought. Because you said we were going to celebrate my birthday as if I were turning 18. With a sleepover and many bottles of alcohol, tasting menu style. After that single flash of memory, it was darkness, and cold. Horrible, gripping, heart-numbing cold. But not enough to numb anything, not really. Not my mangled heart, or my legs that felt useless beneath me, sending me to the floor. Not my arms that felt stiff and heavy and unable to carry the weight of my head as I sobbed and groveled, staring at nothing, tuning out everything. Light, sound, soothing words, consoling hands, all sense and meaning. You were gone. Everything was gone.

Somehow I managed to get up. Wrench myself out of the pain. Finish the day, close up the vault, log out my computer. I managed to reply to texts. Yes, it’s real. She’s gone, I told them all. The wake will be tomorrow. Ask me again tomorrow.

I walked to church. I don’t remember what I did there. I don’t remember what I found. Was it solace? Was it peace from the buzzing of prayers and penance around me? Was it your presence, the tactile memory of your voice, your words in my head, your last hug, lingering on my skin, filling up my chest?

I got up from the pew, wiped my wet cheeks, and stopped by a Zagu cart on my way home. I bought a small cup of pearl shake, flavored crème brulee. Because the night before, amidst the talk of icky boys and pending schoolwork and things we dream of and things that hurt us, you told me how drinking crème brulee shake with extra pearls reminded you of sunlit, carefree days.

Life and Lemons

Art in the Park 2016

I think my friend Hazel and I are getting into the habit of creating traditions, one out of two thus far is making a date of Art in the Park. Art in the Park is an annual spread of relatively affordable creations scattered around Jaime Velasquez Park in Makati, from paintings to sculptures and various knickknacks, to books, clothes and shoes. There’s music blaring out of speakers, swapped with live performances once the sun goes down. There’s wine and beer, fish balls and dirty ice cream, and of course there’s the steady stream of people, all willing to endure the summer heat for a day of art appreciation and acquisition.

I’ve forgotten the origin story of why we went there last year for the first time. I think Hazel was on a mission to spruce up the bare walls of her office and her bedroom. Unlike her I didn’t have blank, decorate-able space, but I like staring at strange, beautiful things created by people. So I came along. This year, we were driven by the same motivations, and we came out of it with the same sentiments (well, at least I did)—the sun wasn’t any kinder, but it’s always a great high being surrounded by these wonderful and wonderfully weird, manmade things. Half a day spent there is never going to be enough. Let’s make it a whole day affair next year? I want to be there when the fairy lights mark the perimeter of the tents and burst through the low canopies of trees. Continue Reading

Life and Lemons Writing Now

The Year I Didn’t Turn 30

I realize this is my second 2015 year-end post, and there will be some overlapping highlights. I guess the double-post of sorts is testament to how remarkable last year had been.

And I did turn 30, technically. But going into 2015 I thought that’s all this year will be: the one when I turned another decade, wherein I would embark in a more serious hunt for anti-aging implements that worked, and I would solemnly swear that I’d watch what I eat, and that I would figure out if I like my day job enough. But I think it’s that fear exactly, of aging, of a bucket list I can’t keep up with, of being more than ever required to be an adult, that pushed me to take the leap on things I’ve only dreamed about. This year, I looked at some of those dreams in the face, and went ahead and grabbed them by their slippery tendrils. Continue Reading