Fast Food Frustrations (Pt. 1)

Warning: Grammarly tried to help me but I was too tired to edit everything out. It’s a rant, you know. ~

When I was younger, at an age where I thought I could be anything without having to do much work, I never thought I’d work in a fast food restaurant. Three things that cross my mind about fast foods when I was young: food, toy, and playground.  Come to think of it, it was only when I grew older did I start to think about what it would be like to work in a service-based industry. And I did.

First things first, working at Mcdonald’s opened my eyes to a whole new perspective. Not only did I discover new things about others but I also learned a dozen more about myself (which I never deemed was possible to actually come from my self-proclaimed introvert self). Yep, working at Mcdonald’s as an introvert has quite a lot of challenges wherein I was forced to interact and talk non-stop for one 8-hour shift. And if that wasn’t enough, sometimes it lasts for a 10-hour one (without overtime, sadly).

Now the thing about working in an environment that required you to talk and interact with hundreds of people a day, you can never guarantee of getting a decent human being after decent human being. There will always be the crudest and probably the most uncivilized neanderthals that could ever walk this Earth. Some start off as okay, apathetic (which in my opinion can be the worst of the bunch, too) but some are just awfully rude, you’d wonder how they’ve managed to live in this world without at least getting punched in the face at least five times a day (cause I would if I was violent). You could greet them with the most courteous smile you’ve mustered despite only having 5 hours of sleep, ask them about their well-being in a slightly higher pitch than usual, or hand them their receipts gently–and they’d still glare at you, barely nod, stare apathetically and then grab the paper right from your fingertips and drive away. Cue the part where I just wish they’d hit a car on the road or bad luck, generally. Others even draw their hand back like you’ve just handed them a vial of the most contagious disease in the entire universe and tell you, “I don’t need that”. Well, you could’ve just told me properly before I stuck my hand out in the cold only to have been rejected.

If I was talking out loud, my voice was probably rising by the middle of the above paragraph.

There could be so much frustration in working in a fast-food place and most of the times, there’s nothing you can do. No matter how nice you appear to them, there will always be a bunch of customers you could wish you can throw against the wall. But of course, I won’t forget about the ones who are actually decent enough to never make you feel so inferior about your minimum wage work. Although it always cracks me up when they react about how nice I am to them, which also gets me thinking, “Have we come to a time where basic human courtesy and decency has become so shocking because rarely anyone does it nowadays?” Which is true, right? Right.

Basically, the whole point of what I’m trying to say is that having to work in an environment such as Mcdonald’s taught me the principles of being patient (and also, how high my patience-o-meter actually is). I could feel like throwing a fit but I can’t very well likely in the middle of a shift. I keep tiring myself over having to weigh choices on whether I should be rude right back or should I (sounds easier than most) just gather my wits and keep myself sane by ignoring them and continue being civil.

Basically #2 (and the shorter version): There’s just no peace of mind when working in a fast food restaurant. Especially when it’s a busy day. Hello, hell hole.

List Of My Own

Mistake no. 1
I believed in him. In every fucking word he said. I believed his 5,000 word essay on how everything would be better if Sanders sat on the presidential seat, or how he explained, with perfect accuracy, the differences of psychology and ethics–hell, I even believed in him when he told me–well, not exactly told me–there was always a chance for everybody. Even in love.

Mistake no. 2
I fell for the little things. The opening of doors, the pulling up of seats, the late night conversations, the stay safe and take cares, the covering up of each other’s mistakes so we both could get away with it, even the tiny nudges on the shoulders, the pull on the elbows, the tap on the knees, the brushing of arms, the ruffling of hair–fuck, even the hugs that seemed to only last for a few damned seconds.

Mistake no. 3
I wouldn’t open my eyes. Not even when everything was practically shoved into my face. Not even when everyone was basically pushing me to stay away from you, telling me I was far too precious and deserving for someone else greater than you. That I could meet and have anyone I wanted if I simply accepted the fact that it can’t ever be you. But i couldn’t.

Mistake no. 4
My hands held on for too fucking long. The bruises, the scrapes, the blisters–they were all there, hurting every second, every minute, every day I refused to let go. My heart clenched, pounded, hurt, squeezed, everytime I saw you, everytime i touched you, even everytime I simply remembered you. I guess i found the love i thought I had in pain. That in its reccesses there was something to fix, to turn, to make into something. But I had to learn the hard way that pain will always be pain and that hardly anything nice will come out of it. I don’t know why I’ve always tried to convince myself otherwise.

Mistake no. 5
I loved you a little too less and a little too much. Less when I didn’t give two cents on who the hell you always talked to, laughed with, spent most of your hours on and too much when I tried taking in any means possible what I thought was mine–you.

Mistake no. 6
It took too long to realize.

Mistake no. 7
I still reminisce, you know. About those little moments we’ve shared, topics we’ve tackled, arguments we’ve had, awkwardness we’ve gone through, opinions we’ve debated on–i still remember the twinkle in your eyes whenever i said something you found witty, or the shake of your head when you got too disappointed, or how you used to shut everyone out when you weren’t in the mood, or even, even when you simply smiled–at me, at her, at him, at everyone you knew. I found that quality quite endearing, along with how much of a gentleman you will always be.

Mistake no. 8
I hoped. Too fucking much, i’ll have to admit. I clung to the hope, to the idea of us, never realizing in the first place that it was all a figment of my imagination. That everything I’ve built, everything I wanted, was only there to protect me from myself–from the reality that i was always pushing away. And it hurt when everything crumbled. It really did.

Mistake no. 9
I tried to stay. I tried to patch everything up as if it were some kind of paper that could be fixed with tape but we both knew it was deeper than that. The wound ran so much wider, so much deeper, that it could never be fixed with simple small talks and 45-minute phone calls. This was something that had to take its time. And distance. Fucking distance. I could never quite give that to you or to myself.

Mistake no. 10
I was sorry for myself. But I realized that I could only be sorry for the things I have unintentionally done, for the things I had no control over, for the things that were never quite in my hands. And everything that happened? I knew what I was doing. Every move, every step, every thought, every moment–i knew where I was going. I just refused to see otherwise.

2 Bottles Down

You took a swig of beer, grimacing. I simply watched you in fascination, my arms crossed over my chest, limp, with my head pounding, my vision spinning.

“You.” You said, pointing at me. “You know how it feels like.”

I tilt my head to the right, my head feeling like it weighed tons. “What?”

“What does it feel like? Loving me, I mean? You’ve been doing it for what, 3 years?” You squint, almost jeering.

I straightened up, shrugged and said, “You wouldn’t want me to describe it.”

Your head bobbed up and down, your eyes never leaving mine. “Yes I would. I trust your judgments.”

“Okay. So.”

You waited for a few minutes, your bottle of beer forgotten.

I wanted to tell you that loving you felt like I was underwater, but I didn’t know how I got there. I refused to resurface, believing there was still something left to save, something to salvage, and something that could be for us. I was using every bit of oxygen I had in store, blinded that I was slowly dying in the process. And my lungs felt like they were about to burst, bubbles escaped my lips, floating over me, beckoning, but instead of pushing against the pressure of the current, I let it push me even deeper down, down, down. And I close my eyes because I can’t resurface just yet.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I told you that loving you felt like a fresh breath of air when you’ve been in the city for too long. It was refreshing, like water on a scalding burn, like sunshine on a gloomy day, like the excitement you feel when you received a letter from a friend who lived far away, or like you just topped your exams. It was familiar, like eating your favorite candy when you were a child, or running along the meadow with a kite in tow, or holding your best friend’s hand when the world turned its back on you. It was satisfying, like a pint of ice cream when you just had a bad day, like finishing a book you never thought you would, or a mother’s hug when you needed it most.

When I finished, you looked astounded, shocked into silence.

I pursed my lips. “I told you so.”

“You know,” you straightened up, “You’ve always been a poet when asked about these kinds of stuff, yeah?” You paused, shaking your bottle a little. “But you’re my poet. Always will be.”

And I smiled, wishing that were true.

Riptide

Do not sweep me inside an embrace that can only last as for how long, I am not certain, and neither are you. If you choose to keep me, tighten your clasp around me and never let go; no matter how hard, how rough, how painful it will be. The warmth you radiate is enough to keep me going, the protective stance you have built is what I truly need. This is a world where realists are bittersweet towards everything in their way and where dreamers are wanderlust, soaring among the clouds in their own bubbles. I do not belong anywhere, I do not choose to stay in one place but I am no drifter, either; I am simply caught in a riptide that crashes between two kinds.

Do not tell me sweet words that tend to linger like fingertips grazing my skin. I am gullible, vulnerable to anything, especially if those are the exact things I long so much to hear. I will assume, I will hope for things that aren’t meant to be. If you truly appreciate me, please do not leave me hanging where I am dangling by the edge of the cliff and thorny bushes are spread below me. If you let me go, at least tell me so. If you do, it will help me cushion my fall and I might be able to stand again despite the scars not only visible on the outside, but also in the inside.

Do not give me material things that I will have such a hard time to let go of. They are pieces of you that will remind me of what we used to be, of what I hoped we would be. There will always be memoirs that will be dear to both of us, and when we let them go…we will do it with open arms and we will look at each other and say our “good-byes”. 

Do not tell me to stay because you simply need me. I need you so much that it hurts with every breath I take and even when I close my eyes, I can only see your outstretched hand. I have invested so much for you. So much heartache, so much pain, so much tears; and yet, there is still the faint beat of happiness that the memories tend to pulsate around me. And I am thankful for that. But do not expect me to be always there for you, to always be the beacon of light in the midst of darkness. I love you, but I need to try letting go of things that bring me down.

I am trapped in a riptide where cold water drenches me from both sides. My emotions are a whirlpool, sucking everything and everyone in. 

So, I’m sorry if I step out of line. I really am. 

But I am in a riptide. And I can’t get out on my own. 

Confessions In Ink

You should know that I’ve longed to intertwine my hands with yours; fingers interlocked, palms pressed to close the distance. That even though it will get clammier by the second, sweat running and creating a humid feeling, I will never let go. Instead, I’ll hold on with the determination you won’t expect, with excitement pulsing through me in irregular beats. We could walk through corridors, alleys, streets and people will see, but I’ll hold it up like a trophy; I won’t be ashamed. I’ll grip your hand tighter, my heart beating in a faster pace.

You should know that your hugs comfort me in a way that blankets do at night and I’m all alone. That the warmth you radiate bounce off in waves and I snuggle against it. Your chest becomes a sudden pillow and when I wrap my arms around you, trying to nonchalantly tap you in the back like it was some sort of bro code so as not to betray the growing feelings inside me, I pray for it to last—even for 0.01 milliseconds. But I pull back anyway and the sun shines in your eyes and I see the color in them, glinting mischievously. And after that, do not wonder why I would shy away—but it is to calm my pounding heart and slow down the rush of blood as it colors my cheeks.

You should know that our secret smiles and stolen glances are enough to keep me going for a day. That those decoded messages and unspoken understandings are ours alone to be passed back and forth, two words colliding in swirl of emotions. Thoughts slip in and out of us; debates over petty things, comparisons over ridiculous discoveries, and agreement over various realizations. If literal speech bubbles existed, ours would be filled with haphazardly placed conversations, written by the exploding mind. But those tiny fragments of the moments we shared would still fit snugly side by side, like missing pieces in a puzzle.

You should know that when people talk about you, my heart skips a beat, my ears perk up in anticipation and my focus sways from what I was originally doing. And when they are two seats or two tables away from me, I will still strive to listen and find a way to hear more. It may be eavesdropping but I’ll still pass by casually, straining to listen about you, flitting descriptions filling my head. And they will giggle about you, laugh at you, fawn over you and I envelope myself in the vulnerability of the matter. I will talk about you too, dropping hints of our memories into my conversations with others and I might smile unknowingly and my stomach will do somersaults and tiny little flutters inside of me will begin.

But there are times that knowing too much is a curse and I might end up sitting in a corner, my thoughts dilly dallying in a world not of my own making. And like the wind passing through my fingers, you slip through my mind as well.

You should know that I like to bask in your attention, laugh at your jokes and even sport a frown when you’re being too tactless. Know that I send group messages about you and about us, but they are hidden between the lines of my favorite quotes and heartbreaking poetry. You live in my world as the knight who will not be in a shining armor, but as a knight whose armor is dented and dirty because he has gone through several quests to reach the tower that is mine. I think of you as the boy who will continue to live on as I describe you as much as I can through pens and papers, forever sealed in ink, in letters of calligraphy or ugly scrawls.

And when you can’t organize your feelings into paper, I’ll present you with ways that are different than the ordinary; you set the pace and I’ll follow closely behind, cautiously leaving our marks on the ground, a reminder of you and I—us.

Lastly, you should know that the struggle of refusing to nurture my feelings for you can be as hard as climbing the cliffside without my own harness. I know about the probability of falling into the depths of sorrows and the current of its ocean engulfing me, waves bobbing up and down, pushing me deeper and farther from the surface. Warning bells go off, followed by the shrill of an unmistakable alarm and flashing signs would greet me face-to-face, glaring neon lights blinding my eyes.

But I am like the moth and you are the flame, the attraction a growing bond that becomes harder to sever.

Note that I will try to stop myself from looking for you in the sea of students, an outstanding figure in the midst of them all. I will try to stop myself from thinking about you in the middle of class, conjuring situations that I long for to exist and happen, daydreams flying in and out of my mind. I will try to lessen the curiosity bubbling inside of me, the longing that led Romeo and Juliet to the end of their tragic story, their ultimate demise.

But I ask for one thing and one thing only.

Listen to my words.

Look into my eyes.

Find me in between these lines and you will know.

Hypnotic Neuroticism

Fragments of me are scribbled on paper, thoughts lined up structurally in ink. Words flit around my mind, a disarrayed combination of phrases and sentences that I want to write down but am too disorganized to do so.

For a writer can have neurotic days and nights, and long before you know it, their brains have exploded into activity that cannot be controlled, tamed. An endless stream of ideas will cautiously climb on top of another, piling up and turn into senseless thoughts that can no longer be filtered for too much is going on. A writer will try to keep up with the pace; pen sliding across the paper and fingers flying over the keyboard in a manner that one does not wish to destroy the buttons too hard but excitement has long ridden one into giddiness to seal ideas forever in ink. Vocabulary battles will always be there; a struggle for definitions and satisfaction over synonyms and antonyms that can be further used into describing rich details with lighted illumination.

A writer may have the gift to juggle metaphors into existence and present them in ways that are understandable to the readers but the process itself has thrown one into throes of unending comparison.

How do I get my message across when I, myself, am struggling to cross my ocean of confusion?

I am a girl with no concrete beliefs, whose spoken verdicts sway like the bamboos in the wind, whose convictions shake and tremble like the hanging bridge, and whose stand for certainty can be as fragile as porcelain. I am a girl who is constantly in a tug-of-war, my decisions weighed thoroughly and surely even in mere subjects of which shirt to wear, bag to use, and book to read. I can be as confusing as a labyrinth, as moody as the weather, and as vulnerable as eggshells.

I traipse through undiscovered worlds in my imagination, locked away in a jail of my own making, never seeming to be free in the inside, deceiving the people who I see everyday. I am a prisoner of my own thoughts, delving further into the depths of words and skylines of ideas, never really reaching them no matter how much I stretch my hands towards them. My lips never really seem to move and my unspoken stories are long being latched with chains.

The problem with knowing too much is knowing how to differentiate anything from fantasy to reality. Different versions of the truth will fry the brain. The mind becomes a neurotic storage without seemingly any chance of getting better. Grappling with sentences and structures become a daily routine, a substantial satisfaction but never seeming to be enough. And if you rip them apart, blood wouldn’t be the only thing bleeding out, but unspoken and unheard thoughts will drip onto the floor, too. A writer’s block can feel like the apocalypse; everything trapped in abyss and no matter how much you try to squeeze it all out, nothing will come, nothing will save you from the despair of frustration as you helplessly swipe at anything. But nothing presents itself.

I become bipolar. Writers become bipolar.

But I am a writer.

I will continue to be a writer.

For they can have so many dreams they would want to wove together in a tangle of colors, stories turned into written entertainment, or information to be passed onto the curious.

The struggle remains, and it thrives within.

But the pleasure of stringing the words into a single thought, a whirlwind of meanings and a cornucopia of emotions, is what keeps me going.

Ironia

Isn’t it ironic how a person can love someone, yet hate him at the same time?

The world has long been filled with irony in every single one of its nook and cranny, crevices that have crawled among the surfaces, and even the gaping holes that people long to ignore. Even the people are bathed in it; christened to be a walking paradox that strolls among the grasslands, runs across roads to buildings, and even swims in the oceans that are as vast and colossal as the sky.

I tell myself that I’ll be alright. I whisper it to the wind first thing in the morning and even before I go to sleep. But no matter how much I try to convince myself, answers keep on piling on top of me, seen yet never noticed.

And now, the time has come where I have started to hate things about you.

I hate your brown eyes and the spark of passion that dwells in it. The way it lights up to things you tell me about, you share about, you care about. Even its tiny glances and relentless flickering to drink in any observations around you have started to annoy me in ways that I understand but still, a tiny voice inside tells me not to. I see your whirlwind of emotions in those eyes, the true mirror to your soul.

And I’ve wished on dandelions that you’ll look at me with passion and happiness as if you were a blind man who has just seen the sun. But that’s not the case.

I hate the way you talk about the things that matter to you. The way you describe them in rich details makes me feel as if you’ve stripped them naked until vulnerability and have gone to convincing people to believe in everything that you’re saying. Your words are filled with so much sincerity that even the simplest vocabulary begin to sound impressive. The way you speak the truth makes it seem as if the facts have their own branches to spread all over in a reach that an be as high as the Empire State Building and as wide as Russia.

I do not see you as a manipulator but someone I wanted to be described by. I am curious. How do you see me?

I hate the way you act as if nothing happens. A private chat and a personal message can mean so much for a person like me who has grown up needing the love and attention of the others. And yet, when I see you, when I remember all those lengthy conversations, my hesitation heightens because of the gut feeling that you might not even remember all the tiny facts I have been dropping as hints. I am not afraid to admit that may I not remember every single detail, I still remember most.

Do you even know me at all? Or is it all different from what I think this is?

I hate the fact that you’re oblivious about me. I see you and talk to you everyday, and the change may be gradual but it’s there. A lingering fact seems to hover among you and yet you keep your head low in oblivion, unaware of my feelings and maybe too afraid to even look up.

I thought the tables could turn. I thought you could flip. Maybe I was wrong.

But most of all, I hate how I still like you after all of this time. I hate the fact that I still care and I still feel the flutters in my heart, the somersaults in my stomach and the rush of blood in my ears whenever you’re near. I hate how you would casually sling your arm over my shoulders and pull me near, or even the times wherein you tell me secrets and I feel the burden of carrying it alone, the moon too far away to have listened and the stars too many to confide in.

Hearts will break, eyes will cry, noses will sniffle, and lips may dry. But believe me I know that. And I hate that I do and yet I ignore it.

You’re my friend. I’m your confidante.

I’ve been pondering on this so much and I’ve come to a conclusion that maybe there will be a “someday” that I’ll get over you. That there would be a time where my hate would subside and my feelings will fade.

And as ironic as it may seem, for now, let’s stay this way, yeah?

Four Seasons + You

When I first saw you, you were twirling your pen between your index and middle finger, deep in thought and might as well have been contemplating on what the future held. Maybe you were.

I was sitting two tables away, my chair facing your direction and a book laid open in front of me: Inorganic Chemistry with its colorful graphics of molecules dotting the cover, connected. Maybe I wanted to connect with you then, but I shook my head, thought I was too pathetic and carried on reading.

I saw you again after quite some time. It was just the start of spring and the flowers have just blossomed open, the leaves have become greener, and the sun shining warmly as it crept into the window of my favorite coffee shop. It was probably yours too since the cashier asked whether it was the usual or you’d like to try something new. You’ve been hanging out here since, bringing the same old black notebook and still, you twirled your pen, lost in thought. The rays turned your hair brown as you sat by the window in the red ottoman and you squinted as you peeked out the window. Were you waiting for someone?

Spring became livelier by the day, the bermudas growing taller in my front yard, the orchids that my mom has been nurturing turned lovelier even more and as they continued to blossom, my curiosity did too. You sat by the same space everyday and by the hour, I had to order the same old thing so I could act like I was studying too when really, I was just building the courage to approach you and strike up a conversation. It’s never easy when you’re the girl. But the chance never came. We came and went, just like the spring.

Summer arrived quickly. I haven’t been inside the coffee shop for a month since. I wondered if you would be there but I also wished you weren’t. I was trying to drown the curiosity that was bubbling continuously inside me; it bugged me between study periods, raced across my mind during lunch time and even danced around my thoughts when I prepared myself for bed. I haven’t seen you around in school, too.

The soft rattle of the wind chimes above the door got your attention. You looked up and our eyes met for about half a second and then I looked away. I approached the counter and smiled, flattered, when the cashier asked me where I had been all this time. As I tried to answer her questions, I threw casual glances at your table and faltered when I saw another girl directly beside you. Funny that I didn’t notice her before. Was she your girlfriend? Surely…

As quick as I could, I paid for my iced coffee and bolted out the door and under the rays of the sun that scalded my bare skin. The pavement was hot and my shoes were wearing thin on the soles. The shop windows were presenting their annual summer sale and as much as I would have wanted to look through those racks, I just wanted to get home. Summer became dreary yet bright, rainfall missing in action. The air became humid yet stale, and I could feel my plants starting to die. And just like that, so did my curiosity for you.

It has been 2 months since the start of my college year. Studying in an Ivy League had a lot of pressure; more than I thought I could bargain with. Sleepless nights ensued, endless flipping of pages, and jotting down notes that filled half of my notebook (and it was only after 2 weeks that I had to buy a new one). Autumn has come, turning the trees and its leaves inside the campus into an array of golden brown, yellow, red, and even green. The fallen ones were strewn around, littering the pathways from building to building. The wind became stronger every day until I couldn’t stand to be out too long without a hoodie to protect myself with.

Flitting thoughts of you continued to crowd my head. I didn’t know you personally, you were just a boy from school, and yet your presence had greatly affected me. Maybe it was the kindness I saw in you that day you helped an elderly woman cross the road. Or the time you dropped a particularly huge bill inside the jar for UNICEF. Or yet, it was that time that you saved me from a bad fall with the teacher in journalism class when you answered the question with wit and humor, taking the attention away from me (I was too embarrassed to even say thanks). Perhaps, I was yet to discover.

Autumn continued to come in a shower of color, and when I began to decide that I was most definitely over you, I stopped myself, thought I was too pathetic, and carried on with my academics instead of also wondering where you could be.

Winter, ah, my favorite season. The white, fluffy stuff always captured my attention. It reminded me of a vague memory of spilling slush all over my shirt when I was young and having my father wipe the front of my blouse with his handkerchief, and I having to step over the fallen drink, listening to its crunch under the heels of my shoes. The icy breeze made my teeth chatter, my hands shake, and my knees lock that it takes me a long time to cross from one building to the other. And yet, I still love its uniqueness.

It’s almost a year wherein I would have to celebrate my infatuation or cry over it as I try to bury it six feet under the ground. I remember you being aloof in some classes, with a demeanor that was like ice; hard to break yet you looked fragile as you focused and zeroed in on everything that was discussed. In a way, as I trudged down the walkway with the snow that continued to fall, I am reminded of you. I didn’t even know your name since we only had one elective that didn’t even require a whole lot of discussions; just basic instructions and we were off to write a creative output. True, I’ve wasted dozens of opportunities in that little coffee shop. My heart squeezed a little when I remembered your smile, like it had become a secret between you and I because you rarely did that outside that shop; or when you brushed past me by the entrance, I on my way in and you on your way out.

We have become very much like the four seasons. Our lives have continuously shifted in a pattern that we had no choice but to be accustomed with. We were totally different, and yet we cross paths and exchanged places for some time without the acknowledgment of one another. We came and we went.

Suddenly, I slip and land on my back. Air whooshed out of my lungs in a pace that left me coughing so hard as I sat up and tried to brush off the cold snow that were starting to melt and drenching my clothes, my rear. I could have cussed in frustration but a hand stretched towards me and I pull on it without hesitation.

“Thanks–” I had started to say when you cleared your throat and I had to look up. And stared.

After three months, it’s you.

“I remember you,” you said, “The girl I always saw hanging around in the coffee shop, yeah?”

I remembered nodding but I was frozen with giddiness. Who would have thought I would see you again?

You smiled and my heart squeezed; not in pain but with joy because after all this time, you finally had it directed at me.

“Oh yeah. By the way, my name’s Dean.” You said and offered a hand. “You okay now?”

I shook it. Despite the woolen gloves I wore, I felt the warmth of your hand. The same hand that twirled the pen over and over, having me locked in a trance most of the time, back at the coffee shop.

Talk about serendipity. Was this even destiny?

“Thanks,” I said. “My name’s Jean.”

In that briefest moment, I saw the sincerity of your smile and the interest in your eyes.

The snow continued to fall. And so did I.

Photographs

I’ve never given much thought as to how I would spend my Christmas this year. It’s all the same anyway; a perfectly normal day, secretly wrapping of presents, a dinner out, and lounging in the living room waiting for the clock to strike 12:00.

I don’t make a big deal out of it.
But my best friend does. And he’s made the effort to come home just for the holidays.

He wraps his arms from behind me and envelopes me into a tight bear hug, lifts me feet off the ground and twirls me around. I close my eyes, dizziness coming onto me and I let out a shrill “stop it!” and he puts me down.
“I swear to God, Alex–” I start to say when he turns me around and embraces me, though this time, a little more gently.

I love hugging people who are way taller than me. It makes me feel safe and protected, like they could be this cute human shield whenever someone tries to harm me. I rest my head on Alex’s chest, just under his chin, and feel the warmth radiating from his body despite the thick jacket he has bundled himself into. I wrap my arms around his neck and ruffle his hair from behind.

I missed him so much.

The airport’s bustling with activity as flight after flight departed and arrived, bringing homesick people into the arms of their family just in time for the holidays. Wreaths hang from every post, twinkling with Christmas lights that run in an array of red, green, blue, white and yellow. Songs play in the speakers, filling the cavernous area with cheerful spirit mixed with laughter from the people and shouting from the children.
I missed him so much.

When Alex got his letter from Yale, he had jumped around the house in pure joy and grabbed his mom for an impromptu dance as a sign of celebration. Then he climbed over the coffee table and hugged me so tight, I was sure my lungs would burst. I knew how much time he sacrificed to bust his ass off just so he could get the best grades for an Ivy League. And he did it.

It’s only been 4 months since our separation but the emptiness that hung between our distance sent our emotions into ricochet as soon as we saw each other in the flesh. No amount of texting or skype-ing could have prepared us as he barreled behind me and went on with his trademark hug. People usually think of us as a couple and I don’t doubt the ones here would think any differently.

But I know what we are and what we are not.
“Jazz, oh god, I missed you so much!” Alex whispers in my ear, tightening his hug even more.

“4 months,” I reminded him. “I missed you, too.”

He lets me go and he grins at me mischievously. I could feel something was coming and before I could fend off his incoming question, it beat me to line. Spotlight’s on me.

“Where’s Connor?”

“Connor…” I trailed off. I admit, I haven’t gotten around to telling him that Connor and I were over. One month ago.

“Jazz…” He knows I’m hiding something. He knows me too much. “You’re not making eye contact. Are you keeping something from me?”

I back off a little, hand in the air like I surrender. “Well…” I gulp. “Connor and I are over.”

He crosses his arm. “I bet you’re planning to use the–” he makes air quotes, “It’s-better-to-tell-you-in-person excuse.”

I hit him in the arm, a little too hard to show him I was serious. “It is better to tell you in person!”

He just nods. “Whatever you say,”

But his voice was taunting me. And he knew I hated that.

But before I was riled up, he envelopes me into another hug and plants his forehead against mine. “Doesn’t matter. Now, it’s just the two of us again.”

Alex always says I’m the best photographer in town. Sometimes, he says it so persuasively I almost believe him. And even if I tell him I’m not, he stands firm anyway. I value memories so much that I keep them forever frozen in photographs. Polaroids and developed pictures in frames take up half of my bedroom wall back home. I even brought some to my dorm in Columbia, where my roommate enjoys looking at Alex’s pictures too much and even to the extent of fawning over our pictures together because she says we have chemistry.

“Where are we going?” I ask as he slung his arm over my shoulder and pulls me close to his side as we walk out of the airport.

“Ah,” he smells the air, “Welcome to New York.”

I look up at him. “Dude, it’s only been 4 months.”

He looks down at me, his trance broken, and waggled his eyebrows. “Which felt like 4 years.”

I stick my tongue out. “Better get used to it, then.”

He meets my gaze and we lock eyes for a moment. The sound of car horns faded away in the background as I noticed the tiny golden flecks in his green eyes. My hands wanted to get my camera so that I could capture this moment forever, the snow gently falling on top of Alex’s head and melts as quickly as it had come. Suddenly, his grin wolfish, he breaks the contact.

“Let’s get to Central Park,” he says.

Central Park looks like a winter wonderland in this time of the year. It always has been.

Memories come rushing back of a 10-year old Alex gliding across the frozen lake, ice skating shoes on and a 10-year old me, wobbly, even with both of his hands gripping my own. I was too wrapped up with the thought of humiliating myself in front of kids who were way better and experienced than me. But Alex never let go and said:
“Jazz, you’re safe. You’ll always be safe with me.” And patiently glided alongside as I struggled and fell a dozen times, laughed at the appropriate moments and cheered when I finally maintained balance.

Even Central Park in summertime held memories I’m sure I’d never forget. Only that time, I was the boss and I was teaching Alex how to ride a bike at 12 years old.

It had been hot and humid, and yet I forced him to wear his protective gear (kneecaps, elbow caps, and helmet) even though I knew he’d be bathing in sweat by the time we finished. It’s a best friend thing, you know.
“Ahhhhhh,” Alex yelled as his bike swerved a hard left and he toppled over in a heap. “Jazz!!!”
I ran over to where he was, laughing despite his furious look and offered a hand. He took it quite hardly and pulled me down in a heap beside him. We laughed some more.

Somehow, I have photographs of those moments too, though it wasn’t as accurate as what really happened.
And now, as I take a look around, with Central Park illuminated in twinkling white lights, I catch sight of Alex sitting down on a bench. He pats the space beside him, beckoning me over.

“Melancholic, don’t you think?” I say as I sat down, my hands nestled deep within my coat pockets.

“Yes, I think so too,” he answers and turns to look at me over his shoulder since his elbows were propped on his knees. “I have something to tell you.”

My heart starts to pound so fast against my rib cages. Blood floods my face and I am glad it was starting to get dark. Around us, figures grew shadows as they stand under the light and then disappear.

He continues, poker faced. “Jazz, I’ve been thinking about this since I was in Yale.” He looks down for a while. Then he locks eyes with me. “I’ve been thinking about you.

I start to open my mouth so that I could as why when he shook his head. I stop.

“Remember that time when someone gave you a bouquet of red roses during Valentine’s day, senior year? How you thought it was Connor who gave you those and when you asked him, he said yes?” He gives me a crooked smile. “He lied. I sent those.”

I falter. No wonder he seemed so bitter that day. I had to practically beg him so that we could go and watch the movie we’ve been waiting for years.

“You did?” I whisper.

He nods, fiddling with this fingers, twisting the ring on his middle finger. “Also, I didn’t really want to go to the Tinseltown Prom with Natalie. I wanted to go with you since you seemed so lonely but Natalie had expected too much and so I relented.”

One by one, his confessions hit home. And one by one, my heart started to jump in joy. Of course I liked Alex. And he liked me back.

But it was an unspoken understanding between us. And it was enough because we weren’t in a hurry.

As the snow fell from the sky, the faint voices kids signing Christmas carols filling the air between us, he suddenly zips his bag open and fumbles for his phone.

“Alex, what are you doing?” I ask.

Music comes playing and he says, “Dance with me, Jazz.”

And we smile as he wraps his hands around my waist, bringing me closer, taking my hand in mine and resting my other on his shoulder.

“I’m not too late, am I?” Alex asks, his voice barely a whisper.

“Why are you whispering?” I giggle.

“Jazz,” his voice is back to normal, “I’m not too late, am I?”

I shake my head slowly. “You’re never too late, Alex.”

He leans his head forward and we kiss, his arms going all the way around my waist and my hands gripping the nape of his neck, going all the way through his hair.

Sometimes, why settle with photographs when alive and moving memories are so much better?

A Metaphorical Snapping

Words travel faster than understanding does
Dazed looks and unending fuss
A stream of messages strung up in the air
Over puzzled feelings and pretentious care.

I break a little everyday, pieces scattered across the floor
Echoes of falling digging into my core
And yet you’re one to step and listen to the breaking
A sensation of breathing, and yet, I’m still sinking.

You hear me, what I say passing through each ear
You listen, and it stops all my fear
A metaphorical snapping, a breaking of my heart
As fast as the target meets the dart.

I get it, I am no different from others
No reason for wasted attention like a drunkard gathers
But I hoped for a correlation between us
Because I thought I already knew what it was.