Tuesday, June 29, 2010


It usually takes me twenty minutes getting ready in front of the mirror. If I had hair, it would take more. But beyond the silent questions whether I stand out in a crowd without being too conspicuous, whether the prints and colors compliment each other, another blatant one nags: Do I look gay?

“A little vanity,” according to Bunny Jeans, “reflects a healthy ego.” Unlike Narcissus, I’d like to think that all my primping is far from egotistical. Though I’ve always considered what other people think of me to be somehow important, I am not consumed by it. Not to the point that it renders me immobile or riddled in pretention, but other people’s impressions of me does matter in a way.

Ever since I started sporting the skinhead look, impressions have hounded me. They’re mostly the wrong ones, but all fascinating nonetheless. People are intimidated, often perceiving me as arrogant, a bad boy, or terribly temperamental. The negativity seems to increase whenever I keep silent, smoke my cigarette, and let my facial hair grow. Dark circles from lack of sleep or a self-imposed fast can make me look like a rapist or druggie. In my commutes, I see people either avoiding me or carefully minding their space. When I stayed with my brother in California some time ago, I remember that no amount of sorbet-colored clothes could shake off the impression that I may be some Mexican thug. Passing by a gasoline station one time and seeing an American teen glare and spit in my direction made me really nervous.

A friend of mine once said that I look straight, but when I open my mouth it becomes another story. Yeah, I can talk a lot. I usually have a lazy and soft inflection, which is possibly influenced by my Southern upbringing. But I can dribble like a thespian too, especially when I get carried away in a conversation. I must admit that my penchant for proper enunciation and pronunciation borders on the compulsive. I play with accents randomly and have been mistaken to have gone to school or grown-up abroad, either in the United Kingdom or the United States. Honestly.

My voice is peculiar and another matter altogether. I can bellow like a cow when I sing as a bass-baritone, but my speaking voice straddles breathy and light. I rarely shriek but howl like an ogre when a cockroach flies by. It never fails that whenever I’d like the attention of a server in a restaurant, I call them in the lowest voice possible. It really works. I get what I want and I get it fast.

I’ve also been accused by my students before and some acquaintances of being a party boy. I do listen to house music and actively socialize whenever I’m out and about, but I’d rather a quiet night. I like to watch movies, have dinner, dessert and coffee, a chill nightcap, and meandering conversations with friends. When I ask them why they see me that way, it’s apparently how I dress. If you asked me what my fashion aesthetic is, I’d describe it as “edgy preppy.” Sometimes I experiment with monochrome, adding a dash of loud colors, but never like the freakish abandon of Lady Gaga. I’d like to think my bald head brings to mind images of a DJ, a rowdy club, and parties that break at dawn.

So, do I look gay? My sister is usually swift to reply: “But aren’t you, hunny?” It’s funny how both questions are rhetorical. True. I am. But my concern lies more in people’s perception of me. Nobody likes to be misunderstood, misconstrued, or even mortified with some miscast idea of themselves. The truth is, impressions can be frustrating because we are unable to justify ourselves immediately with reasons or explanations. Impressions are private thought bubbles that can be dangerous. They can ruin relationships before they even start. They also weaken paranoid, over-thinking, quasi-vane individuals like me.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I woke up with my jaw clenched. Amid the morning grogginess, there was a pervading anxiety that kept me staring blankly. I had a nightmare.

From what I remember, it was about my bed and how it began to bother me. Though it remained adequately soft, I felt lumps in several areas. I’d usually consider them a banality. Just like the many stains and the occasional odor during summer, the lumps were something I’d easily ignore. But in the dream, they called out for my attention.

Interestingly, even my silent and brooding brother took part in it all. We were amicable when I approached him with my concern. He offered me advice and asked that I check what was underneath my mattress. My curiosity welcomed it, interested at what things I may have swept underneath the bed through the years.

Sunset lit my room weakly. Amid the shadows, there were patches of orange and scraps of sickly yellows. My bed was half-shrouded in gray darkness.

My inspection began by pulling the dark blue sheets off one corner of the bed, exposing the layers of mattresses. As I lay on my stomach, the view below me was so novel. The long-hidden area was covered in an almost paper-like film. It was light brown and had darker patterns that simulated some parquet floor. I thought it cheap and tacky, and was glad that it lay hidden underneath all this time.

Excitement grew as I took off the rest of the sheets and pillows. Moving the top mattresses was an unexpected struggle. I didn’t realize how heavy they were. I smiled at how silly I was to not have gotten out of the bed first before doing all the moving. Then, I gasped. It was horrible. The site before me made my jaw drop. I wanted to scream but nothing escaped.

Gangrenous with splotches of dried blood, there were three sets of human limbs. Brutally decapitated and neatly laid out in the corners of the last mattress were hands, a pair of legs, and something wrapped in soiled cloth. It frightened me to recognize that the legs were those of a ballerina, the toes still pointed in some frozen dance. The severed hands had intricate Elizabethan cuffs attached to their gory wrists. They were delicately placed on top of another as if readied for a sculptor to mold. I couldn’t, I didn’t dare touch the bloody rag.

Questions raged in my head, choking me: Whose were these? Why are they here? What beast had done this?! I began to tear with all the confusion and fear. My body couldn’t stop trembling. Without taking my eyes off the brutality before me, I slumped to the floor and wept.

Even when I had awakened, the horror in the dream was as real as my heartbeat. I couldn’t move. My eyes, unflinching, gazed at the beige wall paper on my bedside. As I traced the insipid features of the wall, the images of the ballerina’s legs, the Elizabethan hands, and the soiled rag flashed before me. I stared at the wall even harder. The questions continued to nag: Whose were they? Why my bed? Who killed these women? Why? Why was this all so familiar?

A chill crept through me.

Oh my god. I knew it! The Fear! The Fear!! I recognized it so well. It was that monstrous terror so powerful that it had taken shape and lain beside me. Somewhere beneath the crumpled sheets, it hid—content, glowing red, and filled with knowing. It had accompanied me through those secret nights, ravenous in my search to kill, to dismember, to keep. I remembered the feel of crimson slippery between my fingers, its rawness smelling like the sea.

I turned to my side. With eyes still wide open, I tried recalling who else I may have killed, where else I might have stashed their decapitated limbs. I stopped breathing. How could this have happened?! Why? Why? Why?!!

I got up, grabbed my towel and rushed to the shower. The cold water slammed against my skin and jolted me back to the womb-like comfort of my bathroom. I closed my eyes and let the shower run. As the water flowed through my body, I imagined it washing away the stickiness of the nightmare. I whispered a chant: it’s gone… it’s over… you’re ok. My breathing eased. My heart took on a steadier pace.

After drying myself up, I sat on my bed and looked around me. The mid-afternoon sun was bright, painting my room golden. My bed was its usual mess: three pillows scattered, sheets creased into some mad swirl. The mattress was soft. The avenue downstairs was alive with buses and jeepneys coursing through it.

In my stillness, I went through the nightmare again in my head. It was a relief to know that it was just a bad dream. I knew that everything was alright, that all would be well.

I touched my legs, I clasped my hands, then I felt the warmth of my cheeks. Everything was intact, everything was in place. I was innocent. I was alive.