Day 4: Video Game (Golden Axe and Fabric Softener)

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Most early (and some late) magical moments in life are coin operated, and so against all odds, Saturday afternoons at Moon’s was the highlight of my week. Loading the car with laundry baskets and spending the day in a hot laundromat is hardly the kind of activity children would look forward to, but between the loading of laundry and monitoring of dryer cycles, was our oasis in the dessert. Tucked away in a dark corner, lurked “Golden Axe”.

We lived and did laundry in Harmon Industrial Park. An area of the island that wasn’t the most wholesome. The kind of place where, good intentions often got you hurt. Like my elderly neighbor who offered a man a glass of water and ended up getting hit over the head and robbed. It goes without saying, we were on the fringe part of the population that was struggling for normalcy. Of all of the things not having enough has taught me, the most enjoyable was probably how to be good enough at arcade games to make the most out of your 25 cents. We had a max of $2.00 between my sister and I, so I learned early on that my best defense against boredom was taking my man, Gilius Thunderhead, as far as he could go.

I learned a lot from these medieval quests–not only from the successes, but also from the failures. When I used up my coins, I’d observe the cross section of the population congregated at the laundromat. Lecherous men bravely waging war against mountains of laundry while hung over, Students making use of the weekend to catch up on chores, hardworking people nipping out between shifts to do laundry so they could have a clean uniform for their next shift, and people like my mother–housewives who worked full-time jobs but didn’t have enough for a sitter taking their kids to the laundromat and bribing them with games. I was an observer in a shared slice of everyone’s otherwise wildly varied pursuits, and for this I’m thankful. Because I learned that tough guys don’t look so tough when they see you cursing at a video game and give you another quarter, I learned that quiet ladies won’t hesitate to put you in your place when you act a fool in a public establishment, I even learned that you can pry a dryer lock open with a flat-head screwdriver and flick a switch for unlimited free drying! The mofo found a dryer cheatcode!

I learned that although in many ways, life differs from video games, in so many small ways that matter, it is profoundly similar. At some point we’ll run out of quarters, hopefully we’ll be able to say we made our turn count.

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Day 2: “Monster”

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In Filipino folklore, we have a monster known as the “Manananggal”. The manananggal severs its top half from the lower half and grows wings in order to search for prey. The upper half searches for victims while the torso remains in a hidden and safe spot. Mananggal are also known to have the ability of elongating their tongues to consume a fetus through the belly of a pregnant woman.

Today’s prompt, “Monster”, made me think of a Trump manananggal. I drew him here as half man, and half twitter logo bird. The most effective way to kill a manananggal is to find its lower half and destroy it. If the upper torso is not reunited by sunrise, it will perish. If everyone just ignored the twitter half of the Trump manananggal, I’m sure the Trump manananggal would perish.

Fucking Kung Fu Shoes

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I feel like much of my life has been defined by dichotomy. As a child I lived in the dicey part of the island and went to private school. This meant that at school I’d get mercilessly bullied for being a “poor” Filipino kid–“Hey, your shoes look familiar, I think I saw them on the clearance rack”. While walking home from the bus stop I’d get called out to fight by trailer park kids across the street just for wearing a uniform. “Hey bitch, you think you’re better than us? Oh so now you’re too good to look at me when I’m talking to you?”

At the start of the school year, they announced that there would be a “uniform” for Physical Education. That the uniform included shoes, but that kids could choose to wear any other “non scuff” shoes they had. I was actually relieved to have a uniform, because it meant that I wouldn’t stand out.

At the store, my mother scrutinized the fairly short list: Shorts, T-Shirt, uniform Nike’s. She asked the lady at the store, if there was some kind of computing error, because the price of the uniforms was so high. The computations were fine. Then she breathed a sigh of relief: “Oh, anak, we don’t have to get those shoes. It can be any ones as long as they don’t mark the floor!” To my horror, she decided to buy me a pair of $5 kung fu shoes from a Chinese shoe store. The next day was hell. I was convinced that every Kung Fu movie star was actually beat up because of their shoes. Not because of anything like political strife, warfare, or settling old scores. I often got in trouble for being forgetful, so for once, I decided to use my absent-minded nature to my advantage. I shoved the shoes under the bleachers and decided to tell my mother I lost them. She’d have to buy new shoes. I was pretty proud of my ingenious plan. Except that when I told my mother, the disappointment at the bottom of every shrill yell cut like a knife. I felt like scum.

In the end, I somehow convinced my mother to buy me the uniform shoes by appealing to her frugal nature. “Nike’s are better quality and they’ll last years longer than the cheap shoes.” We couldn’t really afford them, but my parents pinched pennies wherever they could. I figured that if I at least could get Nike’s like a normal kid, I’d be invisible. The teasing would stop. I was wrong. “Oh you think you’re shit because you got the ugly Nike’s? How long did your dad have to drive to get you those ugly shoes?” Earlier that month, a rumor had started that my father fulfilled the island stereotype of being a poor Filipino taxi driver when I missed the bus and having only one car, and two working parents and having basically no friends, my mom resorted to calling a cab to pick me up. Pretty much every kid had flashier shoes. They exploited the small shoe loophole to go ham on sneaker glam.

I wish I could tell you that I instantly learned that people are not defined by the things that they don’t have, but it was a long hard road for a kid to come to terms with the fact that life is unfair and people can be rotten. Luckily though, I’ve learned that to balance out the bitterness, life is also funny and ironic. Just a few years later, Jackie Chan would become my hero. I would plant myself in front of the TV for hours watching VHS tapes of kung fu movies I rented from the video store…and funnily enough found myself longing for a pair of kung fu shoes. Decades later I would find myself reading about these shoes called “Toms” that everyone was wearing and choking on my coffee while yelling at my screen, “THOSE ARE FUCKING KUNG FU SHOES!” So here’s to being an unwilling kung fu shoe trendsetter ages ago fending off haters on the battlefield called Saint Anthony School Gymnasium many lifetimes ago. Fucking Toms. Fucking kung fu shoes.

 

Silence like a cancer grows

I wish that the tears, like words, would never come, but they do.

“Hello? Hello?…Just go to sleep.”

I hear you, but I can’t say any more, my tongue a boulder blocking the cave where all of my thoughts dwell. I’m always caught between one foot out the door and one planted in place by the gravity of the situation. I feel like it’s been ages since a real smile crept across your face. As if it, too were trying to crawl the distance between you and I.

30 Facts, finished

This is just a continuation, rather a do-over of an old post…because…I should finish things I start. It’s actually ridiculously hard to come up with 30 random facts that are interesting, but here it goes:

  1. I was born in the Philippines but raised on Guam.
  2. Hot coffee makes me sleepy
  3. I hate winter with a passion
  4. I got into my head one year that I wanted to run away with the circus so I did trapeze. Twice.
  5. I lived in Japan and taught English for three years.
  6. I like martial arts and kung fu movies.
  7. I don’t like soda and I’m not a huge fan of ice cream…but I love root beer floats.
  8. I don’t eat pork or beef.
  9. The weirdest thing I ever ate was a shishkabob stick of grilled squid beaks, and I only did it because someone told my it would make my face beautiful.
  10. I have this dream of being a trumpet player in a surf rock band. Currently I can play “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.
  11. I love Jackie Chan.
  12. One of my best “Lost in Translation” moments in Japan was an accidental duet with a local stranger to Elvis Presley’s “Always On My Mind”.
  13. I hate talking on the phone when I’m not mentally prepared, and if you’ve ever called unexpectedly, I’ve probably sent you to voicemail.
  14. I love Indian food so much.
  15. I dream of making a Bat Signal one day.
  16. ooohhh boy reallllly scraping the bottom of the barrel now and I’m not even done…Um…I lived in Philippines for three months.
  17. It freaks me out when you go to a coffee place ONCE and they call out your name instead of your ticket number. Bitch, pump your brakes, y u gotta write my name on that cup?
  18. I’m afraid of the dark.
  19. I cry when I’m angry.
  20. I miss my dog.
  21. Love cake, hate pie.
  22. Was kicked out of GATE (Gifted and talented education) after an hour because they found out they had the wrong kid.
  23. Favorite nuts: Pistachios, Cashews
  24. Least favorite nut: Macadamia
  25. R2-D2 > BB-8
  26. I watch youtube videos of other people’s dogs.
  27. Sad more than happy.
  28. Never watched Jumanji.
  29. Top-three worst movies ever: Dead and Breakfast, Pieces of April, Haiku Tunnel–bonus: Equilibrium.
  30. Sometimes I remember my age and then freak out.

Breakneck

Rubbing my hands to stay warm, I sit staring at the posters on the wall. My eyes wander in an attempt to gloss over the one with the diagram that labels all your lady parts by scientific names.
“Fallopian tube,” I say out loud with a shudder.

I settle on the cupboard and think of how weird it is that they store filaments, lube and kidney pans in that order in that one cupboard. Hospitals must throw some kinky parties.

I give up on trying to endure the wait without whipping out my cellphone. With a sigh, I begin punching in my passcode. The door knob suddenly turns and I nervously drop my phone like I was just busted surfing ebay for cute kitten sweaters while on the clock. Not like I do that, who does that? Do you do that? I don’t do that.

“Jacqueline?”

“Just Jackie is fine, doc.”

“So we’re here to discuss the results of your MRI.”

We proceed to look at some images. Where he barrels on to explain the anatomy of my neck. I feel like I’m sitting outside of myself watching myself try to keep it together in slow motion. I conjure up an image of my spine as a conduit cable encasing all these fibers called nerves.

“So right here,” he says as he circles three vertebrae at the base of my skull, “aaaaand right heeeere,” he says circling an odd indent near my throat, is the source of all your pain.

“The bad news is, that since the pain is in your bones, and not in your muscles, it’s hard to say if physical therapy would result in much relief. Basically the only way that you can realign your bones, is neurosurgery.”

“Oh…okay,” I say, pretty confident that I was pulling off looking like I was cool, so cool, so totally fucking cooool.

“…that would entail fusing certain parts of your spine together to bring back the natural curve and also to push out this indentation. That would fix your alignment, the caveat being that after that your neck will not have full mobility and you will be stiff.”

“You mean, while it’s healing?”

“I mean, like, always.”

“Oh. Okay…”

“So you know between that and chronic neck pain, if the pain is registering at 3 most days with a spike some days, I’d probably choose that over surgery.”

“Oh. Kay.”

I always found it odd when people used breakneck speed to describe something fast. In my mind I always imagined that people with broken necks surely could not move about with any sort of speed. I think back to the hot summer day when in my cramped apartment I mastered my first inversion after coming home from yoga, determined to do it. I nearly cried. It was a milestone for me, because earlier that year, I was so out of shape I could barely do a 10-second plank without the assistance of at least 5 curse words.

I thought of the first time I whipped my hair in a pole dance class and actually felt desirable. Like for the first time it was kind of okay to do that without laughing and saying that I was just copying something I’d seen on instagram.

I thought of the first time I ever took an MMA class, and how wonderful it felt to do something I never thought I’d ever do.

Then I thought about the months I spent in pain. Unable to breathe as my back would spasm. Tension headaches so bad I was afraid to sleep and never wake up. Shooting pains and numb fingertips. Pain killers and drowsiness. The pounds I worked really hard to keep off gradually pile up as every exercise session became a gamble, a compromise, of how much pain I’d be willing to be in afterwards for an hour of exertion. I used to be the girl who broke boards and smashed planks, and practiced sparring drills for hours and now I think if someone punched me, my neck would snap in half and I would literally die. Inversions are risky. Hair whips make me see stars. Trying to pass someone’s guard leaves me in agony for days.

I was the fat kid for most my life. We used to do laps at school to collect popsicle sticks–by the end we were supposed to have 16 total. I would always pray to be at least second to the last to finish. That if I were second to the last it wasn’t as bad as being the absolute worst. I was always the absolute worst. I lost every game of chicken on the playground, and whenever I fell people would pretend to fall over from an earthquake. I was the one member of the family who was highly encouraged to just stick to the salad at a buffet and by “highly encouraged” I mean that my father would promise to leave me at home if I didn’t do exactly that. I grew up placing limitations on myself until one day I started working to shatter those limitations. I was a late bloomer to discovering that I was capable of more than I thought.

It’s so hard to describe the feeling of loss after realizing I worked hard to climb to the peak only to find out that what awaits is just another valley. It’s not really me moving at breakneck speed, but everything I’ve worked for, enjoyed and looked forward to wooshing by like a single train in an empty station. A love of challenges replaced with fear. Gone in such breakneck speed, you question if it was ever really there.