what you don’t know can hurt you
what you don’t know can turn your body
Blessed are those with low pain tolerance: The world drops you mid-air
then asks, Are you alright? In 2014, my name got crossed out of a lineup
consisted of 12 members for an interschool dance competition I dreamt
of joining since sophomore year. If I had the guts back then, I could have
been expelled from school at 16. If I had the guts back then, I would not be
talking about this, and that, this, that, this, that, this, that, and this, though
I’m getting ahead of myself. The narrative begins in the part where I was in
the parking lot, practicing. Post-lunch, our crew leader turned on the music
from his portable speaker. I walked towards the stage. I warmed up and up.
My heart did not halt its beating when the pediatrician prescribed me
to take a physical hiatus. My heart did not halt its beating when Doc
said an inflammation consumed my appendix. My heart halted its beating
when our choreographer yelled at me in his studio. His voice booming
like the portable speaker. There’s nothing I can do, he said. I begged him
to continue my training, but my crewmates pulled me from the scene.
We went downstairs and someone suggested that we should meet our
contest coordinator; to commute back to school and grab an explanation.
I broke down in public and the only consolation I got was the impolite
buzzing of Central Market jeepneys driven to reach their daily quota.
I wished for invisibility. But no one was able to pacify the spectacle,
if one could call it a spectacle. No one. Not even my dumb best friend.
In a dream, I was submerged. The pool tasted like my prescribed antibiotics.
Despite running out of breath, I stayed below the surface for a long, long while.
I couldn’t make it past the blues, into the light of day. Hurting had no logic.
My P.E. teacher was the culprit who submitted the lineup; my name excluded.
This is the part where we were seated on the floor of an abandoned classroom
and the textbooks demanded a calm behavior out of us. Yet this is also the part
of the narrative where I imagined ways of seeking vengeance, flesh and blood.
The staccato of her words, while delivering her revelation, landed as heavy
as barks of trees sent like projectiles by an unknown force: Nahatag ko na ang
listahan, ‘ta. Wala na ko sang may maubra. A repeat of weeping. A cold stare
from my teacher’s eyes which I will never forget. Then more antibiotics.
During the bluest afternoon in the school that must be nameless, it invited
a swarm of visitors. Almost everyone was there. It was the day of Hip-Hop
High, after all. I felt my body was no longer mine for the remaining hours.
Instead of beaming with pride, like a fucking stage dad, I envied my crew.
On the bleachers, my schoolmates cheered on—raising their placards with
captions in a bold typeface. Applause, applause, applause. How I wished
my body had levitated the moment my crew appeared onstage. If I could
have been there, I would have been there. Staying until they finished their
performance in their football costume was a sin. They won Second Place
whereas I lost my own. Taking sides mattered. And that’s unarguable.
In another dream, I am the choreographer, an older guy, lashing out
against a teenage boy who’s about to burst into tears. I am lecturing him
about Toughening Up but my words are gibberish, if not poorly chosen.
I am lecturing him that life is forever unfair, that others know no fairness.
The way we choose a word is the way we choose to reveal ourselves.
Months later, healing was mercurial: a kneading of your heart a million
times—to kick it hard, to throw it like a frisbee disc, to pull off CPR.
It is an elliptical art that would require a marathon of unpleasant seasons
in order to be able to move forward. Lose your direction and you’ll be
back to the pilot episode. But I do not need to be a saint. I may summon
the patience of rocks yet it is not a gesture worth taking. There are those
who deserve more but are given less, and there are those who deserve less
but are given abundance. Hence I do not need to wash out the Passion in me.
My body is my poetry. I’ll tend to its tangible rhythm. Wait for it to sing.
This literary piece is part of Katitikan Issue 3: (Re) Imaginations.