Emails and letters are a lost art. Messaging is so instantaneous now, and that has its own perks but for someone like me, who likes to reminisce with “artifacts” from the past, long-form letters are still king. I like both the act of writing and re-reading them, feeling like my very own historian. (Peak narcissism, sure.)
The following is an email I sent to my friend this October 11th, 2019. I’ve edited out parts that pertain to my friend’s identity. But this explains a little bit about how I’ve been feeling lately and why I’ve been so MIA, so I thought I’d share.
Hi M— ,
I hope it’s okay for me to send you this. Here’s some content warning in case you’re not in the right head space right now for whatever I’ve written below: death, anxiety, depression, etc. I’m having a real hard time right now, haven’t really been talking to anyone because everyone’s too busy. I just thought it might help if I tell someone. I don’t even really need you to respond so please take your time with things. I know you’re going through a lot as well.
Please remember I love you a lot, and feel free to skip the rest of the email if you don’t think it will be good for you.
Yesterday, I had an important thing to go to after work. It was particularly emotionally taxing thinking about it the whole day so I gave myself a few minutes to just breathe. Like I said, it was important so I couldn’t go around getting anxiety attacks while I was there.
So I walked ten minutes into a park, decided to fuck it, lit myself a cigarette and just stared at the trees. People in suits and pencil skirts were powerwalking their way to the nearest bus stop, trying to get ahead of the rush hour. An older man was angrily talking to someone through his earpiece; someone had fucked up with the supplier. A man my age was walking hand in hand with his girlfriend. He tried to kiss the side of her forehead and almost missed because they were both hurrying to catch a jeep. A woman accidentally dropped her shoe bag. (It’s like a big drawstring pouch for shoes. There’s a lot of walking here so people would opt to wear flats or flip flops when they’re out of the office.) She cursed “Tanginang ‘yan,” before picking it up and almost sprinting towards the bus stop.
Everyone’s just trying to get home.
Everyone’s trying to get home, and here I am, smoking under a tree. It feels like everyone has a place to go — everyone knows where to go, except for me. Since my post-breakup breakdown (from my first job and first boyfriend, cool), I’ve been feeling like the loneliness I’ve been afflicted with my whole life has continued to grow exponentially stronger. It has gotten very hard to ignore. And being around other people just amplifies it further. So I’ve just been keeping myself company for now.
It’s fine, It’s fine. I’ll rejoin society once I’ve fixed myself.
It’s been a couple of months since my previous public crying session (drunk, beside a garbage can, outside a mall, no biggie), and since then I’ve actually been given what my friends have been calling a “fresh start”. I mean, I guess so? Completely new environment, new job, new workmates, new city — except for me moving back in with my parents, I guess. It should have felt liberating, and I actually say that to people now when they ask about how I feel about all of this, but frankly, it’s only a little bit of that. Mostly, I’ve just been feeling extremely spaced out. Detached even. I don’t really feel like I fit in with any of these pieces. For instance, I’m not familiar with this fancy park, or even this city that I’ve dreaded working in my whole teenage life. (In high school, I thought working in this city would mean me finally succumbing to the corruption of third-world capitalism. I was… weird, but I guess not wrong? Idk.) I’m not even familiar with the body I have now; it has blown up after cutting down smoking to weekly puffs and getting off my antidepressants (couldn’t afford it). It was all too much all at once and I just wanted everything to stop for a second — maybe stop throwing so much shit at me that I need to adjust to. I really really need time to acclimate because otherwise I’m going to break the fuck down. Again.
I know I need rest yet here I am, smoking under a tree, waiting for the cab I called to pick me up and take me to my uncle’s wake.
So yeah, my uncle died three days ago. Tuesday morning. When I visited him a few days before that, he actually looked stronger. He looked like he was recovering. But in my mind, I knew that it was that pre-death energy surge. It’s very common from what I’ve read. Plus I looked up his diagnosis and it’s fatal once the respiratory muscles give out. Although I’m glad I got to talk to him and thank him for all the summers I spent living in his apartment. He took good care of me when I was younger. And when the news about my psychiatric diagnoses broke out among family, he was the first person to assure me that I was loved, even if it didn’t feel that way with everyone else pretending like they didn’t hear anything.
He was a nice man, liked to joke around, moved through life with good intentions. Even when life struck him down, he kept going — which is why it broke my heart when he told me, through weak scribbles (the tubes prevented him from talking), that he was pagod, tired. “Pahinga,” he wrote. He wanted to rest. My dad told me he pulled off his respirator the night before, fully intending to die. He cursed at them when they reinstalled it.
I took his hand and held back my tears. “I know, Tito,” I wanted to say out loud. Instead I waited until his partner left the room.
“Okay lang, Tito. Magiging okay lang kami,” I told him. We will be okay.
I cleaned him up after he fell asleep, then left. A few days after, he was gone. We’re burying him tomorrow morning, near his father’s grave.
I remember going there for All Souls’ Day when I was younger. We tried to leave early to visit our dead relatives but we underestimated how bad the traffic would get so we ended up arriving at around noon. It was very hot and very crowded; good thing one of our more wealthier relatives built one great aunt a cozy mausoleum, otherwise we would all have gotten untimely tanned. I asked a lot of questions as a child, and that day, I decided it would be interesting to ask my uncle about each relative minding their own dead selves in their graves. He answered each question patiently and laughed at my comments on some old-timey-sounding names.
I noticed that some graves weren’t named. My mind immediately jumped to the concept of secret agents and war heroes. I asked my uncle and instead of responding, he just chuckled and led me back to the rest of the family. He then proceeded to tell everyone else about my theories, and to this day, I remember how hard everyone laughed.
“My pamangkin talaga, so smart!” he told me. “Malayo mararating nito. (You’ll go far in life.)”
He always had such kind words for me and my family. In his eyes: my dad was the most hardworking man he knew, my mother was the greatest cook he has ever met, and me and my siblings? We were the wittiest, funniest, nicest bunch of rugrats — up until he adopted his own wonderful boy.
“‘Wag mo ‘kong kakalimutan ha? (Don’t forget about me, okay?)” he told me on the day of my college graduation. I honestly don’t think I ever could.
Funfact: Those unmarked graves were actually for my dad and his siblings. They bought it when they were younger, when the prices were lower. They wanted to be buried near each other so it would be easier for everyone else to visit them on All Souls’ Day.
Tomorrow, one of those graves will finally get a gravestone. I think I’ll share a short eulogy and I’ve been trying to write it since last night. I hope I get to finish one in time for tomorrow morning. Right now, I’m just extremely tired of the rug repeatedly getting swept up from under me. This funeral is the only thing keeping me busy so I’m a bit worried about what will happen to me after. I’m worried I’ll fall apart and whatever progress I’ve made will be undone.
I’m exhausted, I guess. Really, very exhausted.
I apologize again for this somber note. I hope you’re doing well. I miss you a lot. I wish you all the good things.
I’m in so much pain but I’m okay carrying it if it means peace for him.