30 January 2017: Stopover in Taipei

It’s 2:18 PM in an airport in Taipei (1:18 AM back in New York City) and I’m sitting on air conditioning vents by glass windows looking out at planes and runways. My ass is cold. Compared to Manila, Taipei is chilly. It’s around the 8th hour of a 13-hour stopover gracias to a cancellation. Son of a bitch! Then comes the 16-hour flight back to New York City. Mother…!

There’s an increasing urgency to defecate right now, but I dislike using public bathrooms. I’m not the typical American who wipes and be done with it. I like to wash. It’s a shame I don’t know how to use tabo. (Has any Filipino family accidentally used tabo to pour gravy at the dinner table? I think of stuff like this.) I have OCD-ish behavior – “obsessions” (how do I do cross-outs on WordPress?) – that compels me to shower after every time I shit because I’m paranoid of the stench following me. Or I might have made a spread to my lower back. (If I have traveler’s diarrhea five times a day, I shower five times a day, which can be exhausting.) I’m going to the toilet maybe two hours before the flight.

A voice speaks overhead in a foreign voice. Taiwanese? Chinese? They mentioned “Tokyo”. Japanese for Japanese passengers? English now. Back to Japanese. Or is it Chinese? It’s repetitive and has been distracting me from my reading. I finally finished Oscar Wao by the way. It took me about four months. The book was originally assigned in class to be read in the span of… four weeks. It’s not easy being an English major especially when you don’t know how to manage time like myself. I don’t like the book by the way. I can’t relate to Dominicans.

So my girlfriend and I left Manila at 3 AM this morning. I’ve had little sleep and am overdosing on caffeine. My three-week vacation was good. “Good? That’s it?” 3.5 stars out of 5 stars if I can put it that way. Every vacation has its ups and downs, and the downs were enough to ruin some days.

Traveler’s diarrhea.

Getting teased for not being able to speak Tagalog.

Not being able to escape to the beach everyday.

But I felt like I learned a lot from this trip. Before getting a Filipina girlfriend, I used to believe that the Philippines was nothing special.

“They copy Americans.”

“Filipino movies have too much drama and crying.”

“My Filipino family is the most annoying family on Earth.”

But now, I could say something else. It’s always nice to be enlightened. I can say now that Filipino people are intelligent people (except for my family). They speak multiple languages. Their history is interesting and full of heroes and betrayal. The people are cool and all the things I wish to be, like social and collectivistic. And they don’t take things for granted.

So I feel a little changed returning to the United States. I just hope the U.S. is still there now that Trump is President.

What’s with the travel ban on Muslims?

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21 January 2017 Entry: Quiet

Introverted. Asocial. Shy. Socially Anxious. Avoidant personality.

These are terms populating my mind after nearly two weeks of forced interactions with an array of my girlfriend’s friends in the Philippines. She told me in the United States that she’s “introverted” but, after seeing where she came from and the people she knows, I don’t believe that anymore.

For someone who calls herself “introverted”, she has plenty of social stamina. Me after the first few minutes meeting someone, I’m exhausted. That’s all for the day! For the week even! That’s how I feel.

If I wasn’t sure before, this trip has showed me the kind of person I really am. Or not. Remember those five terms I started off with? I think I’m all of them at once. Is that possible? That means I’m one complicated motherf*cker with multiple issues. I should probably see a psychiatrist or be on medication. I’ve gone 26 years hiding something I’ve always been afraid would make me look weak.

The more I spend time with these extroverts, the more I realize how much of an introvert I really am. Or how boring or irrelevant I am. I can’t fathom how people can always have something to talk about during a two-hour car ride. Oh wait, they’re good friends. And I’m not a part of it.

Am I the problem?

How can I change? I’d like to be liked by people (an aspect of APD), but being social is exhausting, and I’m not good at faking, in this case, being extroverted or social. How can I change a fixture of my personality? After reading opinions, there’s nothing wrong with being introverted however. Most of the time, I enjoy being alone. Being extroverted is what’s hot, but guess what? Not everyone is built like that. I’m not.

But if I do have social anxiety or a personality disorder, then I need to see a shrink.

Time Travel: “Out for a Walk”

The following short story was born in my Aspects of Fiction class, taught by a Professor John Weir of Queens College. The man is brilliant. I very much enjoyed his assignments, even if he usually didn’t go over them. Nothing groundbreaking. Nothing over-complicated. Assignments that were plain simple, engaging, and got me going.

Give me simplicity and freedom, and I, and my classmates, will do the rest.

Time travel was a theme throughout the semester. Kindred by Octavia Butler was the novel we read prior to this assignment.

I had never really placed myself in another time. Here goes…

“Out for a Walk”

I was in my bedroom, writing at my desk, when I was hit with dizziness. The world spun all around me, faster and faster, until it was all a white, bright light. And then, I wasn’t home anymore. I was in the middle of a green forest. In place of silence, birds chirped and leaves above rustled in the wind. Darkness that was outside my window was now day. The chilliness that signaled the coming of winter was now warmth that made me sweat.

Where was I? At first, I thought it was a dream, until I stood up and walked around. A baffling and worrying sight. How was I transported from my bedroom to here? Was I at the park? Did I blackout last night? Was I on drugs? The worst part was that I was still in my underwear.

After walking about five minutes following the sun, I began to feel deathly terrified of my situation.

A gunshot echoed in the distance. It startled me and I turned in its direction. The landscape of the forest didn’t have eccentricities and there were no bushes to hide in, and so I began to walk in the opposite direction of the gunfire. But immediately, a dark man, yards in that direction, could be seen now, coming towards me. The closer he got, the more I was able to discern his appearance. His clothes looked as though he were a miner or a prisoner, and he was ragged and dirty. His overall shine and breathless countenance made it clear that he was running for quite some time now, and he was exhausted. Behind him, I could now make out a white man with a long beard, carrying a shotgun.

I didn’t move, as if I were some celestial object doomed for a collision with another object. And, of course, it did. The black man finally reached me and mumbled aloud. His words couldn’t be understood, but I could tell by his body language that he was begging for my help. His frantic fear no doubt ate away at my composure and I didn’t know what to do.
He hid behind me. The white man, overweight and out of shape, finally reached us, his gun pointed down. I wished the black man kept on running so that I wouldn’t have to exchange with this intimidating human being.

“Who are ya?” The white man inquired.

“I’m Edward.”

I didn’t know what was happening. I had to contemplate whether or not this was a dream. Then I had to contemplate whether or not these people were acting and f*cking with me. Let me guess: a slave and a slave owner? F*ck it. I’d best go along with it.

“I was out for a walk when… when your prisoner caught my attention,” I finished, unsure whether or not my words were chosen well.

“You went out for a walk without your clothes?” He asked, smirking, as if I was stupid. At this moment, I believed he wasn’t acting, and I also wanted to punch him in his face, most especially if he was, indeed, a slave owner.

“I was at a camp and I wandered off.”

The black man shivering behind me was pissing himself now. He wasn’t acting neither. I wanted to do the same.

“Yea? Lemme have him and I be out your way.”

I didn’t know what to do. With hesitance and reluctance, I stepped to the side and exposed the poor man to his master. All of a sudden, a psychotic rage revealed itself in the white man’s face. It was inhuman. Evil.

“I told you not to run, you son of a bitch!”

A deafening blast. Blood sprayed along the entire front side of my body. The poor man dropped to the ground, his face smacking the ground. As he laid on the earth, bleeding profusely and gasping, I turned to the white man in shock. His eyes were set on the dying man and he had this most irritating smirk on his face.

And then, he turned to me.

That was when I returned home, almost instantaneous, without the dizzying transition, as if I had just woken up. My feelings returned to believing that it was all a dream. The lights in my bedroom were off and it was dark outside. My heart was pounding and I was fearful that I was having a heart attack.

I turned on the light and was horrified to find the blood still on me.

Short Story: “Missing”

Sometimes time doesn’t abide. My friends back in New York City had their Spring Break a week later than my school did. After a grueling start to the spring semester of 2011, I felt like I was missing out. I envied them all when they went to Cancun without me. The famous white and blue beaches… Screw them, man! Instead, I was dragged to Miyako, Japan by my friend, Yoshi, who wanted to visit his parents. It was absolutely not the ideal place for a vacation. I met this introverted yet hysterical guy in art class, and he ended up being my closest friend in college. My parents were relieved because Japan was better than Mexico with all the people who go missing down there.

Our trip to Miyako was from Monday to Friday. As we flew over the Pacific Ocean, I saw the black water. I couldn’t shake off the images of white and blue beaches. We arrived in Miyako on Monday morning. The cold was something I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t prepared for anything really, and if I wasn’t careful, I’d get lost in this world. I didn’t know how to speak Japanese. I could understand a little, but I couldn’t hold a conversation. Yoshi was the only person I could talk to. His apartment, which was a block away from the beach, was cramped with miniature-looking furniture. His parents weren’t really accommodating people, always giving me a suspicious look. Maybe it’s because I’m Lebanese.

We didn’t do anything on Monday because the jet lag knocked us both out. I was interrogated by Yoshi’s parents about who I was: an only child, an art student, a retail worker at Macy’s. Yoshi interpreted and I don’t think they were impressed with who I was. They had stern looks on their faces. Maybe they thought Yoshi would invite over an accomplished Japanese scientist.

On Tuesday, Yoshi and I walked around. That’s all we did, and sometimes, I felt like my life was wasting away if it wasn’t on a warm beach. I’ve seen all that Manhattan had to offer. Why would ten-story concrete buildings impress me? It all looked so dull and gray, and the weather was dull with all its cloudiness, like it was always going to snow, but the snow never fell. That would’ve been something, because at the very least, I like snow.

By Wednesday, I was becoming depressed by the loneliness and uninspiring sights. I grind my teeth whenever Yoshi pointed up at a building, smiling, as if it were a landmark. The food was delicious however; the sushi being the most authentic Japanese I’ve ever eaten. We had gone to a mall on that day, and I lost Yoshi in the crowd. I was missing for a good 15 minutes, but Yoshi found me. It was a nerving experience because we were on the other side of town and I didn’t know how to get back to the apartment. This was when the tension started to build between us. I couldn’t stop moping around like a child after that. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I needed someone to vent to.

On Thursday, Yoshi decided to meet up with two of his childhood friends, and he ended up dragging me along with him. It was an alienating experience at the buffet where we eat. All night, they spoke Japanese, and Yoshi didn’t even try to involve me in their conversation. I just sat there silent for an hour, even after we had finished eating. Fed up, I retreated to a bar next door. The alcohol comforted me enough to talk gibberish to Japanese students next to me. And then Yoshi walked in with his friends, finally caring. “You always go missing,” he yelled, upset, embarrassing me in front of his friends.

It was Friday afternoon and I couldn’t wait to leave for home. My bags had been already packed the night before departure. I woke up all alone in Yoshi’s empty apartment. He probably didn’t wake me up because of the fight we had last night. His parents were out at work. The emptiness of his apartment triggered something in my brain, and I remembered being empty-handed in bringing something back to my parents. Where we were wasn’t a tourist spot, and I hadn’t been successful in finding anything to bring back home. I decided to go out and do a little last minute shopping by myself. I was hesitant at first because I was afraid I’d go missing again. I left a note.

Then I thought against it and crumpled it up. Maybe I wanted Yoshi to wonder where I’d gone missing to get back at him.

The first thing I noticed upon exiting Yoshi’s building was the fishy smell of the ocean nearby. The ocean wasn’t an impressive sight, but any ocean nearby excites me. I walked away from the beach, a few blocks to the commercial avenue. There were a crowd of people and the traffic was noisy, but it all looked tame compared to city life back home. I went in and out different shops that reminded me of Canal Street in Manhattan. Among the unimpressive souvenirs I came across, I picked up two small Japanese dolls that looked like me. They were short, fat ninjas. Cliché, but my parents will like these. I kept them in a plastic bag which I hung around my wrist.

After an hour, I checked my inaccurate watch and was excited at how close it was to departure. I decided to return to Yoshi’s apartment. He’s probably there now, wondering where I have gone. “Missing again,” he’d say. I traced my steps back, as if on automatic, but I didn’t end up at his building. I ended up at a school. I thought I saw the same Japanese girls I saw at the bar last night. Probably not. They all look alike. Adrenaline came from my kidneys and I began to panic. What if I wasn’t going to make it back in time for the flight? I’d have to stay here forever. My parents would think I’m missing.

Then I thought to just follow the street north parallel to the shore. I was walking south before, and Yoshi’s building was only a block away from the beach.

When I was close to the water, I stopped and looked around at the world before me. Something felt wrong. The world trembled, slightly at first, then violently. People screamed and cried in tongues I didn’t recognize. The ground shook up and down, left and right. The building in front of me appeared as though it was going to collapse on top of me. Cracks appeared on the ground and ripped open, small at first, then large enough to devour a white sedan with someone in it. That someone will probably be missing forever. Windows all around shattered to the ground and I ended up falling and cutting both my hands. The souvenirs I had spilled out of the bag. Before they were gone, I rescued them.

A boom and a roar nearby. Probably an explosion. Followed by a crashing sound.

The earthquake lasted for a few minutes, but it felt like an hour. And then, the world stood still. So did I, shocked. I still heard low rumbling. I didn’t know what that sound was; probably the Earth shaking in the distance. It wasn’t as loud as the panic that ensued.

I slowly got to my feet, slightly disorientated, and surveyed the damage around me. It became another world in just a matter of minutes. The damage made this place appear apocalyptic. Rubble gathered all around the streets and sidewalks. The entire face of a building was torn down, revealing the insides. One street looked like a disfigured corpse after a car crash, wounds wide open revealing what’s underneath the surface. A building dangerously nearby collapsed. The rush of air that had been pushed by all that matter was strong enough to blow its own dust from down the street all the way to my face. People all around me seemed to be getting somewhere. I wasn’t.

Finding Yoshi’s building was my priority, but I passed by a shop where the lights had died and there was a woman trapped under a bookcase. Empathy made me rush to her aid. I pushed the glass door open, walked over fallen books, and, with all my might, tried to lift the bookcase to no avail. She was crying; blood gushing out of her mouth. She was gasping for air, unable to breath. Just when I was about to give up and leave her, two other men appeared from the back and did a better job at helping her. I felt stupid. I left. I didn’t know what came over me, but then I had this desire to loot. So many items spilled out from the windows onto the streets. I could bring these back home to my parents. But then, I thought, the plastic around my wrist had all that I needed.

The sight of the shore was within range and I witnessed something strange. It was as if the earthquake shifted Japan’s elevation upward, because the water along the beach had disappeared. I had no idea what was going on, but the view I had gotten used to for the past five days had changed. There were others looking out towards the ocean. The water receded about a half mile in. You could’ve almost seen the steep descent of the shoreline, but from where I stood, I couldn’t see the bottom. This was an awesome, yet bone-chilling sight to behold.

A loud siren pierced through my ears like one of those air raid sirens that everyone is scared of because it means that something is coming… something dangerous. A foreign voice spoke in a calm, robotic voice, with absolutely no sense of urgency. I didn’t understand it at first. People started retreating in a panic. In the distance, I saw the ocean stir violently. It didn’t look like much. The distance made those waves look like nothing. I listened to the voice again, this time carefully, and among those words was one I knew: “tsunami.”

As context was given to me, I could now make out the height and speed of the waves in the distance. They were coming.

So I ran.

As I sprinted away from the water, towards the street, the rumbling got louder and louder. As I finally reached the street, I turned around, and saw a wall of water that was about 100 feet high, rolling through the spot where I had been. I had no choice but to enter the building closest to me. If I didn’t, I was going to get swept into the streets and killed by all the eventual debris that would cut and slice through my entire body. It was around this time when the souvenirs that were meant for my parents back home went missing. I didn’t stop and look back for them. My only priority was bringing back home the only thing that mattered: myself.

The building I impulsively entered was a four-story building made of wood. A very heavy sense of dread burdened me as if this was it; this entire building was going to be my coffin. I was all alone again; the occupants had left. It was a nice house with mahogany wood, antique-looking furniture, and plants that gave the house life. It was also a scene that was going to disappear as quick as I glanced at it. As the rumbling got louder and louder, I found a staircase and ran all the way to the top floor. There was a dark hallway with a window facing east, and I could see the wall of the black water almost rising over the house. I picked out a room on the west which was a game room with a round table and a gaming system. I hid pathetically in the southwest corner as if I was hiding from Death.

A loud crash knocked the house off its foundation. Everything in the room was thrown about, including myself. I heard water swirl all around the house, which felt like it was floating and spinning around. My sense of direction was lost. There was this deafening noise of destruction, including the loud crunching of wood and glass shattering below me. It was here where I knew I was going to die.

The house crashed hard into something, an impact that fractured the entire structure and broke my tranquility. I screamed. I sobbed. A few seconds later, the wall that was supposed to be to my north started to disintegrate into a thousand pieces. The culprit: a concrete structure, probably a bridge or another building. As it eventually became my turn to crash into the concrete, I remember thinking about the state of my body once this was all over.

“There will be nothing to send back home to my parents,” I thought. “They’ll probably never find my body… I’ll always be missing.”

14 January 2017 Entry: In a café called “Linsanitea”…

It’s mid-morning on a Saturday in Manila and I’m sitting in a café called “Linsanitea”. While the other members of my party were out attending to their own plans, I was at the hotel contemplating on what to do. I’m a foreigner in this country who’s unable to do anything. I’ve been conditioned to take extra caution in this world, but I was hungry, bored, and without Wi-Fi that I decided to leave the confines of the hotel room. My laptop isn’t connecting to the Wi-Fi in this café, which is pissing me off because I have no means of contacting the other people in my party. What happens if I go missing? (Which reminds me, I have to post my short story entitled “Missing”.) The chicken sandwich here is delicious though: a moist, crispy chicken put between crunchy, toasted sesame buns… *takes a bite*… with a lightly sweet sauce that makes it quite a treat overall. Yummy. However, the mango smoothie is bland and doesn’t taste like real mango.

Last night, we arrived in Manila from the island of Palawan. Palawan is a paradise, with its beautiful beaches, a national park with an underground river, and with a lot of virgin territory. Manila is different, however, and it reminds me of New York City. Walking through the mall where the hotel is located, I was warned to keep an eye out for pickpockets. F*ck me.

But at the hotel room, at around 2 AM this morning, I was experiencing stomach pain. Not quite sure if it was the hot tea I drank the previous day or because I didn’t eat dinner, but I had diarrhea five times. My girlfriend was asleep and couldn’t be bothered. So, I had to fend for myself. It was a lonely feeling, walking to a 7/11 for much needed water (I crapped four times by then so I was dehydrated). I didn’t get stuck up. After an hour sulking in pain back at the hotel, I managed to find a sleeping position that allowed me to survive the night.

I was expecting to have a more enjoyable vacation.

It’s been difficult being the only English-speaker in my party. I didn’t bond with the individuals as much as I intended to. The other couple my girlfriend and I are staying with at the hotel called dibs on the bedroom with the private bathroom. This irritated me because I would’ve been a lot more comfortable with my diarrhea. By the way, my girlfriend found the room. My clothes haven’t been washed and there’s the smell of ass in my bedroom. Not my ass. I wash. It’s probably from my shorts. Okay, so it is my f*cking ass. But it came from sitting in an odorous taxi on the way to the hotel. There’s no Wi-Fi and television. My supposedly waterproof phone isn’t charging. And I will be having a ton of free time from now until the end of this trip.

I thought I was going insane and I hope that isn’t the case. My laptop, books, and cigarettes will be my best friends here.

Should I tip? I’ll just leave 20 pesos for a bill that came out to 190 pesos. A nice chicken sandwich and a mango smoothie for $4? That’s the dream. I’m going to have a cigarette under the elevated train and watch the jeepneys pass by. The el train reminds me of the roaring J / Z train back home.