I left Manila on the 25th — not even a month in and I’m waiting for routine to kick in. Walking to Walgreens alone at 4am looking for potassium supplements, making the walk from Chapel to Hillhouse and sitting in the Department of Computer Science waiting rooms — lifechanging if anyone says hello, drinking beer cans alone in my room.
The Yale undergraduate enrollment nears 6,000 people and I feel like I know about 30 faces.
I don’t know how else to write this than proclaim I’m listening to Mitski a lot and am alone.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about loneliness by choice. In the past summer months (the second to last summer I may ever have) — I traveled city to city, from Los Angeles to the daily commute from Las Pinas to Alabang to Ortigas — taking days to figure out the geography of my home nation as I had memorized train lines and optimal Uber routes in my two weeks in California. I burnt myself knees sinking into sand, on the rooftop of a 200-year-old theater in California with bummed Camels, and in the face of an earth.
Sometimes I’ve been opening up about this. In high school, you had the constant of a group of friends, a selection amongst 400-or-so where I had at least one person I could talk to – or a groupchat to dump my daily annoyances (a screenshot: can you believe he fucking said this, or looking for empty affirmations in things I should buy – places I should go) into. The more impersonal, the better. But now I can’t keep thinking about how college here is a solitary experiment. Me scoffing at surface level connections was perhaps problematic because that’s the only type of connection we can all stomach here, anyway.
At Yale, surface means being open about your personal traumas and mentioning your greatest fears in passing. That is: walking into English class with your first personal non-fiction essay, and forming an intimate bond over the next 12 weeks with people who will be forced to digest your fears and thoughts — accentuating your pauses and gaps, as if filling in spaces and understanding you from how you present yourself on that table every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Fear works like this. Or, passing around something – a drink, a story, a look – enumerating the worst parts of ourselves before a 9-minute walk home and losing everything about myself.
I don’t know whether the issue is in me disliking people or me just not knowing how to connect. There’s nothing deeper or more beautiful about me than what there is to see. I’m standing alone in shows, looking at the remnants of my reflection in windows, making space.
Can I be honest about everything I have ever wanted
Friends told me to read Kim Addonizio lately; I spent a 7AM breakfast crying over a poem on Laura Palmer (I have never watched Twin Peaks); I sit in the Yale Women’s Center and I laugh over a post generating women, gender, and sexuality studies thesis titles with a reimagined queer perspective on queering the female psyche. My country says that gay people don’t deserve rights, use the church only when it is convenient, and the last time I heard a news report about drug raids (akin to ICE detentions, but think of Manila’s underfed, scrappy police guards riding on the high of San Miguel Light and Christmas bonuses as they cheer over a video of Tito Sotto) was over a year ago.
What I’m trying to say is that I don’t know if I have enough time to be gay and discover myself when there’s something desolate happening. This means that the gentle image of a girl kissing a girl – just for passersby and shittily drawn-over stories in the middle of Manhattan but something revolutionary and repugnant in Manila is washing over me again and again. “I want a girlfriend,” I tell my friends – and I remember the last time I was told of the image of young girls in Catholic school being stripped apart, suddenly it feels illegal with the weight of history and the uselessness of wanting. I want to be alone, I believed in myself and let myself have that for over a year: in the comfort of biting chashu and speeding over lines where independence feels as whorish as being gay in southern Alabang, to looking over the Saybrook grass courtyard as the lights blare and freeze in mid-September while I’m in blood-stained sports shorts – pouring the kettle, tangled earphones and all wondering why everything in life has led me to this image of myself, so desperate and unfound in the nighttime.
At this point, I’m running out of things to write delicately about. How will the white man in non-fiction class look at me when I write more about my growth on online chatrooms and YouTube videos I remember more distinctly than my conversations in the past week? How will my professor react to it when I talk more about the girl I fell in love with when I was 11 over the time I watched someone grow up in the bottom of my house, in sprawling cemeteries, or the time I saw a body washed over in the foot of a canal – trash coagulated over his skin? I am desperate. I’m writing about smoking in ways I never have. Will Toledo wrote an entire fucking album about drugs and acid and admits that he doesn’t do them (lifeless and criminal, says the band formerly named Teen Suicide; overreported by the music media circular and somewhat affirmed with 81 claps on Medium. [The max claps an individual can give to a story is 50.]). I haven’t loved a girl since then, successfully. How will I find what to write about? What trauma is digestible on these expensive Ivy League tables that I’m living through now? That I am the dream of my nation and an unlovable, lonely fuck?
Telling my friends I was an incel this summer. Telling my friends I’m doing good at work. Telling my friends if I should buy this shirt or if I should dye my hair gray or that I want to die sometimes. Telling my friends what if the love you felt was the last love you’ll ever really feel. (Telling my friends that in Her (2013), “Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”) Telling me no, I’m nineteen, that there’s still so much of life and fear to come: but I’m nineteen and what if this is it? I was on the verge of writing about everything every few hours at sixteen, making things and producing and breathing in life from my bedroom – god, there was nothing then but dissatisfaction and drive too – but this time, I think I’m just going to be good at losing. I don’t even want to feel the sensation of fucking, or of anything anymore, I want to be allowed to be with someone – lie down on them, take in the afternoon with nothing but the feeling of being – for once.
In the brief second where I feel like a connection is forming, I’m doing anything I can to savor it. I feel so little nowadays that anything at all would be enough. In any form.
The heart and the mind are distinct states
My heart (the thing, always been there, underexposed) has felt long and worn long enough. I think – if I try hard enough – that I have the capacity to love one thing as much as I do anything, non-reductive; that the more I love the more I understand and the more I can give, then.
An Ivy League education is the fastest way for one to move up in social class. It is the fastest way for someone low-income to bring themselves, their entire family, and their entire future up onto a higher pedestal.
I used to write that my favorite thing about coming here would be the ‘diversity of perspectives’ — that in 500-words, refined and refined and typed over Christmas break when there was nothing I wanted to do but collapse and cry and yes, I would be fantastic at your school because I am Catholic and into computing and have some ounce of compassion and creativity in me.
Perhaps Manila feels stagnant if you just stay in the south end, in the realm of Marxist-Leninist friends and protein shake high school classmates and knowing people who haven’t been in parties but know the revolution when it’s about to come. I’m carrying this burden of getting close again to the circle of Catholics-turned-agnosts drinking for the first time in their freshman year then never again — relinking as easy as the severance had happened.
Closer, here, in a crowd of people who have done the densest readings quoting verbatim names and issues I can’t put my mind together to focus on. There’s commonality in Mitski, something on a diaspora, and how the only thing people want is to fuck.
I’m okay with anything, really.
Sometimes I think about the fantasy of people finding their life partners here. I’ve given up on stalking people, knowing I will never know their names and that their life path is likely set on a direction that will never cross with mine (read: they are far wealthier, they are far better, and they are on another space, essentially). I think about Addonizio writing about the tender, gentle thing of kissing and breathing and being alive; and I wonder where I could find that here – or anything that is something more than walking to the club 2 minutes down. I’m dread-heavy, walking, my legs bucking into themselves and my body flooded with pause. If I’m not going to make a name for myself, I at least need to make my name known with some others – right?
Purposefully, this is just a call for someone to know me. Let me find me in you, let’s talk: thighs up, skirt down as we lean over the university closets and sticker hook stains, eating unleavened bread and talking about how everything failed us. Even if you talk about god, or greater things. At this point, I’m down for anything. Even if I talk about loneliness and mortality at nineteen, when I’ve barely lived a life yet and am going insane – when the best years of our lives are in this little half and I felt like I’ve lived none of them, yet.
Genre-wise, moving to college songs about loneliness and everything are hitting only now. I was so sick for something in my freshman year and didn’t even realize it in the toxicity of me trying to make sense of a space where I hadn’t even lived myself. Going back, retracing my steps, understanding what it means to be born and to want to die in Manila put me in a better place — but now, I’m thinking more carefully. Earphones in, sitting in the dining hall to Yale plates placing salmon and dry spinach in my mouth on empty side tables in Saybrook. Apologizing to the boy and girl kissing in the entryway before pushing them aside, smelling like laundry detergent and the lower level of Bass Library. Being the first to start jaywalking on that crossing on Hillhouse. I’m ahead of my feelings, almost, trying not to spill everything and make it obvious that I’m troubled on the internet – to anyone, but me.
And in this time I am only asking for someone to be here. I want shitty matte lips swatched on my arm and on the mirror, something in my arms that I’ve never touched before, the skin-on-skin between ripped jeans, palms on my back and gentle thank yous, breathless in thought.
The last time I was in love was when I was 15 and sadder. I want something to take my breath away with intention. I want to be intimidating in the deepest senses. I want to feel someone praying for me – believing in something again. Like the love I couldn’t have in the morning, traipsed over courtyards, buckled in the dark with my kneecaps on dollar store rugs, of foreign names beyond the biblical sense. I want to rewrite the names of every man and woman I had loved. Taking them into my hands, figuring out what it means to hold a hand and feel your entire body jolt and have a name to think about next to yours – like the unbeliever in astrology but finding their birthdate anyway. Thinking of you whenever I think of me. Thinking when I don’t have to.
Love is held in this fanatical lens I have. I’m getting older and I need something to make me feel. Something realer that begins when you ask me if I’m there, and choose to love me even when I can’t. I want to fall in love again. Haven’t I heard enough about it?