Burning a body

Reading Time: 11 minutes

I’m in the strangest, most irrational slump. I feel no different from when I was a teenage girl, googling ‘what is wrong with me’ or on the verge of asking strangers on the internet to make me feel better. I later learn that kindness is always self-serving in some form, and to not feed into some internet stranger’s fantasy of saving people over and over. (But have I not been saved so many times by people who did not know they were saving me?)

What does it mean when you want to become a conflagration while knowing the aftermath well? Welcoming everyone around me into a burning field of embers, somewhere in between wasteland and rampart…

a collection of clippings, thought dumps, and moments from the past few weeks


Seattle Summer

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I moved into Seattle about four days ago and will be here for the next three or so months! Everything is immensely bumpy and my first Sunday touchdown bursted blisters on my feet. Breaking in wounds feels almost like the ritual of renewal. 

I think about how five years ago, I never thought that I would be in the places I am now. I mean this in the physical sense moreso than the experiential — and I think that disconnect is what I’ve been reconciling with for decades. I know I was going to do good work in Manila, under the same familiar blistering sun that sets at 9PM in the Seattle evening as opposed to 4:30PM on the way home from school. I didn’t know that I would be tangibly placed so far from everything familiar–in a state where I know little to nothing but the companies situated here (Amazon, Microsoft) and some vague notes about my friends who go to school here but aren’t presently here (watching people take graduation photos in front of a W, trying to process how people live out four years of their lives here in less-than-four short months). 

Living stagnant for 18 years and seeing little else than the same roadways messes up your sense of perception and wonder–at least it did for me. Suddenly I don’t know how to take things in. I still feel as naive as to think that I can absorb the history and atmosphere of every place I step foot in within moments–as if my footsteps can’t retrace the experiences of those who lived past; and I fall victim to the condescending pull of time who makes me feel as if I have the resource to spend another decade or so dwelling in something. I find it cruel suddenly that the world is so enormous, beautiful, and designed for us to stay sedentary. All I experience is framed through what I can bring back to Manila… teach to the people I’ve loved… I take the schools and thought and miraculous moments and hope to rekindle them in places that simply do not have the same structures to maintain this wonder. I underestimate the grandeur of place. The endless gratitude we give to the people who discover these lands, rediscover them, and have birthed them for those who dare reclaim it hundreds of years later.

Nothing is really mine. I stay in this city to feel it in for a few months, and perhaps that alone suffices. Inwards, I build my own city and kingdom. People are alive, unforgiving, relentless in the pursuit of living. Oftentimes this acts in direct disagreement with the nature of institutions: ever-so-grand, persistent, abiding of customs. Human nature is fundamentally against constants; thus life is about merely reducing the number of variables at play, thus ‘settling down’ in the traditional sense implies the creation of new life and til-death-do-us-part, thus we have broken a world that demanded more nurturing, still actors.

I wonder then, why prestige is distinguished by the volume and breadth of those who recognize us instead of the depth of singular being–almost omniscient of our efforts and worth? 

Depth triumphs. I wish to be understood by one over all. The cities I love are run by those born in it, empathetic of every minute experience. Suddenly the bargain stores that frame the streets with signs that talk of their 24 years of running, the ever-changing and constantly-empty gardens, and the empty parking lots feel much more resonant with these cities than anything else designed to appeal to the nomad like me… where time is the most valuable resource, understanding how it has withered places in areas where it never feels the need to be unnaturally kempt. 

I twist my ankles on the same hills that have long carved these grounds.  Go to tourist spots, because cheesy is cheesy but cheesy is often built by those who seek to highlight what they most love. Closely note how the same sun rises and falls ever so slightly different… the way a city that knows any interim visitor likes me is still worth kissing gold.

If you’re around Seattle or have recommendations for what I should check out, definitely let me know! I’m here until the end of August — and very excited for all to come.

Gay Cowboy Movies

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I’m twenty-one and gay and watched Brokeback Mountain for the first time. (This alone is cause for writing.) There’s a scene where Ellis (Heath Ledger) takes a moment to stare at the night sky, reunited for a weekend four years after a passionate summer with Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal). Both men are married and further bound with kids, but the commitment here is an afterthought. When they meet for the first time, they kiss tighter than the first hundred times, pushing each other against the wall where one raised a home and wed a wife and lived an entirely separate life: in an instant, their life was theirs to reclaim. Ellis receives no answers from the moon. Shadows are falling from the trees. The world guts men and does not sing for them. “Is there anything interesting up in heaven?”

Scholars are so convinced that David and Jonathan were never gay. The Wikipedia page discerns “a number of groups made up of gay Roman Catholics trying to reconcile their faith with their sexuality…” for those who’ve taken the names of two myths, homosociality as if any different from homosexuality. The Hebrew Bible is an ancient text used to kill men and free them. Listen, “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul,” is love in its truest, and “then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he had loved him as his own soul.” Jonathan also gave everything to David. He stripped himself from his robe, his armor, his sword, his bow, and his belt –– because noting that the belt was given is just as important as the embodiment of your being. Modern day Christians go out and scorn Scorsese’s Last Temptation because of Jesus and Magdalene, but existing right in the canon is a disciple whom Jesus loved. So desperate do we desecrate the holy texts, relegating it to the author and the author far from a valid lover, as if Jesus and John were comparable to the love I had felt so closely with anyone I’ve slept with.

I’m thinking about covenants and what it must take to break them. How queer love is constantly portrayed as fleeting, passionate things as if to frame them as temptations and urges. Everything but love is allowed to be fueled by passion: constantly reignited, stronger than ever, an immense devotion. The moment queerness exists in a form, it exists distinct from suburbia and consistency. Ellis and Jack kiss with bloody noses. Grating, skin-on-skin, rolling on the hill under the beating sun kind of love. Everything else is cathedral and familial. The wives are routine, even if whole histories lie beneath them. Another summer, internalized homophobia rendezvous where Alex Lawther pushes French male lead down on the hills, hate in each other’s veins, one calls the other faggot before kissing. And each instance of love is built on a history of fear and self-hatred. And the Bible scholars still insist that there was nothing more between, even if their souls were bonded and given to one another. Must every act of my love today be an act of reconciliation? When I take a lover, is it an act of forgiveness? Everything I do is mirrored unto this foundation of internalized homophobia and fear that I keep trying to pinpoint: for Ellis, a beaten, tortured body shown by his father of a man suspected of homosexuality; for the Catholic, a history of scorning and flinching when holding your friends’ hand and the bruising and the thought of eternal damnation for the act of love. Wherein: God will kill you and take all that is good if you kiss who you want to kiss. And then at that moment, I knew I had trouble believing.

In canon, people take concubines. Sexual relations are separate from “love”. That is, the heterosexual is allowed a body, a human body and spirit that he puts his own flesh in and abandons forever, an object of possession but not quite of love. In queer cinema, promiscuity is often mistakenly equated with liberation, as if sexual agency is the stripping of freedom and the body as a whole: if not for one other, it is the world.

Take the other gay cowboy movie. (Wikipedia acknowledges ‘gay cowboy movie’ means Brokeback Mountain, but I had to dig through Letterboxd to jog my memory of the first gay cowboy movie I watched––which is mostly farmers and not explicitly gay cowboy but it’s nearly the same anyway, the same as how homosexuality means men means questioning god means cheating means the soul is a tender, tethered thing that means nothing if not unto the opposite sex.) Everything is relational. Everything we consume points to this. Everything I love comes at the risk of breaking. This is all that can come from someone so ruined too, participating in an act that even the gods look away from…

God’s Own Country. Johnny loves migrant Georghe, the former a wreck who drinks and fucks men in port-a-potties, a fact less important than the fact that a calf in the movie died from a breech birth (or maybe it functions as an analogy for how homosexuality is an opposite, bottom-first, Freudian Phallic stage and all––actually, this is likely the case). The moment things turn, Johnny drinks more and more and more and engages in another sexual encounter until Georghe leaves the farm. Johnny must love Georghe slowly, making up to him with softness and tenderness, and the two turn from roughness and passion and instantaneousness and blind flee-and-pursue to stability and a home. Homosexuality is only valid if placed within the idyllic white picket fences. Johnny and Georghe want to be nuclear. Nuclear means the decay is irreversible.

Sappho writes to wish that someone will remember all this in the future. She does not know that an act of love will ever be named after her. Say, all these queer writers must only be able to draw from centuries of fear since it is all we had. When love is normal and domestic like the American dreams of Ellis and Jack, will it be worth writing about? If a soul bonded to a soul between man and man weren’t special, would we be debating here in the millennia after?

First, I beg to be spared from the hellfall and the thought of my parents and teachers and the misshapen cross condemning me to the abyss because of who I love. (This cannot be helped.) Next, my love is painted as an act of forgiveness. Each act I do explained by the unnamed authors and writers, taking my love and pursing the words as if their own, penance for my childhood and all the stones unturned. There must be rational explanation to the irrational act of selling my body for the other. For the deviation from my parents’ wills and the natural order itself, where my kiss must only be returned because this is a vicious act of contrition––where sinfulness is a delight, where all the bad things in the world are rooted in pleasure. Then, my love will is to become domiciliary and docile. One takes the traditional role, one gay takes the top and the other the bottom, one queer is the man and the other the woman in this relationship, or a mishmash depending on whether the gay people are in a polycule or not––because gay people fuck anything over, especially themselves.

Nothing is interesting in heaven. I have no intention in providing defaults to the modes of compassion I learn of, the ones to be condemned, the ones that I too––must figure out how to endure. I wonder why the love my kind of people live is immediately electric and fleeting. I want to prove that as an exception, I must endure––but I also owe this act to no one. I can’t live with the family and kids. My love is an infinite thing. I am busy trying to not be forgotten. (Cinema says we smell shirts and are haunted by ghost stories.) We sing bad and fish for praise and call each other slurs.

Whenever I want to kill myself, I remember that the love I have left to give on the dirtside is more gritty, borne of integrity, and humanly fleeting than the choir of heavens above. I must be on my way to bury the forgiveness I’m told I bear, but I can’t find it at all.

Related: Sitting in Theaters with Girls