Poetic Prose

Nakauwi Na (Home. Safe.)

Too many people are dying these days. 

Every day, there’s some new death being talked about on mass (and social) media. In fact, I could be shot dead during one of my nightly Pokémon hunts, and the application of a badly-lettered cardboard sign would be enough to render my murderer a hero-vigilante. (Oo, adik ako, and that I continue to hunt Pokémon despite the potential threat to my life is testament to that addiction. Gotta catch ’em all, after all.)

The last two deaths I paid attention to, though, were thankfully non-violent: my officemate’s grandfather passed away after a long battle with illness, and my mum’s old spiritual advisor died suddenly of what I assume to be heart problems.  Despite the context, both deaths were unwelcome–there is no way to prepare for someone to die. Every time that kind of news hits, it always comes as a shock, as if it were not one of the few inevitabilities of being mortal: people die. 

I don’t dislike death, per se. The fact my life will eventually end feels like a foregone conclusion, considering the amount of running ragged I do. What I hate are death’s circumstances, the why of someone dying rather than the dying itself. If they die in a sickbed, death is cold consolation. If they die young, the fact that life is a sickbed is cold consolation. We’re always having to be consoled for something. Death is always sad.

I guess that’s why I latched on to something that was said during a eulogy for Pastor Doy, my mum’s old pastor: “Nakauwi na siya.” In the context of my Christian faith, such a sentiment makes sense–we see Heaven as “home,” and so death represents a triumphant return to it, free from worries and cares. That image, though, has always been far too dramatic for someone like me, whose life is essentially a sitcom and thus has far too much drama than I could know what to do with. English can sometimes be such an overwrought, austere language. But in Filipino, “Nakauwi na,” isn’t cold consolation; it actually sounds comforting.

There’s something about that word, uwi. It means, roughly, “to return to a place where one comes from.” We could technically use the word alis, “to leave,” to refer to death–“Umalis na siya,”–and we do use pumanaw, which means roughly, “to pass on,” but neither of those words has the same warmth as uwi, which bears the subtext of going somewhere where one is happy to return. For the Christian, that is exactly what death is–going somewhere one actually wants to be, a place that has only ever been approximated in scenes and snippets here on earth. Paradise, it’s called, where there are no more tears past the gate. 

“Nakauwi na,” manages to suggest death–the idea of being absent–in a way that doesn’t have all the melancholy of “passing on,” or “passing away.”  Instead, you imagine a text message call in the middle of storm season, updating you about the whereabouts of one of your friends. “Nakauwi na siya,” it says, and you are instantly relieved. They’re home. They’re safe.

 Life is storm season. Life is the long journey in EDSA traffic. Life is a strange and dangerous country, and a part of us is always homesick. In these circumstances, returning after a journey’s end–especially if it has been a rich one, full of side-quests and adventures–isn’t a totally sad occasion at all. The person is now home, and he is safe. We don’t have to worry about them anymore. 

There are no tears past the gate.

One more thing: When you say “Nakauwi na,” it means you know where that person’s home is. From there, it is not so much of a stretch to imagine you share that home. A person has gone ahead, but eventually you will join them.

One day, “Uuwi ka din,” and you will see a light burning in the window. They will welcome you at the door. You will have stories to tell, and all the time to tell them. 

You’ll be safe. Home.

~aRT~

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[ramble, GoTxHamilton] Wait For It

My back hurts.

I never feel the knives going in. Instead, I wake up and find a brand new wound, joining what I feel must be dozens–going in deep, twisting, bleeding out despite my best efforts to hold everything together.

By now, it’s old news: the knives, the sting, the unknown-but-known assailants. And me: the girl who refuses to die. Refuses to fall apart. By now, even I don’t know why I keep going. But I do, because hope is the last bit of defiance I have left.

Each knife is one less reason to stay, but somehow isn’t enough reason to leave.

I tell my friends I envy Jon Snow, the bravery it takes to whisper “Now my watch is ended.” I have died and returned and died and returned so many times, and each time I feel something must get lost. But if something does, the pain of living drowns out the pain of losing. I stumble through my days, plastering the mask of calm on my face, pretending not to recognize the fingerprints on the handles of the blades.

The mercenaries among those I hold dear tell me–unapologetically, with a blissful pride I can almost find it in myself to envy–that stab-wounds are badges of honor for those on their way upward, forgetting (of course) that not everyone aims to climb. I only ever envisioned a life of service, of devotion to a leader or leaders whose visions burned bright in my eyes. I am a girl built for adoration, a kingmaker instead of one who rules. I pledge my service. I take my oaths.

I shall wear no crowns and win no glory…

I never wanted to stand atop anything. I do not stand atop anything. Instead, I take a breath and continue to climb this neverending series of days, struggling through the pain and the blur of tears I have taught myself not to shed, because salt causes the wounds to burn, even as they close.

Each scar is one less reason to hang on, but somehow is not enough of a reason to let go.

I know I am not the only one. There are other knives, other backs, other bleeding wounds and half-knit scars on other endless uphill climbs. My mother was one, as was her mother, as are so many others who came before and will come after. We are a battered, broken brotherhood with no banners and barely any blood left…but we refuse to die, because hope is our last defiance. Is my last defiance. Life, with its weapons, does not discriminate: it takes and it takes and it takes. But we keep living anyway.

…I shall live and die at my post.

Through the blood, salt, cold, I whisper: If there’s a reason I’m still alive, when so many want me to die…

I’m willing to wait for it.

~aRT~

 

[Rambles] You Are Here

There are people who love, and people who stay, and those two are not always the same. Sometimes, they are. Sometimes, you can’t say for sure. Time is a current, and where it flows cannot always be predicted. Expecting people to stay does not shield you from disappointment. Neither does anticipating the loss soften the blow.

Here is what we know: whichever way we face, forward or back, there is a horizon, hazy in the distance. A dot in which all things disappear. It will never be clearer: the past wears away until even our memories are swallowed up in it. The future isn’t even ours yet, not even fully constructed. If time will tell, right now, it is silent. All we can be sure of is what can be said of the spot where we’re standing.

Here.

Here is what we know. Then will one day slip away from us. There is a bridge we have yet to cross. But here, here, is a certainty, however impermanent. And yes, it may be a moving target–different from instance to instance, evolving in between the moments we decide to examine the map, take out our compass–but at every point it allows us to quantify the truth, distill it to an observation that cannot be doubted away.  It allows us to say, “Right now, you are here.”

There are people you love, and there people who stay, and those two are not always the same. But for now–for this great, fragile, terrible, wonderful now–for now they are. For now, you can reach out, hold back, hold hands, make plans and promises even if perhaps they are made only to be broken. Now is a license to be open, because, for now, you can be grateful, can still give and can take as much as you are still able. Can still say, as if tomorrow is not another day, or even if it is: “You are here.”

“You are here.”

You are here.”

~aRT~