love

Yellow

Been listening to this specific version of Yellow lately, not because of the lyrics necessarily, but because of the moment in Crazy Rich Asians when it plays. As Director Jon Chu describes it:

“…there’s an intimate story [in CRA] of a girl becoming a woman. Learning that she’s good enough and deserves the world, no matter what she’s been taught or how she’s been treated…The last scene of the movie shows this realization as she heads to the airport to return home a different woman. It’s an empowering, emotional march and needs an anthem that lives up and beyond her inner triumph, which is where Yellow comes in.”

Jon M. Chu in his letter to Coldplay

I haven’t really talked about it, but about two years ago I tried to make the conscious decision to close myself off romantically. To intentionally not like anyone seriously, and shut down any attempts in that direction. I did this because for most of my young adult life, I’d based my self-worth on whether or not I was considered likeable, lovable, beautiful enough for someone to choose.

Suffice it to say, my attempt at closing myself off has failed a few times, with each failure being more painful than the last. I could not get past the internal narrative of “Of course (x) would pick someone else, like someone else. Why would anyone like me?”

The last time I liked someone was the worst. As it became clearer to me that they liked someone else–someone I knew who is, and I do not exaggerate, one of the nicest people in the world, and the most deserving of love–I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about how I had been so foolish to think for a second that person would want to be my friend, let alone “like-like” me, as the elementary school kids of my day used to say.

From there, I spiraled, thinking of all the ways I was unworthy: how I was prickly and antisocial to their bubbly and warm; how I was negative and cynical to their positivity; how I was worldly and dark compared to their–and I cringe at my using this word–purity. It didn’t help that these were things I’d heard said about me before: negative, dark cloud, why don’t you smile?

I didn’t belong with them, so why did I think that anyone would want me to belong to them?


I heard Yellow being played at a gig I attended recently.

When I first heard Coldplay’s live version, with its beautiful piano intro, I imagined this song would be played at my wedding. It’s a love song, after all: her skin, her bones, all beautiful, all yellow and glowing and you know I love you so much.

This time, though, when the artist started covering it, I thought of that scene in Crazy Rich Asians, when Rachel Chu decides she is worth it, even if she doesn’t look like Nick’s family, even if she doesn’t fit in at all.


So no, I’m not the nicest person in the world. I don’t smile easy, or often; my happiness looks more like manic neon lights than gentle, glowing sunshine. I may never really stop being slightly pessimistic, imagining the worst case scenario. It takes me a while to trust. For all of my purity ring-wearing, I don’t always think of my mind or my soul as particularly “pure.”

But I think that, at least to myself, I can think of my skin and bones as all beautiful, yellow. That, if no one will sing this to me, I can sing for myself, You know I love you so much.

值得去等候. This love, this slow journey to seeing myself has worthy, it has been worth waiting for. And as I learn, and fail, and learn again, it will still be worth it.


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When silence is like starving.

I was thinking about Juana the Mad today.

Or, rather, I was thinking about a friend of mine. The last time we’d spoken, she’d called me out on something but–unbeknownst to her–I was in a bad mood, so it wasn’t the best time, and we’d ended up having an entirely unnecessary word war on, that bane of my existence, Facebook Messenger.

I sent an apology note via chat, but she hasn’t replied yet, and honestly I’m not surprised? I overreacted. Usually, I would bombard her with more messages, verbally bullying her into reassurances of forgiveness, but whether it’s because of pride or exhaustion or simply shame, I can’t bring myself to reach out, and so here we are. Not talking. It hasn’t been a long time (we fought just last Tuesday), and we’ve not talked for longer stretches, but there’s this pervading sense of wrongness to this silence that makes it physically hurt and keeps her on my mind.

So I ended up thinking of Juana the Mad today.

When my friend and I were talking, I would send her photos of her KPop idol crushes, and she would reply with things like:

*aggressively licks screen*

*swallows phone*

I would laugh, each time, but now that I miss her, I’m inclined to pick apart the bits and pieces of our interactions, especially when they were light-hearted and good. I saw this photo today…

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Kim Seokjin (my favorite BTS member) performing Fake Love at BTS’s Love Yourself World Tour in Los Angeles. Photo by @jinkissletsgo.

…and immediately my mind cycled back to those reactions, which made me wonder at how the language of desire–from the “innocent” and playful fangirl crush to the dark and dangerous territory of lust–so often borrows words from hunger.

Which brings me back to the poem at the beginning of this post. The historical Juana was a Castillan queen, older sister to another famous royal, Katherine of Aragon. Like her sister, Juana’s marriage ended in tragedy, with the death of the husband–Philip I, also known as Philip The Handsome–whom she she supposedly loved to the point of obsession: “…when you marry a man more beautiful than you, they say you pretty much lose control of the situation.”

That the historical Juana was actually mad is a subject of historical debate–her reputation might have been a product of a smear campaign–but true or no, the legend lives on that Juana loved her husband so much she refused to bury him, eventually–in Gamalinda’s retelling, at least–eating bits and pieces of his corpse so he could be with her forever.

I remember shuddering when I first read that poem, unnerved by the graphic description of cannibalism. But nowadays, even if those verses still make me feel a little queasy, I can understand the sentiment better, because so much of how we talk about  longing and lust (especially on social media, with #ThirstyThursday and “a whole snack” and all that) involves lips and tongues and teeth.

What I’m about to say next is going to sound super creepy, and maybe get me banned from the VIP section at BTS’s Manila concert (which, fingers crossed, happens next year), but when that photo of Jin popped up on my Facebook feed, my reactions were quick and overwhelmingly physical: widened eyes and sudden intake of breath and a desire to shriek curtailed only by the fact that I was at a shoot for work and the cameras were rolling.

In that moment, I understood all of my friend’s exclamations of wanting to swallow her phone whole; if I had no makeup and less self-control, I might have(?) smashed my face into my laptop screen, eyes-first, until the image was burned into my corneas.

(I warned y’all this would be creepy. BigHit, if your secret internet agents ever see this, please don’t take me seriously. I only want to watch EAT Jin; I don’t actually want to eat him.

Instead of doing that, though, I Googled Eric Gamalinda’s poem about Juana the Mad.

My friend John and I have been talking about beauty, on and off, for the past few days, because we’re both writers and apparently this is the stuff writers talk about casually sometimes (I realize how pretentious that sounds.). Right as I was looking up Philip The Handsome, Juana’s ill-fated husband, John messaged me, asking how I was. I messaged him the poem in reply, followed by an incoherent stream-of-consciousness reflection on why beautiful things–like a beloved husband, or a KPop bias, or maybe even a friendship between two stubborn people who love each other, even if one of them isn’t always the best at showing it–elicit a physical hunger. Why is the language of longing also the language of starvation?

I don’t know what constituted the Catholic royal wedding vows of Juana’s time, but the vows I know include the words “to have and to hold.” If you’re holding on to something long enough, it will leave a mark, will change you in ways you can see and ways you can’t. Maybe when we hunger for something or someone, it’s because we’re longing for that change, the way the food we ingest filters into our bodies, turns into flesh or fat or fuel, becomes a part of us.

(Because you can’t lose that which is a part of you. Because it is always there, right next to your heartbeat, or in your heartbeat, in your bones and blood and flesh forever and ever and ever, Amen.)

There’s good kinds of hunger, and bad kinds of hunger. Anyone who’s ever tried to eat clean knows this. Your body can crave junk in the same way as it craves things that are good for it, and it’s up to you to know the difference. When I messaged John about how I thought the language of love is hunger, he told me he didn’t agree: that hunger and thirst are so base, that to consume is animal, and that love was so much more. And I think he’s right: hunger is not all that love is. I don’t love Jin, not really.

(But…)

My friend and I have not spoken for longer stretches of time, but this time, for some reason (or, well, maybe I know the reason), it hurts, like acid burning in my chest and up my throat. My thoughts are fuzzy. I am unable to focus, tired, sluggish. There’s a dull throb of emptiness in my gut that I can ignore, but can’t quite get used to, because it feels wrong.

There are good kinds of hunger and bad kinds of hunger. I want to believe my body knows the difference, knows which one you’re supposed to feed. I saw a photo of my favorite KPop idol today, and my first reaction was to want to send it to her, to tell her I was licking my screen or swallowing my phone in our shared language of exaggerated cravings. Then I realized that I couldn’t, that I’d decided to hold my tongue instead of swallowing my pride and it hit me why, instead of the self-satisfaction of “standing up for myself” that I’d expected to experience, the silence I’ve chosen feels so very wrong. It feels a little like a body deprived of what’s good for it.

It feels a little like starving.

[Rambles] Scaffolding

Once, there was someone I loved, and that someone built me up until I stood tall and (almost) strong, (almost) stable. I thought they would be part of my life forever.

But sometimes, we lose people to seasons. For whatever reason, the promises of “I’m here to stay.” wear away until they are only words. You take the scaffolding off of the building and the building has to stand on its own.

I only see that person now in photos and tight smiles and notes that dart past on my newsfeed, addressing people who might as well be strangers. We might as well be strangers. But, even with that distance, there are still lessons they’re teaching me.

I’m learning to see, even after someone leaves, you aren’t made less for their leaving.

When the person I loved left, I had to take the scaffolding off. On my own. It hurt so much that I thought I wasn’t strong enough, that I would fall apart. But, after, when the metal  had given way, and the dust had settled, and the earth stopped shaking…I found that I’d remained.

Standing.

~*~

For those who have loved, and lost, and at the end, find.

~aRT~