Tag Archives: Robbed

A new beginning.

Two weeks after the beginning of a new year, and everything is already very different… and yet completely the same. I’m sitting in the bedroom, watching mosquitoes hover in front of my cat-eye frames, and blaming myself for not remembering to close the window screen after Riley opened it to make sure I heard him yell, “Mama! Mama! Mamaaaaa!!”

That was his greeting when I got home from school. 

I’d come home early because of a headache and my body’s need to relax, and there he was, happy to see me, positively radiant and beaming in his I-LOVE-my-mommy!-ness. Micah was in the bath, and when he saw me, he lit up like a firecracker and I swore I saw heaven. 

And then I remembered that Rob’s mom had passed away from lung cancer and that she’d never see my babies’ smiles, and I wanted to smoke and eat and shop and act out every other vice I have. 

It’s been a hard year so far.

I miss Rob’s mom. There are money issues plaguing me. My extended family is showing itself to be more and more bat-shit crazy. Rob and I are having a hard time being Rob and I. And in the midst of all this, I’m tentatively putting one foot in front of the other, making my way towards something better than what I’ve got, and mindful that everything could blow up in my face at any moment.

 

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On being happy while wishing I wasn’t *here*.

The following was a bout of mental diarrhea that I unleashed on good friends. Fear was stopping me from sharing it on here, but then I realized that 1) I’m having a hard time posting every day (something I want to do) and at the very least, it’ll help with that goal; and 2) I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t post it. So here it is.

I was going to write a blog post about how much I hate it here – but
that’s not entirely true. I don’t really hate it here. I just hate
certain clashes between myself and Filipino culture – and, honestly,
those clashes would be more or less ameliorated if I had more money.
The Philippines is funny that way. Have enough in your wallet, and you
can safely call someone’s mom a whore.

No, it’s not here, per se, that I hate. There’s just something
that’s in the air that’s making me feel uncomfortable. It hit, like 3
hours ago, when I was writing fiction, and it’s only grown as I tried
to study, got a headache, got into a fight with Rob, and started
fantasizing about a friend’s ex-boyfriend.

Let me back up.

The story I’ve been working on has kind of been my salvation on days
when I really loathe my decision of moving out here. It’s the story of
three generations of a Filipino/Filipino-American family, and their
take on the American Dream. Each of them encounters something that
makes them “settle” for a less-than-stellar version of their goal,
i.e., The grandma stays married to a man who constantly cheats on her
(read: not really fictional, this story.), and yet finds ways to “be
happy.” And that right there is the question I pose in the story (and
also the question I was going to pose in the blog post): Is it
possible to really be happy if you don’t like your situation?

At the crux of this question is the idea of happiness and what it
entails. Is it something purely from within? Is it something that
depends, at least partly, on circumstance? If the former is true, then
is happiness something that certain people have a natural inclination
towards? Or is it learned? And if it’s learned, then doesn’t that mean
that it depends (at least in a round-about way) on circumstance, thus
making the latter true?

I can go on for a while with this line of thinking…

Anyway, I realized as I was writing the blog post that every day, I
make myself happy. Now, that sentence alone tells me a couple things:
1) I’m not naturally happy, 2) My happiness is up to me.

I realized as I was writing the blog post that what makes me happy is
the belief that I’m improving myself so that once I get to Real Life
aka The States and everything that is in accordance with my values and
belief systems, I’ll be able to live a more fulfilled, successful and
happy life. This right here? It’s only a pit-stop. And that fact? The
fact that I’m not really living the life I want – at least right now –
makes me truly unhappy. I’m just a shadow of my real self. I don’t get
to show all my colors, because the Philippines is a monotone place
where no one can see my colors. As much as I explode rainbows, it goes
unacknowledged and unappreciated and this makes me feel like my energy
is being wasted and my value is being demeaned.

(I hate to degrade this amazing opportunity to learn about my culture,
learn more about myself, et al, but that’s what I’ve come to view my
time here as: a necessary and dreadful pit-stop on my journey to
becoming who I want to be.)

So. Now. Back to the fiction-writing.

This was all percolating in my head as I was writing, and that’s when
my friend’s ex made an appearance in the story. Because, really?
He’s everything that Rob isn’t, aka he’s the improved version of my
partner. He’s charismatic. He commands the respect and attention of
crowds. He’s learned and intellectual and has a better grasp on the
English language than Rob has – even though English isn’t his first
language. And he has this air of integrity. Maybe that’s all it is –
maybe it’s just air, smoke and mirrors and whatnot – but I can feel
it, whatever it is. Character. Virtue. This is what draws me in. This
sense that he knows what he’s doing, that he’s guided by an idea of
what he knows is right, and that his belief system closely resembles
my own. I can feel all this, and all of a sudden there’s a new
character in the fiction story – one that the mom has an affair with
after the dad moves back to New York – and I can’t help but wonder: Am
I writing my future? Am I going to make this happen?

After I got into the fight with Rob (which was caused because I’d
asked him to watch Riley, and he just played video games while Riley
kept trying to head-butt me as I nursed my headache), I couldn’t help
but fantasize. Not about my friend’s ex, really. But about a man.
A man who knows what he’s doing. A man who doesn’t need me to teach
him how to be. A man who eats even when he doesn’t have company. A man
who doesn’t ask me to go with him downstairs so we can “be together”
when really, that’s what he means: He wants us to be next to each
other, even though he knows damn well that I have four chapters of
dense material to study.

And I don’t know. I just don’t know what this all means. I just know
that when it comes to living in the Philippines and being in a
relationship with Rob, I make myself happy, and a part of me wishes
that wasn’t the case. I wish I was just happy. No elaboration or
work necessary. Just happy.

I wonder if that’s possible, though. Can people just be happy? Or is
it the potential for something better that’s really the catalyst for
happiness? If a static life is a happy one, then why do we aspire to
change our circumstances?… And that’s where the fiction story just
keeps going and going…

I should have worked for the CIA.

Tonight, two things happened:

  1. I finally watched the Angelina Jolie flick, Salt,   and,
  2. I had my first break with reality.

*****

It was 6 p.m. Rob, Riley and I were in my brother’s room, watching the movie, and Riley was agitated. One of his back molars are coming in, so Rob went back to our bedroom to get his bottle. Usually, biting on the nipple of a bottle is enough to soothe him, but tonight was another story. I knew he’d feel better if we went to our room, so we paused the film and walked down the hall.

When I stepped into the room with Riley, the lights were off. I turned them on and noticed that the electric fans were on. Rob came in and mentioned that he’d turned them on when he retrieved the bottle, and then he drew my attention to the screen door of the balcony. “When I came in here, though, the screen door was closed. I’m sure of it.”

*****

When I was little, I used to sleep with my shoes on. A book bag and jacket were always in my closet, waiting. At hand were necessities: money, water, matches, flashlight, batteries, granola bars, extra clothes, my passport, et al. They were all waiting in that knapsack. I was ready. I was always ready.

*****

I used to have dreams where I was running. People or monsters or vampires would be chasing me,  and I would be running for my life. I always seemed to be jumping and climbing and making my way through rabbit holes and strange attics and tunnels – sometimes all in the same dream – and sometimes, it would appear as if I’d get caught. But then I’d learn to fly or suddenly have some kind of super power. I was always very capable in these dreams, and they felt so vivid and real.

*****

A month after I moved to the Philippines, the Maguindanao Massacre happened. I’d already been feeling apprehensive about my move to a developing nation, and the massacre was exactly what was necessary to push me over the edge.

I remember, a couple of nights after it happened, I was watching the news and the reporter talked about the killings. Women had been raped before guns were shoved into their vaginas and fired. Some were gangraped. Kids had been killed, possibly after having been molested. Men…?

I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to think about the fact that I now live in a country where things like that happen and no one is brought to justice. I didn’t want to think about what would happen if circumstances somehow made me or my son a victim of such a tragedy. I didn’t want to ask myself who I would turn to or what I would do. The truth is, I didn’t know the answers to these questions. I still don’t know the answers.

That night, I stared at Riley asleep in his crib, angelic as ever, and I started crying. Hysterically. Because what kind of mother brings her infant to a country where bad things happen and she has no one to trust? What kind of mother gives up the safety of trusted ambulances, police, and media, to haul her kid to a country where politicians are blatant, unscrupulous assholes? What kind of mother would do that? A bad one. I was sure I was a bad mom.

And I was scared. Not just because of the idea of being a bad mom, but because I truly believed that my safety was in danger. And, honestly, I still do. I’m scared shitless because there are no laws/rules/boundaries here. None that are respectable, at least. And I don’t know how I should function. I just know how I will function, and that’s a scary notion. Because I’m scared. And I think my safety and my son’s safety are in jeopardy simply by living in the Philippines. And fear augments peoples’ capacity to do irrational things.

I will kill someone.

*****

I sat on the bed, while clutching Riley in my lap and watching Rob open all of the closets. The whole time, I imagined a man stepping out with a knife, and I kept telling myself not to panic. If someone jumped out, I had to be ready. I had to scream to Rob exactly the right and concise phrase to make him know the location of the intruder. I had to throw something heavy or sharp at the assailant. I had to keep Riley safe. I had to do a lot of things, and the more I thought about it, the more I kept on seeing red, and I remembered The Stranger, and how the protagonist saw red before he stabbed the man at the beach. I imagined that that’s just what happens right before you take a life: the world is painted in a gory tinge of bright red, which makes it difficult to know what’s really going on.

Rob searched everywhere, and my adrenaline was making my heart pound like a bass drum, and I suddenly felt nauseous, and I thought about the gun we keep under the bed and started wondering where I hid the bullets. I thought about running to my brother’s room and retrieving a few of his fighting knives. I thought about stuffing the diaper bag with our essential documents and whatever was lying around, and putting on my sneakers.

I was scared and paranoid and confused and frenzied, and I don’t know how or when it happened, but somehow it came out that the whole thing was a joke. But it was too late. I was already screaming and crying hysterically. Over and over again, between hyperventilating sobs, I kept yelling, “Never do that to me!” And the whole time, I couldn’t escape the scenes flashing through my head: running, fighting, clawing, flying with an excited fury out of harm’s way.

*****

I used to fantasize about joining the military or CIA. I wanted to go through the rigorous physical and emotional training. I wanted to prove my mettle. I wanted to show people, to show myself, that I could withstand that kind of pressure.

Whenever I ran on my parents’ treadmill, I’d put on a horror film and run especially hard and fast when the killer came onto the screen. I knew I had to run or be killed. It was a kind of training. Just like sleeping with shoes on. Or having a backpack of necessities ready. Or learning to read behind the words escaping peoples’ mouths.

*****

When Rob arrived in the Philippines and saw our house for the first time, he said, “I just looked at the place, and I know how to climb up to the master bedroom.” This, despite our guard dogs, and the tall gate surrounding our property, and the perennial periphery of onlooking neighbors.

*****

Two weeks ago, when Rob and I had a huge blowout about his going back to New York, I’d mentioned how scared I was. How I feel like the only person I can trust in the Philippines is my brother, and he was flaky. How I fear for my bodily safety, and for Riley’s safety, too. How I’m willing to deal with my fear because living here is the only real shot I have at… I don’t know. I’m not sure why I ascribe incredible characteristics to this place and our plan of living here, but I do. Something in my gut tells me that great and wonderful things are going to happen if I stay in the Philippines and make good on all of my plans.

But something also tells me that I’m going to be challenged in ways I’ve only ever considered in nightmares.

And that thrills and excites and confuses and scares me.

*****

Rob should have known better. He should have known that I’m scared. He should have remembered the conversation we had two weeks ago. When I told him that, he said, “I remember what you said about being scared. I just thought that you wouldn’t be scared because you know everyone here.”

My fears hadn’t made sense to him. So he’d disregarded them.

*****

Rob’s going to see a therapist in New York. Hopefully, he’ll learn more about himself and how/why he does what he does, and I can finally put an end to the conundrum of Rob. I want to know when he’s joking. I want to get why he thinks it’s okay to scare the shit out of me. I want to get, mostly, why he didn’t understand what would happen if he continued making me believe that there was an intruder in our room. I want to know why he completely disregarded my fears and discarded my trust.

I want him to make sense to me.

*****

In those moments of fear, when Rob was searching the room for an intruder, I felt myself slipping. Rationality had escaped, and I was trying desperately to reign her back in. I was capable of doing anything. I think I’m going crazy, I thought. But if I know I’m crazy, then I can’t be crazy, right? That’s how that goes? Or maybe I’m only questioning my craziness because I know that most people consider that the sane thing to do?

And then the fear from my craziness. The frenzied sensation of worry as I realized that I was losing touch with reality. The second wherein I’d considered suicide to save Riley from the fate of having a crazy mom. The next second, where I felt suicide would be a better option than letting Rob drive me crazy.

And that: The thought that Rob would someday drive me crazy. Because he knows how. Because he knows how close I am to the edge, and that he’s capable of doing it. Because he knows I trust him and will let my defenses down. Because he knows that he can. Because he doesn’t want to, but he won’t catch himself doing it until it’s too late.

I really think Rob is the personification of all those mind-washing techniques employed by the military and CIA. Loving him is the closest I’ll ever be to living out that dream.

Brownout, blackout, burnout. (Part 3)

burn·out (bûrnout) n.

1. A failure in a device attributable to burning, excessive heat, or friction.
2. Aerospace

a. The termination of rocket or jet-engine operation because of fuel exhaustion or shutoff.
b. The point at which this termination occurs.
3.

a. Physical or emotional exhaustion, especially as a result of long-term stress or dissipation.
b. One who is worn out physically or emotionally, as from long-term stress.
Rob gets here in a week, I’ve been “hired” by a few more online employers*, and the debt I owe to Brooklyn College will be paid off by the end of May. These are all causes of celebration, and for this reason I’d spent the last 36 hours on an amazing high. But then Real Life came knocking at my door, saying, “These are all awesome developments, but you’ve got a lot more to do, lil miss,” and I was suddenly reminded of Real Life’s relation to Debbie Downer.
Lately, I’ve been dealing with problems of the “Is Rob a compulsive liar?” variety, a dubious question to ask a student who once majored in philosophy. Not only do Rob and I think completely differently, so that we could watch a car accident and come out with drastically opposing incident reports, but epistemology was one of my best and most favorite classes. One of the things that it drilled into my head was that even people who study knowing for a living don’t know when you know something.
Got that?
There’s something deeply disturbing with knowing that people with doctorate degrees in knowing can fundamentally disagree about how to tell if someone knows something. I mean, c’mon: If you can’t tell if someone knows something, how can you tell if they’re lying? Do you see my problem?
Another problem: Our maid housekeeper is quitting. I don’t know why or even when it’s happening because she won’t talk to me about it (she’ll only speak to my mom), but it’s happening soon, and my brother and I are weighing the pros and cons of having her replaced. Pros: Riley’s nanny would have someone to talk to, we’d have an extra person to boss around help us with housekeeping, and when the school grind comes back around I’d be better able to concentrate on studying. Cons: This person could steal from us, we could save money by not hiring anyone, and it would make me feel more like a “real mom” if I were doing more household chores.
Real talk: I’m upset that our housekeeper, Joy, won’t talk to me about what’s going on with her. I really don’t care if the reason she’s quitting is so that she can move in with some guy she met around the way and spend the day fucking instead of cleaning our fucking house. I’d just rather she say so to my face so I’m not constantly worrying that she thinks we’re awful, stuck-up, spoiled people and she’d want nothing more than to get far, far away from us. Or worrying that she’s pissed off for some strange reason and will suffocate us while we’re sleeping. [NOTE: sleep with the door locked until she’s gone.]
The anxiety. Holy fuck, the anxiety. It was non-existent until those questions about Rob and truth, and this stuff about Joy popped up today, and I have to wonder if the fact that I recently got on the pill is the real reason my heart is pounding and my nerves are extra crispy. There’s just so much going on. It feels like it’s more than I’ve ever experienced, and although I’m reveling in the heat of pressure, it also feels like I’m writhing in it (albeit, in a sexy, wrestling-in-mud kind of way).
God, I could really use a mud mask and a deep tissue massage… One more week. One more week, then Rob and I go on a mini vacay and all of this will get sorted out.

Riley makes everything better.

I remember having doubts about my relationship with Rob even while I was pregnant. They were the same doubts I’ve had all along, the same doubts I’m having now. From the moment I realized that I loved him, I also knew there was something missing. Try as I might to figure out what that component was, I could never identify it.

Sometimes, I thought it had to be some major deficiency in one of us, or both of us. Other times, I thought I just hadn’t figured out my place in the world quite yet, and that that fact was making it hard for me to be someone’s significant other. A few times, I thought that the thing missing was definitely that unnameable thing that must be what keeps couples together for more than 50 years. It must be that glue, that ingredient X, that somethin’ somethin’ that Rob and I must not have. Or maybe there’s nothing wrong at all and there never has been, and I’ve simply gone a bit crazy from being deprived of sex apart from Rob for almost six months.

This is what I’m sure of: Rob has a way of making me doubt everything that I know, of twisting my insides until they don’t resemble anything comfortable or familiar, of creating the most unexpected realities out of thin air. Despite my love for him, the fact remains: he makes me more confused than anything or anyone ever could. And this makes me self-conscious, frustrated and insecure.

The way I feel about Riley is the exact opposite of this feeling.

I remember confiding to my might-as-well-be-sister that this baby, whoever he ended up being, would be my salvation. I could feel it in my bones. Even when he was only a fetus, I felt like I knew him already. And the person I felt I knew? I was certain he would complete everything in me that was inadequate, answer all of the unsolved puzzles of my soul, and fix all of the broken parts of my past. And even though I knew that these feelings weren’t healthy, that I was making Common Mothering Mistake #920538, aka Putting all of your eggs into your embryo, I just couldn’t help it. I knew that whatever happened to me and Rob, my baby would be taken care of. I would make sure of that. And by doing so, I would be untouchable. Inscrutable. Perfect. I knew that this baby would make me the mysterious, magical, mother-queen of everything I ever wanted to be. I. Just. Knew.

I was right.

Ever since becoming a mom, I’ve made decisions that have thrown my world for a loop. I’ve moved, I’ve shaken, I’ve stirred the very depths of my being. And for all of the tough choices, the strange choices, and the misunderstood choices, I’ve become a better person. It’s obvious to anyone who’s seen my evolution, and the explicit nature of this change is such that I wonder just how bad of a person I had to have been before.

All I know is, Riley forces me to condense every part of me that is good, and make it readily available. He makes me strive for excellence, for impeccability. Because of him, I have a peace of mind and a resolve that I’ve never had before. I have more confidence, self-esteem, and general good will towards my fellow humans than I’ve ever had before. I am the most authentic version of myself that I’ve ever been before. And all of this is because of Riley.

Me & Riley (@ 6 months old)

I feel broken.

What’s the difference between commitment and insanity?

I want to write something profound and unnerving. Something that will somehow connect battered woman’s syndrome to insanity to romance to “sticking it out”, and weave its way magically back to a place that makes sense and sounds beautiful.

I want to go downstairs, take my baby in my arms, and laugh and smile and make silly faces with him. I want to celebrate his life and his accomplishments. I want to congratulate him for learning how to stand up on his own and sit up on his own and crawl (today—FINALLY!). I want to call my mom and tell her about the two teeth that are coming in in Riley’s mouth. I want to be happy and carefree and have only thoughts about the swimming pool that we purchased today and the adorable Winnie the Pooh swim trunks that I bought Riley and that I’m pretty sure are useless.

I want my face to be perky and happy and smiley instead of snot-stained and tear-stained and reddened and swollen. I want to have proof of the conversation I just had with Rob on Facebook chat. But then again, it’s probably best that it doesn’t let me scroll up and select the conversation from the very beginning. I think evidence of our mismatch would only make me depressed.

I want to know what I want. There are some days when I think it’s to be with him, and some days when I just want to be over him. Every day, I wrack my brain wondering what’s right for Riley.

I have come to some conclusions, and my thoughts are wandering:

  1. Fuck my pride. The old me would make Rob come here just to prove to everyone that I’m not some pathetic bitch who was dumped by her baby’s daddy. I would have planned things accordingly, so that a new romance would be budding just as he arrived, and there would be a duel for my affection in front of my house for all of the neighbors to see. But I don’t care anymore. I don’t have the will to start a new relationship – sexual or otherwise. I don’t feel the need to prove my superiority. Let him come here and turn me into a sad version of myself, one crying, with snot dripping out of my nose, eyeliner smudged, slobbering drool, screaming, shrieking, and crazed in the street. I’m human. I think I’ve earned the right to act that way.
  2. The next four years will be all about the 3 R’s: Riley, writing, and recreation.
  3. Tomorrow starts a new day. One that I’ve already planned, and which includes: spending as much time with Riley as possible, while carving out 6 hours to write, and talking to Rob about the debt (which he says he’s going to pay asap). I will treat Rob like a necessary component of my day: like a class I hate attending, but is mandatory for my diploma.
  4. I wonder if the love I had for him is really dead, or if I just feel this way in the wake of our Facebook argument?
  5. “Facebook argument”? My god, we are pathetic!