Silences

When I was a kid
I found myself frequently drifting towards
Where the adults are
Listening in on their conversations
And, eventually, asking questions
“Why does she have two moms?”
“Where did lolo go?”
“What does that word mean?”
Until finally my dad would put me aside
And say, “Hindi dapat nakikisali ang mga bata sa usapan ng mga matatanda.”
And so I learned silence.
I still found myself in the midst
Of adults
But the questions ceased
And I just observed
I watched how they laughed
Joyfully
At each other’s achievements
And I watched how they laughed
Spitefully
Behind each other’s backs.
I learned silence.

When I was introduced
To school
I learned again that
Talking isn’t always encouraged
I was labeled by our homeroom teacher
As one of the most talkative kids
In class
And so I learned silence
My friends and I
We found ways to communicate
Without uttering words
We exchanged notes
Talked with the shifting of eyes
With the raising of the eyebrows.
With stifled laughter
I learned silence

I remember there was this
One morning
It was a school day and
I was just putting on my school uniform
I heard my mom’s phone ring
From across the room
I watched her
Pick up her phone
And start to read
Then,
She sat down on the bed
And started to cry
I was fourteen at that time
I walked over to her
And asked her what’s wrong
She handed me the phone
And I read the message
Her brother,
My uncle,
Just passed away.
My mouth was empty of words.
I sat beside my mom
And I draped
My skinny fourteen year old arm
Over her shaking shoulders
And we stayed like that.
That morning,
I learned silence.

Fast forward a couple of years
Into a time of
The Eraserheads and The Beatles
Into a time when
Pimples started popping like popcorn all over my face
Into a time when
Every time I see my crush?
I not only feel it here, but also down here.
It was a time…
…a time of minimalist replies,
Of trite conversations,
Of awkward dialogues
Especially around the dinner table
Like whenever my dad would ask me
“Oh, kamusta school?”
And I would reply with a shrug of the shoulders
Or, when I’m feeling generous,
With an “OK lang.”
Something happened along the way
Something unforeseen
The hugs and goodnight kisses
Got lost
Somewhere along the transition
Between kid and teen
We found ourselves,
My dad and I,
Staring at each other
From opposite sides of the room
The space between us
Growing larger with each passing day.
I learned silence.

College was when I met her
And I fell in love before I even knew
What love truly was
It was a time of late night texts
Of tangled fingers
And haphazard declarations of promises
Of making this, whatever this is,
Last
It was a time of
Being together
Doing nothing
Because even nothing was enough
It was a time where our quiet
Spoke more
Than whatever words we conjured
I learned silence
In her eyes
I learned silence

Eventually
We realized that emotions
Die
And love?
Love wasn’t enough
Time pushed us forward
With both of its hands
Into arguments
And wordless wars
Time pushed us forward
And we ended up in different
Places
We sat side by side
Allowing the mindless chatter of the world
Do the talking for us
We sat side by side
Draped in a kind of quiet
That felt wrong
Felt out of place.
I learned silence.

On the day she
Finally left
I drove home alone
The sky was amber
Cloudless
Decorated by a flock of birds flying opposite
Where I was headed
Alone,
I learned silence.

Months passed
Laughing became easy
Again
And
Seeing her no longer hurt.
I mostly spend time alone
Haunting bookstores,
Watching the movies,
Walking from day to day,
Writing down poems
I learned that
It is important,
In the midst of all the noise,
To listen
To the quiet sighs of the world
To relish
Those moments of stillness
To find peace
In times of silence.