James Mercer is singing to me. A song about moving away, drinking cheap beer, and listening to rock ‘n roll. It’s New Slang 2.0 but I dig it. It’s an origin song too, I believe. A song about how he got to where he is, to making music, to making a living out of it. Press play, kind stranger.
I wonder what my origin song would be, if I could even write songs. Why did I even start playing music to begin with, if I could even play at all?
Ah, Grade 4! My mom wanted us to learn how to play music but we were too poor to buy a keyboard. One day, though, Ma came home from Cebu with a guitar. It’s worth 900 pesos, she told us, though I was too young to gauge whether that’s mahal or not.
I suffered from asthma as a kid. I was too young to remember the severity of the attacks, but I do remember being fed some concoction that involved buntot ng butiki and dahon ng kalachuchi. I don’t remember the taste at all — maybe it wasn’t that bad? I dunno.
When I started school I realized that I preferred staying indoors. I didn’t mind missing the outdoor fun. I was always the most useless player in a game anyway. The only “sport” I excelled at was hula-hoops. I swear, baks, nobody could ever beat me at hula-hoops.
I stopped having asthma attacks so I thought I was able to outgrow the disease. At 17, I started smoking.
It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. He caught a whiff as he was walking along 4 Avenue, right by the decades-old bakeshop that prides itself for being the only vegan bakery in town. Vegans, he thought. Stupid vegans.
But she was vegan, that girl. It was two years ago when they parted. He used to blame it on her decision to stop eating meat and on his adamant refusal to drink the “cruelty-free” milk that she made by soaking almonds overnight and calling the slimy muck her “dairy alternative.” Some days she used the word “substitute” — to replace, to switch, to change.
I’ve been telling myself to write more often. Just write. Even if it’s terrible, even if it’s incoherent, even if there’s nothing interesting to write about. I remind myself to write with an audience in mind. This way I will at least try to make my thoughts readable. Never mind the correctness; we all make mistakes anyway. Just write.
But when do I write? I work eight hours a week, five times a day, and my boss has been compelling me to explore the town more often. Sometimes I go out with people, sometimes I watch movies in my room, and sometimes I trek along the coulees to keep my lungs and heart healthy (feelingera lang). I’ve also been reading a lot. Many kinds, from Terry Eagleton to Filipino short fiction to one cheesy romance that reminds me of my own voice — which isn’t really a compliment, unfortunately.