The Condiment That Puts Hair on Your Chest

The other night I was craving for pork belly, so I made my way to the only place in my vicinity that offered succulent pieces of marinated, moist brown pork belly. They also make an excellent nasi goreng, so I ordered that with a side of mouth-watering slices of pork belly.

When the bowl of nasi goreng came (the pork belly pieces nestled comfortably within that cushy bed of delicious fried rice), my whole being instantly vibrated with unsung songs of the eternal universe. If there was a thing called heaven, that moment truly epitomised it.

However, I needed something spicy to just take this epicurean delight up a notch. I asked a passing staff -- who was Asian (and this is important to this story) -- if they have a spicy condiment at hand.

"We have sriracha," she offered. I looked at her horrified and clutched my non-existent pearl necklace. ​ "Don't you dare!" I stage-whispered to her dramatically. She started giggling. "That shit is disgusting! It's chili sauce for lame white hipsters who cry at the mere touch of anything remotely spicy on their bland tongues!"

I could tell she was struggling not to say anything, but she nodded slightly. "Well, we do have chili oil."

"THANK YOU!" I looked at her pointedly, giving her small smile. "Now, that's the stuff! Puts hair on your chest!" She laughed and nodded.

I don't give a rat's ass if you worship at the altar of sriracha -- that shit needs to be banished to the trash bin.

Punished

Last Thursday, right after the all-staff meeting, I booked a follow-up physio for what I felt was a remaining stiff twinge from my thawed frozen left shoulder. I couldn't take any more of what was being announced on the all staff forum -- I logged out of that Zoom call, and a sense of fleeting peace settled in my brain. ​ But I was still feeling numb -- the stagnation that I was feeling in the last couple of days was becoming irrepressibly overwhelming. I put on my slate-blue women's Airism lounge shirt, light beige booty shorts, and navy knit shoes. My hair was smooth, soft, and flyaway-free. I knew I looked positively smashing, so with that little bit of self-affirmation, I headed out to meet my physio. ​ My Scottish physiotherapist had called earlier, asking if we could push the session further into the afternoon. But I had a couple of meetings after my scheduled physio, so I said no. ​ "I'm so sorry I couldn't move our session," I said, after he greeted me and asked how I was doing. ​ "No problem at all!" he said. ​ "You're just saying that to be nice," I said, sitting down in front of him. "That's okay, you can take it out on me. You'll just have to punish me." ​ He burst out laughing.

I probably shouldn't have been so forward with him, after all, he's a professional health service provider. But I confess I was a thirsty for him from the get go, so these pent-up emos were now just all coming out. But he didn't seem to be averse from my blatant flirting, and he seemed genuinely amused with my sassy and sarcastic opinions on life and people in general. ​ I ended up getting tortured, regardless. He worked relentlessly on the edge of my range, which was excruciating. I suppose I asked for it. ​ I needed to feel something.

Defeated

"Have you ever seen me defeated? Don't you forget what I've been through And yet I'm still standing." (Evita, 1996)

I arrived at the Diabetes Centre at St Paul's hospital this morning, dreading my appointment with my endocrinologist. The receiving area was almost devoid of people: I had arrived early. I checked myself in before sitting down to gather my thoughts while I wait to be called.

My doctor emerged from his office, a man in his 60s with a rather cheery disposition that made me suspicious. He called my name and shook my hand. He led me into his office, and started going through my blood work -- an endless list of mystifying acronyms and puzzling medical terms with numbers that did not make sense to me.

He looked up from the reports and suggested I take more insulin before every meal. He also suggested, that I cut the carbs from my diet.

I wasn't prepared to do all those things and flatly said no. He sighed. Both him and I knew there's not much he can do unless I make significant lifestyle changes. I was already on a trifecta of powerful antihyperglycemic drugs, and they won't make a huge difference if I continue eating and drinking whatever I want. I refused to see a dietitian because I'm offended at the thought of someone telling me what to eat. The last dietitian I saw, unfortunately, was on the receiving end of my snarkiness.

"No," I had said, standing up and heading towards the door. "You do NOT tell me what I should or shouldn't be eating."

"I'm only trying to help," she protested.

"Didn't ask for it," I snarled as I unceremoniously left her at her table, her diet chart empty.

It seemed like my options these days were awful-tasting brown rice, boring lentils, unremarkable quinoa, tasteless greens and unsalted food. I cannot consume too much protein as this will, in turn, trigger my gout.

I've done this before, and I was a bitch. No one would want to be on the receiving end of my sugar-deprived nastiness especially when the very food that gave me comfort was taken away.

I just looked at my endocrinologist, noticing the wispy white hair on the sides of his head. I glanced at my doctor's notes, even though they were upside down to me. The first line read: "Nelson's diabetes maintenance has been sub-optimal." I sighed. I tried to stay positive, but I also felt very defeated.

Tomorrow is another day.

I Wish You Would Let Me Tell Your Story

I wish you would let me tell your story.

I knew what happened that day at the Christian Life Education Centre. You and a couple of other students who exhibited unmasculine mannerisms and qualities were singled out and asked to come before the vice rector of the school and the centre's coordinator. The vice rector proceeded to tell you "it is a sin to have mannerisms or act in ways that do not align with the nature of the sex you were born with."

Short of saying, you are boys. Do not act like girls.

I saw you and the others return to the classroom, your eyes red and wet. I wanted to ask you what had happened. I wanted to comfort you, and stand with you in solidarity. But you kept quiet. You did not want to talk about it.

I saw how this burden of sin had effectively silenced you. And in your silence, I could hear the wail of your pain -- loud and clear. I wished I was there with you to respond to the sanctimonious vice rector, but we all had this fear of them reporting us to our parents, or worse, potentially get expelled.

I found out all the details from another classmate, who was far more fearless. He described to me the judgmental finger-wagging of a church leader and an educator who were supposed to inspire compassion and kindness.

I know that this was so long ago, and you may have already buried this incident in the dusty far corners of your mind, never to be revisited. But I wish you'd let me tell your story.

I wanted you to know, your pain is also my pain.

Why Do I Write

Why do I write?

When I was about 8 or 9, I was a voracious reader. I ploughed through an entire Nancy Drew series, marvelling at the adventures of a plucky titian-haired heroine. I quickly got bored with that and started reading the classics. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The Pearl. Heidi. The Cask of Amontillado. The Hound of Baskersville. And anything Nathaniel Hawthorne.

And then I discovered Stephen King. The very vivid way of how he wrote sparked an interest of potentially writing my own stories.

But it was a little difficult for me, growing up with two languages. I didn't quite know if I should write in Tagalog or in English. I suppose I could do both, but my geeky side wanted to work on English grammar and syntax. I already have the vocabulary.

But learning the rules of writing in English wasn't enough to motivate me to actually write something.

I knew I could use words to persuade people, make them feel something. I wanted to tell stories, but I also knew if I'm going to write, I needed to be vulnerable. And I had to be okay with that.

Otherwise, there is no point.