I’m Not Myself Right Now

Used to be a fatty. So I slivered myself into nothing. Like almonds. Or moonlight. Then my mom collapsed in the shower. So the doctors prescribed me meds that blew me up. Again.

So I became the crazy fatty with a dead mom. 

So I moved to New York and lost the weight. But not the motherlessness. That follows you everywhere. It exists in what do your parents do? and I ♡ MOM mugs and the $15 daffodils off Avenue I. 

The word for flower in Tagalog is bulaklak. It shares a prefix with the word bulok, meaning rotten. 

Before raping my city, the IJA decapitated over 100 civilians at Dy-Pac Lumberyard. Their heads were dumped in a field less than three miles from the presidential palace, where they later blossomed into strawberries in the summertime.

People treat you differently when you’re pretty. But that’s the thing, I’ve been pretending this whole time. 

Josefina’s pregnant now. Accidentally. It’s ironic, given she’s wanted to die since seventh grade.

That makes two of us. 

She’s asked me to be ninong. Gender reveal parties at 22, I thought only white missionaries pulled that trick. 

I’m so sorry for leaving you on read. Again. Everything’s so noisy, I can’t escape it. But I miss you. How’d the body scan go? Are you back to singing?

I work at the college radio station now, thanks to Kaylin. I’m like Papa Jack, except I’m never on air. It’s the same with therapy, I have so much to say but never the right words.

We ambush the liquor store during Passover. Get handsy with strangers in Bushwick. This girl’s elevator opens directly into her living room. Wtf. But these aren’t my real friends. It’s the same with mom, I’m never here anymore.

I spent years chasing her shadow, even before the aneurysm. 

America is realer than I am. Her troops incinerated my city while defending us from Imperial forces. They later established permanent military posts on these very same flower beds, made fertile with the ashes of our irretrievable history.

Is there any evidence we were even here?

Filipinos are gorgeous, so by default we are transient. The word for brief in Tagalog is saglit. It shares a suffix with the word ulit, meaning repeat.

My people are a recurring brevity. 

I can’t hear you, I’m sorry. I saw my shrink after ghosting her two years ago. I’m back on my happy pills, that’s what’s up. 

Call me back. Please. I miss your voice, even if it’s scratchy. 

A week before Mother’s Day, Kaylin takes me to Target. I’m hungering for things which no name exists, and I’m staring at her the way pregnant bellies stare at bayonets, but I need to choke the feeling down. There’s so much I want to tell her — my family inebriation and the significance of World Thyroid Day, how a city on the equator can still appear as white as snow.

But then I see the greeting cards, and she’s lost me. 

So I’m lying in bed and seeing stars. Watching the shadow of my chest stutter and fall.

Like children screaming in laughter, tripping before exploding into strawberries.

The author, Narisma, sits at a table and smiles, with one hand on his face.

Narisma is a writer and artist from the Philippines. His work has appeared or is forthcoming from The Spotlong Review, Gordon Square Review, The Margins, and Pollux Journal, among others. He currently lives on Lenape land in Brooklyn, New York, where he dabbles in radio production and filmmaking.