Of metaphors, cowards and defiance

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Sheila Lynn A. Molarto

I HAVE been seeing things
lately.

It seems that the metaphors I use in my poems are now coming to life. The immeasurable blackness, blobs of mutilated flesh, locked and doors—they all come to me now.

Maybe it’s just the atmosphere. Like now, I feel like exploding into a thousand atoms just by looking at the high pile of books and papers I have to read. I have to stop myself from cursing everything in sight—from an awry computer to an annoying acquaintance who can’t do anything but heckle. It is now easier to criticize and wallow in a flood of negativity.

There is an electric bulb on my head ready to light up for all the world to see. With the slightest stimulus—be it a mistake, a harmless slip or an impure thought—this bulb will signal how imperfect am I.

I seem more “psychotic” than the patients I meet in the psychiatric ward. When I talk to them, I can’t help but feel scared upon discovering that I have something in common with them. What is scarier is that there is only a hairline difference between sanity and insanity. I could have easily shifted from one state into another, as easy as breathing.

But I always repeat to myself: I will not go mad. I will not slink off into the sunset like a drenched cat, tail tucked hastily in between the legs. I will not resort to dirty tricks or shortcuts.

I will not be a coward.

* * *

Pardon me for my “new-year’s-resolutions” tone. It’s just that reaffirming my goals and priorities are the best first-aid measures I can do as of now. Reassuring myself anchors me on safe ground, where I will not be swayed easily to be a coward, hide and pretend that I’m someone else.

It is so easy to shed off the old skin and go out in the world wearing a big mask. Cowering under this mask makes it easier to do all the things one wants to do—dance naked, make faces, or send dirty threats and invectives over the protective anonimity of a cellphone. Anyway, no one will find out, so why care even if you hurt others?

But in the end, the coward is spotted because of his or her obvious paranoia, preparing his own grave. Because of the fear of facing the truth, he or she misses the bus that should have taken him or her destination.

A coward will never grow and move on.

* * *

We have to take risks and do what we all have to do. If you’ve got something to say, say it. You cannot expect others to be magical mind-readers and know automatically thoughts that are itching to dislodge themselves from your brain. “You yourselves have to approach the aides if you need help,” a clinical instructor gently admonished us once during an orientation on our first day of duty in a neuro-psychiatric ward. “They will never know unless you tell them.”

* * *

A friend once asked me if I was a masochist in tryisng to sandwich writing duties between my regular academic load. I just shrugged, because I myself did not know the exact answer. For there are also times when writing just takes the wind out of me. I don’t get my prescribed hours of sleep. I am often in a rush to finish meals (if I don’t miss them.) I have to miss regular gimiks of my friends just to catch up with harrowing deadlines.

But I’d rather be called a masochist than a coward. At least, I do what I love to do, even though not everyone may approve it. Even if the people whom I expect to show even a little form of appreciation condemns it, I will still continue to “hurt myself.” For it is better to feel the pain than to feel nothing at all. I don’t want to look back on my life someday and say with regret, “I shouldn’t have listened to them. I should have defied them.“

I don’t want to dig my own grave.

Montage Vol. 6 • August 2002