One night, three months ago now, while driving one hour each way to one of my gigs, I heard a song on the radio that made me drop everything else I was writing. I wouldn’t know its title, nor hear it again till two months later (which I announced on Twitter because I’d been looking for it forever), but it stuck with me, seeping through my pores against my will.
At that time, I was in the midst of writing this historical fiction novel. My heroine, Luna, was in deep, deep trouble, and the hero, Dev, was — well, it doesn’t matter what he was doing now because the entire story got steamrolled to the side all because I heard this one song that changed everything.
In a matter of days, maybe less than a week, I wrote my first 15K words. The heroine was forming slowly – and begrudgingly, we were getting to know each other. And the hero, well, he had the guise of one Michael Fassbender, and the way his character, Erik, wriggled his way into my writing was slow but sure. And just like the song, I may not have known its title or its singer then, but I knew, or rather felt, its message.
The night Finding Sam was born was April 28 and months later, I’m getting to the finish line, when I ready myself to say good-bye to Sam and Erik and let them live their lives without my meddling (for a while – because there is a Book 2). But there is one character in the story that propelled Sam and Erik’s stories forward, and that is the character of Rosie, whose name appears in the novel’s opening line (and one that I probably will keep there, even for publication).
Readers who stumble upon Finding Sam have written about how the story makes them cry, and I’ve seen how people read Chapter One in the morning, and eight or ten hours later, they’re voting for Chapter 40 (it’s not done yet). It’s a marathon read, but one that’s made me realize just how far I’ve come after hearing a song one night, and at first wondering, do men really think that way about love or is it just a way to sell records? to asking myself why the hell am I writing something as vulnerable as this? Who am I writing this for?
And it made me realize, really realize, that the real muse for Finding Sam isn’t its main character, artist and vulnerable Sam. Nor is it the patient and stalwart Erik.
It was Rosie, Sam’s friend who starts the novel, well, dying.
Rosie is my friend, Pam. I met her on my first day in massage school 17 years ago and we became good friends long after massage school was over. Each month, we got together and exchanged massages (newsflash: most massage therapists don’t get regular massages) at my office, then spent 2 more hours having burgers, or Thai food and lots of coffee.
It was to Pam with whom I shared my secret passion for writing. Up to that point, friends I spent more time with knew me only as the party-loving, always laughing (probably because she was drunk) girl who couldn’t spike a volleyball – but never knowing that I preferred writing more than playing.
It was to Pam to whom I told my wish to write a story set in 1895 Philippines, complete with a brief summary of my characters and little tidbits about my home country. Not even my family knew about it. Pam had this knack for listening to you that made you just want to spill your life story. She was the best – hands down – massage therapist I’d ever allowed to touch my body, because she touched hearts just by being there with you.
My last conversation with Pam was over three years ago, when she called me just as I was getting ready to leave to see clients. Though Pam was always the one on time all the time, she was also someone worth being late for.
It was during this conversation that she asked me how my novel was shaping up – over ten years since I told her about it, and had actually NOT written a word. Pam wanted to learn what happened to Luna, my heroine, and whether her story would continue because she would certainly love to read it when I finished writing it, and when I’d publish it.
But Pam would never get to read my story.
She died a week later — I think, from a pulmonary embolism, for her radiation and chemotherapy treatments had left her with two blood clots just biding their time. Her final wish was not to have a memorial held for her, and I remember how perplexed and angry I was then as to why, for I needed the closure. I needed to talk about her, and all the good she had done for me by being my friend.
Most of all, I just needed her.
It’s been three years since Pam’s been gone. She would have been 55 or so and probably giving massages still, her waiting list probably longer than the three months’ wait that it had been before her cancer diagnosis. Since she’s been gone, I’ve distracted myself with other things, like spinning wool into yarn and gushing over an actor — yet always feeling an emptiness that I knew only one thing could fill. This time, there seems to be no escaping Pam’s memory, and her desire to one day read my stories.
Which means, now I write.
And now Pam’s in this story that came out of nowhere, all because I heard a song that touched my heart and my soul – and maybe through this song, she finally got through to me. And though her character in my story is dead, she’s not forgotten.
Instead, she propels the story forward. And not just this story, but every story that I’ve written ever since I remembered exactly who it was I was writing for.
It was never for the actors, the so-called muses. It wasn’t to inject myself as the heroine, as some people scoff is what writers really do (and even if we did, they’re just jealous we can plant ourselves into our worlds). It’s not even for money since I haven’t made a dime .
I write for me – and because of Pam, the real muse.
If you could paint your current mood onto a canvas, what would that painting look like? What would it depict?
My friend has been going through a tough time lately and I find myself thinking of her many times throughout the day. I wonder if she’s comfortable. I wonder if she’s in pain, or if she’s getting a few breaks from all the health challenges she’s been going through.
I also wonder if she’s scared, the way I am scared of losing a friend.
I discovered her by being a fan of the actor who became, for a time, my muse, and inspired me to return to writing again. My friend writes, too, and this morning, I saw that she published a new story on Wattpad, where my stories can also be found. She writes Lady Oakenshield stories that make me smile, especially since I write sad things 90% of the time. However, I’ve yet to read her story this morning – only because I wanted to draw her a picture first, and send it to her.
Fortunately, today’s Daily Prompt helped seal the deal in that department, so this is how I feel right now. A bit melancholic, a bit relieved. Very grateful. And though you don’t see it in the picture that I drew of her (I am not a blonde – though I remember that she is. Hmm…now I sure hope so!), my heart was doing the happy dance the entire time I drew it.
I am happy to see that she is getting better, getting stronger each day. I hope to see her in person one day, and laugh and cackle like the crazy women that we are, at inside jokes and everything else.
She’s a tough woman, this amazing friend of mine, just like the Arkenstone she named herself after – and I’m so happy to call her my friend.
It’s a beautiful spring day
and outside, the birds are singing
The winds blow the clouds across the sky
in the air, the smell of rain now fading.
I feel the pain and uncertainty in your words,
even as the bright white sun shines above
I wish I could have enclosed you in a warm embrace just then,
infused that space between us with love
But we walked on, keeping up with the pace
of our beating hearts, and our hope-filled dreams
It’s a beautiful spring day outside, I know,
but your heart is full of worry. It’s ripping at the seams.
Tell us the origin story of your best friend. How did you become friends? What is it that keeps your friendship rockin’ after all these years?
I don’t remember when I first met Molly but it must have been during primary school, or at the latest, freshman year in high school. We must have hit it off right away because I mostly remember having her come over our house during the weekends and after school she and I would walk home together. She lived at least another jeepney ride to her home, but she’d walk me all the way to my street where I’d see her off and walk on home.
She was my “chaperone” when I went on my first date with a Japanese trapeze performer during a school day (approved by my mom to skip school with a note that said Molly and I were both sick and had to stay home from school – or whatever reason it was my mom came up with), and when I started dating for real, she was there through the excitement of the first “real” kiss and the heartbreak that followed (he only dated me because he was trying to get a gig as a model and my brother was the photographer).
When she got into her first real catfight with one of our mutual friends, I stayed by her side through the gory details and beyond, never caring if I’d be ostracized too. Once, we decided to bake brownies in my mother’s never-used oven (it was really just for show, since we had the “dirty” kitchen where everything was cooked and prepared), she opened the oven half-way and said, “oh, the little fire in the oven went out,” and proceeded to light it with a match.
I remember the bright flash of light and the huge bang that followed and we’re both grateful that other than singed eyebrows and all the hair on her arms gone, she was fine, though we laughed so hard that we both cried and peed our pants. Looking back now, I think we were both in shock though.
When she met a new group of friends to hang out with (after the catfight), she took me along with her to a beach party only to realize that evening that I had eaten “brownies” someone had brought and I was high as a kite. She had to face my mother at 3 am with some lame story that the car broke down, all the time trying her best to hold me up. From then on, she partied while I remained grounded for what seemed like the rest of my teen-age years.
As we grew older, we drifted apart – me, with my own dramas and Molly with her can-do-nothing-can-stop-me attitude. It would take us almost five to eight years to see each other again, and when we did, I realized how much she had remained the same inside (wild, level-headed survivor Molly) though on the outside, she loved to shock people with her fuck-you attitude. I had changed, however, grown up from the spoiled little rich girl that I was to someone who had to learn on my own that there were more important things than sitting and writing out my characters’ fictional lives, and that life can be so tough that if it weren’t for the fact that I was too much of a coward to do it myself, I’d have been dead a long time ago. During that stay, she told me something that I had forgotten – and that reminded me so much about why she is as successful as she is today.
“Whenever I was hungry, I always knew where to go. You always had food at your house.”
And she was always at our house.
When I told her that I had to have a church wedding (per my in-laws) even though she had already been my maid of honor during my Vegas wedding – and she knew how much I loathed anything big and ritualistic as a church wedding – she cheerily announced that she would love to be my “matron of horror” any day. She, along with my brothers, were what kept me sane through it all.
I don’t see much of Molly these days though I wish I did. We both live in different states, and we both have such different lives. When she comes down, I end up too busy with kiddie stuff. I could try harder to get together with her, although I think most of all, I’m afraid of her honesty. Honesty that happens only among friends.
My husband once called her Hurricane Molly, because sheltered as he was, he’d never met a woman like Molly before. But one day, when he got too drunk to know what he was saying, he let it slip that he was jealous of my friends, most of all, Molly, though there was anger there, too.
“That woman said she’d kill me if I hurt you,” he said.
And I found myself smiling. That’s the Molly I know. That’s the Molly I love. That’s the Molly I call my best friend.
I wish I could make things better, and make your pain go away
I wish I could tell the people who never stop to think before they speak
that they hurt more than they claim to help
With words about things that they don’t even know the details of
With callous opinions of the same things that they have no clue of
I wish we didn’t feel like we have to have to have to belong somewhere
because we already are part of something much bigger
than this collective we’ve found ourselves in
But maybe it’s human nature to want to belong
Maybe it’s in our bones to want to sing the same song
But even I’m not too daft to see how everything has changed
I’m not so naive not to recognize that things will never be the same again
that the time has come for us to move along
The rift has widened, just like you said
It’s time to move on. This place is dead.
If your day to day responsibilities were taken care of and you could throw yourself completely behind a cause, what would it be?
Photographers, artists, poets: show us HELP.
My best friend, Pam, died from ovarian cancer almost three years ago. She fought it bravely for two years, never once showing me pain or despair. She even participated in the LA Marathon, doing the walking part of it to raise money for the Wellness Community that supported her throughout her battle. She told me that she couldn’t afford to be negative about anything, not when she needed to be positive and strong.
And even during her fight, she would come to my house and sit on the sofa behind me so she could massage my shoulders, for she knew me too well. She knew that ever since we both finished massage school together in 1997, I only received massages from her.
One day she told me that the color for ovarian cancer awareness was teal, something that not a lot of people knew because pink was the one most people knew about.
So if there was a cause I’d throw myself completely to, it would be helping raise awareness for ovarian cancer – as well as cervical and uterine cancer (from which my grandmother died of), all three represented by the teal ribbon – and work towards getting screenings to detect it earlier, like HE4 and CA125 tests, readily available and paid for by insurance. Lofty intentions, I know, but it’s a start.
To learn more about ovarian cancer, you can click on the links below and if you have the time, lend your support: