Forty-eight hours since you took your own life
and everyone’s struggling to pick up the pieces,
trying to figure out where they went wrong
hoping the pain burrowing deeper inside them decreases,
even as your friends back at school
talk about you now in the past tense,
did you find the peace you were searching for
when the demons finally breached your last defense?
You’re having a nightmare, and have to choose between three doors. Pick one, and tell us about what you find on the other side.
If I were having a nightmare, my father, who would have turned another year older today, would be the one I’d want to see on the other side of that door. I’d open it, see him and say, Happy Birthday, Daddy. I hope you’re having a hell of a party on the other side, because you sure had a hell of one over here. And we, the ones who are left behind, are kinda still paying for it.
It made sense now when my father told me a long time ago that he’d done the best he could to provide for us, that he’d given us the chance of an education – and that was it. No properties to hand out, no houses to pass on. Nothing. Not that we were expecting any because he already told us there was nothing for him to pass on. But he did leave us something – bridges, lots of burned bridges.
But on his birthday, if I ever found myself in that nightmare, that’s who I’d want to see – for now. Even if it’s just to say, Happy Birthday, Daddy. I hope you’re well, wherever you are.
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.
Unexpectedly, you lose your job. (Or a loved one. Or something or someone important to you.) What do you do next?
Photographers, artists, poets: show us LOSS.
Distance tempered the loss, but it’s there
Lingering still in the shadows
Too many words unspoken,
old promises broken
What’s left to do now?
You’re gone. Too late
to call you
Nonet: A nonet is a type of poem which has nine lines, with the first line having 9 syllables, the second 8 syllables, the third 7 until the ninth line has only one. Some nonets may also have an iambic meter (stress on every other syllable).
Tell us about the experience of being outside, looking in — however you’d like to interpret that.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us OUTSIDE.
The thing about Daily Prompts that I discovered last year, is that they often feel like a knife that’s set to slice open one layer of me at a time. Sometimes it comes out in poetry, like nonets, that don’t seem to say much because they’re meant to cover up more than they’re meant to reveal, and sometimes they’re prose, like this one, that’s meant to slice open an artery that’s been clogged up for so long with junk from the past, and left to bleed out till there’s nothing left.
When my father died last year, it was a quiet affair. None of us went home to bury him, and though we weren’t there for the hasty memorial set up by his estranged second wife, we accidentally witnessed the filming of his body being pushed into the crematory oven, because someone posted it on Facebook without any privacy settings set up.
And through that glass that separated the crematory attendants from the friends and family I barely knew, I realized just what an outsider I was in my father’s life. An outsider when he was alive, and an outsider when he was dead.
I was always considered his favorite because I was the only girl, and they said he doted on me. And maybe he did. But when I was five, my parents separated and after that, I only saw him for one or two days at a time every Christmas and the two summers we spent with him and my stepmother. He was always the busy businessman, taking care of everyone who came to him for help, giving them jobs, and money for food, and paying for their children’s education. I adored him, and I loved him more than anything.
Then one day when I was about ten or eleven, I heard one of my friends talking about her father. She talked about the piggy back rides he gave her, the hugs, the kisses – the constant presence of a father in a girl’s life. But what stood out to me that day were those three words: piggy back rides.
At that time, a father to me was a man who lived too far away, whose telegrams told me, ‘Wishing I was there for your birthday STOP love Daddy STOP,’ and whose voice I often swore I heard coming from the other side of the confessional box at the church – and the only reason I’d actually go to confession. He was the man who handed out five crisp one-hundred peso bills when a hundred would have done nicely to a child, and whose visits later on would signal to friends that we were all about to have a grand time.
But piggy back rides….damn.
There were none of those things in my life then, and none to come. But it represented the father who was never there, one whom I believed should have been there for me when I needed someone to talk to, or someone to tell me that he still loved me, regardless of what I believed I must have done to cause his and my mother’s separation, and many other ills that often beset a young girl going through puberty surrounded by pedophiles masked as father figures so eager to listen because they know that no one is listening. I know it’s a harsh thing to say, but this is what comes out of me, when unfiltered by false poetry.
So when the memorial was held, I saw one or two pictures that flashed onto the screen and none of them, I remember now, were of anything familiar to us. There were children there, yes – but none of them were of us. Or even of me, his favorite.
So even in death, I was still outside looking in, a daughter seeking for her father within.