Until the Set Lasts

Until the Set Lasts

Perhaps, of all the feelings, the hardest to ease is frustration.

There’s nothing like a frustrating situation to get your patience tested and your spirits all worked up. I mean, I guess what’s infuriating about it is that you don’t need a lot to go wrong — just a little bit of the unexpected could send you spiralling into a place where… you’re not really completely helpless; it’s just that you keep holding on to that very little possibility that things could’ve gone better, if only.

I found myself dealing with the same as I arrived at The Glow one night, drenched in January drizzle and greeted by an unreasonable amount of tobacco smoke and muted red light. The Glow is actually pretty decent — one of the many spouting places dotting this particular road in Metro Manila; similar, even, with the exception that it has an in-house band. To be frank, I didn’t really care, so long as it’s a place where a guy in his late 20s could vent out his frustrations in peace.

I went straight for the bar and ordered a beer just as the band played through the opening chords of Up Dharma Down’s “Turn It Well.” I was about to sit at the barstool nearest to the speakers when the barkeeper called.

“Sorry, sir, seat’s already taken.”

Of course. This night couldn’t get any worse, I thought.

I reluctantly took the one seat next to it, and tried to think of something else. But, damn… damn Armand and his boss.

It was my first time visiting Manila in a long time, and my friend and I had already planned an evening out. We’re supposed to go around the city, hitting bars at every turn, drinking and having awesome foo—

“Excuse me.”

My thoughts were interrupted by the woman who was about to take the seat next to me. “Excuse me,” she said in a steady voice. Unsurprisingly, the first thought that went through my mind was: wow, she’s beautiful.

Okay, I’m an animal, and I’m no good with articulating every feature of a woman’s face. Besides, I can’t really make out most of her features clearly because it was a bit dim, but I can confidently say that she is, plainly, beautiful. She has fair skin, black hair dressed in subtle curls. Perhaps not as subtle as the hint of a smile playing on her lips, although I have to admit it was dark and I might’ve imagined the smile, too.

Outside, the rain poured harder. I straightened myself up and muttered, “Sorry, yeah, please.”

She smiled (I didn’t just imagine it this time) as she took her seat, holding a bottle of light beer.

“Why Light?” I asked, grasping for conversation.

“Sorry, what?” she replied. I can feel that this night is going to be a rain of “sorry’s” competing with the relentless one outside.

“Why Light?” I asked again, this time raising my voice a bit so it could be heard above the bass lines of Peryodiko’s “Tayo Lang ang May Alam.”

“I mean… girls do love their light beers, but I never really understood why.”

She managed to give another smile, not hiding her surprise. “Well I suppose it’s a cosmetic matter. There’s just something un-ladylike about a woman trying down a Stallion, isn’t there?”

“True,” I found myself agreeing. “Some girls do prefer heavier stuff, but I guess girls would look at least a bit more decent with a Ligh—“

“…but I don’t believe that at all,” she continued. “I drink Light because I like how it tastes. I do drink Stallions occasionally, but today’s really not so bad that I’d need it.”

“Right.”

The band finished their cover of Peryodiko, and the vocalist mumbled something over the silent gap.

“Oooh, I love this one,” my… new friend, the woman, said. “Watch the keyboardist.”

The opening passages of Up Dharma Down’s “Indak” played shortly after, and I found myself looking at how the keyboardist played the piano lines.

“He always loves to play this one,” she added.

And it’s true. I may know jack about musical instruments, but I can recognize if a person is really “in it” or just doing it for his next pay check.  I was more surprised about my friend’s comments, though.

“Do you know them?” I asked.

“You could say that. I come here often.”

“Well, thank you for robbing me of the opportunity to ask.”

She laughed. “I’ll be here until the set lasts,” she said, though I noticed a bit of seriousness in her tone.

I’m sure there was something important that I should be dealing with right now, but funnily enough, all I wanted to do is to keep this conversation going.

“Right, then,” I said, fumbling for questions.  “Why do you come here often?”

“A nice cold drink after a shitty day; maybe even on not-so-shitty ones.  But mostly I want to solve the cold mystery of life.”

Is she serious? “Cold myster— what?”

“The cold mystery of life. Why we do what we do. Why you’re sitting here next to me right now. Why I keep coming back here instead of the numerous bars dotting this stretch. Do you like mysteries?”

“I suppose I don’t hate them.”

“Alright. I’ll be your mystery tonight. You will have to solve me, but you have to ask the right questions.”

“I, uhm-” I gave a tired grin. From one exchange to the next I’ve never been in control. And I’m not used to not being in control. “What’s your name, then?”

“Rina. Yours?”

“I’m Al,”

“Hmm,” she said over the chorus. “So, what brings you here, Al? Haven’t seen you around before.”

“I thought I was supposed to be the one asking questions.”

“You’re not very good at it.”

I chuckled. “Of course. See, I’m not from around here. I just came to visit and I’m supposed to meet a friend, but his boss had to make him work overtime tonight. Says it’s an emergency and there was no one else. We’ve planned this for months, too.”

“Huh. Definitely shitty day,” she said. “You need that beer.”

“Not more than anyone else, I guess,” I replied. “How about you? Any particular reason for that bottle right now?”

“Nah, same old. I almost always come here after work to listen to the music. It just calms me. Besides, I have to.”

“You have to?”

“Yeah… I have to.” I can tell by her tone that she doesn’t want to talk about it any further.

“Okay, then. Cold mystery, indeed,” I thought as I finished the last of my bottle. “I’ll have another one, man,” I gestured to the barkeep.

Then, silence. She seemed to be intent with listening to the music now.

That’s the weird thing about conversations in places like these. Because of the music and the constant chatter, you never really notice the silence, the subtle pauses. But you can feel them. And I tend to pay attention to silences like that; if they were any more meaningful than the ones you have when you’re alone.

I didn’t want to remember why I chose to visit The Glow in the first place. All I know is that there is someone sitting here next to me, a… mystery, as she says, waiting to be solved. I never cared much for puzzles, but she is the kind of puzzle that draws you in and makes you believe she’s worth solving.

Perhaps, I thought, I could liken her words to the thinnest clouds, blocking the sun. It’s really easy; you can feel that everything will be clearer with just the gentlest touch. But of course, you would have to have means of reaching the clouds first.

Not that she’s straying far too high. “Hey,” she said as I took another unmanly gulp, never taking her eyes off the stage. “Do you have someone? Back Home?”

“Sorry, what?”

“Do you have a girlfriend back home, I’m asking.”

“Oh, sorry, no. How about y-”

“Surely you’ve had exes?”

“I did. Three.”

“How did it feel like, letting go?”

Now, to be honest, I don’t remember completely. One thing for sure is that I was not relieved; in fact I remember pleading for another chance with one. But I suppose one tends to forget the details when things run the risk of being traumatic.

“I don’t really remember,” I just said.  But wow, she really doesn’t pull her punches, does she? I never thought that coming here to relieve my frustrations would lead to someone asking me about my life’s decisions.

“Hmm. Fair enough,” she said.

“Why do you ask?”

“Because I have someone. A boyfriend, I mean.”

Oh.

Well that’s… just great. Thank you for telling me that just now.

I felt really light-headed, and… a bit more frustrated. The beer did not help. I barely mouthed a pained “Oh, okay…”

She smiled again, a smile that I would now consider murder. “I’m sorry,” she said.

Despite the little prickles of hurt I managed to chuckle through my words. What the hell did I expect, anyway? “Nah, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I know, but I might’ve given you the false impression,” she replied. “I just… needed someone to talk to. There’s a reason I was asking you how it felt like to let go.”

“Hmm? Why?” I asked.

“If you’re tired, that’s one thing you could do, right? Let go,” she said as she stared at the stage.

I can tell she was soaking in the music as she lets herself be absorbed; her every word strategically spoken so as to accent the rhythms.

“I guess,” I answered. I never thought I could feel even a bit of happiness for this impending demise of a relationship, but I did. Is she waiting to be saved? And why did I even think that I can be the one that saves her?

I tried to rid myself of guilt and said, “Of course, I don’t really know what you’re situation is, but I suppose you could still try and fix things between you and-”

Tears begun to well in her eyes, and although her expression did not change, she let them flow. She still stared at the stage as she said, “I always sit here. I love listening to them play. Reminds me of older days. Happier days.”

I did not know what to say. “For what it’s worth, I’m really glad I met you, though.”

She gently wiped the tears from under her eyes, trying hard not to let anyone else notice. “I’m sorry. I guess… I just… I have been keeping this inside me for a while and you just happened to be here. It’s not right; I just ruined your night.”

“It’s not that bad. And I don’t mind, really,” I answered. She could’ve asked me to drive halfway across town to get her a bouquet of roses and I know I’ll do it; I wouldn’t have minded.

“I can’t believe I just poured my baggage out to a stranger,” she said with a mild laugh.

“Hey, people are only strangers until they start to get to know one another, right?”

“Right,” she said.

We spent the rest of the night awkwardly trying to know each other. She really loves music; so passionate about it, even, that it’s easy to see how she got through the nights just soaking in music alone. Why she prefers this particular place or this particular band still escapes me, however.

“They’ve been playing here long before I frequented,” she shared. “I just came for the drinks, but eventually they grew on me. You can tell they’re good right? I love them.”

While we’re being careful not to touch on that earlier subject again, it’s really hard to steer the conversation away from what one really wants to say. You can talk about the weather all you want and all, but you have to get to the point inevitably. At one point, I just couldn’t help but ask.

“Why… why are you thinking of letting go, again? What’s wrong…?”

“I told you this place reminds me of happier days; yes, I was alone. But I just realized I’m better off alone than pretending I still love someone I really don’t anymore, you know?”

“I can understand.”

“He used to be a great guy. And it may be a tired old cliché but it’s true, he’s just so good to me at the beginning. So sweet, so… he was my happiness, believe me. But now, we couldn’t go through a decent lunch without fighting over something. It’s ridiculous.”

“Do you hate him?”

“No, but I can tell I don’t love him anymore. It’s the first time I was this serious about a relationship and I’m just… too scared of sudden changes. Too scared to let go. I keep telling myself, most nights, ‘I am gonna do it tonight. I’m gonna leave him,’ but I never had the courage.”

I nodded. “I hope you find your courage, soon. You asked me earlier how it felt to let go; I remember now. It’s the easiest thing in retrospect, and it probably was the best decision we ever could have made in that situation. However, pain has a way of masking things, of amplifying and exaggerating things, of not seeing the forest for the trees—or something. ”

“It’s painful.”

“The most painful thing in the world. It will make you into another person, believe me, it will change you. But you’ll realize, in the long run, how you’re a much better person than you were in all those days past.”

“You seem to really know a lot about this stuff.”

“I’ve had three breakups.”

“Why, though? You seem like an okay guy… are you a cliché, too?”

I shrugged. The vocalist on-stage announced that they’re ending their set. Too soon, I thought.

“Oh, they’re done. I’m gonna have to go in a bit.”

“Yeah,” I wrote my number on a piece of tissue paper and tried to give it to her. “Please, take it. I would understand if I couldn’t have yours, but if you ever need someone to talk to…”

My heart skipped a beat as she took it. “Thanks.”

I was staring so intently at the way she twirls her hair that I did not notice the approach of the band’s keyboardist, who is now standing in front of us.

“Hey, you’re done. Awesome  set, as always,” she said to the guy. She had put on the sweetest smile as she stared at him, too; a smile I never saw before. It was radiant—perhaps I’ve had one too many drinks or it’s just the lack of music now, but… that’s genuine joy if I ever saw one.

“Al, this here’s Chris, my boyfriend. We were just talking about how beautiful your playing was, babe,” she said matter-of-factly.

Wow.

“I- uhm… yeah, that was awesome. I love your flourish on that Feist track,” I said.

“Thanks, man,” Chris said. He then turned to Rina. “Listen, babe, we have to go home early. Can you cook us a mean dinner? I asked Ronnie to come and join us for beers. Come on.”

“Sure, sure thing, yeah,” Rina said, that smile still on. It was unbelievable. She was like a different person. “Bye, Al. It was nice meeting you.”

“Thanks for keeping her company, man,” Chris said.

They got their things, left The Glow, and… I guess that’s that? What the hell.

I’d like to say that I managed to touch someone’s soul tonight, but after that… transformation, I’m not so sure anymore. Did I really know her? Did I really know anyone?

Needless to say, I stayed for a few more beers after that.

On my way back to the hotel, I received a text as I was about to fall asleep in the cab. Unknown number.

“I’m gonna do it tonight,” the message said.

***

I should probably tell you that I overstayed in Manila after that incident, and each night, I spent in The Glow. Armand was with me the first couple of nights, but he eventually dropped out after the third. I was there every night for two weeks, but I never saw Rina again.

I did see Chris, though, still playing as beautifully as before, and I wondered what kind of asshole hides behind that graceful veneer. I think I saw him with a different girl once or twice. Musicians get all the fun, it’s unfair.

***

Yes. Perhaps, of all the feelings, the hardest to ease is frustration.

I keep going back to that night. It’s been months since I left Manila for home, and I still keep thinking about what I could have done to make the outcome better. I keep drawing a blank. I texted her number too, and got no reply (I’ve been as persistent as a clingy bastard, believe me).

There were nights I lay awake thinking about Rina; how, if I had only come earlier in her life I would’ve saved her. But the truth is, it makes no difference what I do. She didn’t need saving; she needed someone to reaffirm what she already decided is true. She made up her mind, I suppose, and if using me as a sounding board helped her finally achieve freedom from her burdens, then so be it.

But damn it, I did try. I tried hard.

***

I woke up to the sweet sound of birdsong one fine October morning. I checked my phone and saw that I have an unread text. Rina.

I was smiling like a madman the whole time I read it.

“Hey, I heard there’s a new band playing at The Glow. Wanna come see? I heard they’re really good.”

“I’d love to. I found myself getting acquainted to the scene when a certain someone taught me to appreciate it,” I replied.

“Come by Wednesday, then. And don’t worry, I’ll stay long after the set is over.”

I may have imagined it, but I thought I caught the sun smile.

**

—A. P.

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I’ve Been Talking to Somebody’s Ten One Hundred Diaries

Appropriation: in sips of swiftest beak, the fish asleep, the careless deep too tired to weep. She takes in little whiffs of pieces of memories contained in china, the bubbles beneath reflecting the waves; resonant, merry; hollow, empty. One by one they grew thorns that lodged on her throat, the back-channelling cavern grate sating her moat, grout in the linings of her pulpy core, mouth asana’d into vomiting. The corners of her lip twitched and curled toward the sun like some wicked feng-shui, her tongue taking paths of least resistance. I wonder, this girl of unknown aches, living alone in shuffled states smiled in stillness, in reserved rate while talking late on the phone. She types, she waits. She closes her eyes, debating whether to let others’ intellect devour her walls, that her body may rest.

Insinuation: I dreamt about her as soon as I was allowed nightmares in the nightmarish hours of sleep. I say dream because she is. She is a dream. She is a dream amidst the nightmare, like a bubble reflecting rainbows in a wasteland where the only light source are luminescent reactions from chemical whatnot. I asked her questions. She answered them. She never asked me questions. I was the only one curious. But over the course of my shameless digging I found out about her age. I found her wants and whims — only a little bit. As little as she would allow. I found out how she dreamt of journeys and parks and caves and flying and beaches and streams; anything, really, to break her windowless room’s claustrophobic seams.

Situation: Even the most graceful of swans need deep water to hide their awkward feet. I took cover as her words rained like sleet, emotionless pieces of petrichor hitting the dead emptiness that is my street. Even the most graceful of swans need sleep. Even the most graceful of swans weep. Sometimes I feel like I am too shallow or selfish to contain the almost outpouring of emotions — and she can sense it. She hesitates, and decides not to spill, after all. Perhaps I presented myself too shallow a glass, and for all the facades that say she does not care, she did care a bit. And that’s saying something. Little hints of twitch, of tiny vibrations on the string, of gale in the perceived airless echo chamber — this is the essence of feeling. Like notes on a glockenspiel, she wrote melodies monophonic; one must collect them and feed them in the delay and recourse and round and round and round and round and round and you get this beautiful cacophony, chaotic and tasteful; rich.

Speculation: Perhaps I presented myself too much of a person when she did not need one. I have been talking to ten one hundred diaries, the weights of which cannot even equal what discourse the millions of words could present when I wished for it. Perhaps I am not ready, but perhaps I have been using the word “I” too much here. Listen, listen, listen. This is not about you. This is about the careless deep too tired too weep. It is about the tongue in this particular path of least resistance, the subtly calloused smile in uncomfortable asana. I (there it goes again) have been content having dots for eyes. I dot my I’s. Cross my T’s. Perhaps she did not need me to; perhaps she disliked rules. Perhaps she learned long ago that rules never really help. I also use the word “perhaps” too much here, indicating my uncertainty.

Conclusion: Keep in mind that when you wish for someone to open up, make sure that you are ready for the rain. Make sure you can contain the outpour. Make sure that you are a ready vessel. It will rain. It will pour. It will rain like hell and it will pour like it had never poured before, and you should make damn sure that you never wish that you never wished for rain because you will destroy yourself in this storm, in this hurricane you asked for. Worst of all, you will leave her empty — without even the slightest connection or empathy with someone to show for it. In the outpouring spring you must both be drenched, bathed in this belonging, and tell her that yes… you *feel.* You feel again. If you’re going to ask for rain and run away to leave her halfway, then you might as well kill her.

Conversations: I have been talking to somebody’s ten one hundred diaries. I have only been getting canned responses, like a harmless horcrux I pursued in some random avenue. I know what I wanted, and I am a ready vessel.

It’s always weird when a significant part of your being gets yanked away *snap* just like that. it’s always weird, like, you know you will eventually be okay and maybe that decision to let go was better in the long run, but it always feels like you’ve made the greatest mistake of your life.
 
We’ve all felt it some way or another; everything is stale, nothing is interesting anymore, and it’s like you’re almost always on the verge of crying. But in-between those moments of loss you convince yourself that yeah, you know… it probably will get better. For everyone involved. And you convince yourself that you did the right thing and you’ll probably laugh about it some months or years later. But it’s always weird, that moment of… disconnect.
 
It’s like, suddenly there’s this bubble of void that you now have to spend the rest of your existence in. You could find solace in writing, reading, or whatever your thing is… maybe even sleep, but after all that is done, you’re still not sure if you could get out of that bubble.
 
It’s been a weird night.

Weapons for the Modern Man

1. Emoji Gun
“Whether with a smile or a frown, I’m taking you down.”

The Emoji Gun was a product of the massive pugilist movement that rose in the early 2030s, an invention mothered by the futility of verbal communication and the necessity of annoying the people that you do not like. Emojis have been around for generations (since the early 90s) and has been mainly used as a sort of pseudo-cuneiform that conveyed an individual’s emotion with one symbol. However, their greatest use was never fully realized until the mid-2020’s. Turns out, emojis contain what are now known as “sleeper symbols;” linguistic devices that seem inert when alone, but in frequent bursts would cause mild annoyance at best, and a ruptured patience valve in the target’s hippocampus, at worst.

Yes, it turns out that emojis are really, really good at ticking people off (to the point of outright killing them), and in the year 2027 a group of scientists begun what is to be one of the greatest achievements in human engineering: weaponizing the sleeper symbols within the emoji. This project was no joke; it involved a team 6 neuroscientists, 6 language experts, 8 psychologists, 7 political analysts, and one Doctorate in TV and Anime Studies (majoring in Sitcoms, Shonen, Slice of Life, and Reality TV).

The Emoji Gun in its current form functions just like any other gun, with the exception that its ammunition functions as a wave and not a particle. This makes it difficult to predict its rate of fire, but it is said to be relatively consistent and on average can produce sleeper symbol waves of up to 10 exahertz (close to gamma rays), which is equivalent to 10^19 emoji emissions per second (EE/sec). If the current pace of technology remains, Emoji Guns dishing out 10^20 or even 10^21 EE/sec may see the light in the next 5 years or so.

2. Drivel Bomb (also known as the Invalid Argument Detonator or IAD)
“Ire in the Hole!”

The Drivel Bomb or the IAD is the product of many, many years of data: generations worth of heuristics, statistical analysis, and conversational nuances, all packed in one little bomb for the modern warrior to enjoy. What the IAD is, is simple: a compilation of strings of Invalid Arguments collected throughout the past millennium, ready to explode in the face of some unsuspecting fast-talker at a moment’s notice.

The IAD uses cutting-edge compression techniques to incorporate every horrifying, shocking, and also all the stupid dumb arguments any human has ever made— all in a sphere the size of a modern baseball! As for the source, well, the inevitable rise in popularity of the Internet in the early 2000s led to the possibility of curating the collective inabilty of the human species to control our mouths especially when in bursts of extreme emotions. Most of these strings are therefore sourced from 16 to 20 year-old individuals undergoing the now obsolete “angst phase,” However, there are some from older individuals as well (particularly those that did not handle midlife crisis very well, or old grandpas and grandmas complaining how the youth at the time were not like the youth of their time— which is a load of bollocks when you think about it).

Every straw man, unfair comparison, false dichotomy, dilemma, cause, or indeed any invalid argument you can think of is included in this neat little package of subatomic stupidity, which can cause massive damage in the immediate vicinity that some could only describe as all the natural calamities rolled into one, experienced three times over. The blast radius, however, is a bit small at a mere 2 miles, but there had been reports that the effects of these earth-shaking stupidities can be felt in locales 10,000 miles away. One such notable use of the bomb is the Pandemona incident in Manila, Philippines which occurred in the year 2033. An IAD was used to flush out insurgents and anti-government cells by the Philippine Military by order of the Dictator / Chief-of-Staff who was already in position for almost more than two decades at the time (said leader is seeking the secret to immortality, it turns out, but we digress). The effects of the Pandemona incident was apparently so severe that it caused individual earth faults to rearrange themselves, actually moving the whole Philippine archipelago closer to China, which in turn re-ignited disputes regarding what country owns which territory.

The IAD is not to be taken lightly. Truly, it is a magnificent feat of human weaponry, one that can make or break world peace, depending on who uses it (not that we care — so long as you pay for it).

3. Attention-Seeking Missiles
“Notice me, senp- *boom!*”

There’s really not much to say about Attention-Seeking missiles, but they are a marvel of innovation still worthy of discussion. Based on the technology that made heat-seeking missiles possible, the Attention-Seeking missile (or ASM) uses advanced algorithmics and neural tracking to lock-down on people who feel that it’s necessary to excessively glorify their selves and thus in turn feel that all eyes should be on them all the time. Well, they can rest assured that the ASM’s eyes are always on them, all the time. Basically, the ASM is good at invading homes of narcissistic people and promptly making their heads explode and have their splattered brains serve as wallpaper and carpet embellishments all in a matter of a split second.

It seems like a simple mechanic, but the criteria for narcisissm was not an easy factor to figure out, much less configure and program into an AI-microchip that’s to be used with a missile. Psychologists and neuroscientists made their breakthough in 2036, when a complete neural structure of the brain was successfully mapped. Basically, this neural map is what the very heart of the ASM is, and it scans the area for certain “triggers” that will make the ASM go batshit insane (indicated by the word TRIGGERED on the built-in LCD) and destroy everything in its path until it gets to the brain that “triggered” it. It will then promptly deliver its payload and explode in a merry concoction of cyanide, thermite, concentrated hydrogen, and antimatter in a lavish display of fireworks while a little audio chip plays the tune of “Happy Birthday To You,” “Auld Lang Syne,” or “The Star-Spangled Banner,” depending on what variant the user ordered. Music can be further customized to play, for example, the national anthem of your country, but it will cost a little bit more than market price.

ASM are slowly gaining popularity in countries with pseudo-governments or those in anarchy, as political “leaders” tend to have narcissistic personalities and the ASM is an easy way “root out the bastards,” so to speak. Just be careful and double-check if you have equipped the included ASM-immunity wristband to ensure that you do not accidentally make yourself a target. Each purchase of the ASM includes the wristband with a serial number that matches the ASM you bought— you are thus immune only to that specific ASM. We repeat: do not use the ASM without the wristband, we cannot stress this enough. It will be bloody.

Cheers,
A.P.

Writing Concept #776ASJDGHSAKJ

Perhaps one of the greatest inconveniences of time is that there are moments when it goes by so fast, we can’t keep up. For many people, the inability to catch up with the things that matter most has been a constant source of worry, which can become their worst fear, eventually. There have been missives and poems and countless stories written about this, too; always emphasizing how precious the passage of time is, always reminding us that we should never miss a beat.

But if we really stop and think about it, time, or its passage, are never the precious things. These are but constructs of the human mind, designed to describe a cosmic concept that are as natural as gravity, eclipses, or the tides. We gave names and concrete definitions of these things so as to be able to communicate better and form better ideas of them in our heads. Now, don’t get me wrong: the phenomenon we call “time” is real, what I’m saying is that the worries, and fears, are misplaced. We must not fear lost time, for time is a matter of perception. Time was conceived so we can conveniently measure our lives in seconds or hours, or days; just as space was conceived so we could express the boundaries and frontiers that we have crossed in terms of distance, or volume, or depth.

No, what we should fear are lost moments, the lost chances, the lost opportunities. What we should worry about are the could-have-beens, the should-have-beens. Have you ever heard the phrase, “there’s no point wallowing in the past?” That is not true. There is a point, and there is no shame in wallowing and dwelling and reflecting on the choices you could have made, on the life you could have lived had you taken *this* or *that* chance and “seized the moment,” so to speak. By weighing the choices that matter, you can evaluate what you have right now and compare it against what you would have gained before, if you had taken another path. The questions you ask and the dilemmas you resolve in your mind can be the start of self-improvement. Would things be better? Would *I* be in a better state if I took that chance? Would feelings linger longer? Would I be feeling happiness right now, instead of unfathomable sorrow? Would certain people have stayed?

Time means different for many people, but time is never gold. Time… time is there, and time goes, and we can never do anything about that. What is golden are the opportunities, the choices we make, and how we respond.

Cheers,
A. P.

The Violet Royal Cat

The Meowniverse is a legendary realm entirely populated with cats. Every cat of every shape and every size can be found there, although the one that is probably most sought-after is the elusive Violet Royal Cat, one of her kind, said to be coated in vivaciously velvety violet fur. It has long been postulated that the Violet Royal Cat got her name because she actually rules the Meowniverse in her royal home, the Castle Cat, looking over the catlands on her tower throne made of bricks and sand and threads and dreams, decorated with periwinkle, with walls and banners encrusted with starshine.

It was said that the Violet Royal Cat exudes utmost grace and beauty and exhibits exceptional intelligence— so much so that she garnered unanimous favor from the Feline pantheon, which granted her virtual immortality by bestowing upon her 999×9^9 lives (most cats, and members of the Feline pantheon in particular, use a base-9 number system, or nonary). Which means prospective assassins must successfully kill her 999×9^9+1 times to actually accomplish their mission, if the Royalty’s death is their goal. It will never happen, because the Violet Royal Cat is trained in the ancient arts of ninjutsu, tae kwon do, judo, and Inter-meow-tional Diplomacy. It also speaks 46 languages, including Esperanto, French, Whale, Badger, and 28 dialects of cat including Urban Meow and Siouxsian Purr.

The Violet Royal Cat is guarded by her personal Royal Guard, the Beige Cloaks, 26 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was also often said that in her royal chambers in Castle Cat, the Cathartically Cacophonous Feline Philharmonic Orchestra almost always plays awesome cat music, together with the angelic purrings of the redoubtable MewMeow Choir. They only take breaks to feast, to litter, or if they feel the need to lick themselves.

Despite all the unsubstantiated “witness sightings,” the Violet Royal Cat remains a mystery, one that is probably best left to the imagination, as the Meowniverse is not exactly an easy place to get to.

— A. P.