What To Do When People Use You

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The Silent Treatment

“He treats you like shit regardless of what you do”

She takes a sip of her Pinot Grigio

“You want to appear unavailable, or unreachable–”

“And then what? Flee? Ghost the person like a bored and dissatisfied 19 year old? Bitch please, I’m 26,”

“That’s cruel. And you can’t renege on commitments you made because than you’d be no better than a liar. I say, deal with the shit and then go quiet, don’t end the friendship just yet, just drop off the radar for a bit and hope for the best”

Confronting the Person

“Or–why don’t you just talk to him, look him in the eye and tell him to stop it. And then give him the middle finger for extra effect.”

M takes a pink macaron, she examines it for a moment. Her yellow, Versace sun dress illuminates the space around us.

“Tell him you’re having none of it. Tell him after all the help, all the sacrifices you made, that you deserve better.

“if you have any self-respect, you would sit his ass down, cut him like a bitch and pour salt all over the goddamn wound. And when you’re done dressing him down, you can tell him to go f*ck himself.”

Letting Go

And then I ask my two friends

“But what if I just let him go? Burn bridges, you know. I can do the disappearing bit for a while before I confront the bastard and when that’s done, I can end the damn thing”

“But it’s not that easy huney. Human relationships are complicated. And when you end one friendship, you end ten. You lose one, and you lose a tribe. It’s a zero-sum game”

“So I’m fucked both ways”

“Not exactly. But I’m only saying that to make you feel better”

M takes a macaron, cuts the pastry in half and sets it on her plate.

And then I remember what my father told me years ago. I take my journal from my black knapsack and read the entry verbatim.

“Don’t say anything, do not abandon the person and don’t ever confront him. You’re wasting your time. Stay where you are. Stay civil, stay gracious, but say and do no more, and let the thing run its course”

Classy.

***

We leave the cafe, full and pressed for time. M and my other friend call a cab, leaving me to my own devices, I mull over their counsel. I mull over my situation. I mull over an answer but I fail to discern a choice.

People are complicated.

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Sex Scandal

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“Can you believe it? They did it in their uniform”

Said the lady. Her friend, halfway through his cigarette, coifed like men his age, offered an alternative, something more elaborate…a video of two (presumed) college students, naked, frolicking in a bed, rolling around like circus animals, panties and boxer shorts sprawled on the cheap linoleum. The room, according to the man, looked like an altar after a ritual. Messy and post-coital.

It was a sex scandal.

Plenty of them. Hordes of barely there millennials eager to record every passing conquest. Uploaded every second, every hour, on sites like RedTube, fed to an audience of impressionable adolescents. And when did sex  ever lose its sacredness, its mystique? When did we become voyeurs, privy to a party we have no business  being in… when did we become witless animals reduced to satisfy a singular craving: our concupiscence.

I don’t mean to proselytize, but news of a new scandal is never good (and I run into these conversations all the time, in alleyways at night, in red-tinged hallways). The “fuck of the week” is not something I enjoy talking about, not only because it represents an obvious moral decay, rather the consequences that beset these kids are far too great, far too painful to fathom, some of them are irreversible in fact. Careers  are ruined, someone’s hopes dashed, obliterated. But what’s troubling me is that most of them cluelessly consent to this.

I don’t know if they’re stupid, or misguided. Maybe misguided.

–Artwork by Arthel Tagnipez, Private Collection

Elizabeth, Mississippi (Poetry)

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a cigarette

in between my lips

in hers, the hollow afterglow

a whimper, a song, a sigh of great relief

Billy Idol plays on the radio

 

Elizabeth lays in bed

her head heavy, bowed down

her body entangled over mine

she emerges from her second baptism,

distraught and yearning for a river

She rises swiftly from the precipice

and dons her favorite yellow dress,

 

She thanks me for my kindness

I thank her for her service

I call my wife on the telephone

I tell her everything’s alright.

–Poetry by Teegee Villanueva, photography by Teegee Villanueva

On Poetry

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I like to write poetry. I enjoy the process immensely. Waking up to a good day, heady, and full of ideas. It takes a while to put pen to paper, to paint images with words, like a master portraitist. But I get there eventually with a little rhyme and rhythm; pulsating beats, a pack of rabid metronomes I can only hear but I cannot see.

My photographs complement my poetry. I know when I started I was more than a little straightforward…I presented images as is, real and unfiltered…but lately I let myself loose, I let myself experiment with colors and subtle variations on subjects previously explored. For one, I let the laws of poetry take precedence over photographic technique. This is why my present work lends itself a certain je ne sais quoi, slowly morphing into abstraction, into the realm of pure expression.

Honestly, my poems are dark, on edge; my personae are troubled individuals meting out their grievances in rhyme, or in some distant language only they can understand. Poetry is an exercise in patience, futility even, or poetry can mean absolutely nothing (depending on context)…poetry should be felt, the words should be sung in the privacy of one’s mind, played out, like an instrument of music.

I write from a place far away, many try to uncover the symbols and the meanings embedded deep within my compositions, some dismiss them as banal, some are quick to dismiss my works as reflections of my troubled mental state. But I pay these people no mind, I never do.

Poetry isn’t that simple.

Artwork by Dyck Cediño

The Collective

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We spoke about ideas. It was ideas–and authenticity–that mattered in art (let me remind you). He told me his was about human suffering, trauma from past experiences. Those were the things that fueled his drawings, his ink-on-paper pieces, his baggage…basically. Mine was about honesty–about the state of things. Capturing life on film. It was simple. It wasn’t complicated. We spoke for twenty minutes.

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Artworkd by Dyck Cedino, photography by teegee Villanueva

Thoughts on Art

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I figured it out. Art is about authenticity. Not beauty. It’s about expressing what you truly feel, it’s about being honest about something: an emotion, a thought, an idea, and expressing that in some way. That’s art. Beauty is completely beside the point.

Or is it?

 Photography by Teegee Villanueva, 2016.

No. 7

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“I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough..”

–Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

Art by Teegee Villanueva. Follow me on Instagram: @teig

No. 6: BenCab

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The National Museum of the Philippines is hosting a retrospective on Philippine artist Benedicto Cabrera. This is the last in a series of exhibits celebrating the artist’s career, and his contributions to Philippine culture.  The exhibit (“BenCab: Appropriated Souls”) runs throughout May, and you all really have to see it. It’s one masterpiece after another. I went to see his Sabels last week and I wasn’t disappointed.

The exhibit’s very well curated.