Irish Coffee Letter Therapy

by Sine Qua Non

Moments ago I found myself reaching for the bottle of white rum and, almost with a kind of mindless manner, pouring an unadvisable amount in my morning coffee. Now, my mug sits a hand’s reach away and the scent stings my senses. It’s fascinating how the taste begins to grow on me. It reminds me of one the first few Christmases I’ve been afforded an alcoholic drink – when my mom thought Irish coffee was just that – coffee. The smell suits the morning formidably. And though I wouldn’t really prefer a toad to come with my morning drink, I do hope spiked coffee would be enough to make me last through the day.


I’ve become a tad bit reluctant to share my thoughts with anyone recently. I’ve begun anticipating a look of lassitude pass through their faces before being quickly replaced by a look of tolerant sympathy and, at times, pity; anticipating also the formulaic responses that I’ve already encountered repeatedly and in length through other friends, through literature, or the ever-reliable one-click therapist – the internet. I speak to no one here. My troubles mean nothing to anyone. My grief is probably trivial, my fatigue even more so. I would say so myself, I could stay awake all week and that would still not be enough to make up for all the birthdays I didn’t even bother visiting my grandmother. Luckily, my cousins just love talking about all those memories that I am not part of. I don’t know if I’m just praning but you know that feeling that tears at you when you realize that whatever you do now –kumatay ng manok, maglinis ng pigpen, pumulot ng kalat, mapaso sa kaluluto sa ulingan, magpatalo sa pustahan, matirang gising at mag-refuse matulog – none will be enough to eradicate that sense of exclusion. I will always be an ‘other’ no matter what I do. Pinsan ako, yes, but I don’t belong here because I didn’t grow up here. Bisita more than pamilya, I feel. Aaaand roll out the guilt trip.

Pause. Sip.

I find myself longing to speak to you instead, despite the commonplace warning that keeping in touch with your heartbreaker isn’t good for the heart at all. That’s an acceptable truth, yes, but it couldn’t be the only truth about relationships that exists. Just because it’s a plot we’re all familiar with, should I also anticipate that the one often labelled jerk in this equation would care not for a letter? That he is stereotypically incapable of being a friend? And that, as the one who allowed herself to fall, estrangement is the only option for moving on? HELLOOO. Somehow, a part of me believes we are not of the cookie-cutter mould. Ergo, this. I no longer find the need to wait for a reply in length anyway. Only that right now, I feel, gets mo ako. I cannot deny myself the pleasure of a conversation in the moment, could I? Or, in this case, permit myself to address someone in my thoughts. It’s really just like another journal entry, except that to ensure I actually make sense instead of doodling nonsense, (also for my own properly documented sanity) I’ll pretend that you will be reading this.

Recently, too, I’ve been finding difficulty engaging in casual chats with people. Conversing with visitors here takes more than a quick greeting and small talk. When you start talking about ties of blood and friendship, of extended family trees, of living and dying and loving and losing, with people you approach as strangers that approach you as kin – you realize how much time you’ve wasted editing yourself rather than just speaking your thoughts. The irony here is that after feeling so profoundly enlightened and pleased with these conversations, I feel so mentally and emotionally exhausted. I wish they would just permit me to be with my thoughts as I wash the dishes rather than push me out front to receive and mingle with people. Out there, I find myself wading through a kind of shared grief I am tasked not only to receive but also, to some degree, to process. Washing dishes is much easier. Soap, water, and a dry rag and you’re good. I could do it all day. With visitors coming in every hour there’s always something in the sink to wash. At least only my hands get roughed up. Lotion can cure that. Every other mask I put on and tear off when I face people, on the other hand, scars in ways that no formulated cure is still available for. I think. Otherwise, if you know anything, please enlighten me.


You remember that conversation we had when you were going through that rough patch, about time being short and how we ought to make more of our days? Nah, I do not feel the same way right now. Strangely so, I feel life more stagnant than it ever was. I feel no urgency, no waste. Only a sort of lethargy. It’s as if I’m frozen still unable to figure out which losses to internalize, which to appreciate. I move about the day mechanically, doing what I’m told, filling the lulls with whatever task I could find. Or invent. When I am not speaking to visitors, sorting out biscuits and mixed nuts, standing over cauldrons , or wiping glasses dry, I write verses again and again, listen to stories told by people related to me but feel so unattached to, read poetry, recount plots in stories I already know the ending to – but to no avail. I forget what day of the week it is. If there’s a timelessness that relates to eternity, well this isn’t it.

So, I’ve resolved to allowing myself to do what I think I need at the moment. No matter how fleeting. Or actually, exactly just what is fleeting. Like pour rum in my coffee. Or walk away to the treehouse when no one is looking so I could roll myself a joint. I’ve resolved to turn to such quick remedies since shutting out completely is not an option. But it scares me. That I feel that what I need is a quick escape from all things present before me. I feel so unlike myself. I actually want to veer away from myself or any remark that would remind me to be better than this. So I pretend to be in that better state to avoid hearing to be better. Jeez. Ang kumplikado naman nito. Isn’t it so sad how people always seem to talk you out of your current state of being just because they can imagine you to be otherwise? It makes me sick. If only people would just let me drink my spiked coffee at daybreak and smoke my joint at sunset. Then maybe I could actually be keen on living in the moment rather than just letting it pass through me. Now, I am in no state of here or now or wanting or becoming. I need to get a grip. And that’s a fucking hard toad to swallow, too.