Charlie, Eduardo and the Lights of Downtown

My Symphony: Grey Room by Damien Rice


Dear Friend; I don’t know if I will have the time to write anymore letters because I might be too busy trying to participate. So if this does end up being the last letter, I just want you to know that I was in a bad place before I started high school and you helped me. Even if you didn’t know what I was talking about or know someone who’s gone through it. You made me not feel alone. Because I know there are people who say all these things don’t happen. And there are people who forget what it’s like to be sixteen when they turn seventeen. And know these will all be stories someday and our pictures will become old photographs and we’ll all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening. I am here and I am looking at her and she is so beautiful. I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story, you are alive. And you stand up and see the lights on buildings and everything that makes you wonder, when you were listening to that song on that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.

– Charlie’s Last Letter, Perks of Being a Wallflower

I woke up at exactly 5:05pm today, grabbed my iPod, skimmed through the 1,234 songs on my library and played Charlie’s Last Letter. To those of you who are not familiar with it, “Charlie’s Last Letter” is a one-minute-fifty-one second spoken letter from the movie Perks. The character Charlie, played by actor Logan Lerman, has provided me with a sense of self-acceptance and getting by in the past months. I easily relate to Charlie in terms of his struggle in life and with the world that ultimately, is actually a struggle he has with his own thoughts and his own mind’s voices. But today, Charlie surprised me. Today Charlie made me cry.

I do not know if it was the letter’s pensive background music, or if it was Lerman’s epic acting voice, or just the melancholy-inducing vibe a mixture of the two creates, but that was one of the many times in my life when I cried a lot without knowing the exact reason. So there I was in my overly dark room, bawling my eyes out with Logan Lerman’s voice on replay, wondering if there was in fact a particular cause of the rushing of those tears. After ten replays, I finally decided to hit the stop button, wipe the tears (and the mucus) away, turn the light on and get myself together. That’s when I knew and felt just how much I missed my dad already. In that moment, I knew, Charlie has brought back the little boy in me.

This is the part where the typical Kenn Tenorio in me would say, “I never thought I would be sitting here today, writing about my father.” And this is very true. I have written about a lot of things since I was a kid. I remember writing about a mermaid and panda bears when I was five, four sisters who disliked each other to death when I was seven, the excitement and lust of being a junior in high school when I was fifteen, the not-so-flattering thoughts I have on Vancouver when I was eighteen, and so on and so far. I have written about things that I believe are full of mystery, wonders and questions; things that I know I will only be able to understand and let go of when I continue to chase them and wonder about them the way I wonder about stars, the milky way and ostriches. But Dad isn’t one of those things. Dad had always been just there. With me and my brothers. Not moving. Not withering. Unfading.

Throughout the years, I had lived life with the conscious knowledge that no matter how tough and rough the day is, I would always be able to come home, see my dad, and feel safe again. I always knew at the back of my mind that each wrinkled cloth would be ironed and each spilled milk would be wiped out because Dad would always be there. I was always confident and comfortable in being a bit of a hot mess because I knew that right when the monsters were about to slice me in half, Dad would always come to save the day. And so I never thought I would write about him, simply because I never thought he would move an inch from where I was. But three days ago, he did. He moved not only inches, but miles from home, for yet another job that pays well, in yet another place where “it” can happen. What can I say? It’s, uhm, sad. It’s sad. It really is. I was seven when Mom left to work abroad, and I might had been too young to process goodbyes the way I process them now, but at the end of the day it all hurts just the same. At the end of the day, no matter how hard I try to live the dream, party and act like an adult, I will still be blindsided by the reality that I’ve always been both a Mama’s and Papa’s boy. I know that now. I embrace that now. And it is scary.

Last night I went out til 7:00am with my friend Yuji. We went on bar-hopping after Audrey’s intimate birthday party. And just like I did with Daniel, just like I did with Jason and just like I did with Toni, we ended up having unplanned long walks along the streets of downtown. Now here’s the thing: downtowns, for me, are an epitome of a kind of life I’m not so sure I want to live anymore, or that I’m ready to face just yet. Last night, while Yuji and I were walking down Davie street and while he was talking about something I’m sure was quite entertaining, there were these moments when my eyes met the lights in the tall buildings, the bartenders in different bars, the employees at Denny’s, some office workers heading home after a long day and everything else that has always made me wonder, and my mind just went drifting away as I thought, “this is how my life will be someday (if I decide to go with the flow)”.  I thought: this is it, right here– living downtown on my own, with room mates I might or might not click with, making my own money and my own rules, getting high and wasted with my post-adolescent spirit, living the wild life like normal twenty-somethings do. On that walk, I remembered how much I always wanted to grow up. I remembered how in front of me was the exact kind of life I always thought I wanted for myself. But I also realized how much I regret wishing even just a tiny bit of that life for even just a second. On that walk, it wasn’t what I wanted anymore.

Right now I’m looking around the house and I see chaos– garbage everywhere, the floor getting dusty, unwashed plates and glasses piling up in the kitchen sink, spilled water, empty pizza boxes still on the dining table, dirty shirts on the couch and socks missing their significant others. The tidiness and the orderliness I used to live in on a daily basis have disappeared in a blink of an eye. And it’s not just the tidiness and the orderliness that was due to the fact that my brothers and I grew up with housemaids and a super dad that were always there to the rescue; it is also the over-all spirit of togetherness that is slowly fading away. The delivery of Dominos pizza for dinner last night, my brothers constantly saying they miss dad, Matthew still going to school yesterday morning despite of his severe allergy, and me still wide awake right now (3:00am) are just a few of the many evidences that my brothers and I are still kids; that without Dad, we have no idea what we’re doing. At least not yet.

It’s weird. I mean, Mom was there, and then she had to be away. Dad was there too, always. And then all of a sudden he had to leave. It’s weird. Being so used to seeing someone every day after you wake up and before you go to bed and then just waking up one day and he’s not there anymore? It’s weird. And it’s weird in a way that makes me think of the relationships I have with other people in my life. Friends, lovers. How many of them will actually stay? How many of them have actually been real, existent, or essential? I guess, lucky for me and my Parents’ Boy heart, it’s one less question with Mom and Dad. Because I know they will always be there. Physically, not so often anymore. But with every heartbeat, I feel that they are present.

I am aware, especially in the Western world I’m in right now, that all of this doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. I mean, a 19-year old boy whining about his dad leaving him for work?! SERIOUSLY? Well I admit there are times when I wish I had the heart and the courage of a boy my age who grew up in North America. There are times when I wish I was more dangerous, more self-sustaining, more independent; times when I wish I had Naomi Clark’s every-man-for-himself living in 9O21O; times when I wish I was more of an island, or a well-shaped brick that could stand on its own without needing to lean on something. But I’m not. I am instead a seed that constantly requires nourishing; an injured kitten that seeks warmth and shelter on a rainy night. I am a bunch of cumulus clouds in the hot blue sky in summer. A glass of pebbles held up to the moon-lit outdoors. And despite the seemingly depressing fact that I haven’t quite grown up as much as I wanted to just yet, I find a great amount of solace and comfort in knowing that my heart is still buried deep in my parents’ love, and that beyond my years, I continue to seek the kind of care and safety only home can offer.

Life is different for everybody. Today I found out that life, for me, is a great deal of love, friendships and family. And I might grow up tomorrow, or I might grow up ten years from now. But no matter what happens, I will remember this cold night in March of 2013, when I was nineteen and missed Dad this much. And I will remember that Charlie didn’t bring back the little boy in me. Because I am a little boy. I will always be. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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