Words Keep Me (In)Sane: I Count Time By My Mania

Nonfiction by | March 1, 2021

Work 1: this sound is all that lingers, 2.4k words, Pining, No Dialogue


Everybody fears the outside. I write of storms, where the thunder and lightning are free to do as they please, where they reach places I’m afraid to want to visit again. I draft my first sentence in the middle of March during the lockdown, when school said we’ll be back by April 12 to have final examinations. Nobody cared, we just wanted to graduate. I draft my first paragraph, I’m still afraid. Teachers are silent even through online chats, and we are left to fend for ourselves. I turn to open a Word document, determined to at least add another word as testament to my nostalgia.


Pining: I want. There are relationships lost, conversations halted by distance, hands unheld, aches that I’m hoping are just strictly platonic; but how do I know which one to want first? Am I even given that much liberty? I’m aware I want so much that I still long for. How does one turn feelings into words? You don’t. You slap paper against your chest and hope the words bleed through your skin enough so they’d show in the print. No Dialogue: I have no one to talk to. This is evident in my drafts. The conversations are awkward, I have forgotten how one talks to people, Practice Makes Perfect but I don’t have anyone else.


“This sound is all that lingers” is the story proof of my maddening loneliness, my first supposed-upload, but I didn’t finish writing the story in March.


Work 2: summer all year round, 4.4k words, Pining


I turn 18. Does one choose celebration over limiting the budget so the family would last another week? I turn 18 and I pass UPCAT and some of my friends cry over their own rejections. I turn 18 and there is no pancit, no noodles, no anything that wishes me longevity. I’m lonely and afraid and I finish my first story and I upload it through a weak mobile data connection. I’m afraid. The story’s about wanting relationships and it reeks so much of longing the feeling urges me to immediately start drafting another story.


Pining, yet again: These are all the leftover wants I’ve kept buried. Part of these are thoughts of hands holding mine. I think of showing these wants to the world, of coaxing my vulnerability so it comes out to burn under the sun.


I finish and upload both stories.


Work 3: Take Him Mad, 5.3k words, Greek Myths


I start reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History in hopes of distracting myself. I don’t listen to the news. The television stays off to reduce the bills— no internet connection, no means of reaching out. I have nothing but words and words and a surplus more of words. I find that I grow tired of it easily, that mothers are angered more easily when they’re alone and tired, that you can go mad without going insane; I find myself learning more reading more writing more.


Works 4, 5, 6: Greek Myths, a total of 27.3k words


“What about the internet connection?” “Don’t worry, I’ll think of something.” The next day, our neighbor—my godmother, who remembered me only when I said I had passed UPCAT—gives me a piece of paper with a scribbled code and wishes me luck on college. I start classes and my hair is a blaze of orange dye. I hoped nobody would mind and they didn’t, and I don’t know why but I was a little disappointed. My mind has been empty for so long I struggled to wrap it around the fact that I’m studying again. My mother has a job now: she cooks for someone wealthier in the subdivision and she can afford all the pancit and spaghetti dishes I could ever want as compensation for their absence on my birthday. I don’t want any of them now. Every time she goes out I think of a better alternative to the simple “Take care.” I look for words and prayers that would protect her more than any masks could.


Thumbs aching and phone overheating, I know I obsess only because I write under a pseudonym, that I’m maniacally loud only because I have this mask. I learn that my case is called “touch starvation.” I’ve uploaded so many words in less than a couple of months. Writing has become a hobby, a love, and an ache. It keeps me awake long enough to write of the sunrises I witness through my window.


Work 7: Hymn Him Sun, Greek Myths, (?) words—Ongoing


I go online. I meet other writers and befriend other writers and find happiness with other writers. They’re all older than me but no one mocks me for writing fantasy fiction. They know we’re all in need of escapism, and we offer each other just that. I eat more and my mother is happier and I encounter a plot hole I can’t seem to solve. But despite the busyness I find myself in a state of lethargy, and I just can’t seem to make time for writing anymore. This is trouble; I have readers now. I have comments saying they are waiting for the next installment.


I like my course. I get to do what I’ve wanted to do for two years now. But even through this achievement, I’m still afraid and nervous and unsure. There are too many things going on and I’ve been too used to doing nothing. Characters stare at me from the drafts and I turn a blind eye, because I have to write other things now, because I have to prioritize academe now.


Everything’s emotionally and mentally the same except for the fact that I now know it hadn’t been platonic aching all along! It took me months to realize that I did not want just platonic hand-holding! I let out a laugh, bitter and cold and a little too throaty to be of mirth. For I honestly thought writing would help me, but I fear it has only served as a self-brewed concoction of what I have been missing. I’ve been tasting my own medicine this whole time.


But I am a writer, and in that I have not changed. The awareness of your own cowardice doesn’t magically turn it into courage. Guess what my latest work is about. I think the answer’s clear. Nothing has truly changed, after all, for still I long, I pine, I write.

Blessie Bruce is a BA English-Creative Writing student of UP Mindanao and a content writer specializing in real-person fiction as an outlet for writing exercises. Her work can be read on the website AO3 (Archive of Our Own).