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Ghost Stories

What You Should Know About Your Sensations

Issha Marie Onoya

'What You Should Know About Your Sensations' (digital image test, 2014)

'What You Should Know About Your Sensations' (digital image test, 2014)

My grandfather was not a perfect man. I remember the way he carried himself when I was a child - always quite the intimidating presence, smelling faintly of pomade and aftershave.

I was never close to the man when he was alive. I remember many little things: him quizzing me with such intensity over my multiplication tables... and being rewarded with dried mangoes or my favourite cheese puffs when I did a good job. He was quite the severe man - at least, from how I viewed him as a child - and overly pedantic, hardly affording his grandchildren the usual doting kind of affection that those lovey-dovey-fuzzy-sorts of grandparents often do.

I went to his funeral in the Philippines back in 2011; all of it is a blur. I vaguely recall going through a number of his personal belongings, but an old notebook of his captured my attention. Inside it were carefully-written lyrics to love songs. Once in a While was a song written by Michael Edwards and Bud Green, and was popularized by many classic crooners including his favourite, Nat King Cole. Why he went through this exercise of copying over these lyrics into his pocket notebook, I will never know, but I had unknowingly, unintentionally... made up the idea that my grandfather, in all of his severity and his seriousness, was a romantic at heart.

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I wrote a 5-part poem that I aptly named The Fall sometime back in 2010. I had fallen in love with a man who lived clear across the country from me. He would be my partner for almost six years later that year, but, like some love stories, we simply could not work together no matter how hard [we believed] we tried. So it ended.

Below are the final lines of The Fall. For me, this is how it feels to fall in love. Perhaps one day, I will be fortunate enough to feel this way again. Perhaps I am like the love-lyric-toting-side of my grandfather... and given the cynicism I am often known to carry... I am alright with that.

I have, since, come to deduce
that the act of falling
is almost always met
with the sort of silence that speaks
of a profound and biting sense of clarity;

this,

backed also by
                        the gentle rustling of skin and fabric;
                        the subtle crackle
                        of statically-charged particles
                        held in perpetual suspension;

the faintest of sighs.

Happy Valentine's Day.