My friends remark on my courage
when I walk down an unlit street at midnight,
alcohol coursing through my veins and nicotine fueling my lungs.
"That must be it," they say,
because indulging yourself gives you superpowers.
Every night I walk with the fear not of a gun to my head
but of a monster in a sewer or a baby watching
from a trashcan or a cardboard box.
Nine months after my mother started flying,
leaving half of herself rooted to the ground,
she went to swim through clouds with her sweat
and her dreams,
I was born inside-out, and when I crawled
out of my own skin I saw a tikbalang.
Endlessly, it made me pursue the path I never chose,
taking me from here to there and nearly 20 years later,
there is still a tikbalang in my heel, and I am wearing
all my shirts inside out, waiting for it to point me in the right direction.
I am still waiting
for the day the tikbalang will take the hint,
but he remains adamant,
even after I salted my windows and doors
and hung garlic wreaths all over the house.
It has been 20 years since I started running away,
and the only thing constant is this tikbalang
telling me to keep looking over my shoulder because
when you’re walking down an unlit street at midnight
little else can scare you when you are afraid
of your own demons.