I have trudged from the concrete veins of UP to the riverbanks of Marikina, traversed mountains, forded rivers, and clambered along seaside crags, but the walk I most remember is the one I made across the boundary of two cities, from P. Noval to Araneta. One Friday afternoon in July, the trains stopped working, so all the commuters took to the road. I had just come from work. I was wearing a dressy top and a pair of wedge heels, even had make-up on. I had wanted to visit my favorite bookstore, then treat myself to a nice dinner and a movie. But the trains took no passengers, and all the buses and cabs and jeepneys were full. And so I walked. It was raining. I walked a distance of three kilometers that felt like a light-year. I didn’t go to the bookstore anymore, or eat dinner, or watch a movie. I remember crying on the bus ride home, when I finally caught a bus ride home.
I walked because more than an hour had passed and I still couldn’t flag down a ride. I walked because I hated waiting. I walked because the sight of all the cars whizzing past me as I stood by the roadside under the rain made me feel so helpless and then so angry that I. Just. Had. To. Walk.
The other night found me walking along Commonwealth from Central to Philcoa, against cold wind and darkness pierced by headlights, for the same reasons.
There is nothing like the feeling of being stuck, in place and in the grey space of waiting. If you say, stay, I’ll say, until when? There is a world of difference between being told, “I’ll pick you up in an hour,” and suspending time while holding no such surety. In the latter case, of course, time never really stops—only, there are no minutes to count down, no paths to trace, no expectation, only the sense of the interminable and the hope that one hour doesn’t turn to two, maybe three. In such cases, I have always preferred to walk rather than wait. Often it doesn’t matter where to, as long as I am moving. After all, I find no stillness in standing still.
One day I woke up and announced that I would be leaving the place that, for the past year, I had called home. “Why?” they asked. “I just feel like it,” I said. Later that day, I would come up with excuses that made more sense: I needed to save up, I hardly ever stayed in that pad anyway, I wanted to spend more time with my family. But the truth is that one morning I woke up and felt like leaving, and so I did.
I loved that place, my fine garret, with its white walls and mahogany floors, its lone window that afforded the view of a moon that seemed nearer than the side street below. I loved the sense of solitude and detachment it gave me, the way it made me feel as if I vanished from the world whenever I ascended the two narrow stairways that led to a heavy wooden door that I always bolted behind me.
I loved that place, but a year of comfort felt too long.
I stopped dead in the middle of an overpass one night, an island in the traffic of commuters. I couldn’t decide which way to go.
To my left lay the way home, but before home was interminable waiting, the issue of rush hour and roadblocks and rain.
The road to the right led to somewhere, anywhere else.
In the middle of the overpass, I stopped, collateral damage, a pregnant silence, awkward metaphor.
Anchored in the middle of the overpass I watched the river of headlights down below flow on, dense spillage to the left, swift currents to the right.
I decided to go somewhere, anywhere else.
Monday, 9:43 p.m. While crossing C.P. Garcia on the way to my new home, I got hit by a car. Or it hit my backpack where my ribcage had been a second or two before. The bystanders around me were outraged—at the state of the road, at the driver, at me. I was sad. I was tired. I was either not thinking or thinking too much, but whichever the case, I didn’t care.
It was one of those nights—they never cease—that make the days that follow them a choice between moving and not moving. Do I carry on today, pick up from yesterday, or do I fling myself from some height and cease the nights, the questions, the moving?
I woke up at 6 a.m. and spent all of Tuesday morning in bed pretending the car had hit me and I was dead. I grieved over my demise, and was disgusted with myself for the indulgence. So I buried the corpse in the mattress and got moving.
What is the sense of movement? If only I could stand atop a mountain, in the heart of a forest, and be the mountain, the forest: monuments of subtle changes that keep steady, rooted—for all their quivering, still.