Going Somewhere?

November 29, 2004 at 5:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The cab driver was rather cranky. “It’s that Oktoberfest at that place near Megamall, he says in the vernacular. “Traffic was jammed, so many kids in there, beer is available at P2 each,” he was fuming.

It’s a Friday night, my favorite yet most dreaded night of the week when nobody is supposed to be with nobody. And yet at 10 pm I find myself braving the rain on my way home, albeit in the cool comfort of a taxi. I chatted up the driver, finding his moodiness rather amusing.

“Traffic! And those drivers on the road, those slow bastards who don’t know where they’re going? Sometimes I just want to douse them in gas and light them up,” he exclaims. “I want to burn them.”

As we rounded up the QC circle, he tells me: “Look at all those cars. Is this a poor country? There’s so many of those cars; that’s why it’s traffic. They’re all headed somewhere.”

I look out the window and realize he is right, except for the poverty thing. Outside there were cars (and buses and trucks) gaining speed, swerving, passing each other, heading off into all directions, making their way against time.

“Yeah,” I reply. “They’re all headed somewhere.”

It got me thinking. They say plus ce change, plus ce meme chose. But it seems like the world is moving at an increasingly rapid pace, leaving little room for us to look back and rectify whatever unfinished business we may have left behind in the past.

We are a forward-looking society, I believe, meaning we don’t dwell on what’s done and over with. Maybe the cab driver instinctively knows this, and venting is just his way of recognizing he can’t do anything about the traffic. Especially since he grew quiet as we headed down Visayas Ave., when the traffic eased up and the jam he kept complaining about became a thing of the past.

I guess the driver is on the move just like everyone else, on his way to another day. And as he moves along, he puts the past behind. It is this collective amnesia, this feeling that we as a society moves on at all cost, even at the risk of forgetting that probably explains why some injustices continue to this day, because those who knew would rather forget epochs like, for example, Martial Law.

“Yeah, Martial Law babies,” I tell myself. My recollection moves a few weeks back to a night when I am on the el on my way to Megamall where I would later meet Len and Cess. The “babies” I’m thinking about are two short, lean-bodied guys standing in front of me. My gaydar was in high gear, with the tight shirt, low-hung faded jeans and overgenerous serving of gel on their hair.

They seemed like lovers, but I was more concerned with the nasty thoughts brewing inside my head about the one in the white buttoned-down polo shirt. He was fair-skinned, but with some pockmarks on his otherwise smooth face. His partner was a shrimp; skinny with over-pronounced jaws and other details not worth my spit. They were laughing, whispering jokes at each other, pausing once in a while and then looking at each other, knowingly and oblivious. Such abandon tugged at me, as if I had never known what it feels like to express myself with my lover in front of complete strangers.

I looked down on the cuter guy’s rear, thin and drowning in the looseness of his pants. I did so all the way to Ortigas where they got off and I caught the shrimp throwing me a glance as the door closed.

“Maybe they’ll be fucking later,” I tell myself, and made a mental note to end my own dry spell. Maybe the shrimp and the pockmark are off to party, to imbibe alcohol, or maybe have coffee or maybe meet up with other fuckwads. A pair of sisters on the move, indeed.

As the el moved along, I became aware of just how many people were populating the train. To my right was a mom with her kids, the younger boy sitting on the older one’s lap, while a burly, sunburned man sits next to them. Across from me, a guy leaned against the sliding door thumbing away a message on his mobile. At the other end of the coach, a bunch of noisy teenagers bantered, and the shrill of their nonsense grated on my ear.

And it occurred to me: where did all these people come from? What lives do they lead? And more important, where are they going?

“Laoag,” I tell the man behind the counter, with much tentativeness, afraid to appear ignorant and give away the fact. I am standing in line, purchasing a ticket for a bus ride for the 25th hour.

Thankfully though, he seemed satisfied with my curt request, and punches through a ticket, takes my crisp 500 and hands me back some pathetic bills of crumpled 100s and 20s.

It is the night of May 1st and the clock is just about to pass through midnight. I take my seat along a row of wooden, dilapidated benches poorly coated in cheap red paint that has started to peel off. I leaf through the pages of a poetry book I had brought along, and help myself with some random servings of Whitman and Rimbaud. In between verses I watch as people drag huge square tin cans of crackers, bags of synthetic weaving, boxes of what-nots off and onto buses. I see people watching TV, a couple of older men sleeping in some of the benches, and am disturbed every now and then by the blare of the overhead speaker announcing arrivals and departures.

Terminals are such inappropriate places to observe people and judge them. The element of time works against you, as often these people are, like you and me, in a hurry to get out of there and make their way to someplace else.

But still, as I boarded my bus, I realize terminals are the embodiment of people in transition, a showcase of souls in transit from one life station to another. Here, waiting for a ride, they display their general attitude to their own, and ultimately individual journeys even if they share the ride with other passengers.

But luckily for those with cars, they just have to deal with whoever is on the passenger seat.

“Sentimental crap,” I tell myself of the lyrics of a Stephen Speaks song that plays in my head as Cess and I walk the length of Xavierville Avenue on our way to Katipunan.

We had just left the 70s Bistro because I just found out his eyes don’t have it, and I just wanted to let off steam and calm myself. It was late 2003 and it was the start of a very interesting year.

With words of comfort, Cess also helps me come to terms with the awful realization I’d just had. And tonight, I am very much a man on the move. I am walking so fast, that looking back I finally understood why the world seems to move ever so fast.

We’re all headed somewhere, true. But we’re all coming from some place else as well. Some are running away from pain, some from fear, some from confusion. We’re all in a hurry to get somewhere else because we’re either excited or exhausted. We’re all either headed towards trouble, a night out on the town, to someone dearly loved, seeking sanctuary from a weary day at work, or for people like me, still finding our true north.

It is in those moments of respite from walking, running, standing in lines, waiting for a train or a bus, before take-off and upon landing, in pit stops and lay-overs that life affords us a moment, a rare chance to wonder and ask ourselves: where am I going?

Maybe we don’t really want to know, which is why the world seems to move so quickly, but how do we go about life without ever really being aware? Some approach the question with anger, like my cabbie, some with wild abandon, like the shrimp and the pockmark, some with resentment and bitterness, like me on that night at the Bistro. In most cases people just deal with their journeys by trying to make sense out of all the chaos of life, a disorder best exemplified by terminals.

It is, after all, always a messy road between point A and point B.

This is a society on the move. But in a world that merely goes around in circles, why is it that sometimes we find ourselves ending up right back where we started?

“Park over there,” I tell my cranky cabbie. Thoughts of the Bistro on my head as the taxi stopped and parked along the curb. It is where my recollections end. I pay my fare, and leave him the rest as tip. I am home, and my own journey, going around a circle as it seems, will have to wait another day.


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