–and I am still not used to it.
Everything is different: I now live in a tiny box in between other tiny boxes; the halls are bigger and colder, the lines longer, and the commute more cramped; the noise is so loud it has become the quiet; the sky is a little darker- even during the daytime- and the stars have turned into minuscule condominium windows.
Daily, I weave through streams of people, in between hundreds of bodies being tugged by responsibility and necessity. You could almost hear the droning of routine in the air if you listen carefully enough. Here is where the busy and the bored cohabit, like two blobs of energy overpowering and overturning each other constantly– a clear contrast to the calm of home. The movement makes me feel on-edge and uncomfortable, but there is a silver lining to it all: people come with stories.
I once met a law graduate who gave up his monthly 5-digit salary in government service. The secret to success, he said, was to quit for the right reasons at the earliest possible opportunity. He now drives a taxi for a living, which, in this country, says a lot about people who stick to their principles. Another time in a cafe, I’d advised a 55-year-old ex-barangay captain about his plans to start a distribution chain. He in turn shared with me the secret to politics, but only after I’d promised not to tell anyone else. Clue: it started with an M and ended with a 3-storey house and a Louis Vuitton handbag.
There are days when the stories don’t come; only blank stares. I am left to concoct plots on my own, wondering if people are as curious as I am about the 12-year-old little girl with the baby on her hip.
But then there are stories that make room for more stories, that turn into 5am conversations, that turn into a habit, that turn into a safe-place. They’re bottled in people who make it seem as if the box I live in isn’t as tiny; the halls, not as cold; the noise, not so loud; and the sky, not as dark. The stars return and the paradigm shifts back to home.