How can you blame a place for being so balanced in their weather? Here, there are plenty of open spaces: pocket gardens, parks, big paved area just for bikes, sidewalks that are as wide as the roads beside them. The cold should make you move faster and farther, and the city provides a space for it. But when you only have a choice of scorching hot and depressing flood, you have nothing but alleyways and puddles. The weekend here is different from the weekend there: a typhoon is currently ruining everyone’s plans and cancelling all flights.
All these thoughts were occupying my mind. But as I was staring behind the big mall window at the expanse outside, I saw a hill full of trees starting to color themselves like fall. It was scarred by cement stairs in the middle. There were lots of these kinds of stairs anyway. I finished lunch and headed outside. I crossed from the train station area to the foot of the stairs. I thought I will be running out of breath, but I managed to get to the topmost part. I can see the oblong shape of the terminal station roof, and hundreds and hundreds of rooftops. But instead of noise, I hear quiet, not even rustling of leaves.
At the top, I saw nothing. I thought it was a park, but beyond the colored tiles was a street surrounded by empty lots. It was a subdivision about to begin, ready for house construction. I saw how the water piping was laid out: brown ribbed PVCs looking like post-fallout earthworms digging on the ashen soil. There were also blocks of cement that looked like tunnels. I thought they were soon to be extensions of the train line, but I remembered they resemble basement parking lots of two-story houses which I always see when I pass by other subdivisions built upon a hill. I remember where our house was built. It was also on a hill, but I did not see everything else being built. I just see how the subdivision grows old: cracks and potholes on streets, humps being built and rebuilt.
Also, it feels like it’s such a privilege to walk. Below the stoplight is a button that you need to push if you want to cross. It only takes a minute or less, and all the cars on Route 163 will suddenly stop for you to walk three meters. It’s like it’s an added responsibility or burden to even own a car.
I am always thrilled to use my phone. I see my average walking and running distance shoot up every time I walk these lengths. The day after we arrived at the end of September, I saw the graph go as high as 12 kilometers. I can never do that in the ‘wide’ expanse of my previous university, that although it is actually wide, walking under humidity or impending sunburn is not such a great idea.
This Sunday was still eventful despite the lack of electricity and water. It was surprising because I thought that here, you will always have these utilities available 24/7. At least, I have bathed early in the morning. I charged all my devices last night, turning off everything (faucet tightly shut, airconditioner totally off) so that I will not feel guilty. Notices were everywhere. The scariest message was about paying for the cost of repairs just because I did not turn off something properly.
I don’t have any plans of going beyond the area because I only have money to last me for a week. I guess nothing changed. So I went to the store nearest to the university, probably a kilometer far. I wanted to walk that length, besides, the traffic situation here is not as hostile as where I came from.
I have always neglected the fact that I am in another latitude of the world now, and the sun burns differently here. The weather might be windy and cold, but they said that the sun dries the skin to a toast. Three years ago, I bought a big bottle of skin moisturizer, which was unfortunately confiscated when I hand-carried it to the airport.
The tropical boy has been frying in his own oil. I have never felt this oily since I was in my high school freshman year. So bad that when I always buy fried chicken, I feel like my face will be covered with fried chicken oil the morning after.
- A year changes even the same space. Here is elusive to pin on a map, a graph. A compass an inkless pen pointing north. Writing is a navigation.
- 305: The number remains at the door frame, painted in white. The big blue mug, the cold mango juice. Thin body covered in a thick blanket.
- Residence is a place to stay. Make the bed, pillows upright against the wall. Sit back. Dream about flying away. What is a chronicle of carelessness?
- 203: The sound of roommates screaming at each other to cooperate in a game. Outside, the city sleeps at midnight with the neon and streetlights on. Fog blanketing homes inspired a poem. A new semester means a new foreigner.
- How do you say goodbye? In my native tongue, it meant letting it be known. Asking permission. But really, remembering. Paalam.
- 105/118: Knowing it’s noon if the bells toll fifty meters away. The mirror and the clothes telling the obvious truths. The missing leche flan. Alone yet with three empty beds. Monthly reminder that you, like everyone who come and go, are a transient.
- Nobody is stranger. Everyone is a companion. Every Sunday mass sharing the same bread. Come night, a resident is a node in a network, sharing files sourced from outside. We are what we celebrate in a feast.
- 713: I remember: the Summit at the 7th Floor, the Edge of Glory. I felt the weight of all the things I own, the earthquake at 10 PM, the floor flooded with muddied water, the fear of being hit by lightning. Yet, I felt hundreds of suns I saw set but not rise, the impermanent moon glow, the warmth of being under a roof on high altitude, not being alone anymore.
- Be home: stop and occupy this space. You may remove yourself from here. If people remember you, you always remain. You become home.
“When are you leaving?”
By the end of September.
from ん, 2015 年 9 月 20日
How come the night is no thief—
the throne bejeweled by marbled
walls, onyx shingles, spirited well,
still spared from all nightmares?
From the station, from afar, from
the point of still dreaming
hear the egret slowly fanning
the sounds of the syllabary.
The raven sits still, probably
listening. My throat thrums.
We both fly away. A year passes
against the fish-fireproofed roof.
There were no castles on my island,
only palaces made of coconut and
pounded seashells. The sun never
sets yet how come here
from ん, 2015 年 9 月 19日
Let’s go. We have rehearsals. Can’t sing? Can’t dance? Here. Have these books. Know the math. Speak English. Memorize what happened in the whole damn world history. More especially this country: remember how many we are here? Well, you are off on the last three digits. Where did you read that? Practice violin, flute, guitar, piano. Can’t read notes? Then write. Grammar and spelling must be flawless. But keep it consistent and coherent. Nobody wants to read trash. You must be the best out there. But for now you won’t leave the house. Not until your report card only knows As and nothing else. O, how do you write the hexadecimal A in binary? So what’s that in octal? Simple, right? Now compare all of these sorting algorithms. What is the most efficient? What makes you think you will sleep tonight? How come you do not know how to write in Kanji yet? The resume is different from curriculum vitae. No, you won’t fill up a biodata. Disgusting. What makes you think you can get away with this? What will our neighbors say when you don’t graduate with Latin honors? Write the most wonderful, tearjerker, viral piece of valedictory address the world has yet to see. Imagine that moment when your voice on the microphone drowns in a sea of a thousand hands applauding.
Hey, daydream daydream
The oil dying to steam,
The steak flipped over the grill.
Butter, garlic cried
To grieve such sight,
And your knife sawed away all my limbs.
from ん, 2015年2月13日