Hardcore backpacker friends would chide me for often opting to spend my last day in foreign towns in malls and cafe’s when I should really be cramming my itineraries to the minute with out-of-the-way art galleries and hot spring pools only locals have access to, but hear me out: despite having only recently accepted that I need human company to thrive no matter how much I adore being alone else I’ll dwell on things more than I should, I like quietly watching from the sidelines the most ordinary scenes. That way, long after I’ve gone home, I can think back to a place and this is exactly how unfiltered it’ll look, very much removed from the hype of travelogues and Instagram that it begins to feel like home.
Case in point: today, I heard mass in the town mall despite having relinquished my faith years ago, said a little prayer for the toddler who kept tugging at my dress as his mother closed her eyes in thanksgiving or penance, I don’t know which, struck conversation with ticket vendors at the central bus terminal on where I should go for lunch given that I was alone — yes, ate, as single as I could possibly be — and therefore can’t afford the tourist trap places which only serve large dishes, shopped for books on bargain then proceeded to plunk myself down in this small coffee stall while watching from the corner of my eye an impeccably-dressed old couple on a Sunday day date sip cappuccino’s as they read — the lady on her smartphone, the grandfather whipping out the newspaper he had tucked under his arm. I am aware this is not exactly a faithful picture of this city, a more comprehensive story supposedly factoring in accounts of people from the outskirts such as that habal-habal driver who offered to guide me up Mt. Isarog and who I now have to turn down once and for all because despite the temptation, post-surgery practices don’t normally include a major technical climb and I should, for once, side with my more logical side and hop on that bus back to Manila tonight instead.
But still. My point is, my heart is very, very full, and the places I know and love are increasing, and the world I know is growing. The subsequent departures used to feel like desperate tries at coping. All the empty spaces now, all the hurt I’ve learned to live/distract myself with, suddenly they don’t matter so much anymore.
For the very first time in a long time, I feel hopeful — like I’m about to be thrown into something so impossibly beautiful I won’t even make the slightest attempt to fumble with words.