Pauwi Na Ako

Riding a multi-cab is not just getting on and getting off. It takes a lot of thought, experience, and strategy, especially when picking the perfect seat. When the multi-cab drives up and pulls over on my sidewalk, I have to be fast. A seat right behind the driver means that I can just hand over my pamasahe without needing to pass it to the passengers next to me, plus not having to adjust my seating position every time someone gets on or off. On the downside, I’ll have to do an awkward half standing, half squatting position as I wobble slowly out of the multi-cab through pairs of knees, hoping I don’t step on anyone ’s feet. The middle area is just as bad. I’ll have to go through the whole awkward walk thing AND the sliding back and forth on the seat as people getting on ask me to move so they can sit. The only plus side is that I’ll have a window to lean my arm on and stare out of and feel like I’m in a music video where I’m contemplating better times and brighter days. The seat I’m aiming for, though, is the perfect spot close to the door. There is no scooting required, I can get off easily, and I still have the window for all my daydreaming needs. Having to yell to tell the driver up front where I’m headed is a small price to pay for my favorite spot. As the multi-cab pulls to a stop, I am first in line and ready to jump into the seat of my dreams.

There’s another factor too, though, and those are the people who are going to end up sitting next to me. I look around me and observe my fellow passengers. There is a middle-aged woman beside me, a young man across from me, and an elderly man beside the door in the PWD seat. They seem like they wouldn’t spoil my perfect seat experience. I wonder if they’ll prove to be interesting. A small lady with a fanny pack is sitting in my perfect seat, and hallelujah, she’s getting off, leaving the only free spot, and the best spot, for me. As soon as she’s out of earshot and we start moving, the middle-aged woman whispers to those around her, “Yang babae na ‘yan? Addict yon sa Tom’s World.” I do a double take and try to get a second glance of the woman whose seat I took. She seemed like a regular, everyday person headed to Robinson’s. She sparked my curiosity. Maybe she’s one of those ladies who like to gamble on the color wheel for tickets. Maybe she isn’t even addicted to gambling games. Maybe she’s addicted to the Just Dance machine and can dance really, really well, or the Drum Mania set since she secretly used to be a drummer when she was younger and maybe – –

The middle-aged woman interrupts my thoughts with, “Dito lang!” The driver moves to the side of the road, and the woman gets off. I wonder how this woman even knew about the addict. Maybe she used to be an addict too and is ashamed of admitting it. Maybe the two ladies were gambling buddies until the other woman decided that enough was enough. Maybe they fought over the tickets they got from the games and accused each other of stealing and got into one of those girl dramas where they talk about each other behind their backs —

The elderly man sits quietly on the side. He looks very old and very stiff. He firmly taps the bars of the multi-cab with a five peso coin to get the driver to stop. He slowly and stiffly gets down the steps and walks alone to a row of buses headed north. I wonder where he’s headed. Maybe he’s a retired surfer who had to stop surfing because of arthritis. Maybe he’s an old farmer heading back to his land after selling his produce. Maybe…maybe he’s sick and alone and has to take care of himself. I look at his slowly moving figure as we get farther and farther away from him. I hope he’s okay.

I’m almost home, and the young man is the only passenger left besides me. He is carrying a wedding-themed gift bag, with pictures of rings on hands, flowers, and wedding cake printed on the side. On one corner, written in big handwriting, there is a short note: “Alam mo kung bakit ito ang design? Kasi looking forward ako sa araw na ikaw makakasama kong maka-receive naman ng gift na ganito. Love you!” Maybe he’s headed to his fiancée’s house. Maybe they’re planning their wedding. Maybe someone gave it to HIM instead. Why isn’t he smiling? Maybe it’s not his? Maybe he’s a delivery guy who delivers wedding gifts to couples and is bitter that he himself can’t find true love and so he —

A lady I didn’t notice gets off in front of the cemetery. She is alone, not even carrying a bag. She seems to be about my lola’s age. She walks slowly but surely through the gates of the memorial. Maybe…she’s visiting someone who passed away, someone who meant a lot to her, someone she’ll be staying at the cemetery for during All Souls Day holiday. Maybe…

I reach my stop. I get off the cab right before the young man does. I hope he has all the love he needs. I hope the lady at the cemetery is at peace. I hope the old man makes it home safely. I hope the woman…I don’t know, learns more interesting rumors I guess? I hope Tom’s World addict wins the jackpot, or better yet, ends up giving it up and maybe starting her own business because maybe she’s secretly a really good cook so —

My dog barks a greeting when I reach our gate. She wags her fluffy tail and waits to be petted. I give her a hard belly rub and she’s satisfied. I’m home, safe and sound.

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