Life begins and ends in graduation. I remember having the busiest time of my life running around the University library scouring for sources for my thesis while fighting away with others who were also after the same resource. Life in the city taught me one thing: You have to be first otherwise there is nothing left. I’ve always wanted to win in some sort of competition but the outcome always ends with me tracing the route home with a path of tears starting from Espana Boulevard to Santolan Metro Station*.
Always like that. That was the pinnacle of life, the competition, the tears, the late nights dedicated to finishing papers, the puke left in concrete of Eastwood mall. I believed that was life.
When I left home, exactly a week after life had finished. I didn’t know why leaving was such an intricate process composed of taxes, falling in line, having your face seen by some sentry who might have judged you because you looked like some lad that came from the province. NAIA** was like that, she was my mother who just delivered me into this world and is looking at me for the very first time. NAIA was my mother who has forgotten that I was born and raised here in the Philippines and lived here for the past 19 years of my life, I never ran away from NAIA, never, but how could she forget me and think that I was being delivered as a new born child?
The next thing I know, she brought to me a desert. To some, they think it’s a new home. But to think of it, It’s like those two people in the mall talking to each other while I was trying to converse with them. My 5 year old self, oblivious to the fact that they were talking and I wasn’t involved; it’s going into wrong home and being dumbfounded by the fact that you don’t know people there – those early days when grandmother took us to Batangas*** to meet our “relatives” whom I didn’t know in the first place.
I worked in this desert where she left me, my 20 year old self remembers walking in the city at 50 degrees celcius looking for a new “home”. It was like mother left and delivered me to the her friends at the airport and then left in this desert to fight for my own in a world where the executioners are dressed in what I remembered to be the Sunday best all pressed and dressed and the fact that they don’t receive cold calls because who the fuck are you to be knocking at our office looking like you walked the entire city in the summer (which you really did). They say this was a city of dreams, but no. It is only a city of dreams to those who can afford it, those who will not be crushed under the boot of the privileged. Those who can buy their way into the fluorescent lined, air-conditioned notionality that the city was built on.
Working is like that, being unmade. I remember the most important rule of this realm: “The boss is always right, if not then read that again”. I remember recalling my boss’ every single word and putting them to action only to be rejected by him because his mood dictated that he didn’t like it and even if I remember he said it was the way to do, he didn’t like it. The boss is kind of like God – he has this set of rules that he can change from time to time and all you have to do is go with it. In fact the boss is the God of this realm they call real life. I remember mother and father “giving me advice” last night, about how the boss is God and he is the savior of our poverty because he pays. And about how I am just a lowly expatriate that is required to kiss his feet every time because he is infallible. He is God and he will give you salvation in the form of UAE Dirhams. “To hell with all the rules you learned from your life, this is your new life, you new life with me, a new religion, your new perspective” I could just imagine the boss saying that to me as the walls of my former foundation crumble with his dictations.
If they weren’t my parents at all they could just tell me straight: “What the fuck is the 20 year old doing in our clique? He is ruining the harmony, he has spoken against God the Boss, and he is an enemy of our religion!” I know for one know that they’d say that to me if they weren’t my parents. I was twenty, they were in their forties slamming me with their truths and telling me to get out from my world of writing and imagination and go to the assembly line to be tailored to the specifications of God the Boss.
They took me inch by inch as I set off for the assembly line from Sunday to Monday, 9AM to 6PM I was in the assembly line. That incandescent room with bare concrete and white walls where I sat beside my boss as I was trying to figure out what I was doing.
I hid my realm in my pocket and then every single nut and bolt of my former self was cut away and then fitted with new ones. I remember every single washroom break in the office where I washed my piss away with tears because I was jealous at how my other classmates get to live the life I want to live. I remember the Catholic God fucking my life up by sending me to this hole where I’m making heads or tails with what I am doing exactly. The client, the quotation, the product code, the client, the quotation, the product code , the client, the quotation, the product code! – these religious icons of theirs is telling me that this is the right way. I remember mother inciting the “will of the Catholic God” that I belong in this realm, not in the realm that I want, She was telling me frantically, like the preachers boarding the bus from Las Pinas to Manila**** that if I didn’t belong here my papers would have got rejected and I wouldn’t get a job. I miss my realm, that realm where there were kids, seated on their chairs listening to me while I taught them the alphabet, or giving them toys because it was my last day with them. I remember touching the lives of these children in some hidden forest along NLEX***** where I handed this one boy my bracelet because he changed my life more than God the Boss did.
There was this one line from a film I watched before. I don’t remember who said it or what film is it but now I think I know what it means when he said “Desire is Irrelevant, I am a machine”.
*Espana Boulevard is a major road in the city of Manila and Santolan is a terminal station located in the City of Pasig. Both are in the Philippines **Ninoy Aquino International Airport, The Philippines’ International Airport ***a province in the Philippines ****two major cities *****North Luzon Expressway, the interstate going to the northern provinces