The one on my left is. She was young, around her mid-twenties I suppose. She was thin, much too thin for me but the one most boys that age fawn over. I was not able to look at her face. I surmised that somehow such actions would destroy the magic of the moment. Because there are times when the mystery of not knowing adds to the overall impact of the experience. She was beautiful, I suppose, beauty being something relative.
She was holding a kid, a young child (boy or girl, I don’t know) who was around a year old or two and jeepneys being full at that time of day, I was pressed against them. At first, I was too caught up in my own problems I did not notice them. Then the kid started to kick his small legs –
That feeling –
Like a revelation you know which broke into my consciousness. It awakened something from deep in my psyche, something I never thought I’d feel. It was the feeling akin to a mother’s sense, only this time it was a father’s sense. My heart suddenly ached showing me a hole in my being that was painfully empty. I could feel the contours of the child’s leg as it moved against my sides adding to the melancholy that I was feeling. I wondered how it would feel like to have one life so fragile held close to my breast.
I wondered what feeling would be evoked if it held my fingers in its tiny hands, or when it looked at me with those innocent doe eyes. Or when it burped, or when it smiled, or when it slept …
I could not help but close my eyes, willing an imaginary life when such a babe was in it.
And then I felt her. The human warmth beside me holding that baby. My heart ached in a different way. Her existence emphasized the emptiness of my own.
I was going home to a pad that screamed a lonely existence, to a life that is wrought with insults and unspoken pain, a life of isolation and terrible sadness. An empty life.
How would it feel like to have someone such as her waiting for my coming home? To hold someone else’s hands in unguarded moments? To have a warm body beside one’s self during the long nights? To wake up to someone’s cooking? To see sleep still linger in a disheveled face free from the false wrappings of womanly vanity? To be scolded? To be nagged?
I can only imagine.
The baby kicked.
I cried inside, my tears unseen by the outside world.
The teenager to my right adjusted his earphones, I caught the trails of a rappers chant but it seemed so faraway. I gripped the handlebars tighter, feeling my blood rush down.
Someone knocked at the roof.
‘Para!’ The voice was distant. Like I was in the middle of a misty swamp and someone from far away was shouting.
I vaguely felt the jeepney stop.
And then suddenly, there was an emptiness to my left. At first, it vaguely registered then like a clap of thunder, it hit me.
I turned around –
An empty seat –
I stared at the indentation there.
And then the jeep was moving once more.