I don’t really remember that day to the smallest detail—after all, it’s been almost two years since it happened—but that nirvana-esque feeling that I got will always stick to my mind. The funny thing is that I had to go through a very tiring journey to achieve it.
It started with me and my parents heading off to Manila early in the morning through commuting: a two hour bus ride to Cubao, a ride in the taxi, and a very long walk to our destination. I can’t recall we didn’t use the car at home, but one of the reasons was that my mother wanted to show me how exhausting and unhealthy the four years of my life would be if I decided to go to the universities in that area (I had only finished junior high around this time). And boy, did it work.
I knew what Manila was like and it was everything that I didn’t want: since we went there on a Monday, every street was full of students, workers, and vendors; the overpass unsurprisingly reeked of dried up urine, and the pollution was so bad that it made my skin crawl—I actually felt my life span reduce. Sure, the university campuses were in great condition but the dorms that I saw outside of these campuses looked like they were one crack short of collapsing.* It was also summer, so I was drenched in sweat and, yes, it was disgusting.
I just wanted to go home and lie down on the bed after showering, but we still had to go somewhere (which, again, I don’t remember) so I didn’t have a choice. At least I got to rest a bit during a short ride in an FX mini-van (’twas my first time riding one and I never knew something like this existed in the country), thanks to its refreshing air conditioning.
The first few LRT rides were kind of fun, although the noisy sound of the rails as the they arrived disturbed me; I was scared that a loose screw would derail them and kill me or I might accidentally jump/fall on the rails (search: l’appel du vide). The food stalls at the station were awesome: various kinds of empanada, siomai, that Japanese pancake shaped like a fish with a filling inside, and the best of them all—donuts.
Everything was fine until the last train ride that we had to do in order to get to the bus station (and go home!). Good God, the train was jam-packed. I should have expected this because it was the rush hour and everyone was heading home, but damn, I couldn’t even move a muscle because there were absolutely no spaces left to move; we were a bunch of sardines in that small moving can. You know how you have to spread your legs a little when standing on the train so you don’t get off-balanced? Yeah, I didn’t even need to do that because it was impossible to fall on the ground when there was no ground to fall onto. Saying that it was exhausting would be an understatement.
When we finally got on the bus, it was a breath of fresh air. It was one of the cleanest buses that I saw, thank goodness, and the air conditioning was like a sigh of an angel—totally refreshing. I bought a box of Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins from the vendors who were roaming around, and I considered it as a reward for surviving that horrible train ride. After a few minutes of watching TV, I didn’t realize that I dozed off.
Did you know that if you overlap the beginning of Green Day’s Wake Me Up When September Ends with the very last part of One Direction’s Little Things, you’d hear the most relaxing thing ever?** Well for me, anyway, because I had just gone through a replica of hell. The moment I woke up from an hour-long nap, Little Things started playing on the bus’s radio and normally I didn’t like this song, but it was just perfect that night. I literally felt “chill”. And then, as it was about to reach the last lyric, I noticed that another song had already started playing (it was WMUWSE); I melted right on my seat. I don’t know how to put it into words without sounding like a hipster on pot, but it was the chillest moment I’ve ever had. It’s like a feeling of euphoria, but instead of excitement I felt peace, and I loved it.
Whenever I’m having a hard day, week, or month (or, basically, life), I go back to this short-lived peace that I experienced to remind myself that there can be”chill” at the end of a long, exhausting day if I worked hard enough to get through it—kind of like the rainbow and pot metaphor thing. And I guess that’s also what Winston Churchill was implying when he said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”*** Well if that’s the case, Mr. Churchill, then I will keep going.
*this is an exaggeration; they didn’t actually look like they were going to collapse, but they did seem very moldy from the outside.
**in no way am I comparing One Direction to Green Day. No, absolutely not. (Please don’t kill me)
***I would like to thank the TV adaptation of Teen Wolf for introducing this quote to me.