Evening walks

Moving here is like going back to a place you grew up in,

It was like bumping into an old friend you hadn’t seen for a long time,

forced to relive memories of spilled liquor,  goodbye hugs and a broken ego. 

You know the awkwardness, youd’ say “Hi!”, and shed’ say “Hello”, and then quiet,

the trill of crickets devoid of fricatives. Then youd’ go on with your separate

lives, as if strangers, and would probably never meet each other again. 

Until, you are literally living in it once more, where you had to meet and greet

such old friend every day, get past the awkwardness, get to know her again, slowly

but surely, until whatever youd’ had before was rekindled. 

To do that, you usually go for early evening walks around the campus, and during

these strolls you get to know more this old friend better. You would mentally map

out this nightly route but instead of using buildings as markers, you would

populate the map with people: Here is where the schools’ security guards keep the

keys while they sit wistfully, killing time or watching vids on Youtube, 

Here is where the student couples spend their time spewing mouthfuls of adolescent

love, sparks, and soft anatomical discoveries, Here is where people fast-walk,

breezing past the Udyoh trees, thinking about calories, errands, electricity bills,

and more calories, 

Here is where selfies are taken, and vows are made, and broken, With the Baybayin

lit up, a beacon, an oasis of granite, greens and reds. Such map would, however,

change every single night but its’ fine. Some nights, the couples wouldn’t be

there, or the guard would be replaced by someone who had a smaller belly, or the

joggers and the fast-walkers would be home wolfing down Some taluwan, or bread,

peanut butter and jelly. The process, as you walk on by, you thought, was the

opposite of cartography: You must get over your fixation on supposedly fixed things

– buildings, streets, friendships, and relationships – and surely over time, over

evening walks, you may now have come to terms with the fact that people are

constantly moving, and perhaps regretfully, and painfully, constantly changing. 

But it is this: Sometimes the simple fact that people are walking all around you,

navigating their own invisible cities, should be enough to fill your empty heart,

enough to make you feel less alone, and lonely. 

But maybe sometimes, You just have to make do with what you have, be content, smile

all through that pain and apologize, “I’m sorry for being so hard on you’, you say

to yourself, “and I forgive you”, you emphatically declare. And here: under the

swaying branches of the mango trees, at the intersection of painful memories,

voiceless crickets and forgiveness is where you’ll find friendship, love, and

yourself again. You just have to keep on walking, not running away, past the

guards, the couples, the Udyoh trees, the lit-up totem of Baybayin, and just fully

living, enjoying the daily struggles of moving back and moving on to a place you

grew up in.

- Michael O. Jamillon