When hometown blues became too much to bear, I took a chance and ran away for a few days. We sailed in the night and by morning we stepped foot on a thriving island in the Visayas. We had cups of hot cocoa and sticky rice cakes for breakfast in an ordinary looking cafe a few steps away from the city’s wet market. We rode the local “tricycle” to our new home. In the days that followed, we would go out on our own to explore the city and live like the locals; buying groceries, cooking our own meals, commuting, drinking beer at night while strumming the guitar, or mingling at the local bar. Then there were days when we would be the tourists, with our cameras around our necks and sunglasses to complete the look. We set out to visit old churches, pristine beaches, and museums.
I didn’t cry that night, as his cousin screamed profanities at me on the phone, and him laughing instead of apologizing. The reception was poor, he was in the club and I was almost asleep, happily telling him about the quaint little bar we went to.
“My cousin says it’s where pretentious artists and intellectuals go to.” condescension. disgust.
“give me the phone. hey you little sh*t, stop calling you b*tch” at least that’s how it sounded if she said it in English, somehow it was worse in our language. I didn’t drop the phone, “your cousin..” But he only laughed.
I spent that night on a wooden bench in the living room, covered in blankets pretending to be a guy. My friend’s roommate came home late and slept on the floor, too inebriated to realize that he was talking to a stranger. In the morning, he finds out. Laughter.
On the last afternoon of our weekend trip we spend it with my sister’s boyfriends’ friends, ate grilled fish, seaweed salad, idled and watched as kids jumped into the sea on a hot, sunny afternoon.
Then it was time to say goodbye to the island, sail away and face the city, the boy, and the wedding I had missed (his sister’s btw, my life isn’t that dramatic).
In hindsight, I thank the island. The island of my ancestors, even his. It gave me solace through those times. I didn’t know people could hurt eachother so badly at 19.