Sunday, July 27, 2014

Excerpt: Love Your Frenemies

Taking off was harder than I thought it would be. Not the concept of it, but the execution.
   When I was younger I heard stories of teenagers who would run away. In my high school, I think a girl tried to do it. While it sounded easy in theory, I wasn't sure what she was trying to accomplish. How exactly was she going to get money? How many bags of clothes could she bring? Where was she going to stay, and how long could she stay there before someone tipped off her parents and sent her back? And, what bothered me most -- what if her parents didn't want her back?
   On this topic Mom was the surprisingly reliable source of information. She didn't blink when I told her that I managed to get an MNL-LAX-MNL out of what would have been two honeymoon tickets to Seoul. When I complained about not being able to pack light, she peered at my luggage critically. It was large enough to fit a human being.
   "How long will you be away?" she asked.
   I shrugged. "My return trip's in six months."
   "You won't be spending Christmas here?"
   I didn't think of that. "I guess not."
   Christmas wasn't that big of a deal for my mother, I quickly told myself. I could remember a few Christmases in my teens when she wasn't around, either because she was on a cruise with my dad (in happier times) or with friends.
   She didn't make a big deal out of it. Instead, she started picking things out of my bag. It formed a small pile on the corner of my bed. No heavy winter clothes. Just a few pairs of pants, a simple skirt, a nice dress, tops in various earth colors, a sweater, some night shirts and underwear.
   "That's all you need," she said when she was done. "Anything else, you buy when you need it, or borrow. Do you have enough money?"
   "I think I have enough." Despite losing money on the wedding, I had enough saved up to live on, very simply, for a while.
   "It's never going to be enough. Call these people and stay with them if you're going to be around." She wrote names and numbers on a piece of paper -- her trusted cousin in San Francisco, a close friend in Illinois, a former business partner in Florida. "You know what to do when you run out."
   What went unsaid there was "Ask your dad" who was still our silent benefactor for when things went to shit. I never asked him for anything, but I suspected that he bailed us out a few times over the years.
   At LAX they decided to indeed give me six months in the US, and indeed the money was never enough. But at least there was novelty, and being in unfamiliar places, encountering strange and different things every day, was a healthy distraction for the most part.
   On this "sabbatical" I learned something too. I learned why my mom liked to take off. It cleared the mind, so it focused only on what mattered. I discovered what just might keep me sane when I made my way back to Manila, and the first step was to move out of my mother's house.

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