Just around the corner

The taxi driver is on the phone with his wife. I'd tell him to end the call because he's driving, but traffic's crawling, so I'm letting him talk for a while. He calls his wife "baby." He asks if they're going to Ma Mon Luk later, and says he's worried because it's Friday and there might be too many people. Baby, the best time to go, he says, is on Sunday afternoons.

He asks his wife if he counted their money right. It was P1,700 when he counted, he said, not P1,800 as she had said. Maybe she counted wrong, maybe the P100 fell somewhere. Never mind, he says, maybe the person who found it needs it more than we do.

He laughs when his wife says he worked hard for that P100. You're so tight with money, he tells her sweetly. He laughs. I'm so lucky, he says, I'm so lucky with you, baby.

Oh, Christmas. You're finally here.

I don't want

I don't want to hate where I am, people I'm with, things that I do. I don't want to wish I were elsewhere, doing other things, being some other person. I don't want to be dreaming up stories to escape reality, finding little escapes in fruitless activities.

I read somewhere that if you can only think of things you don't want, don't shut these thoughts down. They still serve a purpose. List them down and then list down their opposites. Then you have a list of what you want.

I want ...

Coming home

I've been on two trips -- one to New Zealand and one to Nueva Ecija -- in the last two months, and one day I may write about them, but for now, let me just paste here what I wrote on Facebook when I found myself returning to Philippine airspace after two weeks, mostly wonderful, away from home.

What I didn't write there was that my eyes welled with tears and my heart beamed with pride and I had to get a grip because it wasn't like I'd been away for long.

November 15, 5.58pm
On a CebuPacific flight from Sydney

As the captain announced our descent, a lady in my row opened her window and let in a sudden blast of the Philippine sunset bursting across a thick sea of clouds. It hurt my eyes, but my heart leapt for joy. There she is! it said.

From the center aisle, I watched the sun sink beneath the clouds, burning them the color of persistent ember.

This trip was lovely, and the places I've been to were breathtakingly beautiful. Many times I've said, I could live here. But one beam of that familiar sun and I am home.

Massage and monkey brain

I got a massage last night, after nursing a migraine for two days. Ibuprofen hadn't helped much, so I thought that getting a massage would help me sleep better and better sleep would fix the migraine.

Lying there on the massage table, as the lady kneaded the knots on my shoulders, I remembered how much I hated my first massage, done by a blind person with firm but gentle hands.

If I wasn't stiff, I was ticklish -- which made me stiff! All my muscles were tense, so the massage hurt like hell. The masseuse kept asking me if everything was okay, and I lied and said yes because I didn't want to hurt her feelings.

The massage after that wasn't any better. I still couldn't relax, perhaps because I was expected to, and when it became painful, I wondered if there was something wrong with me that I couldn't appreciate what many people loved.

Was there something wrong with my body? Were my muscles incapable of relaxing? Did I have a super low tolerance for pain?

A few more massages later, one that involved hot volcanic stones on my back and another that had me bathing in milk, I learned to tell the masseuse how much pressure I wanted. I learned to tell her when to press harder and when to stop. Most importantly, I learned to shut my brain up.

Last night was all about stopping and shutting up.