I stepped down from the plane and just died.
Which, of course, is an exaggeration. I’m still alive, obviously. But with the stifling heat and humidity, the airport delays, and the lack of decent facilities (like air-conditioning) at NAIA, I might as well have died. I was home alright.
I have never considered New Haven as “home.” Granted, I was only there for 4 years; but I have actually contemplated becoming a permanent resident. Without this incident that prompted me to return, I would have gladly turned my back at Manila, easily forgetting such a city even existed.
When I left 4 years ago, the roads surrounding the airport were craggy, bumpy and perennially congested — with cars and vans, trucks and buses; and commuters that are illiterate to road signs; and traffic enforcers that are overworked or corrupt or incompetent (or all three). These roads that all led to shopping malls.
Four years later, except for additional malls that have sprouted like ghastly mushrooms, everything was still the same. I was home, alright.
Auntie Juliet met me at the airport. Unlike NAIA, Auntie has changed. She looked stooped and smaller than I remembered. The lines on her forehead more prominent. She still had that same smile, sweet but not cloying. She welcomed me the way she always did when I came back from school; when school meant college which was just a few cities (not a few countries) away.
“I told you I’d just get a taxi. You shouldn’t have bothered going all the way here,”I said.
“Shut up,” she told me cheerfully. “And get in the car.”
Unlike me, Auntie can drive. I am a klutz when it comes to cars. I have begged Jonas to let me practice on his Honda but he would only give me a look that I interpreted to mean: “You have got to be kidding!”
I don’t know why he couldn’t be more supportive. I feel like an incompetent ninny because everyone around me thought that when I get behind a wheel, that’s a sign that the evening news will feature a road accident along Quirino Avenue. Or C5 Road. Or Nagtahan Bridge.
Truth be told, I was not too keen to drive a car, either. First, the charges in the parking facilities in Makati where I used to work were tantamount to usury. Second, Metro Manila’s traffic was something straight out of purgatory. So I used to commute using the LRT or the bus or jeepney. How plebeian!
When I started going out with Jonas, he assigned himself as my designated driver. Whenever he was in Manila and not off doing field work in some godforsaken place, that is.
I liked having Jonas drive me around. I loved the long trips most of all; when during the weekends he would accompany me to my hometown and the trip would take 4 hours (5 if the traffic was heavy) and we would have these philosophical discussions about important questions such as:
1. Which has better french fries, McDonalds or Jollibee?
2. How many mistresses does Erap Estrada really has?
3. Who was the mastermind in the execution of Andres Bonifacio?
4. Was Imelda Marcos sexually frigid?
5. Do dogs and cats really hate each other?
6. Is shower-sex overrated?
Jonas’s opinion was: “dexterity counts a lot when attempting to go all the way in the shower.”
My opinion was … I had no opinion.
But since I had to pretend to be more worldly that I actually was, I had to make up an opinion, so I said, “I think it’s best to do it in a car.”
We did do it in a car. Eventually.
In a gray 2001 Honda CRV with tinted windows and while the stereo was blaring “All I Need” by Shamrock.
Yes, shower-sex was definitely over-rated.