It’s been two years since I’ve officially been old enough to get a driver’s license.
Sure, the soreness of my back seems to be waxing gradually with each passing evening, and the need for coffee—extra sugar, please—rises with every new day that arrives.
But some things never change.
As the night lulls me to sleep, I go back to being 13. Glued behind the wheel, I steer hastily, heart jabbing at my ribcage. My foot meets the gas instead of the brakes, and we fly out of the skyway and quickly, quickly into a bricked apartment wall. We, as in me, and all the wrong people I’ve foolishly tolerated—my chauvinist ex-boyfriend, and his friends who follow him around like Mary’s little lambs. Even in the seconds before my doom, I waste my time glancing at the rearview mirror to catch a glimpse of their silent scrutiny.
By some miracle, however, we do not die. Instead, we land safely on the road below, and I—like I’ve done for others my whole life—have already been kissing the concrete beneath their feet, apologizing for the entirety of my human existence.
And then I wake up.
I wake up, and I am 20 again. I no longer have to get up at six in the morning to slip into my little white blouse and skirt, checkered red and green and yellow. I do not have to compress the weight of science high-school academic pressure into my purple Hawk bag. There is no need for me to carry it to my fourth floor classroom as if I am possessed by the ghost of Hercules.
The lively spots of Poblacion offer me relief. These, I've found, embody the bittersweet caress of independence. And my lonely palms crave touch! I've heard that it lives within dorm keys and haunts spare change from jeepney rides (they even say it is the very reason for Bumble right swipes). But Life is a funny guy—these daydreams collapse as it snorts in my face.
“I cannot hand these to you yet,” it says. “You have one thing left to do.”
I know, I know.
How do I do it exactly? The past has its talons anchored in my bones. I am a corpse long dead, planted in my bed whose sheets I have never learned to change properly. The clock continues to tick—up there on my chipped yellow wall. With its every beat, it announces all the people I’ve failed to be. Its unresting hands point downward to the corkboard below, smack-dabbed with half-hearted scribbles of the plans I am too tired to fully think about.
The floor is a sea of dirty laundry, which hides my inheritance somewhere in its depths: the hand-me-down anxiety from my mother, the dolls beheaded by the fragile masculinity my father himself had fallen heir to. I do not know how to dive in without the fear of breaking their beloved treasures, so I tuck my limbs inside the boat. I keep the thunderstorm brewing in my throat at bay, letting the salty breeze blow my stubborn tears away—like a good child would, like a good captain should.
In other words, I stay in bed; in other words, I do nothing.
How long will I let cobwebs swallow the conviction I had thrown carelessly into my closet, I wonder. How long will I let the world outside spin away without me?
Suddenly, the floorboards creak, and I hear Life speak again. This time, in a strange tone I have not heard before—a gentle whisper.
“As long as you let it.”
Then finally, finally, I do it. So easily, so swiftly, just like that.
I sit right up.
I find myself gasping for air, a newly baptized apostle rising from the Jordan river. The claws that once gripped my being crumbled to ashes on my skin. The clock does not stop, but I can no longer hear its dire judgments. My sketches of dreams are no longer failed attempts, but possibilities.
I tremble as my soles press against the hardwood. I am still afraid of all the messes I’ve left to clean, but now, on my way to the window, I refuse to tiptoe. I become a devotee, clinging unto the beaded cord of my blinds like a sacred rosary. I pull up, up, up.
Outside, there is an underwhelming universe of nothing. There are a few blinking stars, I suppose. I am still unsure what to feel about the window being open. An unfamiliar silence washes over my eardrums. Maybe I will never be sure.
Through the moonlight’s guidance, a balding broom materializes on the far corner of my room.
And now, I know, I know.
I still have some sweeping to do.
x x x
It’s been two years since I’ve officially been old enough to get a driver’s license. I have not yet learned when exactly is the right time to slow down before a speed bump. But so what?