Friday, September 2, 2011
One difficult juncture of my life was when I was in the big city for the first time looking for a job and stayed jobless for sometime. I had no money, no friends, I had problems with boarding house and was far from home. I was pretty hopeless. I thought I carried one hell of a problem.
Almost every night I would go to the Cultural Center, a few meters from my boarding house. It was for me a spot where I could find refuge from the many problems I faced: to feel the air, to introspect, to cry, and as always, to blame myself and everyone.
One night while I was sitting on this grassy part near the Phil-cite area, a teenager-like eighteen years old approached and sat down near me. He was medium-built, with long hair, and around 5’8” in height.
At first he was kind of oblivious I was there, just in deep thought. He stayed that way for a couple of minutes. Then later he glanced and pushed himself beside me and inquired if I had a companion. I told him that I was alone, just relaxing. Suddenly, he took an ice pick and aimed it on me. I thought he was an angel transforming himself into a devil.
“Give me what you have in your pocket or I will bury this damn ice pick into your flesh!” he threatened in a shaky voice.
Although I feared for what harm he could do, I told him “I have no money. I came from the province just a month ago and I could not find a job yet. My life has no meaning. If you want, you can kill me!”
Probably struck in what I said, he stared at me. I thought he would swing the ice pick into my chest. But instead, he laid it down, stooped, and cried like a little kid.
“What’s the matter, are you not going to kill me or something?” I asked in confusion as I cautiously took away the ice pick on the grass.
He stayed motionless for a while and then wiped off the tears from his face. My nervousness faded out realizing the sudden turn of event. I was baffled. Sensing that after all, he could have been a good person and just having some problems, I attempted to befriend him.
“My name is Mike, what’s yours?” extending my hand hesitatingly.
“So… why did you cry, Jeff?” I asked unsure if he would want to talk.
“I just remembered something...” he said diffidently. Then silence.
I thought I would leave. But my curiosity of knowing what bothered him prevailed. After a while, I cracked the silence by telling him that I was new to the place and was only there to have a time with myself. I told him how I missed my family, how I wanted to come back home but I could not because I had to prove that I could stand on my own... but that I never realized how difficult it was to stay in the big city without money, without a job, and without friends.
He just kept silence, but I could feel he was listening to every word I said. “How about you?” I said looking at him.
He did not answer. Then, to beat his shyness, I pointed the ice pick on him kidding, “OK, tell me what your problem is or I will bury this damn ice pick into your flesh!” mimicking what he did.
“HAHAHAHAHA!” The two of us laughed suddenly. Then he pushed himself to sit beside me again.
“So, how many people have you already victimized?” I joked.
“Please... and for the record, I never mugged anyone in my life, ok?”
“So, why did you do it? And what the heck did you cry for?”
His facial expression turned serious again. “I remember my older brother. He could have looked like you. He is the only one I have"
“Why, what happened to him?”
“I am from the province too. When I was 10 years old and my brother was fourteen, both our parents died in an accident. Immediately after our parents were buried, my brother came here to find his luck while my aunt took care of me. Since then, I have never heard from him again. My situation with my aunt was like hell; her husband never treated me fairly. And one thing I hated so much was that would hit me and would manhandle me whenever he’s drunk.” He said as tears began to roll down his face again.
“Didn’t your aunt know this?”
“She knew and it was always the source of their fights. Then I decided that I should leave to give them peace. I stowed away... to look for my brother. So now I’m here. But even here, I feel all alone with no one to trust, no one to turn to, and no one to love. I don’t even have anything. I have no education, nothing at all. And the world is just full of people who don’t care a bit! And I don’t even know how to find my brother... it’s the only thing I wanted.”
I did not know how I truly felt having heard his story. It was just heart-rending. “So how do you survive it here?” I asked again.
He kept wiping off his tears. “It’s a hard job, and I hate doing it... Sometimes, I feel I can’t hold on to it anymore. I am tired and afraid of many things...“ He said without elaborating.
“Then find a job you like doing?” I suggested pretending like it was so easy to find one.
“I tried, but I always landed in a hard labor. Then, I thought mugging could be a good alternative, and here I go with you.”
“Hahaha! And it's busted" I laughed. “So what is your plan now?”
“I don’t know...” He paused for a while and then continued. “But, I still believe that there is a reason why I am still here until now. I could have died of starvation, of ailment, of accident, or salvaging...but I am still alive!” he released a faint smile.
“Really...” I said with an air of skepticism.
“Yeah, I’m sure. Just look at the grass; it is not affected by how many times you step on them, remove them, eliminate them. They just grow and grow. And if there must be a reason why the grass grows, then there could be a reason for me too... And I am not a grass. I am a human being. Maybe one day, I’ll finally see my brother...”
I didn’t know how long had I stayed and talk with Jeff that night. But I knew he tried to trust me. And of the many more things he told me, his determination, strength, and optimism just hit me hard.
When we finally parted, I told myself, “Yeah, I complain so much about my little problems and here is one person carrying the whole world on his shoulders yet remains steadfast in believing he could one day find his dream.”
I didn’t see Jeff anymore after that. But all I wished was for him to find the simple dream that was all he wanted.
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