There are reasons why we stay up late at night. Mine comes in a form of an escape, a flight outside the walls of this loud, blaring inferno that is the life in the city.
I live at the heart of Manila, right at the center of the ventricle of a machine that generates every kind of pollution known to man and made by man: you have car exhausts belching black smoke into the air like some kind of black magic; you have households pregnant with domesticated waste; you have headlines broadcasting the ghastly horror of the metropolis; and finally you have noise: earsplitting, endless like the wailing of a ghost that can not be still.
Six years—and I feel like I have spent my entire life in the city already, like I have heard and felt and seen everything there is in this lonely cage of a metro, and in the end there is nothing more to witness other than the repetitive rhythm of this sophisticated urban setting.
Each day I wake up to the sound of traffic by the window, only to sleep on my bed come night time with the same cradle song: cars honking, speeding, slowing. Cars making a left turn, U-turn down the twisted road. Their rubber tires dash across my mind like a flock of sheep passing across a meadow, and I count each of them till slumber fill my body.
Nights are more forgiving in the city. I try to stay up late as much as I can each night ’cause it’s the only way I can savor the silence and taste the memory of what it felt like the first time I moved here, permanently. The night was deep and the roads were empty. I sneaked quietly into this new found territory and made friends with the shadows of these skyscrapers. The orange street lights were my welcoming committee as each lamp post burned brightly into my eyes, and the road was my home.
But today I find myself tired of them all and wish that there was a way I could melt all these urban noise and trade them for a life in the countryside or in the mountains, or even in outer space, where there is nothing but silence, deep dead silence. But what a foolish thing it is to lose affection for the memories we first loved and to abandon the places that first made us wander with no fear or hesitation.
This is my city, my prison.
Sometimes I try to shun the sound with my bare hands, only to realize later on that I have no command of my ears. They collect sounds with all the precise cadence of a calculated engine and I can only do so much as to weep at the massive overflow of their involuntary input.
I was told that I have a soul of a wanderer and a pair of feet that takes me to places in search of home. I always find myself at flight, soaring at the mercy of the wind that direct my wings to nowhere land, and for all I know this is the longest time I allowed myself to stay in one place. The clock is ticking before I ran mad for the exit once again.
But against the instinct that formed my habit, I tell myself that there is no point in moving elsewhere because it is the same wherever we go: always the same infection, always the same foul, rotting smell re eking from the corruption of flesh and mind, and above all, always the same longing for a home that is never there.
I roam the streets as I allow the streets to roam my mind. Together, we hike the heights of each other’s foreignness like two strangers meeting for the first time. But there is no need for that, really. I know the city like the back of my hand, and she knows me like I am part of her history.
I tell myself I am here to live, here to stay, until madness takes me away. With all the weight of my exhaustion, I gently whisper to my self, “This is my city, my prison.”