I chased after someone. I chased after C.
With a bag the weight symbolic of my cross, I briskly walked, furiously jogged, and then leapt to a stride with my long legs to the train station to follow and find C. It was an act that was perhaps the most disgustingly foolish yet predictably disappointing a man like me could ever make – a man who had initially thought he was “in control” thanks to committing himself to a still budding life of prayer. And so as I alternated between weightless murmurs and heavy breathing, as I scurried past the rush hour exile and the afternoon shadows which loomed from increasingly lonely skyscrapers of Manila, I prayed C would miss the train; that I would catch up with my ‘friend’.
Yes, I prayed. I tested Providence. It was a devil’s request.
Climbing the seemingly endless flight of stairs at the train station, and then running, rushing, pushing past the crowd of urban exiles and nearly breaking the turnstiles at the station, I prayed even harder C would still be there, waiting for the next crowded train headed North. I don’t know. Was it me hoping for a serendipitous moment, the vapid roots of desire nourished by imagination and nostalgia? Was it me completely forgetting I already had the certainty I was looking for? Was it me allowing myself to be preoccupied by a futile infatuation? In any case, God answered my prayers.
I saw C from the corner of my eyes. He had missed the train. C was still there…
…albeit on the southbound platform.
There was something poetic the moment I got down to the platform area, saw C, and then walked past where he was on the other side and finally settled for a queue at the other end of the station. In opposite platforms, backs against one another, and headed towards different directions, it was the disgrace and humiliation I needed to finally recognize the need to end five months of suffering. It was the disappointment over the disappointment which was the necessary element to wake me up: the shock of cold water on a sleepy soul indulging in the showers of spiritual dawn and still reeling from the slumber of his dark pasts.
C’s train arrived first and from where I was, there was a bit of pang in my heart seeing him board it. Some seconds later, the rickety carriages headed towards Taft pulled out of the cavernous, hollow station and left me waiting. When the northbound train finally arrived, I found myself pushed by a crowd of impatient commuters and thrust into the heat of a packed carriage. This was reality. Soaked in sweat, right shoulder squeaking from the weight of my bag, legs and feet shaking from the furious run, and surrounded by unfamiliar faces of furrowed foreheads and moistened brows, I felt the most alone and the loneliest I had ever been for a long, long time.
And yet, I also felt, the most alive.