Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Other End of the Street

There's a lot of life at the other end of our street, Dagohoy Street. I know because every morning a stream of people wanders past the front doors of the Balay Kalinaw. So what's wrong with me? Why haven't I gone past the Kalinaw gates yet?

It's as if there's an electrified fence past the gates here. Or a portal to an odd, alternate dimension, one that might crush me. Maybe I worry that I'll walk past these gates and cease to exist. That I'll be swallowed up by the life that scurries past me. Perhaps I'm afraid of what I see over the balcony, from the 5th floor, and outside of our bedroom windows--a hidden warren of shacks behind the "legitimate" houses that front the street. Or perhaps I read something into the glances of the people who pass me, something more than casual curiosity (Look, there's one of those big butt Americans, standing on the porch, looking entitled...), something closer to scorn, a caustic dismissal. Perhaps I'm afraid I'll be further erased by it, past the gates where I, marginally, "belong" here.


Lizzie didn't have school today. We didn't find this out until we'd waited for her bus, waited and waited, 20 minutes past the pick up time. I texted the driver: is d bus on d way 4 Lizzie? I got an answer within 2 minutes: No classes 2day we r under signal 2. When we're under signal 2, all preschool, elementary and high school classes are suspended. We have to listen to the radio or watch local TV in order to figure this out (their equivalent of a snow day). Apparently, we're anticipating a typhoon (and after yesterday's pyrotechnics, massive thunder that shook my classroom like marbles in a fist and raised all the hair on my body, lightening bolts that sizzled in the air, I'm not surprised...and I'm not looking forward to having my typhoon cherry popped either). A typhoon didn't arrive, of course, but there was a hard rain this afternoon.

I went to campus before the rain started to hold my office hours. I was tempted to blow them off, of course, and stay home with Lizzie, but good old guilt made me go. No one visited me, of course, but I was able to read a few short stories by N. V. M. Gonzalez in Butch's office. As soon as 3:00 PM rolled around, my cue to leave, it began to pour.

I walked home in the rain, twirling my umbrella (not really, but that sounds good for narrative effect), and then stomped up the interminable flights of stairs to the apartment, which I'd locked--for good measure--behind me.

I'd left Lizzie in the airconditioned bedroom with the headphones, noise cancelling, on, watching something on her laptop. I tried the knob and remembered my brilliant stroke of security, punching in the lock as I left. I knocked. I knocked louder. I put my lips to the door crack and half-yelled, Lizzie! Let me in! I called Lizzie's cell phone. I came downstairs and asked the guard, Boy, to call up to the apartment--maybe the real phone would jangle through the closed bedroom door, the airconditioning, the headphones. No go. I had to wait for Marie, the housekeeper, to trudge up the stairs again with me and open the door.

Turns out that Lizzie's cell phone was, for school, on silent. Not that it would have cut through all the barriers.


Lizzie's been reading a lot of manga online. She burns through the juice in her computer battery in, what, two hours? She's got another battery but that one, too, is dead. "What's the point of having two batteries," she wonders, "if you can't charge one while you're using the other?"

Why can't I seem to get myself to wander farther than this gate post? Why does the thought of getting into a taxi (after a student wrote a fiction writing exercise about a callow young man who takes a taxi and gets shot for his trouble) make me break out into a sweat? Why does the task of getting to Lizzie's school to pay the rest of her tuition seem like an insurmountable obstacle?

These are the questions that obsess us.

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