“Hey, Ron— aren’t you going home to your family this Christmas?” an officemate asked. I smiled, an automatic response due to years of experience in answering the same set of questions every time.
Yes, Ron. Why aren’t you? Part of me asked as well.
Here I am, roughly 600 kilometers away from them— 8 hours of land travel, a single journey trip of at least a thousand Philippine pesos. And getting a bus ticket (even a plane ticket) this late is sheer horror: I have no intention of getting stressed and stranded on an overcrowded provincial bus terminal. And there’s work to talk about.
All these are pathetic excuses, really. I know.
People with less monthly income than I do make annual plans, freeing up their schedule, saving money and making sacrifices just to see their own families even for just a few days. Some even go to the extent of getting loans, debts that they’ll regret come January of the New year as they get back to work.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my family. I checked and thought about it— I really do. Maybe not according to everyone’s standards or to society’s expectations, but in my own convoluted way, I do. I terribly miss the Christmas memories from my childhood, and I know I have been missing a lot of could-have-been memories from the newer members of our clan.
Yet, here I am. In an almost-empty coffee shop at past midnight. Watching the near-empty streets and the near-empty mall, watching passing people and passing cars and all the passing emptiness in between.
How people are there out there like me— people with no other place left to go but late-night coffee shops with free wifi and free music and free overheard conversations?
Or is it just me? It’s a bit depressing to think that I am alone in this thought, but it’s even more embarrassingly selfish to wish that someone else is going through the same. I do wish everyone had a home to go to— even those few homeless people lying on the street along Buendia and Makati Avenue. Greasy babies clinging closely to their greasy mothers, an uncomfortable sight— but not only because of how I gripe about my troubles considering their plight, but my own discomfiture; even in their destitution, the child looks content in his mother’s arms. And as the mother sleeps, she sleeps soundly assured that her child is in her arms as well. I wish my arms were not as empty when I tried bracing myself against the cold winds of December.
Maybe this is the cost of independence— this illusion of self-sufficient solitude that we thoughts adults should be.
A family walks in— a mother, and three children. Why are they here at past midnight? Where’s the father? Why not just stay at home? A lot of questions I wanted to ask, but not at them— that would be rude and creepy. I was curious. But observing them (but not so obviously), they were… happy. In a sense. That same contentment: I don’t know where the father is, but the children were satisfied and enjoying themselves with their mother. I don’t know what the mother was thinking about, but having her children around her seemed to be enough to satisfy her evening, even if she was spending quality family time in a coffee shop at past 12 midnight.
Home is where the heart is, they keep saying. Home is where you belong, they keep reassuring. And in my own twisted way, I guess I am home— 600 kilometers away and still loving them; sitting alone on a coffee shop because I care for and miss everyone else.
Maybe because you are home. Maybe because we all are homes. Maybe because I want to be home, as well. A home who will patiently wait for people in need of a place to stay, to hide their heart in, to belong— even for a day, a night, or a moment.
Still, a pathetic excuse. Yeah, I know. I should be home. Especially on Christmas. Home is where the heart should be. I just need to wait for my own heart to come home as well.