Monday, June 30, 2014

The Hangover

A few days after the return trip to reality, the lingering effects of euphoria still refuses to leave my head. There's the resistance to stay awake longer. Instead, there's the cold comfort of sleep even when there's much work to be done. Almost a week after the escape, I still couldn't find the heart to focus on the raketship. The idea of giving up my earnings for idle time has become the new norm after the climb. Lastly, I keep thinking of the places we should have seen, the activities we should have done, the hours we could have stretched knowing too well our journey has a time limit.

If only we could afford to stay longer.

So this is what it feels like to be on vacation: the boundless freedom, the indulgence to spend, the luxury of being able to think only of exploring, of the world that is waiting. Parang ang hirap bumalik sa routine knowing out of town trips like this are hard to come by.

And it's a challenge to move on, especially when the after-rain breeze and thick overcast skies remind you of the magic felt in the highlands.

The Summer Capital Retreat (Last Part)

I will run away one of these days, unannounced and planned in secrecy. And until I have my fill; until my heart grows weary of devouring what my eyes have yet to see, I shall be unbound. The memories I will gather will be my selfies.

And like the sandbar at the middle of the sea, there remains a part of me, untouched and untamed. I will stay obscure and distant, until the neverland in me is found.

May 27, 2013

On the third and final day in the Summer Capital did I remember, at long last, the number of times I have been to the City of Pines. 

"Alam mo Dy, pang 5th ko na pala itong akyat sa Baguio." I told the Gundam Pilot as we strolled down Burnham Park. We were on our way to the Cafe by the Ruins to have breakfast before our departure back to Manila. 

He pressed me to go on and tell my story.  

"Yung pinaka-una kong punta eh mga 8 years old ako." I never told him how my uncle managed to trick me into baring my teeth, and show my nostrils every time the camera snapped our pictures. The result was a bunch of photos with unflattering images of me.

"Nung pangalawa eh nung mga Grade Five ako." That was the time I snuck out and left my relatives who were having lunch to look for a copy of Funny Komiks. I recall finding a fresh issue at a news stand along Session Road at past lunchtime. 

It was a bit pricey unlike in the lowlands.

"Yung third naman was in college." I was catching my breath because of the thin cold air. "Sinama ako ng Aunt ko ulit tapos nag-stay kami sa Camp John Hay." Once again, I sneaked out of our hotel to check the local attractions. I cannot remember how far my feet took me, only that I had company. A guy, the same age as me, and who is a son of my aunt's colleague.

"At last naman bago ito ay nung 21 ako." I paused. "Hinatid ko sa Baguio yung ex ko kasi dito daw siya magnew-New year." 

"Bumaba rin ako the next day." 

I let my boyfriend guess which of the four did I remember the least. Without reluctance, his answer was the first.

"Nope. Bukod sa akyat natin ngayon, noon lang ako may pictures dito." While I was too young to remember, there were vague memories of us having to disembark the car and walk. The road was too steep for my Uncle's Ford Laser to climb with passengers on board to our lodging house.

"Yung last." I finally answered.

The Baguio retreat was the third long-distance travel I made, with the significant half in tow. And the days spent with him need to be written, not for the sights and sounds of the city, but for the joys of learning who we are as individuals in this common trip.

The Gundam Pilot said he was a food explorer, and for this reason, our tastebuds never touched meals we could easily get in the metropolis. We had lunch at a kitchenette next to Hotel 45 (whose name I no longer remember) on our first day; had Ilocano Empanada and Strawberry Taho for snacks; and pasta prepared at Vizco's for breakfast on our second day. We had to dine at Star Cafe, whose doors will forever close next month after serving soul food to a spriteful city for over half a century. 

He was also a nature lover whose aesthetic taste makes him a great companion when checking out galleries and ruins. The off the beaten path destinations we've seen would be the envy of travel bloggers: The Diplomat Hotel on a foggy afternoon, the artists' haven and Igorot mountain trail at Tam-Awan, the overpriced strawberry picking in the fields of La Trinidad. It would have been perfect to catch the sunset in these places, but in the hours we should have been strolling, the bf and I were under the sheets in our cozy room at the AJ's Pension House.   

There were sideshows as well. Like when we met this friendly lady up in the hills who introduced us to the tenets of Judaism, or when we sat at a table with Papa Tagay and friends at Nevada because they were in the Cordilleras to see the gay bars. Dubbed "Casa In The Sky," our buddy from the city had a great time knowing a pair of friends will lift his spirits as he ventures into the dim and dank chamber of Hercules. It was the first time he went into such place.

And there he did the unexpected.

Invited at the stage, we witnessed how gamely he performed a song number with the cross dresser entertainer. Between the guffaws and chuckles, there he was, with the hood of his jacket shrouding his face forgetting the reason he went to a gay bar in the first place. We parted ways without seeing the boys go "all the way" with their sensual body gyrations, gentlemen's drinks and offers of sharing seats at our table.

I could go on writing endlessly to encapsulate this fifth trip to Baguio - from the selfies and stolen kisses, and recollections of our histories while taking showers together, to the destinations that should have been part of our tour, and tourist spots we skipped because we found them cliche. What I felt through and through is the magic of our companionship. This, I realized when I told the Gundam Pilot why the fourth remains unremembered, save for the near walk-out and unplanned return trip back home, which the ex was only able to prevent when he ceased picking fights with me.

"You are the sum of all the joys of this trip." I thought to myself as I looked at the Gundam Pilot while waiting for our breakfast to be served. 

"And I will fondly remember this city today and forevermore, because there's you who gave this place a new meaning to me." 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Summer Capital Retreat (First Part)

It was his idea to go to Baguio. 

Not mine. 

In fact, when the Gundam Pilot said what he had in mind, I merely nodded my head to show approval, yet behind the smiles was a heart unsure how everything would fall into place.

He said our trip is set on the last week of the month, and would coincide with the celebration of our second month of being together. There was a purpose behind his idea. To back out, like I always do when friends invite me for a vacation is out of the question.

This is a getaway between lovers.

So I took the steps to get ready. Slow and lumbering, but a resounding move to make this escapade happen. It was a startling contrast from him, who really moved mountains so this trip would push through. Only a week before our departure did I tell the boss my leave of absence. It turns out, he would be in Osaka with the in-laws to celebrate his wife's 45th birthday.

I told him it was an urgent matter. That I was asked to look after some business interest in behalf of the family. It was the same reason I gave when it was the team leader's turn at the raket to receive my notice. At home, the mere reminder that I have never been out-of-town in long time convinced my mother to let me go.

That, and my reason to be in Baguio for a writing gig.

The truth is, the anxiety of being away from home loomed large over the thrill of this mountain getaway. It's been four years since my Cagayan adventure, and a decade, and a lifetime ago when I last stepped foot in the summer capital. After all those crafty planning to pursue my dreams of seeing the world, it seemed, distant destinations had lost its appeal.

I have become subservient to the calls of my nook.

But there's my other half who is really looking forward to this trip.

And I want to get away with my partner, to know him in places beyond our comfort zones.

So when the boss finally yielded to my request, it became easy to make my own preparations.

Like assigning deputies, who will still report to me when there's urgency at work.

And leaving behind extra cash in my room should the house budget falls short over the weekend.

I did my best to cover many grounds, and make sure all is well in my three days of absence. Yet however elaborate the plans, and no matter the attempts to foresee the unseen events. Only one thing can liberate the heart of its worries.

"Please take care of our loved ones while we are away." I sat on a pew while mumbling my prayers. It was the day before our departure. Instead of sleeping after my work duties, I went straight to Santa Clara to seek the Almighty's blessing.

"And may this be the first of the many amazing journeys the Gundam Pilot and I will take together."

Victory Liner Bus Terminal, Pasay City

Closing my eyes as I speak of my intentions, my thoughts race closer to our destination.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Fissures Of Inhumanity

Stand on the side with your arms folded across your chest, peering curiously at the bloody set piece. Do not call the ambulance. But you have our permission to take photographs so they can be tweeted later with the caption: Hopefully another Pinoy has breathed his last on the little red dot. RIP.NOT.

Blood Stained Singapore Blog

It is not difficult to understand the insecurity, if you are a citizen of an autocratic state, whose realm covers a land area slightly larger than the entire Greater Manila. And whose highly urbanized but segregated society composed of Chinese, Malay and Indian immigrants don't have a common culture or history to bind the nation. With the influx of guest workers from other countries, and with a population in steady decline, the resulting imbalance, and the feeling of having your national identity being watered down by foreign influences spawn xenophobes - locals driven towards the complete expulsion of outsiders - all in the name of preserving the old ways.

Signs of disharmony began to appear long before the racially perverse blog created ripples in the social networks. Singaporean forums were rife with public discourse about the planned Philippine Independence Day celebration in the island nation. There is also this collective hatred for Jollibee - which was accused of showing preference in hiring Filipino crews. The fabricated story made rounds on Facebook. To this day, the misinformed who chomped on the bad press of a rival restaurant have never forgiven the fast food chain - and its patrons for the sins they committed to the locals.

The list of resentments pile up.

Given the social conditions there, an analogy can be recreated right here, in the very space where I conduct my daily affairs. I could just imagine another faceless person -  a mid-forties government clerk, a bachelor, whose undying patriotism rivals his desperation to find a suitable mate. No one seems interested as most of the women are either married, or have decided to dedicate their lives to the enrichment of their careers. And every day, as the city of his birth prospers tenfold, neighbors from other lands come to this place to find work. They hail from Kuala Lumpur - many of them bringing their old traditions, which day by day he is forced to shove down his throat and embrace as part of his cosmopolitan environment. And they are not alone - the Laotians, Vietnamese, and even the Thais have made his city their temporary home. He read on online forums how his Kababayans find it increasingly difficult to find work - or avail medical services - as these high-earning foreigners have the money to spend for hospital bills. Housing rates are up as tenement construction could not cope with the apparent diaspora of outsiders believing Metro Manila as their promised land.

And he knows, that at the end of the day, they would all return to their homelands with their wealth and experience - leaving locals to swim, where the economic and social currents would abandon them to their devices.  

This he remembers - including their native tongues, at how they get together and fill the local restaurants, (where he spots a few Manilenyo ladies minding their own business) their plans of celebrating their national holidays at Luneta, this lingering question as to why, for all the vastness of their countries, they choose to live here in his city state where they become fierce rivals for resources, livelihoods and even voices.

Thus he writes a hate blog to be read by those who harbor an unspoken indignation - and hoping to get noticed - not by the guest workers - but by the very government who allowed this social chasm to happen realize what they have done.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Joy Offensive

Previously on The Infestation

A fortnight ago, I was in the kitchen giving the maid some instructions. The infestation is getting out of hand, and I was on the verge of giving up and just let the pest control service do the costly pest extermination.

"Ate, pag alis ko mamaya, pakilagyan ng padikit yung kuwarto ko." The padikit was the flypaper - that cheap pesticide coated with sticky substance, which we use to catch mice and sometimes even cockroaches.

"Tingnan ko kung meron pa tayo ha?" She sounded unsure if the task can be accomplished. I was certain she will.

The discovery of a mouse poop on my bed had changed my outlook of the problem. Not only are the gnawers assaulting my inner and private space, they've begun to press the fight where it causes the most indignation.

Retaliation is my quick answer, including the complete lockdown of my quarters, which my mom strongly disapproves. In the meantime, I saw to it that whatever creature was responsible for that fecal matter must be caught in a sticky fly trap. At this point, I already knew that no mice can resist the strong appetizing smell of peanut butter. So I told the maid to dab the bait with generous spread of that aromatic cream for efficacy.

We laid the trap and let it stay overnight.

The next morning, a medium-sized mouse - a mother - I presume tried to paddle her foot to show resistance: to tell her captors that she is alive and could still barrel herself to freedom. Unfortunately, half of her entire body already got stuck on the flypaper making all attempts at escaping rather futile. The only way she could be liberated is through means that will hasten her death.

After gleefully showing the maid the mouse our flypaper had caught, I creased the sticky parchment into smaller folds. Dumping it (with the mouse still breathing), not in a garbage bin but in a container half-filled with water made our offensive a cruel act, but a rewarding pursuit.

The result was an overwhelming desire to drive these critters out of the house - by all means necessary. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Jettisoning Of The Epektos

Previous on Porn Story

It was the summer of 2001, on the same overcast midday much like today, when, without thinking much of the consequences, of how that single clandestine acquisition would shape my life for the years to come, I found myself holding a pirated compact disc, a video of two men mating. With their poles erect, and ready to maim the other in the butt, the die was cast, and no longer would I find joy watching porn actors fucking their sluts.

I recall coming from Manila Times for the OJT orientation that summer. It was still early to go home, so an Avenida stroll would preoccupy me for the rest of the afternoon. There, below the Carriedo Station, men stood next to huge cardboard boxes of Marlboro cigarettes, waiting for passersby to stop and make discreet inquiries. At times, they would softly say, "Boss, M2M.." to male shoppers, hoping the code gets deciphered. By instinct, the right people read it, even when M2M used to be that pop duo, whose songs Mirror Mirror and Don't Say You Love Me were the staple of radio stations.

Now back to my story, I was gliding casually, only stopping to check the stands selling bootleg cassette tapes of Freddie Aguilar and Florante, when, one of the sentries approached me to offer his wares.

"Boss, X." A lean guy in his late twenties wheedled, hoping I was the right customer. I feigned ignorance even when I know the sinfully pleasing goods he was selling. I asked what he got, and from nowhere appeared VCD covers of naked, muscled men.

"This guy meant business." I thought.

I would have to admit that memory betrays, when the march of time blurs how the events of the day came to be. Of how, I always thought of the seller as a part-time prostitute, of how he asked me to follow him to a nearby vacant lot where he kept the video discs under stacks of hollow blocks, and of how I was trembling inside when I handed over the 120 pesos for a copy, whose content I have no guarantee of ever working on my desktop computer.

The details of the narrative might have changed, but I always knew it was the beginning.

Six months before my confession on Pinoyexchange, and a year after my first procurement, I already roam the dingy alleys of Hidalgo in Quiapo for my gay porn fix like a pro.

And time has come to once and for all, jettison the gay porn collection and erase hints of their existence on my personal effects.

Cum coated and with surfaces heavily scratched from countless playbacks on Windows Media Player, there is no doubt some of them no longer play at all. The age of Dial Up is long gone, and with the advent of faster internet connection, streaming and downloading of gay porn takes mere minutes to complete. Instant gratification for free.

...Mamimiss ko rin yung mga oras na nagsisilid ako ng gay porn sa pagitan ng mga straight porn na binibili ko sa mga naglalako sa Quiapo. At yung mga pagkakataon na nagsasama ako ng kaibigan sa suki para sila mismo ang makapamili ng porn na bibilhin nila. Nandun rin yung tiyambahan kasi wala namang paraan para i-test yung mga CD na iyong pinamili. At higit sa lahat, hahanap hanapin ko yung isang yugto sa buhay ko kung saan kailangan mong magtago - ng iyong sarili, ng iyong paghahanap ng kalinga ng isang lalaki, at yung thrill sa tuwing makakatagpo ka ng kapwa nagtatago - na higit na straight-acting sa iyo. Sa panahon ng Wechat at Grindr, Xvideos at Lifeout, it's very easy for gay men to get their fix...

More than anything, my nephews are growing up and in the years to come, they might find the door of my room open and in their curiosity, accidentally discover the secret stash of epektos still hidden under my bed. Much as they have the joy of picking their sexual preference at the right age, I would never wish the idea spring from me. Thus, against my sentimentality,

The compact discs I have kept for so long will have to go.

Discreetly and without a trace. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Infestation

Previously on Hoarder

An SMS Message:

Kuya, patawagan na uli yung pest control. Nagwawala yung mga daga. Nginatngat yung cooking oil, toyo at lalagyan ng asin. Puro tae yung lamesa. Pakipalinisan ng Domex yung lamesa.

My mom used to tell the maids not to call these rodents by their household name, lest they get back at us by gnawing our belongings. So we created fancy sobriquets like "kumare" and "bubwit" to make references to these pests. The past months, they used to enjoy foraging around the kitchen with leftovers carelessly dumped at the trashcan with a broken lid. Their numbers multiplied, even with the sheets of flypaper laid on the floor to nip the life out of the pesky critters.   

Measures were taken to drive them from their hiding places. Old clothes and other stuff were given away to make room around their stomping grounds. Food items were stored in hard to reach places, and in storage containers that can withstand the most persistent attempts at breaching. The most serious blow to their unchecked population growth happened two weeks ago, when, in my desire to deny these critters sources of food, I bought a new trashcan with a lid that closes every time trash gets in. I was thrilled at the prospects of driving them away, but if there was something nature wanted to teach us about co-habitation, it is that mammals of the lower order learn to adapt to situations humans have forced them into.

With their five-fingered feet, they have started to scale posts they have never ventured before, and in their desire to call our attention, gnawed at plastic containers housing the condiments we used for cooking.

So begins the internecine war of the kitchen.

Their audacity to carry out lightning raids even when the lights are switched on still baffle me. Just this afternoon, I spotted one of the fat ones scampering across the dining table an hour past lunchtime. A few nights ago, a mousy even tried to force open a sealed plastic with snacks I was supposed to eat. And, if I am not mistaken, the tiny granules I saw in my closet were droppings from these critters. As to how they found their way into the tidiest corner of the house, which is my room, is a deliberate taunting. After all, it was me who sparked this insurgency when the mice suddenly found their breadbasket replaced.

It was a full scale retaliation, where an overnight solution may not work. Rat poison is out of the question as there are children who might mistake the pellets for cereal bits. A steady and strategic placements of fly papers could be used to catch some of them, but I was told they no longer work as the gnawers learned not to step foot on these sticky pesticides. The long term solution, which I believe will be rejected by the matriarch and my sister is the distribution of personal effects we no longer needed.

Or maybe, adopting stray cats to let them do the hunting.

These alone, will turn the tide in our favor. Unfortunately, only the maids - and pest control inspectors would support such proposals.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The #RP612Fic

For three succeeding years, I have been writing 130-character stories on Twitter every year on June 12. This long-standing tradition in social media has been going on since 2009. It was started by Filipino authors at Rocket Kapre, whose aim is to commemorate the occasion by bending historical events and peppering it with pop culture references and accounts lifted from current events. This comic mash-up, which often produced twisted ironies has encouraged more netizens to chip in and take their swipes on Philippine history. It never fails to make #RP612fic a trending and newsworthy subject on Independence Day for showcasing the nation's indomitable character: humor.  

The blog for today was supposed to go along the lines of this activity. I was planning to pick one of my submissions and turn it into a long-form short story. However, realizing that I've never blogged the event before, a feature entry is my fitting excuse for posterity. 

Here are my selected micro fiction stories for this year:

Maria Clara used to be a boyband fantard long before she was introduced to Ibarra.

The Nine-Dash claim of Beijing holds merit after all. 

Even during Spanish Times, peace and security is already a problem. Jose Rizal got a taste of what living in the city means.

Too bad for our heartthrob general, he never lived to see the 7,107 likes on his Facebook a week after his death.

Nostalgia sets in for a geriatric who witnessed a time when Demo-crazy was the government. This was the submission I was planning to expound into a short story.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Prayer Place For The Downtrodden

At the back of the Nuestra Senora de Remedios Church in Malate is a little shrine beside the road. It was put up on the remnants of a fallen tree trunk, where a menagerie of flowers made of fabric appear to bloom around the makeshift altar. A piece of wood, probably picked up from a bin serves as its roof. Hanging on the wall are crimped images of the Holy Family, and at the base are relics that were thrown away only to find a purpose in this divinely inspired oddity.

It's discovery is not fated. My feet led me there after it was featured on Carlos Cedran's Facebook page. It was not far from the gym either, so a pilgrimage isn't really out of the way. Then one day, when I had this urge to whisk away some religious icons at home to be placed at the altar, I found myself at the spot, and was enchanted by its elegance. It almost felt like the sacred outpost was erected by some mendicant under direct instruction from the almighty.

The hands behind the shrine put great care to his opus. It was built by design. The craftsmanship, no doubt, belonged to an artist. As to what purpose it serves, or what narrative tells behind its creation, I didn't bother to ask. What was seen during my brief visit, are the homeless finding temporary shelter on the sidewalk, desperate for some relief from those who bothered to stop, and unravel the mystery of this temporal installation.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Artwork

Previously on Phobos and Deimos

"Hi Ai," 

I began tapping the keys of my laptop to send a message on Facebook. It was for my college buddy's wife. 

"Pakitanong naman kay Darrell kung naging prof namin si Galan nung third year college kami."

A few minutes later, she sent a reply from her husband telling me that Ralph Galan was indeed a teacher in one of our subjects that year.

Solving the question with my buddy's assistance was a relief. After all, the inquiry stems from the utter lack of memory of the teacher, save for an oil pastel drawing I did for his Humanities class. 

The topic came up because I took out the paperboard from my wardrobe. It was pinned there for decoration. Its colors have faded, and the exposure of its surface to the elements made it look old and worn out.

Someone might even suggest that I should throw it away.

But with extra cash comes the chance to breathe new life into the oil drawing - to keep it preserved for the years to come. With the Gundam Pilot as my companion, I followed my mother's suggestion and brought the trinket at Central Market. There, an artisan wanted to frame the board in plastic, but I refused her offer. 

I told her to frame it in wood. 

"Mahal na po magpa-frame ngayon sa kahoy." She said. Her caution fell on deaf ears.

"Magkano ba?"

"500 po para sa wooden frame at glass."

"Kasama na ang labor?" I asked. Still, I was ready to go. I would indulge my sentimentality and spend for posterity.  

She nodded.

To this day, I only have vague thoughts of the floral drawing, of its creation and even the grade I was given for that piece of work. What urged me to put it in a wooden frame - aside from having those seasonal Brini Maxwell episodes, is that for all the written works under my name,

I've got only a single oil pastel portrait to call my own.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Motorcity

I asked Lenin to bring his toys in, since I can't lend him the radio-controlled race car given to me by the Favorite Aunt. My nephew obliged, and he tossed the plastic interchangeable tracks on the carpet so a road layout for his die-cast toy cars could be laid. What took me by surprise was the way my plan backfired. You see, Lenin was in my room because my mom went to school. She asked me to look after my nephew while the maid assisted her to the car. I was writing for the raket at that time and could not be bothered. To comply with the matriarch's instruction, I flung open the door, and told the tyke to stay with me.

And now, he wants me to assemble a highway.

If there are objects you should never let me get my hands on, they are the track pieces and building blocks, which by instinct, draw me to create symmetrical, imaginary neighborhoods. And like solving a 3-dimensional puzzle, I began connecting the road pieces while my nephew looked across, studying, how I attempted to make inclined road sections to my dismay. There were missing pieces, but it didn't stop me from creating a circuit. I told my nephew to bring more cars so he could simulate a traffic jam when his highway is completed.

He left the room just when my activity stirred a dormant memory.

A long time ago, a relative from abroad bought me a Matchbox Motorcity road set. The playstuff had tracks I can interchange to create different road layouts. It was a prized possession when I was a kid. To this day, I kept it, and not a single tiny piece had gone missing since assembling the set for the first time.

There are times I wonder if I would let my nephews get hold of my toys. Will they take good care of them? Will they still be in good condition when my grandchildren are born? No matter how tempted I am to bequeath my possessions - so the boys at home can enjoy them while they are still young, I feel my toys won't get appreciated the way I did. In fact, not a year would pass and they would most likely be broken.

For I was already in Grade Three when I finally learned to take care of my stuff. I arranged my toy cars in a box, kept the accessories in a corner, and played, without ever making my die casts go on collision like the ones I saw on television. I had a good two years exhausting my imagination before another pursuit took my attention. When I've outgrown my Matchboxes, they were tucked deep within my room.

Where not even my nephews could reach them.

"There is still time." I insist, when get confronted by these guilt-laden questions. "My nephews will receive many more die cast cars - many of them, they will hardly remember when the time comes to dream of leaving home."

In the meantime, I have completed Lenin's highway shortly before he returned.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Pauper

Laying peacefully on his side, in a flattened carton box he uses as a mattress, the world goes by as the pauper slept at the steps of Banco de Oro. It was a sight seldom noticed, for our eyes have grown used to watching these less fortunate souls turn the pavements into their open air bedroom. For some, their sprawled arms and legs are a cause of dismay, an eyesore they have elected to ignore as they went on with their hurried lives. But that early morning, the presence of a pauper a few steps from where I stood became a subject of rumination: of how fate weaves our sullen, sorry lives.

"Tell me your story." I walked closer to take his picture, while a colleague waited at the teller machine for it dispense some cash. He wouldn't answer my question. He doesn't even know I stood next to him, curious as to what difficult life he has.

In my head, I was tempted to craft him a story. A far-fetched one given my immensity to twist a narrative. But then, as my colleague and I were about to separate ways; when I have finally given up writing a fiction that doesn't even encapsulate the pauper's back story, I have resigned to the idea - the cause of my sudden fancy towards the likes of him.

"You could have been anyone," I shudder at the thought before my admission.

"Including the future me."