For The First Time

A few minutes before boarding, they told us that our flight will be delayed for a couple of hours because they found a gas leak on the plane and we had to change planes. I didn't know whether it was a good or bad omen. I looked at the bright side thinking that at least they discovered the leak while we were still on land, instead of thinking that I will be stuck in the airport for more than ten hours.

Twenty hours later, I was at NAIA terminal 1, lining up at the immigration for my passport to be stamped. I had to remove my jacket because I started sweating profusely. I didn't know if it was because of the heat or the excitement, but my hands were cold. My heart felt like it was about to explode, the way it beat rapidly and furiously. I couldn't believe that I was in Manila again. I couldn't believe that I had come home.

It took me awhile to get my two checked-in baggage. I had the time to sort of settle down and let the feeling sink in that I was really back, that I was in Manila and not displaced in some foreign country. I missed hearing the chatter in my mother tongue; I felt grateful that I had the chance to get back. That after months of purely words and talk from emails, instant messages to phone and video calls, I have the chance to say a little less and do a lot more.

I didn't come home for anyone but him. I only had one goal in mind when I decided to come home this year: to be with him as much as I can. There was nothing else. I felt a quiver while walking over to the waiting area. It was past midnight of May 30, but in another time zone it was still May 29--our fifth month. A lot of things were running through my head while waiting for him to arrive. I felt like crying, not out of sadness, but of joy--that someone was crazy enough to love me despite the distance, that I was home and that I would finally be with him.

I saw the car approaching from the distance and when it stopped and he got out, I had to convince myself that it was not a mirage I was seeing. That it was real and not the side effects of no sleep and jet lag. I had the sensation of floating, as if I was seeing everything from an ethereal place. I had thought of it, hoped for it and dreamed of it, but the reality of it found me at a loss for words.

I had seen him before, we had gone out a few times before I left the Philippines early last year. He had held my hands when he was drunk enough to do it. But that night, inside his car, when I saw him clearly and near me, it felt like I was seeing him for the first time.

I wanted to take a mental picture of that moment when I first arrived, because it held all the possibilities of what was ahead. There's nothing better than the feeling that everything was possible. The world can crumble and end and it wouldn't matter, because you are where you should be, exactly where you want to be. It's a heightened sense of realism, as if you're finally awake. As if you're finally out of the cave and into the sun.

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