Instead of Lovers, I had Books

Whenever I feel down or am going through something rough, I turn to stories. Though I know most of them are fiction, I still believe that they contain truths about the human experience. Let’s face it, not all of them end on a happy note. Yet, in the most trying times I somehow take comfort in what I learned from them. The last novel I read was in 2015, “A Little Life”, and I never got to finish it – I enjoyed it but at the same time I felt my heart was going to be crushed as I progressed through the pages. And I recently read that it is going to be adapted into a Broadway play. I decided to give up on reading fiction for some time so that I could give room for more “practical” pursuits.

Eyes of the DragonI learned to read because of my sisters. At age four, I pestered them to read me stories from our library and from their textbooks. The first skill I ever worked hard on learning was reading, because I did not want to depend on my sisters for long. The trick was to read a book over and over until I was familiar with the material. I was particularly fond of our twenty-volume Walt Disney encyclopedia, hence, the nerdiness. I never did well in school because I did not care for the other subjects. I just wanted to read stories. I borrowed books from the library, even those meant for sixth graders, and read them for fun.

My teenage years were primarily Stephen King fare and “Eyes of the Dragon” will always be the best work of his for me. Incidentally, it was the first Stephen King novel I’ve ever read. Talk about losing your virginity. In a way, books – and by extension the authors – were my mentors in life. I may have been more intimate with them – the books not the authors – than I am with most people. Wait, being intimate with your mentors … that sounds kinky and a tad incestuous.

Sophie's World“Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder was introduced to me at a time when I was having teenage angst. It’s a clever novelization of all philosophical thought. Through it, I learned there is no single way of looking at things and one must always question everything. Though I was not as arrogant as Philosophy majors, I did turn into a little prick. My philosophy professors loved me for it though because I wrote angst-ridden essays on the futility of everything. We were already dying the minute we were born. But that book did give me license to explore lines of thinking, even the darker ones. Though it has been almost two decades since I read it, I am still under its influence. It may be responsible for my receptivity to radical ideas and may be the reason why I like discussing ideas for the sake of it(Yes, I really do need to get a life). “Sophie’s World” taught me promiscuity.

Catcher in the RyeA nod to my strong psychopathic tendencies, “Catcher in the Rye” came at a time when I was totally lost at what I should do with my life. I thought everyone was phony and dull. But the part that I like about it was Mr. Antolini’s advice “Something else an academic education will do for you. If you go along with it any considerable distance, it’ll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What’ll fit and, maybe, what won’t. After a while, you’ll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing. For one thing, it may save you an extraordinary amount of time trying on ideas that don’t suit you, aren’t becoming to you. You’ll begin to know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly.” And studied I did and I got to narrow down the measurements. But, I must admit I’m a crossdresser and I like going into full costume. “Catcher in the Rye” was very naughty, even nasty, but satisfying and memorable.

LOTRBecause I like drama and epic stories on a large scale “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was the theme of my life throughout my twenties. I read the books many times and watched the extended version of LOTR, maybe ten times – over and above the theater version. Until now I can still recite Galadriel’s narration at the start of the first movie “The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. For what was once was is lost, for none now live who remember it”. I felt I was Frodo, slugging it through law school, battling my personal demons, and all I felt at that time was despair. Looking back, I was going through a deep depression and it is only now that I acknowledge it. I’m quite surprised I made it through. Whenever I felt very down, I’d watch my movie collection or reread the books. “The Lord of the Rings” was a regular and reliable romp during times of loneliness.

The Once and Future KingWhen I was wondering in what direction I should take my career, copies of T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King” appeared in the local bookstores. To me, the book spoke about growing up and that whatever naivete we may have must be shed. Merlin, by transforming Arthur into a fish, hawk, ant, goose, and badger, taught him lessons on how to be a good king. At that time. I was discerning what lessons I’ve learned from all the things I’ve been through. I was forming the guiding principles of how I should live my life and what I should prioritize. “The Once and Future King” was wise and full of fun. At the end, it was bittersweet and left me with a sense of melancholia.

Of more interest to me was the discussion in the book about justice, particularly in the sphere of armed conflict. I recognized in it the rudimentary principles on the international rules of war. Serendipitously, an acquaintance asked whether I was interested in graduate studies. I eventually found myself taking classes and going abroad for special trainings and seminars.

I guess my pursuit of more “practical” knowledge – reading scholarly essays and treatises – and involvement in more “practical” things – active participation in professional organizations and shameless networking, was my way of shedding my naivete. I must say I went through different transformations throughout the six years I dedicated to advanced studies, travels, and networking. Along the way, I lost a certain degree of idealism and loosened my absolutist beliefs about people and life in general. I have somehow been preparing for something but what that exactly it is I have yet to know.

Hundred YearsFor now, I am content with watching Cartoon Network and Disney Channel while I work at home or do my laundry. Maybe, I should pick up “A Little Life” from where I left off. Somehow other obligations keep me from picking up a book. I am more interested in going through the daily motions of life. Could this mean I’m at the point of doing something repetitive as a form of solitude like the characters in “A Hundred Years of Solitude”? Doing something for the sake of routine and familiarity just to endure the passage of time until a hurricane comes to destroy all of existence? Hmmmmnnn… “One Hundred Years of Solitude” may have been that book that I’ve never really gotten to move on from because it told me an uncomfortable human truth: we will all live a life of solitude.

The Fuel for My Travels

DisneyWhen people ask me why I have been travelling a lot for the past five years, I always say that I am on a quest for Looove. To paraphrase someone in the movie, Warcraft, if love is important to you, you must go to the ends of the earth to find it. But, I would say to those who’d listen, love is an elusive and deceptive thing. You think you have it, then it’s gone. Maybe you are not really looking for it or wanting it, some friends say. That may be true, but that is another topic for another time.

It was rage that caused me to travel. “Rage fuels me” is more dramatic than saying “I’m on a quest for love”. By the way, neither rage nor love(or infatuation) can fill your stomach. Both can cause hypoglycemia if you’re not careful.

Rage at friends who betrayed me. Rage at the pressures and expectations laid on me, Rage at the people went out of their way just to prove that I did not deserve what I was working so hard for. Rage at people who tried to take advantage of my weaknesses just so they could advance themselves. Rage at people who frustrated my efforts just because they think they could. Rage at people who attempted to manipulate me to suit their purposes. Rage at people who disregarded who I really was and tried to impose on me their idea of who I should be. Rage at people who measured themselves against me. Rage at people who blame me for their faults and shortcomings. Rage at assuming responsibilities and burdens because of other people’s incompetence. Rage at being obliged to give so much for things that were given virtually for free to other people. Rage at myself for putting up with all these things at great emotional and psychological cost. Rage at slowly giving up pieces of my sense of self for the sake of advancement.

For a long period of time – too long – I could only feel rage and contempt. All I could ever think about was how to survive. I was vengeful and vindictive. It felt like everything was closing in. I just had to will myself to withstand them all. I knew that it was only a matter of choice: to let the rage burn me out and become a husk of a person or hold on to who I was and survive.

During that time, I also cut off a lot of people from my life because I knew they were not good for me.

I went to Hong Kong to visit Ocean Park and Disneyland. I wanted to feel other things. I did do a lot of therapeutic screaming while being spun in the air on the adult rides at Ocean Park. Fear, excitement, and adrenaline make a great combination. At DIsneyland, I did get teary-eyed on seeing the Disney Princesses. The Disney mind-conditioning was  at work when I again got teary-eyed while watching the fireworks.

MacauI visited old Macau and spent hours just walking round and round, looking for the heritage sites. I enjoyed getting lost and finding my way back again. I hopped over the graves of Protestant Dutchmen who died over a hundred years ago. I walked up and down winding stairways, filled with graffiti.

Walking in the sun without any particular destination, looking at famous monuments and landmarks, trudging on unfamiliar streets, and listening to unfamiliar languages, made me feel better. At every step, I could feel my rage ebb just a little. The new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures reminded me that the world is big and has so much to offer.

Siem ReapI found myself clambering over large stone monuments, going through dark tunnels, climbing very narrow steps, and joking and laughing with total strangers in Siem Reap. I fulfilled a childhood promise to see Angkor Wat – there was a time I wanted to be an archeologist. I experienced wonder once again. I felt great sadness while the audio guide walked me through the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, and watched other people suddenly burst into tears for they too felt the great despair and suffering in that place. I felt rage, but it was righteous.

HueA friend and I rode bicycles in Hoi An. We checked into a five-star hotel in Hue and spent New Year’s Eve in a club with white people dancing to 80’s music while the proprietor, who was wearing a suit, gave us drinks on the house. I walked, in full costume, the halls of the Imperial Palace of the Nguyen Dynasty, while other tourists took photos of me. I ate as much as I could in the labyrinthine streets of the French Quarter in Hanoi and got addicted to Vietnamese coffee.

I spent my birthday at Genting Highlands Park – cheesy but I had fun with my friend. We spent most of our time riding buses in Malaysia and looking for places to eat nasi goreng. We did a lot of walking in Georgetown and Melaka. I was even surprised to see two young men holding hands, as they crossed a football field in Melaka – in a Muslim country at that! Simply sitting inside a hop-on-hop-off bus in Kuala Lumpur while stuck in traffic, in the middle of pouring rain, was fun for me. Hey, I was stuck in traffic in a foreign country and in one of the most important cities of the world!

MelakaIt took years of occasional travelling to get me into sorts. In the process, I did feel I’ve become a different person – more confident, less afraid, comfortable with uncertainty, and eager for surprises. Travelling will test your wits and patience, and you will discover how much you are truly capable of. And the most important experience I’ve ever had was kindness from total strangers. Again and again, I was reminded that the world is big and full of wonder. Whatever I was going through was just of the tiniest consequence in the greater scheme of things. Every step I made in a new and strange land took out a little of the rage I had in me. It took thousands of steps just to drain enough rage and make room for other things – joy, wonder, empathy, trust, friendship, hope.

I now feel anger, not rage. And it is a good thing. I keep anger alive, but contained, because anger, like fire, can be good if harnessed properly. I tap into it to give me energy to fight and to stand for what I believe in. It gives me strength to resist bullshit and to demand for what I deserve. It reminds me to never allow anyone to make me go through all that again.

The money I have spent on travel so far would have built me a big house or gotten me a luxurious condo. It was all a small price to pay for saving myself.

A Cancellation, Two Misses, and A Flight Delay: Notes on Stupidity and Bad Luck

I was having a chat with a friend yesterday and he brought up missed or cancelled flights. He asked me if I ever deliberately missed or cancelled a flight. Stories came back from the depths of my memories. I did not want to bore him with details so I just said “Yeah, I have.” Our conversation gave me the idea to compile my air travel mishaps.

Note that I have kept a couple of these stories under wraps out of embarrassment. I only told my family and very close friends. But, some of these events happened years ago, and the lovely thing about time is that shame tarnishes as the years go by. So, below are my notes on my stupidity and bad luck.

First Act of Stupidity

The first time I ever missed a flight was on January 2, 2010. It was a 4 a.m. flight from Cebu to Manila. That time, a colleague and I were uprooting our lives in Cebu and transplanting ourselves to Manila – whether that decision paid off is yet to be seen by me, eight years on.

Anyway, we woke up two hours before the flight. Back then, you can get to the airport in about 15 to 20 minutes during very early dawn. We were complacent. We did some last minute packing; we took our time bathing and grooming. It was less than an hour before the flight when we were ready to leave my apartment.

We got to the airport five minutes after the gates closed. The staff at the counter was unyielding. We booked tickets for the next flight at about USD120 each. Good thing the office allowed us to claim a relocation expense refund but we got the money months after we filed our papers.

Second Act of Stupidity

Atkinson CLock Tower
Atkinson Clock Tower in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

I missed a morning flight to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia on October 26, 2013.

A couple of weeks before, I booked a promo fare on Air Asia – a round trip ticket for USD160. I excitedly booked a hotel, did research on things to do and see there for five days, and filed my request for vacation leave.

To compensate for my absence from work, I did a lot of overtime and beat multiple deadlines. I bore it all because I was going to have a blast – a light at the end of the tunnel.

The night before my 9:20 a.m. flight, I worked up to 10 pm just to finish everything. After a late dinner, I got home around eleven. I was too tired to pack so I set my alarm to five in the morning. I plopped on my bed in my office clothes and passed out.

I opened my eyes and saw the sun through my window. Adrenaline shot out of my nose and I bolted out of my bed. I looked at the clock – it was 8:00. a.m.! Either something was wrong with the clock and it did not go off, or I did not hear it and it got tired eventually so it shut up.

I hurriedly took off my clothes and stuffed some clothes and underwear in my backpack. I grabbed my passport, credit cards, and wallet and dashed out of my apartment building. I figured I’d buy clothes and toiletries in Malaysia. And miracle of miracles, I was able to get a cab the moment I got out of the building.

Traffic was remarkably light considering it was a Friday morning. As we coasted along, I began to hope. But my heart sank everytime we got stopped by a red light or passed through a bottleneck. The traffic hitches lasted only a couple of minutes or so and I found my semblance of a soul singing hymns to the universe, asking it to rearrange time and space so I could get to the airport on time.

I arrived at NAIA 4, which is a small terminal compared to the massive other three terminals. I paid the cabbie and I made a mad dash through the international departure area and up to the check-in counter. I was panting, sweating, and disheveled.

“Sir, the counter is closed already” the lady in charge of check-in gently informed me.

“Those people aren’t even through immigration yet” I nodded at four people who were lining up at immigration, just a few meters behind the check-in counter.

“Did you come all the way from the provinces? Are you an Overseas Filipino Worker?” she inauired.

“I live kinda far from the airport” I said almost inaudibly.

“I’ll check with my manager first” she said and walked towards Air Asia personnel who were standing near the immigration booth. After a short discussion, she came back. “I’m sorry, sir. The passenger manifesto has already been finalized and immigration officials will no longer allow modifications”. I thanked the lady for her efforts and I walked out of the terminal and took a cab home.

While in the cab, I debated if I should push through with the trip. I did an online search and saw that Cebu Pacific had an eleven o’clock flight that evening. A one-way ticket cost USD220.

On one hand, It would be quite embarassing if I didn’t push through with it considering the fanfare I’d drummed up over the trip for the past couple of weeks. All those overtime and preparations for nothing. On another, I could cut costs by cancelling the trip and avoid spending more.

Pride won out in the end.

The minute I got home, I booked the Cebu Pacific ticket and started packing my stuff carefully. Around noon, I was on my way to Resorts World Manila, which is right across NAIA 3 where my flight would depart.

NAIA
Departure Area for International Flights at NAIA 3

I had lunch there and walked around the hotel complex. I also called my family, a couple of friends, and a co-worker. They were shocked that I was still in Manila. My news was greeted with derisive laughter.

Three hours before departure, I was at the check-in counter. A schoolmate saw me and asked “Why are you always travelling? Are you going through something?” I replied “I’m travelling to see if I am truly going through something”.

Delayed, Delayed, Delayed

Around 2 a.m. on June 25, 2015, I was at NAIA 1 for my flight to Singapore scheduled at 5:15 am. When the Tiger Air plane arrived, we were informed to prepare ourselves for boarding. I dozed off while waiting for the boarding announcement.”The flight will be delayed due to the replacement of a wheel”. There were groans but no complaints.

Up to 8:00 am, I was regularly woken up by announcements that the flight will be delayed due to technical difficulties. At 8:00 am, it was announced that the flight will be delayed to 10:00 am, more groans but not a lot of complaints. At 10:00 am, it was announced that the flight will be moved to 5:00 pm. There was an uproar.

Let’s just say people got very emotional: airline staff tried their best to stay calm and hold back tears, people cursed, and a threat of a class suit was made. I focused on looking for other early available flights so that I would not miss my connecting flight from Singapore to Paris on Emirates at nine o’clock that night.

While other people glared and bared their teeth at the staff, I charmed them into giving me a certification of offloading, refund papers, and my luggage back. It took an hour and afterwards we had to go back through immigration. The other passengers lingered on to avail of the hotel accommodation while I dashed out to get a cab.

“Take me to NAIA 2 and stop at a Philippine Airline ticket outlet on the way”. Good thing the cabbie knew his way around. It was at that time that my fantasy of enacting a movie scene coincided with my actual life. I burst into the Philippine Airline ticketing office and hissed with much relish “Book me a ticket on the earliest flight out of here!”

The ticket people were stunned. I approached the nearest guy who immediately sprang into action and informed me that the earliest flight was in about two hours or past 1 p.m. and it cost USD300. “Book me that ticket”. The staff looked very impressed. After a few minutes, I got my ticket and jumped into the cab that had been waiting for me. I was dropped off at NAIA 2 and I tipped the cabbie generously.

As I was checking in, the lady at the counter noted that I only had a one-way ticket and asked me if Singapore was my final destination. “No, I have a connecting flight to Paris tonight”. “What airline? Can you show me your ticket?”. After examining my ticket, she informed me that she had made arrangements for my luggage to be directly transferred to Emirates.

Survey
Electronic survey inside the men’s toilet at Changi Airport

When I landed at Changi, my Emirates flight was boarding early. The minute I got off the plane, I dashed to the pre-departure gate.

Just Bad Luck

Mini CakesIn the wee hours of August 17, 2018, a Xiamen Airways plane skidded off the runway at NAIA, which caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights and left thousands of passengers stranded.

I went to the airport because there was no word about my 7:00 p.m. Philippine Airline flight being cancelled. It was when I was at the departure area at NAIA 2 that it was confirmed that my flight was cancelled. Hundreds of us had to line up at the assistance desks in the hopes of rebooking or getting into an available flight. I was in line for a total of five hours.

The airline sent people up and down the queue to distribute mini-cakes and bottled water. They were generous because they offered everyone a second helping – maybe the high concentration of sugar in our blood kept us docile and patient.

On my third hour, someone threw a full-blown tantrum: yelling and cursing at the airport security. When educated Filipinos go on full-blown rage, English is the lingua franca. It’s just more dramatic that way.

“I’ve been here for 16 hours. I’ve been here longer than you!” he screeched at the security personnel. “Tama na yan. Nakakahiya sa kanila(Hey, stop it. It’s embarrassing to the others)” while the guard gestured at us, the audience.”I don’t care if they know me!!!”. Someone must have missed out on the complimentary stuff. And some people got to eat full meals based on the conversations I heard.

The next available flight fell on the same day as my return flight. I was supposed to attend an aunt’s birthday party. The outbound flight got refunded but my inbound flight did not. It was because they were booked separately and had different booking condotions. Ces’t la vie.

The Lesson:

Always have a credit card ready and if life or your stupidity causes you to incur unnecessary expenses, just suck it in. Travelling is full of hazards so be prepared to bear it and grin through it.

Sleepless in Paris

 

IMG_2235
Hotel de Ville

It was around 2 am when I stepped out of the brasserie. My companions were in a hurry to catch their respective night buses to their destinations while I had resigned myself to my fate of riding a taxi home. I would lose three good meals because of this, I thought.

I struck out on my own to flag a cab down. All had their red lights on, indicating that they were full, and all whooshed past me. Other people were also flailing about in the cold night and got ignored as well. I walked on Rue de Rivoli and saw a taxi stand. A guy was sitting on a bench with his backpack on his lap.”While you are getting another shot, I am waiting for a cab” he said miserably into his phone.

The €6.20 bottle of Coca Cola I drank with a twist of lemon had passed through my kidneys and found its way into my bladder. It wanted to get out. I lifted my nose and caught a stench. I walked away from the taxi stand and followed the stench to its source – a dark corner of a building. I did what the Parisians had done before me.

I decided to go to Hotel de Ville to see if I could catch cabs there. I waved at them and they flashed their red lights back at me. Great, I thought. I might as well wait for the Metro to open. Three and a half hours to go. I turned my attention to the fountains and the lights. If it had rained, the streets would have shone like silver. If I had gone to the Seine, the lights could have been misty in the river. I was ready to burst into song about being on my own, when a teenage boy suddenly fell flat on his face. His two companions picked him up, laughing. Under a lamp post, two lovers were conversing while staring into each others’ eyes. A man was walking past me when he realized that he dropped something from his back pocket and he ran back across the square, leaving his two companions behind.

As I walked, a man approached me, made eye contact, and addressed me in French. He was wearing one of those large pink and blue earphones. For some reason, I leapt aside like a cat and my legs positioned themselves in a way that would make it easy for me to pounce at him. My body did this instinctively. Maybe it was the way he approached me, the empty bottle of water which he offered for me to drink from, the fact that he could hear me perfectly while he had his earphones on, or the way he smiled, or the way he asked me in French and English where I was from and if I had children. With high fives, fist bumps, clasps, and chest to shoulder bumps, he told me it was alright and Paris is safe. I was ready to push him at any moment and kick his face.

“You are not that interesting and no one will have this keen interest in you if he does not want something”. Thank you my dear inner voice for the vote of confidence. I was thinking of a way to gracefully get away when three teenagers converged on us. “Excuse me” one of them said to me and the man turned his attention to them. They conversed with him and I slunk away. After I got away, they ceased their conversation.

I walked to a street corner. A man in a shirt and pajamas looked at me quizzically. “Ca va?” He asked. “Bonsoir!” I smiled broadly at him. He followed me with a puzzled look as I trudged around his neighborhood. I sat on a bicycle parking slot and watched people go on their way. I heard shouting from a couple of blocks away and instinct told me to sit on a bench at the bus stop across the street. As I made my way to the bus stop, three teenagers at 10-second-intervals successively ran past the spot where I had just sat. It was unclear who was doing the chasing and who was being chased. Three people made their way to the middle of the street and danced to music from a device one of them was carrying.

A block away, I saw green flashing lights. It came from a parked van amidst metal barricades shaped into a rough square. I decided to go see what it was. The van with the green lights was a police van and it was parked beside a DOFRAISE truck. The truck had apparently figured into an accident. As I approached, a policewoman asked me if everything was alright. “I’m waiting for the Metro to open”. She nodded. Her four male companions ignored me.

I leaned on a lamp post right next to the scene of the accident. A police officer was looking intently at my lamp post, crouching down and taking notes. There was a bicycle in the middle of the barricade. If people made the mistake of walking through the barricade, they were sternly shooed away. A teenage boy walked past the barricade and was immediately asked by the police “Ca va?”. He gruffly replied that everything was fine and for no reason glowered at me.

A bicycle went by with a man sitting on the handles while another man rode it. The two of them were talking and laughing very loudly. A black man and a white man brushed past me with the black man muttering about taxis. The cabs they chased flashed red lights.

A dressed-up girl and an older man stood in front of me. The older man was holding up his mobile phone as if it were a boombox while trance music played. The girl looked at me intently with her glazed eyes while trying to maintain her balance. “Is the music good? Do you like it?” she asked. “Yes” I replied. “Give me five!”. I gave her five. “Give me another five!” I gave another. “Give me ten!” I obliged. “You are good!” She smiled, touched both sides of my body, and she and her companion walked away.

“Police stop him! Stop him!” cried the black man from out of nowhere. He was asking the police to stop a cab with the green light on it. Someone got to the cab he wanted first.”Nnnooo!” he cried and abruptly shut up when another green-lighted cab appeared. “Get in” he hissed to his companion. A man in a suit came up to me and stood beside me. He smiled at me benignly while I inhaled the scent of strong alcohol from his body. He looked at the van and the truck, began to sing under his breath, and ambled away.Two men went inside the truck and took out some plastic trays. The police were wrapping up their investigation. A while later, both the van and the truck came to life and pulled out of the barricade. I was all alone again.

I walked to a bus stop on Rue de Rivoli and sat on a bench. I looked at my watch, it was 4:45 am. I still had a lot of time to kill. Lest another lost soul would think of me as an appropriate companion, I left the bus stop and walked on the sidewalk. I stopped in front of a small patisserie and read the menu written on a blackboard. “Chocolat chaud” caught my eye. A nice cup of hot chocolate would do me good. I went in, gave my order, and seated myself on a table near the door. People trickled in. Some were in their very rumpled office clothes, bleary eyed from a long night. Others in t-shirts were resting their heads on the wall, napping before the food arrived. My hot chocolate came in a small metal pitcher paired with a small white cup. I poured the thick liquid into the cup and took a sip – strong cocoa taste offset by very sweet milk.

I looked at my watch. It was already 5:30, thank God! I poured some more hot chocolate into my cup. Maybe I could stay for ten more minutes, I thought while clasping the small warmth in both my hands. No need to rush.

When I stepped out, the street lights were already turned off. Faint light was creeping up into the sky. The trees from afar seemed bare and the strangers in the street were just strangers. The phantoms had retreated. The night was over. As the light grew stronger, my steps went faster. I wanted to escape from the light and slumber in a dark room, to be at peace. I hurried down to the metro, another phantom running away from the light.