Subtitled: This Year’s Birthday Post
You’re aboard your car or some public transport, and you’re on your way to somewhere fearsome, something momentous.
You know the drill.
Your chest feels like it’s getting drilled. You gulp down inordinate amounts of saliva, and it feels as if a swarm of pupae hitched a ride down into your stomach where they would metamorphose into the proverbial butterflies. You try to distract your edgy self by staring at the world whizzing past the window, but your mind always recoils and fixates on one question. Will I fail the exams? Will Tito survive the operation? Will I impress the boss? Will She accept my flowers?
I’m not spared from these oh-God-let’s-just-get-this-over-with days. The nervous days in my life are as rife as the nerve endings of my body. How-I-Can-Change-the-Philippines elocution contests, ABS-CBN tapings, puppy love Valentine’s Days, thesis presentations, writers’ workshops.
And I’ve always got the most adrenalin-inducing, aorta-pumping start to this kind of days.
The moment I step out of our quinquagenarian apartment (read: fifty years, I just wanted you to hear the hoof beats in that word), I already feel like a soon-to-be-tested warrior. The swirling dust of Cordillera Street is the dust of the battlefield, and the overhead sun coaxes the sweat from my tense skin. (Of course, this poetic image is washed down when it’s the stormy season, but hey, the sleek curtain of raindrops more than makes up for it theatrically.) The noise and the blur of vehicles in front of me add to the atmosphere, making me hear war drums and making me see charging knights and scurrying squires.
I then flag down my stallion (or should I say, pony?) – one of the hundreds of tricycles plying Galas. “Boss, Quezon Av,” I thunder.
With that command, my warhorse (quinquagenarian-quinquagenarian-quinquagenarian) kicks into action, sometimes with a proud BROOOOOOM!, and sometimes with a meek brukdukdukdukdukduk. Especially when the stallion’s quite robust, I cling to the seat or the metal frame in the same way I would cling to my mount’s reins, and I imagine myself carrying a waxed, glinting lance into battle. Unfortunately, the lance is but my dirty shoulder bag.
A few gallops and I pass by Doña Aurora Elementary School, and the sight of the children adds to my anxiety. Not because I fear their being collateral damage in the battle I’m going to, but because they resurrect a lot of nervous moments from my having-to-wear-a-uniform years, such as my flag ceremony role of reciting the Panatang Makabayan (Patriotic Oath) from memory in grade school and my ‘fabulous pretty boy moment’ as the Helen-snatching Paris in the annual Iliad play in PSHS. Remembering past nervous moments in a current nervous moment is akin to beating your brain like an egg.
To make matters worse for my nerves, right across Doña Aurora is our parish church, and like a dutiful crusader I make the Sign of the Cross. I say my prayers, ask for His blessing, ask for Jesus’ guidance, and ask for the Holy Spirit to give me courage. In truth, like a dutiful crusader willing to charge headfirst into death, I’m just making peace with my God while struggling to make peace with my guts.