PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

 

The nautilus cracks

Help! My hideout is near to being discovered. The shroud of anonymity I have treasured ever since I first set foot in the city is being torn in tatters fast. I am like a worm being pushed to come out of the woodwork. The little, hidden aspects of my life are giving me away. I feel like an orange being peeled.

When I first arrived on the scene, everyone around me was a total stranger. Even those I shared the apartment with were relatives I’ve never been close to. The concept of neighbor is restricted to the irritating blare of mushy music one door away. My concept of community flew out of the window the moment I hunted for a job in the concrete jungle. I smiled at no one, even to market vendors whom I tried to haggle with. I didn’t dare accost anyone for a small conversation. I refused to stare at anybody’s eyes. I feared people would get the wrong impression and get myself either falsely accused or mistakenly killed. Neither did I try to attract attention. I tried to blend in with my drab surroundings lest I fall prey to the jungle’s legendary monsters. I minded my own business, receiving minimum help and expecting to give the same.

The little people around me are not human beings but mere machines. The guy walking on the street has no name. The fastfood restaurants are huge food processors, where faceless patrons converge to feed themselves. The street-kids are out to grab my money. The ruffians and the beggars do not exist.

But I loved it all. Back home I virtually had no privacy. My neighbors knew what I had for breakfast, lunch, merienda and dinner. No skeletons could be kept in the closet for so long, not even the brand of underpants I use.

God, did I know how to blend with all the drabness of the metropolis. I could easily get lost among the milling faces, and I’ve got the clothes to complement it. Thankfully, my songs and cries could not compete with the traffic noise, not even at night when I wished the city cacophony would stop but wouldn’t.

I had lived in a gated village for one year without knowing who my neighbors were. Yes, that's possible here. I’ve roamed around, seen the sights, and scoured the metro like a gypsy, fearful that I might run into someone I knew. Thankfully, I could count with my fingers the number of past acquaintances I had ever encountered.

Alas, all that life incognito is going, going, going....

My life of working in a coop somewhere in the city has taken its toll. I did the same things almost with clockwork precision. I went through things routine until they got unbearably boring. I traversed the same paths, passed by the same faces along the way, faces that have become familiar through the years; shared food with the same lunchmates; tried certain hang-outs until they became personal favorites.

The neighbors I have despised for one reason or another have now at least become nodding acquaintances. It wouldn’t take long before they became, I hope or I hope not, my friends. The neighborhood baker has become my constant supplier of freshly baked bread in the morning. Then finally I’ve recently discovered, by accident, the proprietor’s name. The gay hairdresser around the block who once invited me to his room for massage (I refused) has now become a regular part of my life. The girl at the corner store around the block now knows what brands of toiletries I prefer. Why, even the evil stray dog who used to bark at me at night have memorized my scent if not my silhouette on the pavement.

The people I share my domestic bills with have practically become my brothers and sisters. I am running the risk of having my friends at work become my 'soul mates' as well if we finally get rid of the layers of mask we’ve been peeling away off each other. The security guards whom I have adamantly refused to say “Good morning” to, I now even bid goodbye with a sincere smile. Wasn’t it odd that I abhorred the very idea of security guards looking suspiciously at me every time I entered an establishment? To cap off all these personal calamities, I have found myself joining a group where everyone is considered a ‘brother’ or a ‘sister,’ called upon to share, lay one’s life to others, give one’s life’s witness.

So my days of being a monk, a hermit, and a gypsy are close to being over. Either I get out of here now or really get out of my shell.
3.1.1999


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