Saturday, November 16, 2013


I am standing behind a black gate- slightly taller than I am- as I wait for my ride to pick me up. The gate is shaped like a thin wall with a few metal bars on top, and since there are no holes except for the ones between the metal bars, I have to stand on my toes to get a good view of the outside. I am annoyed because I have been waiting for a good ten minutes for my car to arrive and when it comes to things like this, I am not a very patient person.

It is five in the afternoon, and from behind the gate I am able to observe several things at once. I see a group of boys laughing nonchalantly and talking in their native dialect. I see a mother and her children going home. I see a woman in her twenties walking briskly towards the end of the street. I see a bunch of vehicles- motorcycles, cars, jeepneys- moving at different speeds and directions. It occurs to me that all of these people are going about their usual order of things, unaware of my attentive eyes.

I stand there, watching the neighborhood come alive for few more minutes until I notice the greyish-blue hue of the sky. It had been a clear, bright orange just a few moments before. The sun is not completely gone; there is still a bit of brightness left, but I notice that the shadows have gotten longer, and it would not be long before it is evening.

I do not want to be here at night, I think, as I watch more people pass by the street. Even small towns and ordinary neighborhoods become obscure and dangerous after dusk. Still, there is no sight of the shiny red car that is my only way home, and so I stand behind the gate, on my toes, waiting for it to arrive. 

I am reminded of something I'd seen months ago, a place that also had black walls and held the sort of people who were so absorbed in own thoughts that they didn't realize when someone was watching them. Of course, the place I am talking about was much much bigger and had a lot of buildings, but the gate will serve as an adequate metaphor for what I am trying to describe.

As I watch from behind the black gate, and my eyes get used to the darkened surroundings- the shadowy areas and unexplored parts- I come to a realization. What am I doing here, exactly? Why am I not outside, pursuing an adventure of my own, and what do I expect to gain from watching strangers pass by? In that moment, I begin to see the neighborhood for what it really is, or what it can be. Suddenly, the little building at the end of the street doesn't seem so dangerous anymore.

What is this all about, exactly? What does it matter if I am behind the gate or outside? Of course, deep inside, I already know. More than anything, this is about my future, a path I am going to take. More importantly, a choice I was making, or one that I am about to make in a few months.

Here's the thing: In four months or less, I am going to be leaving my home to go to college in another city. Which university will I be attending, exactly, is something I haven't decided on yet, even though I've spent countless hours thinking about it. In sixteen weeks or so, I will be saying goodbye to my family, school, and basically everything I've grown accustomed to in my life- the lovely smell of the trees in my backyard, delicious home-cooked meals served to us three times a day, being able to sleep soundly at night. All of these things will be swamped by the fast-paced draw of city life.

On the other hand, it is an adventure- something I've been looking for all my life. A choice between hiding behind the gate to get a glimpse of others, or embracing the dangers and stepping outside, even if that meant a lot things would definitely change.

I smile, seeing a particularly shiny red car come to a stop at the street. I swing the black gate open and step outside. It is not the car that makes me happy. I smile because I come to a realization. It didn't matter whether the car had arrived or not. In that moment, I would have opened the gate and gone out either way.