Saturday, September 17, 2005

Vignette: In Transit

The bus station smelled of damp soil and chicken shit. The air was warm and moist, and everything seemed to be covered with a thin layer of dirt and exhaust. Families piled on top of one another, children almost indistinguishable from luggage, the occassional old man smoking a cigarette underneath a knitted Baguio cap. Kodansha sat at the far end of the row of orange plastic chairs, his jacket wrapped around his bamboo-thin body, cap pulled low over his eyes. His legs were splayed out in front of him, effectively barring passage. Most people would have thought, based on the way his chest rose and fell, that he was dozing off, but really, Kodansha was just waiting for the next bus to arrive.

He adjusted the volume on his MP3 player, the earphone wires curving around the shell of his ears like a thin, black snake. The heavy bass matched the dripping rivulets of rainwater traversed the space from the corrugated roof of the bus station to the dark soil, pregnant with moisture. Children huddled closer to their mother. Lightning moved across the sky, a bright line snapping across the water-heavy sky, followed by a surprising boom of thunder. Kodansha watched the traffic outside trudge wearily, as if the vehicles themselves were tired of the rain.

Mia was waiting for him, he knew, probably sitting by the phone, wondering if he had already found what he was looking for. Even at the opposite ends of the city, he knew that they adopted similar poses, save that she was sprawled over the paisley-print couch with Muggle the cat for company, perhaps curled up on her stomach, a furry feline nautilus. She was probably hungry, too. He made a mental note to pass by Chowking before going back home. "Kody," she would say in her deep, almost man-like, drawl, "bring me chili sauce, ha? O-kay?"

He slumped further in his seat and tucked his hands underneath his armpits for warmth. The cold was getting to him.

The bus finally rolled into the station, stiopping a few meters away from where Kody was seated, a rattling behemoth splattered with mud and dirt and rainwater. The headlights briefly blinded him, and then everything went back to a comfortable semi-darkness.

"Cabanatuan," he read under his breath. The words made him nervous.

Slowly, travelers trickled out of the bus, weary and sallow-skinned from the long travel. Bags were taken out from the belly of the bus. Kody craned his neck, wondering how he would recognize -

The dark green headscarf smelling of leaves and rainwater. The faded jeans with a Harley-Davidson patch over one knee. The battered woven backpack. He was wearing a black Beatles t-shirt and a denim jacket. The sandals on his feet looked like a second skin, black thongs criss-crossing across worn brown toes. Kody stood up, waited for the glow of recognition to flash across his father's face.

Twelve years. He wondered if -

Their eyes met. The old man smiled, the crow's feet around his eyes spreading like miniature sunrays across his weathered brown face. And then he slowly walked towards his son.

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