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  • The commute at 5:30 pm from work to where I have been living in the past eight months is chilly but almost always unremarkable except today because today the school girl to my right made me eat her hair. I have been subjecting my right face to rapid hair slaps in the last three Ben Howard songs and I don’t know if I should tell her that I would like to burn her hair down to its roots.

    We just passed by the farming communities that borders Sibalom and San Jose. This is the stretch in the commute where the jeepney runs uninterrupted for half a Ben Howard song. Little soon the jeepney is gonna stop for another half a Ben Howard song to pick up some more passengers along the highway, mostly students coming from the public university nearby. More school girls with untied hair will be crammed inside by the driver or his conductor hoping to stretch their earnings to a few more pesos and then some before calling it a day.

    Onwards, the jeepney is gonna speed up and it’s gonna be some more hair slapping, hair eating, especially when we get to the bridge. Yes, that great Sibalom bridge.

    I correct myself—the commute home is always unremarkable until we get to the bridge. Country bridges with their shimmering snake-like rivers, and rivers with their gently swaying reeds with white, fuzzy flowers in full bloom are always magnificent under the long shadows of the *winter* sun. And this is exactly the kind that i get here. And every time, I look like a silly grade schooler peering outside the jeepney window to have a look at the horizon, where the edge of the river disappears and merges with the coast and shimmering Sulu Sea. i do that for about three to four lines of a Ben Howard song and snap back to reality because we would be at the bridge's end by then.

    I came back here just as summer was giving way to the raging rainy season. My first attempt, in April, was foiled by the psychotic episodes of my relative, and I had official reasons, too, because the physical office I was to occupy remained yet to be a storage room. When my relative’s mental health improved, the office was finished in time to be put to good use. I officially relocated, bringing with me 5-month old son, my camera, a box of my 35mm film, my personal computer, my loves, my hates, my idiosyncrasies to this place. I cleaned the room I occupied almost a decade ago, when I was still without children. A month after I moved in, I brought my first groceries that included the required sensodyne because I couldn't bear to use my mother-given toothpaste anymore (I used it for a month and had sensations of my teeth falling off). I bought my own shampoo because the shampoo in the bathroom gave me dandruff so large i could make breakfast oatmeal out of them. I brought in my own *organic/artisanal* soap straight from the city because I was afraid of using orange papaya soap that my mother keeps in the bathroom for general use. When I was done with the inventory of my toiletries, I scrubbed clean an old plastic rack (that might have once contained shoes) and used it as a makeshift rack for my son’s clothes. The rickety wooden console table that belonged to my deceased grandmother I used as dresser and something to hold the baby’s amenities. Then came the Fridays of the week and I always ended up inside the public van, back to the city because I keep on missing my friends and the usual city buzz. I keep on missing smell. I miss the smog.

    I keep on missing riding my bicycle to work. Somehow, in my 10 months of being here I never came to finally deciding to relocate my bigger bike, to bring the bike with me. If I probably did, I would never have had to endure eating someone else’s hair in the jeepney. My commutes would have never been unremarkable and I would probably have had enough time to catch the winter sun setting by the bridge crossing and I would have had a photo of it already. But it never happened and it probably never will, and for that, I would have to learn to either be patient inside the jeepney, or find courage to tell the school girl, “I would like to burn that hair of yours, to the roots.”

    (also here:
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