It is hard to describe what I am feeling right now.
I should be excited to go back home. I should be excited to see family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers. I should be excited to see familiar sights and smells, familiar haunts and tambayans (hang-outs), familiar anything. But all I can feel now is a mix of indescribable emotions ranging from sadness, to nostalgia, to depression to anxiety, to apprehension, to belligerence, to something akin to, or verging on, regret.
And the songs playing on my laptop!…all depressing and somber: Lionel Richie, Karen Carpenter, Fleetwood Mac (their song, “Hold Me” sounds like a milder version of Metallica’s “Hero of the Day”), Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel”. And it was cloudy all day today. It rained in the afternoon. Sigh. Even more depressing. Even Mylene Jampanoi’s lovely face is not making me feel any better (but god, ain’t she pretty! ).
I went to central London today, just to see it one more time. I took the overground, then the central line, but there were signal failures, so I went back to the overground, got off at Liverpool Street, took the central line, got off at Gloucester Road, took the Picadilly to Leicester Square and from Leicester, had some lunch, wandered around Trocadero, said goodbye to Monet and Renoir at the Gallery, took one last look at Trafalgar Square, walked up to the Parliament Square, heard Big Ben toll one more time, went to the bridge, to see the London Eye, and to see the River Thames one more time, took the bus back to Trafalgar and then the bus to Liverpool Street, then saw Stratford one more time, then took the overground. I lingered a bit at Trafalgar, but I stayed more at the Thames. Oddly enough, for a simple looking river, it still seems so grand – full of history and memories. I do not know, maybe it is just me.
I got home and cleaned up the room. It is very bare now. There seems no evidence that I stayed here. I have vacuumed, cleaned the windows, got rid of my rubbish, put everything that can fit into my luggage. I say goodbye to my landlord – he will not be able to see me off tomorrow. As a bit of comic relief, he says he will miss me just being locked in my room, something that he says worries him to no end. He wonders what I do all the time in my room – he thinks maybe I have already committed suicide or something. I laugh half-heartedly.
I am going home. For a moment I feel the onslaught of panic. I feel like staying. I feel like I have made a mistake. I feel like I should have stayed longer, I should have at least stayed til the visa expired. Have I given up too easily? Is this what I really am? I do not know. I would like to say that maybe this is destiny, that if I was meant to stay then there would have been signs, things would have been easier. But I think that is the fatalistic in me rationalizing things. The reason I had decided to go home was precisely because I had wanted to take destiny into my own little brown hands. I was sick and tired of letting life just happen to me. I wanted to take life by the horn and make it lead me where I want to go, not the other way around. I am sure that will be hard – life is pretty much like wrestling a wild bull to the ground – but to take that bull by the horn says a lot: that you refuse to just let life string you along, that you want some measure of control over your life. Some argue that you cannot control destiny – that everything has already been predestined, that no matter how hard you try, life already has a script for you, a script you must follow, and if you refuse to follow it, then you lose, you die. Eventually life will reveal what it really is, but for now, I like to think that maybe in some little form, I can do something about it.
When Indian-born Canadian director Deepa Mehta was interviewed by rediffonthenet.com for the controversial homosexuality-themed “Fire”, she defended the movie by saying,
“Fire is about choices, the choices we make in life which may lead to alienation. By the bisexuality theme in the film, I have just shown an extreme choice. But the end result is that you cannot have everything in your life. Happiness does not fall into your lap; in fact, happiness is too ephemeral a word.
You have to choose in life. Ultimately, you have to take a risk. You may hate your job — you have the choice of doing it or leaving it. You will risk alienation and a lot of hardships by sitting at home doing what you like, like painting or writing for yourself. But one has to make a choice because, before you know, it’s death.”
This is probably why I am going through all these. Life back home will not be any less harder than my life had been here in London. Life back home will not be any less alienating, any less risky, any less sadder. I know I cannot stay here and dream about what I really want for myself, in these circumstances. I cannot have that and want to be back home. If I wanted a fulfilling, happy life, I have to work for it, but at the same time, it is true, happiness is ephemeral. I can choose to be happy anywhere. I took a risk leaving the Philippines, I am taking a risk going back, only because I have had to make the hard choice of choosing life over slow death here. Maybe yes, it is the alienation and hardship that I am afraid of, for what I had discovered here was the longing to do something, finally for myself, to do something that mattered, to want to matter.
I have had to make a choice now, because tomorrow death may come knocking.
But god, I shall miss London.