Because there is beauty in the concrete

Once, late at night, while wishing me like to one more rich in hope, I hailed an MGE taxi, just wanting to go home, forget everything, and crash.

As I entered the cab, the driver greeted me with a cheerful, "Good evening, ma'am!" He was a big man, probably in his late fifties, wearing thick plastic-rimmed glasses. He smiled at me in the rear-view mirror and asked me how my day had gone.

"It was okay," I said. He was pleasant, but I was tired and a little upset, so I didn't feel like making small talk.

He got my address and turned on the radio. We drove in silence to whatever music was playing, and, still brooding, I watched the buildings grow smaller as we left Eastwood City and crossed the flyover to Bonny Serrano to Project 4.

As we turned right on 20th Avenue, an old seventies song started playing. I hadn't heard it in years, so I didn't recognize it right away, but my heart remembered something because the first line started pulling me home: It depends on who is looking at the tenement walls.

I tried to catch the next lines, trying to place the song. Then the driver started singing to it, his voice warm and rich and deep.
You can walk the streets
and find so much to criticize,
but that would be the easy thing to do.
Because there's beauty in the concrete
if you see it with your heart.
The sidewalks only hurt you
if you hate them from the start.
By the time I was home, I could hear it: many, many years ago, my father, now over ten years dead, with his terrible singing voice and thick Cebuano accent, belting out: This is a song, not necessarily sweet. I'll pass it on to people that I never will meet.

It was a child's introduction to how the world and words can contradict each other, and a moment I saw the individual, the person disconnected from me, in my father.

The cab driver, bless him, had a good singing voice. He sang with feeling, and this time, I took the words as a reminder, one of the many notes to self I've been posting all over the years to remember who, where I am.

Places of work turned into places called home. I entered the apartment with a smile in my heart and sank into my bed thinking sweet dreams.


March 6, 2014