Monday, November 7, 2016

Like endless rain into a paper cup



I was reading an article on why introverts (INFJs like me, specifically) love the rain when one of the few memories I have of the years I was struggling with learning Filipino and English popped up.

I was in a car with the family of my father's colleague. I was probably five or six at the time. I'm not sure why, but I was going home to Manila with them by myself. I don't remember where the rest of my family were. Maybe we were in convoy, but they had put me in the car with another little girl.

She was my age, pretty, extroverted and English-speaking. Maybe we had appeared to be friendly with each other so our parents thought that we would have a fun time during the road trip from Zambales to Manila.

The problem was, I didn't even speak Filipino and English was a whole other universe. I understood both languages a little, yes, but I couldn't speak at all. I was five years old when we moved to Manila; Cebuano is my mother tongue.

The girl was very friendly and she tried to talk to me. I never said a word from Zambales to Manila. I wanted to say something back, to be nice, but I was endlessly testing my lovely replies inside my terrified mind.

The girl's mom turned around and said to her daughter, "Talk to Althea. Be friendly."

The daughter replied in a whiny voice, "I've been trying, but she's not talking."

From Zambales to Manila, I sat in the strange car, looking out the window. I remember that it rained most of the trip, but not too hard. For most of the trip, too, I had to pee, but I didn't have the words to tell them to make a pit stop.

I survived by staring at the raindrops on the window, watching them drip down the glass and form occasional magical shapes. Once, there was a unicorn. Then a star. A heart. A rainbow. A flower. Everything I wanted to see. And each time, I wanted to turn to her and say, "Look at this wonderful thing!" But I never could, so I never did. I decided to save everything for later.

I think that was how I started to become a writer.