Stories to Tell: That Space in Your Heart

Stories to Tell

Stories to Tell is a blog series where I invite guest bloggers to share share their story.
I think stories are wonderful things, and we all have our own stories to tell.
It is my hope that in sharing these stories, we will remember that we are never alone.

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My first guest blogger is a friend I met through one of my blogs. She asked me not to reveal her name, so I shall leave it at that. Thank you so much for sharing your story. :)

I watched my family grow old in two-dimension. For the past ten years, they have made their home in a place of ice and snow and days that hardly end, while I stay in the limbo of Manila’s dusty and humid streets, occasionally drowning in an August waterworld. But distance does little to hide the years, even when I pretend that everything happened just yesterday. Wrinkles appear almost overnight, flattened by computer monitors. The frozen sunlight in a photograph glints off a strand of white hair. I begin to measure growth spurts in pixels.

ice caves

This life wasn’t entirely by choice; I aged out when my family flew. At first I was excited at the idea of living alone, something that I was never really allowed to entertain while my parents were still here, despite a six-month experiment that gave me a temporary cosmopolitan address but depleted my savings. Now suddenly I was getting everything for nothing. I could stay out as late as I wanted. I didn’t have to pay rent. I could have friends and guys over. I was working in a company where we drank mojitos in the middle of the day. I was traveling and crossing off countries on my bucket list. It was far from a hedonistic lifestyle — after all, I worked overtime and was paying off two insurance policies — but it felt all terribly grown-up to me, in the way that teenagers imagine grown-up life to be.

In those ten years, I would spend holidays with friends and relatives, even an ex-boyfriend’s family long after we had broken up. Desperate times. Christmases are worse. Finally, I had to admit: I was alone.

And I was lonely.

I realize that there is a space in your heart that no one but family can fill. It is the space reserved for Sunday breakfasts after church and dressing up in old nightgowns. It is the space reserved for shadow puppets during brownouts and arguments over TV programs. It is the space for eating arroz caldo when you’re sick and inventing secret languages and outrunning the traffic police on your last night together. It is the space for everything silly and bitter and happy and tragic that sees you from childhood to adulthood.

Sometimes I find myself in my grandmother’s house or in a train bound for new places, always feeling grateful that I have escaped the city. But in every return, I remember that I am alone. The house in Manila never feels smaller; there is, after all, only me in it.

It will be a few years again before I will see them — all of them. In that time, hairstyles would have changed, dress sizes would be different. Names and opinions and attitudes might not be the same. I’m always afraid that growing up — growing old — means growing apart and I wish I had just a little more time to know everyone better.

So tonight, if you are with your family, hug them. Kiss them and tell them that you are okay. Ask what you can do. Love them in simple doses, in grand gestures, in ways that are both tangible and immeasurable.

You are very lucky.

If you wish to be a guest blogger for my Stories to Tell feature, head over to this post to find out how. Looking forward to reading and sharing your stories! :)

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