When love is not visa-free
The airport is both a curse and a blessing.
Once a year, it brings me back my father. A month later, it grabs him back again. The arrival area is a witness to the annual public hug and kiss my parents exchange. Thirty-five days after my father’s arrival, I look away when I see my parents desperately embrace and lock lips as tears fall down my mother’s eyes.
I look away as they move apart, my father saying a few more reminders to us before never looking back. It will take a year before we see him again — a year filled with far too many jeepney rides, homeworks and dinners that he will miss just for some annual Duty Free trips, college matriculation and monthly bills.
This was why I promised myself I would never fall in love with someone who needs to go through an airport to see me.
I kept my promise, even when I saw you waiting for me outside that coffee shop. I kept it with me, as we strolled along the colorful streets of Hongdae after a hearty dinner when you even asked my permission to pay for the meal. I kept it with me, after too many soju shots and you ended up smiling and asking to sit next to me as you quietly held my hand. I kept my promise, as I told you that you had a life in Seoul when, after too many kisses, you said you would come to Manila to see me. I kept it with me while I was waiting for my flight in Incheon, never knowing if I’d ever see you again.
But somewhere along, I ditched my promise. One day, I just woke up before the neighbor’s rooster crowed, rode a Grab and went to the airport. It wasn’t Papa coming from Saudi Arabia. You were with your orange bag, the same one you had that you told me to look for on the day we agreed to meet outside the coffee shop.
Here we are now, more than a year later. Still there and here. We had been to three airports together before we decided to refrain from meeting each other in the arrival area, only to bring the other back to the departure area days after.
“We are just victims of plate tectonic movements,” you told me as we were sitting on a bench in a memorial park in Taipei. I was crying, dressed in winter attire. It was a heavy day, but I made sure I looked good. It was the coldest winter so far in the life of this tropical girl.
Despite our star-crossed story, I don’t consider myself unlucky. I have known and I have loved someone I met from a dating app the first time I went abroad. I have loved you in all the ways my Third-World citizenship could allow—despite the visa and the show money requirements needed to see you in Seoul, despite the slow internet connection which didn’t even allow me to hear some of the words you spoke when you broke up with me. I have loved you.
I was in college when they buried the infamous dictator in the pantheon of heroes and when they started killing far too many drug users who, according to them, definitely “fought back.” I joined the protests. I remember crying in disgust and pity for my forsaken country. Those days, nobody made my heart beat faster except school deadlines and Song Joong-ki. I remember asking God to give me someone who will not say that the drug war and the burial were okay.
And there you were, you knew about the thief’s wife and her shoe collection. It’s weird, but the way you spoke about it made me like you more, although I know I should be ashamed that a Korean handles the truth better than some Filipinos.
You told me, too, that you didn’t believe North Korea would ever give up its nuclear weapons, and how your friends think you are a conservative. Sometimes, we had different opinions, but I guess that was how we loved. Because despite the differences, we fought the distance with our willing ears that did nothing short of listening.
When I told you a part of me still hopes we find a way into each other’s lives again, I meant I want to be the kind of love you need. I meant I want to hug you after a long tiring day of too many articles. I meant nonvirtual study dates without needing to talk. I want to be someone you won’t have to lie to your parents about, a person your mother will prefer regardless of my brown skin and nationality.
The airports, the visa requirements and the plate tectonic movements are all against us for now. But for choosing to meet me halfway during our time together, thank you. I am learning, my love, to live in the present where you remain a wonderful, sometimes painful memory. I hope you still remember me when you hear some news about our very famous president. I have been to five airports now (thanks to connecting flights), where I landed not to see you but to see what else of the world is there after us.
When the time comes and you find your stories and baggage too much to keep to yourself, and think that you could share a thing or two with me again, please do so. I will try not to wait. You know where to find me anyway. I won’t make a list of skin-care items I want this time. I’ll even treat you to Mang Inasal, I promise.
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Luz Wendy Noble, 22, studied journalism at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She loves to travel alone and meet people and find things she could remember and smile about when she’s 75, if climate change won’t be rude enough to let her enjoy retirement.
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