You can meet a lot of people in public markets, but you can be too preoccupied to even notice them. You might encounter a number of strangers in a jampacked bus, but you can barely see their faces. You can be seated inside a jeepney with more than a dozen other people, but the noise, heat, and pollution are a big distraction. It is only in the MRT that you can read people’s faces and know their stories.
* * *
I saw you on a Monday. You were dressed just like me and the many other commuters patiently waiting for the next train to arrive. I was in my usual office dress. You were in a high-waist, semi-formal, black skirt paired with a white blouse and stilettos. You were about to put on a blush when the train arrived, unloading a bunch of people pushing each other out and running toward the escalators as fast as they could.
You looked cool to me, until you cursed out loud after a man in his 40s wearing a T-shirt and jeans accidentally bumped you on his way out. You were blocking the train’s door. You were rushing in while people were still alighting, and then you cursed. You were a young professional, an educated lady in my eyes at first, until I heard you cursing.
We got on the train, and luckily found seats.
* * *
I saw you on a Tuesday. You were the only man seated in that part of the train. I remembered how my Tang (that was how I called my grandfather) looked when he was still alive, and he looked like you: tall, wrinkled, gray haired. A fond smile crept into my face as memories of Tang flashed in my mind.
Then people came in and out, rushing as soon as the train’s door opened at the station. I was amazed that you stood up to give your seat to a woman with a child. You were elderly but still managed to be a gentleman. Or so I thought.
I was about to salute you for what you did, but then I saw you peeking at a young lady’s breast with a smirk on your face. Peeking might have been tolerable, but then you started rubbing your privates against her behind.
You are not like my grandfather after all. You are not even close to being a gentleman.
The lady alighted in the next station.
* * *
I saw you on a Wednesday. You were not like any of us seated in the forward coach. Your hair was way shorter, your moves way manlier than a man’s. You were not lucky enough to find a seat.
Then the guard started inspecting inside the train. He gave you a second, a third, and a fourth look. Finally he told you that that part of the train was just for women, children and the elderly.
You said, “Excuse me,” with the softest female voice, held your chin up, pulled your stomach in and thrust your chest forward. And the guard left, embarrassed.
I found it funny how you could instantly put your feminine side on display inside the train and how hard you tried to mask it again when you got off.
* * *
I saw you on a Thursday. You were carrying your baby. It seemed like you had not eaten for days. Your hair was messy. Your clothes were torn in parts. Your baby was crying out loud.
I offered you my seat so that you would be more comfortable, but you refused to take it. I wondered why.
Then I saw you approaching every passenger there, begging for money as the baby cried out louder and louder each time. Some passengers looked away. Others gave you a coin or two. Still others became irritated when you poked them repeatedly to ask for alms.
Your strategy puzzled me. You paid for the fare when you could have used the money to buy food. You used your child to elicit sympathy although you could have gone begging alone.
I gave you a coin.
* * *
I saw you on a Friday. You were among the blank faces inside the train. Your maternity dress suited you well. You were going to be a pretty mom, I thought.
Then you started rubbing your tummy slowly. As you touched it downwards, I was amazed by its size and shape. The wonders of being a woman, of being a mother, flashed in front of me. You must be excited and happy, I said to myself.
Then I saw tears rolling down your cheeks. All of a sudden, you were crying.
A little boy gave you his hanky.
* * *
I saw you on a Saturday.
You were fully made up and wearing a lacy sleeveless top, short shorts and red shoes. Your hair was curled and styled. You were chatting with someone on your iPhone. You were the only one talking so loud inside the train. You were the only one laughing so hard. Everyone else was either sleepy or staring blankly somewhere.
We all alighted at the last stop, and you were still talking with someone. When we reached the exit, you were in panic. You couldn’t find your ticket—and your wallet. Between your laughter and noisy chit-chat, someone must have found the opportunity to divest you of your purse.
We passed by you as you began to cry.
* * *
I wish someone will see me and try to know me, too. But I am not riding a train on a Sunday.
Ma. Erika Oliveanne P. Castillejo, 21, is a marketing communications specialist at Emerson Electric Asia Ltd. ROHQ.
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