There it is again; the sun extending its light, illuminating everything within the vicinity, windless heat accompanying it. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn a long-sleeved shirt. But it’s hard to determine the autumn sky’s mood with each passing day. Sometimes it would sweep the roads with
It’s noon after my only class at university today. I see tents placed over the stretch of grass on the path adjacent to my classroom, and I can sense they’re gradually filling with visitors. It might be nice to participate and probably socialise with people I haven’t met before, but I don’t. It’s not that I look down on people, it’s that they might look down on me.
But the times I spend by myself are the most relaxing moments of my day. I don’t have the difficulty of translating my words verbally, or keeping up with the accents of the people around me. Lately, I’ve been taking leisure in my alone time, without someone interfering in the pleasure of my self-pondering. Although maybe it’s actually bad, I think, that I willingly immerse myself in self-reflection without trying to look at what’s beyond the mirror; the world in which I exist.
Anyway, these thoughts circulate around my head as I stand under the bus shelter. I soon greet the driver, tap my MetroCard, and find an empty seat. I always try to find an empty seat whenever I get on a bus. Again, it’s not that I want to be alone, I just enjoy sitting by the window. I have the chance to look, through the bus’s thick glass panes, at the city that’s still alien to me. The buildings I pass by, with all their stories to tell, cannot speak to me in a way I would understand. The unexplored streets would not greet me as they lovingly do for locals.
Funny enough though, I feel as if the bus itself has become part of my home. In any place,
It might sound like a really big inconvenience, especially compared to Adelaide’s empty and air-conditioned buses, but commuting is an integral part of the regular Filipino. Everyone expects to be troubled by the tiring, sweaty and often disgusting commuting life. But you learn the nitty-gritty of time management, how to take seats in morally questionable ways, and to endure standing or sitting awkwardly for hours on end. I also got to know more of the world beyond my home, without ever really leaving it.
After my family and I moved to Australia, a friend told us that travelling by car is the way most people get around here. Buses follow a route and timetable after all. Yet I still feel like I get to know this world more and more with every bus ride. There are people caught up in conversations on their phones, parents fitting their kids into strollers, and passengers on their weekly trip to the supermarket. Sometimes they would talk to each other, in a way that still intimidates me (I don’t understand why most of the people seem like they’re shouting at each other – though
In some ways, my emigration feels like a very long commuting trip. I hope to go back to my country someday, but for now, I’ll take my time and enjoy the scenery, and bask in the sporadicity of autumn’s sky. It’s the third season since I started riding a bus to university, yet no matter how cold or hot the weather can possibly get, I never tire of commuting. The bus tells me the stories of the houses along its route, acquaints me with the city’s faces and, slowly and gently, brings me closer to this place; to home.
Words by Eugene Tabios
This piece was originally published in Edition 28