Macarthur blues daydreaming methods

I was at work when I was reminded again of the shakiness of reality: the NDRRMC kept sending SMS to my inbox. Red Rainfall Alert for Metro Manila and Rizal. Orange Rainfall Alert for Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga, and Bulacan. It meant that there were forces swaying independently of me and they could blow me away like a leaf. I was so used to controlling images and emotions inside my head that I often felt fantastically removed from the physical environment.

But I, a worker at the mercy of unidentifiable forces, was like Olga’s father in Kafka’s The Castle: I was at the center of an uninhabited artic landscape waiting for the carriage of the castle officials to pass by. But it never arrived. The faceless and nameless capitalists abroad. So I remained where I was, patient and quiet, snug inside a corporate building, clicking the tools of the information economy, paralyzed in my seat, connected to a broadcast server like a vegetative person attached to a wheezing machine.

Every now and then I pick nuggets of nihilism in world news; I would relish them as my dark philosophical fetish. For an instance, something interesting happened in the United States, the most talked about topic of the day. An airline mechanic hijacked an empty passenger plane and performed aerial acrobatics across the skies of Seattle. The plane was tailed by two fighter jets until it crashed into an island and burst into flames.

I bought a sausage bread and coffee at 7-Eleven before boarding a bus in Shaw Boulevard around 9:30PM. The vehicle was packed. Exchange of texts with my mother. Ingat. Baha sa MacArthur. Ok. Pauwi na. An aunt clocked out of her work and was waiting for me in Meycauayan. After fifteen minutes, a man directed me to a vacated seat at the back. I settled myself, earphones plugged in, A Perfect Circle songs on repeat. Ate my food. Opened a poetry app. There was a poem by Robert Pinsky that I liked. “ Shirt”… The back, the yoke, the yardage… Lapped seams…The nearly invisible stitches along the collar…Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians…

When the bus deposited us at Malanday, I found myself among a throng of people waiting for jeepneys. No jeepney driver in his right mind would ever attempt to cross the flood. A car pulled over in front of me, window rolled down. Soon four or five of us gathered before the car, a chariot from heaven. He offered to transport us from there to Meycauayan, 50 pesos per head. Local rap songs were banging inside the car. Hands on the steering wheel, tattoos peeping from his shirt cuffs. Three of us piled into the backseat. I was sandwiched between a girl in office uniform and an old man. After a few minutes, the flood came in sight. He decided he couldn’t do it. We got off the car.

I waved my arms to get the attention of two men riding on a semi-trailer truck. One of them knocked on the window of the driver and the vehicle stopped. Two females, one visibly pregnant, went along with me. They were wearing their respective office uniforms. The men helped us climb the truck. We balanced ourselves on a wobbly metal platform connecting a giant container to the tractor unit. The container had the word CAUTION plastered on it. I steadied myself by placing my hands against the window of the driver’s compartment. Inches away from me was a knot of thick hoses with hot fumes emanating from them. Would I die of electric shock or gas poisoning? Would the panel we were standing on give way? The possibility of death was strong that moment; funny, there was no deep sentimentality in me, just a quiet anticipation of pain.