She slid into the cool interiors of his taxi cab and mumbled directions to her destination. They locked glances for a while in the front mirror. His eyes were weathered and gentle and wise, with laugh lines at the corners. The eyes of a fifty maybe fifty five year old man who had discovered that the secrets of the world were much simpler than we thought: give freely, love truly, live fully. She wondered fleetingly what he read in her eyes, and whether or not he managed to see through the polite but distant smile she reserved for strangers she would never see again.
Out of the window she looked, watching cars whirring past, watching other people’s lives unfold under cover of darkness, imagining the secrets their hearts held: the balot vendor, the young couple, the sales lady, the police man. Suddenly, and without warning, she found herself crying. There was no reason for it, but on the other hand, there was a whole universe of reasons. Health concerns, money issues, personal struggles, and the debilitating loneliness of suddenly not having anyone to talk to about all these. The friend who used to only be a text away moved from UP Village to Eastwood, a change she has yet to get accustomed to. The boy who always could make her feel better had gone away too — there was always some database project to complete, some negotiation to broker, some important person to meet.
“Tahan na,” said the taxi driver, speaking as a father speaks to his daughter.
They arrived at their destination, the front gate of her house. She pulled out her wallet, ready to count her bills.
He smiled at her and asked, “Anong paborito mong pagkain?”
“Spam,” she answered, almost involuntarily, blurting out the first favorite food that came to mind.
“Bili ka ng spam,” he said, gently, almost teasingly, giving back the P100 she gave him. “Wag ka nang malungkot. Naalala ko sa iyo anak ko.”
“Salamat po.” And she cried again.
This is a true story.