There were far too many unnecessary queues in the new Iloilo airport and my back was aching at having to lug my laptop and travel stuff in one huge knapstack. I had gone out last night for a few drinks with a friend (who was also the organizer of the forum I spoke at) and got home really late with only a few hours of sleep before my early morning flight. My head was hurting a little.
These are explanations, but not justifications, for how I behaved to the teenage boy beside me. He was your typical gangly pimply-faced adolescent. You usually can recognize the first-time flyers by how intently they watch the “what to do in case of an emergency” video. This guy seemed to hang on to every word of the video, his eyes squinting fixedly at the screen. He was lugging with him a medium-sized violin. Aaah, contestant in a musical contest, I thought. Out of Iloilo for the first time. Hoping to bag that gold medal in some inter-school event, the fruit of many afternoons and weekends spent practicing. After helping him attach his seatbelt for he seemed not to know how to tighten his, I drifted off to sleep in my window seat.
Suddenly, I felt a shadow over my face. Like a hand. It didn’t hit me or anything. But you know how you know when something is hovering over your face, even if you’re half-asleep? It was kind of like that. I woke up and saw his arm over my face, trying to take pictures of the clouds outside the window. “Sorry,” he said, when he saw that he woke me up. I didn’t reply, and tried to return to my slumber. Then I felt the arm again, and then one more time, and then another, for a grand total of six pictures of clouds that looked exactly alike as far as I was concerned.
“Ilan pa ba ang kukunin mong litrato? Kasi hindi ako makatulog eh,” I said bluntly, my tongue getting the better of me. I was too sleepy to craft a nicer way of putting it.
His face turned beet-red and he put his camera away, mumbling an apology. I thought for a moment of saying something more, something to make him feel less chastened, but instead I slid down my seat in silence and buried myself in my knit cardigan, too drowsy to give a second glance at the high school kid and his worn, early-model camera.
When I woke up several minutes later, I looked out of the window just in time to see a distinct rainbow peeking from behind cottonball clouds. It was faint but unmistakable — seven or so different colors forming a perfect arch. I looked at the boy beside me to see if he saw it too. Everything about him told me that he did. His eyes were gleaming, his mouth half-ajar and his hands were clutching tightly at the camera. The childlike quality of his amazement was heart-rending. He was amazed at the thought that he was beside a rainbow and not staring at it from far below. Then, his glances darted from the rainbow to me, too shy to ask if he could take one measly picture or whip the camera out and just point and shoot.
And then comes the part that I will never forgive myself for. The part that makes me believe that I am one big black hole of pure evil. I emitted a yawn that was louder-than-necessary and then hunched back to sleep, knowing full well that the boy would never be able to work up the nerve to take the picture of the rainbow. A young boy was denied a simple joy by an evil woman with a hangover (for which, by the way, she only has herself to blame) and a nasty tongue.
I write this entry on the .000000000001 % chance that the boy will read this. If you do, know that I am sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I am. I wish you well in your musical competition in Manila; I wish you well in your music and your passions. I wish you a lifetime of constant and happy travels, window seats, and rainbows upon rainbows forevermore. And if the universe does not listen to prayers from mean and crabby crones, then I ask it to make an exception just this once and just for today.