Two days before departure, I went out with a few friends and ended up in Y's house, playing truth poker (something like strip poker, only instead of taking off clothes, you have to tell the truth. It's harder than it sounds). Sometime around 2AM, the thrill faded and we sat there, absently shuffling the cards instead of dealing them out for another game. We began talking about everything and anything, ending up, absurdly, on the topics of relationships and sex and marriage. From there we went to Manila and independence, and Y turned to me and said Days in Manila are so unpredictable.
PA, our other friend, looked slightly puzzled; he moved to KL when he was 11 and has been back to Manila infrequently since then. Is it so different, he asked, from KL?
Y and I shared a glance and laughed. KL is to Manila as a carousel is to a rollercoaster, I said. The days here travel on smooth wheels; you know when to get on and when to get off. In Manila you hop on, buckle up and clench your teeth, and hope to God that the day takes you where you need to go.
And then - hours before departure - C and I got into a fight. Back and forth, back and forth we went, until finally we both collapsed on her bed in the middle of the clothes she'd set out for packing. I don't belong anywhere, she told me, as we lay there, tired and frustrated. I feel as if I have to change every time we go somewhere new, just so that I don't stick out so much, and it doesn't even help because I don't fit in anymore.
You fit in with me, I said, and it felt clumsy, as if I were reaching out in the dark and were hitting rocks instead of her hand. I fit in with you. If you shut me out, or if I shut you out, then we're both screwed. Who are you going to be real with, if not with me? And who can I be absolutely real with, if not with you?
I'm so tired of changing, she murmured. But what scares me the most is not the changing; it's - if I *don't* change, if I stay my real self, what do I do if people don't like me?
- - -
So far, it feels like I'm dancing a cotillion two beats behind time - swaying to the right while everyone else is swaying to the left, taking an extra step to find my place when everyone else has settled into theirs. I want to dilate time, to stretch the moments so that I have my few extra seconds to move back into place, to get used to the beat.
On the other hand, I could dilate time until it stretched a million years, and I am afraid I would always be two beats behind.