I normally clock out from work, on average, at 1 in the morning, so I take the Night Owl to get back to my apartment. The people I work with usually ask us vehicle-less ones if we have a ride home, so when I first told them that I would just take the night bus, partly for the reason of simply knowing how to commute, the reactions this elicited made me quite a bit nervous.
“Are you sure?” our sous chef said.
“Do you have a number yet? Here’s mine. Let me know when you get home,” said another as he gave me his number.
“I’ll be fine,” I replied, before timidly adding, “I think”
How strange, I thought, I said I was taking the night bus, not walking through a field of landmines.
I made it to the bus stop safe and sound, without being harassed, and with all my body parts still intact. I was having a cigarette while waiting for the Night Owl to arrive, when I hear a woman’s voice shout
“Hey, do you have another cigarette?” the voice said.
When I turned to look, I saw that she was talking to me. Being new and all to the city, and still being almost painfully innocent, I gave her one (also because I was afraid of what would have happened if I said no).
The woman, who I then noticed had an unwashed-for-several-days look and an ankle cast, sat down beside me, tore off the cigarette’s filter in half, and lit that side up. This was when I knew that I had just acquainted myself with a, ummmm, peculiar person. In between coughing sounds that reminded me of a cat spitting up fur balls, she started talking to me, telling me about how they pushed her on the street, how they took her wallet, and how she didn’t have any money and a place to live in anymore.
Did they take it, too? I wanted to ask. Who are, well, they? Or is They a person’s name, your ex-boyfriend perhaps? And if They IS a person, I can understand him stealing your wallet, but how could They take away your house by pushing you and breaking your ankle? Can you tell me how, because that skill might come handy in time?
I stopped myself, of course, as no matter how hard I tried to make light of the whole situation in my head, I was scared. Aside from that one Holy Week in Bantayan when I put my hand in my pocket to check my phone only to find that it wasn’t there anymore, I had never been more afraid. I could definitely outrun her, of course, as the ankle cast she had on was sure to alter the use of her legs if ever there was to be any chasing involved, so just as the woman was telling me about how she would never go to the Salvation Army because, in her words, “that’s for crazy people”, I stood up to walk away.
As I turned, though, she actually had 2 male, er, friends/companions/cronies with her who were behind us the whole time! One was rather large, and the other rather skinny (Harry Potter reference). The small one started talking to me, too, asking me if I had any food and money to spare. “I’m not from here,” I said, and that seemed like a valid argument at that moment, but now that I think of it, so what? The small one must have thought the same, because he said, “Neither am I. I’m from New York”. Even though I wanted to ask him if the Big Apple really is as amazing Taylor Swift’s “Welcome To New York” song says it is, I bit my tongue, and hurriedly went on the bus, which arrived just in time.
The three characters that I had the misfortune of crossing paths with thankfully didn’t get on the bus, which led me to a bit of self-reflection on the ride home. Isn’t it unfortunate that even though you just want to be nice and friendly and honest, you can’t because others might not be? You end up keeping to yourself not because you’re a cold-hearted devil child, but because you want to keep away from harm. What bothered me even more, though, was when I wondered if those three really were genies in disguise. If I had given them food and money, would all of my wishes have come true? Or could they have been angels in disguise? But what if they were just who they really were, “atypical” people panhandling others for cigarettes, money, and food?
All my pseudo-intellectual thoughts were put to a halt as I got of my stop, where there was a man carrying a number of bags with him. “Excuse me, kind sir,” he calls out, “can you put these in my backpack?”
Fighting my desire to go and help, I said, “No English, No English” in the most foreign-sounding accent I could muster, and literally ran across the street to get to my apartment while wondering if “unlimited wishes” would have been a valid wish had one of the characters I came across been a enie.