Tea for Sympathy

CTRL-ALT-DEL. Enter. Four strokes on the keyboard and a photograph taken a while back stared at me. I wistfully thought of those people in the picture and where they could be now as I stood up, gathered and stuffed my things – keys, phones, IPod, USB, and a battered copy of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood – to my black Nike messenger bag.

I raised my bag’s handle above my head and let it drop across my shoulders. I thought then outrightly dismissed turning off the lights and air conditioning. I scanned the room for one last time, took a sip of water from my tumbler, and badged my way out of the office.

It was close to 9pm when I stepped out of the building, where I and 7 other teammates are temporarily holding office for the week, and was surprised that the street was almost deserted. The guard manning the building was not at the entrance. The stores, which were teeming with people a few hours earlier, were closed.

I found it disconcerting that though my current and previous offices were just 3 blocks from each other the change was palpable. There were no cars and buses honking or building tenants burning their lungs or boyfriends or girlfriends waiting for their significant others. There was no sign of life. Cars that were usually parked along the sidewalk were gone. Sodium lights that lit up the street were non-existent.

I turned left and slowly walked to where my ride was. Ahead of me were two girls with backpacks. They were freshly out of the shower for I could smell, from a few feet away, the shampoo they used. They must have just worked out at a nearby gym and were now probably going to grab a quick dinner before going their separate ways.

I could see two policemen having a smoke at the corner. Lest I be mistaken for a stalker, although I don’t look like one, I hurriedly crossed the street. I could feel the ball of my right foot slightly hurting. It has not completed healed after spraining my ankle a couple of weeks back and seventeen medications later.

I could now see a Jollibee branch in the distance. Signs of life at last. A young kid, wearing an oversized blue shirt, was tugging at a hooded guy walking in the same direction as I was. He was obviously begging for money. The guy shook his head. The kid gave up and held his position waiting for me to limp by him. I quickened my pace and as I passed by him and before he could open his mouth I shook my head. He bowed his. Crestfallen.

I turned right in the corner where I usually get my ride home. While stuck in traffic because of a weirdly effective second U-Turn overpass that was being constructedand Nina Simone crooning Ne Me Quitte Pas on my headset I let my mind wander from one thought to another until it settled on the blue-shirted kid.

As usual I regretted not giving him some of the money I had in in my pocket – a 1 peso coin, four 5-peso coins, and a 100-peso bill. People I know and even signboards have been discouraging me not to give alms but something is just not quite right about what I did and have been doing for years.

Ano nga ba talaga ang tama?

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