So today, partly because I couldn’t get a cab and partly because I felt strangely compelled, I walked all the way home from the Ortigas MRT station. It was a good 90 minute walk, and given that I don’t exactly stroll, the distance was considerable.
It was made longer by the fact that Metro Manila, by and large, is not a pedestrian’s metropolis. Sidewalks are crumbling and uneven; streetlights are dim to non-existent. And everywhere, of course, are the noise and fumes.
All that aside, it felt oddly good to use my feet in that wearisome way—and reminiscent of younger years spent tramping the world’s cities (Alexandria, Amsterdam, Athens, Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Brunei, Dublin, Edinburgh, Hanoi, Helsinki, Istanbul, Jakarta, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Lhasa, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Mali, New York, Oslo, Paris, Phnom Penh, Pokhara, Prague, Seoul, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Taiwan, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Vientiane…). For that hour and a half, as I trudged among office workers, between crawling vans, up trolley ramps, down subway steps, over broken pavements and under scraggly trees, it felt less like walking through the metropolis than walking through a dream.
The thing is, anyone who’s ever walked a really long way knows that, at some point, the landscape disappears, all landmarks blur, and all that’s left is the necessity of putting one foot before the other. Then walking becomes the thing itself, ceases to be the mere traversal of space, and unites us with the primal and collective memory of journeys without end. In this way, all cities become the same city and all terrains the same terrain. The mind wanders then falls asleep; the heart cowers and longs for home.
I was dazed and disoriented by the time I reached my doorstep—and only vaguely aware of how much time had passed.
At least I don’t have to worry about insomnia tonight.