by Shaina Marrie Dayon
there, by the hallway, a little girl stood.
forlornly, she paced—the wind stinging her eyes. or so she told herself. her trolley bag sat by their classroom doorway, waiting for her to calm down. her teacher’s voice wafted from inside the classroom where she’s knee-deep in a tutoring session. the little girl’s classmates have all gone home, probably already watching some afternoon cartoons after having their snacks. she hated being alone, especially with no warning. her dad was supposed to pick her up, she wondered why he wasn’t there yet.
this has never happened before.
it’s a surprise no tear has fallen down her cheeks yet, but she was certain the quick pounding of her fist-sized heart echoed across campus. a gray blanket of clouds now shrouded the atmosphere, the rain almost falling but was afraid of breaking her down further.
there, to her right, her dad finally comes striding.
at this point, she was just relieved. her dad took her in his arms and carried her out of the school, murmuring apologies in her ear. she was safe now.
but where were they headed?
they lived only some few hundred meters across school, why would they need to hail a traysikad?
there, in a squatter unfamiliar to her, they navigated the winding alleyways small enough to fit two people at a time.
her dad had been moving their stuff all the way across the city—they’d moved houses. it was a patchwork of plywood and hollow blocks. confusion knotted her eyebrows. why did they have to move?
she was too young to understand, then, but she accepted it nonetheless. the house opened to a conjoined dining room and kitchen, with a packed-dirt flooring. the single light bulb hanging from the low ceiling barely lit what small space it covered. the living room, at least, had a smooth cement floor. their couch set sat awkwardly beside a bamboo couch that groaned under her weight.
separating the living room from the bedroom was a large slab of wood, covered with a measly curtain. in the bedroom, natural light flooded through a poorly constructed tin window, held up by a thick leg of bamboo.
it was less comfortable of a home than the house she slept in the other night, but it was home nonetheless.
there, they had lived for less than a year.
for months, she’d had to go out of the house every time she needed the bathroom. a small comfort room stood just a little ways away from the house, and sometimes she’d find the company of a frog or two when she would go to shower.
that was only one of the many houses she’s had to live in throughout her life. as a child, it did not matter much for as long as her family was together.
but now, she wonders how—as a child—she managed to live so freely and easily when the possibility of them losing a roof over their heads caught on their tails every now and then? she wonders how she has managed to survive the days when all they had on their plates was a fragile pile of promises, exceedingly sprinkled with uncertainty?
she wonders now if, as a child, she was merely naive or perhaps just much stronger than she is now.
perhaps it’s the latter. she likes to believe that even now, that little girl still stands by her side all the time. holding her hand, as if that small piece of comfort could stop her from sobbing herself to sleep. in a way, it does help. for a fleeting moment, she smiles to herself —albeit a little more than blue.