An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

13 May 2011


When I was about eleven and twelve, I would spend most of my summers in in house of Papa Herbie and Tita Norma, and my cousins Trina, IC, and Manoy Bim, in Legazpi City. During one of those summers, Trina taught me how to ride a bicycle.

We looked like a rather funny couple of kids. I was tall and lanky and quiet, and Trina was small and loud and she was all over the place. At first we stayed inside her subdivision, De La Paz, and I fell into so many bushes and flower pots, it was a wonder none of their neighbors ever complained. Some evenings we would visit some of her classmates who lived nearby, and we would lie down side by side on the driveway identifying the constellations. We would wake up late in the morning, have a lazy breakfast and watch something on TV or go back to bed to read, and then later on in the afternoon, when it wasn’t so hot anymore, we would go out again in her orange bicycle and make another round of mess along the streets of De La Paz, with Trina hanging on to the seat, running a little behind me, shouting, “Keep going! Keep going! I’m right behind you!”

I kept falling, of course. My legs would be bruised and scratched at the end of the day, even when I wore pants; my arms, too, got those same bruises and scratches. There were many a fall, from many angles and in many spots, and that happened each and every day, and I felt so frustrated that I wanted to quit already. But all the while, Trina just kept hanging on to the seat and running alongside me, would keep saying in her very loud voice, “Just keep going! I’m right behind you!” At some point, she decided I was good enough to practice at the Legazpi airport, which didn’t host any flights after lunch. (Such were the eighties in Bicol), and so I didn’t get as much scratches from shrubs and flower pots at the end of the day then. But still I kept falling, and I wanted to quit so many times, but Trina just kept encouraging me, saying I could do it. She was a pillar of patience and consistency in her running a little behind me, holding on to the seat and shouting, “Keep going! I’m right behind you!”

I don’t remember anymore at what point I got the hang of it, but one afternoon, I felt myself going smoother and faster on the bicycle, and my arms were steady, and it felt like I was going too fast for her, so I looked back, and I saw that I was alone, and that I have been riding the bicycle all by myself for about twenty meters already without knowing it. I could see Trina far behind me, looking small in the distance, but still jumping up and down, and because she really has this very loud voice, I could still hear her shouting, “Keep going! I’m right behind you!”

Of course at that very moment, I fell. But it was the last time I ever fell off a bicycle.

That small, loud girl, who will always loom large in my life as the girl who taught me how to ride a bicycle, got married last May 7, to a man who loves her to bits and who I suspect could not last a day without her, and Trina and I hugged each other and laughed and cried, and I couldn’t even say anything more than, “Please be happy, prima.”

But she’s not just the girl who taught me how to ride a bicycle. In my life, she has been many other things to me as well. Landlady, sugar mommy, shopping buddy, lavandera, fellow wallpaper expert, fellow notebook maker, fellow laitera of local celebrities, Sunday morning breakfast maker, late dinner cook, saver of my ass, maker of beds and fluffer of the pillows that I used during the times when I spent the night on her couch. And more, much more than I could name, much more than I could express. That’s why I was speechless at her wedding. At the reception I wanted to take the microphone and tell this story, but I couldn’t summon the gumption to do it without crying.

So here it is, a little late, but I’m sure she will understand. Be happy, prima, and just keep going. I am right behind you.

[Image credits: 1, 2]