There’s nothing wrong with going outside late at night to seek the source of a gaseous honking noise.

That title is from an ongoing correspondence between Claudia Day and Stacey Levine. Which reminds me, I need to go to the post office.

I have never lived outside of a city, so I find it particularly unsettling when my ears are only met by non-urban white noise. I can’t hear a bird chirping without expecting that sound to get cut by a car horn or a neighbor’s doorbell. I have never had to walk more than a couple of blocks to access public transport.

But the life I’ve led to this day, in Manila, greatly resembles the settled and stable cliches that come with rural residence. I’ve always had my own room in a house I didn’t have to pay any rent for, but always felt the burden of earning my keep in by living under someone else’s rules. The rules in this case are simple: keep each other company. Anyone growing up in or who grew up in a Filipino household would be familiar with the seemingly innocuous traditions that accompany Filipino family ties. When my dad first moved out, his phone calls would be punctuated with the usual questions, like “Have you had lunch?” even if it was already close to dinner time. Or “Where’s your sister?” or “Where are you going?”

These were traditions that never sat well with me. I had trouble caring about these little details of my day, like lunch, or what time I’d get home, or how much homework I had to finish; and so I had trouble talking. And yet I can’t bring myself to permanently release myself from whatever burden they ultimately represent. My parents separated when I was 6, and early on, both began showing signs of codependency. My sister told me about going to see A Pornographic Affair with my Mom when she was in high school, and how it wasn’t until much later that she realized how awkward that must have (or should have) been, and how this awkwardness could have easily been avoided had my mom just gone to see that movie with friends. But my own childhood is peppered with these incidents of having to talk our way past whoever was manning the front at these film fests and plays, trying to convince them that I was 18 or that PG was fine so long as there was a parent (which is true anyway). Still, A Pornographic Affair, among many many other films.

And while I have my mom to thank for the access to culture, I can’t help but think now why on earth…and this adds up to the aforementioned conclusions about codependency and other things that make me sad about family and my own choices to prioritize time with myself or with friends, even if those friends happen to be across an ocean. The thing about this is it teaches you to strike that balance between mobility and settling. It’s easy to accumulate impractical collections when you’re so firmly rooted in your ties with your home or with your family. This is neither a good or a bad thing. I guess all I’m saying is you learn about what works from watching people, but you can’t remove watching people from the equation, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

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