i see you colourful.


there's a little girl who sits outside shoemart at harrison plaza, and she looks at me. she wants money, that much is clear. i don't know what her story is. maybe she sleeps on the street, maybe she has some family, and they don't care where she is or what she's doing. i know enough tagalog to ask, where is your mother? but i don't ask. her clothes and hair are dirty, and she dances in front of the store window. the security guards try to shoo her away, but eventually, they resign - it is what it is - and she gets to loiter all she wants.

my cousin, jojo, he tells me that he's sick of living in vietnam, and he won't return there. instead, he'll break his contract, pay the $2,000 fee, and try his luck flying planes for another airline, zest air. he says that his previous employer, cebu air, had horrible working conditions, and they weren't worth his time. a small child peeks into his tinted window, and jojo knocks once, a signal for the child to get lost. jojo just keeps going on and on about how saigon is no place to live. it's a place only for tourists.

jamie, she works in the ktv cellar bar at our hotel. she says she's 21, single, lives in quezon city. she said she used to model, but not anymore. i asked her why, but she didn't have an answer for me. she rides the jeepney to work, where she entertains guests like me from 5 p.m. - 1 a.m. when there are no guests like me available, she just sits there with the other girls, and they talk about things. i don't know what it is they talk about. she said she liked the rhianna song, "i like the way you lie," and that her dream was to go to boracay. together, we sang journey's "open arms," and her voice was better than mine.

there's a guy who works at the small gym in the hotel. he was here last year, and probably the year before that. he says, "hello, sir," and once, he asked me if i was on vacation. i think he wants someone to talk to english, but when i run, all i want to do is listen to music. he tilts the tv monitor so it faces his small table, and usually, he watches game shows. if he has to use the bathroom, he tells me he'll be right back. once, i forgot my water bottle, and he called my room to tell me that i'd forgotten it. when i picked it up, i tipped him 40 pesos, about a dollar.

another guy, he drives a tricycle. he's wearing a basketball jersey, faded shorts, and dusty sandals. he's got a bandaid on his cheek, and he asks me where we want to go. i tell him, pancake house. i hear him ask another tricyclist in tagalog where pancake house is, and that person gives him directions. he struggles with the pedaling. he is, after all, trying to transport two well-fed americans, a good 350 pounds combined. all around us, cars, jeepneys, and motorcycles are whizzing by, honking and blasting black smoke into the air. the heat is thick and sticks to your skin. you can smell the sewage, the food, the piss, the kalesas, yourself. when the ride is over, i ask him how much? he says ten pesos, i give him twenty.

i'm walking around, and it's just a normal day, nothing special about it. i think about the lyric from jonsi's "animal arithmetic": everyday, everywhere, people are so alive. it's not like that where i'm from. where i'm from, it's not like that at all.

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