— Albert Einstein (via archivalproject)
Every relative (the older ones) I’ve met thus far has asked if I remember them. They all knew me as a little kid and most have some story to share about when I lived here with my parents.
I asked one of my brothers if he remembered anything as a kid here, but his only memory was being chased by “our dog.” I don’t even remember the dog.
Not that I don’t have memories of when I used to live here, but they’re mostly just random images and scenes. I remember seeing a box of Cap’n Crunch on the kitchen table. I remember coloring on the wall with Crayola crayons. And I remember falling down the stairs of my grandfather’s house, but not if I got hurt. I’m almost positive it was his house, but when I went to visit him my second week here, as I walked down those stairs, I wasn’t so sure.
I was hoping to see if anything or anyone was the slightest bit familiar, but it’s all strange and new to me. When I tell relatives that I don’t remember them, I think some look sort of disappointed, as if somehow they didn’t matter enough for me to have some memory of them. They’ll tell me a story of when they used to watch me or play with me, and I just stare blankly at them, nodding quietly.
It’s an odd experience to say the least, for someone to have some knowledge of you, or an experience with you, that you have no real recollection of, as if it was a dream.
And there have been moments recently that have brought up childhood memories, though not specific to the Philippines, but of just being a kid in general. I was walking by a toy store that sold collectibles and vintage toys, and I saw He-Man and Skeletor action figures. My uncle, my dad’s youngest brother, was with me, and I told him I used to play with them as a kid back home in Los Angeles. He said he remembered me liking the cartoon.
As I get to know my relatives, stories spring up of a childhood here that aren’t really mine, at least not yet. Whenever I’m around them, they talk not just about what they remember of me and my little brothers, but my parents as well. It’s strange to think about the idea of my parents existing before I or my siblings were ever in the picture, but I think discovering all of this is something I was hoping to find when I decided to leave California.
I didn’t set out for running to be such an important part of my life, and I’m amazed at how much I enjoy pounding the pavement, but there you go I guess.
Back home in Los Angeles, I would run around the Silver Lake reservoir at 2 or 3 in the morning. It was just something I would do when I couldn’t sleep—I’m a notorious insomniac, and have been since high school. There was something pretty special about running that path, completely alone, with nothing but the sound of my breath and my feet hitting the dirt.
I suppose any number of really horrible things could’ve happened to me running alone in the middle of the night; the area around the reservoir, though a residential neighborhood, was always pretty quiet. I once heard about a gang of roving youths who targeted lone joggers, mugging them and beating them to a pulp. I obviously never encountered said youths, and for some ridiculous reason, I always thought I could outrun any possible assailant.
Actually, not once did I ever see anyone else on these late night runs. It was always just me and the ground ahead.
I was worried that in the process of moving to a different country, my running schedule would be disrupted, but give or take a few days off, I managed to stick to running every other day. My first week here in the PH, staying at my cousin’s house, I ran around her block repeatedly, with street dogs in tow barking at my heels. When I moved into my apartment building, I discovered the small gym on the 5th floor with two treadmills, but as I suspected, I hated using them. I felt like a hamster staring at a wall.
So now I get up at 5 a.m. on my running days and run around my block, dodging call center workers on break and the occasional taxi cab that finds its way in my path. There have been a couple of close calls, but I remain unscathed. Lately, I’ve been focusing on getting my 5k time way below 30:00 by following an interval training plan, and at this point I know my body can do it, but I like the structure of the plan. I like seeing my progress bar go up. It’s like a little video game in my head. My friend Marsha says that if I slowly increase my distance, not worrying about how fast I can do it, that eventually my time will just decrease on its own.
And as I do all of that, though I do have particular goals of running certain times and running farther than 5k, I think I have other things in mind for why I run, other goals that have nothing to do with how far and how fast I can run. Maybe I’m running after something, trying to close the distance between me and it, or running to spend a little time with myself. I do know that in all the craziness and uncertainty of these last few weeks, putting on my running shoes and heading out the door to run has kept my head clear and my heart at ease.
Watercolor, ink, oil, charcoal and pencil on paper