Crossing the Street
One of life's most difficult endeavors is crossing a street in Metro Manila. Vehicles don't stop for hapless pedestrians.
Traffic signs seem more like suggestions than regulations. To cross successfully without minor mishaps (sudden skipping of heart, stubbing a toe, straining a leg muscle, and holding one's breath) is a prized achievement, not unlike completing an obstacle race or getting out of a maze after hours of dead ends.
My one wish, which will never be fulfilled in my lifetime, is to be exempted from ever crossing a street. But truth is, an ordinary mortal with no access to private transportation every single day needs to cross a few.
There was that one day which I keep wishing would come again:
I was all set to cross: bag clutched and strap positioned over the shoulder, shoelaces tied, eyeglasses in place, ears perked-up for motorcycle noise, and mind psyched-up for a death-defying stunt.
Just before I could take my first step, a hand gasped my arm tightly and onto my ear I heard a voice, “Are you crossing the street? Please, let me cross with you.”
I looked at the source of the voice. It was a gray-haired woman, older than I am—by maybe a day or two. She gave me that panicky half smile which mirrored me.
A dozen earthquakes couldn't have shaken her off my arm. She hung on to me like ten leeches in one.
Suddenly, we both heard a loud whistle. And all the vehicles stopped, reminiscent of the parting of the red sea. I saw Moses dressed like a barangay tanod (neighborhood watchman) who hurriedly came to us, guiding us through the pedestrian lane.
In seconds we were across the street, unscathed.
I was ready to bow at his feet but he disappeared in the crowd. The leech of a woman freed me, heaved a big sigh of relief, and grinned, “Thank you.” Then she, too, disappeared in the crowd.