I decided to spend the day touring around the city alone. I live here. I was born here. But I haven’t really taken the time to actually see it. In twenty years, this is the first time that I will roam around it. To go to the tourist spots that I’ve never been in to. Some of them I’ve been, once. But never returned.
I don’t know exactly what was it that doesn’t want me to come back. I don’t know why, despite what my friends told me, despite their and my parents’ invitation, I declined to go with them. And it’s only now that I have the interest and maybe the curiosity to actually go.
I’m not exactly the outgoing person as what you’d expect me to be when you see my family. My family is like fireworks. They have their individual shine, their own light and energy and when they all gather together, they’d be like a fireworks display, while I on the sidelines will just be laughing and reacting to whatever craziness they’re up to.
I’m into books and writing and being in solitude. I appreciate the silence while others don’t. I appreciate the walking around the campus alone because I can think to myself, while others feel awkward about it. I feel comfortable going to watch movies alone, while others don’t. I appreciate the grayness of the skies in some days, while others dread it because they don’t want to rain. And I love the rain and how it smells.
I bring my camera with me and instead of taking my car, I decide to take the bus instead. So that I could feel like a real tourist. I have no class today. My roommate decided to spend the day with her boyfriend who came to visit from another city. I’m sure they’d be using the room so, I’m induced to go without being asked.
I’m going to the zoo first.
I sit at the back of the bus and stare out the window. It could be a perfect movie moment if not for this middle aged man who sits beside me and smells like a dead rat. And alcohol. My nose cringe and I try to breathe slowly but I couldn’t help it. So I press my nose on my shoulder to not be so rude. I try to act cool. But this is nowhere near cool.
Thank goodness, the zoo!
I stand up right away and almost stumbled as I stomp my way toward the exit door. Good thing a guy caught me. ‘Careful.’ He says with a smile. ‘Thanks’ I reply and I turn towards the door waiting for the bus to stop for it to open. The bus finally stops and I get out immediately.
I buy my ticket and I enter the zoo. I feel like a five-year-old kid having her first trip to the zoo. Well, this is my first time. But I’m not five anymore. I take pictures. Of people. Of animals. I smile to myself as I see some kids grin as they see the elephant raises its trunk. It’s like it has given them an ultimate happiness. I take their pictures too. My wall would be so full of pictures of my today’s mini travel.
I go ahead to the aquarium. It’s an underground aquarium. I mean, it’s like a tunnel. You have to enter a tunnel like pathway and all around you will be the aquarium. You’d feel like you’re underwater. No flash while taking pictures so I put off my flash. I take pictures of the stingrays passing above me. And the smaller sharks. I call out Nemo right away, and excitedly, when I see a school of clown fish. I turn my head to the sides to see if anyone heard me and think I’m nuts. A twenty-year-old calling out Nemo. Ha-ha. Very immature.
The only one I see is this boy, giggling as he looks at me. He’s looking at the clown fishes too. And now he’s moved closer to me. ‘You like Nemo?’ he speaks funny because he’s missing a front tooth. I smile. ‘The movie? Yes. I loved it, even. How about you?’ ‘I don’t like Nemo. Nemo is a bad kid, my mom said.’ I lean down closer to him. ‘Why is Nemo a bad kid?’ I ask sounding curious. ‘Well, he never listens to his dad, he’s so stubborn that’s why he’s taken away by the divers.’
I lean my back against the aquarium. ‘He’s a bad kid at first, but he learned from it, didn’t he?’ I speak very gently. Like the tone everybody uses when speaking to a child. ‘He did. I still don’t like him, though.’ I smile. ‘I can’t force you on that.’ I pat his head lightly. ‘What’s your name?’ he asks. ‘Dani’ I say. I’m about to ask him his name too but he says something first, ‘I like Dory’ He says as he flashes his smile with a missing tooth. ‘Really’ I say. Then he points to a direction where my eyes immediately follow. ‘Dory is right there if you want to check it out.’ He pulls my hand and brings me to wherever Dory is. And then we stop. He points again. There they are a school of “Dorys”.
‘They’re so cute.’ I say as I watch them. I take a picture. ‘Can you take a picture of me and my uncle? He had no class today so he was asked to take me here. And we don’t really have a picture together and he’s like my big brother so…’ he looks at me with this big brown begging eyes. How could I say no? ‘Of course. Where’s your uncle?’ I say.
The kid turns his head, stretching it up as if he could see over the small crowd. ‘There he is’ he says as he pulls my hand again, dragging me through the crowd. He’s small so he doesn’t have to need much space passing through. While I, a full grown woman have to apologize whenever I hit someone on the shoulder.
When there’s no more crowd. I see the uncle he’s talking about. Based on his back. He’s about my age. In college too most probably because he said that his uncle has no class today. Which means we go to the same university because it’s only us who’s got a holiday because it’s our school’s foundation day and we celebrated the last three days and today’s a kind of a rest day for everyone and it’s a Thursday so…it’s most likely we go the same university. Just saying.
He’s standing by the smaller aquariums with his hands on his hips. He has a clean cut hair and wide shoulders. His head keeps turning form side to side as if looking for something. ‘Sebastian!’ the kid calls. The guy turns right away and looks at the kid with relief. ‘Gregory’ he says as he exhales deeply. ‘Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you. I was beginning to consider going to security.’ He kneels down on one knee with his hands on Gregory’s shoulders. He looks really worried.
‘I’m sorry, Seb. I just saw this pretty lady looking at Nemo.’ Gregory says and I immediately feel my cheeks blush. Pretty lady looking at Nemo. Who wouldn’t laugh. I wouldn’t. But Seb did. I saw him chuckle for a second. And then he looks at me as he stands up. ‘I’m sorry. He’s just really interested in pretty girls. In this young age…’ he chuckles again as he shakes his head.
‘I asked her to take our picture.’ Gregory says as he grabs the hem of his shirt. ‘You did what?’ Seb asks in a loud whisper looking at me and then back to Gregory as if already scolding him through his eyes. ‘I said we never have our picture taken. And she was taking pictures of fishes and I saw her take pictures of other people, too, before I went to her. I thought it be okay.’ Gregory’s high pitched voice was like a violin being played by someone new at playing violin. But he’s very adorable.
‘You shouldn’t have done that.’ Seb explains. ‘No. It’s okay.’ I interrupt. Finally, I spoke. I turn on my camera and nod my head again to Seb, reassuring him that it’s okay. He smiles back sheepishly as he positions him with Gregory in front with his hands on Gregory’s shoulders. I take three pictures and show it to them. Seb tells me that it’s okay if I delete it after. I say that it’s fine and that I could add this to my collection of my today’s trip.
‘So you’re a tourist? Where you from?’ he asks as we continue to walk around the zoo. ‘I’m not a tourist exactly. I’ve been living here for twenty years but it’s only now that I decide to visit these kinds of places.’ ‘Why’s that?’ ‘I don’t know. Maybe I’ve always thought that they’re always here so what’s the rush in going to all of them.’ I could feel his eyes on me but I don’t look back. ‘So what changed your mind and finally made you go here?’
I’m silent for a moment.