Alone | Inquirer News


/ 06:43 AM June 30, 2013

The first time he was alone, he was only a little child trailing after his mother through a crowded department store. It was Christmas season. It was a sea of people they had to plough through. He did not know this sea could be deep and fearful until he lost hold of the hand. And then he felt himself lost as if to drown. And for the first time in his life he was truly alone, more alone than he had ever been. Perhaps more alone than he ever could be.

He was struck at first by an overwhelming feeling of fear. He did not know where to go. He had no references at all to anything even slightly familiar. No stars to guide him. No sense of where the sun or moon was. There was only the noise and cacophony of Christmas jingles flying through the air through and between a senseless explosion of colored lights.

The rush of people seemed blind to him. And his mother was nowhere among them. She could be anywhere at all. She might have gone home without him. He felt a sense of betrayal, a sense of losing trust, a sense of being abandoned. It was a feeling which for him was so strange, he thought all this must be a dream. He prayed to wake up soon. And then he cried.


It was only a slight whimper at first. But soon it grew and exploded from inside him, a loud unmitigated scream as big as his little body could produce. Only then did they begin to notice this little child crying, obviously lost. A voice told him to calm down. It held his hand and brought him to the guard standing near the doorway. It was there that he found his mother. She was smiling down at him.


And he felt for a moment a deep seated hatred which quickly disappeared as soon as she carried him, wrapping her arms around him. He fell into her shoulder and then his fear disappeared. He did not wake up from a dream. Instead he fell quickly to sleep. He slept perhaps to make the memory of it disappear. This was a memory so fearful it would revisit him in his worst dreams, his most feverish nightmares. And always it was the same, the feeling of a hand letting go of his, a grasp disappearing into the faintest echoes of a touch.

The second time he was alone was in kindergarten. His parents sent him to school one Friday when there were no kindergarten classes. Try as he would, he could not find his line among the many who lined up for flag raising. Finally all the lines disappeared into their respective classrooms and he was left there standing all alone on an empty court. And his mind could not figure out why until a guard told him it was not a class day for kindergarten.

In the course of the morning he decided to walk home. It was not an easy decision to make for a 6 year old who grew up all his life in a southern municipality 73 kilometers south from the city. But he was a child of the provinces who was well used to walking. Though his home was three kilometers away, he knew it would  be an easy walk despite the weight of his large leather shoulder bag whose strap bore the mark of years of relentless chewing.

He rode to school daily in his cousins’ car. He knew he could retrace its route back home. He did not fear too much the prospect of it. He was alone but  not entirely lost. He knew exactly where to go. And yet, the thought of him being sent to school on a holiday angered him. It taught him to be suspicious always of older people. They pretend but they do not always know what they are doing. The tragedy of this thought was what brought him to tears. But he cried only as he rounded the last corner of his lonely journey home. He cried only as his home came into view.

He would be alone and lost many more times in his life. To be lost and alone from time to time is only a fact of of growing up inside an imperfect life. One learns how to deal with it. One learns eventually the nuanced distinction between a sob and a soft whimper. One learns the value of a good cry and a scream.

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