The Girl on the Train (Definitely not a Murder Story)

By: Jyh Ming Gonzales

With barely 3 hours of sleep, at 4 am her cellphone rang, must be her mother calling to wake her up. She ignored the call twice and on the third ring she finally opened her eyes without answering the phone. She stretched a little, fix all sorts of notes, plates and papers scattered all over her bed and the floor of her tiny room.

She heats a pot of water for her bath which she quickly took, spent 15 minutes on her make-up and dressed-up like she’s from another planet if not Hollywood. She must leave at exactly 4:30 in the morning to avoid the rush at the MRT station or catch the Point-to-Point Bus to Edsa. And when she arrives in time for her first class, she sends her mother a message.

Since she is a scholar, she needs to do extra work for the school, like joining a club that teaches kids about arts on weekends. She is obligated to attend the training and workshop for this every day after her class that’s from 7 pm to 9 pm.

If she catches the train, she sleeps on the way home. It’s convenient for her to take the bus though, but she sleeps the same on the way and sometimes she gets way passed the drop off point in Santolan or Araneta. And so, her mother calls her from time to time during the ride to alarm her.

The moment she alighted the bus, she instructed her to answer the phone, the unli-call promo would last for 11 minutes then she would call again until she hears the noise of the key against the door of the apartment.

She arrives in her tiny room usually at 11 pm and she still have to cook supper and do her homework.  She could sleep the earliest at 1 am and as late as 3 am. This was her routine every day, for the last three semesters on her freshmen year in college.

Thankfully, she was able to convince the school that she needs to avail the free lodging at the college dormitory given the difficulty she has to endure every day. Her mother was more thankful that she does not have to wake up at 4 am to call and wake-up her daughter and stay late until 11 pm to make sure that she gets home safe, like every day. It was indeed an answered prayer for both of them.

Her daughter’s birthday came and she went to Manila for a visit, she headed directly to the college dormitory, but since it’s a weekday, her daughter was not allowed to sleep outside; parents are not as well allowed to sleep at the dorm. She wanted to get a hotel adjacent to the college but her daughter insisted that she should stay in her tiny room in Cubao, because she doesn’t have to pay for anything. She tried to argue, that it’s far, but she ended up on board the Grab Taxi to the apartment.

Indeed she slept in the tiny bed where her daughter used to sleep she was quite surprised to find the room organized. She woke up and left the apartment at 6am. Then she decided to take the route that her daughter was taking for the last 9 months or so.

First she walked from 8th Avenue to Araneta LRT Station, she wasn’t aware the distance was more or less 1.5 kilometer,  she was striding very well. But when she reached Recto Station, the weight of her bag is starting to take a toll most probably because she was standing the whole time and she finds herself panting as she continues to walk for another 500 meters and ascend two steep staircases to get to Doroteo Jose Station that will take her to Vito-Cruz.

And while she was walking, she realized the hardship of her daughter. That at 4:30 am she walks this way in an empty stomach, while carrying her backpack weighing around 4-5 kilos, tears began to fall on her face, and it kept on pouring while she’s on board the train. She kept shaking her head, she finds it unbelievable and unforgiving for her daughter to undergo such an ordeal in her age and her frailty. She finds it even more unimaginable that when her daughter comes home every night with no one to welcome and prepare food for her, she still has to walk 1 kilometer from Santolan overpass to 8th Avenue, her heart ached.

For 9 months she suffered and endured this situation because she understood her parents could not afford to rent a room adjacent to the school and even if they will try to, it will disqualify her to avail the free lodging at the college dorm. She chose to persevere until there was an open slot.  She always has.

With her red eyes, smudged face and burdened heart she finally reached the gate of the college and found her daughter wearing the dress she bought for her birthday. She greeted her mother with a smile and an embrace. Then her mother cried like a child on her daughter’s shoulder. And she said I’m so sorry, I didn’t know until today. And her daughter said to her “Nay, don’t feel sorry for me, I got over it, so you have to.”

But until now, I still find myself crying.