the boy with the blue backpack - w4m - makati
We were crossing the street between Landmark and Serenitea, you in a gray hoodie and me in a striped cardigan. You walked past me at the last minute, throwing me a side glance before you rushed to cross the street.
My attention suddenly focused on you and your The North Face backpack. It was blue, stitched with flags that probably represented the places you’ve been to. Now this is a strong point of attraction for someone who daydreams of plane tickets and passport stamps, a girl constantly consumed by wanderlust. I didn’t wait for the pedestrian light to flash green - I crossed the street and tailed you.
Indonesia. Hong Kong. Malaysia. Singapore. You probably had four, five more flags on your backpack, but I couldn’t remember them all. I was drunk with possibility, to be in the presence of someone who has the same enthusiasm for travel as much as I do. I wanted to tap your shoulder, strike a conversation and ask you about the places you’ve been to, places I am dreaming about.
I don’t know if you were aware of my existence as much as I was aware of yours, but you slowed down a bit and then I was there, walking right behind you. You were moving with the music playing through your earphones, your hands playing subtle air guitar, your swagger a bit awkward and cute at the same time. It was amusing and I kept debating with myself - should I strike up a conversation? Should I not?
We lined up at the Glorietta 3 entrance, the guard checking our bags. You took off your backpack slowly, half turning to me in the process, and I had to focus elsewhere. I wondered how long I’ll keep watching you, how far I’m willing to go. It was the longest one minute of my life, trying to keep my attention on you and at the same time trying to downplay it.
We got inside the mall, and you took the escalator. Old habits die hard and I’ve always been chicken shit, so I stifled the curiosity and took a different route. I never initiate conversations with strangers anyway and I couldn’t muster enough courage even if I wanted to.
I wish I kept walking your way though, took the jump and said hello. I wonder if you went to Penang and saw the blue mansion, if you surfed the waves in Bali or you took a cooking class instead, if you got lost reading the street signs in Hong Kong. I want to hear the stories behind the flags stitched on your backpack, if they filled you with the kind of happiness that fills me when I travel. I want to know the memories you took home with you, if they’re enough to keep you going while you’re temporarily stuck as a corporate slave saving up for his next trip.
But I guess I’ll be here wondering while we go wandering. Maybe I’ll bump into you someday, in a cramped old bus on my way to Chiang Mai. Or maybe we’ll see each other, crossing the streets of Makati one random night. All I know is I’ll keep looking out for that blue backpack, hoping I’ll get to see the world through your eyes.