Manila

I hate this city. I hate the ugly neon lights that cover every sign or scrawl “hamburger”, “Chinese”, “24/7 open for you”. Fakes, cheap city copies. I hate the smell, slight dust in the humid air that sticks in your nostrils and leaves a film of filth across your face and dirt under your nails. I hate that they don’t give you doonas on the beds because it’s too hot, because doonas are my security and I’m already freaked out. I’m scared of the strange noises, of karaoke or live “music”, of dog barks that sound ephemeral and burned out engines that they’re keeping on the roads, loud horns wailing and exhausts pumping more carbon into the saturated atmosphere – which, here, lends itself to any doomsday prophet or over-zealous climate scientist. The air is thick. It’s suffocating inside the see through lifts that you rise above the crowded eleven pm streets on. There’s nothing accommodating about it even though it does give you a visual into city life here, this part of the city that isn’t trying to be anything for tourists, just set up for itself, all taxis that drive straight past you and waiters that don’t put you above anyone else. That’s the only thing I like about it, it’s self-functioning. I don’t hate it for excluding me. I hate it because I’m here amongst it, against my will, pushed in by a missed flight and an hour and a half taxi drive into the city to a hotel I looked up online and didn’t check the location of because the wifi dropped out. The taxi driver hasn’t a clue where he’s going and he’s already called a couple of people on his phone, I can hear the name of my hotel being mentioned and his frustration in the slammed phone, back down into the console beside him. It makes me anxious. We drive along a broken down part of the highway, grungy lighting and night workers, fluorescent beams that strike out across the highway and blur everything, and piles of cracked concrete beside the slowly inching traffic. Grey mountains oozing dust when they’re bumped or bits fall away from the main, again reminding me of the hate that is bitter in my throat. Hate – that’s something I don’t often believe myself allowed to feel, and yet I’m clinging to it now, my refuge in this foreign place, a little guilt laying beneath it and my anxieties hanging on to it strong. An hour and a half into the trip and I’ve called it quits, stopping the driving at a red light and grabbing my bags, jumping out onto the hazy street and handing money through the rolled down front window. He didn’t get out to help, but relief washed his face and sank across his eyes. He gave me his only smile, and I walked off into the crowd to find garlic rice and a place to sleep with no blanket.

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