As I was on the way to the Ayala Triangle bus terminal after work, I walked past an old lady carrying a Jollibee paper bag heading towards my direction. I walked past her within seconds, since I was with my girlfriend and we were trying to catch a bus since rush hour was awful. The old lady was probably past 80, her back was hunched so badly, and her steps were so small and slow, for if she miscalculated her step, it would spell pain and disaster. She was alone. I wondered how she managed to get by on her own, where she lived, and what was in her Jollibee paper bag – I’d like to think she still enjoys a Cheezy Bacon Mushroom Champ for dinner.
There’s this feeling that old people automatically elicit from me. It’s not sadness nor pity. It’s more of a resignation to fate, an affirmation that this is where we are all headed, and as unfortunate as it may seem, it is unavoidable. The same feeling crept up in that 3-second encounter with that old lady. It wasn’t even because she looked degenerate or underprivileged, because she wasn’t at all — she looked perfectly polished, and her hair and clothes made up. It was just the fact that she was alone, ailing, and vulnerable.
Whenever I see kids, particularly those who are underprivileged, they do not elicit the same feelings. I think of them as more vibrant, energetic, and despite the hopeless environment, it feels like they are filled with hope and determination.
I feel that, when you’re a child, you still have a sense of worth. When you’re old, you are worthless. When you’re young, there’s so much more you can do whereas when your bones are brittle and you can’t really do much, it only affirms that you have nowhere else to go but — yep, nowhere.
I believe that the maximal human experience is that “we are born alone, we live alone, and we die alone”. The company of others is temporary solace, pit stops to the finish line that is death. However, you realize how human you are when you realize that there is no one else at the end of the road but yourself. It’s terrifying, yet true.
It saddens and scares me, what could be waiting at the end of the road. I put myself in that old lady’s shoes and what she could be thinking at that moment. In a city where everything goes by so fast, in a city that never sleeps, in a city where you wouldn’t miss the sight of that old lady for she was the only one at rest amidst the current of modern society, I felt at a loss because I wasn’t sure if I should feel worthy, or worthless.
I’m sure she didn’t feel as worthless as I did. She had the strength and the gusto to walk all the way to Jollibee along Ayala Ave. and buy that damn burger (well, I wish it was a burger).