Apart from a wooden yoyo, a whole container of books, and some postcards, it’s one of my favorite things in the world. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I’ll try: I find it’s round shape fascinating, and so is the texture of its hard shell, its hollowed lightness. It’s charming. I know, it’s weird bearing such pride over owning a dried vegetable, but there’s no other deeper story to it. Really.
I also got two dried twigs in my collection, picked on two separate occasions. Picked them on one of my “night-dawn breaks” during my stint as a copywriter working on a night shift. The streets around the office building would usually be empty, save for some cars, and the stray dog and cats (and even roaches). The scenery late at night or dawn isn’t really grand; I mean, not a lot compared to sunrise when everything looked reborn. Or when the sun is out and the contrast of green and cement puts a drowsy student or employee into an urban trance. But I walked still. I tried to look for patterns in the drying branches against the moonlight. I tested my curiosity, if I can afford not to stare in the Inmaculada where ghost nuns could be seen floating from afar. I looked at shadows, checked for signs of a stranger lurking, and poised to run as fast as my short legs could take me. I walked because, really, the office lobbies and seven-eleven’s aren’t a good hang-out place. Not for me, who hated the tobacco and vape smoke. Who felt ill at the sound of whining people, backstabbing some poor person with cuss word after cuss word (probably, a fellow employee or a boss?). The environment’s just toxic for someone who just wants to sit this tough shift out. To stare, zone out. To breathe.
And so I walked. Ill-advised, but what choice did I have? There could be robbers and pickpockets. But I’ve met none throughout these breaks (it’s just lucky that we don’t work on the same shift, right?). After almost two years, I called it quits. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, what my life was about. I was growing empty shift after shift, day after day of my existence. Like my Chinese gourd, I developed a really tough shell. But over time, I became more hollow, too—but without the lightness. I don’t know why I’m telling you this; there’s no big idea or deep insight here. It’s just… each day, I’d try not to look at myself in the mirror because I’m afraid of what I’d see. A fake smile. A hollow person. You see, I can’t keep on collecting dried twigs anymore, I can’t romanticize solitude.
I needed time, I guess.
It’s not easy to not look for a job. If you’re used to putting up your badge or clocking in your hours, staying at home will turn out to be a torture. So I did what I could. I cleaned every nook, dusted ancient-looking objects. I also took the time to update my resume. I peeked through job applications, but I fought the strong urge to hit Apply. No. Nope. Not yet, Jan. I’ve put out boxes and stuff it with things I haven’t used for a really long while. Purging things is a therapy in itself. Bye, books. Bye, clothes. And more knickknacks went to the box. Until there was this yellow thing, a round eight shape. My Chinese gourd. I held it in my hands, felt the roughness of its dry shell, and then shook it with just enough lightness. I heard the sound of seeds inside its hollow shape. I smiled to myself, loving the sounds of these seeds. Lovely, even now.