Morning Routines in Hell
I wake up at 6 in the morning to reach my office at 9. Every day is exactly the same as yesterday, no special details or Easter eggs—a perfect pattern. It’s an excruciating routine if you ask me, and it has been the same since I started working here in Manila.
Who would want to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to wait in line and battle the traffic? No one, and also everyone. The options are limited, you see. But the bills are ever-growing, and there are stomachs to be filled. So I left the comfort of my bed and went to my closet to pick up my clothes for today.
Jeans. Long-sleeves. Sneakers.
My job doesn’t have a dress code. I can wear whatever clothes I’m comfortable with. And for now, I’m comfortable with jeans, long-sleeves, and sneakers.
I took a quick shower, ate my breakfast, dabbed some foundation on, and left my apartment.
The streets, like my usual routine, are the same as yesterday. I’m still a few kilometers away from the highway, but I can already hear a thousand car honks from where I’m walking. And from my estimation, it would take me an 8 to 10-minute walk from my apartment to the Jeepney terminal.
That wouldn’t be a problem. I always take my time walking. I’m never in a hurry as I’m never late to work or any other occasion people want to invite me in. But there’s one alley where I wish I walk like the wind—or the speed of light.
Yesterday, I called this Wolf Street. In here, I can constantly hear howls and whistles from hungry alphas and betas of different packs. The other day, I went as far as to call it Calle Purgatoryo.
Today, I think I’m going to call it The Second Circle of Hell as here lies the lustful whose sexual appetites are satisfied by assessing women like a fine steak. I just wish that each one of them, for the rest of their lives, are constantly being whipped by wild winds and violent storms—worse than what Achilles, Tristan, and Paris experienced in Hell.
But that’s just wishful thinking—a fool’s hope. Now that I’m standing at the beginning of the alley, I do what I always do.
I untangled my headset inside my bag and turned my music to full blast. I can hear nothing but the voice of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie singing Under Pressure, and of course, the unsteady beat of my heart.
I adjusted the hem of my t-shirt despite knowing full well that they wouldn’t see an inch of my skin. Just to be sure.
I took a deep breath and exhaled. I’m ready.
♪ Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you, no man ask for ♪
As I walk, I made sure that my chin is up and my view only sees the destination. I wish I could also block my peripheral view. I can still see the array of boys, men, assholes, and demons lined up on the sidewalk.
♪ It’s the terror of knowing what the world is about, watching some good friends screaming “Let me out!” ♪
I couldn’t hear the satanic language they’re speaking. I can only guess it’s either “Miss, ang sexy mo naman” (Miss, you look sexy) or “Miss, pahingi naman ng number mo” (Miss, give me your phone number). They have a glossary of terms that I have involuntarily memorized verbatim because like my morning routine, this happens every day.
♪ Pray tomorrow – gets me higher. Pressure on people, people on streets ♪
Apart from the meaningless words I have learned to ignore my entire life, some of them are also fond of wolf whistles and other weird sound effects they could think of. The whistle, above all, is the universal leitmotif of catcalling. It’s a constantly recurring musical piece every woman hates. Once their mouths formed the O, I know what’s going to happen, and I know I’m not going to like it.
♪ Turned away from it all like a blind man. Sat on a fence, but it don’t work ♪
As the whistles and the unidentified language went on, I walked faster.
♪ Keep coming up with love, but it’s so slashed and torn. Why, why, why? ♪
And finally—finally, after my excruciating two-minute walk in the depths of Hell, I reached the Jeepney terminal unharmed.
I paused the song to catch my breath and assess the situation in front of me. Looking at the long line of passengers, I can tell that I’m going to wait for a good 20 minutes to get on board. The waiting game would probably take me a whole album, so might as well listen to my personal Queen playlist.
Not even five minutes in, my sweat started dripping. People started fanning themselves. Some even have portable electric fans to save the day. No one is fresh-looking. No one looks like they got out of the shower at 7 in the morning. Not a living soul.
By the 7th song, the waves of our sweat are singing Don’t Stop Me Now. People are still coming in, but there are no Jeepneys to be seen. By the 10th song, Mercury is looking for Somebody to Love. I’m looking for Somebody to Give Me a Ride.
The Jeepneys that had probably come all the way from Mars finally arrived at the 11th song. The line started moving, and lo and behold, there’s enough room for everyone.
I chose the seat next to the driver since it’s still empty. I noticed that my breaths are still quick and erratic due to stress, heat, and everything in between.
I tried to calm myself down. And just when I’m about to breathe a sigh of relief—for passing through that alley and for braving the heat, the driver touched my upper thigh and muttered: “Miss, libre na pamasahe mo” (Your ride is free).
Judas even sealed it with a wink.
I held back my sigh.
I held back the relief.
It seems like Wolf Street, Calle Purgatoryo, and the Second Circle of Hell will never be just an alley.