Taxi in Ljubljana, Slovenia
“Taxi in Ljubljana, Slovenia,” by Petar Milošević. License: CC BY-SA 4.0.

Steve stood by the side of the road, arm extended. He was hailing a taxi.

The street was filled to capacity with tricycles and jeepneys, all of them honking their horns and spurting plumes of dark gray soot into the air. He’d never seen anything like it, not until his first trip to Manila last year.

This was now his third time in the Philippines. He’d booked a condo in Quezon City for two weeks through Airbnb to see his girlfriend, an orthopedic doctor he’d met online. Now, he was on his way to her apartment.

Almost fifteen minutes passed beneath the sweltering tropical sun before a white MGE taxi pulled over to meet him. He opened the right rear door and addressed the driver.

“Banawe? By the Orthopedic Center.”

The man nodded and Steve got in. The taxi pulled back into traffic.

Steve was still unsure of himself abroad and had a lot of anxiety navigating Manila. His girlfriend had told him horror stories about foreigners abducted and held up in taxis, and she’d warned him to be careful. He pulled out his cell phone, which now contained a Globe prepaid SIM, texted the plate number to his girlfriend and pulled up Google maps to make sure he was headed in the right direction.

On the left, a cluster of street children was running around half naked in the middle of the street. Behind them, squatter buildings jutted from the ground, jagged, haphazard constructions of the flimsiest building materials imaginable.

By the time they merged onto Quezon Ave., traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. It was so much worse than LA. He’d never imagined so many cars could be packed into the same space.

“Bad traffic,” said Steve.

The driver didn’t respond. Steve settled back into his seat and sighed. At least the car was air conditioned.

A tiny black fly landed on his arm, and he swatted it away. He glanced down at the map on his phone, even though he’d already done so three times and knew exactly where he was.

Another fly, this time on his shoulder. Then another on his forehead, and another on his leg.

It was when he felt them getting into his ears that he began to panic. He looked up and gasped. The air inside the cab had swollen with bugs. They were buzzing all around him, filling his nostrils, drilling into his ears, reaching into his mouth.

He had to get out of the car. He tried to open the door while they were stopped in traffic, but the handle wouldn’t budge. It seemed the cab had been locked from the inside.

“Let me out!” he cried, choking on flies. The driver didn’t say a word.

For one crazed moment he was certain it was a dream, that any second now he would wake up in his bed to the sound of the aircon whooshing in his room.

He coughed, gagging on air that was becoming increasingly dense and unbreathable. A deep resonant hum rose up from the front passenger seat, and when Steve gazed in that direction he saw something like a bloated, deformed dragonfly, floating lazily in his direction.

He kicked and thrashed, trying once more to force the door open. At one point he started banging on the glass, convinced that if he pounded hard enough it would break and he could escape to safety. All the while that disfigured creature drifted toward him, humming and buzzing as if it had all the time in the world.

It landed on his shoulder and Steve batted it away. Then it landed again and Steve batted at it once more. He tried to strike the creature from the air, but it nimbly avoided him. Finally, it landed on his ear.

Steve felt it vibrate against his skin, the buzzing becoming a deep bass rumble. When it burrowed inside, Steve squealed like a little girl. Never before had he experienced such world shattering pain. It pushed and clawed and tore its way inside. There was a deafening pop as it punctured his ear drum. Then it was digging into his skull.

In a fit of madness, he considered banging his head against the door. Then the world went dark.

More digging, more tearing, and then—

Steve was assaulted by thoughts that were not his own. He could hear them all, the tens of thousands of flies in the air, the driver in the front seat, blurred and indistinct, a collective consciousness born of their intersection.

It swirled inside of him, dissolving his mind like a corrosive acid until what remained was not Steve, but something larger. The part of himself that had been distinct, the part that had made him human, was gone. Not dead, but driven into the background and put to sleep.

When they pulled up at his girlfriend’s apartment, he didn’t pay. Instead, he exited the car and waved. The driver returned the gesture before merging into traffic.

Steve greeted the guard and started up the stairs. He couldn’t wait to see his girlfriend.

He had something to show her.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.

One Life Ends and Another Begins

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

“To live will be an awfully big adventure.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

On August 14, 2015, one chapter of my life will close in Los Angeles, CA, and another will open halfway across the world in Manila. I’ll step off my plane after fifteen and a half hours of non-stop flying with nothing but my passport, some cash and the few remnants of my former life from the States that will fit into two Samsonite Spinners on wheels, and I won’t be coming home.

How did this happen?

The short explanation is that I fell in love. Love is a curious thing. It makes us do things we would never do on our own. It makes us bold. For love, we’ll conquer the world. We’ll go anywhere, do anything, give up everything we have, whatever it takes to be with our beloved. For this woman, uprooting my thirty-one-year-old life in the States came as naturally as breathing.

I’m excited.

I’m about to undertake an extraordinary journey, shared by someone special. The Philippines is a beautiful country, filled with natural wonders and unique cultural marvels that can be found nowhere else. My girlfriend and I both enjoy traveling, so the adventure won’t stop there; together, we’ll take on the world.

I’m scared.

Just because I’ve decided to plunge head-first into the deep end doesn’t mean I’m not afraid. I’ve never done anything like this before. What if I lose my job? There are very few Stateside employers who are willing to hire remote web developers. What if something happens to me in the city? What if I’m robbed? What if I get lost? What if I’m trapped in a serious natural disaster, like a major earthquake or typhoon?

As a sufferer of anxiety, I always used to play it safe. Until recently, the very notion of being suspended in the air above the ocean for fifteen or more hours at a time would, for example, have been enough to drive me under the bed, cowering in fear.

But I’m tired of playing it safe. After dating my girlfriend for a while, with all the frustrations that long distance relationships inevitably bring, I knew I would have to do something extreme if our relationship was to have any hope of surviving. So I took a deep breath and I jumped. Life’s too short to play it safe. Sooner or later, we’re all going to die; it’s just a matter of when. We should make the best of the time we have and live our lives to the fullest, for not a single man or woman knows when Death will come knocking on their doorstep.

Life is an adventure.

Over time, reading and writing about everyday adventures changed my attitude. It turned the boring and the ordinary into something exciting and extraordinary. Once my outlook on life changed, so too did my desire to undertake adventures of the more exotic variety.

I have no idea what will happen when I arrive. But for good or for ill, I know that it will be an adventure.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.