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Will passengers with express tickets and families with small children please proceed to Gate 6.
Once again, this is a pre-boarding announcement to passengers.
I close my eyes momentarily and the cacophony of airport voices retreats into the background.
As I take myself back to times I desperately want to hang on to, memories lace into the world around me until the line between reality and fantasy becomes indiscernible.
I’m immersed with the memories of summer.
Tip-toeing beneath the shadows of towering palm trees, feet dirtied and nipped on by colonies of ants.
The rush of adrenaline through my veins as I dance under the downpour of a sun shower.
Digging through the shores on a low tide, legs submerged in wet sand as we gather buckets full of cockles.
The nights we spent lying on the tin roof of my cousin’s house, grazing our fingers through the stars, making our own constellation.
The almost ambrosial taste of the mangos picked straight from our tree, cheeks stained a bright yellow.
Though I have no choice but to leave home behind, aspects of it will remain with me as mementos, kept in the pocket closest to my heart.
This is the final boarding call for passengers travelling on flight MNL6794 to Manila. Please proceed to Gate 6 immediately.
The final checks are being completed and the captain will order for the aircraft doors to close in approximately 5 minutes time. Thank you.
I turn back to see that the sun has steadily crept up the horizon.
Hues of pinks and yellows paint the sky, the rays casting colours from floor to ceiling through the glass of the building.
It creates an atmosphere akin to the beginning of a fairy tale, such as the ones we listened to intently, the ones starting with "once upon a time".
I wave at the clouds, though not as a farewell, but as a promise to come back.
I grab my bags just as Mom begins to usher us towards the direction of the gate.
I mumble to myself, my blood buzzing with a renewed sense of hope that we’re going to be just fine.
Anxiety drifted along with the early morning breeze.
The feeling pierced through my skin and nestled deep into my bones.
Its presence was a norm in everyday life, though then it was particularly overpowering.
With a potent grip, its serpentine body coiled tightly around my heart, until my chest was whelmed with fret.
A bitter taste was left on my tongue — metallic as teeth ground on the soft flesh of my lips.
My wary eyes, gazed upon mother’s face, stoic and well-crafted.
Foundation covered her distress. Like concrete, it filled in the cracks.
Her image was shaped into one of false indifference and calm.
But through scrutiny, one would have noticed the subtle creases on her forehead and the deep sunken bags under bloodshot eyes.
In an attempt to gain her attention, I timidly tugged on the clenched fist kept at her side.
My fingers trembled quite vigorously, uncertain of her reaction.
"Mama, we’re going to be fine, right?"
I wanted badly to reassure her, but I myself needed it as well.
The false smile I etched on, faltered. My bottom lip quivered against the upper, as I battled to keep tears at bay.
Mom pursed her mouth tightly into a line and instead she nodded.
Her tender palms enshrouded my own and caressed it like she did when I was much younger.
The tremors I had experienced beforehand soothed as my body eased into her comfort.
A tingling sensation was left on my skin as she pressed a quick peck on my forehead.
A string of apologies spilled from her tongue, barely audible but loud enough for my ears to pick up.
At that moment, the best I could do was return the embrace.
My short arms encircled around her broad hips while my face was hidden against her chest.
From the corner of my eye I spotted my sister perched atop a stack of luggage.
Her legs swung in a back and forth motion.
The corners of her lips were quirked upwards into an unknowing smile, supple cheeks dusted with a touch of pink.
Her pigtails, adorned with silk ribbons, bounced at each sway of her head.
Her attention was entangled by the bustling airport.
I flashed a meager smile, unable to have contained the sentiment.
How I wished to be 5 and void of any worry once again.
I felt my chest lighten as if it were enveloped by a gust of fresh air.
Relief washed over me like the ocean waves, my entire being drenched and saturated.
Anxiety had begun to wane, claws that were once buried deep within me unfurled and steadily slipped away.
Its presence was no longer dominating.