it’s past 6 p.m.

It is past 6 P.M.

I just finished work.

Already numb and exhausted

From repetitive tasks that drown away my voice

I crave for something comfortingly different

To remind me that I am so much more

than a muffling routine,

than the alias made to please others,

which I somehow have unknowingly adopted from 10 to 6

[Where is home?]

It’s past 6 p.m.

Standing on the subway

thousands of miles away from a place that I used to call home

Among the thousands who I’m surrounded by

I’ve become complacent

with the silence of strangers

So many stories to share

But to whom?

[Where is home?]

It’s past 6 p.m.

An old lady who was sitting in front of me

Suddenly opened her mouth to ask,

“Are you stocking up for hibernation?”

A question directed at a friend standing beside her,

carrying a tall rack of groceries

Her groceries gave off a musty smell, not of the subway’s

but one

that I could easily tell traveled from a nearby Asian supermarket

where aisles of fruits and vegetables that I could never remember

all the names of

but could still distinctly remember their tastes and textures

Is this home?

What peaked my interest in her question

was the language that it was spoken in

Not sarcasm, per say.

But Vietnamese.

a language that I have not kept in touch with

since I decided to move to the city on my own

[Where is home?]

Glancing at them chatting along.

No longer the silent onlooker

who was staring off into space out of disinterest,

I became the eavesdropper, the actor,

pretending to stare off into space out of disinterest,

when in reality

I could never be more engaged

Using my ears to quickly search

for more familiar words

Because I was starving for home

[Where is home?]

How foreign their conversation must have sounded to others

on the train

But as strange as their loud, verbal intonations might have come off to the ears of many

I sought solace in them

Smiling to myself at the thought of

A secret language that exist only for the three of us

A world that belonged to only us

Is this home?

It was as if their words have become hands lightly holding onto my shoulder,

Sending warmth to my bones,

Reassuring me with jars of milk and honey

“Speak no more, because

I see you.

No, you are not the stars that shine at night, but the sun –

The sun that has set in your eyes years ago.

Because you are tired.

And it is okay to be tired.

Because the sun cannot depend on others to rise.”

As they continue sharing the details of their day to each other

I was brought back

To my mom’s kitchen

The sound of fire sizzling

The scent of freshly-cooked rice

The smell of salty fish sauce

My mouth salivating at the thought of coming back to

a home-cooked meal

My heart rising at the thought of coming back to my mother’s arms,

and aching after realizing how skinnier she has become since I left,

My smile widening at the thought of my sister’s jokes, feeling more and more grateful everyday to not have had to grow up alone since childhood

For that is what I have just started to do now – growing up alone

[Where is home?]

It’s past 6 p.m.

I have reached to my stop

It’s time to leave

so

I silently bid farewell to the conversation

and

silently thanked the old ladies for their words

Walking off

[Where is home?]

It’s past 6 p.m.

I have reached my destination

Hopeful expectations filled my heart

But I come back

With only silence waiting at home

[Where is home?]

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