by Sam N. Yago
An expat in Asia longs for snow.
|Charlie looked at his watch and relaxed in the fact that he had plenty of time before his first appointment. This was especially good news in light of the usual traffic on EDSA inside of which he and his taxi driver had found themselves. He knew enough from having lived here for the past five years that there were other routes between his Green Hills home and his office building in Makati. However, they would have been both ridiculously circuitous and without merit—the traffic would’ve been just as thick.
His shirt felt heavy on his back and he leaned forward, inching his neck a bit more out the window in order to feel what little breeze seemed to hang in the humid air outside. His hand found the lever again, and he instinctively twisted it only to realize the window was already all the way down. In fact, all of them were. This was the start of what natives considered the dry season. More accurately, it was when it rained the least. It was also when Filipinos—and the expats who had fully acclimated to the weather—broke out their sweaters and hoodies. Seventy-nine degrees Fahrenheit required layered clothing. Charlie was not among the fully acclimated expats, apparently.
“Sorry, sir, for the broken air-con,” the taxi driver, who peered at him from the rear-view mirror, said in a heavily-accented English to which Charlie had gotten accustomed hearing.
“It’s fine,” Charlie lied. “I’ve actually gotten used to the heat here.”
The taxi driver chuckled. “It is hot like this in America, sir?”
“You’d be surprised,” Charlie said, feeling conversational. “I grew up in the Midwest and we have terrible summers there. Very hot.”
“The Midwest, sir?”
“Oh, sorry. It’s sort of in the northern, middle part of the U.S.”
The taxi driver nodded, feigning comprehension, or so it seemed to Charlie. A few gaps in the jam appeared, and the skilled local maneuvered the vehicle to move Charlie at least one hundred feet closer to his destination.
“You know what I miss most since I moved here?” Charlie asked, continuing the conversation. He had nothing better to do at that moment.
“Beautiful American ladies, sir?” the taxi driver asked, grinning.
Charlie smiled. “There are very beautiful women here, my man,” he said, and his mind wandered fleetingly to images of his wife. Maricel had been a colleague of his up until a year ago when they had their first child, and her parents had insisted it would be best for her to be a stay-at home mom. It was what her mother had done for her and her siblings, after all—an unspoken, albeit archaic cultural norm. Charlie knew Maricel had not been pleased with the decision but she agreed to it.
“Not my girlfriend, sir,” the taxi driver interjected. “She is ugly like me, but I love her.”
Charlie laughed heartily. “Snow,” he said after catching his breath. “It snows a lot where I’m from. This time of year, as a matter of fact.”
“Ahh, I want to see snow, sir,” the taxi driver said. “I think it will be very amazing!”
“It is,” Charlie said, and suddenly thought about his one-year-old daughter, wondering when—or if—she would have the opportunity to see snow in person. His job had relocated him to the company headquarters in the Philippines from their Indonesia office, where Charlie had lived for two years. His first foray into Asia had been with another company in Beijing, which lasted only ten months. It was just as well; China and Charlie’s health did not mesh. Until he arrived in the Philippines, Charlie had fully expected making it back state-side at some point, believing the novelty of travel would wear off, making a homecoming very appealing. Then—as quite a few love songs implicitly declare being the ultimate reason for a drastic change of heart and mind—he fell in love with a girl, who loved him back, and all his previous plans went out the proverbial window.
Maricel was a rarity among Filipinos to whom the allure of emigrating to the United States seemed to be embedded in the cultural psyche. She had absolutely no desire to leave the Philippines. It was her home, and she had romanticized the idea of growing old with her husband in the tranquil environs of Baguio City, four hours to the north, where the air was cool and crisp year round, and the pace was slower. Never in those fantasies, however, was her partner for life anyone other than a fellow countryman. But, her sister, who married an Aussie and now lived in Sydney, had once insisted: “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” She considered herself very lucky with Charlie. She made him promise that he would never take her away from her birthplace. Charlie promised to never leave her side.
Yet, thoughts of snow, especially on such a hot day, had suddenly made Charlie long for his small hometown in Missouri. Of wind-chill factors and snow days and winter wonderlands during the holiday season. And how his daughter may not ever see snow, his snow. She may never experience the joy of building her very first snow man, or go sledding with the neighborhood kids, or have snowball fights, and he felt a momentary pang of sadness, which he immediately dismissed. There would be plenty of other wonderful memories to build here, after all.
The taxi moved another fifty feet amid a cacophony of car horns, and the January sun had nearly crested the sky when Charlie’s phone buzzed. He retrieved it from his front pant pocket, and saw that it was a FaceTime call from Maricel. He smiled widely in anticipation of what he knew would come next. He touched the button to connect the call, and the beautiful face of his daughter filled his iPhone’s screen.
“Hi, sweetie!” Charlie cooed, and he rolled his window up to better hear his daughter.
Written for "The Writer's Cramp" by Sophy
Prompt: Write a story or poem about someone who has moved far away from the cold, but now pines for SNOW.
Word Count: 999