When a work is done, you take a deep breath and you can only thank your God.
I did: I breathed and I thanked my God and then walked the length of Richmond that cross into Bypass Road and Lafayette.
It was at Bypass that we had the first Mongolian barbecue on one night that hunger was in the wind.
It was on Lafayette that I pulled my luggage from the transportation center to Fairfield on Richmond, a Marriot inn we stayed for a week.
No, I went through the motions of all settlers coming here to roost even if for a while, coming to seek shelter and refuge and haven from all that had been, from a memory of pain and longing and everything a life's pilgrim could dream of.
For indeed, I was a pilgrim in Williamsburg, the place almost totally unknown to me except for some tidbits of information from here and there, some speculations from stories heard from some acquiantances who had been there.
In my vagabond ways, I heard stories of various kinds and had become a beneficiary of that age-old ritual of listening to stories of a wayfarer who had gone faraway and had come back to tell of what had happened in his journey. In a way, my knowledge of Williamsburg had come through this means and method to knowing.
I pulled my luggage, one hand carrying the laptop that contained all my thoughts about being an immigrant and about being a journeyman, another bag containing all the more personal things on my shoulder, its weight in the noonday sun as heavy as my thoughts about the future. I realized later on that my shoulder would show the weight of this bag, with the red marks proving the sacrifice that I had to put in.
As I took that small step to Lafayette, I thought of thoughts so many they come crisscrossing. But then one thing bogged me down, doggedly insisting their significance in my mind: I am leaving a place I have loved and dreamed I could make it there, hoping as well that something great could come along in the way to pursue the idea of a good life.
In my case, my journeying to America is more personal, having had the good fortune of being part of the academe that knew, more or less, how to give freedom to its striving and struggling intellectuals.
I was a beneficiary of a country's grace and goodness to its wanna-be writers and scholars, with such grace and goodness the very reason for my having had the chance to travel and link up with other scholars of the world, the perk the realization that you have someone to talk to about your weird and wild ideas about many things including how to live life to the fullest.
The lot of the scholar and the intellectual--and thus, the writer--is to be lonely, in the full sense of the word.
And in this loneliness, he needs to reach out, to communicate, to talk, to diffuse his ideas, to share with other lonely people in this lonely world creative by their lonely lot in life.
I thought of all these things while I started to pull my luggage on Lafayette. I checked again the mapquest: it said, Go, go south until you hit Richmond.
I looked at the noonday sun with its promise of more sweat and sunburn.
I took the first steps to go south, one of the many thousand steps I had to make.
No, I will not take a cab, I told myself.
Yes, I will try to feel that experience of being a miserable pilgrim, luggage and all on my hands and on my shoulder because this is the only way to share the pain of pilgrims who came over to Williamsburg to find and found something here.
My foot ached but never mind. My mind ached more, my spirit ached more, my soul ached more.
Some parts of Lafayette curved to forests on long stretches, some did not even have pedestrian lanes such that I had to compete for space with the onrushing vehicles.
No, no one stopped for me, no one offered to help me, which was okey because I would have refused anyway.
So on to Lafayette I went until many crosscroads came to view.
The roads forked left and right although Lafayette remained my steady reference point.
I said 'Hi!' to a man, in his 50s, on his bike, on this Sunday that I reached Williamsburg. I am lost, I said, could you tell me where Fairfield Inn and Suites is?
Oh, Fairfield, he repeated, the way every informant over here repeat a questioner's words.
Down here, on this trail, he showed. Come follow me.
I looked at the trail and I said, You are sure this trail leads to Fairfield?
Yes, Fairfield Timeshare. It is at the back of my house.
No, Fairfield Inn, I told him, with some seriousness in my tone voice.
Oh, no, he said, scratching his nape. Sorry, I got it wrong.
Thank you just the same. Thank you for your kindness.
And so I got my things again, back to the ramp, back to the Lafayette without the pedestrian lane.
The man got into his bungalow and swallowed up by his screened door.
I was left on the street by my lonesome, with the dense trees witnessing my fate.
I kept walking on until I reached another crossroads with the Staples close by, with a construction site in shambles in the right corner, perhaps another one of those humonguous malls to hold the ceaseless ceremony of capitalism and consumerist life.
Richmond hit me there, on this crossroads.
I had hope springing eternal, my good luck.
I turned right, on the gravel-strewn road and kept walking on. I met two young men and I asked for direction.
They were from New York and they only had their maps to guide them. No, we do not know where Fairfield is, they told me. Perhaps you can ask from the Dunkin Donuts? they suggested.
Thanks just the same, I said, while squirming to the midday sun. The heat had taken the better part of me and sweat had drenched my long-sleeved shirt. I felt the sweat on my skin, one feeling I had not known for a long while. I remembered our farming days when we were young in my father's barrio, when we were taught the meaning of the difficult life by being asked to help around with harvesting rice that were taller than us.
I kept moving on until I saw Fairfield on my left.
Right up ahead was the busy Bypass Road with the bridge crossing Richmond.
I planned my way to cross the road under construction.
I made an eye contact with the driver on a while car. I raised my right hand, as if I was volunteering to a teacher to respond to her question.
She smiled a wide smile and stopped her car.
I hurried past to cross the road to my redemption, towards the Fairfield that would give me a semblance of home for many days and many nights.
Alone, and sacredly alone, until on July 1, our work was done.
A. S. Agcaoili
July 1, 2006
A. S. Agcaoili
June 30, 2006