11 Growing Up in Five Minutes
(By Carlo Timbol)
I liked to think of myself as a grown man, but consternation was eating away at my bravado like a starved piranha devouring its prey. The storm grew stronger. The lights went off. The clock struck nine. I began to cry.
Then the phone rang. I wiped my tears, swallowed my sobs and answered. It was my mother.
Hello, Carlo? She began. "I'm still ..."
Where are you? I interrupted, fully aware that my agitation was unbecoming for a grown-up.
I'm here, in Glori's, with your brother.
I knew that the Glori Supermart was only five minutes from our house. I knew because my dad told me, and estimating distances was grown men's stuff.
What time will you be home? I asked.
Unless we get a ride, you shouldn't expect us any time soon.
Why don't you take a pedicab home?
The tricycle drivers won't accept any passengers.
Through that flood? I don't think so - that's why I called.
I braced myself.
Get your raincoat, hail a pedicab and fetch us here, she said.
Stunned , I couldn't utter a word. My mother continued.
Carlo? Is that OK with you?
Was it OK with me? Was she kidding? It was raining hard, it was dark, and thunder roared every minute - not that I was scared, but I was only ten! Who knew what danger awaited me out there in the dark?
Sure, no problem, I replied.
Great! Bring an umbrella. You might get wet.
As we pulled away, I became frantic with worry. What if the driver was a kidnapper? What if he charged me too much? What if he decided to drop me off and I couldn't find my mother or my way back home?
Overwhelmed, I began to pray. It didn't stop me from trembling, but it did ease my fears. The minutes flew by. We reached Glori's.
My mother, who was standing just outside the main entrance, saw me. She took my brother Paolo, who was nine, by her left hand and carried their umbrella with her right. They walked towards me.
Wow, you're really a big boy now, taking public transportation and all, my mother said with a smile.
I would have preferred "grown man" to "big boy", but still I glowed with pride. We all got in. I took the seat behind the driver, as all grown men do. It's the most dangerous position because the person sitting there could easily fall off, so I held on as tightly as I could. Paolo turned to me. "Ah, you were really brave today," he said.
I smiled nonchalantly ." It was nothing. Someday you'll do this too." He looked at me as if I were a god.
As the pedicab roared through the flooded streets of our neighborhood, past the stores, the houses and the people, I felt great. I had faced my fears and delivered. I had a brother who admired me, a mother who trusted me and a memory of a little adventure for keeps. I had everything, and I felt invincible . Everything, plus my mum to tuck me in.
Were you scared? she asked me.
Scared? Me? I replied indignantly . "It was only a five-minute ride."
I looked at her. She was beaming.