There’s unnecessary urgency everywhere. That constant push, that arm motion. Come on! Get closer to everyone. We’re going this way. I realize you’re already going this way, but I need to make this motion. Come on! Maybe even pushing you physically. Into an elevator. Into a camera frame. This way! After you, sir! No, after you.
“Which is more stressful,” I ask my cousin, “not knowing what you’re going to be doing in the next five minutes, for almost every five minutes, or…being at work.” He answers, “Not knowing what you’re going to be doing in the next five minutes. I kind of like it.”
But then he’s been here before. Knows what it’s like to follow wealthy people around, to wave the bell hops off with no tip, knowing that they’ll be taken care of at the next room, where the parents are sleeping. He’s lying across two beds at the City Grande hotel in his underwear and nothing else, watching TV and charging his phone without a voltage transformer.
You depend on the parents for everything: the plan, the money, the talking, the ordering, the tipping, the boarding passes, the lying to customs about the corned beef you are bringing home.
When you’re all downstairs in the hotel lobby in Manilla there’s nothing for you to do and there’s nowhere for you to sit and there are spiky potted palm bushes in all the corners and everyone is on edge. Your aunt asks you where your cousin is and you point at him; he’s surrounded by luggage at the front door. She says he needs to pay attention and stick together and everyone needs to pay more attention but it’s impossible after all that travelling to pay attention to anything when it isn’t at all clear what’s happening and you can’t demand answers from anyone because the man is at the front desk putting down hundreds of dollars for your hotel room. So you just stand inside the thorny embrace of a palm bush and hope no one sees you but of course they do and they call you a fool for standing there but you move and you’re run over by a man dressed in all white who’s sneaking around trying to surprise his friend. So you move back.
Then suddenly it’s to the elevators and you leave your luggage there on the carts and there are twenty people on this elevator, we’ll wait for the next one. And then your cousin is pulling you into the elevator bodily saying, come on! You’re white! Because your cousin is sure that you’ll be held for ransom. And then you’re stuck staring at your family with the door closing behind you and not enough room to turn away.