Monday, August 11, 2008

The Price of Happiness

by Chris Martin

Despite its cliche name, I won't be talking much about how to attain true happiness and whatnot (well, I hope so).

I really wondered what happened to the 500 peso bill I had two days ago. One moment I had the luxury that could rival any lord or king on earth, the next moment, its as if a twisted turn of divinity, all that’s left is enough to feed some of the little digestive monsters inside. And then it hit me, only 6 pesos left. Three 1 peso coins, eight 25 cents, and some 10’s and 5 cents that I’m pretty sure makes up 1 peso just by looking. It’s already past lunch as I walked back to the office. Along the corporate titan called a ‘shopping mall,’ I went along as I ritually do, glancing around the stores and shops that has almost everything… I do not need. I pulled out my coin purse and took what’s left, trying to see if there’s possibly anything to eat with what I have. But unfortunately, the cheapest thing you could buy are the 10 peso ice cream cones from the local fast food joint.

I wonder sometimes if there’s a store where people sell things that you really need. Things like freedom or melancholy, anger or happiness. I even wonder what they would look like if they are actually being sold. Would they be in small bottles, each having a different color than the other. Or would they be sold in a more literal (or perhaps freaky) sense? Would ‘freedom’ embody the head of a dead national hero served on a silver platter, or maybe a cooked dove on which you can eat it to achieve its potency (Lord have mercy on them). Would ‘anguish’ be as simple as a late night television soap opera, or show itself in our world as the god of death himself? Now that would be an interesting bargain. ‘Anger’? I guess my former best friend would be the best thing to represent that (long story); but what about happiness then?

I started to become more conscious whenever I looked around the shops. Most of them sell ‘happiness’ for 1000 pesos, ecstasy (another form of happiness I suppose) for 300 (sometimes even 50, it really depends on the quality or brand that you want. But in the end, it’s how comfortable or how good you’d look in them that matters). Sadly enough, this kind of happiness or ecstasy lasts for only a few moments, years if you get a little lucky. There are some forms of ‘happiness’ that sells for about 70, a ‘value meal’ most would say, with little toys for the kids. None of them could actually give real happiness (or to be frank, none of them costs 6 bucks).

It was after work, I walked back home, it was fairly near (well at least to my understanding). A realization struck me like a bolt of lightning on a lightning rod. It was my mother’s birthday. I was a few blocks before I reach our place and quite far from the nearest mall. Other than that, I remembered I only have 6 left. I looked around checking out for a ‘sari sari store’ (no idea how you call that in english), as I was about to go to one, the sudden smell of fried peanuts drew me to a cart a few paces away.

She liked peanuts. When I was a kid, she always bought some home for the family to plunge in during the afternoons. Its smell was intoxicating (up to the point annoying). But the taste and texture just gives off an out of this world experience to the tongue. Every piece heating up the taste buds just right.

One small pack costs 6, so I bought some.

I arrived home a few minutes later with my mom was cooking fried ‘chicken’. Without putting down my shoulder bag, I walked to her and gave her the small gift. She smiled that sunshine smile of hers as she took it. She was radiating a surreal yet comforting glow. Even though at her age, time didn’t turn its hands on her, she was as pretty as a 20- year-old girl. ‘You’re so sweet,’ she said as she moved in to give me a hug, which felt frankly awkward yet heartwarming. I didn’t hug back, I don’t know why; but she knew that I was somehow hugging back; a hug that cut through time and space. I never knew a pack of peanuts would go this far.

After that, everything went back to normal. Or that’s what I thought. I sat down on the living room couch and turned on the television for some afternoon cartoons. But in some way, some how, I can still feel the hug she gave me.

Almost 2 years have already gone by, and still she couldn’t stop mentioning the friend peanuts I gave her. With that same radiating smile of hers, she tells the story of it to my little brother over and over as if it just happened an hour ago.

Never thought 6 pesos would go a long way, 2 years to be exact. I guess you can buy complex ideas after all. This one’s called ‘Happiness’.

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