IT WAS A MONTH after I had set a foot here in the United States, specifically in Illinois, Chicago. Everything's new to me. The people, the food, the places, the weather, the weather, the weather. Yes the weather. I'll put emphasis with the difference of the weather here and my hometown in the Philippines because it really is hard to adjust. I am so new to wearing thick layering clothes, socks, boots, a scarf, a beanie and even mittens because in my hometown, I would beg the people to leave me alone so that I could take off my clothes due to the humidity in my surroundings. Here, I cannot even manage to stay in my regular clothes in a minute! I feel myself freezing every tic of a second if I do so because I wasn't used to this.
And this is one of the few challenges I have to face since I decided to migrate here. All by myself.
The moment I decided to take that qualifying exam for me to gain a scholarship to spend zero bucks on my NCLEX-RN exam, a licensure examination I had to pass so that I will have my own license to practice nursing legally in the US, I had already prepared myself for the unknowns once I set foot to this country. And so I passed the exam, one take, and gained all the benefits of that scholarship, thus, I am here, waiting for what fate has in store for me. I take this as an opportunity to restart my life, away from the life I had in the Philippines, in where I think I am unwanted.
I knew no one when I came here, aside from the people that guided me from the agency that granted me the scholarship. They were the ones who laid everything for me, and I couldn't be more thankful. I arrived here with little savings I earned while I was working at a hospital back there, had a little idea about this huge country, and solely depending on the thought that 'I have a lot of learning to do here'.
So here I am, taking my first ever subway ride with my new acquaintance for about a month now, who's also a nurse, and who I am living with in my apartment.
"Ugh, I really hate having to ride in the subway!" Tyra exclaimed as she clutched the handrails to steady herself inside the moving train. I quietly laughed at her sudden outburst and also steadied myself to keep me from falling to the other passengers who were also in standing position. Yes, we were unluckily standing in a full packed car in a busy day of Chicago. Honestly, I didn't expected that I will be standing in my first ever subway ride, but here we are, living our fate.
"And I guess we will be riding this for the next couple of weeks." I said to her, ignoring the sound of my growling stomach. I am so hungry right now, I can't wait to go back to the apartment and dig to Tyra's home cooked meals. The 12 hours shift consumed all the remaining glucose in my body, and the line back in the subway didn't help at all.
"No way! I'll make sure that my car is already all fixed once we'll be back to work after our two days off. I cannot handle living like this. The time consumed here lining up could be used to rest at home. And not to mention, I really do not want to wear scrubs while riding publicly." I looked down on our outfits and noticed that we are indeed wearing scrubs but with heavy coats on top of it.
"Yeah too bad your car decided to have a rest day earlier than us." Tyra laughed at what I said but immediately frowned as she remembered something. "Oh I have to make a call to that insurance company, for awhile." She said tapping on her phone with her right hand and the other is clutching the handrail still.
I focused my gaze outside the window, the scenery changing fast as the train hurried itself to get away from the busy part of Illinois. So this is how a subway ride is. I've always wondered how it would feel to ride a train back when I was still in the Philippines. It's not like we didn't have a train back there, but in the place where I grew up, I didn't need to ride one. Walking did all the work. I didn't experience riding this thing right away after I landed in the US because I was lucky that people are generous enough to offer me a ride. Tyra always offered me a ride, since day one of my hospital work because luckily, we have the same schedule, which I think was purposely plotted by the agency so I wouldn't have a hard time adjusting. Indeed, I didn't really have a hard time so far. With Tyra, always offering me a ride, and having a same schedule with her, I had it easy with my everyday routine. Not to mention, all the "Welcome to America lessons" she is sharing with me, I pretty learned a lot in my first month of stay here.
But then the car incident happened. We were working earlier on the hospital floor when Tyra's attention was called because her car was accidentally hit by another car in the parking lot. The car who hit it was trying to park, but maybe it was an unlucky day for the driver, it hit the back of Tyra's car, leaving moderate damages. Tyra came back after settling whatever she has to settle, and was furiously mad narrating to me what happened. The gods above knew how much she valued that car, which she had purchased with her hard earned money. I gave all the sympathy to the poor friend of mine, knowing how she wont be able to sleep soundly this night, with the car not parked at our apartment's garage.
I got out of my reverie when we arrived at the subway and walked back to our apartment.
"So Madi, do you have plans for today?" Tyra asked as she chew on the pancake she made us for breakfast. The gods must be on my favor, arranging me to live with this blue eyed American girl, who cooks fine as hell. I only do the washing of the dishes in this kitchen, and Tyra does the rest. Oh, not to mention, I also do the eating.
"Uh, not really. I think I'll just do the laundry." It's day one of our 2 days off, and I have a lot of things in mind to do today, but I'm too shy to ask Tyra to accompany me, considering the condition of her car and the fact that we need to ride a subway to get to the town, which she hated the most.
"C'mon Madi, explore America! I mean not really America at this point, but explore Chicago! You have 48 hours to burn. I mean not really 48 hours now, but still." She blabbers while doing this funny hand gestures to elaborate her point.
"Oh I almost forgot you are this patriotic. But really, I would just do the laundry Tyra." I tried to convince her, hoping she would buy it.
"Omg, is that the boyband every teen is talking about?" I snapped my head to the television screen she was pointing, and displayed there was the photo of the seven member boyband from South Korea, who is reportedly having a concert here in Chicago three days from now. I silently squealed as I saw their individual faces flashing on the screen as the news reporter talked about how they are breaking record to record for the past years.
"Yes, they're pretty famous nowadays." I settled with that reply, hiding the fact from Tyra that I am one of those teenagers she was talking about, just that, I am no longer a teenager now.
"Oh God they're really good." She commented as a video clip of the boyband singing and dancing at the same time was being played on the screen. I wanted to start telling her that there are a lot of performances from them that will surely leave her gawking from admiration, but I stopped myself after hearing the next words she said.
"But I dont understand why people act so crazy over artists who doesn't even know them. I mean yeah, they're good but do you really have to be that crazy for them? You're wasting a lot of saliva crying and cheering for them but they doesn't even know your goddamn name!" She emphasised the word crazy while picking up the plates and tossing it to the sink. This girl can be a little too honest at times.
"So you mean, it's okay to get crazy over artists that already know you?" I replied jokingly and she chuckled at that.
"No silly. I mean okay, I will give you the permission to get crazy over them once one of them knows you." How I wish Tyra, how I wish. She once again did this hand gesture to elaborate her point. "Wait, are you like a fan of them?"
I put on a smile too shyly and looked down, picking up the remaining plates we used. "Omg! Are you?" I raised my head and chuckled at her. "Oh no no no, I'm sorry Madi, I wasn't- I mean- I didn't intend to hurt your feelings, I was just-" She stopped talking when I started to burst out laughing. She was confused at first, but started laughing with me.
"Hey, it's okay. It's nothing, really." She walked over to me and hugged me.
"Really I'm sorry. I frankly didn't expected you to be the fangirl type. I mean you're so silent and all and-" she stopped mid sentence like she remembered something. "Ohh right! Now that I think of it, I think I saw a store downtown that sells albums, merch and whatever you call that stuff, for this boyband, Seven Outlaws? Yes, Seven Outlaws. I think I should take you there as a payback for whatever I said earlier about fangirls being crazy. I deeply apologize for that." She said putting a hand on her chest, signifying that she really is sorry for what she said.
"No Tyra, it's really nothing. You shouldn't be sorry."
"No, no, Madi, I feel like I owe you. We will drive downtown and I'll take you to that shop. I wont take no as an answer." She said turning off the television.
"Oh I wouldn't even say no Tyra. That's actually a good offer. But, I think you wont be driving us considering your car-" Her eyes grew in realization.
"Oh shit. I totally forgot about the car."
"I figured out so."
"We'll be riding the subway!"
"You sure about that?"
"Yes I am sure. We need to get those albums in no time!"
"Oh Tyra, I didn't expected you to be the fangirl type."
"I'm not silly, it's for you!"
And so, later that day, I am already standing in front of that store Tyra was talking about. I should be jumping up and down from excitement right now. But why do I have a feeling that something is going to be wrong tonight?