A few years back, I once lived alone for ten months in a house of seven bedrooms. It was the time when I just got transferred to a nascent, sleepy city in the heart of the Bukidnon mountains for work. I barely knew anyone in this small city, except for my boss, work mates, and the office janitor. A few months after my new assignment I was looking for a house to share with young professionals like myself when someone suggested a cozy, cabin-like dorm house which was up for rent in a really quiet part of the city. The owner lived in another split-level house a few feet away from the cottage, but because the property was relatively wide, and was surrounded by fruit trees and bamboos, the cabin had an isolated, almost surreptitious appeal to it.
There were not too many neighbors, facing the property was an empty lot lined with cacao plants, and farther away one could see the tips of the mountain forests, hidden now and then by the transitory fog. Public transportation was rather a short walk away so that honking cars, whirring motorcycles, and the like were a welcome rarity. I found the cottage charming at once; its façade was constructed to look like it was a log cabin, although the material used for the exterior walls was no less ordinary than simple red cement. The little wood and cement house had a pretty wrought-iron gate, and potted ferns hung carelessly from under the little windows. Because the house was bordered on two sides by trees and shrubbery, brown leaves would often carpet the pavement during breezy days, and the chorus of the crickets and the sound of bamboo leaves brushing against the wind would often greet me at sundown.
The little house had seven rooms as I had mentioned: three on the first floor and four above the small, steep stairway. It had two spacious bathrooms, and a corner sink. My room on the first floor was the largest and I was happy to have grabbed it first, before anyone else came to live with me at the house. The middle-aged landlady, perhaps a looker during her salad days, was friendly enough but always kept a certain distance from her tenants. She promised me that soon, I would have housemates; mostly young and single nurses working at the public hospital near her place. The summer season merely delayed their arrival, and that come June, the cottage rooms would all be rented out.
Except that the nurses never came. Or anyone else, for that matter. The weeks dragged into months. The landlady became noncommittal, and soon I grew tired of the solitude I once found so charming. I soon dreaded coming home to an empty house of seven bedrooms; the isolation was slowly eating away at me. I would take my dinners at fast foods or little cafes, and play all my CDs upon getting home until the wee hours of the morning. The darkness, the songs of the crickets, and even the bamboo stalks all developed an eerie feel to them that I slept every night with the lights open. I could not stay late outside because by then, the streets would have been pitch black, and if not for the light of the fat, sinister-looking moon, I would surely find myself groping like an idiot on my way home. During the course of the ten months, I did find myself a roommate, but she traveled frequently that she was almost never home at all. My landlady was quite particular with her choices, and so was I, so no one else came to live with me at the cabin.
On the third month, I had a sweaty nightmare, I didn’t sleep until morning. On the sixth month, a number of transients lived at the house for a week, disrupting my sleep even more, and stealing my toothpaste and soap, but the night they finally left, I wished they never did; and I would have gladly given them a gallon of toothpaste if their lives depended on it. On the eighth month, one of my best friends from home spent a night with me, and told me she’d never understand why I would live in such a lonely part in this side of the world. She was right.
On the tenth month, I finally left. And couldn’t be any happier.