... He wanders in a fog adrift upon the planet, helpless, praying that just by luck he might stumble across his destination.
- Anne Tyler (in Accidental Tourist, describing main character, Macon Leary)
“Where am I” is a question that has confounded me all my life. A life in which I have lost and found self many times – and not in the existentialist way of philosophers and romantics I would have preferred.
I didn’t know till lately there was a medical term for what afflicts me. For decades, I’d simply call myself the most “ligawin” person in the world. Then I’d add, as though it was the cutest thing to say, that, alas, it had nothing to do with being attractive to guys – unless I count the young men who’d call on an almost daily basis with yet another credit card deal or some other telemarketing proposition.
I am so ligawin I still lose my way around the UP campus after 30 years working there. I am so ligawin I'd enter the main door of an unfamiliar office, transact my business, and then try to let myself out through the door of a conference room right smack at a dozen people all gaping at me. I am so ligawin that when I eat out, I can get lost going back from the comfort room to my table at a big restaurant till my friends are about ready to page me. I am so ligawin I break into cold sweat when I take a cab from a strange town and I can't give the directions the driver expects to get me home.
Aside from board rooms, stock rooms, and other spaces I shouldn’t have entered, I have also tried to climb into cars not ours.
When I am in a strange place and I wish to explore it, I walk a straight path. When I reach a fork, I turn back.
Three times I got lost in Antipolo in May time. Twice in Divisoria during the Christmas rush. Once in a subway in Nagoya, Japan while on official tour. No big deal. I took a cab back to home or hotel, where the first thing I did was to scold my companions for losing me.
I got lost big time in Agoo, La Union at a time only rich and important persons had mobile phones. My sister, her children and I braved humongous crowds and horrendous traffic to witness the phenomenon of the dancing sun and to gawk at Judel, a Bernadette-wannabe. I like to think I saw the sun spin out of orbit for a minute, unless it was just my eyes obliging my overwhelming need for a miracle. I also thought I caught an uncanny whiff of sampaguita flowers, unless someone sprayed bottled scent all over the hillside. Anyway, when the crowds dispersed, we inched our way to where we were parked. Suddenly, my companions sank into the sea of people, whereupon I spent the next two hours trying to fish them out -- them or the car which seemed to have plunged, too -- whichever surfaces first. When it got dark and my limbs were about to crumble, I found a house that offered meals and later agreed to put me up for the night. I made friends with the lady of the house who accompanied me to mass the next morning at the Agoo Cathedral, and thence to the PT & T office where I phoned home, and finally to the terminal to board a Manila-bound bus. After we hugged and said goodbye as though we had been friends for a thousand fortnights rather than overnight, Manang Nida handed me a small box. I have kept her gift rosary made from shell to this day.
At Divisoria Mall, when I gave up looking for friends who strayed as we panic-bought for the holidays, I stumbled across an obscure store selling old inventory of Pollypocket dolls at give-away prices. The finger-sized dolls in compact-shaped doll houses were to-die-for gifts for little girls, of which there were plenty among my grand and god children. When I finally reunited with friends at the end of the shopping day, they drooled over my buys.
"Wandering in a fog adrift" is releasing control, letting the fates take over. It can spring wonderful surprises.
Come to think of it, there have been adventures, not all of them unpleasant, I would have missed if I didn’t have this condition I now know as geographic dyslexia or dysgeographica.
It has given me cold comfort to put a name to this chronic disorientation that follows me about. Warmer comfort is finding out from google searches I am not the most ligawin person in the world. Odd comfort is realizing I am not stupid after all but only minorly impaired in the way that the reading dyslexic and the color blind are.
I don’t know what caused it or if it can be treated. I just know I went to school, held a job, raised a family, and built a social life little encumbered, though sometimes embarrassed, from not knowing what direction I am facing or whether I am coming or going. People around me, except the closest, are none the wiser I am afflicted. Of course, I had to abandon pretensions to be tourist guide or pilot or driver or navigator or traffic policeman. But hey, I can be a travel writer like Macon Leary, the vulnerable Anne Tyler hero (The Accidental Tourist) who can get lost on a road map.
I can even be president, like the world’s most accomplished dyslexic, George W. Bush.
(For more on dysgeographica -- also known as directional dyslexia, also called geographic dyslexia by Anne Tyler -- log on to the exquisitely instructive site of someone similarly afflicted -- poet, writer, editor, and blogger Dr. Metablog.)