Commercial lights

I remember myself as a six-year-old, always excited whenever the family heads home from somewhere when night falls. I'd stay awake unless I absolutely can't fight it, looking forward to pass by the major roads, just so I can see all the neon billboards in action.

Remember those? You'd begin at the Magallanes interchange and go through the SLEX, ending at the Alabang exit, and there'd be a lot of those blinking lights. One moment it says one thing, and the next it says another - that other thing, you won't see in the middle of the day. Everything, from cars to appliances to banks, were well-represented, and the younger me enjoyed watching the logos swoosh, sort of, from the sky and end where it's supposed to be. I know I'm not saying these things properly, but I trust you get my drift.

They ended up being an outlet for the hyperactivity that proved to be my downfall as I grew old. I don't fall asleep that easily, so I end up looking at those lights and being amazed every time. During the day, I'd pretend that my fingers were those lights, imitating the actions I'd see. I'm fidgety, and my parents say I look like a retard when I do so.

"Anong tawag dun?" I once asked my mom, back when I had so many questions.

"Commercial lights," she said.

Of course, they aren't called commercial lights. Neon billboards. That's what they're called. Neon billboards, the sort that'd look straightforward during the day, only to blink like there's no tomorrow when it gets dark. They've become relics of my childhood in the early 1990s, when they gave way to tarpaulins that can squeeze in more text - and, crucially, photos - but lack the bang factor that the old ones had. They're fun to look at initially, but after passing by the same roads ten times a week it loses impact. They no longer make me go "may bagong commercial lights!"

Maybe it's because neon got so expensive. Or environmentally-unfriendly. Maybe they just fell out of fashion. Really, the idea of a person's silhouette designed like neon lights is so kitschy 1980s. Or, we decided we'll all stop having fun. It's been, what, sixteen years?

I'm suffering from burnout in the past few weeks. Gone are the days when I'd go home, proud that I've done something relatively groundbreaking. I just head home pissed and sleepy, and increasingly so with every passing day. I don't stare out the windows anymore. I stopped caring.

Earlier today, I was texting Valerie. Or maybe it was the other way around. I'm not really sure. Anyway, our conversation meant I didn't fall asleep inside the shuttle, since I'd hold on to my phone rather than slide it in my pocket every now and then. I noticed a new billboard being put up near the Sucat exit, only it's quite incomprehensible - until I realized it's supposed to be a beer bottle that tilts to the left, pouring out its contents to a mug (it's printed on tarpaulin), bubbles coming out of it.

It's a neon billboard.

I smiled. I really smiled. Unfortunate, knowing both the billboard and that facial expression wasn't to last.

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