I officially moved out of my Mom’s place in September of 2016, but that apartment in North York will always be my first home. When I’m alone in my flat, I usually begin thinking about the times that I walked in from school or work to find my Tito cooking in the kitchen, my brother tucked away behind his desktop, and my Mom doing the ironing while watching her shows. I remember Tito, sitting on the couch, sitting upright and snoring with his chin slumped into his chest and his hands holding his phone and the remote.
That apartment is a space filled with memories of past Christmases and birthdays and fights and dinner table conversations, echoes and whispers of laughter and love floating in the air, snagged on the leaves of one of my Mom’s many houseplants. This past December, we put his photo in an ornament to hang on the tree so he could celebrate the Yuletide with us, and when we packed everything away we put the ornament on the fridge, in the kitchen. He always used to smell of food. He loved to cook, giant pots of stews and soups and deep-fried delicious things.
Sometimes when I catch a whiff of Filipino food in random spots in the city, I like to imagine that his ghost is a food smell, instead of an apparition or a disembodied cloud that holds none of his depth and complicated nature. This thought gives me comfort: that he is around wherever good Filipino good can be had – in my kitchen, in my Mom’s kitchen, anywhere and everywhere in Toronto where Filipino food is.
I miss him.