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The Hump: Balik (August 26, 2009)
August 26, 2009
by Cesar S. Guevarra
It was to be the last conversation they had.
More than regret or anything of the sort, Luis felt a strange form of disappointment each time he thought of it.
When he was younger, shortly after he learned about the realities of life and how it surely must come to an end, he would sometimes feel brave enough to imagine how it would be when it was time for his mother and father to pass on. In his mind played vivid scenes not unfit for the cinema—an ailing parent, a death bed, and a long, drawn-out goodbye. A goodbye that would see him shed the clothes of youth and bear the mantle of adulthood on his yet frail, but willing, shoulders. A parting that, while fraught with sadness, was marked with love and quiet courage. Most of all, Luis liked to think that each dying breath would bring with it parcels of a wisdom gained over a lifetime; a wisdom strong enough to hold him steady through any storm, a wisdom deep enough to never run dry as he constantly drew from it. This was not to be.
It was around eight in the morning one Saturday and Luis was getting ready to go out and play basketball with his friends. On his way out of the house, his father called out to him.
"Luis, anak, I'm sorry but would you mind going to the hardware store and getting me some 1/2-inch tubing before you go see your friends? The kitchen faucet's sprung a leak again and I'd like to get it fixed before your mother gets back from the market."
"Thanks, Luis. Here's a hundred. You keep the change so you can get something to eat after your game."
He took the money and set off. He thought of going to Lee's because it was nearer, but immediately remembered that they more often than not did not have whatever it was you needed in stock. He decided to head to newly-opened store at the corner of Soler and Mapua, "They ought to have what Papa needs. They can't very well just have opened and then have nothing to sell."
On his way back to their house, he ran into his Tito Jessie. "Luis, you make sure to tell your father he better be at the party I'm having tonight. It's not everyday that a man turns forty and it would mean a lot to me if Kuya Fernan was there. Here, take these crabs to Ate Susan but will you please see to it that she stays away from the roe? Hay naku, your mother and her seafood."
"Yes, Tito Jessie."
Then it happened.
As he turned that corner that led to their street, Luis made out a figure he thought was slumped at the door of their house. He drew nearer and realized it was his mother. His steps became hurried and after a couple of meters, he was in full gallop. He was sure something was wrong. Everything was a blur. His heart was pounding, his knees shook and buckled and he thought it impossible that they were still holding him up, his throat dry as his eyes started to water. He was running as fast as he could yet he was sure he would never reach his mother in time.
He was finally at their door. He looked at his mother's face. Tears. Shock. Surrender.
"No, no, no, no…" He made an attempt to think. "What about the faucet? Tito Jessie's party? He can't be… What about Mama? I was just gone for half an hour… He gave me money… ?-inch tubing, I have it here… I should have tried Lee's and maybe I could have gotten back quicker… What if I passed through the eskinita? Yes, definitely… I would have made it home faster… One hundred pesos."
There it was, then. Their last conversation was about a leaky faucet.
When they got back from the funeral, Luis headed straight for his parents' bedroom. For a few minutes he just stood there, in the dark, staring at nothing, willing himself into a state of numbness. Some of his aunts and uncles arrived and the ruckus they made downstairs startled him. Half-conscious, he made for the light switch and a harsh fluorescence filled the room. To his right was a clothes rack and on it hung some of his father's shirts. He mindlessly took one of the shirts and placed it to his face, relishing the scent that to him meant weekends in the country, nights watching TV, afternoons fixing his bike, an education in honor and dignity, and, apart from his mother, home.
He put the shirt back on the rack and again just lingered where he stood, trying to recall each and every moment he had spent with his father as if forcing him back into existence. A considerable amount of time later and he gave up. He decided to go see how his mother was doing but a thought stopped him mid-step as he went out of the room.
"Maybe if I just pretended he was away on some trip. I could do that at least till things get back to normal… or at least till I get used to him not being here. That sounds good."
He managed a smile.
"But people who go away on trips usually come back."
Photo taken at Binondo, Manila, Philippines
Time flies so qui
My 16 Confessions (tagged via my livejournal on this a few months back by a high school friend - slightly edited here)
1. I feel odd about my JDate profile because it seems like I'm admitting defeat that I can't find a girlfriend on my own.
2. I feel bad ordering a water to drink at a restaurant, and even if I want water, I'll still get a diet coke/pepsi.
3. Through my work, I've been forced to become too politically correct, and have perfected the art of acting super friendly & nice. Still, deep down inside, I long for days when I can be more blunt.
4. If I had the choice, I'd sleep for 12 hours every night.
5. I don't think there is anything wrong with having no ambition and just doing nothing all day, but I scorn those who act on this belief.
6. As much as I'm a die-hard Steeler fan and game attendee, I occasionally cheat on them with the Buffalo Bills.
7. I've lost my passion for baseball, but still go to lots of games. I seldom remember who won the game I attended an hour after walking out of the park.
8. I've lost more in the stock market in the past year than I've consumed in the last 8. It sucks, yet I've been faithfully reciting the line "you've got to expect some volatility when you invest in the market" like a drone despite the suckiness of it all.
9. I've only watched 3 netflix movies in the last 8 months of my membership.
10. I'm hoping that I get picked for Jury duty next week, so I can get away from work, despite joking with my colleagues and family about all of the strategies I'm planning to use to avoid it.
11. About half of the 300 DVDs and 40 video games sitting on my shelf haven't been unwrapped, watched, or played.
12. (Cowboy Junkies vocalist) Margo Timmins's voice can get me to cry.
13. Through my work, I've been a traitor to my community. I've mostly done M&A work as a consultant, with a bit of an emphasis on optimizing manufacturing/distribution post-acquisition. The first 2 big M&A projects I worked on included planning, and program managing the shutdown of 2 (100+ employee) plants nearby in western PA (along with 20 others). My 3 most recent M&A projects have been less painful, but have been for steel companies that are marginally responsible for the decline of Pittsburgh's steel industry (mini-mills).
14. I'm reliably 15+ minutes late to social engagements with old friends, but I'm never late to work related stuff. Still, I'll always call if others are waiting for me.
15. Due to #11, I bought a 400-disc DVD changer 5 months ago. It has been sitting in a box in the corner of my apartment since it arrived 4.5 months back.
16. I've recently become addicted to Hummus.
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