23 April 2016
8:45 AM – ?
If it weren’t for that Facebook post, I might’ve never known that you already died. When I stumbled across that post, I initially thought that it was your birthday, and I remembered feeling all geared up on what sappy birthday message should I post on your wall and what picture of us should I choose to post along with my greeting. The Facebook post was a photo collage of you and the person who posted it, and there were also several group pictures pasted on the collage where you and I are included. But then, there’s also a coffin, and I found it odd because it seemed to be quite inappropriate for a birthday post. I knew what was coming, but half of my heart doesn’t really want to believe it. Half of my heart is in compete disbelief. No, it was not Ate Krystel’s birthday after all. There’s no need for a cheesy birthday message and a selfie with her. Intrigued, and with my heart in my mouth, I decided to read the caption. I can’t imagine that the moment I started reading the photo’s caption would also be one of those rare moments when I’m really sure that I’m absolutely rooted to the spot, and the whole world just fell over my shoulders. It was like someone has dropped a bombshell, and I’m not so certain anymore whether to run away from it or not, even though there is that obvious choice to delude myself. The caption goes:
“Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean, ‘We will miss you. Until we meet again.’” Haysss. Hanggang ngayon mahirap pa ring isipin na never ka na naming makakabonding ate at masisilayan. Rest in Peace ate.
I did a double take, just to be sure that I’m not having an unexpected hallucination. And then another take, and then another. I was thinking that maybe if this is not a hallucination, I might just be having a morning after, because I binge watched a series with a couple of shots of caffeinated coffee the night before. So I did another take. I blinked a myriad of times. I slapped both of my cheeks. I smashed my head on the table. I pinched myself so hard. I was running in circles. I must’ve read the whole caption repeatedly for over a hundred times. Every time I read it again, my head would scream a series of “What?”, “No!”, “Ate Krystel?”, “Ate Krystel!” and “Sorry.” I just stared blankly at the screen and felt that my grip on my gadget went numb. Every part of me went numb, even my heart.
We were just having a conversation a week ago! We even left from the office together, just you and I. You were telling me that you were already prepared for your last year at college and OJT and that you’re about to finish the required number of duty hours. You have plans. I was telling you about thoughts of shifting out from my course. You were telling me tokens of encouragements, which was so like you. You were laughing at my little, corny jokes as we walk along Riverbanks, because I was so pathetic and you just loved to give away gestures of appreciation.
10 April 2016
7:15 A.M – 11:30 AM
When I entered the room, you were already there, along with Ate Veronica. Ate Veronica was recording the heights and weights of the patients. You were searching for the files of the children and young adults who were about to be checked-up by the doctors. I gave you and Ate Veronica a small wave and a “Hi.” You only smiled back. I approached you and asked if I can help you in any way. You offered me the attendance sheet so I have to wait for people coming in and out of the room, to make sure that they’ve signed. You seemed preoccupied and maybe less gentle than what I usually know. I shrugged it off because maybe you’re just too busy. Minutes, or maybe hours later, I was asked by Kuya June to measure the blood pressures of patients. It took me a lot of time, but occasionally, if there were no patients to attend to, I would come over yours or Ate Veronica’s stations to assist them. Later, more service youths came, and the room suddenly felt brighter. Ate Camille, Ate Irah, and Ate Lizette, are really, really close friends and they have known one another for a long time so whenever they’re together, eruptions of laughter is inevitable among them. But even they cannot make you genuinely laugh at that time, which I found so odd. You would only smile and nod in recognition whenever we talk to you or even make you laugh. Lots of people went to be checked, so there were also lots of things to do. Searching for the people’s files was extra harder, because some of the files were missing, so consequently, we have to make a number of new forms. We thankfully accomplished all of these. I felt fulfilled. I was sure you do, too. Ate Camille, Ate Irah, and Ate Lizette stayed to watch a TV show, after we gave them our goodbyes. And then we left.
11:35 AM – 12:45 AM
We walked away from the office together. Your home was just near the area, just some meters away from the office, in Barangka. You only have to walk. I still have to ride a jeepney to Cubao. I noticed that you were extra quiet. I knew that it’s already your disposition, but at the back of my mind, I also knew that something’s going on about you, because you wouldn’t be that quiet if there wasn’t. I wanted to ask you that but we’re not close enough, and I worry that you might take offense of it. I also knew that you wouldn’t give me the most honest answer that I want to hear. I wish I asked you, because I’m quite intrusive, but not in an annoying way. I use this pushy disposition to bring out the best and the worst out of every people I meet. But to think about it, even if I travel back to this time, you still wouldn’t tell me what’s wrong if I blatantly ask you. Your parents and your closest parents never knew what you’ve been going through until the day that you’ve been confined. Only your boyfriend knew it. I wished you told more close friends about it. Maybe, just maybe, that would make a better outcome, if not the best. Maybe you the baby will still be here. Maybe you would still be here. But the maybes are done. And you’re gone. Both of you are gone.
So instead of being too intrusive and personal, I just asked for slightly meager questions for the sake of conversation. I almost didn’t do it, because I had the strange feeling that you didn’t want to chitchat with me at all, and that you didn’t need it. Because Marikina is almost coated fully with candidates’ paraphernalia, I asked if you are going to vote this month, and you said yes. I asked about your possible presidential and vice-presidential choices. We discussed yours and we discussed mine. And then I asked you about college, and your plans. You told me about enrollment, OJT, SpEd, etc., but these were all told in a rush, as if you just wanted to answer my questions for the sake of it, and as if you wanted to end it. But, I feel like a have to fill out the possible silence so I made measly remarks about traffic, the weather, shifting, Marikina, my university life, etc., etc. I even didn’t remember the things that I said because they were too pointless and disorderly to remember. I just remember you, your sweet veneer, and your sad atmosphere. We parted ways, and I remembered feeling disconnected and dissatisfied because I didn’t accomplish that personal task of cheering you up.
You had a quiet, gentle and sweet nature, and I love that about you. Your calm disposition is the Yang to a troubled person’s Yin. You somehow balance my screwed-up, slightly cynical character whenever we’re talking with one another. You made me feel like I was actually OK to be with or at least, you made me want to believe it. You believed that everyone has a heart, no matter how broken they look in the veneer and that everyone should have the chance to learn, especially those who are handicapped. You were translating those beliefs into action by majoring in Special Education, and assisting in this foundation. You were so passionate about service, and I always see you moving, helping and offering your hand to every people. Whenever we’re in the same room, I consistently notice that you always had something to do. You don’t just stare at empty spaces during free time, or choose to watch T.V right after eating lunch. Or maybe chitchat with the other people in the room. No, you were always on fire. “Nothing to do” doesn’t seem to be in your vocabulary of phrases. There should be more people like you in the world— those people who act more, and talk less. Or at least, there should be more people like you who can quickly convert their core values into action, not just mere dusts of bullets fired to the moon, exploding into nothing. But now, the world is deprived of people like you. The world somehow became less gentle, less diligent, less efficient, less helpful, and less appreciative without you. Another sweet Yang soul has been taken away from this Yin-dominated, messed-up planet. The world is deprived of Ate Krystel.
24 April 2016
“Ate Krystel! Sorry.”
I didn’t cry even after God-knows-how many times I’ve read that Facebook post. I didn’t cry the whole day, and I remembered feeling worried about the state of my soul. Am I still human? Am I still capable of feeling? Have I become heartless? I messaged some of our mutual friends, and they told me that the funeral is over and your wake is also over. The people I messaged told me that they texted me, but my phone was broken. I was not able to receive the news. It was only the night after I saw the Facebook post that I really cried. I cried because I will never see you again. I cried because I never had the chance to know you deeper. You’re the kind of person I would love to befriend. I cried because I will never see a future where you’re there. I cried because I didn’t attend your funeral or your wake. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Ate Krystel. You are far away from us now, but closer at the same time. You will always be in my heart. I’m pretty sure that we will see each other again. Good bye.