The night before I was to go back to Chicago, my brother Dodgie, my niece Zyra and I were stuck in traffic at 12 midnight. I had gone to my friend Ling’s art exhibit opening and hung out with her until 10, despite people telling me, “Don’t hang out too late, you’re going to get stuck in traffic on the way home.” I guess it just didn’t register. My mind refused to believe that there would be traffic at midnight on a weekday. My siblings kept explaining, “Don’t you get it, there’s a lot of construction. They could only do it at night because during the day it would be impossible as there is traffic all day.” In my head, I was protesting, how could that be? Why would people be driving around midnight on a weekday. It didn’t make any sense.
It must be the same crazy thing happening in my head, refusing to believe that you are gone, no longer with us, passed away, dead. It isn’t right. No effing way. I was just FaceTiming with you, just a week before you were rushed to the hospital. No falling down the steps at the mall or the crippled chair at work, no breaking of bones, or a botched surgery. It was just you, feeling well, texting your dubbers for a rescheduling of auditions one moment, and the next, throwing up, and then, in a coma, and then… How could that be? And now I’m going back home to Chicago, a motherless child. No longer anyone’s child. Just an adult with all the negative connotations.
I’m wearing your toe socks and black sweater – the one I wore at the cold airconditioned room at the hospital. I kept looking for pictures of you on my phone. I guess I don’t always take a picture of our chats. I thought about the times I came home. Every year since dad died in 2009. The longest times I had spent with you since I left for abroad were a week or two. Before I had my own family, I’d visit for six weeks sometimes, half of which was spent somewhere else – writing about a new beach that opened, having an immersion among canning workers, climbing a mountain, marching to protest another corrupt president, hanging out with friends. And you would be working, too. Always. You loved being busy with work. Even when I was a child. You’d always say, “Nagkakasakit ako pag walang trabaho.” I’d get sick without work.
Two years ago, when I took my son with me for the first time, you got sick and were confined at the hospital. I stayed with you all of the time, refusing to leave your side. I remember how my friends came to see me there because I didn’t want to go anywhere else. Then, you got better. I knew you were feeling better when you started asking for a mirror and putting on your lipstick for possible visitors. We went home three days later, and then I had to take my son on a five-day adventure with my friends. Did you resent it that I went? I remember you saying, “Ang bilis naman!” Your visit is too short. And now I can’t help but agree and wished I had stayed longer each time.
I think the best times we had together were not those spent at expensive beach resorts or having spa days at the mall. The best ones were when we were home together, in your room, chilling, watching TV and old movies until we fell asleep. You’d always say you couldn’t sleep, but I knew you were sleeping. Few hours here and there. I knew because I would lean close to your back to listen to the sound of you breathing and your heart beating. (That was actually when I insisted you go to the hospital that one time. Because I could hear you wheezing.) Those times I’d notice how fragile you had become. How easily you could be taken from us. And so you were. And I still can’t believe it. It is like a bangungot, a bad dream, I want to wake from already. I keep wishing that there’s an alternate universe in which you are alive and we are talking and eating, joking around, watching TV, getting a pedicure, or you are laying hands over me, and I don’t mind, really I don’t, because I love you mommy and I miss you so much, and I don’t know how to face a another day in this real world where I have become a motherless child.