I wonder where tears go
By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
AT 2:00 a.m., the streets are quiet, not a sound of anything is heard, but the whisper of the cool wind. I stood at the door, under the bougainvillea, waiting for the Grab to arrive. Exactly five minutes after, a red car parked.
“Good morning po, mukhang napaaga ang biyahe n’yo.” (Good morning, it seems your trip is quite early.)
“Ah, oo, kelangan kong makarating ng Baguio City bago mag alas otso at makabalik din ng ganitong oras bukas.” (Ah, yes, I need to arrive in Baguio City at eight o’clock and to return at the same time tomorrow.)
“Balikan lang po?” (You will return right away?)
“Yes. I am visiting a sick friend at the ICU of Saint Louis University Hospital and proceed from there to the Villaflor Hospital in Dagupan City to visit another friend who had a stroke.”
“Bakit kaya ang dami pong nagkakasakit ngayon?” (Why are there so many people getting sick nowadays?)
“Kadalasan kasi, sobrang trabaho, nakakalimutang alagaan ang sarili.” (Usually, because of too much work, they forget to take care of themselves.)
“Ang lungkot po noon, trabaho ng trabaho, tapos magkakasakit, tapos mamamatay.” (That is so sad, to work and work, then get sick, and then to die after.)
Our conversation continued to discuss how one can be healthy, the pollution of the environment, the “dust to dust” destiny of humankind, and if “dust” is truly the ultimate destination. Finally, I was at the bus station, thirty minutes ahead of the bus leaving at 3:00 a.m.
Six of my classmates will be waiting at Good Taste Cafe at 10:00 a.m.. Instinctively, I reached for my phone to call Abet to join me for breakfast. Then I realized she is the one confined in the ICU. Her daughter Millie informed me that “she could go anytime.” I sank on my chair. The finality of it stared me in the face. I closed my eyes. I saw her just the same: her funny face, her dry wit, her critique of human behavior, her disdain of the corruption in government, the massacre of pine trees, and her constant struggle with the will of her own body, which according to her, is separate from her own will.
Each time I visit Baguio City, Abet (Elizabeth Licuben) is the first person I call. She usually meets me at the old bus station in her pink rubber shoes, waving her hand as she alights from the cab, exuding the vibrant energy of the city. All the smells of the city from its pine trees to the scent of its flowers, are in her smile, and all the coldness dissipate in her tight embrace. “Kabsat,” she says, “intan agkape ti kape ti neytib!” (Sister, let us go and drink the coffee of the natives!).
I need to sleep, but can’t. Listening to the night. Talking to the night. A thousand voices of silence, and the roar of an airplane slicing through the dark clouds. And then, like everything else, it’s gone. The silence breaks into tears that quickly dries up in the warm air. I wonder where tears go. I wonder why they come back, so soon. Perhaps some tears drop in the forest to make transparent the soul of flowers.
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