Gone free!

By Jing Villamil

THERE are true stories begging to be told. This is one.

He was just turning thirty, but eight of his young adult years had been spent in dialysis. Those who are familiar with the procedure would know what it forebodes: the whole of one’s being quivering in apprehension, the painfully intrusive insertion of the needles and tubes. After weeks, months, years – the skin on the entry spots (sometimes there are more than one) scars, thickens and prayerfully numbs. And the hours a machine chugs to suck out-gush in fluid to and fro the sickened body – it is a throbbing music one would not wish to be in symphony with. Then the draining exhaustion after the pulling-out ang getting-away. He would not wish these on anyone dear or near. He would rather wish the venom vent its wrath upon himself.

But his kidneys were not the only culprit; his body, too, had turned traitor. It was eating him from within! He would bloat, or turn darkly emaciated, and he would often burst out all over in weepy ugly sores. It was a pity people turned their face away, to be kind. They failed to see the goodness in his face and ways.

He needed new kidneys but the list of the needing was pages long. A match from his nearest family would have produced better & faster result, but not a one was willing to share him a one. He understood; his love embraced even those whose fear was stronger than their love for him.

For a month he had expressed a wish not to undergo further dialysis. The eight years of it, the check-up & treatments, the expense, family stress and divisiveness – he believed, were now way beyond too much. It was time to “let me go”. Each time he said this, his mother would break into tears and blame the siblings for being selfish of their kidneys.

His last dialysis was to oblige his parents. When he was brought home, for the first time he was not fetus-curled in pain. He can be hugged and touched and he would not cry out.

For days afterwards, he lived to give away the things he valued most, including his toy collection and the rest of his expensive medicines. He made his mother promise to give a treat to those who had helped make his pains more bearable. For the doctor who had patiently and gently treated his wounds and sores, he asked his mother “when you have the money, please buy the doc’s kids some toys”. He and the doc’s three kids met at the clinic, and he kept the memory of their pure wide-eyed innocence close to his heart. But for a quirk of fate, he would have had one or two of his own at his age.

That night, the family heard him scolding someone inside his room: “You promised not to leave me behind. But you did.” They peeped; he was with no one, but his lips were pursed in a scowl. The mother remembered his story of his friends, patients like him, at the dialysis center. “My best friends,” he called them. They had all gone ahead; he was the last left behind.

When the mother finally nodded off to a light troubled sleep, a cold whiff of air wrapped around her. An embrace, fingers touching lightly. A beloved’s fare thee well. He, too, had gone. He, too, was free.

(WRITER’S NOTE: This true story was written in 15 minutes flat, the writer’s fastest ever. Afternoon of the day after he died, he “begged” his story be written. He was a soft whisper, a whiff of cold air.)

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