Silence of the flowers
By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
SHE sobbed. Her tears ran down her face and swirled with the mucus that welled from her nose as she sniffed and snorted. For a woman turning forty-five and having achieved so much in her career, this was not the time to cry. Tomorrow, she will be awarded by her peers for the contribution she has made for the protection of young children.
It was midnight when she told a friend. She remembered the first time. It was a year after her father remarried that the driver and two boys, ten years older than herself, alternated bringing her to the nursery school. Her stepmother was young, and did not know anything about raising five-year olds, or did not have the inclination to learn. At first, it was the driver, touching her private parts, to which she reacted with fear. She was told that if she told her father, he would stab him. The image of her father oozing with blood alarmed her, and the reality of losing him etched in her fragile mind, having lost her mother so early to heart attack. That was when she learned to be silent.
The two boys who ran errands for her father accidentally caught the driver’s right hand inside her skirt. He told them that there is nothing wrong, he was just massaging her legs. Eventually, the two boys also did the same. Her whole body responded with more silence.
It was after two years that the driver left for another employer. One down, she said, and begged God to take the remaining two boys. But her stepmother retained them, being sons of poorer relatives. She did not have the courage to tell her father. The specter of his lifeless body sprawled on the floor haunted her. The touching progressed deeper into her flesh and bore scars. When the two boys finally left their house, she started to grow seeds in the garden, something she had never done, and for the first time, she felt the warmth of the earth, that quietly ushered the birth of flowers.
But she never told her father. Or anyone. Until today, in the middle of the night, while having a relaxed conversation with a friend, on the eve of her forty-fifth birthday. There was no plan or prompt, except for the wine that ran through her whole body, relaxing her muscles, in an atmosphere of cosmic trust. The universe listened to the articulation of things it already knew.
Through the years, she transformed her pain into a successful political career, becoming in the eyes of many, an exemplary woman, raising the bar of excellence several notches higher in public service. While she focused on this goal, she was also gathering strength to avenge her own abuse.
“I saw the driver a month ago. He is very old now, toothless and bald. He is almost blind because his family cannot afford an eye operation. He did not even recognize me. He lives in a shack beside his son’s house. And to think that I wanted to hire someone to end his life.”
“Christ! Why would you want me in a position to visit you in jail?”
“One of the boys who was with him during that time, works as a stevedore in Manila. His skin is so scorched it looked like the sun slowly burned inside of him. He limped on his right foot. That one, I thought I would strangle with my bare hands.”
“What about the other boy?”
“I spoke to his wife while we were distributing relief goods for typhoon victims. He lives in a separate dwelling apart from his wife and children. He has leprosy that grew around his eyes, and made his hands appear like bubbles of restless worms threatening to crawl out.”
In the silence that ensued, she stood, still misty-eyed, carrying her glass of wine, and walked barefoot on the carpet of moist grass, guided by her nose towards the intoxicating scent of the Arabian jasmines, gardenias and dama de noche, swirling in the night breeze, drying her tears away.
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