Love, Unexpectedly: First Date

Afternoon light broke through my room’s unadorned jalousie windows. There was no need to turn on the bulb; it was bright enough as it was. I was rolling on my small bed, my mind in a riot of past, present, and future thoughts. I had been doing that a lot for a month now.

At 21, in 2005, just four months fresh from college graduation, I banged my head over what job I wanted to do. I just wanted to do something, anything, and earn from it. But deep inside, I knew it was a half-hearted decision. It already seemed like a privilege to acquire a job that was related to what I have studied for three years.

I sat up. My feet landed on a book. On the floor, books were scattered, like fancy clothes spread out for a look-over and selection. I smiled. I arranged and rearranged them in a pile and carried them to the wide wooden floor-to-ceiling shelf at the foot of my bed. My practical father, a resourceful maker of all things necessary for the house–from hangers made of wood and wire to ceilings that are plastered with aluminum insulation foil–built my shelf.

Since the shelf was twice as tall as me, I had to balance one foot on a bed post and the other on a lower shelf before depositing the books below the topmost row. I landed back on the floor and stared at the shelves, seeking some sort of inspiration. The bookshelf contains paraphernalia collected over the years: notebooks, essay papers, and news clippings on the bottom shelf, floppy disks, cassette tapes, CDs, and crochet yarns on the second, figurines, trophies, and a big black radio on the third, books on the fourth, and a set of Britannica Encyclopedia and dictionaries on the very top of the shelf.

The comfort I sought in my period of unemployment didn’t come. I went to my study table, which used to be a white drafting board bought when I was a freshman civil engineering student. Now, it was covered with thick Globe load cards pieced together like a big jigsaw puzzle. On the table, bright little holders stood full of ballpens and pencils. They were surrounded by figurines of the odd sort.

I sat down and gazed outside the window. My view used to be coconut and banana trees and a bright blue sky or a pitch black night. But a religious denomination bought my aunt’s land beside ours and erected a small church out of wood. On some days, the change of the peaceful view was accompanied with sounds of crying babies and loud singers with their equally loud musical instruments. Today, it was eerily quiet. My cell phone beeped a message. It was an unregistered number. Continue reading Love, Unexpectedly: First Date

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Remembering Coleen, the girl of joy

What is now a paved road outside my parents’ house used to be uncovered soil with stones and weeds. This rough plot of land, with only trees on one side serving as a sort of boundary and a concrete wall on the other, welcomed the restless feet of 8- and 10-year-old children jumping and thrashing against the hard ground.

Among them was Coleen. She was a short, frail-looking girl with a pair of sad eyes. Her appearance was a sobersided contrast to the meaning of her complete name: Coleen Joy, or a girl of joy. But appearances can be deceiving.

During one of our games of catch or hide and seek with the neighborhood children—Manny, Toto, Nonoy, Christine, and Alwin—Coleen would come out of her house pale and tired. She must had had one of her “nebulizer sessions” to ease her asthma attacks.

Continue reading Remembering Coleen, the girl of joy