Tuesday, May 24, 2011

facing my demons - 3

We all have demons that at some point in our lives we must face.

I recognized Richard right away. His hairline receded a bit and he gained weight on his waistline. He still wore glasses.

I pretended to be busy working on my laptop on a table at the farthest end of the restaurant. I wore my Jackie Onassis sunglasses and I had my hair up. I had my hair curled so the stray strands not caught by the large clip fell on my face. The sun shone brightly and sunlight flooded the restaurant. Richard looked in my direction, hesitated before settling on the table at the opposite end of the room. I doubt he could see my eyes looking at him as my head was slightly bowed looking at my laptop.

I had my cellphone on vibrate so that when it rang, the water in my drinking glass stirred. I picked it up as I looked outside. It was Richard.

“Is that you?” he asked not waiting for me to say hello.

“It depends,” I said. “Is that you?” then I smiled and lifted my head so that my face was facing towards him. “Are you here? I’m at the very end of the restaurant, on the corner. Right outside me is a fountain.”

He hang up without saying anything. Then he stood up and walked towards me. He wasn’t smiling. I was.

“Hi,” I tried to put some cheer in my voice, although I almost swallowed my tongue from nervousness.

“How are you?” he asked in Tagalog when he was almost near my table.

I stood up and held out my hand to shake his. I was determined for a tight grip but his was tighter and I said “Ouch!” as I pressed my hand onto my left hand. “Aw!”

“I was fine before you crushed my finger bones,” I said smiling and wincing at the same time. “How are you?” I said as we sat down.

“You still look the same, although you’ve gained just a little bit of weight. You haven’t aged much.”

“Thank you,” I said, sing-songing the ‘you’.

The waiter showed up and I asked him what he would like to drink. He replied still in Tagalog, “a little bit later on”. He was looking at me intently, at my eyes through my dark glasses. “Can you take off your sunglasses?”

“It’s too bright in here. And I'm prone to migraine...” I said as I slid my sunglasses up my hair. I felt naked as he stared at my face. When he didn’t say anything, I said, “Please don’t look at me like I am the ugliest person on earth.” I heard my voice crack just a little bit. I swallowed.

“You’re still pretty,” he said. He pushed himself on the backrest of the chair, his eyes never leaving my face.

I stretched my lips and raised my eyebrows in a playful manner before I thanked him for the compliment. I closed my laptop and put it in my briefcase.

“So why did you want to see me?” he asked.

“I want to mend fences with you, Richard.” I took my glass of iced tea and sipped at it. “I may not have long to live and I don’t want to die knowing someone is angry with me.”

“Why, are you sick or something? Sam said you were okay.”

“Of course I’m okay. And I’m not sick. I’m just thinking, I am old and I can’t wage any more wars with anyone. So I want to call a truce with you.”

“I came back for you. I was looking for you.” His voice was grave.

I stretched my mouth again and drew a deep sigh.

“I lived in the same place all my life before I left for Canada. When I moved, my brother and my father were left there. If you had gone to Malibay, you would have known where I was.” I shook my head a little bit. “Maybe you didn’t look hard enough.”

His face became dark, his eyes burning. “I did, I went back to the office twice and no one could tell me where you were. Maybe you told them not to tell your whereabouts.”

“I never asked anyone to do that.” My voice was now flat and quiet.

It was a relief when the waiter came and asked if we are ready to order. I smiled at Richard and asked him, “Are we going to have dinner or do we want just drinks?”

He hesitated. “I’m okay,” he said to the waiter.

“Beer?” I asked him. “Do you not drink beer anymore?”


“Give me another glass of iced tea, please.” The waiter nodded and went off.

“Sam told me you’re now happily married with two daughters. I’m so glad for you…”

“Are you?” he cut me off. “Are you really glad for me?”

I met his gaze and I leaned slightly across the table and told him, “Yes, I am. And I expected you to be happy. That’s all I ever wanted for you. To find the woman who would make you a happy man. Why is that so hard for you to believe? Do you really think that I am so evil that I can’t wish that for you?”

He pushed himself back, maybe surprised at my display of aggressiveness. When we were young, I would never have dreamed of doing such a thing. I was subservient to all his wishes. But we were no longer young now, and I obviously had grown out of the subservient shell.

“Well, do you?” I said as I slowly leaned back on my own chair.

I suddenly felt very emotional and almost on the verge of crying. My face felt flushed. I drew another deep sigh and took another sip of the iced tea. My hands shook, as evidenced by the tiny clinking of the ice cubes in my glass.

“I know I did something very wrong and I’m ready to ask for forgiveness. But you must be big enough to admit that all of that wasn’t my fault. I didn’t set out to be unfaithful to you, but have you ever asked yourself that maybe you did something that made me act that way? I say I am not perfect, I wasn’t perfect. But did we do enough to correct whatever was wrong with that relationship?”

He didn’t say anything. He sat there, staring at me and like the old times, I could not tell nor read what was in his mind. Maybe that was what was wrong with us then.

“In any case,” I said now with a much calmer voice, “all I want is to be friends with you. You can tell me now, how horrible a person I was. But when you go back home, I want you to think how you can forgive me for whatever sin I had committed, and I would do the same, because, Richard, you did some horrible things to me, too. You probably don’t remember, but you did.”

“Like what?” he said quietly.

“I won’t enumerate them now, because I tried and succeeded in forgetting them. All I want is for you to say, you’re okay, and you can forgive me for whatever it was I had done, and we can be friends again. We don’t have to be chummy-chummy friends, but friends nonetheless.”

“I loved you. I loved you with all my heart.”

I thought he said “loved”. After all it was in the past.

“I loved you then, too, with all my heart. I gave myself to you unconditionally. For God’s sakes, I almost gave up my life for you.”

He looked at me, his eyes inquiring. I held up my left hand and pointed at my wrist. I jabbed my wrist twice. “I didn’t want to live anymore if you didn’t want me anymore. Do you remember that?” His hands moved to grab my hand which I withdrew and placed on my lap, rubbing my wrist.

I looked away. “You know, I had buried that episode so deep in my mind that I never recalled it until after I talked to Sam. I have never told anyone about it. Maybe that was why I never came back to the office. Maybe if I went back there, I would remember what I did that time. It was a horrible thing to do – trying to take my life for a man. A person should never have to do that. I know when I die, that would be the number one thing on St. Peter’s list of my lifetime offences. If there’s a hell, I’m pretty sure that that is where I'm headed because of that.”

It was too late for me to realize my tears were falling down my cheeks.

“I proved myself to you so many times. I gave myself to you. I always believed then that the man I gave myself to was the man I would marry. But I saw no sign of that from you. I felt cheap, used and abused. And yet you thought that I would only hang on to you for the chance of going to the States. You never had the nerve to tell me you were going to leave me. You never paid me the attention you gave your friends. You never gave me the importance I deserved. You said you loved me, but aside from getting me to bed, you didn’t really show it. If I had strayed, did you think I did it on my own? Did you think I planned it?”

Our waiter came. Seeing my face, he tried to sound cheerful. “Folks, anymore drinks? You guys ready to order?”

Richard asked for a beer, any kind he said. The waiter hastily left.

He stared at me for a long time without saying anything while I tried to stop from crying and fixed my face with the linen napkin. But the tears just kept flowing. Tears that have been kept back from thirty years ago. I did not expect it. I honestly thought I would just ask for forgiveness, be told we can be friends, have a decent meal and then part ways. I wasn’t even expecting for him to pay for the meal. I would not even expect him to call me back to ratify us being friends again. All I wanted was to make peace. For my own peace of mind, and probably his.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

facing my demons - 2

We all have demons that at some point in our lives we must face.

I have forgotten this part of my life. I am shocked having just remembered this incident and I could not even recall what year it happened. But I know it happened. I remember having examined my wrist once and wondered if the scars would disappear. Most of them are gone. I look at my wrist now and see that there is one remaining - one very thin line of scar blending in with the lines of my skin, that was the first cut I made. I shudder.

I am a suck at physical pain. I can't even deal with a paper cut without a lot of drama, and Band-aid! But my agony at the time was so overwhelming and I do not have any explanation why I did what I did. All I know is this is how it feels when your heart gets broken. It is true: you suddenly lose your desire to live.

But after that incident, I have learned to keep my heartaches and any emotional suffering inside. I have built this wall that no one can penetrate, not even me. And I have kept this incident at the very back of my mind, I surprised myself even now that I remember.

I have forgotten that there was a point in my life when I actually held the belief that having sex with the man you are in love with had to be given with a lot of thought and consideration. I believed then that when you do give yourself to that man, it was because you know it's forever. And that's how it was when I gave myself to Richard. I had thought then that he was "the one". But when he said we were over and that he didn't want me anymore in his life, only because of one very trivial thing, my young mind could not accept it. And so I thought my life was over.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

facing my demons - 1

We all have demons that at some point in our lives we must face.

Blood oozes out as the little shaving blade slides across my wrist. My head reels and everything else seems to blur and move away from me. I make a second cut, but the blade is too dull to go any deeper. So I cut my wrist a third time. And again. And again. Each cut feels more painful than the last. I don't want to live anymore, what is the point! This is the thought that runs through my mind but even that thought becomes blurry as the pain manifests itself more.

Something seemed to spark somewhere and I was afraid to look. I imagine this Almighty God that I worship looming over me, His hands crossed against his chest, His eyes seemingly angry. The look in His face seems to say "What are you doing?". And I know I don't want to look at Him. I feel so ashamed for what I have done and for what I am doing right now.

Finally the tears come, maybe from the pain, maybe from the guilt, maybe from the fear of this imagined image of God. But as I make one final cut, the pain becomes so unbearable, it makes me shriek. At the same time, Edna enters the washroom and hears me. Earlier, I have asked to borrow her blade, the one we use to sharpen our eyebrow pencils and eyeliners. As she looked at my puffy eyes, she has asked if I was okay and has been hesitant to give me the blade, but she did anyway.

"What are you doing?" I hear her say. I sob uncontrollably. I hear the dragging of a chair. Standing on the chair, Edna's face shows up at the top of the door of the stall I am in, her face in horror as she sees the blood in my hands and arm. "Oh, my God!" she yells and bends down to open the latch, kicks the chair aside and grabs the blade from my hand. I am too tired to resist. She hastily wipes the blade on her skirt and carefully places it in her pocket. She takes her handkerchief and uses it to wrap my wrist. She pulls me towards the door, opens it, and pokes her head out making sure no one was around in the hallway to see us. We walk the few yards to our office and once inside, she ushers me towards her boss' private office.

Mr. T stands up looking confused. Edna pushes me, gently, to sit on one of the chairs. She grabs Mr. T's handkerchief to augment the wrapping of my wrist.

"Richard?" Mr. T asks. Edna nods, her eyes and nose red as she tries to control her tears.

Mr. T picks up the telephone and dials a number. "You come up here; bring your first aid kit...no, don't send her. I want YOU to come up...there's an accident, there's blood and I want YOU to take care of it...okay." He puts the phone back to its cradle and watches as Edna wipes my face with Kleenex. "Doctora is on her way." After a while, he walks towards the door. "I'm going to talk to him." I start to get up to protest but Edna holds me down.

As Mr. T opens the door, the company doctor, an elderly lady we call Doctora, enters. My boss, Althea, a large, tall woman slips inside with Doctora. She looks at me, her eyebrows furrowed, mouth open.

"What...?" Althea starts to say then stops and slumps herself on Mr. T's office chair. She sits there staring at me, her face ashen. She fishes out a cigarette from the pack that Mr. T has left on his desk and lights it, not taking her eyes off me. I couldn't look at anyone's eyes.

Edna quietly leaves the room still crying.

Doctora examines my wrist, shaking her head as she does. She brushes my wrist with iodine and I cringe from the stinging pain. With alcohol soaked cotton, she cleans my arm. She takes a small syringe, squirts the liquid through the needle and stabs my arm with it.

"That's to make you relax." She places a bandage around my wrist and hand. "I am not going to ask you why you did this," she says, her voice low but firm and deliberate, "but I want you to think hard about this and explain this to yourself." Her voice cracks.

Althea, silently sitting in front of me, sniffs then blows her nose on a piece of Kleenex.

"Here," Doctora says to her as she gives Althea a tiny yellow pill: Valium. "I figured you might need this."