When it rains
And so we did move, to a smaller house in a corner of Pasig City. We sold our car and most of the fine china my mom loved, to be able to service the unpaid rent, electricity and other utilities. (I didn’t know how long we had been in debt). Mama and Papa found an apartment that was a 15-minute walk to my school and a jeep ride away from my brother’s. At around 6:45 in the morning, Mama and I would set out, crossing Meralco Avenue and trudging down the steep hill to my school. There were times I enjoyed it, when the sun wasn’t so hot, and the grass and weeds growing on the sides of the road waved in greeting. But to this day, I never knew how Mama would make it back up the hill to our house. Maybe I don’t really want to know.
Our apartment was dark and dingy, the last in a row of houses. It used to be a bodega of sorts for our landlord, and Mama and Papa spent our first days there cleaning it. Still, I found it difficult to sleep there at night despite the hard work my parents put in to make my room look nice (pink lace curtains borrowed from my lola, an old bookshelf for my toys and books, a springy bed that my brother and I shared). Why? Because I could smell them: cockroaches creeping up the walls. They were industrial-sized ones, and there were a lot of them. You could actually hear them scampering on the old wooden floors. I’d duck under the covers for fear that they’d attack me while I slept.
Aside from the roaches, there was my brother, who would be moaning in his sleep. He’d suddenly wake up screaming, complaining of some pain in his head. Then he’d go blank and go back to sleep. This happened even during the day. Little did we know he was sick with encephalitis, a viral fever that crawls up the brain. According to www.kidshealth.org, encephalitis is caused, among others, by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes or ticks. I had a feeling my brother’s illness was caused by the rundown state of our house. He was found to be near the final stage of the disease. If he slipped into a coma, there was no way of knowing whether he would wake up. If he did, the doctors said, he could suffer memory loss and organ paralysis.
So I was shipped off to join my sister at my lola’s house while my brother was confined. I missed school for a whole week and worried about Mama and Papa who kept vigil over my brother. I felt like an orphan. I felt so angry and confused, and I would cry at night not knowing why or for whom.
The person inside you is screaming
I was mad at my parents for letting this happen to us. All my frustration and anger were bent towards them. But at the same time, there was a wee voice in my head admonishing me for feeling this way. Was God punishing us for something wrong I did or didn’t do? Was I being made to suffer because I wasn’t a good daughter and so the karma had to be borne by my brother, and we all had to be apart?
It felt so unfair. But I didn’t know how to articulate it, or if I even should. This was quite a lot for a 12-year-old to bear. All I had to let my thoughts keep from running in circles was my journal.
It was a small notebook, with a lock and a tiny key. I began to write, jotting down my thoughts, sometimes crying as I did. I made sure to write on only three pages at a time because I didn’t want to use it all up so soon. I wrote about my anger and my doubts. I wrote about trust and money, love and guilt, and how, I wondered, they could exist side by side. Of course, at 12, I didn’t have the insight I do now, but in the innocent, limited vocabulary of a confused little girl, that was what I was trying to say. I was screaming inside, because I wanted to understand why this was all happening. I was screaming inside because I had to be a good girl and not throw any tantrums. So I poured my heart out into my diary and locked it up. Until I wrote this article, I never thought I would find any reason to open it again.
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