Saturday, January 17, 2009

Back to School

Today, by force of circumstances I was compelled to do what I have always dreaded doing - going back to my old school. But it was an inevitable task. Desperately needing that second job, I would have to obtain an original copy of my school records, one of the requirements of my future employer. The school per se is nothing to sneer at. After all, it has a long and colorful past, one that continues to give justice and purpose to the present. Some of the men and women who walked its corridors at different times in history have gone on to leave a mark in the country's rich heritage by doing great deeds that defined their generation.

The school has produced presidents, millionaires and I would imagine, on the other side of the fence, a couple of delinquents who are either dead or in jail. And of course, the great majority and that includes me, would lead uneventful and anonymous lives, but lives worth-living nonetheless. Coming back was never an enjoyable occasion for me because of the sheer impact of unwanted memories that would be triggered by the experience. Again, it was more of myself, not the place being the reason why.

I had always been told that my views are too cynical and how they wish, my friends would insist, that I lighten up a little. Honestly, I had been trying but with so little success. Events will conspire one way or the other to put gloom into my day and I would be willingly trapped into that mode, like what I feel now, as I write.

It was approaching 5, the hour of calling it a day for the many workers, students, and nearly every busy soul among the multitudes who congregate in the city. The afternoon mass at Quiapo church had began, and just outside along the whole stretch of Quezon Boulevard, traffic came to a crawl from the obstruction of people, vendors, and homebound commuters impatient for a ride. I had to bear with the same familiar sights and sounds, the sheer stench of urban decay that had become a hallmark of the place, and which I couldn't seem to get used to no matter how many times I had experienced them. It was one of those things I hoped I had, the ability to shut off all perceptions of the unpleasant, which one of my friends had mastered and had so adeptly been using to his advantage, as he goes through his business with the complete numbness and insensitivity of one who absolutely refused to be involved, while I on the other hand would be inclined to absorb and imbibe the malady of it all. Today is no exception.

At the foot of the bridge along Echague sat a woman, slumped on the bare pavement and emanating stink and I knew right away something was terribly wrong. She was talking out loud in foul incoherent language, and having an imaginary discourse with perhaps someone she hated, except that that person wasn't there. It would drive her to tears at some point, then suddenly, into a raging screaming verbal assault, before falling into a deep silent spell, staring at the distance, and then afterwards repeating the same cycle of tears and rage and silence. People would walk past, looking the other way and pretending nothing was happening, and it felt awful that I was the only one who seemed to be paying attention, although I was looking from a distance, afraid she would see me and vent her ire at my meddling with her crazed condition. But it wasn't only the woman that bothered me then.

Two kids, about three and two years old were slumped beside her, and you can tell with one look that both were starving. I knew right away they were her children, but the kids are both too young to comprehend the tragic fate that came upon their mother. Yet they refuse dto leave her side, at times clinging to her, and at times touching her hair, perhaps hoping to coax her, make her come out of that horrific condition and give them affection like she always did, I am quite sure she did, before things had miserably changed.

I wish I could just take the kids away from this place, run off with the two of them in my arms and worry about the consequences later. But I wasn't brave enough. I wonder why people could just walk away pretending they have more important things to do than worry about two toddlers left to practically fend for themselves in a cruel and heartless city and how I secretly wished I have the same ability to simply walk away. But I have none of that and much as I tried not to, I ended up hating myself for having nothing more to give to them than pity.

2 comments:

Jeff Baker said...

Beautifully written again and yet you do sound hurt my friend. I am hurting with you, and unless you want me not to, I am praying that you find that place again that you so long for. I am visualizing you with a smile... I am of course, imagining your face as well since you are as yet unrevealed to me.

Don't hate yourself. I don't know how it works in your country, but you did the right thing by not taking the children. The authorities here would put me in jail, no matter my resons.

Your heart is good! That is why you care... dwell on that. You are good, and therefore you cared about the fate of her kids. You are good.

Namaste' -- jeff

This Brazen Teacher said...

Dear Hyphen, while I would never wish for you to change- since I believe we all possess personality characteristics that are intimately tied to our destinies in life... I can't help but imagine the mountains you would move with a dose of hope in your musings. I am already so astounded by the things you have written so far- however sad and cynical they may be :-)