Where were you on January 2, four years ago?
I tried asking you but you can’t remember.
Is it only the mind that forgets? Or, is it the heart?
Is it because we did nothing significant that day that the date simply slipped off our memory for good?
We must still have been living in that rented house with a red gate, numbered 72, along McArthur Highway, the house that Sean thought was our own to the chagrin of the real owner. It was the house that Ja, your stepdad, described as a garage because the owner used to park their rusty old sedan and a new van just outside our front door window. It was a house that I remember with horror and helplessness because the bedroom where we used to sleep had no window and the other room, where you used to draw and be alone, used to have windows that looked out to a stove in the open kitchen of the other house. That window was eventually overshadowed by ugly granite when the owner built another extension to their house.
It was a perfect trap, that house. It was built only as an afterthought.
First of all, I’m not very good at dates. I couldn’t remember the exact day I met your father or when exactly America first attacked Iraq, but I can still picture his eyes and the way that his shirt revealed the curves of his shoulders. Just as I had clear pictures on my mind of Operation Desert Storm on the pages of Newsweek magazine on the magazine rack of the Recoletos library; and then, of Typhoon Ruping, afterwards, when the entire city went dead and we had to hunt for bread and canned goods out on Colon street because there was nothing to eat in the entire Tsa Elim dormitory. I still can remember the exact day when you arrived, the dress I was wearing, the look of panic in your father’s eyes, the exhilaration and the long hours of struggle before that. It was a day that changed my life, so, I can’t believe I can’t remember anything on January 2, 2006, when you turned 13. I remember meeting towards the end of that year another 13 year old boy whose mother and father were killed on the street of Kidapawan in broad daylight; and I immediately took to him because I was thinking of you.
If I could not remember where I was on January 2 four years ago, it was not because I had forgotten you. I’m sure I was shuttling to and from Davao city and hometown again, desperate, as usual; trying to cope with the crazy demands of the holidays and jobs. Maybe, it was the Christmas I lost Sean’s biplanes along with his medicines and other toys in a small backpack in the bus, because deep inside, I was crumbling. The holidays always required me to spend the money that I didn’t have and I was always thinking that I wasn’t good enough for you.