Do you remember when I talked to you that night when it was raining and the rain had soaked my shoes I left outside the door? I discovered it only in the morning when it was time to go and I realized I didn't feel like walking on a wet pair of shoes, so, Eve let me use her pair of black thongs which until now I haven't returned?
No, maybe, my memories got mixed up and I was talking of a different night.
Maybe, it was not raining that night; but you, as usual, had your old tantrum. You called us names. You said words we never heard at home when we were growing up; words that made us wince with loathing. Ione must have given up on you, she merely sighed a tired sigh. She had taken cared of you, night and day, and all she got was humiliation. Was that what she was thinking as she closed the door and went outside?
Ma, I brought her upstairs to rest, ignoring your nagging, Beth-Beth! Asa ka, Beth?! Beth! She was looking very frail. I said, Eve, let Ma sleep here, I will be the one to watch Pa.
For anyone to watch you at this time meant that one would not sleep a wink until morning. You would ask us for help to sit up and once you're up, you'd ask for help to lie down; and when you're already lying down, you'd say you want to sit up again; and this way over and over all the way till morning. I said, puslan man, Pa, you don't want to sleep, let's have a good talk, Pa. You said, what?! Your eyes glaring. I said, let's talk, and quizzed you about Lola, your father, your sisters.
"Why do you keep asking me about the dead?" you retorted.
I did not give up but backed out a bit by asking you about Upper. What the place was like before you came. Who was Ayok, Bagobo. How did he look like.
"I don't take stock of people in the past," you said.
I said I'm sick and tired of the city, I want to live in a place like Upper. I want to plant trees. I want to live in the rainforest (and read Dostoyevsky, Foucault, Annie Proulx).
You said I can squat there in Upper, there are lots of places to squat. "Squat?!" I asked, wildly amused, feeling betrayed. "Yes, squat," you said. "Many people squat there. You can be like them, squatter."
"But how will I live?" I asked, feeling you just fenced me off your property.
"You can plant corn, bananas."
I had that sinking feeling again.
"But I can't live there, Pa," I said, after a while. "I will still stay and work in the city until the boys got to finish college. I will see to it that they finish first, no matter what it takes, before I go and live in a place like Upper."
I heard you pause when you heard this.
It was only much, much later, after I've gone home and taken a bath and was watering my Oregano when I realized what that pause could have meant.
I remember our conversations in the past and I remember that boy who desperately wanted to go to school, but no one else out there had staked it out for him. Instead, he ended up sending his younger siblings to school. Later, I would hear this boy asking his mother, why? Why? Long after his mother was gone. He felt betrayed. No one remembered. Or so, he felt.
You used to say to me, "and that's because I sent you there." "You have your life now because of me."
You felt abandoned.
No one come back to return the favor.
So, when you paused that night, did you finally get it, Pa? Did you finally see a break from the past, did you see a return of a favor, did you see that no one is going to be left behind?