Friday, June 08, 2018

To look so happy!

Finally, after more than two years, I had my ailing tooth extracted. That tooth had survived Pa's battles, it had survived Digong's election, it had survived Makati, it had survived Nanay V. where we used to live near the river Pasig, it had survived all the newsroom drama, story conferences, birthdays, cakes and numerous desserts.  A few weeks before the elections in 2016, I remember how the ache started and my gums swelled so bad, I couldn't eat.  I went to the dentist to have it extracted.  She said it was swelling so bad, I had to take antibiotics first and come back after a week.  A week later, when I came back, the gums were still swelling, so, she gave me another set of much stronger antibiotics, and asked me to come back in another week. I began to have doubts whether it would really subside.  I told her it would be very difficult for me to have my teeth extracted because my father was dying of cancer.  She said I should not take it emotionally, everybody dies. But she did not get it: We had to lift him almost every second and lifting him used to take so much strength, it might be too risky once my tooth got extracted, because the bleeding might not stop. She said I should stop lifting heavy things because I would be grinding my teeth in the process, and that would increase the swelling.  I said, how could I do that? There were only a few of us in the family, there was nobody else to lift him. I also said, we were not lifting things, we were lifting my Pa. To end the argument, she told me to come back the following week after I'd taken the antibiotics.  But I failed to come back the following week because it was election time and I had to cover the elections. My sisters said they were going home to Butuan to vote so I had to stay behind to watch Pa.  The Mindanao bureau chief was shocked that they had to leave my seriously ailing father just to vote and prevent me from covering a major historical event for Mindanao and for the country.  That coverage was not just like any other election coverage because it was the first time that somebody from Mindanao was running for President.   "This is our story, we couldn't just let the Manila people cover this," he said.
So, what I did, I watched Pa while I covered the elections; and it was so stressful, I almost had a nervous breakdown. Of course, the boys were there to help me, but this added to my anxiety, because I was the daughter, I was supposed to be there in my father's sickbed but I was not there all throughout.  I was there but I was not there. So, the nervous breakdown started right at that moment, though, it would unleash its full force weeks later, when I would writhe in a kind of pain that the doctors had trouble explaining. Looking at my laboratory results, the radiologist said, there was nothing wrong with my gall bladder, there was nothing wrong with my stomach, was I in some form of stress? The room was dark and just chilly enough to relax. I said, yes, I was under such indescribable form of stress, I felt I was about die. Why? she asked.  If you've been in that kind of work for far too long, why were you so stressed? Then, I told her what I couldn't even begin to tell you.
[[Tonight, before I went home, I saw all the editors in the newsroom, their eyes glued to the TV monitors where the story of Anthony Bourdain's suicide was being aired. I heard them say they could not believe a man like that could be so sad. I heard them say they had never been that sad. They said, perhaps, he did not really kill himself; maybe, it was just an overdose, an accident.  I did not say anything. I couldn't even begin to tell them how it felt. How possible it was to look so happy and yet feel so hollow inside. And it happens even at your most successful moments, too. It never chooses a particular time or venue.]]

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