As the song goes, “If I can make it there. I’ll make it anywhere. New York! New York!”
But Tricia was barely making it.
Carrying what seemed like ten watermelons inside her belly, she willed her brain to suck all the tears back in. She knew that even a sigh would place her in danger of losing her very fragile control. It was a good thing her neighbors, John and Mayen, offered to drive. If it weren’t for the waves of alternating intense fire and knives that radiated from her abdomen, she would have felt deep humiliation.
Shuttled from one public hospital to another, she breathed through her pain while Mayen inquired one by one if they could accommodate a pregnant woman in the throes of giving birth. But the severely understaffed and decrepit hospitals could only turn them away. The only option was to go to St. Clare’s, which was too expensive.
Lifetimes ago, Tricia lived in New York City. She enjoyed being an assistant at a fashion warehouse where last season’s clothes, knock-offs, and experimental couture were stored. She was getting dressed in designer clothes on a small salary. Young, single, and fashionable in the NYC – things could have only gotten better. Or so she thought. When Tricia came home to the Philippines and met Allan, she lost her head along with her heart.
There was nothing remarkable about him. Not too good-looking, not too tall, not too rich, not too poor. A sales executive of a local candy company, Allan was decent enough to be brought home to her mom. He could carry on a decent enough conversation over dinner with sparks of street humor — crass, yes, but the kind that would amuse you nonetheless. Tricia, the convent-bred, been-to-New-York kind of girl was charmed by these rough edges. Allan was a breath of fresh air. Proudly, she declared he was so “real”. So real that he never gave her flowers because the money can instead be used to buy more important practical stuff. So real that he proposed living together and not getting married. So real that he still had to work when she was having labor pains.
Tricia felt like a hero for choosing “real.” She never complained to anyone; but they knew how unhappy she was when she resorted to wearing flats and shapeless shirts. She did, anyway, without question; no one could tell her what to do. Not even when hell broke loose or, more accurately, not even when her water broke.
St. Clare’s Hospital. The clean well-lit lobby almost blinded Mayen’s eyes after having been to a number of public hospitals. They will have to worry about the payment later.
For now, Tricia desperately needs to be brought to the delivery room. John led a barely-able Tricia into the waiting room. Between steps she quietly battled the cycles of pain. Not a word of complaint came out of her. She let the visibly uncomfortable John leave her to her womanly laboring.
John and Mayen lived in the modest apartment next to hers and Allan’s. Neighbors for barely five months and they were now all pressed into this intimate crisis, minus Allan, the supposed main man.
Mayen tried to reach Allan on his cellphone. After numerous tries, somebody finally answered on the other end. It was a woman who sounded hurried and impatient.
“His wife is about to give birth and needs him at the hospital,” Mayen said.
“I’m the wife,” the woman said crisply and hung up.
White-hot indignation rose up in Mayen but when she looked at her silently tearful neighbor, she finally understood.
The nurse stepped in, “It’s time to transfer to the birthing room” she calmly said.
Tricia gave her friend a weak smile.
“Thank you,” she mouthed.
Suddenly, as if given a burst of strength, Tricia stood up, squared her shoulders and bravely marched towards the door – a map of blood staining the back of her dress.
Vida is part-owner of the St. Camillus Dormitel in Bajada, Davao City.