So this is how it feels. This is how it feels when you lose someone you love so much. You feel numb, frozen. You can’t see or hear anything but you know it’s there, and after a while everything starts to sink into the deepest part of your being. Then your world starts to shake and you start crying as if you won’t ever stop, and just before you can even wipe the last drop of tear from your eyes, you find yourself crying again and again and again.
My name is Samara. I’m standing by the huge glass window of my room, staring at the peaceful view of my little hometown. I’m thinking about the things that I’ve done in my life, the things that I’ve gained, the things that I’ve lost. It’s been three years of traveling and working and finding answers to my unending questions. Finally, I’m home again.
Why do people always think of home during times of confusion, and loneliness, and failures, and loss? Is there something about home that wipes away all these? Is home enough to give comfort to a broken spirit and relief to a hurting soul? Perhaps yes, because I am feeling them now.
It’s four in the afternoon. I go downstairs to see if my two younger brothers are in the living room. Josh is twenty, James is twenty-two. We grew up together and we’ve been close since we were kids. When I reach downstairs, the living room is empty. I go straight to the kitchen and I smell the sweet aroma of milk and eggs. I know right away what Mom is doing.
“Hey Mom, where’s everyone?”
“Your Dad is at the veranda; your brothers are out playing basketball.”
“I’m glad you’re still making your specialty dessert.”
Mom loves to make leche flan. She’s been making it since I was young.
“Sometimes I get tired or even lazy but your Dad and your brothers crave for it so I keep making some at least twice a week.” She cuts a slice of her leche flan and places it on a saucer. “Here you can have this.”
I immediately take a bite. I haven’t had a taste of that flan for three years. ”Mom, did I ever tell you that you make the best leche flan in the whole world?”
She laughs. “Yes, you told me once when you were fifteen.”
“I’m twenty-five now and I can assure you, you’re still my bet.” I smile and give her a wink.
My mother stares at me lovingly and says,” I always knew you’ll grow up into a fine lady.”
I look at her. She’s forty-eight years old and she still looks beautiful. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be just like her, beautiful, graceful in every way, kind and loving. I look in her eyes and I see the love and sincerity there, and without even asking it, I know my mother is proud me as she has always been.
“I owe it to you, Mom,” I say with gratefulness in my heart.
She smiles and takes another slice of her flan, puts it on a saucer and hands it over to me, “Give this to your Dad, he’s waiting for it.”
“Ok, Mom…” I take the little saucer.” I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too, baby.”
I’m walking towards my Dad. He is sitting on his favorite wooden chair, facing the garden, reading his newspaper. My Dad just turned fifty this year, but like what I’ve always seen before, he is still the same Dad who is strong and fit. My Dad is a civil engineer. He was also a wood carver. He loves art and beauty. That’s the part of him
that I love most but I wasn’t able to become an artist like him. I tried but it didn’t work out well. So I just stick to writing, reading, and dancing.
I place the flan gently on the table beside him and sit on the chair on the other side of the round coffee table.
“Thanks,” he says.
We are both facing the garden now. My mother never fails to impress me with her gardening skills. Everything looks tidy and totally gorgeous.
“How’s life treating my little girl?” He adjusts his glasses and glances at me.
“Well, it has been kicking me hard these months and I’m just glad I’m home.”
“When are you going back to work?” he asks.
“I’m not going back, Dad. I just finished the contract this month. They wanted me to renew my contract but I didn’t sign.”
“Good.” He folds his newspaper and takes a bite of Mom’s flan. ”Hmmm…”
It’s amazing how I could still see the same expression on Dad’s face every time he gets a taste of Mom’s dessert.
“How are you, Dad?” I ask staring at my Dad realizing how much I miss him.
“Life just keeps getting better, sweetheart. I have a great wife, a lovely daughter and two awesome boys. What more can I ask for?” He gives a deep sigh and says, “I don’t even
understand why I deserve all of you.”
I give a sweet laugh and say, “Oh, Dad, you’re just one blessed guy.”
“I obviously am. So what are your plans now?”
“There’s an international agency stationed in the city. It’s totally in line with what I do. They have been inviting me to work with them even before I finished my contract in Vietnam. I talked to them yesterday and I guess I’m giving it a shot.”
“I suppose you know and love what you are doing.”
I smile. “Yes, Dad, I definitely do.”
I was a nomad—if that’s how everyone would view the way I lived my life. I have worked with an organization that does charity work for poor communities. I lived
in mountains and sometimes in areas near the sea. I love what I do. I meet people, and I could see the world in a much bigger picture. I am able to help those in need in my own simple ways.
He finishes his flan and takes a sip of his coffee.
“Just a question…”
“Why do you always let me do the things that I want?”
“Why, don’t you like it?” he asks in a soft voice and looks at me.
“It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just that all these years, you never said no to anything that I wanted to do.” I look at him intently.
“Ok…so what’s the question again?” He is smiling this time. I love my Dad’s smile.
“Why?” I ask the question with a sense curiosity inside me.
He faces the garden again and keeps silent. I face the garden too waiting for his answer.
“Can you see that little bird over there?” he asks.
There’s a tiny little bird bathing itself on the bird bath in Mom’s garden. It looks so lovely and innocent.
“A bird bath is made for birds so they can drink and bathe if they have to. It’s like a place of comfort for them. But the existence of a bird bath with all its ability to give comfort to the birds doesn’t mean that birds should stay there for the rest of their lives.”
I look at the bird. It wiggles its tail trying to make itself dry.
“Where you are now is your home, Sam. But since you were a kid, I told myself that someday you’ll grow up and would want to fly away, even farther than I could think of, and I was right.”
My gaze is still fixed on the little bird.
“Everyone deserves to live, Sam; I don’t want you to miss that.”
“Thanks, Dad… But, didn’t it cross your mind that I might choose a wrong way, perhaps.”
“You have no idea how scared I am every time you walk out that door,
pulling your trolley bag behind you.”
“But you still let me go.”
“Because I trust you. I have to trust you or else you will not learn.”
His words make sense, but I know there’s more than just the sensibility of his thoughts. My Dad loves me.
“But it doesn’t end there Sam…I also had to pray.”
I look at my Dad. His eyes are on his lap. My vision starts to blur, and before tears start to stream on my cheeks, I wipe my eyes with my fingers.
“Thank you, Dad.”
The air is cool and I enjoy the soft touch of heaven’s breeze on my skin.
“Do you still dance?” Dad asks.
“Yes, Dad…We usually have a cultural show twice a month. It’s like a show for a cause. We do the traditional Vietnam Dances. It’s fun and interesting. I like it.
Dancing has been my passion since I was six or seven. I did ballet and folk dancing in school. When I was thirteen, Mom and Dad started to bring me to dance night parties during the Paete town fiesta. My Mom would let me wear a dainty floral dress and ribbons on my hair. Daddy would say I look like a princess. When the party starts, Dad would take me to dance with him first before my Mom. We would dance the ballroom swing. How I miss those days.
“We haven’t danced in a while, Dad…Too bad I missed this year’s town fiesta.”
“You should witness the town fiesta next year. I’m proud to say that Paete’s town fiesta just keeps getting better every year.”
The last time that I witnessed the town fiesta was when I was twenty-two. That seems like a long time ago. I just can’t wait to see it again.
Two birds land gracefully on the bird bath and start drinking. They look like friends or lovers.
Dad takes another sip of his coffee. ”So how’s that artist you’ve been telling me about before?” His face looks light.
“Is that his real name? I thought I heard Jake.”
“His real name is Jacob but I call him Jake.”
“Oh…so how are things going on with the two of you?”
Jake. That big hole inside of me. I hate to use the term “hole.” I find it so mediocre since everybody uses that term every time they get themselves broken hearted, like when someone leaves them or their loved ones never come back. They would say, the people who left them leave them with holes inside that they couldn’t bear. But I guess they’re right. When somebody important to you leaves, there is really that hole inside of you that you don’t know how to fill. Or maybe you know how but you just don’t want to fill it up because just the mere existence of that hole makes you feel closer to whatever feelings
you still want to hold on to.
“We broke up,” I say.
“Your Mom actually told me that. What happened?” My Dad looks and sounds like he doesn’t feel anything. His expression is so dispassionate. (to be concluded)
Princess Martin is a graduate of International Studies (major in Asian Studies) at Ateneo de Davao University.