The sun peeked through the grayness of the clouds, filling the room with enough light for us to see each other. I stare at the sky, dark and gloomy, and then back at her. She was a little sun herself, even if everyone expected her to be a cloud.
“Mama?” she says. I realized she was awake.
“Yes baby?” I said, leaning in closer to her bed. My arms met the metal rod kept up to avoid her from falling and immediately I wince from the cold.
“Haha. You’re scared of the cold?” she said, giggling. I just smiled. I wasn’t scared of the cold but I was scared of the idea of her being cold, lifeless body. I rubbed her hand with my thumb, just above the plaster over the needle.
“How are you feeling today?” I asked her. I really did not want to know. I figured that the hurt she was experiencing was unimaginable. I realized this too late, but I guess it was necessary to start a conversation.
“I’m okay.” She said as she smiled. Her smile was very genuine that I feel myself start to cry, but I force the water back up. I cannot cry in front of my daughter.
“So, did you have a good dream?”
“Uh-huh. You were there too. We were all there playing cards in our old house. I was there of course, but more importantly, you and Papa were there. I immediately realized it was a dream because Papa is already with Papa Jesus, and I am supposed to be in a hospital but it was good. I liked it.”
She seems too young. At a tender age of 12, why has it come to this? Why cancer? I think about what she could have been, a science teacher, or an engineer. She always had a knack for science.
“It seems it’s going to rain, doesn’t it?” she asks.
“It seems so. It’s already late so the stars might come out soon if only the clouds aren’t in the way. You like the stars don’t you?”
“Yes. I do.”
Then came the longest silence in my life. The room felt heavy, and the air seemed colder. I almost didn’t realize she was talking when she started to speak again.
“Want to know why I like the stars?”
I nod and try to smile.
“Because when I look up the stars and see a fraction of the universe, I think that maybe up there–way up there, we are atoms to bigger, bigger creatures. The scientists always say that every big thing is an enormous version of a small thing. You know, like the Solar System is like an atom? It made me realize, that maybe I am more than an atom to this universe, that maybe I am a universe to someone smaller than me, and in me, in my atoms, a million love stories unfold, a million families have fun, and a million kids play and make friends. This makes me smile all the time, like I’m actually part of something great, that I am something else besides my disease.”
She then looks at me and smiles. My throat tightens, my mouth dries, and I cannot bring myself to make a sound. What a brave little girl I have been given. She always has had to face people looking at her as a person with cancer—as cancer itself, but she never gave in. I really wish God lets me borrow her for a longer time—one more day, please?
“But baby, you ARE a part of something great. In fact you’re great!” I finally managed.
“I know,” she smiles even brighter now, “I am a part of you, and you are a part of me. We are one love story, and a family, and right now, I am the happiest kid in this atom.”
I say no words but I hug her tight. She tried to hug me back but her arms couldn’t. She was already wheezing.
“I love you baby!” I was starting to cry.
“I love you too Mama. I’ll say hi to Papa for you.” And then it started to rain outside, as well as at the atoms of my eyes. The droplets, drummed rhythmically, as my daughter gave her last breath.
David Jayson B. Oquendo is an Engineering student from Mindanao State University-General Santos City who’s also in love with Literature.