I am scared of the dark. I sleep with a nightlight on. Just to disinfect the city. That’s what the mayor said when she cancelled classes that day. It was the first time I saw Tarlac so empty. I don’t know what day it is anymore. I know the churning feeling in my gut hasn’t left since then. People have stopped saying “See you soon.” I feel like I’m losing my mind. Dinner looks good tonight. My mom tells me to stop bouncing my leg. I heave half of what I ate in the bathroom. Twenty-eight. That’s how many excruciating breaths I take before getting up in the morning. The clouds are so big. It covers everything in the shadows.
I break down crying. Like second nature, I grab my blanket and put it in my mouth. I bite down hard. It’s an effective way not to disturb my sleeping sister. She has her own problems. I don’t bother her with mine. My friends and I are on a Zoom call. We laugh and joke and smile. My eyes are burning from staring at the screen. We say our goodbyes. The four walls of my bedroom suddenly feel so much closer. Too close. I miss my friends. I miss people I shouldn’t miss. There it is again. My tears are leaving scorching trails on my cheeks. I type out a message to a friend. I don’t hit send. How many of my friends didn’t hit send? I go and take a shower. The cold water is welcome against my skin. A feeble substitute for human touch everyone is deprived of. I step out of the bathroom shaking.
I deactivate my Twitter account. I hate myself for it. I have food on the table. A roof above my head. I am healthy. The people around me are all getting sick. No one in my immediate family of five has gotten sick. I am sick to my stomach. There is so much death. I am still alive. I know someone who knows someone who has died. I can’t even handle the news. It feels like a cycle. Every day is the same. Is this the beginning, the middle, or the end? Shame is such a heavy thing to bear. I am tired. Who am I to get tired?
I scroll through Facebook and see a familiar man throwing a party. No physical distancing. No masks. Isn’t this the same person who preached about safety protocols? The one who blames the rising numbers on the people’s “indiscipline”? Well, it’s easy to tell people to stay at home when your fridge is all stocked up. When you don’t have to depend on your day-to-day jobs. When your stomach isn’t growling from hunger. The resiliency spiel is getting old. The nurses are already tired. We take advantage of them. Why? I am in front of my laptop. The malls are open. Why? The rich are getting richer. The poor, poorer. Why? I am angry. Helplessness angers me. I am but one person. What can I do? I am no longer alone in demanding answers now. Not as helpless. But anger still burns in me red.
There it is. In the easy smiles of kids. In the voices of the youth. In the welcoming ways of a mother. In the selfless dedication of the farmer. In the rasp in the voice of a teacher discussing to their student. In the furious typing of an impassioned writer. In the ducked head of an artist dipping their brush in paint. In the eyes of the photographer who captures more than the obvious. In the outstretched hand of one to another. In the linked arms of the people. In their fists high up in the air. In the masses. There I find it.
Born in Davao yet currently living in Tarlac City, Paige Ingrid D. Alovera is taking up BA English (Creative Writing) at UP Mindanao. She loves reading, writing, and dogs.