Jennifer was always the brightest kid in the class.
That’s what the five-year-old Benjamin thought as he watched the little girl recite the declamation piece she performed at a school event. He was sharp enough to spot her flawless and dramatic expressions despite her tiny, pretty voice. The whole class applauded Jennifer after her performance, and she quietly made her way to her chair beside Benjamin.
“You were amazing as always, Jenny!” Benjamin praised her amid their classmates’ cheers.
Little Jenny smiled widely, although shyly too, and thanked the class. Benjamin noticed her mannerism of pulling her rosy-tipped fingers over her lap whenever she got praised. He thought it was cute.
Jennifer was always good with words.
Teary-eyed Benjamin watched the eight-year-old girl defend him from bullies. While he sat over the sandbox, crestfallen for the trampled plants in the playground, Jennifer was telling them about how their parents would react if they realized that their children were bullying other kids. The bullies walked away in shame while she helped him back to his feet. His senses became slightly foggy and he couldn’t make out what his friend was saying, but he nodded and nodded until he felt that Jennifer was relieved. Until he recovered from his snuffles, Jennifer held his hand with her plump little palm and took him home. Benjamin remembered how soft and fair her skin was from the glow of the streetlights and stray lights from the houses they passed by. He thought it was comfortable.
Jennifer always wants everything to look the best.
Basking at high noon over the shadeless meadow filled with flowers, Benjamin sat over a blanket with Jennifer. He brought the sketchpad he received from his mother for his 14th birthday and started drawing nice-looking plants while Jennifer took a basket of crafting supplies and was on another attempt to make a crown made of flowers.
“Don’t you feel hot? You can go sit under that tree to cool yourself first before resuming that.” He pointed at a tree close to the blooming angel’s trumpets.
Overly focused on her work, she replied, “I do, but the flowers in this spot are more beautiful than the rest, so I have to do it here.” She whispered, “I’ve been familiarizing the field every time we visit here, so I know the best and not-best places.”
He took one of her flower crowns and observed it peacefully. “I think this is beautiful already.” He looked at her other creations. “You can give those to the little kids in the neighborhood if you’re planning to throw it. They’re all almost perfect.”
She sighed and looked him in the eye. “I wish you would stop saying they’re perfect when they’re not.” She then chuckled like a little kid.
Nodding, he mumbled, “Alright, if you say so.”
After a few more attempts, Jennifer seized her basket and stomped to the nearest tree from them, and Benjamin continued drawing until it was almost sundown. He collected his stuff and marched towards the tree, where he found her asleep next to it. The eventide’s breeze serenely breathed as he watched how the last beams of sunlight poured between the leaves to radiate Jennifer’s beauty. Benjamin’s memories of severed flowers from when he walked to her spot suddenly vanished because of the pleasant sight. He thought it was heavenly.
Jennifer was always perfect-looking despite her faults.
Benjamin looked at Jennifer’s tensed expression while she glared at her laptop. Her eyes never left the screen since the minute she was told that the result of her bar exam was out. He observed every twitching vein in her skinny wrist and uptight positions she did whenever any of her limbs fell asleep.
After taking his eyes off her for a moment, he heard her squealing and yelling at the top of her lungs. He checked her laptop screen to find Jennifer’s name on the list of passers. He jumped towards her while trying to congratulate her, but only stopped trying when she started moving in frenzied movements he couldn’t figure out.
“What are you doing now?” Benjamin asked amusingly with an awkward smile plastered on his face.
Jennifer continued flailing about. “I’m dancing, duh!” she screamed proudly.
He only laughed at her hilarious definition of dancing. He kept glancing at her, wondering if she would ever stop, but he cackled more loudly in every attempt to take a glimpse. He thought she was amazing.
Jennifer was always the best.
Benjamin gazed at his lovely wife while she laughed at the memories she recalled from when they were young. She smiled as she fetched a basket from the dining table. He remembered that she’d said she would buy groceries in the morning. She gave him a peck on the cheek and a greeting before she left, and he returned the greeting before he closed the door.
That dewy morning was filled with hearty waves of laughter and fuzzy recollections of two lovers, like dandelions being flown and carried by daylight’s wind through the past rain and future storms. That afternoon, Jennifer seemed to find peculiar materials again and have gone somewhere deeper in the store—as she had not gone home. That woeful evening delivered a hurricane that devastated Benjamin’s sturdy walls, which had taken him four decades to build.
Benjamin lived in sorrow for months. He wouldn’t eat until the neighbors pleaded on bended knees. He wouldn’t rest one bit until the men in the neighborhood carried him to bed. The thought of Jennifer unfound kept getting worse for Benjamin by the day, and the people were worried for him.
One day, the house was lighted for Benjamin, but his vision showed him dimly lit rooms and lonely spaces. His legs failed him, and he sat on the floor helplessly. The house was neither quiet nor loud that morning—it was weeping.
It wept for the lifeless atmosphere fogging inside; it wept for the dull loneliness Benjamin had bottled up during the barren wake; it wept for the dead radiance Jennifer had left in the picture frames. Their home had never looked so forlorn.
Lexi Eve L. Bacala lives in Davao City. She is a Grade 12 HUMSS student at Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School.