*a one chapter story, story to be fit in the novel Gagamba by F. Sionil Jose (we were just asked by our professor to write this chapter and it must be like that this chapter is fitted to the said novel but this is really not in the novel, this was just made by me)*
PABLO DEL Rosario is in his late twenties, but he doesn’t look like one. He seems he just in his early twenties fresh from college days. He took up Fine Arts in University of the Philippines, Diliman and gained little name in the world of arts. Several of his paintings were known to many. There was this painting which he called the Last Ride on the First Jeepney and someone has offered him to buy it for a big amount, a big offer he turned down. The painting is now twelve years old and has suited itself on the wall of their home. He turned down the offer because that art work was painted by him and his father, their first… and last. More of his paintings were hung somewhere in the home of some known people. Didi Gamboa, the former owner of Camarin has bought his Your Reflection. His Eyes of Earth has caught the eyes of Senator Reyes and his Man of Fear was sold by his mother to Gen. Calixto Primo. While his favorite, the Living Soul, was given to Father Hospicio dela Terra as his thank-you gift.
Pablo hated long hair that hides his ears and irritates his eyes so he just had a haircut. He wanted his face to be as clean as possible, he wanted to be seen as clean as possible. He loves to comb his shiny black hair with his left hand and it became his manerism. Even if his nose is flat (but not that flat) it suits his facewith those almond-shaped brown eyes and those pale lips. He loves his appearance, his body, his shape, his color. He is not blessed with a muscular body but then he is thankful for he is not like those thin people who don’t look good with their skeleton-like body.
Pablo looks great with what he’s wearing and it looks good with his brown complexion. It was his favorite green polo shirt pairs with jeans and brown slippers. In his left wrist was a black watch he had bought a year ago. He often checks the time. On his neck was a necklace given by his father when he was ten. Its pendant is a cross so that he does not forget-to pray. He always wears that necklace. It is the only thing that reminded him of his father. Whenever he looks at his reflection in the mirror, he found himself staring at his father’s eyes. Those brown eyes which looks like always sparkling were from his father’s, his face, those nose and lips were his mother’s. As he come of age, he looks better and better.
The sun hides behind the clouds but still it shines brightly.
Gagamba saw Pablo coming. “Good morning Pablo, how’s your morning?”
“Not that good, let me have some of those,” Pablo responded. It’s been his routine to buy some sweepstakes to Gagamba. Already knowing that he has a little chance of winning, he just wanna help Gagamba by buying a couple.
“Here, thank you Pablo,” Gagamba gave him the ticket and he paid for it, “Care to chat a bit of your not-so-good morning?”
“’Course. It’s my mother. She didn’t go home last night. She’s been out lately and I don’t have the slightest idea where she’s going,” Pablo said as he combs his hair, a little irritated. “Isn’t she working? That’s what I thought boy.”
“That’s what she told everyone, but I really dunno.. I overheard others talking ’bout her. Said she got herself a boyfriend and that’s annoying.”
“Just talk to her Pablo. I know you don’t believe them, so do I,” Gagamba said sagely.
“Yeah thanks Gagamba,” Pablo checked his watch, “I need to go, I’ll meet someone in a minute.”
“There,” Pablo said veering his head towards Camarin, combing again his hair, “I’ll meet a friend, haven’t seen him for so long.”
“Do I know that friend of yours?” Gagamba asked again, prolonging the conversation.
“Don’t think so. It’s his first time here in Philippines.” Pablo answered ready to go. He gave a goodbye waved and started walking towards Camarin.
As Pablo set off to Camarin his mother has arrived home. She has no key, she has left it in her room, to be honest she lost it in her room. But they got an extra key under the mat, which bores the Mabuhay word, where they have hidden it whenever there’s a need for emergency. What an ‘un’ genius place to hide it, she thought. Seeing the house clean, the untouched food settled on the table, the things in their proper places makes her guilty. She must be the one doing it not his son. It’s her responsibility not Pablo’s but her body’s aching. She’s tired from her late-night work to have an argument with herself. Eating the now-cold food, she wonders if Pablo is getting mad at her for not telling him why she was working a lot of jobs at the same time. He will now why at the right time.
After a little how-are-you conversation with Gagamba, Pablo sets off to Camarin. As what he had said to Gagamba, he is going to meet up a friend he hasn’t seen for a long time. Whilst he enters inside, almost all of the table was occupied. Some people don’t mind who entered. Some were busy talking and minding their business to notice while some neck were stretched to see whether they knew who was at the entrance. His eyes were searching not for an available table but for his friend. His friend was nowhere to be seen; maybe he is not there yet. When Pablo was satisfied that he hasn’t seen him there, he goes seeking for a table. Out of luck, all were occupied. It seems like people don’t want to leave their seat yet. He went out and lit a cigarette. As he puff, he watched the smoke and think of his mother. What she’s been doing? He thought. Then he thought of his friend, what he looks like now, of what he has become after nearly eighteen years. Pablo met this friend in States when they were ten and they form a great bond of friendship for five years. Pablo and his mother went back to the Philippines for him to study for college. Communication overseas was difficult so they barely contacted one another.
Pablo’s mother has been standing in front of a small table holding the biggest picture frame among others. Starring at the photo, she remembered how grateful it was to be there when his son has graduated. She imagined if her husband was just there with them, for their son, but deep inside she knew he was watching and protecting them. She had loved him and that love has been in her heart all the time. She missed him so much that her eyes started to feel itchy, tears wanting to escape. She put down the frame and wiped her eyes.
Before long, Pablo saw a group of three stood up and leave the table beside the window. He stopped smoking and threw his half-puffed cigarette and stepped on it. He proceeds to the now unoccupied table and notice how unclean the table was. He had comb his hair again for the nth time. A couple of minutes passed before he heard someone asked him, “Do you mind if I sit here?” The moment Pablo veered his head he saw a familiar face.
“Jim?!” Pablo blurted out, forming a knot on his forehead but almost suddenly replaced by a wide smile. Yes it was Jim. Jim Denison. Jim was smiling at him and seated himself. They greeted each other just like how other people greeted their old friend. Jim said he knew it was Pablo sitting there because of how he combs his hair with his hand and because of the necklace he’s still wears. They begin to discuss how each other have change with those eighteen years. It’s been too long, such a long time. Their topic jumps from one matter to another, both excited to tell their stories. They missed those years when they were still young. The conversation became serious. It’s like tête-à-tête; Jim talked about his searching and wanting to meet his half Filipina sister, and Pablo talked about his long-dead father and what his mother has been doing lately. They agreed to meet again after a week, same time, same place. They both gave a brotherly hug then wave to each other goodbye.
Pablo was glad to meet an old friend. It was two minutes past four in the afternoon when he got home. He was a bit shocked to see his mother sounding asleep at the couch. His mother was in her forties, her long brown hair was scattered in the pillow. Their house looks so different when his mother was there. He felt home. He just doesn’t want the feeling of arriving home to see their house empty. Their house is cozy; it’s just a one-story. It is not big and not that small, just good for at least four people consisting of two bedrooms and one restroom, a mini living room with a small black and white TV which looks as if it was not used for a month, the dust told so. Beside the TV was a table which is full of pictures in frame. The one in the middle was a photo taken when he graduated in college, his mother’s arm around his neck both of them beaming at the camera. It was nine years ago, he counted. He noticed in the kitchen table a half-full glass of water and on the sink was a plate. His mother has eaten when she arrived. He started to wash the dishes. While washing, he saw on the window a beautiful girl passed by. It was Lina Reyes, he knew her. Fred’s new girl, maybe almost everyone knew her.The moment he closed the faucet, his mother woke up.
“Good to see you son, you’ve been where?” She asked while emptying the half-full glass of water she had left on the table earlier.
“Mom! You won’t believe it, I just met Jim. Remember him?” Pablo cried, can’t wait for his mother’s reply. “Jim? Let me think.. uhm. Jinn, no Jim. Jim. Jim what? Jim who?”
“Jim Denison, Mom, my friend way back in states. Now you remember him, eh?”
“Oh! Yes. That little boy. . .” his mother responded memories of them while they were in States came flooding in her mind.
“Yeah. Ah Mom, why don’t you just change your clothes?” Pablo said, not a question-like but more of a command. His mother was still wearing what she had been wearing yesterday morning when she left. His mother went to her room to change but before she enters the room, “Wait a sec. Mom, where have you been lately?”
“Told you Pablo, I’m working,” his mother said plainly and then she was out of sight.
It was a quarter past four in the morning, as Pablo’s still-sleepy eyes read the time on the clock hanging on the wall. A speck of bright light escaping through a small hole on the capiz window told him it was not five o’clock. He then notice that the hand of the clock hadn’t move an inch, it was out of battery again, he thought. He reached for his watch to keep track of the real time, it was already half-past six in the morning. As he walk out of his room he felt the coldness of the wind whistling through the open window touches his skin. He felt the warmth of the wooden floor encompassing his feet. As he reach the restroom he open the faucet and let the cold water lingers on his hand. He splashes water on his face and then close it again. He combs his hair. He saw again his father’s eyes in the reflection, he needed a shave. Maybe tomorrow but not now. Wearing only sando, he snatch his dark green jacket; barefoot, he snatch a pair of socks and now ready to wear his rubber shoes.
Pablo’s mother was not there when he woke up. She has left last night at nine and she may be back later at maybe seven in the morning. Pablo didn’t have any idea why her mother needs to work for at least ten hours a day and on different shift, she didn’t need money. He means, they are not that poor but they have enough which can sustain their everyday needs. Yes she needed to work but she didn’t have to tire herself.
Pablo checks the time, he has been jogging for fifteen minutes. He combs his hair for the nth time this morning, sweat has wet his hair. Decided, he went home just to see no one. His mother was not there yet, he sighed. He took his time taking a bath, he loves the feeling of the water touching his skin. He put on his dark green shirt which bores the phrase Prometheus in black print. In Greek mythology Prometheus is the one who stole fire from heaven. He paired it with a khaki shorts and decided to wear shoes. He checks the time, he remembered that her mother goes home between seven to ten am, it’s already 11. Maybe she just went somewhere. Before he set off, he settled the food as he always does. He left a note at the table; Will be meeting Jim at Camarin. Eat your lunch. Love you Mom. He will meet Jim Denison again later. After their meeting last week maybe Jim has already found his half-sister. One last peek at the mirror, he combs his hair; one last peek at their home while holding the door knob; satisfied with what he saw and he’s ready to go.
I will tell him now when I got home, Pablo’s mother thought. She hurried home but found no Pablo there. She saw the note and read it. She smiled. She love how her son cares for her. She can’t wait to tell Pablo her plans, but she saw the food on the table and realized how hungry she is. She filled her stomach and washed the dishes. She changes her clothes. She couldn’t wait to tell Pablo everything. She will follow Pablo and Jim in Camarin, besides she also wanted to see Jim. Before she leave, something has caught her eyes; the picture in the table, the one in the middle – the one taken when his son graduated from college. Oh how she love that photo. She smiled and closed the door behind her.
Pablo realized it was too early to go straight to Camarin so he just went to the church, stayed and prayed there for a while. He looked for Father dela Terra but he was out of sight. It was a Sunday. He veered his head to inspect his surroundings then he realized there were limited people attending the mass. What has been happening to the world? To the people? He thought. Before long, he checked his watch, it was almost time, a quarter before one. One last sign of the cross and he walked off.
Pablo’s mother can’t wait to tell his son about her plan for them, for him. She was searching for Pablo but she can’t see him so she started looking for Jim. She saw some familiar faces inside Camarin. Maybe she can’t remember his face.
“Jim.. Jim. Jim Denison. Jim..,” she was whispering to herself while her eyes were searching for him.
“Did you just call me, Miss?”
“Jim?!” After a moment..
“Tita? Tita!” Jim remembered Pablo’s mother. He hugged her. Then he looked at her again. He knew from her eyes that she hasn’t enough sleep, or no sleep at all. While waiting for Pablo, they talked and exchange so much stories. Then Pablo’s mother started to summarize her plan to Jim. She was going home late for the past weeks, working hard because she was saving money. First, to pay her debt. Second, for Pablo. Third, for Pablo’s paintings. Fourth, for them to migrate to the States again. Fifth, for Pablo’s savings. Sixth, for Pablo’s soon-to-be family. Seventh and so on and on, all of them is about Pablo, his son, his beloved son. Jim felt how much Pablo’s mother love Pablo. She didn’t think of herself, even if Pablo is a well-grown-up man now, his mother still cares for him.
“Pablo? I just saw your mother passed by,” Gagamba said pointing the direction where Pablo’s mother went.
“Eh? I’ll be meeting Jim, I haven’t seen her when I left home;” Pablo answered while looking at the Camarin, “Give me some of them,” Pablo added talking about the sweepstakes.
“Dunno. Just saw her, seems like she’s happy… Here,” Gagamba handed him the tickets and Pablo paid for it. From where he’s standing he saw Jim and his mother smilingly talking to each other. He checks the time, almost one.
Then it happened. He had witnessed it. Felt it.
He doesn’t know anymore how much it hurts seeing the building collapsed knowing that his mother was in there. He doesn’t feel anything. Why does it need to be like this? Others do not know how much pain he was feeling. He was staring at his mother a while ago, smiling and happy. Then in a littlest of moment she was gone. The earthquake.
Why does it ends here? Why? Why does it happen? Why does my mother was one of them? Why not me? Why? Why? He realized it was his fault. The note. That stupid note he had left. If she hadn’t read it she wouldn’t go there. If he hadn’t written it in the first place. It was his fault. Tears run down his face while Pablo was questioning all of why-this and why-that to God, he was firing fictive things at Him and he forgot who he was talking to. He was in pain, he was not ready for it. He was now alone, in this world where millions of people still exist why does he still feels alone? His father was long gone, now his mother was… he choked with his tears. They were both gone, not for a year, not for a month, not for a week or day but forever. Gone. He hated that word.
He had accepted the fact that he can’t change what had happened. He had moved on. Not forgetting his father and mother but cherishing the memories and feelings with them. Death can take people away from us but not the memories and feelings and most of all, love. They will be forever in his heart, always there until the end.
Sometimes some things must be left unsaid, unanswered, for us to learn what we need to, he thought. He was now a strong man, stronger than what he had been. Live, who long live the life.