She definitely wasn’t young anymore. Or as pretty. She bore the wrinkles and eye-bags of sleepless nights and pointless worries, but she wasn’t quite good in concealing her scars and bruises.
I clench my fists every time I notice them, remember them. I wanted to be mad, find the people who keep doing this to her, pummel them with rage and frustration.
But she just shook her head, wiping my tears. I shouldn’t, she said wordlessly. Not against the children she had made her very own.
She seemed both hopeful and sorrowful today.
“What is it?” I asked, more curious than anxious. Who wouldn’t be worried? It’s not everytime that I see her display this kind of madness; she oft would just flit from one mood to another, her ever-shifting emotions and attention making me want to just give up caring about her at times. She’s fickle, easily distracted, and easily forgets. Yes, how quick she is to forgive and forget— how she entertained so many suitors and lovers, the countless funny and heart-wrenching stories that they embedded in her. What keeps me loving her is what’s also tempting me to walk away, even for just a mood-moment, if not forever.
I gazed at her, beautifully dressed, like a teenage girl ready for her first serious romantic date. Days like these, I could imagine how beautiful she once was. Times like these, I am reminded how beautiful she still is— despite all the ugly things she had to go through. I cleared my throat, replied: “Are you sure about this?”
“Why shouldn’t I be? It’s not everyday I get this chance! I’m not getting any younger, you know.” She purred at me, much to my annoyance. She was the epitome and proof that maturity is just an imposed illusion of a social norm. But looking at her, maybe being immature once in a while is a good thing. Being childlike is a wonderful thing.
“I don’t really trust these guys. What if you get hurt again?” I spoke as if I was the one who was being hurt over and over again, but she shushed me. This impeccable optimistic swing felt fresh even if it was irritating; maybe I was just being too paranoid, being overly protective of her. She does deserve to hope and believe in her own happy ending. But I was afraid for her. I was afraid they’d fail her again.
She turned around, and laughed. “Sanay na ako. But that doesn’t matter. I will be fine.” She knelt down and hugged me, and I could feel the warmth of her own tears embracing me. “I will be fine, as long as you will be. I’m doing this for you. So grow up, be strong. And maybe someday… who knows? Maybe someday we’ll be a happy family again.”
I pressed my head deeper into her soft shoulder. Her hair smelled of sampaguita and dama de noche, but I couldn’t help but note the hidden aromas as well: the faint scent-stain mothball on her dress, the acrid-saltiness of dried sweat from her hard day’s work, and the cheap perfume she gloried herself with— a gesture of polite appreciation for this undesirable memento from her past lovers. I wished she sprayed something else; but it was all she had, and I was ashamed that I could not afford to give her something better.
“Pray for me,” she said, and with a sincere kiss on my forehead, she bid goodbye, “Remember me.”
Someone knocked. I watched her open the door, her hand dancing on the doorknob as she gives it a gentle twist. I didn’t who was standing behind it, nor did I know where they planned to go this time. But I knew, in faith I knew, she will come home. And I can only promise to be here for her when she does— because after all, that’s what families are for.
Inang Bayan, I will.