“Maria Where You’ve Been?”

You left your kid when she was just five years old. Without anything or anyone to hold on to. You left her with her father who is working hard to provide your needs; your wants and desires and all those things you want to have though it’s not a necessity.

You went away with that guy you met at the homecoming party at your Alma matter. It so happens that he’s rich enough to provide for your luxurious life style so you went away and left a real treasure behind. Twenty years passed and you’re still haunted by that incident. The one that made you think twice of leaving your family but went ahead despite of it. You saw how your child ran to you and begged you to stay until she was hit by a ranging car. You cried, tried to run. People saw how you cried. You walked away with your bags and your heart inside your pocket. You never left a single trace for them to find you in case you want them back.

Twenty years of being haunted by the voice your child made. Those screeching sound she made while you were on your way to the door of your old shabby house. You were haunted by those knocks every 12 midnight , those unwanted guests every after 9:30 am, same time when you left your family behind. Those dreams that you cannot decipher which instance In your life is interpreting. All that is clear to you is the face of your dying child, twenty years ago before you left for good. In the morning, since this has been bothering you for many years, you tried to seek professional help. You scheduled an appointment to a clinical psychologist and went ahead the day after you scheduled a counseling session. While driving, you saw a kid running across the street. Somehow, she looked familiar to you. A face you think you’ve seen already, a face that goes in and out of your consciousness. Without your knowing, you nearly hit a group of students in the street. You were so tired and weary as soon as you get to the clinic. You saw the kid again from the street. Something bothers you to the bones, you can’t decipher what it is until the girl gave you a big smile.

As you enter the office, you heard someone greet you with a big smile.

“Hi, I’m Nina, may I know your name?” She replied with “You have my deceased child’s name. I’m maria” you answered with a big frustrated smile, your knees are shaking and you cannot feel your upper torso. “So let’s start with something interesting, what do you do for a living, any hobbies or interest? May I know how are you doing these past few days?” Nina enthusiastically uplifted herself because she’s all nervous. after all, it’s her first ever client after passing the board. You were about to reply when a man dressed in suit and tie came and all the memories stirred your whole body. Without reason, you feel nauseous. It was the man from your dreams rather nightmare; the man that keeps you wide awake at 2 am; the man that your psychologist calls “dad”. It came back to you. Twenty years of agony and pain. The little girl is your daughters’ kid. But you thought that your daughter is dead twenty years ago and your former husband was paralyzed because of the gunshot he took to save you months before you decided to leave them.

“You’re Nina” you were in awe while tears are streaming down your face. “You’re Nina” you repeated it but she doesn’t seem to bother.

“Hi I’m Nina, may I know your name?”

“It’s me, your mother. I came back to you. I’m sorry for what I did to you twenty years ago. I never meant to hurt…”

Before you could continue, you felt that something is just not right.

Your daughter doesn’t recognized you, she doesn’t have solid memories of you at all. All she knows is that her mother is dead because of car accident twenty years ago. She looks at you as if you’re not there, as if you weren’t visible. You thought for a moment that they still have grudges on you.

“Dad, oh you’re here” she gave her father a hug and her father replied with “Practicing again? I told you, you can do it. I know this is your first client but never underestimate the power of the heart. Suffer your client and gave them utmost sincerity.”

“I wish, mom is here” she said.

You shouted “I am here” but they can’t hear you. You touched the frame on top of the psychologist’s table and accidentally dropped it. A moment of silence for both the father and Nina. They looked at their family picture on the floor, it was broken.

“Something’s not right!”

You felt the agony you felt twenty years ago. You hope to find answers but found none.

You don’t know what to do, you ran outside the clinic and you saw the girl again. She’s a lot like Nina when she was young; pigtails, pink dress and she hold Nina’s favorite teddy bear. She smiled at you and say “Hi Granma”. “You can see me?” you ask the girl the same question and she said “It’s you. I can see you in mommy’s family album. I even cut your photo and pasted it on our family tree project in school.” You lean in to the girl and gave her a hug. She said “I thought you were dead, popsie and mommy must have told me lies.” Minutes passed and Nina heard her child’s voice outside while talking to someone. You asked the girl for her name and she said “I’m Maria, we have the same name aren’t we?” the child is giggling outside the clinic.

Nina removed her lab gown and went outside. She asked her who is she speaking with and the child replied “Your mom. Can’t you see her?” Those words left Nina in awe. She don’t know if she’ll be afraid or she’ll cry because it’s her mom.

With a shaky hands she asked “What did she told you?”

“She told me that she’s very sorry for leaving you and popsie alone. She even told me that she’s sorry for letting you on the ground when you had an accident and for leaving you lying on the ground. Mom she’s crying over here.”

The child ran her fingers to the wind, it was like wiping a tear.

A gush of chilly wind ran into her veins. She thought about it for a second. Some parts of what happened twenty years ago are blurry. She sees blood, car, people screaming and her mom. they were both lying on the ground, bathing with their own blood and trying to reach each other’s hands until her father came to her and all went black; until something inside her head aches. It all came back. Blotting in her mind, little by little she remembers it. suddenly it was twenty years ago, she was running towards her mom, she couldn’t see anything because of her tears when a car is rushing towards her, she was about to be hit when someone pushed her, making her hit the ground. It was point zero millisecond, someone carried her and pushed her quickly. She hit the ground,feeling nauseous. With blood bath, she was held by his father and everything went blurry.

But before everything went black, she looked into the eyes of her savior, it was her mom…

She went back in her zone, didn’t noticed the tears in her eyes. Her father saw her on the floor, crying. She said “Mom if you’re out here, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to tell father that you saved me. You could’ve survived too. I forgive you for attempting to leave us, I forgave you even before you left. I’m sorry.”

Your blood rises up, remembering how you died. Your body was cut into two, that is why you can’t feel your upper torso. You tried to reach for your child’s hand but you can’t. You just cried that day. You thought that it was your child’s screeching that you always hear but you it sunk in to your mind that it is your outcry. You screamed of pain and agony, not because you were amputated but because of the fear of not being able to see your daughter’s smile ever again. But you’re thankful that you saw it again through little Maria’s eyes.

Everything went black.

“I forgive you mom, but please forgive me too.” Said Nina

“Mommy, she’s gone. But I saw her smile before she went ahead. She said she loves us.” said little Maria.

Nina fainted, the rest is history.

Whenever Nina has a call at exactly 9:30 in the morning, she’ll answer it with a big smile and said “Thank you mom, I know where you’ve been through, hope you’d get into the light.”

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“Thirty Years Ago at Benign Street”

I was walking in an isolated street outside my favorite bakeshop as a child and saw a mother with her son under a lamppost across the street. Since this area is being avoided because of its shabbiness, it’s only me, the mother and son, a pair of two shadows approaching the street plus a man in worn out clothes. I took a moment to contemplate about people and how they walk the grounds of the earth. I had a sudden black out because my thoughts overflown and overtaken my senses

The only thing that made me realized I was staring blankly to to the wall is the voice of the mother telling his son to “study very well coz if you don’t you’ll end up like him”. I saw the person she was pointing and that was the man in shabby clothing. That gut feeling I felt was inexplicable. I saw the man covered his face with the sack of garbage he was holding because of shame and self pity. The little boy laughs and told his mother “never will I pick someone’s trash for me to live mom.” The mother keep on telling her son what to do with his life until the pair of shadows I saw minutes ago became a pair of human walking towards the man. It was another pair of Mother and son tandem.

I overheard the other son that he’ll give his burger to someone. His mother asked him “Isn’t that your favorite burger?” the son replied “yes mom, but it might be someone’s favorite too if I share it to them and after that, I’ll welcome them to the burger lovers club I founded in school”. Without hesitation, the boy run towards the man and handed the burger to him. He smiled brightly while the man hesitantly reach for the food. “Thank you but you should stay away from me because I smell like a dog” but instead of doing so, the boy smiled at him and said “see you later and enjoy your burger”. I felt warmness in my heart because the boy has a good one. “Johnny, if you want to help those people, you should study hard for you make a better place for them to live in.” With warmness in the mother’s eyes, the son lean in to her and thank his mom for being great.

Both pairs left, leaving me with lessons to live by. I’m in my mid-twenties and yet, the good boy shamed me with his kindness that I, myself don’t even have. I noticed that I’m still standing at the back of the bakeshop. An hour here at Benign Street is very unusual because there’s not a lot of people stays here. They cannot take the eeriness of the place. I walk home alone and ever since that day, I change my ways.

Today, year 1864, thirty years after I saw the two pairs of people who showed different sides of human at Benign St., I walked pass a stall of an old man who sells burger when a girl dressed in rag clothing approached him. Mouthing the words “I’m starving, can I have some?” the man smiled and gave her one with soda. The girl didn’t thanked the man but instead she rushed to the corner to give the food to her little sisters. I told myself, “Am I gonna witnessed another act of kindness at this very street where my life has been turned upside down?” but I didn’t have to answer my question because it shows. The old man left his stall and walked towards the girls. He handed three burgers and three sodas. Those girls told him to stay away from them because they smell like a dead cat but instead of doing so, the man smiled at them and gave them hug. “You should always do good and stand up to people no matter what it costs you”. The girls doesn’t seem to mind because they must really starving that they only pay attention to what they are eating. The man went back to his stall. One thing I noticed is that everything here has changed. From the old shabby bricked walls and trucks of garbage, everything is not what it looks like thirty years ago. The bakeshop is no longer erected there but instead, I saw an orphanage and a restaurant.

A man dressed in formal suit with necktie is holding his seven-year old kid which I presume his daughter. They went out of the resto and the kid asked his dad what are the three kids doing there. She’s referring to the kids in ragged clothes. The father said “Their parents must have not studied well that is why they end up having kids like them. Do you want to be like them Ashely? Mother always told me that if you study hard, you will never be like the people in the streets.” I was disgusted by what the father told his daughter. Suddenly, it was thirty years ago, it all came back to me when I saw two pairs of parents and a man in worn out clothes. Same scenario, same place. It is like I am experiencing Deja Vu. I’m standing on this very ground where I witnessed it all in my mid-twenties. That moment, I thought that what is the root will be the seed and that the mentality of the roots will be the mentality of the seed.

But I was wrong. I prejudged the kid.

“But daddy, my English teacher always told us to study very well to make this world a better place to live in, to make this world a little less harsh for other people who are less fortunate.” Likewise her father, that kid left me in awe. That little voice made a huge impact to me and again, I felt hope.

I saw a man with a kid, I bet he is his son for he has his eyes and his thick hair. Ashley as what her dad called her let out a big smile when she saw the man I saw with his kid. She quickly run towards the man and said “Look daddy he is my teacher. His name is Johnny.” Johnny and Ashley’s dad shook hands and said “we need to go, nice meeting you by the way”. The man left with the girl while Johnny went straight to the burger stall. They smiled at each other as if they knew each other for a long time. Johnny said “This is my son. Jimmy, say hello to my old pal.” The kid quickly reach his hand to shake hands with the old man. Like his dad, he’s a gentle young man with a compassionate heart. Again, I remember me, being astonished with what I have seen thirty years ago. It’s clear to me now, that those people are the ones I have seen thirty years ago. I may have missed their whole lives but at least, I’ve seen a few.

The time has its own stories and it so happens that I’ve been a part of their story. Like a fool, I smiled in the corner and told myself this:

“Not everything is based on what we have seen or what we remember seeing for the first time that made our senses reactivated, shut and reactivated again. As cliche’ as it can be, judging a person based on what the iris of the eyes sent to the cells of our brain is sometimes dysfunctional. We should look at those lives using our soul and heart and never to neglect people just because they are not like you. In order to make this world better, it should start with you.”

I was talking to myself about my reflections today. I put out my journal which contains remarkable life events and not just the everyday journal that has the name of my 5th grade crush or the date my favorite dog died. There, I wrote hundreds of essays about my humdingers in life. This book is my life. I’ve got used to writing while walking or everywhere if I have a chance.

Then…

Someone interrupted Jimmy while reading the notebook. It was Ashley, only 25 years older.

“Jimmy, are you reading same the story again to our kids? You should go out and entertain our customers.” asked Ashley

“worth telling.”

“It is. But the owner of that journal is dead. Isn’t it right to turn over it to her family?”

“It says here,’this is my whispers to the world and whoever heard it, they can have this’ It’s our story, your mothers’ too and our fathers'”

Before they could continue arguing, one of their three kids ask Johnny “So Daddy, what happened next?”

“This is not my story to tell but we are a part of her life, so was she. She died of car accident twenty five years ago. Me and my dad saw everything. I remember her last word was ‘Then…’ while holding her pen. It was a fine day at Benign street, the place where it all started and the place where she found her peace. Remember that our lives are connected with each other and you may not notice it but every single soul is a chance. I am you before I got older, you’ll become me, just better. Our layers will become whole, our limbs will reach others unconsciously.”

1334 Benign Street where everything is just unexpected;everything is coincidence.

Jimmy kept the journal and watched the people walk passed the restaurant he inherited from his father Johnny. He then looked at the signage that hasn’t been changed through the years, it says “1334 Benign Street Turn Left.”

Memoirs: A Narrative

Hello Anna, how are you? Will you still remember this scenario when I tell you about this? It’s summer of 1978, we were just seven years old when I saw you sitting by the river. It’s freezing but you still manage to remove your coat.

You were so beautiful.

And there you go, listening to the same old tune again. You played it a million times but seems like those lyrics hasn’t sunk in yet to your mind. You just listen to it because it tells a story. Your story to be specific. You only listen to that part where it tells exactly how you feel and what you are today but when it comes to that part where it tells how to get up and survive, you always click the replay button. You are easily susceptible to pain but find it difficult to get up and detached yourself to it.

I watched you as you twist the vinyl and start the song all over.

You found yourself doing it over and over again until unconsciously, you picked up a book from your shelf. Something you remember reading two years ago. T’was entitled “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. Both your sub-conscious and conscious state was shaken after realizing that the one who penned it died of suicide. It’s a key to someone’s life with a facade of fiction. Esther’s the name of the protagonist and described the feeling of being depressed as something like being trapped in a bell jar. Like all those films you have watched and books you have read, the victim has halfheartedly did some attempts before swimming into serious one.

I saw how you suffered from anxiety of the future.I remember you telling me that Esther would be the name of your future child if it is a girl. “Esther Alicia” because you can’t detach yourself to that book your mother is always reading aloud; it’s Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll and you told yourself that you’ll do anything to raise her to be someone you are not.

You put the book down and noticed the old albums under your coffee table. You grabbed one and let out a huge sigh before opening it. Those smiles your friends gave you are priceless so you ask yourself “where are you now? I’m growing tired and weary.” Without knowing it, a single tear roll down and fell at the picture you were holding. You opened another album which has a note “family” and wonder where are the pictures in it? You turned your house upside down but found only a few. You told me, “at least I’ve found two. One’s taken aduring my christening and the other’s from the Christmas day of 1965” while trying hard to smile and utter the words “I’m fine.”

I saw how you choke on your tears. How your palm sweats and your knees shake.

You experience absence seizures every now and then where you just stop doing something because your neurotransmitters failed to deliver electricity to your cells, causing a slight blanking out of your brain. Know why? You overload yourself with thoughts that you, yourself can’t decipher. Then after that, what will you feel? You’ll have apnea because your lungs can’t get enough oxygen because you block it with bad memories. Mental breakdowns are no longer foreign to your system. They broke your chest but you are bigger than that. I know my friend. You’re not alone in that hell.

See, you need help. But you keep on refusing it because you think that only you can save yourself. Can you hold your hand when you jump off a cliff or be your personal life jacket when you’re drowning? Maybe you can, or cannot. You were shouting and screaming. A euphoric sound that made the entire school burn. I’m so worried about you back then so I called for help never knowing that it was the last time I will be seeing your melancholic eyes. Winter of 1978, they took you away from me, and ever since that day when they let you wear a white gown and promised me that they’ll take care of you, I never saw you again. Only today when they finally let you out to see yourself in the mirror. You found a piece of you and said “I never thought I’m beautiful”. I met your gaze. You were staring blankly at me. You gave me a sly smile and said “It’s you” and that moment, I felt you for the first time after ten years. I said “I’ll come back for you. You’ll never be alone again”. Can you imagine that it’s year 1988 today and your reflection in the mirror is getting clearer as time goes by?

Summer of 1989, I came back again and I can see that you are fully recovered from being a half-glass soul. Your eyes, they are like embers again, you’re no longer pale and you can speak now. I look at you, looking at me, neither one of us wants to speak first but something pushed us to say “It’s you. Welcome back” You promised me that it’s going to be the last time you’ll ever talk to me and that made me happy. You promised yourself to never look at the same mirror ever again. With a loud sigh, I commanded you to smash the mirror and never to pick up those pieces. You did.

You defeated me.

You set yourself free.

See, I’m your demon and I am always here for you. I’m still with you, watching you and haunting you in your dreams. I keep on whispering you the past, but as long as you don’t let me in, you’ll be untouchable.

So long Anna.