What if Saturday (Err, Wednesday): Back to Reality

And it’s here! The conclusion to the Wonderland tale! You should check out the other stories from the 10 What Ifs if you have missed it. So… Enjoy! It’s good to come back to reality. :D

***

I had almost caught up with the elusive child when a tabby wearing an intense smile appeared out of nowhere and pranced around in circles in front of me. “Cat!” I yelped.

It grinned at me as it continued to do its little dance. The creature wove its way around my heels and, in a matter of seconds, I found myself stumbling to the ground, straight into another hole.

Oh no. Not another hole.

Yet, instead of falling down, I found myself curiously falling up. I left the ginger imp in the abyss beneath me and, as I shot up into the darkness, I left a number of strange sights underneath me as well.

The first was a woman clutching a small portable TV in her hand. The second was a lady in a deli wearing a confused and frazzled look. The third was a nurse carrying a rainbow-coloured umbrella and the fourth was the doctor, the nurse’s boss, apparently, judging by the way he gave her orders and authoritative commands.

I zoomed past a woman crying into a coffee cup next. Then past a gentleman with a large lipstick-stain across his forehead and then past a woman talking to a fly hovering over her shoulder. I zoomed by an eight person — he was strangely familiar — and realized he was the owner of the cat which had sent me whirling into this upside down hole.

After what seemed like days and at the same time a mere matter of milliseconds, I finally made it to the surface (as “surface” is what I would call any familiar surroundings), sprawled in an undignified manner as I had landed in the pavement bottomside first.

I was back in my office’s half-empty parking lot. My daisy purse and snapped stilettos lay scattered a few inches away from me. The sweets I kept inside my bag had popped out of it and were also there, contributing to the haphazard mess.

But as I struggled to my knees and looked closer, I noticed a very curious thing.

The two lollipop wrappers which had held the sweets I had saved for the kid rabbit and his sister were empty. Very empty.

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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What if Saturday (Err, Wednesday): Shutdown

Dear Readers,

Forgive me for not being faithful with the 10 What Ifs. Life became… busy. But fear not. I shall finish this project up. We’ve two more stories to go — this one and a final one which will wrap the series up. I hope you’re all still able to follow what’s going on. So here we go — Shutdown.

***

This can’t be. This isn’t happening. What’s wrong with this computer? What’s the matter with this browser? I try to hit refresh —

Oh wait. Let me copy this email’s body somewhere safe first.

Of all days. Of all possible hours. Of all the minutes in the world, it has to be now, when I’m smack in the middle of sending an important mail, that the Internet suddenly decides to go crazy.

Right click, new folder, drafts. Right click, new document, IMPORTANT. Ctrl+V, save.

I close my eyes and heave a sigh. That message was supposed to be for the President and his officials. I met up with a women rumored to be the President’s long lost wife this morning. The whole thing’s kinda crazy if you ask me. But as his PA, I had to find the girl, do some background and security check, and then I had to convince Miss What’s-her-name to come back to the President’s loving arms. So now I have to write a report about her and my morning’s findings.

I was doing just that. But looks like the connection has decided to go kaboom.

Perhaps I should kill time by catching up with the afternoon news. There should be a portable TV somewhere in these drawers.

I reach out for the handle of my top desk-drawer. Nothing.

Of course. All the important papers are there.

I reach out for the middle. Office supplies. Of course.

I reach out for the bottom one. My emergency supplies. Ahh, there it is.

I fumble through the controls. I haven’t used this in a while. I rely mostly on Twitter and YouTube for important news updates when I’m in the office or on the go.

The face of Selina Quezon, the station’s number one news anchorwoman, fills the screen.

“Beloved citizens, there is no need to be alarmed. As many of you have noticed, the Internet connection provided by Globalink has come to a shutdown as of 3:00 this afternoon. We have received reports from international sources that the machines in the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) headquarters have been obliterated, leading to this unfortunate event. We do not know when the machines will be brought back to their original state. Some organizations doubt if they can even be restored at all.”

What in Tim Berners-Lee’s name? An Internet shutdown? No, no, no, no! “No need to be alarmed,” the news anchorwoman said. Uhh, within the same breath as, “we do not know if the machines can be brought back to their original state or if they could be restored at all…?” How could anyone in their right mind keep calm and move on?

I do important transactions via the Internet. I connect with other offices through this medium. And I maintain the President’s Twitter and Facebook Page, posting notes and updates through the WWW for crying out loud!

And, on a more serious note, my two younger siblings’ livelihoods depend on the Net and its stability — they’re both web developers. So what will happen if the web never comes back?

Who’ll support them — and who’ll support our parents now?

I give the tiny machine a frantic shake, as if doing so would force Ms. Quezon to take back the piece of news she had just delivered.

She doesn’t do anything of the sort. Instead, the network flashes to a footage of the ICANN headquarters. A field reporter is on the bottom-left corner, adjusting the lapel microphone in his collar.

Suddenly, the queerest sight fills the screen. A little boy wearing bunny ears and a maroon waistcoat runs out of the building and collides with the reporter head on. The man tries to get up when a young woman running about in stilettos speeds by, pausing briefly to help him get up. She whispers something into his ear before she zooms away to the direction of the young boy.

The reporter straightens his shirt and speaks into his lapel. “Good afternoon, beloved citizens. Pardon me for that ungraceful opening but an undisclosed source has just revealed to us a shocking lead as to who may be responsible for this afternoon’s Internet shutdown.” He pauses.

“The prime suspect for this incident is none other than the Mad Hatter.”

I sit still and grip the portable TV in surprise.

What? The Mad Hatter?

Well I never.

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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What if Saturday: First Lady

Julieta, Julieta, wherefore art thou, Julieta? Check thy watch and refuse to be late — arggg.

Where is she?

Where oh where has my little sis gone? Oh where oh where could she be?

She said she’d meet me here for her lunch break. Things must be pretty busy at the health centre for her to be this late.

Gosh, I wish she’d hurry up. I’ve got crazy weird news to tell her, you see.

Come on, Julie. Show up already. Or else I’m going to burst like a can of pop that has been all shook up.

Tap, tap, tap, tap. Ugh. This isn’t doing me any good.

Fine, I’ll let it out already.

Here goes —

I’m married.

To the president. Of the Philippines.

I.

Know.

It’s so unbelievable, right? I’m not even sure how it happened. All I know is that a strange person dropped by my house this morning, introducing herself as the president’s PA. She showed me a marriage contract — one that has apparently materialized out of nowhere, since I have no recollection of having gotten married to anyone — proving that I was the president’s — gasp — first lady.

I told her she had the wrong person, but there it was in black and white. The contract had my full name — Aleksandra Elisabeth Salarson de Guzman — down to all the eccentric spelling nuances. It had my undecipherable signature as well.

So what did it all mean? What did it all imply? I asked the PA those questions and all she said was that I had to be in Malacañang that evening.

That’s seven hours away. Oh, I hope Julieta would get here soon. She’s always been the sane and level-headed one. She’d tell me what to do.

Suppose this was all real? Suppose I had perhaps gotten a bit tipsy and had maybe flung myself into a Vegas-like ceremony with the most powerful man in the Pearl of the Orient? Suppose I’m not dreaming up this wacky, far-fetched nightmare?

Suppose —

Well, I suppose I should get my act together, then. Would it take a lot of work to become a president’s wife? He’ll need me for support. He’ll need me to give him nuggets of wisdom, too, from time to time, I guess. He’ll need me to flutter like a social butterfly during classy engagements, to be the people’s lady during community events, to be a witty speaker during press conferences. He’ll need me to stand forever by his side.

Gosh, I don’t know if I’m up for it.

Julieta, please get here fast.

I need all the words of wisdom and encouragement that I can get.

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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What if Saturday: Revisited

Dr. Gonzales seems to be so stressed out today. I pity him. Two death sentences in a row, huh? And that’s just for this morning. He’s still got a couple of patients lined up for this afternoon.

I’m grateful for my lunch break. True, I love working at the health centre. But there are days when things simply get too disheartening. I’m thankful for any form of escape.

My sister says she wants to meet up for lunch at the deli. She’s got some big news or something. I’m sure it can wait until tonight, but she tells me its urgent. I get a rain check from Dr. G. He gives me a nod and so I’m off.

The deli’s a ten-minute walk away from this block. I clomp through the street in my white clogs, white stockings, white dress suit, white cap… People could mistake me for a white lady but thankfully my rainbow umbrella gives just the right amount of colour to confirm my humanity.

Two little kids — a boy wearing a maroon waistcoat and a girl wearing a frilly navy dress (both were donning bunny ears by the way) — zip past me, causing me to dive umbrella-first into the dusty side walk.

Splotches of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet dance before my eyes. It takes a while before my sight goes back to normal again.

When it does, I realize that I’m not in the street going to the deli any more.

Oh no. Not again. I wonder how long this time travel thing will last this time. I decide to just enjoy the ride until I can get back to my sister and to Dr. G.

I’m at my old elementary school. The yellow concrete walls, the moss shillings, and the wide grey staircases are all too familiar. I half expect the witch-like face of my first grade teacher to peer at me from one of the dust-tinted windows.

Walking on, I see the seven-year-old version of my best friend crying at the corner. She’s in that spot near the staircase, where we (and another friend) would eat our packed lunches. I’ve done some time travelling before — I know they can’t see me — so I draw nearer. I kinda want to know what is going on.

“He died last night. I’m not even sure if we have any money for the funeral. Mama says I can take the week off school. But I already miss him. I already miss Papa a lot.”

“That’s so sadddd… Come here, let’s have a group hug.”

“Mmmmmm.”

“Feel better? There, there. Don’t worry! When I grow up, I’m going to be a doctor! That way, I can keep all the people you love from dying!”

“Really? Yeah! I’m going to be a doctor, too! Or a nurse! Then we’ll all save lives together!”

“Yeah! Let’s!”

The rainbow splotches return and, in an instant, I’m back on the curb, my colourful umbrella splayed before me.

Well. That was quick. But profound, nonetheless. That was the day my best friend and I decided to get into medicine. That was the day we decided what path our lives were going to take.

I shake my head, remembering the lives of the two people that Dr. G and I were unable to save that day. But as I dust off the gravel from my uniform, I realize one thing.

We may not have been able to save their lives, but we still have the opportunity to save more.

I glance at my watch. Sissy is probably already waiting for me inside the deli shop.

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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What if Saturday: The Woman

“Miss Mendoza? Dr. Gonzales will see you now. He’ll be giving out your test results.”

“Alright, nurse. Thank you very much.”

She saunters into my office, head held high, hips swinging cockily from side to side. She exudes confidence, arrogance even. But as she takes her place in the seat in front of me, my trained eye catches a brief, faltering gaze. I sift through her records. “Hello, Miss Mendoza.”

“Dr. Gonzales. The nurse tells me my results are ready.”

I observe her more for a moment or two. Cream coloured skin covered by layers of makeup. Hair in tight ringlets, pulled back to reveal her large hoop earrings. Cherry red lips. I can only shoot a guess at her profession but I decide to let go of any preconceived notion.

My lips tighten, yet I try to give her a warm, assuring smile. This news might break her heart. I had hoped to give a less dramatic report, but I seem to be on the roll, breaking hearts this pain-filled Saturday.

“Miss Mendoza, I’m afraid I have bad news. Your tests show that you are positive. HIV positive.”

Tension makes its way into the girl’s face. Her eyes darken, her lips set into a pencil-thin line. She leans forward, clasping a frantic grip around my wrist. “Are you sure, Doctor? There must be a mistake. You’ve switched my papers with someone else. You’ve — “

“Calm down, Miss Mendoza. Yes, I am certain. I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can do.”

She blinks rapidly, fighting back bitter tears. But in a few seconds they start to pour over.

“This can’t be happening. What will happen to Toto and Ineng? They need food. They need tuition. They — I should have known this was going to happen though. They warned me. They did.”

“Miss Mendoza?”

She continues, apparently forgetting that I am there. “It was HIM,” she says, her eyes suddenly blazing in anger. “I told him to use protection. All the others did. But no. He insisted.”

She lets out a bitter laugh. “He should get tested, too. Well. There goes my career. There goes my life. There goes my brother and my sister’s lives.”

“Miss Mendoza…”

She shakes her head, becoming aware of my existence once again. “Forgive me, Doctor. I know you are only doing your job. And I was only doing mine. I had no choice. I guess it’s all just going to come to this then.”

She gets up. She wipes the remainder of her tears before she shakes my hand. “Well. I must say goodbye then. Have a good life, Doctor.”

She walks away, hips still swinging from side to side.

“You too, Miss Mendoza. You too.”

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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What if Saturday: Heartbreak

Deep breaths and stifled tears. These shall serve as my lunch today, along with this consoling cup of hot coffee.

I feel as if the world is playing a big joke on me. I feel as if I have just woken up from a bad dream — empty and surreal. But really, I don’t know what to feel because sorrow, anger, bitterness, blame, and every heart-wrenching emotion imaginable are all waging a terrible war inside me.

It’s strange how two hours can change everything. An hour of tests, an hour of diagnosis — 120 minutes of battling through every possible fear. Those two hours have turned my whole world upside down in an instant.

He’s still with Dr. Gonzales, there, in that hateful health centre across the street. I know I should be there with him, I know I should be holding his hand, but first I need time to think, I need time to breathe, I need — I need someone to hold me and tell me it’s all going to be okay before I could face him — before I could face them — again.

The coffee cup appears to be looking at me sympathetically. I wrap my cold hands against the warm porcelain and I imagine it giving me a consoling hug in return.

How can I go back to them? How can I go back to him? How can I look back into the eyes my love now that I know —

Now that I know that he is dying?

My breath catches as I again try to make sense of it all.

Lung cancer. And he doesn’t even smoke.

He’s going to call off the engagement for sure. I know him well enough to know of his heart to protect me. But I can’t bear the thought of living without him. I can’t bear the thought of not marrying him. I can’t bear —

I can’t bear it, no. I won’t let him break it off. I won’t.

He deserves to live the final moments of his life with the woman he loves. We deserve to at least be together, no matter how short time allows.

I drown the rest of my coffee, rise up, open the door, and make my way back to the health centre once more.

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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What if Saturday: Coffee Cup

She’s late again. I’m guessing she has: (a) stood me up on purpose; or (b) forgotten all about our breakfast date. I’m going for (b). Marina, brilliant as she is, has the tendency to be scatterbrained.

Pity. Maybe that’s the reason why she can’t find a job yet. Wait, did I just think that thought out? How mean of me. But then again, I do turn into a monster when I’ve been kept waiting for too long.

I stare into my empty coffee cup. The porcelain is stained with the froth from my long-finished cappuccino. It’s been an hour and a half already. Face it, Eddy. She isn’t coming.

I contemplate ordering The Bean’s latest special. Perhaps the sugar and the caffeine would give my mood a much-needed power up. I raise my left hand, high enough for the barista to see. “Give me a shot of The Saturday Froth, Cindy! Thanks!”

The rosy girl in the earth brown uniform throws me nod and starts whipping my order up. I watch, trying to see if I could identify the ingredients going into my cup. Expresso. Low fat milk. Chocolate bits. Hazelnut syrup. Muscovado sugar. Whipped cream. A special topping. Seems appetizing enough.

Cindy grabs some serviettes, after which she brings me The Saturday Froth. She gives me a cheery smile. “Enjoy!”

I take the stirrer I used for my cappuccino and pick at the whipped cream. I take a syrup-stained dollop, bring the small helping into my mouth, and let the sweetness roll around in my tongue. It’s surprisingly good.

My insides suddenly feel warm, like I’ve just drunk an entire bottle of wine. I sense a strange heat rising up my stomach, up my chest, up my throat, all the way up to my head. But my hair — how could I feel my hair? — it seems cold, like I’ve just stuck it inside the refrigerator. What did Cindy put in my coffee?

I blank out for a moment or two. The next thing I know, someone’s grabbing my right elbow. I’m being yanked up into the air and —

Wait a minute. How is it possible that I’m being brought so high up?

“I can not believe his nerve. Did you see the way he looked at her? And I was right there. Standing in front of him.”

“Chill, girl. He’s so not worth it. You deserve someone better.”

“Ugh. He makes me so mad.

A pair of cherry-red lips touch my forehead, leaving its tell-tale stain behind. I feel my feet touch solid ground once again.

Images of giant beetles and larger than life bosoms begin to swirl around my head. Kafka, Roth — I remember these authors from a humanities class back in college. Could it be? I try to feel around for my other arm, I try to make out my head, my torso, my legs…

But alas. It seems as if the unthinkable has come true.

I’ve turned into a coffee cup.

via https://mariscribbles.com/2013/01/25/new-project-10-what-ifs/

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