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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What if Saturday: Fly on the Wall

Another day, another Saturday. I head over to my refrigerator, stick my head inside, and make a quick inventory. There are three eggs, an apple, a box of orange juice, two onions with their shoots already peeking out, and a Tupperware half-filled with last night’s dinner. None of them look particularly appetizing but I grab the Tupperware, feel for the orange juice box, and try to juggle the Fuji apple in with the lot anyway.

It’s going to be a boring day. I really don’t have anything to do. You can call me a bum, but the truth is, that’s exactly what I am.

I set my refrigerator finds on top of my plastic dining table, you know, the kind they use in cheap sidewalk eateries. I sit on a chair made of the same material. One day, I’m going to get myself a wooden dining set. One day. Maybe next year. Or within three or six months, if I’m lucky. I have to get a job first. Which reminds me. I have to check on the status of my online applications.

I start munching on my apple while I wait for my four-year-old laptop to come to life. The thing’s a dinosaur but it’s good enough. Its WiFi device can pick up Joe’s unsecure connection from across the hall. Well, his connection isn’t really unsecure, but his password is far too easy to guess — “muning-muning”, the name of his pet cat spelled out twice. He doesn’t know I know. But hey — the workaholic’s barely around the house so guess I’m doing him a favour by at least consuming part of his postpaid data plan.

Let’s see. Graphic Designer for Company X. Pending. Illustrator for Company Y. Pending. Advertiser for Company Z. Under consideration. Ugh. It’s been under consideration for a week now. When are they going to call me for an interview? I need a job, ASAP. These bills aren’t going to pay themselves, you know.

“Maybe you should apply for a job as a writer. Didn’t you minor in that field in your undergrad?”

Huh? Strange. I seem to be hearing voices. Not voices, actually, like there’s a whole lot of them. I’m just hearing one. I seem to be hearing a squeaky, high-pitched voice, the kind they use for mouse voiceovers in the movies. I take a swig of my oj and hit refresh.

“Try to show them some of your Writing 100 creative output. Or that article you did for the newspaper once. The one you had to make for your Journalism 200 project. Hey, you could try contacting that newsroom again! They might still remember you, you know.”

That squeaky voice again. I look around. Nobody’s in the room with me. Nobody, save for a fly who looks dreadful, perched on the white-painted wall like that. It looks like a piece of booger, disgusting and out of place.

The fly suddenly decides to change its location and zips over to my Tupperware. I try to shoo it away. It stays there and fixes its gaze upon me. As if a fly could fix its gaze upon me.

“I’m not going anywhere you know. You look really pathetic, hitting refresh like that. I think you’re just not applying for the right job. I heard from the other flies in Flyville that — excuse me for the term — you are actually a really fly writer.”

“Are you actually talking to me?”

“Yes I am, honey. I’m talking to you. Consider me to be your Fairy Fly Mother and take my advice. Apply for a writing job. You know you’re a shoo in. Why are you pushing yourself into those other positions anyway?”

“Because I’m an awful writer.”

“Well if you’re an awful writer, then you’re a terrible graphic designer.”

“Hey! You haven’t even seen my works!”

“Oh, I have, I have. Fine, you’re designing is not too shabby. But you’re writing is so much better.”

“You’ve read my writing?”

“I peek inside your journal when you’re asleep.”

“What?! That’s private!”

“Yep. And if that’s how you write privately, imagine how you would write publicly.”

This is so crazy. Am I actually talking to a fly? A fly who calls itself a Fairy Fly Mother? Come on. Is there even such a thing as a Fairy Fly Mother?

“I’m going insane.” I voice out.

“Take my advice hon. There’s an opening over there. See — see that one, job result number three. Okay, clicky-clicky. Alright. Now whip up a cover letter. And dig up a writing sample from your files. You can do it. You can do it.”

I give in. It’s crazy enough that a fly is talking to me. Perhaps it would be crazier still if I land a job as a writer — something I’m running away from. But it’s a job I’d secretly love to do, to tell you the truth.

“Alright, Fairy Fly Mother, if you say so.”

Cover letter. I rest my fingers on my laptop’s keypad and start typing away.

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

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What if Saturday: Waking Up

My back hurts. I don’t know why, but it does. Great. What a way to start a Saturday.

I have to go to work even though it’s a weekend. Yeah, yeah. Bully for me. Which is why I must —

Get.

Up.

Even though my back seems to be experiencing hell. Better hurry, Joe. Better get up and smell yesterday morning’s coffee.

Ugh. I hate leftover coffee. I should brew up a new batch. That might somehow save me from this Saturday morning misery.

I raise my arms above my head, extending them gingerly, feeling the strain in my back once more. This is going to be tough. I try to push myself out of my mess of a bed.

My hands graze across something soft and warm. Huh? Muning, my five-year-old ginger tabby, usually curls up beside me at night, but the strange object — or is it a being? — lacks the familiar matted fur.

“Mrrrrmmm.” It grunts. What the — ?!

I fall out of my bed, landing with a loud thud, causing the grunter’s head to shoot up in panic.

“What? Where — where am I?” Her voice is a bit warbled and her sleepy eyes begin scanning the room in confusion. She’s a strange sight. She is sprawled on top of my tangled comforter, looking as if she had just fallen there. Wearing a wrinkled navy dress suit, a silk pearl blouse, and bright red stilettos; I observe. Odd pajama choice. I sometimes sleep with my street clothes on, but at least I remember to take my shoes off.

“You’re in Wonderland,” I answer wryly. “What on earth are you doing in my bed?”

She arches a pencil-thin eyebrow. “Who are you?”

“That’s a very good question. One that I would like to ask you, too.”

She makes an attempt to get up. “I have to get out of here. Inay will kill me if she finds out I spent the night at some stranger’s house.”

“Hold up, hold up. Nothing happened between us, Missy. I woke up and you were there beside me, like you fell out of a hole in the sky or something. No, I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant that you came out of nowhere.”

“Are you absolutely certain?”

“By the tail of my pet tabby. Where’s that girl, anyway?”

The orange cat comes bounding in. “Right on cue,” the strange girl remarks.

“Listen, Miss. I really don’t have time to solve this mystery. Right now, I have to get to work.”

“And I have to get home.”

She starts asking directions to some subdivision I’ve never heard of. “Huh? I don’t even know where that is.”

“Nevermind, I’ll find it myself. It was nice meeting you, uh…”

“Joe. Go on. Door’s straight ahead.”

She scrambles out, taking a daisy patterned purse with her. Muning jumps onto my chest, and I realize I’m still lying on the floor. I start feeling the darts of pain shoot up and down my back muscles again. Oh yeah. My back hurts. And I’m in dire need of coffee.

Funny how that stranger made me forget those for a second or two.

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

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What if Saturday: Wonderland

I should have known that I’d be the person most likely to fall down a rabbit hole. As a kid I would give lollipops out to strangers. I would give some out to Aling Nida, the frazzled lady who sold kikiam and fishball a skip and a leap past my elementary school. I would tuck strawberry flavoured ones into the back pockets of Kuya Ernesto, the jovial guard who stood watch over our subdivision’s wide iron gates. And I would carefully place chocolate and grape flavoured ones into the rusty tin cans the grubby street urchins held out to our car windows whenever our vehicle passed by the busy Bonifacio Street.

Inay would always scold me. She would raise her voice to ask me why on earth I would waste such precious candy. I would smile at her, saying that it just seemed like the nice thing to do. Ate Ella, who was ten years older than me, would usually come to my defence, asking Inay to forgive me because I was simply born naive and unsuspecting.

I don’t really think of myself as naive and unsuspecting. But I figure that’s what I must be, being under the predicament that I’m in now.

You see, I have never lost my lollipop-giving habit. A mere four hours ago — well, I think it was four hours, I can never be really sure — I saw an eight-or-nine-year-old boy wearing freshly pressed maroon waistcoat and fluffy white bunny ears zipping across my office’s half-empty parking lot. I had two extra sweets packed inside my daisy-patterned purse so I decided to chase him, thinking that he might have a younger sister donning similar ears, assuming that he and she might want the pieces of candy, too.

He was an energetic kid. I’d say he was quick as a rabbit, but that might be redundant because it was as if he was already a rabbit anyway.

I lost track of him, though I did try my hardest to run in my wobbly stilettos. But as I was about to give up and head back to the parking lot, I spotted a blur of white and maroon from a distance. I broke back into a run.

The next thing I knew, one of my heels snapped and I found myself whirling down a dark, humid, seemingly endless hole.

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

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