Friday, November 23, 2012

The Gift

21 images and 21 stories in 21 days.
PROJECT 21: The Gift
(photo credit: Olga Villanueva)

As he stood there on the ledge overlooking the mines, the wind chilled his bones from what he was about to do.  It is 4:30 a.m. and the first rays of the sun is not yet peeking out from its slumber. “This is nice,” the young man thought. He rubbed his hands together vigorously for some warmth and then shoved them back in this shorts’ pocket. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, feeling the cold air coming out of his lungs.  His eyes were swollen and hot, angry tears flowed freely from his cheeks to his chin. He didn’t care. Nothing mattered right now.

His throat ached as he tried to suppress the anguish inside. He wanted too shout and curse at the nothingness that lay before him. It matched what he felt. He looked up at the stars, pinpricks of light in that sea of black ink. He found it amusing that he could still find beauty even in the depths of sorrow. He covered his head with his jacket’s hood and winced. It is painful and it will always be painful from now on.

He met her in Burham Park. Just another tourist who wanted a henna tattoo. Why she chose his stall will be one of those flukes that fate dishes out from time to time. She asked for a bird. He drew the most intricate Maya bird on her left shoulder. She loved it and from her smile, he knew that he was trapped. He called her Maya since then.

The days seem to pass by like sand through his hands whenever he was with her. Strawberry picking in the fields, a trip to Ben Cab’s museum, a vegetarian feast at “Oh My Gulay” cafĂ© and strolling around Camp John Hay - ordinary tourist routes that became unforgettable moments with her exuberant laugh and wonderful enthusiasm. He grew to love her in such a short time. He wished for none of the happiness to end.

In his heart he had carved a secret place for her, a room full of scenes from nature. He painted for her a tropical paradise, for his beloved had an affection for birds in flight.  He drew hummingbirds, cockatoos, doves and the humble Maya bird. He longed to be with her always. He decided to ask for her hand in marriage before she left for Manila.

It is 4:45 a.m. now. It started drizzling and he braced himself for the cold. He was already wet and his jacket’s right pocket was drenched from the weight of the secret he had to bear but he didn’t care. There’s no turning back once he set on the path he has chosen. Again, he sobbed at the memory of finding out how he would lose his beloved to Death.

On the night he was supposed to propose to Maya, he overheard her auntie mention how little time Maya had. She was on the waiting list for an organ transplant and this was a vacation from which there would be no certainty. He  was confused and surprised to find out that his beloved, his gentle bird was very, very sick. Now he understood why she loved birds. She wanted to be free and fly away from all of this. He held off on his proposal and when they saw each other that night, he embraced her so tightly as if challenging the universe to try and take her from his arms. He decided that for her to see the secret place he carved for her in his heart then he would give her the best gift he can think of.

It is 5:00 a.m. The dark clouds are giving way to the warmth of the sun’s rays. Whatever he planned to do, he’d better do it now. He closed his fingers tenderly on the fleshy object that lay in his jacket’s right pocket. Flashes of crimson liquid covered his hand and again, he wept. He wept for the future that will never be. He wept for the pain that his heart was trying to bear since yesterday evening.

Unbeknownst to his beloved, he prepared his gift and headed off to the hotel where she was staying. When he arrived at her room, the door was left ajar so he slowly walked in and found his Maya bird in the arms of another man. She tried to speak, to explain that he was a man from her past.  She left Manila, thinking that they would never find love again but after hearing his story, they decided to give their relationship another chance. As she spoke, all he could hear was his racing heartbeat, as if it was rebelling against its cage in his chest. Everything was a blur and all he could remember was he took his gift from the box. He threw the box at the two of them and then there were shouting and the sound of breaking glass.  He remembered storming out of the room, the one he carved in his heart. And on the colorful walls were splotches of red and black paint.

When he opened his eyes, he found himself standing at the ledge of Mines View Park. He does not remember running but he was exhausted from crying and fatigue as if he destroyed a room with his bare hands.  Every muscle in his body ached and he longed for sleep. He looked at the sky and then he took out his gift, his right kidney, still warm from the jacket’s pocket and crushed it in his hands. “Goodbye love and good riddance, “ he said as he squeezed it hard.  He winced again as he felt the morphine wearing off from the impromptu operation he just had. He sobbed and sobbed hard, his shoulders shaking from the force. “Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye…,” he chanted as he turned his gift into pulp.

It is now 5:30 a.m.

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