Monday, January 23, 2012

The Lion Awakens II

When I got back to my desk, I noticed I was still shaking. I continued to seethe from all the anger. I couldn’t help it. I just had to let the fire out lest I explode.

Heaving like a bull, I managed to say over my shoulder, “F****s… I don't appreciate how I end up cleaning your mess!!!” My voice had deepened in its timbre, always a sign that I was dead-serious.

Usap nga tayo…” [Let’s talk], she said with heightened concern as she rushed to my desk. I could sense her defenses were up. I was angry. The doors had been opened. I couldn’t wait to unleash my lions so that I can put the bitch in her place.

I repeated what I said just in case she was that dumb and she didn’t get what I meant.

“Is it just the client today?”

“No. It’s not just the client today. It’s the way you work and how I constantly put back into order the mess you’ve made.”

“What else am I doing wrong? Tell me.” I hated how forward she became. I hated that she sat right in front of me, shoving her ugly self in my space. She got too close to the remaining shred of patience I held dearly. I imagined uprooting the computer monitor and bashing it on her head.

“What else?! Your issues with communication! You seem to relay incomplete information to the people around you. Case in point, the client today! He wouldn't have come to the office if the stuff you told him on the phone was complete!...Other cases?! The admin assistants in the past. They'd always tell me how you would give them incomplete instructions. And when they’d ask a question, binabara mo sila! [you’d interrupt them!]… You interrupt me!”


"Let me finish."


“You’re doing it again!”

“It’s because…”

“You’re doing it again!” God, how dumb can this bitch be?!

“I do not appreciate that you keep interrupting me when I’m speaking!,” I blurted out, raising my voice even louder to shut her up. I continued, “Even the printers have told our boss that they hate coordinating with you kase ang gulo mo! [because you’re such a mess!]”

I still couldn’t stop shaking. My stomach was beginning to ache. I could feel the bile rise up my esophagus. I wanted to end the heated discussion lest I put to reality the violence running through my head.

“That’s it!” I said. “I don’t want to continue anymore!”

“Why? Keep telling me what I’m doing wrong.”

I had reached my tether. My voice boomed. Facing her, I spat out: “Can’t you see that I can’t talk right now?!! I am angry, my hands are shaking, and I just can’t continue talking to you!!!”


God, how dumb can this bitch be?!, I thought again. Instead, with all the energy I could muster, I controlled myself and answered, “Because I might say something regrettable!”

But she just wouldn’t let go.

“You have to tell me everything else.” Her voice had now shrunk to a squeak...(to be continued)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Lion Awakens

Perhaps I didn’t have enough sleep that day or I was ravenously hungry, but it was that day when the office became a battlefield.

The activities in the office began to pile up that morning. I was focused on multi-tasking, challenging myself to get things done before I went off to lunch. There were emails that needed replying to, phone calls that needed answering, and a bevy of walk-in clients needing attention.

She, for whatever reason, left to do menial errands elsewhere. My superior was still out of the country, off to her yearly holiday abroad, and I was left all alone in the office. The pressure was mounting.

While I was running around our small office, rushing from computer to scanner/printer, answering calls, and running back to clients I was counseling, a tinge of pride kept my chin up. I knew that I held my composure amid everything. But slowly, as the hours passed I grew tired. It dawned on me that the bulk of the morning’s tasks were not all mine. I realized, yet again, I was tying the loose ends of my co-worker’s disarray. I became a ticking bomb while I simmered in another unfair situation.

Still, the tasks had to be accomplished. I had to carry on.

In the center of the whirlwind, she calmly walked in with that wide-eyed, dumb look that always left me looking away in irritation. Amid the calm of my voice as I spoke to the student, I began seeing red. I wanted to rush at her and beat her senseless to the ground. How can she be so still? How can she ignore the fact that the client I was still talking to was the same one she spoke with in the morning? How could she not be aware that the reason for the client’s visit was because the information she ineptly shared on the phone was incomplete? I couldn’t wait to finish the session and leave the office.

As soon as the clients had left, I rushed out of the office without a word.

Outside, I called my sister. I must have looked like a mad man, yelling invectives in the middle of the street, my cigarette burning furiously. She helped me calm down, her gentle hormones from pregnancy traveled through the telephone line. I was glad I had spoken to her. I was glad that I let it all out. I was glad that it was over. So I thought... (to be continued)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lola's Hands

Her hands always reminded me of an old book, just like the ones you find on a dusty shelf. Thick and aged, I’ve always liked old books because they often had that distinct smell I found comforting and curious. Leafing through their pages, I was sure to find the most interesting and unique of stories. Like many of the old books lined up at home, Lola Pering's hands were just as filled to the brim with distinctive tales that I still remember.

Whenever I held Lola’s hands, the creases on her palms felt like crumpled pages, each fold rich with a memory, an interesting story to tell. There was the tale of how her family had escaped to the mountains during the Japanese occupation, living on whatever the jungle had to offer. The story of how she was among the chosen few to have been hired to work at a posh department store during the American regime. There also was the story of how she had finally met Lolo Eking whom she said not only fell in love with her face, but her pretty legs as well. Indeed, Lola had the best legs, her skin fair and unblemished. I’d like to think I got all that from her. As a child, I’d enjoy these tales, rolling on the bed beside her or whenever we’d play a game of forty one with 25 cents or matchsticks as prize money.

She was great company as I was growing up. She would take me with her whenever she’d visit the seamstress for a new outfit, tag me along when she’d take the ferry back to Bacolod, or when she’d visit Lolo Eking’s grave. I remember her paying for my “ice scramble” one boat ride. Even though she knew that street food could make us sick, she knew better that I had a sweet tooth; and was happy to give up 5 pesos for me to have my sugar fix.

Lola was really great with her hands. I remember those pieces of bread that she would mix with a little water and roll it into a ball of clay for me to play with, long before I discovered the joys of Play-Dough. Or those bread slices that she’d lightly spread butter on and drizzle with a layer of sugar or a generous helping of condensed milk during meriendas. She would also make the sweetest warm milk that can calm any hyper kid down. When I got older, whenever I’d visit, she would always remind me how I loved being with her when I was a baby, crying out to be carried and cuddled constantly.

As the years went by and I began to build a life in the big city, though my visits to her had lessened, I still made it a point to come to her room and sit beside her whenever I was home. I would hold her hands and relish the feel of her palms. Sometimes she would forget who I was, or comment on why I didn’t have any hair. Then, she would ask me if I had a girlfriend. I would always reply, “Many”, to which she would say,”That’s good. You’re still young. Enjoy life.” She would always add one of my favorite quotes: “Collect and select.”

Recently, during conversations, she would always manage to include how tired she was, how sour her stomach was, how constantly hungry she was, how she always had a headache. I would immediately change the topic by recalling the stories she told me when I was a kid. It was a delight to hear her repeat everything. Not only did it remind me of my childhood days, I was glad to get her mind off whatever she was feeling at that time. I would even tease her to dye her hair to make her look younger. I was glad to make her smile even for just a while, hold her hands, and peck her on the cheek whenever I came home for holidays.

I have to admit that hearing her repeat that she longed to die soon did put me off. I would always respond that everyone had their own time, and that her being alive still meant that she wasn’t through yet. But she would always ignore my comment, sigh, and repeat her desire for the end. I wanted her to be happy at the twilight of her life. But recently, I was glad that Fr. Arthur had made us all see a different perspective with her words. She had raised 8 children, buried a husband, and still had time to enjoy herself. She survived the average lifespan of a human being. She was ready to go. I respect that. I admire that. Her courage to face death, armed with a full life is indeed something for all of us to envy.

I miss Lola’s hands; the creases on her palm, the stories she would tell. But I know wherever she is now, she will have more hands to hold (perhaps Baby Matthew’s and Lolo Eking’s) and more unique and comforting stories to tell of the life she had here.

We love you Lola. And thank you for sharing yourself with us.