January this year when I was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease. I thought it was over when one day I passed out after severe nausea and heavy breathing. I was brought to a hospital, a place that hadn’t been a home, and there I met Dawn, a sweet angel my tears couldn’t resist.
There I sat on my bed blankly surrounded by machines and white walls. The smell of the hospital bed added some holes on my heart. I couldn’t be home I thought. I woke up to mild headache that afternoon thinking it’s all side effects of the medicine. I saw my mom half awake on the couch holding a rosary. She noticed I moved my feet up that probably brought her to reality.
“You’re awake”, she said fixing herself.
It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I didn’t know what’s going on. The last thing I remember was having breakfast, throwing the food up after few mins and chasing my breath till I dropped somewhere in my room. And then there was nausea and severe headache. I could barely recall how I got to the hospital that day. All I remember was being held up to the stretcher and seeing the fluorescent bulb flickered as I was being rushed. The rest was blurry.
After a small talk with my mom, I knew right then something was wrong. She didn’t exactly tell me what’s going on, but I could feel a little weight on my chest. I had never imagined myself being in a hospital. That’s the very least I thought could happen to me. I was healthy, active, energetic, the kind of person who hates hospital.
My doctor came to the room, and I decided to know what my condition was. I was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease. My world suddenly crushed into pieces.
On my 4 days of stay in the hospital, I thought it was over, until I met a sweet little angel named Dawn who was admitted to the next room where I was.
On my second day, I heard her sobbing. The walls dividing us couldn’t lie. I became curious. I moved my feet up, made sure I was fine and trotted to the next door. I finally saw her face from the small pane. She was pale, about 12 to 13 years old I assumed. She was beautiful as an angel, with dark curly hair. I couldn’t help myself so I knocked and the lady beside her was too kind to accommodate me in.
“Is she alright?” I asked.
“I’m Cecilia, her mother. She’s alright. She just needs a little time and she’ll be fine. Her name is Dawn and you are?.” The lady beside her answered.
I introduced my name, got to know a little bit about Dawn. Dawn had chronic leukemia, a hopeless case, a progressive disease, cancer of the blood cells. But apart from knowing she had it, I could see the strength on her eyes. She was a fighter.
On my third day, I got to know more about Dawn on a serious conversation and somehow developed a little string of friendship. I couldn’t imagine where her strengths were coming from.
I one time asked her, “where are your strengths coming from?”
“you mean to go on?‘, she replied.
“I guess I focus more on the things I can control, such as my emotions, my feelings towards my family, the food I eat. There are things in this world, you cannot control, and you let God control it. I have leukemia, it’s worst that you can ever imagine, but I can’t do more about it than comply to medicines, therapies.” She said.
She’s right. Her words awakened me. I should not think about the disease or any illness to the point of dwelling on it. There’s so much beautiful things in this world to behold and feel, the beauty of friendship, the love of family, the taste of food.
“So what do you do if you’re not feeling better? See it’s my first time confined. I thought it was easy. Now, I’ve finally known the feeling. It’s so bad than I ever imagined.” I continued.
“I just cry because pain suppose to make you cry and it goes away. You just obey the pain because God never exceeds to our limits. Sometimes, I think of dying, because it’s all we are going to, but another day comes, it turns to months, years, and you realized, you’re still alive. There must be something I could have done than just think of death.” She answered in her most wise time.
On my fourth day, I was dismissed from the hospital. I was feeling better but on one hand, I never saw Dawn again on her room. The nurse told me she was transferred to St Lukes for some tests and possible bone marrow transplant. It was sad. But her nurse gave me a note from her. Tears fell down as I read the note.
“Don’t be afraid to die, there’s a safer home somewhere. I’ve been seeing it in my dreams. Hospitals are just temporary home. Keep breathing while you’re feeling the earth. I would miss our conversation”
I never saw her from then on but our 2 days of friendship taught me a lot. She’s maybe right. I am still blessed to have a loving a family while others don’t have. My senses are all functioning while others don’t see. I have a job while others die hunting for one. I realized that this is just a reminder from God that as long as there’s life, I have no choice but to go on and fulfill HIS purpose for me. This earth, and hospital rooms are just our temporary home and somewhere, there’s a better place where there’s no disease and harm. Just pure comfort.
On a round table, things got square. On both ends we were talking as if Plato had never lived.
It was a very deep conversation, one of the intelligent talks I’ve had in my life. A friend I saw accidentally while crossing the 32nd street of Makati had extremely grown. From highschool baggy jeans to a slimfit jogger which plain white button down shirt was tucked in just fine, paired with leather boots and Vietnamese hat, he looked so dashing. My friend, Louie, was once a highschool underdog, a thin poor kid who was never given a chance by those bully varsity jocks. I thought at first glance something was wrong, but loh, something was right I should know by that moment.
My eyes couldn’t believe it. And before I could say something, he noticed me too. It was great seeing each other again after about 10 years almost. It was like looking back, enjoying the perks of being highschool, and all of the sudden, College has just ended. That’s how quick life snaps before us. And there we were, crossing the busy commercial streets, tracking our independent road to the success we vowed during the highschool commencement exercise. He was never even in the list of honor student by then, but I knew he has that potential somewhere in the outside world. He is a guy driven by perseverance and not by homework marks.
After some long-time-no-see hugs and cheesy smiles, we sat down on this teashop just across the 32nd Street and thought of maybe catch up of our whereabouts. We both ordered tea latte under his favor then he got some magazines from the counter stand.
“So Louie, it’s been a long time. What do you do in here? You look so much different now.” I started.
‘Well, Uhm, I work as a fashion director and stylist in a Publishing Company. It’s a quite tough job..”
“Wait what… Fashion what..?” I interrupted as I couldn’t exactly process in what he had just said.
“Did you just say fashion director? Oh my Lord that’s a great job. I mean look at you. See how bankable you look like. This isn’t you. Ha ha” I attempted a punchline. I’ve known him as a silent type of guy who never buy jokes but I still tried.
He just grinned and went on.
“Yeah yeah, ha ha. Well apparently. I got in. I got the job and it was fine, been a little busy these past few days booking clients, arranging photoshoots, meetings here and there, learning everyday. It’s tough, but it’s fun I must say.”
Who would have thought that someone like him would land in a fashion industry. I mean it’s just amazing to see a person all grown up and buckled with such principle. This guy didn’t finish college. He got kicked out of college because he never go to class, after which he became part of a dance crew, swaggin his life out to some contests and pioneered a subgroup for contemporary dancers. He was persistent at his own risk. Very brave.
“Well yeah, so how did you land the fashion world? Are you still dancing?” I curiously continued.
“Yeah yeah, you remember the UPLB Lights still huh. I still supervise the group. So I never went back to College when I got kicked out. I have this principle, great things are learned when you are willing, not when you are forced.” He answered.
UPLB Lights is the name of the contemporary dance crew he’s pioneered and still going. And he was sent to College with a degree he never have wanted.
“So I found a way out and look for a place where I can be happy. I worked as choreographer while I wasn’t doing anything. But money isn’t a tree that bears fruits. I also auditioned to some big crews you see on TV, I failed twice. And then I realized, no, you don’t really look for happiness,.. you make one instead. You don’t fit yourself into something you don’t belong. And you don’t stop till you find it. On that point, I was caught in the midlife crisis, do I go back to study and get that diploma of something I am not, or enroll myself and waste money to get a diploma of a degree I really wanted, or maybe totally get out of either and look at the world differently.” He continued.
I was getting on my nerve that time. It was a such an inspiring line.
“So I risked an OJT in Mega Publishing. Luckily I got in. Maybe they picked me because of my style. And then I went on, focused myself on work, got good feedback from the management after 3 months, and they absorbed me. So to cut my story short, I started as a staff, transferred to editorial, team, learned the art of writing, still dance on a weekend, got some opportunity to travel, interviewed people of all walks. In 2009, social media started to boom, and I thought I wouldn’t want the social media to just boom alone by itself, I had the thinking, why can’t I boom along with the social media. So I used it. I then started blogging about my life, my walks, my life as a writer, my life as a fashionista, my life as a dancer, and even my sad life of not graduating College. And you know what, that made me be featured in one of the Magazine Programs on Lifestyle network, and my followers slowly soared from hundreds to thousands. And I never stopped. I gathered connections, I built partnership with my followers and before you know it, yes, money is a tree that bears fruits, but it only bears when you take care of the roots, when you pour water on it. The point is, you don’t need papers to succeed.” He continued.
“And I landed a position in a creative team, started as a production staff, then moved to client relations, attended shoots for commercial, hunted models, got involved in the modelling world and became a director after few months, pretty much all around. And I realized, God this has been perfect. I am earning in three ways and I am happy. And that’s what’s important.., you know, just being happy.”
I saw the real passion in his eyes. The once shy voice I knew was there right in front of me lecturing about life, a perfect life.
“It’s been a perfect ride, and all the imperfections made it perfect.” He concluded.
We were talking a lot about life and those golden highschool days before we realized that 2 hours had passed. And then we bid goodbye.
In my mind, I came to a simple point, when money and passion become an issue, you consider passion instead. Because money can’t make passion, but passion can make money in the long run. It was a very healthy conversation I would never forget.
I sticked a note on his bed while he was sound asleep. I couldn’t say personally how sorry I was about our argument last night. My lower body wanted to stay and please him all day, but my upper ones were so much decided to grasp some air. The sun was up giving our naked body a sweet gleam through small spaces of the dark drapes. I knew it was time. As the clock ticked to seven o’clock, the gravity pulled down the tears I couldn’t contain. It dropped down to my red cheeks to my crumpled fist while I looked at his innocence. There were no words, and for a few minute of analyzing his face, my feet walked away of solitude then I shut the door without hesitation.
I stood with the throng waiting for the lights to turn green. It was a bit crowded. I hummed through Sam Smith’s “Stay with me” and felt the mixed emotions deep within. I isolated my mind despite the street noise. It had never been such a lonely morning.
I counted down with the red lights. 35 seconds to go before I could cross.
Everyday of my life, I would cross the same street with him. I would never get afraid of the world’s judgement as I hold his hand on the same pedestrian. We would laugh at random thoughts and sightseeings. We would step and count the lines as we cross on the pedestrian lane. There were 62 white lines to be exact, 62 steps to reach the other side.
Memories flashed back. It was a sweet affair. But like all relationships. There were misunderstandings. There were pesonality tests, and like academic tests, there were cheating and sneeking. There were honesties, forgiveness and forgetting. It was a rollercoaster ride. It wasn’t easy but wasn’t difficult too when you understand and learn each other’s heart.
Like all the types of rides, we sometimes need space… like boundaries, and limits and walls and isolation and getting lost. It wouldn’t mean bad. Space defines existence. It is the same space that gleamed our naked body on the realm of dark curtains, the same space that measures the distance of everyone on the throng waiting for the lights to turn green… the same space that makes pedestrian stripes countable… that for every 62 white lines, there were 61 blank spaces in between.
I hugged my sling bag and waited for the lane to be vacated so could reach the other side. Cars went on chasing each other side by side, swiftly passing by against our still being.
“I just need space. We both need space”, the note I left on his bed read.
I knew for sure we needed space, like every car needs so they wouldn’t bump against each other, like for every red lights there’s green so every wheels could give way to a lost feet. And that’s one thing I learned from traffic lights. You need to learn how to give way, how to wait for your time or risk crossing to find out you’d be hit and stumble broken.
I finally stepped on the flat pavement and crossed the pedestrian lane…It was time to cross. My heart beat fast as the distance from the shut door to where I was grew longer. It was different. I wasn’t holding someone. I wasn’t laughing at random thoughts. And unlike the old ways, I didn’t count the white lines, instead I counted the blank spaces in between, and there were 61 of them as I reached the other side.