This Is How I'll Remember It

Monday, April 09, 2012

It was the morning of Holy Thursday, my third day supposedly away from work, but as I saw it, it was the first real day of the long weekend for me. I was already on leave starting Tuesday earlier that week, but I had to work from home that time, and the following day I had to go to the office to get my "standby dude of the month" laptop plus a couple of official duties. Thursday, I told myself, that's the time it'd begin.

I woke up around 7:00AM, though I'd hardly qualify it as waking up given that I was mostly tossing, turning, and grunting while being nudged repeatedly by Anna who was already preparing for work and eating a slice of leftover pizza. Yes, work. On a Holy Thursday. American company, American clients, American schedule.  She had opted to stay the night due to the traffic from the mass exodus of vacationing ManileƱos the previous evening, and granted I had nothing better to do in the house, her company was always welcome - EXCEPT when she keeps on forcing me to wake up despite my (or what seemed to me as) rational bargaining for additional sleep time. She kept on nagging, and I kept on telling her she should just go to work and let me sleep.

By 7:45, Anna told me that she'd be leaving already. I laughed at her early departure since she usually left late whenever she'd go to work from my place. She gave me a kiss and told me she'd be able to go home earlier if she went to work earlier. I agreed and told her "ingat". Before I knew it, she was gone. I decided I've had enough sleep, and more importantly, realized that I was as prepared for the weekly 8am conference call with our American counterparts as the Trojans when the Greeks came out of the Horse. I had not sent out an agenda the night before (since I was supposed to be on vacation) and scrambled for anything that would've made me appear somewhat prepared.

I connected to the conference, I was the first person there. I had already set up the remote connection to my office PC and was reading my notes when I noticed that Anna's yellow earphones had been left behind. I decided to call her but just before I reached for my phone, I saw that hers was resting just beside mine. Nice try. I wondered if Anna had already realized what had happened.

Five minutes before the start of the conference, I opened the balcony door and looked at the street below me. I wondered if she'd ridden the taxi already. If she did, she'd probably have to go back for the phone after work, which would mean she'd have to take another taxi ride back, and make her trip home even that much more of a hassle.

Thens something caught my eye.

At the edge of Taft Avenue, in front of our building, bystanders, a few security guards, and the usual pedicab hawkers were rerouting traffic from the lane that was directly under the LRT. I figured, there must've been a stalled vehicle. Or maybe, an accident. It occured to me that it could've been Anna. But Anna already had left, right? I went back inside, still with the gruesome thought lingering in my head. No, I shrugged it off. Why would she cross the road when she always got a taxi in front of the entrance? I thought about calling her again. Again, I remembered her cellphone was still with me. I thought of sending her an email instead. Maybe later, I still had a conference call to do.

And then the door bell rang. I laughed a bit. She went back for her phone, Jet. See? She's not as forgetful as you think. I looked at the door and it was already swinging open. Anna wasn't there. A guard was standing where my mind thought she'd be. My heart stopped.

"Sir, nakabukas po yung pinto nyo."

I sighed of relief. It's not about the accident downstairs. She left the door half ajar and opening the balcony door caused the wind to push the main door open. Makes sense. I thanked the guard and rushed for the door. But the guard wasn't going anywhere.

"Sir, taga dito po ba si Anna Manarang?" the usually smiling guard said with a stern look.

My heart started racing. "Oo, taga dito sya, bakit?"

"May nangyari ho kasi sa baba. Pumunta na lang daw po kayo ASAP."

My heart started racing, and I guess it's true, that at moments of great distress, time seems to slow down. Without thinking too much, I grabbed my phone, my wallet, Anna's phone, and my car keys. I hung up the phone, closed the doors and darted for the elevator, which was, as though conspiring to help me, already waiting for me, whereas normally it took many minutes to get to my floor since I live in the uppermost part of the condo. Getting from my chair to the ground floor felt like one swift, dreamlike motion. Or perhaps I wasn't just paying attention. My mind kept on playing out all the possibilities.

And then I remembered one thing.

The previous night, while Anna and I were trying to talk each other to sleep, we veered to the topic of what to do if ever something happened to one of us. I kept on telling Anna that if something were to happen to me, that she should just move on. And then she got pissed. And then I can't remember too much of what we talked about. Becuase hey, sleep talk isn't exactly courtroom testimonial-grade talk.

And then now it was this. I was racing from the lobby to the entrance. I turned left and I saw on the road a scene that keeps on repeating in my head even to this day.

Anna had been the reason for the commotion I had seen from upstairs minutes earlier. Anna, who just a few minutes ago had been cheerily saying she'd be going to work. Anna who just the previous night was idlly playing with Draw Something until she fell asleep.

She was there. Lying on the pavement. Not moving. Several policemen were already on the scene, as were our condos guards, and the pedicab people. I rushed to her, called out her name with a broken, hoarse voice, bereft of strength that I simply could not muster. The twenty meters that I had to dash felt like a kilometer. When I got to her, I knelt, in disbelief.

For the first time in a very long time, I called out to a God that I only conversed with every Sunday.

I shouted Anna's name again. "Are you okay?!" I shouted. Anna opened her eyes, albeit weakly. She very slightly said "No" although the only reason I knew is because I read her weak lips. Her forehead had blood, as did her arms. She was lying on her shoulder and one of her legs was twisted in a very irregular angle. I rose up and asked one of the guards to call an ambulance. "Tumawag na ho" he said. It's fucking Holy Thursday, I thought, why couldn't it come sooner?

I went back to Anna. She looked slightly more conscious. A voice behind me, and I do not know who, gave me a briefing of what had happened. A motorbike had hit her while crossing the road, and then told me that the guy who did it was standing behind me. I looked at the man, in his late thirties. I swear I wanted to tear that man apart, were it not for the fact that he looked as terrified as me. I asked for his license and ID, in case he had a last minute burst of gall to run away. Turns out one of the guards already had the cards. I took a shot of them with my phone. I went back to Anna and assured her with lines I would repeat over and over again for the rest of the day.

Stay with me.

I love you.

Try to stay awake.

Conserve your energy.

Don't move too much.

I'm with you now.

I'll be here.

Shortly after, the policemen arrived, took over for the guards and started asking questions. I demanded to know where the ambulance was. I called mom first, thinking she might be in my sisters' condo. She was in Cavite. I explained to her the situation. As usual, she coolly told me to relax, get a taxi, and have her lifted to Manila Ortopedic Hospital, where my uncle had been previously sent due to another injury caused by the same godforsaken transport. I consulted one of the policemen and told me it'd be too risky at this point. He asked Anna to wink if she could get up or even just move her back or neck or leg. She shook her head instead. The policeman told me had there been a fracture, or a spine injury, moving around and transport with no restraints would worsen the injuries. I recalled rudimentary first aid, and understood.

Anna spoke after a few minutes, asking me to call her boss. What the fuck, right? You get into an accident and the first thing you want to call is call the boss? Must've been the shock I suppose, or she's probably just that dedicated to her goddamn job. I called her dad first instead. Normally a very stoic person, he sounded surprised to hear my voice instead coming from  her daughter's cellphone. I told him the essentials. She's conscious. The guy who hit her is apprehended. The ambulance is one the way. I told him the hospital would be Phil Orthopedic. He thanked me and told me to keep him updated.

The ambulance still wasn't coming. My mother called again. Asked me where I was and what I was doing. I told her the ambulance is still on the way, and that there might be fractures so we're not moving her. My mom insisted. if there's a fracture, she told me, there's nothing that can be done about it anyway. If she moved sooner, the sooner she'd get treatment. I looked at Anna. She had a point as well. If she was dying right at that moment, and the reason she couldn't have been saved was because I was adamant about waiting for an ambulance that wouldn't come, I will never forgive myself.

For the mean time, I texted Anna's boss. He replied okay and to keep him updated.  Anna started speaking again. She looked like she was indeed getting weaker, and said she wanted to sleep. I yelled at her, as loud as I could. DO. NOT. FALL. ASLEEP. And silently cursed at the traffic that was keeping the ambulance away from us.

A guard from La Salle dropped by and asked if she was from La Salle. No, I told him and he went away. The police investigator came and started asking for details. I gave them as accurately as I could, though for the life of me I just couldn't remember her home address. I gave mine instead. They gave me instructions on what would happen next. The investigator would go to the hospital for more details, so I just need to tell them where we'd be going. I started gathering her belongings. Her shoes had flung pretty far, but her bag was beside her, intact, albeit with scratches on it.

I kissed Anna. She was cold, and sweating. No fever, at least, I told myself. Her pulse was regular, somewhat slow. People were starting to gather, and the traffic was slowly building up, though, not as much since La Salle was still on holiday, was was the rest of Metro Manila. I looked around and found the two slices of pizza she told me she'd be brining to work. They were resting on top of the island's wall. The plastic had torn, and the pizzas were mangled and dirty - a silent evidence of the tragedy that morning.

I kept on following up on the ambulance, repeating to Anna any words that may have an effect on her. We've been through worse before, I told her, remember that last stage of Resident Evil? I tried to joke. That was fucked up, wasn't it? She smiled for the first time. I thought she'd be in more pain of she laughed so I stopped and just kissed her again.

The ambulance that took forever to arrive finally came, sirens blaring. On a darker note, part of me always wondered what it'd be like to be riding those things, but I've always wished to never have to know. The ambulance belonged to the Philippine Red Cross. Thank you Dick Gordon, I thought to myself. The crew of four hopped out of the thing like the Ninja Fucking Turtles. Like clockwork, one of them started talking to the police, the other two started assessing Anna's condition. The last one, the driver, came to me and asked where she need to be taken. Philippine Ortho, I told him. He discussed with the other guy if it's possible, and said yeah, since this bones may be broken, that'd make sense.

Moving Anna, even with experienced medics around, was gut-wrenching, heart-rending. She screamed in pain when they put a hard splint on her left leg. I was with Anna when she was loaded into the ambulance. At the last minute, the driver asked me again if I wanted to go Phil Ortho. He said it might be traffic.

Alternatives were Ospital ng Maynila, PGH, and Manila Doctors. I thought, since it's Holy Thursday, staffing will be minimal. Going to a public hospital may prolong her wait for medical attention, so I went for Manila Doctors.I told the policemen of the change and thanked them for their help. And off to the hospital we went.

The medics ripped her pants to check for more wounds, during which I heard Anna mumble that those where her only decent pants. They used her bag to prop her right leg, which just wouldn't straighten. I remembered that her bag contained her phone. I called her dad using mine instead. Thankfully I still had his number from a time when Anna had to text him.

My mother called again when we were already in the ambulance. I got scolded for not going to Phil Ortho, even after reasoning out the traffic. She told me it'd cost us, and that if she were to be transferred to the Phil Ortho later in the day, she'd be put in the low priority triage.

Regarding the choice of hospital, as of writing, a lot of people question my logic at the time, some of them I sincerely believe have good points, others, I believe are just parotting third-hand experiences and would've probably done worse, they just didn't know how being put on the spot was like. In hindsight, I believe I acted to the best of my ability given the knowledge I had at hand. I knew Anna had Medicard provided for by her company. I knew it was honored in Manila Doctors, since I already had gone there when I was still using the Medicard brand some 8 years ago. I knew all hospitals were understaffed, and the least understaffed choice within the vicinity was Manila Doctors, I thought, and this is the part where I was assuming, worst case scenario, Anna could be transferred to another hospital after being administered emergency care. I have no regrets.

We arrived at Madocs in under ten minutes. I had no idea how fast the ambulance passed through the normally traffic areas of Quirino, Pedro Gil, and Padre Faura, but it was like we were there in a flash. I hopped off, ran towards the nearest doctor who wasn't attending to Anna and asked if there was an Ortopedic on duty. I was told yes. In that case, I thought, she should stay here instead of moving to Phil. Orthopedic. Later on, I thought, I'd just bring the possibility up to the parents.

I ran back to Anna's side. Surprisingly, I saw at least three other cases that involved broken appendages in the emergency room. I thought that was the probably reason why the Orthopedic doctor was already on duty. I later learned that the actual ortho was NOT on duty, and was in a goddamn Visita Iglesia out of town, and the resident doctor had to perform initial diagnosis by consulting that doctor. Crazy.

Anna was given pain killers, and had most of her wounds cleaned, medicated, and sealed. After a short while, she was taken to XRay, where, and I shit you not, only one radiologist was on duty. Now I don't want to sound condescending on Anna or the radiologist's part, but the radiologist looked half my body mass. And I personally admit, I cannot lift Anna without injuring her and/or myself. And now he had to move Anna to the XRay table. It was a mess. I just had to help out. While xraying her abdomen, I was told to lower her pants to prevent the zipper from showing up. The pants were too tight and since her left leg was bent, I couldnt without risking Anna going bananas from the pain. I asked for scissors instead. We'll just cut away the whole section of pants. The radiologist gave me a pair of scissors that felt more blunt than a plastic breadknife. In the end, he relented and just had the xray done even with the zipper blocking parts of the image. I saw the preview and sighed of relief to see that there was no tearing inside her. He then moved on to the leg, which he said would be sent to the ortho for analysis. We then moved Anna back to her bed, which felt like a murderously painful ordeal for Anna (understandably so). I swore to myself I'd start bodybuilding as soon as I could.

Anna's parents and sister arrived shortly after, along with a woman who clained to be the wife of the guy who was riding the bike that hit Anna, and a guy who I thought was the guy who hit Anna (he was the brother, as it turns out, and looks eerily like him). Anna went back to the emergency room, and for the first time since 8 that morning, I was away from her. I sat at the waiting room with her mom, her dad, her sister, and the two relatives of the offender. We had a lot of small talk. I assured Anna's mother that she was a fighter, and that she was a lot more mature now than when I first knew her. We talked about a lot of things, most of them relating to Anna, if only to pass time.

I also got to talk to the wife of the guy who hit Anna. They were both pawnbrokers for a large pawnshop chain, and turns out he was on the way to work when Anna got hit. From what Anna told me and the investigators, the guy was going really fast. I told his wife that there's this called the phenomenon of Holiday Speeding, where vehicles start travelling faster and more recklessly during the holidays, becuase they're not used to decongested roads, and their reaction times tend to be slower relative to their speed because of that. The wife insisted that's not the case, I told her no driver is excempted from that rule, but I realized it won't help their case and changed topic instead. They told me they'd pay for everything and that they wont run away. The husband is of course, in jail at the moment, so yeah, nobody will be running away.

My mother called again and told me of the possible expenses. I can't detail much, but I recall her examples racking up amounts ranging from 150k to 300k, in different hospitals. I knew Manila Doctors belongs to the league of uberexpensive hospitals so I started doubting my decision at that point, and feeling sorry for the motorcycle owner. There was no way a pawnshop employee would be able to shoulder something like that.

I apologized in advance to Anna's parents for having her brought there. They knew what costs I was talking about, but told me I had nothing to worry about because I was panicking at that time. For what it was worth, I told them about her medicard. At the least, I knew that it could shoulder about 150k worth of bills at least, if it was the same with what I was using. I said the same to the wife of the offender.

After a while I got to talk to Anna again. She was crying, but definitely in a better, more stable condition. I apologized to her for not keeping her for a few minutes more, for not having done better. She assured me and thanked me for my support. At that point I felt like crying like a goddamn baby already, but I tried to keep the facade up.

I realized that I had closed the condo unit without taking my home keys with me. I was locked out of my own place. Also, that I basically was wearing my sleeping clothes, short pants that had a huge gaping hole in the crotch, but already sewn beforehand, and my room slippers. I called my sisters if they had spare keys and told them I'd be dropping by to get them. My sister sounded like she was scolding me, asking too many questions, some of them asking why I didn't send her to Phil Ortho I felt like I really just didn't have enough time for such deliberations - I only asked for the keys after all.

Anna was to be confined, the doctor told us. There were no fractures found in any of the injured parts her body but she had to remain for observation. It was like a breeze of relief for me. I told them I'd be going back later that day so I could be the night watch. Her family had rushed so quickly they did not have time to bring any clothes or comforts. For the moment, I thought, things were finally shaping up better than I had expected. After we got her settled in, I finally gave my farewell to both Anna and her family. They thanked me and told me to keep safe.

I headed straight for my sisters' condo after, clutching only my car keys, wallet, and cellphone. I took the taxi back and nearly fell asleep. I was already two in the afternoon, and I realized I haven't had a morsel of food, or a minute's of rest. Either would've been so nice.

I got up to the unit and was offered food. Since it was Holy Thursday, my sisters were eating noodles delivered from a Japanese restaurant that didnt'really celebrate holy weeks. I told them I'd just eat it at home, since I really needed to go back. I was thirsty so I went for one of the few remaining bottles of water in the supply. My sister told me that if I were to drink that, they'd run out of water, so I placed the bottle back. I'd just get my own when I get back to the condo. She told me I should buy more, since she couldn't lift the water herself since she had just undergone an operation two weeks before. I told her okay,  I'd have somebody bring the water up before I go back to the hospital. I figured that'd be the cue for a change of topic. Nobody asked me anything remotely related about the incident I was only beggining to walk away from, but I brushed that aside. I just wanted to get some rest. I asked if they were going to Cavite that weekend, as was tradition. Nobody had told me of the plans, so I thought, maybe they could go home I could just catch up. My sister, and I really am understating this, replied "Eh pano kami uuwi, wala naman magddrive?"  in a tone that I know is her condescending, accusatory voice.

Perhaps it was the stress, or the enervation, or the waning shock, but I just lost it at that point. I told her "Nangyari na nga yung nangyari, sinisisi mo pa rin ako kaya di makakauwi? Shet." She told me what the hell was wrong with me, "na kaninang umaga pa ako nagtataas ng boses" I told her she was the one who was talking like I'm the one with the problem. I don't know for sure about my personal stature that morning, but during our earlier conversation I was pretty sure I was still in a very urgent mood, and any tone I may have had was because I was in a pretty fucked up situation.  She went on to drone about how I never treat people properly whenever I am in need. Truly felt like a wTF moment. I realized that the longer I argued back, the more energy I'd have to further spend on something I couldn't afford at the moment. I told her "I dont need this right now." She didnt stop. I took the keys from my younger sister - what I actually just wanted in the first place, and ran out, saying in one breath "walang kwenta".

My sister ran after me even as I rode the elevator, throwing out cusses that rent my battered soul so helplessly. It was uncharacteristic of her to hit me while I was so down, and yet there she was, literally verbally abusing me, on top of her lungs, and within earshot of all neighbors. Janine quietly guided us back to the condo. I felt I shouldn't, but the amount of hurtful words said about me and Anna, compelled me to come back and give her a dose of her own medicine. I tried to be as civil as I could. I told her I was under so much stress. She told me she's been through worse. I told her I never did the same thing whenever she was. She was simply unstoppable, incorrigible. At one point, we made Janine recall the exact events that happened. I pointed out how she had the gall to order me to buy water, to refuse me water, without ever asking how I was, how Anna was. And that it was her who was berating me for being shitty to people who was doing favors. I simply could not accept how this was happening on the very same day that represented the lowest point of my recent life. I walked out again after realizing there was just nothing to fix what had been broken that day.
I got home, I saw my computer, still connected to my office workstation, carrying my food. That was the only time that it all sunk in. The accident. The mad rush to get aid. The problematic costs. The fight. It felt like a huge dam of stress building on top of me just burst and crushed me under a torrent of depression. That was probably the first time I cried on my own. I called my sister again. I tried to apologize for my voice, tried explained my part but sensing so hint of remorse, affection, or sympathy on the other end I just ended up having anger get ahead of me, with my sister answering with a stone cold voice that she has done nothing wrong and will never ever apologize for anything. I realized I was talking to an idiot, and was being an idiot in the process. There's this long standing tradition in the family of nobody every saying sorry to anything or anybody. I learned a long time ago that that was a stupid tradition to begin with. Nobody has apparently moved on. So when she asked "what is it that you wanted to tell me by calling?" I told her nothing. I asked if she had anything else to say, and she said nothing as well. I hung up, realizing that I had just gone past my limit.

A voice at the back of my head told me that we become the people that we hate. And that the person who I had just fought with, once upon a time, had described to me the person she hated the most. with the very same words that could've been used to her today. I thought of myself, and realized that I would also come to hate her eventually, and that the only way I could avoid a similar situation was either to forgive or forget. There's something about that situation, me being in my low of lows, that just made me resolve that there will be no forgiveness this time, only forget. And that if in the future there there will be any reconciliation, it will most certainly never begin with me. We are both adults now, and right now I knew where my priorities lay.

Times like this, you see who are the people you can count on, and who are only there to count you out while lying on the mat.

I finally ate my food, cleaned the house, packed clothes and ammenities for two days, took a bath, and rested for half an hour before heading back to the hospital. But not before I bought the water for my sisters. Fight or not, I  already said my promise. Packing a heavy bag, a laptop, and then with some 250 pesos worth of water (heavier than you think), I had to bring it up myself, since I realized that the condos are practically empty due to the long weekend and the last thing I need is to have some stranger bring water to my sisters and realize there's only two women staying in that condo. My lower scoliosis started acting up again, but that was, at the moment, the least of my worries. I brought the water up, my sister opened up for me, wordlessly. I dropped the water, waited a moment to hear if there's anything that she'd say, nothing. So I went back and figured, my resolve was not misplaced.

I took the taxi back to the hospital and tried to put up my cheeriest mood on the way. It was five in the afternoon, barely ten hours since the start of the ordeal. Anna greeted me with a worn out smile. I could only give her half as much. But I realized that the worst just had to be over.

And every step after that could only move us forward.

This is how I'll remember that day.


jherskie said...

stay strong. i'd like to add more flowery words to make a sensible prose, but i'm also in no state to cheer someone else up.

i believe you can get through this. give my regards to anna. i wish both of you well :)

mikan said...

Same here. Here's for praying for Anna's speedy recovery.

Anonymous said...

Your "family tradition" aside, I cannot comprehend why your sister is being a big b**ch on that moment. Sure, nothing's wrong with getting worked up on all that mess that happened (we are human beings after all, emotions get the better of us), but seeing the situation like that, if I were in your shoes, I would have raised a hand and disowned her right there.

But you didn't, and I admire you wholeheartedly on that. Having a calm facade with all that chaos wrecking you is really something, even mature individuals have trouble mastering them. I may be exaggerating on this, but I admit that myself or anyone couldn't have done what you just did.

Anyway, I wish you and Anna a lot of better days ahead. I do believe that you will overcome this obstacle pretty soon. Ingat!

(P.S. I have nothing against your sister, btw. Please take my opinion about her with a grain of salt, since I just based it on your description of her actions. You should forgive her for what she has done, since I believe she shouldnt have meant to harm anyone, especially someone from her family. After all, that's how good guys roll.)

--an avid reader of your works/posts


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