“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
This question had been haunting me since I was in kindergarten. The question kept on resurfacing every year, culminating on my fourth year when I was about to take college entrance exams. But up until now, after barely graduating from college, I still do not know what I really want to do for the rest of my life. I still can’t imagine myself 10 years from now. I have some scenarios, but still, nothing concrete.
I wanted to be a doctor. Then I would be able to treat my mother suffering from diabetes.
I wanted to be a lawyer. Then I would be able to defend my friends and other people who need defense.
I wanted to be an interior designer. Then I would be able to design my dream house.
I wanted to be a chef. Then I would be able to cook with my father and compare our recipes.
I wanted to be a fashion designer. Then I would be able to make my own clothes that fit my size and what I want.
There are so many professions that I want. And I have just one lifetime to live. And up until now, I still can’t decide.
(My attempt of nano-non fiction)
He could hear her heartbeat. He was on top of his mother, her left hand hugging him just below his hips and her right hand tapping his left leg. Fortunately, he was so small and light. Unfortunately, the wounds on his back were still fresh preventing him from sleeping on his own.
His mother patiently let him sleep on her top. She couldn’t sleep at all because she couldn’t let anything touch the wound. She knew it was painful, and it was the only way she could do to alleviate the pain.
For a month, the smile on his face was never seen. All that could be heard from him were shouts of pain every time the wounds were itchy but he couldn’t touch them, every time they were being cleaned, every time he accidentally rested his back on something.
Medicines could only do so much. It minimized the pain, but it never completely stopped it. But whenever his mother held his hand, hummed a song, or kissed his wounds, the pain remained but he knew he was safe.
Anger is an understatement of what he was feeling. It was more than that. He couldn’t comprehend how people could go beyond the lowest level of disappointment.
“You were dividing the bla bla bla…”
“Who are you to say bla bla bla..”
“Your words hurt bla bla bla…”
It was a feeling he felt before, but never in this intensity. He thought, I wasn’t doing this for myself. I was doing this with the same goal as you. I was actually doing this for you.
He tried to defend himself, and explained things. But no explanation would ever suffice to those who already formed their opinions, and to those who were determined to never listen. It was as if you were convincing a dog that it was a cat.
He looked in their eyes. Those were the eyes that used to share happiness with him. But now, they were filled with disgust fueled by an unfathomable source.
He never bent his stand. He conceded just for the sake of ending the discussion.
Anyway, he already won the argument. The prize/price of winning: losing friends.
The cream wall on his left splattered with dirt made him feel congested. The space could barely accommodate one person and now, two others were sleeping beside him. He couldn’t breathe properly. Not here, not here, he kept on thinking.
He felt movement on his right side, but he was afraid to look. He heard someone call his name, but he couldn’t face him—not with the tears slowly forming in his eyes.
He felt a paper on his chest. It said “I’m sorry.”
He took the paper and wrote back, “Tell me I’m wrong.”
He couldn’t hear a pen writing. He waited but nothing happened. Until he felt someone hugging him from behind, saying “I’m sorry.”
He stood up. He looked at the old cabinet, the spiral staircase, the dirty bookshelves. He couldn’t take it anymore. This whole place mocked him for giving all that he could.
He rushed to the door, slamming it as hard as he could. It didn’t matter if the baby next door would wake up, or the drunken girls in the other house would react. He just wanted to go somewhere, away from that place.
He could smell the rotten aroma of the dish. He could feel the itch that started from his nose, slowly reaching the corners of his lips, down to his neck, up to his fingertips. He wanted to vanish at that moment but he could not show any sign of disgust—not with the smiling face of the chef who prepared the dish, his uncle.
It was a traditional Iloko food—he wasn’t sure what it was because it was just a mix of random vegetables from the refrigerator sautéed with fish paste. Quietly, he started to come up with a variety of excuses to disappear—rush paper, exam, head ache, heart ache, anything that could help him escape.
He was about to say something when his uncle spoke.
“Where’s the chicken for Jessie?”
He was surprised with the gesture, and apparently, his uncle noticed.
“Oh, you’re father told us you eat everything except anything with fish paste.”
He was shocked, and could not believe what had just happened. He thought, after all this time, he knows, and he cares.
He was clutching the blue floral blanket that he draped around his small body. He was careful not to get it dirty because his sister won’t like it. Slowly, he faced the mirror, slowly unraveling the messy ribbon-like knot in front of his chest.
“You look elegant,” his friend said.
He opened up his eyes, as wide as he could, and struck a pose, as if waiting for his friend to photograph him.
“Thanks, are you sure I won’t be embarrassed?” he asked his friend.
But before his friend could even answer, somebody knocked on the door.
He immediately untied the knot, covered himself with the blanket, and pretended to be sleeping.
The doorknob slowly clicked, and the door created a squeaking noise. He was nervous as he heard the footsteps going toward him.
“Jessie, wake up,” his sister gently tapped his shoulder. “Do you want to play? Come on, I bought something for you.”