Silence, sometimes it can be deafening and at times a most welcome sound. However, to someone who has dwelt for a long time in it, silence is also chaos.
“Hell found me and redemption is but a whisper of a dream,” Michelle reflected as she gazed into the darkness.
All around her people were wide-awake. It was exactly 9 o’clock in the evening; there was still an hour left before the bus reached its destination but they did not seem to care. Maybe it’s weariness, maybe it’s boredom or maybe it is the triviality of things that have caused them to be oblivious to everything as long as they arrived at their destination. Not to her, no, to her this is anything but trivial.
“Eight years,” Michelle thought aloud then quickly glanced to her side. The man sitting next to her looked like nothing happened, that he did not hear his seatmate speak to herself.
She is finally going home. It pained her heart to realize that if Fr. Martin had not written, telling of her mother’s illness, she would still be in her cramped apartment taking in half of the Metro’s polluted air.
‘I don’t know if I will ever find my way again,’ she thought as she tried to see past the gloom that had descended upon the deserted rice fields.
The house was dark, save for a single candle holding its own against the onslaught of the cold breeze. The stars above shined like a million newly polished mirrors set against a black cloth. Peeking from the branches of a large willow tree is the moon, strong and silent as ever.
Michelle could barely see her mother’s figure inside the house. She is sitting on a kitchen chair, her hands clasped together on the table. A shawl is wrapped around her shoulder and her head is bent down.
Careful so as not to awaken her mother, Michelle gently turned the knob and pushed the door inward. She winced as it gave a slight creaking sound that only got annoyingly longer as she continued on her slow push. Throwing caution to the wind, she dragged her bag inside and gave the door a hefty blow.
Satisfied, she glanced at the kitchen and saw her mother still sleeping soundly. She quietly approached her and planted a kiss on her cheek. Her mother stirred and Michelle sat next to her.
“Michelle?” Aling Miding asked softly as her eyes tried to focus.
“Mano po, Inay.”
Her mother smiled and caressed her cheek. How often had she dreamt of this, of once again being able to see and touch her daughter?
Having her daughter there, sitting right next to her is more than a dream that has finally come true. Michelle, with her straight black hair, olive skin and light brown eyes covered by long eyelashes is a treasure she had longed for everyday. And tonight indeed, is a good night to live.
Misinterpreting her mother’s delight for distress, Michelle took the tired yet steady hands and kissed it lightly.
“I’m here now, for as long as you need me.”
Her mother’s heart was singing as she led the way to her daughter’s room. It was obvious her mother had worked hard all day so the room would look exactly like the day she left for college.
Michelle felt her soul leave her body. There was no doubt; tonight she is sleeping beside her mother in her parent’s bedroom.
It still turned out to be a restless night for Michelle as she tossed and turned in bed, trying frantically to escape from the voices that seemed to reach out to her, voices that seemed to come directly within her. It began slowly and grew steadily until she can take no more. It was trying to engulf her and it was succeeding.
“Stop, please,” Michelle begged as she struggled to surface. The voices only grew louder and stronger, intensifying its determination to imprison her.
When she finally opened her eyes, the warm glow of the morning sun greeted her. Beads of perspiration mingled with tears wet her face as she tried to calm down. She reluctantly got up and headed for the kitchen.
“Good morning anak,” her mother cheerfully welcomed her.
Michelle stopped short and felt her throat constrict at the sight of the familiar face that met her.
“I didn’t know when you were coming,” Erik remarked as a way of greeting. “I would have met you at the bus terminal if I did.”
The angry hiss of the hot oil increased as Aling Miding added more ingredients. The restless clatter of the ladle as it made contact with the bottom of the frying pan contributed to the aromatic smell that permeated the kitchen and little points of oil merrily shot up as she continued to mix the food.
Michelle immediately proceeded to take over her mother’s work and efficiently added seasoning to the mix. She felt Erik’s eyes boring into her back then heard the shuffle of feet as he passed by her and reached for the plates.
“This is so beautiful,” Michelle remarked as she and Erik arrived at the cliff over-looking their town. The birds sang unceasingly and the trees danced energetically with the wind. The grass was like carpet to the feet and was dressed in different colored wild flowers.
Michelle breathed deeply as she tried to take in as much fresh air her lungs could hold and a pinkish tint colored her cheeks.
Giving in to the magic of the moment, Erik suddenly hugged her from behind, unintentionally ending the thrill that she felt.
“What is it you wanted to talk about?” Michelle inquired as she loosened his grasp on her waist. Taking hold of his hand, she led him to the nearby Narra tree and motioned for them to sit.
“I missed you.”
“I haven’t returned since I was 19 Erik. It’s been eight years.”
Erik stood up and dusted dirt from his pants. “I did not put my life on hold and be stupid enough to not know how long it has been.”
Michelle sighed. How is she going to tell him that she cannot love him anymore? Erik is the only man she has ever truly loved but no matter how much she still wants to love him she knows deep in her heart that she needs to stop.
She and Erik had been inseparable since the day they met in first grade. Yes, they were childhood sweethearts in every sense of the word but as in real life, everything can change in the blink of an eye.
Michelle hugged him tightly, trying to let him know her love; wishing that he could hear her heart speak. She bit her lip as tears began to form in her eyes when she felt his arms encircle her.
“I never stopped Michelle, not even for a moment. Not even when they told me you were never coming back.”
Michelle brushed the tears from her eyes before it could have a chance to fall. “You should have listened to them.”
She broke their embrace, walked towards the end of the cliff, and looked down.
“What do you mean?”
“You heard me.”
Birds suddenly flew from the trees and the wind started its gentle lullaby. The sun turned to a light shade of orange as the sweet toll of the church bells reached Michelle’s ears. The next thing she knew, Eric was gently turning her to face him.
‘Stop loving me Eric, stop loving a dream,’ Michelle’s thoughts screamed in her head but she could not say it. She had to, that she was sure of but she did not know how. Nor did she have enough courage.
She desperately found a way to escape, to get away from him and from the life she had always wanted. Unable to explain, Michelle snatched her hand from him and dashed down the cliff.
To be continued…..