by Reya Bato
22nd April 2010
It is said that in death, all the memories you have flash back before your eyes.
It is true.
As I clutch my chest helplessly trying to suck air to fill my lungs, all the memories come rushing before my eyes. It seems that somebody has pushed the rewind button of a movie projector and I am watching the images frantically appear then disappear on an invisible monitor.
There is the two-year old me running from room-to-room of our ancestral house in Tagaytay.
My Mother giving me a huge kiss when I was three years old because I could read the children's book given by my Auntie.
My first day in school, I was about to cry because I could not find my school bus when I saw my brother standing beside me holding a can of soda. Nevertheless, I cried on my way to the bus - tears of joy for the feeling of safety and security.
My elder sister and I playing pirate while riding the cradle in front of our house. The red-gold light of sunset was flowing across the horizon.
I, in a white gala dress, walking in a queue for my first communion.
The image of our house in Pasig also appears followed by the beautiful figurine clock given by my eldest sister. We had a huge fight the night before. I read the note on the card posted on the wrapper: "Sorry. Always study hard. I love you."
The day when my brother-in-law asked for the hand of my eldest sister also flashes on the invisible monitor. He was narrating the first day he met my sister -- he heard chimes of bell when he saw her.
The scene changes. I was in my college auditorium; it was two weeks before the graduation. They were announcing the list of honors. I was fidgeting on my seat. My heart jumped out of my chest when I heard my name. Later that afternoon, I called my Mom crying giving her the good news – tears of joy for the job well done.
The day when you invited me for a dinner seems a very recent past. You rang the bell hanging beside the door on our way out. I recalled the story of my brother-in-law that time.
The next image shows the time I visited an old church. Somebody told me that if it is your first visit to a church, you must knock on its door and make a wish. I prayed for you. I also asked for a sign - a white rose.
The images continue to change rapidly. Most of them happened inside the classroom. The face of my students flashes transiently on the invisible monitor. The fast shifting of each scene does not give me chance to feel nostalgic.
Then, it is you again. We were eating in a cozy restaurant when you handed me a book. I looked at the cover -- a white rose was printed on it.
It is followed by the moments I had with you. Our endless talk on the phone, the contagious laughter that we shared, our leisurely short walks to my house, fancy dinners where you would always hand me a book and I would give you a poem in exchange.
The delightful images are erased by the scene in our backyard. The smoke coming from the burnt paper stung my eyes. I was burning the poems I composed for you. There was a cold, thin feeling growing inside me and it was slowly consuming my heart. It made me hard to breathe.
I cannot breathe. It seems somebody is squeezing the life out of me. I try to gulp air. I even open my mouth wide to suck in air but there is an obstruction in my airway. I try to clutch my chest struggling to remove the tightening pressure on my chest. The numbness starts spreading in my limbs and my palms start to sweat. There is a freezing coldness on my feet. I open my mouth wider and hastily gulp air. I cannot draw in air.
People appear -- my mother, my two sisters, my brother, nurses, doctors -- hovering over me, trying to help.
The doctors and the nurses are like apparitions pacing swiftly back-and-forth. They start giving me life support including defibrillation (that is the administration of an electric shock to the heart).
It is said, too, that in death the last sense to malfunction is the sense of hearing.
Maybe, it is true.
Just before I lose my consciousness, I hear you calling my name.
I cannot make out if you are in the room, though. I read that lack of oxygen in the brain causes tissue death which brings to brain damage. Is my brain already damaged because I can clearly hear you calling my name? I am certain you will not be there. You are not there.
You are calling my name over and over again just like in the last image that is still flickering repeatedly on the invisible monitor.
You were standing near the shadow of the tree. You were waiting for me. You invited me for a walk to my house. The crisp sound of the dried leaves as our feet trampled on them became our parting song as we passed by. The warm ray of the sun bathed our body. Nobody wanted to speak. Halfway to my house, you cut the silence between us. You told me you were sincerely sorry and you begged for my forgiveness. I did not want to hear them. I did not say a word either -- no words would bring you back. I ran away from you. You called my name over and over again. I ran as fast as I could. The short distance seemed never-ending.
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