Tita Maite

“Her limbs weren’t moving any more, now she was still, her head back, and just the breathing, like a sort of uneven snoring…We stayed up all day and night because you did not know. We moved chairs close, curled them in and slept, held her hand, and soon the tide came in. It started with a different sound in the snoring. Something ounder, more liquid. Then almost a gurgling. Her breaths became more strained, pulling both air and also these bubbles–what was that sound?…The breaths were pulling more and more. And the gurgling, the bubbles became more prominent in the breathing, she was pulling at a tub of water, then a lake, a sea, an ocean, pulling at it– The fluid kept coming in, the tide inside her rising, rising, her breaths shorter, like someone being filled as the water climbs and there is no longer anywhere to–

But there was intelligence in that breathing, and passion in that breathing, everything there, we could take that breathing and hold its hand, sit on its lap while watching TV, the breaths were quicker and shorter, quicker and shorter, then shallow, shallow, and that’s when I loved her as much as any other time, when I knew her as I thought I knew her…”

– Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

My mom’s friend died of a heart attack last Friday. The night before, I watched her unload the contents of our car’s trunk. I was outside seeing Baki off and she came out to tell me that my mom needed a glass of water. And the next morning she didn’t wake up. It’s too simple to just say that we’re all sad, we’re all mourning, but the truth it that not all of us liked her that much and it was one of those rocky relationships where it was all hit or miss, where one moment was wonderful only to be knocked down by the shitstorm that would follow. She never shut up, if I came out of my room and she was there at the dining table, she would start talking to me, through me, or at me even if I was several yards away.
And she really liked Mikey. It offended me to a certain extent that she kept asking about him even after we broke up, even after I had already started seeing someone else.
What I realize now is that we were friends that way. She had a way of immersing you in her stories, even if they were almost all about people you didn’t know, but somewhere in that deluge, we learned a lot about each other. I guess it comes with the fact that she lived with us for the past 4 years. She celebrated birthdays and christmases with us. She knew when I was pissed because with her, I was more up front about my emotions than I ever was with my own mom.
She liked strawberries, and I always got her things with strawberries, just because. I gave her a watch with a ticking strawberry as the second hand and she would wear it even if she was already wearing a watch. She’d wear it next to another timepiece even if it had a bright green rubber strap and it would be there on her wrist next to her heavier, more “serious” looking watch. At the dining table she’d hold up her wrist and show them off, “This one here is my Technomarine blablabla it’s expensive, it’s made for pilots, blablabla, and this one over here was given by my neice.”
That’s all. I’ll miss buying her strawberry covered stuff. Heck, I’ll even miss hearing about her guns even if I didn’t understand any of it.

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Author: alicesarmiento

San Juan, Metro Manila

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