SHE stands before her childhood home, and the memories come rushing back.
Of her first dog—Taxicab, named so because it was given to her by the driver of the taxi she and her family rode for home after spending the day at the mall. She begged her mother to let her keep it even if her brother was allergic to mutts, promising to help feed and bathe it even if she did not yet know how to take care of herself. (She still doesn’t.)
Of her first accident—dropping a bottle of ketchup on the floor after a trip to the refrigerator and a rather slippery retreat. Her grandfather was visiting, and she made eye contact with him just as she hit the ground. She knew even then that she would make many mistakes in front of him. (She still does.)
And of the first man who broke her heart—her father. Always, her father.
She was four and asleep on the night that would change her life forever. Her mom was sleeping beside her. Her two-year-old brother was with his nanny in the other room. Her father was nowhere to be found.
He was at work, according to her mom—and work he did. He worked so hard he was hardly around, and when she did manage to get a glimpse of his shadow, she’d catch it by the front door as he was leaving, or by her door when he closes it behind him after tucking her in long after she’s begun dreaming.
There was no shadow that night, but there was a sound. A light tapping on the window, which wakes her up. In her groggy state, she finds it—his shadow, distorted by the glass. She tugs on her mom’s shirt and points to it, desperate to see her father.
Her mother gets out of bed so fast she jumps, her little girl legs in a tangle beneath her. She follows her out of the room to the front door, and as her mother wrenches it open to shed light on the shadow, she finds her father on the steps, already on his knees.
He says he’s sorry, for everything that he has done. Her mother keeps on yelling, infuriated beyond her imagination. And she—oh, she of little knowledge of the world—fought back tears even though she did not understand what was happening.
He packs his bags, kisses his son on the forehead, and hugs his daughter for the last time. His shadow retreats to the darkness, never to be seen again. Her mother falls to the ground, sobbing. She reaches out to her mother with one hand, and tries to collect the pieces of her broken heart, scattered on the doorstep, with the other.
Years later, after finding out about the other woman and learning to live with the words “single parent” and “broken family” and “troubled child,” she decides to return to the scene of the crime and finally close the case.
When heartbreak becomes home, one learns the art of turning the bad into good, weakness into strength. All the disappointment, the rage, the sadness, the self-pity—they can only go so far. But she had a long way to go, and she was not about to let the past kill her future.
She stands before her childhood home, and the memories come rushing back—of events that would affect her for the rest of her life, and of fleeting moments that she would recall only in daydreams.
She calls out to the shadows, and whispers, “Thank you for the hurt.” She turns, and leaves, and learns to smile again. (Mina Michaela M. Limbaga)