Tell it to SunStar: For Arlene

I WAS walking into 2020 on tiptoes. I didn’t know exactly where I was headed and I wasn’t sure of the place I was coming from. I had to assume the role of a girl I wasn’t ready to be yet. It seems silly to complain about life when you’ve been throughly taught to feel lucky to live it. I’ve learned and unlearned a lot of things. Met and became versions of myself I didn’t want to be. Ran towards and hid from situations I wasn’t cut out for. I was catapulting aimlessly into treacherous and unfamiliar territory.

The future is always scary. It is scary because it is unwritten, buried under a multitude of courses, and lost in the maze of what will become of tomorrow. The one thing the future will always have, however, is growth. A new day, no matter how many steps we take backward, is a step forward nonetheless. In pursuit of my own personal growth, I’ve come to find that it is okay — necessary even — to let loose and be vulnerable, to cry when I need to, and to talk about it in the comforts of safe spaces.

Early in January of this year, I was with my parents in Leyte enjoying the remaining days I had before school started again. Aside from the hearty meals the provincial life has to offer, our conversations over dinner are always just as meaty. One night, in between talks on politics, cats, and the mundane, my dad brought up my not going to church as often. My parents are big catholic buffs. As for me, not so much. He then proceeds to tell me that prayer has done wonders for him and that it will do the same for me too. It is always easier to have this conversation on the phone, but that night, as I try to come up with some trite excuse for my Sunday absences, my voice cracks. Tears escape me. I say, I had a hard year. Just that.

There are different kinds of pain: ones that you mask effortlessly, ones that sting just a little, and ones that hurt in places you didn’t know they could. I broke down in utter anguish. My mom rushed to my side and enveloped me in an embrace so warm, it hurt. It hurt because when you’re bereft of genuine love for quite some time, you become cynical. You try to pick out every disguised semblance of sincerity. You start to condition yourself into thinking that only bad will come from momentary good. I do not tell my folks a lot about my hardships because they have so much of that on their plates already, but I could tell by the way no second had passed before my mom took me in her arms that I would always have her there to catch me, to cheer me on, to hold me when the only thing I’d want to do is let go.

I know my story isn’t half as bad as I make it seem to be, but maybe that’s because of her. Maybe I come home from God knows where in one piece because of all the prayers she says for me at 7 in the evening. Maybe I’ve made it this far because of how long I’ve tried to model my heart after hers. I think a lot about the words I’ve said that have relentlessly fallen into her lap because I was angry. When she tells me she loves me, I get flashbacks of all the times I put her in distress. My mom has gone through many heartbreaks but not once has she allowed them to alter her spirit. I wonder how she does that sometimes — how mothers just do it. So when I am in bed later tonight, I’ll whisper a few words into my pillow. I will wish to have no more of our birthdays spent apart. I will think of her from Cebu, how her kindness always showed even to people who didn’t deserve a crumb of it, how she blooms like the flowers in her garden: impervious to the heat and full of color.


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