Everything changed when I watched people die or hover at the verge of the proverbial thin line.
Human beings are so frail, so breakable, so finite despite of being on top of the food chain.
Just one degree of difference in our body temperature, and we lay on our bed weak and miserable. Feverish. Incapable.
But we all live like we will never run out of chances, and we left the special scented candles around the house unlit, gathering dust, waiting for a special occasion, until that fateful time where someone else lights it, for us, on our dying day.
One minute, gasping for air. The next, no longer.
I was never really the one who had a lot of biblical knowledge. Everything was whispered in passing. My father was not a religious man. What he had were principles and the will to survive. He had to provide for his family, 9 siblings younger than him, his father, my grandfather, died when he was 10. Ever since then, there was no longer any room for political correctness or curtsies and silver cutleries. He had a role to fulfill and there was no excuse for the starvation that predated his family. He was only 10, but he was already forced to act like a man four decades older than he really is.
There was a knife against his throat, and his mother’s, and the 9 more young children after him. He did what he do.
25 years after that, everyone in the family graduated with degrees.
But that was a very long time in between a boy of 10 years old and a man of 35, and in the underbelly of those spaces, lived the dirt and footprints of blood and sin.
My mother prayed often. She had papers of prayers plastered all over the walls in my parents’ room. She wrote them painstakingly, in that beautiful cursive of hers and I’d hear her murmur her prayers before she went to bed.
I remember how she smelled each time. She smelled of her Olay whitening cream, menthol toothpaste, and her vanilla scented lotion. She always smells divine. I remember her back hunched, whispering her prayers, eyes half closed, a booklet on her hand. Her hair was always short then.
Her lips didn’t stop moving even after I can no longer hear what she said.
I was too young to understand, and they were too busy to make me. I had never attended religion classes before. I was told to pray, but never how, except by a few titas, mother’s workmates, who diligently asked me to pray for their finances.
“A child’s prayer is strong, so pray, and pray this ha? So tita can get through this trial, okay hija?”
I lived in a place where Catholicism was banned. Practice and you shall be lashed, jailed, and sent home.
She always told me that one day I would find out what it’s all about. Until then, I did my homeworks alone, fed my curiousity myself, and topped almost all my classes.
I seemed to be doing fine. I didn’t need a miracle or an intervention.
I have watched my family go through struggles. My parents, like every parent from their generation, bragged about their past like some proud battle scar they have won.
I sat through so many painful evenings with my parents trying to outdo one another of who had it worse.
My mother had to walk to school with worn slippers full of holes after spending the entire morning planting rice, my father had to sleep starving and tired from working construction labor at 15 before his evening classes.
It was almost a spiteful circumstance that life turned out completely different with mine, and that me and my brother were too lucky to have been brought up eating chicken nuggets prepared by our au pairs.
In the unfortunate event that something happened, especially anything that involved money, we were never too young to be told. We were always told what they were going through, what they had to do, and that we needed to survive this rough patch.
I saw them do things for the people they love. Questionable things for the sake of survival.
I didn’t know the biblical truths, or the rules, but if I had to make a decision, I do not ever think that God would send my parents straight to hell for the things they did, for the people they protected.
—-I can’t believe 2016 is almost over. What happened to this year? I swear I just blinked and now it’s December.————-
Life began as darkness,
and then there was light.
For that reason, we forget about the hues and the colors. We can make the mistake of believing there is only black and white. I challege this notion, not everything has to be inside the lines, the people who changed the world decided to violate whatever law society carefully laid out.
They deviated from the norm.
The rebels and the misfits are so necessary, that our hope of living a better world, or correcting a previous prejudice lays on their hands.
No one is completely one thing, and not the other. We are degrees of certain circumstances, and a fluctuating percentage of principles. There are unshakable portions, and there are negotiable bits. That is how we survive in this strange and challenging world. There is no shame for the arsenal of weapons and defenses we all keep for the storms and earthquakes that shall come, to remain alive.
Life is messy, it’s how we clean up after it that matters.
Our mistakes are what makes us interesting, how we dealt with it, after our knees bled in painful agony from a hard fall. How we stood up is who we really are.
It is not the failed marriage, or useless college degree, or that time you stuttered on stage. It’s not being 30 and having no know-how of where to go next.
How many wounds do you have? That part is interesting. Rush through it, if you can’t look me in the eyes while you say it, we can pretend it’s another person who disappointed his family and himself. How many of your wounds are self-inflicted? Spill it all, I’m listening…
Oh, but, how did you heal?
Tell me how you did, and pleasure me with the details, we can talk all about it until the morning light, because nothing else should matter but that part.
With a smile, I’ll wonder, how beautiful it is to see you, alive despite all the things that tried to kill you inside.
I had to wing everything I know about God and how He thinks. All I know is God is Love, and I thought that should be sufficient. Definitely lacking in knowledge, but enough to get by.
Mother used to believe the things she read at the internet. One time she printed this long story of prophecy typed in Comic Sans with no proper paragraph judgment, like how it was in the early 2000s. The internet was infested with chain mails built on fear.
She made me read it, thinking the best way to teach a little girl religion was by terrifying her and tales of horrors would be satisfactory in instilling values in me, substituting anything else.
That piece of paper told me about the devil’s sign in the future and how only those who have it would be granted the privilege to eat.
I can’t forget the look my father gave me. He was smiling, sitting on a banged-up old chair, the foam already flat against his back. “If that has to happen, I’ll get marked to get you and mommy the food. You will stay safe. Hell is nothing to be afraid of, compared to seeing you scarred.”
Ever since then, I refused to believe my father’s soul would burn in eternity for that. Surely, we can write outside the lines of a ruled paper, however thick they were? Surely, we can turn on an empty road with straight yellow lines in between and drive?
Surely, we can paint outside the circles, we can spill the watercolor out?
“God Himself, sir, does not propose to judge a man until his life is over.
Why should you and I?”
― Samuel Johnson
He has been a White for a long time now, and being White is quite alright. Admirable even. Until the time being a White at everything became flat, and instead of contentment, it was unsatisfactory settling. In a world of endless possibilities, he wondered how it is to have a bit of Black.
But can that happen? Is that okay? Can he still be pure even after he dabbles with Black?
Well, who’s watching, and standing in his shadow, scribbling a long list of the things he did that could have made him a lesser White? Where is the tribunal? Who is worthy among men?
No one was, but he had to be told. So she came and gave him red, and revealed that it’s okay to have more colors than white.
We always feel like we need someone’s permission or approval to choose to be happy. How silly.
What if the only permission we need, is from ourselves?
Science and Faith. Fitting.