It was a one-way ticket home. I upgraded it to first class, because why not? I needed the extra baggage allowance anyway, and it was going to be a long flight. I ultimately wanted to feel like a winner, finally, after a long duel.
The man who did my exit interview was tall and pleasant. He must be at his early 30s. He knew how to listen, after all, he was paid to do so. He took a long look at my form and asked me to stay. Give it a half year more. I didn’t finish my contract, I wasn’t going to get my full remunerations. He’ll take care of my manager, he said. “These things… can be fixed.”
I stared down at my palms and had to make a decision. I felt my heart quaver. I was only going to take home one-third of what I was supposed to be getting because I resigned before my contract ends. I was losing 6 figures in the progress. It was almost free money.
He continued to tell me, “Get out and have your lunch. Think about it. I can deal with your manager if she’s making you leave in this hurry. Come back in a few hours. I’ll be here waiting for your answer.”
He had the softest eyes and strong jawline and a voice that purred with his accent. I knew that if I stepped out of that office with my resolve weakened, that I wouldn’t come back until another half a year. And who knows? Maybe another year more.
“I need to go.”, I told him.
“Are you sure?,” He asked back.
I didn’t feel that way, at that moment, but I had to stand by my decisions.
“Yes.” I looked at him straight in the eye. My chest was heavy, but I decided to ignore, ignore, ignore. Time turned slower.
It’s been a month now since that day and I can still vividly remember.
“No turning back now.” He said, apologetically and perhaps regretfully, as he signed with his big loopy signature the last space in my clearance form.
“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you”
It was hard to walk away from the same money I worked for, but I had a goal, and there was already the undeniable urgency of it to be fulfilled. I got obsessed with an idea, the urgency knocks on my door like death that cannot be asked to wait any longer. It smelled of the last tick of the oven, red-hot, humidity filling the room, just before something burns. Open it now, get it out.
The harshest of winter, demanding to be felt in the thick of my bones.
I couldn’t put it aside anymore. It was a shadow that followed, even when I retired at night.
“Why am I here? How much longer do I have to wait?”
As I tie my hair in a ponytail long before it dries. Ready for another day at work.
“How much money is enough money? Will I have enough by the end of this quarter?”
As I draw another 10 ml of medicine in my syringe, ready to give another shot, another patient, another day.
“What if it doesn’t work? Do I have all my sides covered?”
As I stare at my manager’s eyes, while she tells the entire staff recently awarded as excellent, that we weren’t doing enough.
“But how about mom and dad?”
As the words of my patient raised in his rapid cursing, while he vehemently and violently tries to throw me off when I checked his heart.
He was old, he had dementia, I’m supposed to understand.
I’m supposed to.
But I’m tired, my legs are cramping, I’ve been shoved off by the very people I try to care and save.
His son tried to slip his hand on my thigh, I wore a thick jacket and lie I’m married.
Lying. It was the only way.
Before long, it didn’t matter how much money I had.
My savings and investments grew at an average rate, slower than my aggressive hopeful plans.
But my courage and commitment grew.
“Once I’m committed, I’m unafraid of the outcome.”
It was time.
I was going to turn away from everything I became but even more agitating was that being a nurse stemmed from a passion. The passion to save lives. It was what I told everyone while I went through the hell of nursing school. I aced classes out of pure motivation that one day, I was going to stand between someone’s life or death.
It felt important and selfless. I was a humanitarian. Reckless, stupid, placing others before myself. The only time I ever stood up to bullies was when they attacked someone else, not when they were attacking me.
My mother is a nurse. I grew up to hospitals. I went to where she worked. She looks so lovely in white. She was always soft, so beautiful, so delicate. She smells of cologne in the morning, and even after her shift ends. She was unafraid to raise her voice when someone could endanger her patients. So fearless and so tender at the same time.
Every single day she brought home a gift from her patients.
She was loved, much loved, by the people she cared for.
I wanted to be like her.
Every single decision was pointed towards that direction. Everyone knew me as the nurse.
I was ‘the nurse’ at social settings. My friends consulted me any of their problems, even those that aren’t related to their health.
I listened, I laughed, I comforted.
I look so damn good in white too.
And now I walk away from that path.
It was mid-afternoon.
I woke up late, as usual, from nights of self-sabotage where I engaged in too much online games and idyllic internet browsing. Determined to put a shift in my undisciplined methods and crazy schedule, I decided to get up and get a wall calendar.
A visual representation to wake up my senses.
I need a system. I always do. An organized routine where I can hit all my goals, little by little, day by day. It’s been a month since I resigned and all I managed to do, without trying very hard, was sloth and gluttony.
In the middle of traveling, alone in a strange city, I had no cars with me. I couldn’t speak the local dialect very well. I’d be standing and smiling, like some stupid girl with hearing impairment, asking them to repeat what they said in English.
Uber is my saviour.
It wasn’t a very special day, the mall I chose was halfway across the city, promising to have a large selection of stores. After 30 minutes of riding, I was almost there.
Until I saw it.
Across the road, opposite my direction, were motorcycles stopped and people standing. There were bodies on the floor.
I heard the driver tsk-tsking. They must have been too fast, he claimed. Everyone runs atleast a 70 here.
He continued to drive.
My eyes never left the scene. Every body was just standing, no one did a thing.
I knew what to do but I was paralyzed. I just need to be brave.
I was the only one who knew what to do, and the burden, and responsibility was all mine.
Do I leave them dying?
I don’t remember if I’m still licensed in our country. I probably am. My ID was not with me. The legal implications can be huge.
Will I even be questioned, if I was the only one who did anything to increase their chances of living?
We were in front of the mall. I asked if he could bring me back there.
He said he had other things to do.
The callousness slipped so carelessly from my heart, desperate to make the minutes count. I stood up and started running.
Oh so desperate to make the minutes count.
I was praying I wasn’t too late. I didn’t even dare look at anyone who stood there. I shifted my bag so it wouldn’t fall as I ran in.
“How long has it been?”, I asked.
“About 15 minutes, ma’am.” Someone answered.
It was a hot afternoon. I felt my sweat. I thought it was good idea to wear a white sweater, I didn’t think that way now. There were two bodies on the floor. None of them moving. The blood on the pavement came from both of their heads. The man looked like he got the worst of it all.
He wasn’t even wearing a shirt. I went down on my knees, felt his heart shake rather than beat, and shouted for help to re-position him. I tried to keep his neck still, it looked broken. He crashed down, head first and it was already at an unnatural angle.
Lying on his back now, I went to the woman, a few meters away. She was on her side bleeding. Dazed and shocked by what happened. I called for her and she responded. Her heart was slow but it was beating. I placed her on her back and saw how her left eye almost closed from the blood pooling inside her skull.
“You’ll be okay.” I said. “Untog lang.”
The only thing they want right now is some help,
and some hope.
I can be both.
I went back to the man and his heart was beating regularly again. My sweater was stained with his blood and his puke. He was starting to gasp. I was beginning to ready myself to start resuscitating when it happens.
In the distance, I hear sirens.
In a few minutes that felt like forever, the ambulance finally came.
I don’t know if they survived. I didn’t even get to buy that calendar. The entire bloody city does not sell a single freaking one. I walked away as soon as the paramedics got the man on the stretcher. I slipped off the crowds.
I realized one thing, hours later, as I ate my dinner casually.
Just like any other day.
I have never walked away from who I am, the one I pledged and took an oath to become.
If I need to save, I can still save.
I will always be a nurse. I may no longer be an OFW, but that doesn’t stop me from my capabilities or everything I’ve been trained for. The heart that bleeds to protect and save.
Just because I walked away from that life, that didn’t mean I have discarded everything in it.
Leave the bad, keep the good.
What I did, however, is give myself a choice and free myself from implications. I am no longer bounded by any institution.
I am not just a nurse.
Deafening. Deadening. Ending.
I am a nurse and… everything I choose to be from this moment on.
Ex-OFW but will always be a nurse,
Thank you for staying strong for so long. Good night.