Happy birthday, Butterfly.
Momma loves you.
Happy birthday, Butterfly.
Momma loves you.
Cause that’s how many fucks I give.
To the woman who took me in for four long years… to the woman to whom I never said goodbye when things fell apart…
You took me in without question, just because your son brought me home one day. You washed my clothes, you cooked my meals, you gave me a place to come home to when I had none.
I never took the time to explain how I appeared on your doorstep. Your son, at that time, was kind enough to offer that we share the unit he was staying in. It took many, many weeks before I realized that you were eventually coming to Manila to live there. I wonder if he ever told why there was this random girl staying with him. You never asked. So I never told you. And perhaps I should have.
I had been living in Wack-Wack for most of my uni life. Ran away when I was 19, ended up living in Pasig, shuttling back and forth between Pineda and Kapitolyo. Went back to living in Wack-Wack when that whole chapter of my life ended. That, just like so many, is another story and will be told at another time.
Then I left to live in Binondo. Got myself involved with China Boy and, oh, did he love me. Of all the people that I’ve shared my life with, I don’t think anyone has ever loved me like he did. And he loved me more than I loved him. But I digress. When that chapter ended, I went back to Wack-Wack.
Some time in 2008, I was told that the house I’d been living in since I was 17 was going to be condemned… that it was no longer suitable for living. So my cousin, bless his heart, put me and my aunt in a unit in Ecology village. But my aunt was sick and relished in drama and we didn’t have enough resources to keep her happy in Manila. In the end she opted to go home to the province. It was what she wanted, and so it was what happened. But no one ever asked me what I wanted. No one ever considered what would happen to me. And during those days, I spent majority of my time trying to figure out where to move when the month was up.
It was then that your son showed up. He offered me a place to stay. I met you and your wonderful, wonderful family. And a part of me thought I would stay forever. If not for him, then for everyone else who showed so much kindness to a girl who was no more than a stranger to them.
A space in my heart will always be kept for you – one of the strongest women I have ever met. You were the one who kept your entire family together, even as I watched you, year after year, live a life of quiet desperation. You were gentle and kind and took the time to talk to me. And sometimes you saw through the hurt – and looked right into the eyes of a girl who has almost no memories of her own mother.
When my time with your son ended, I left. It was too difficult being there. There was too much hurt, despite there being very little regret. I moved out without saying a word – made it a point to get all my things when I knew none of you would be home. I made my best friend pick up the remainder of my things because I said I would never go back to the place that had filled me with secrets and lies, with uncertainty and doubt. I became a different person when that chapter closed – I became uncaring. Cold. Angry. Spiteful. Ungrateful. I became the bitch I always said I was. And for that, I am very, very sorry.
I didn’t mean to make you pay for what your son did, but it was too painful to say goodbye. I knew if I saw you again, I would probably end up crying. And, after what happened with your son, I promised myself I would never let anyone see me cry ever again.
But today you’re undergoing an operation and I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. Of all the people who could have diagnosed with cancer, why did it have to be you? You who never did anything but care for other people. You who never asked for anything except for a little bit of time and a little bit of understanding. I have long accepted that life was never going to be fair, but the amount of it sometimes still takes me by surprise.
I realize that you will never get to read this… And it’s alright. Perhaps this is my way of praying that everything will turn out fine. So for all the little talks that we had, for listening to my frustrations, for giving me a sense of freedom, for always being proud of what I have been able to do, for never keeping me in the shadows, and for treating me like a daughter when you had absolutely no reason to… I will always be thankful for the four years that you let me be part of your life. And no matter what happens, you will always be a part of mine.
“You don’t get it, do you?”
He looked at him – the young man who had pursued his best friend, even when he knew he probably shouldn’t have. He was sure she was not guiltless either. She almost never was.
He though about her then – his best friend who was beautiful and brave and had a certain wildness that she could never lose, no matter how many years passed. She had been in her early twenties when they met, sitting in her then-boyfriend’s work station while braiding his then-long hair. He had seen her settle into herself in her current work, which encouraged her brazenness as well as her razor-sharp intellect. She had always been more ambitious than him, which explained how quickly she had risen through the ranks, regardless of which company she was with. She had always been in a hurry, as though she was always running out of time.
She had always been a little wild, hating tradition and any convention that dared to tell her what she could and couldn’t do. They had made up their minds that they would spend the rest of their lives together when she had suddenly gone off and had gotten married. It had thrown him off in the beginning… until he saw that she was happy. Then, one day, she wasn’t happy anymore. She never said it out loud, but he could see her fading little by little, each time he saw her.
It was years before she told him what had been happening. He knew she wasn’t shutting him out. It was just the way she was… it was how she had always been. She had been so used to showing the world that she was someone who had everything together, who had gone through the darkness in her life and came out blazing. He knew it was difficult for her to admit that a part of her life had fallen apart.
He continued to look at him – this young man who had her smiling so much in recent times – and wondered how much he knew. He wondered if he knew how hard she tried to break down her walls little by little, trying her best to let him in, even if it terrified her to do so.
In the beginning, when she told him about his existence, he thought it was a passing thing. She had never lacked suitors – regardless of whether she was with someone or not – and, although he knew how she loved the attention, she never really did anything about it. He had seen her walk in and walk out of situations, leaving a trail of destruction behind her. She never showed remorse, but he knew she always did what she thought would hurt her less.
It was her biggest fear, he always thought, that she would never be loved the way that she loved others. In the years that he had known her, she had always managed to attract all the possible strays she could – taken care of boys and men-children because she had always believed that they could be better versions of themselves. They never were. So her heart had broken over and over again. But she hid the hurt well. She always had – she was deathly afraid of people finding out that she wasn’t as strong as she had always led them to believe.
The man hadn’t responded, so he asked again, “You don’t get it, do you?”
“Don’t get what?” the younger man asked. How they had found each other, despite their own respective circumstances, he would never understand. But he was glad it happened – he hadn’t seen her this happy in years. But she had been hurting in recent days. Although she almost never talks about him except for the little anecdotes she told, he had known her well enough to understand that there was something she wasn’t sharing. Shorter answers. Longer silences. It usually meant her walls were rebuilding itself… they way it always did when she was at the brink of breaking. Even her walls meant well – it tried to protect her from whatever hurt she was foreseeing – imagined or otherwise.
“She’s never done this before, you know,” he said. Silently, he offered her a silent apology. It was her story he was about to tell and he knew she should be the one to tell it. But knowing her, no matter how much she loved this man standing in front of him, she would probably never say anything.
“Love someone enough to break her own rules and finally follow her heart.”
Maybe if enough tears fall my heart will dry up and, finally, there will be nothing left.
Teach me how to love in halves. I don’t want to love in wholes anymore.
Someone play an Adele song, please.