I saw you in church today. We were in the same queue during communion. You were wearing a black shirt and you always had your chin held high as if you were looking out for something somewhere on your left. I tried to meet your eyes and smile at you but you never looked at my direction. You were three paces away from me and I have this feeling, you have seen me when I went inside the church. You know that I’m always late whenever I hear mass and with this, I always get visible to everybody. Being late in mass is one of the childhood traits I have never unlearned up to this time. It is a mark that I and my mum, your aunt, hold proud amidst all these years.
But she stopped hearing mass with me. She’s at home, trapped in a time warp where the past and the present exists in one frame of reality where our dead grandpa or my papa are still alive. She even calls them to dine with us for dinner. And yes, she even mistook me for your mum. She considers me as her sister. You might have seen me with her, a few times in the past, but her asthma and her incessant need to pee made me decide that going to church doesn’t serve its purpose anymore. And for sure, if God could talk, He will surely advise me to let her home then and enjoy the confines of her fantasies.
Dear cousin, all I want is to seek for a sign, a certain nod, a weak smile, even a simple recognition of kinship that for once we played makeshift mini houses together, hide and seek or buwan-buwan in one of those dark nights when there was no electricity.You and others from your family are always good at playing. I can’t run or do tricks as you guys cleverly do. I was a weakling who would just stay under a shade or who rather sat near our window and watch others play outside.
Years pass by without our noticing it. We never bond with each other that much again. Our families had conflicts before especially with money. And I, being the only one left, had to defend what’s left of us. I had to defend my mum and successfully, here I am, I always rise every time. I always do.
Just a smile, dear cousin, even a faint one. That’s all I need. It could probably lighten up the emotional burden I was carrying at the moment. I have problems, too. I was trying to “lift them all up” to the Lord as what they say. Your smile could’ve remind me of those days when we grin and bare our teeth unhesitatingly. You could’ve helped me a bit. But u never did.
And so I retreated once more to my shell, reality has won and I have to act like a grown-up then. Someday, you might understand, how lonely it is to be in my place, how lonely it is to hear mass alone while looking at you from a distance.
We finished communion and I have to pretend I didn’t see you, my eyes darted strategically to where I was seated. This is just one the few times when I felt myself torn. It lead me to think of what would happen in the future, what if we happen to bring our own kids or families together in church, would you ignore me still?
I am quite certain you would. But this I say, a part of me never changed up to this time. I am still a weakling and can’t run fast. There are also times that I eat big like a boy without caring about calories. There are times when I would’ve wanted to make playhouses or get bathe in the rain. And I do grin unhesitatingly.
I carry with me all these thoughts all throughout the mass until the last hymn. Peace be with you, my dear cousin. You will always be a part of my childhood. And if given a chance to bestow some love to your kids, I would willingly give some. But for now, let’s retreat to our own comfort zones, wear our own disguises, go home and face the present once more. Mama is waiting, as usual to have dinner with me at home.