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“That was some stunt you pulled,” Phil said as he sat by Drew’s bedside.
They both laughed. The others had already gone back to the resort to fetch their things. Phil volunteered to stay with Drew at the hospital as there were still a few tests that he needed to go through.
“I’m sorry, Phil, I didn’t know how to tell you guys about my condition,” Drew said, sitting upright. His face was still ashen. “It scared me the first time I learned I was going to die soon. I was scared. I am still scared. It’s this waiting-for-death-to-come-and-get-you business. It fucking sucks, you know?”
Phil snickered. “Tell me about it.” He took his vape out and put it over his mouth. Ever since John died, Phil began to be consumed with existential thoughts. He used to be this daredevil kind of guy, always on the go. Mr. Broadway was what John used to call him, because he’d be just up and chirpy every time.
But when he saw John lying on the parking lot, Phil began retreating into his shell. At first, he was blaming himself. He should have not broken up with John. He should have not been cruel to him. He shouldn’t have left the apartment that night. What followed was anger. John was a fucking twat, a diva. John was selfish, who only thought about his own happiness. What about Phil’s happiness? And then came the anxiety about his own existence. “What the fuck am I doing with my life?” became his mantra every morning.
“Gago, you can’t smoke in here,” Drew said, laughing.
“I wasn’t gonna! But seriously, Drew,” said Phil, his head lolling back. “I was offended that you didn’t tell me. I mean, out of all the others I thought I’d be the one you’d first confide to.”
“Oh, come on, Phil. Will you quit being gay for one second and talk about something other than your feelings? I’m the one who’s dying here—was dying. Was.” They were both shocked by what Drew said. And then both laughed.
“You prick!” Phil said laughing and crying at the same time. “That was hurtful, and homophobic!” Phil punched Drew’s right arm. “But yeah, I was kind of a diva pretty much the whole trip.”
“Hey, hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way. I love you the way you are. I was joking. I’m sorry.” Drew pulled Phil to embrace him but his IV drip stand got in the way.
“Sus, stop it,” Phil playfully answered. He chewed on his vape for a bit and then got all serious. “The news of you having cancer put things in perspective for me. I guess me being a diva about it was just a cover for what I was really feeling.”
“And that feeling was…” Drew said, waiting for Phil to finish the sentence.
“That I wasn’t ready to lose someone I love.”
“You weren’t ready to lose John.”
Phil began sobbing. “It’s all messed up.”
“That’s because you haven’t allowed yourself to grieve.”
“Do I need to? What if I don’t want to let go?”
“Then don’t let go. But you have to grieve, you have to allow yourself to be sad. When you acknowledge the loss, the sadness, there’s a kind of finality to what happened. You don’t let go, but you accept,” Drew said as he shifted his weight on the bed. “I didn’t know that I wasn’t going to die anymore, at least not anytime soon, until this morning. And every day I lived my life being scared. I didn’t want to allow myself to be scared. But when I accepted this fear, it changed something in me. I began living every day as if it were my last. I began to appreciate the littlest of things. I am still scared of dying. When you’re dead you wouldn’t be able to do the things you most love.”
“So you don’t believe in the afterlife? In Heaven?”
“Heck, no! Sister Mary Jo can choke on all her lectures about Paradise!” Drew answered, laughing.
Phil stood up and tried yanking on Drew’s IV drip. “Hey, you remember that time in First Year when we sneaked out of Sister Mary Jo’s class and played billiards the whole afternoon? It was one of the best times of my life.”
“Yeah, that was the day we met Dimitri,” Drew said. There was a hint of teasing in his voice.
Phil pretended to be annoyed. “Hoy, what are you getting at?”
“Nothing. I’m just saying … I know,” Drew said, still teasing.
“Shut your face, Drew, or I will smash your head with this stand!”
Outside, at the nurses’ station, there were murmurs of laughter and of saying goodbye. It was already the change of shift. Apart from the white clock planted on the wall, there wasn’t really anything inside the hospital that could indicate if it was noon or night. You can’t really know, as most rooms have no windows, and the fluorescent tubes are perpetually turned on. It’s a never ending daytime in the hospital.
Phil liked that, like it meant that even in the darkness of night, somewhere, somehow, there was always a light. And hope.
Trying to beat the early morning rush hour, Brenda arrived thirty minutes before her scheduled meeting. While sitting at the lobby, she blankly stared at the wall clock. These past few days have been a roller coaster ride for her.
After many years, she managed to meet her beloved barkada, and saw breath-taking sites in Puerto Galera. At the same time, she learned of her mom’s infidelity, performed an operation while drunk, learned that her friend has cancer. Now, she was scheduled to meet with the board director to confess about the operation that she conducted while intoxicated. As the ship headed back to Manila, she felt that she needed to come out clean, that she needed to pay for her mistake.
Brenda sent a message to Dr. Crisantos’ secretary, asking for an audience. She didn’t say why, she just said she wanted to say something urgent. As Brenda dropped the call, she was thinking of the possible outcomes of her confession. She was aware of the repercussions; she knew fully well how Dr. Crisantos can turn into a dragon when agitated. After all, she once got some tongue lashing from the woman before.
As she waited for scheduled meeting, she reminisced about their days in Puerto Galera. Brenda remembered the health mission that she spotted while on their way to the docks. While she was boarding the ship, Luke, who was carrying her items at that time, told her that a doctor had been regularly conducting these humanitarian missions at their province. Apparently, the doctor was a native of their place and was adopted by German missionaries. After getting a degree in medicine, Dr. Grimm-Pitch went back to the Philippines and regularly performed medical missions all over the country, most specially to the people of Mindoro.
Brenda’s phone beeped—a message from Luke.
Good morning. Hope to see you again and more often here in Galera, even though it’s far.
An idea glowed in her mind. While she might have lost two lives during her previous operation, she could save more if she decided to continue with her profession. Brenda hurriedly checked the web for the contact number of Dr. Grimm-Pitch’s foundation.
“Hello, this is the MGP foundation. How may I help you?”
“Yes, hello. May I speak to Dr. Marjourie Grimm-Pitch?”
“This is her.”
“Hi! I would like to inquire if you are accepting volunteer doctors for your medical missions?”
“Yes, I am.” Brenda felt her heart beat faster—her idea seemed to fall into place. “If you’re free, you can come over to the office so we can discuss,” Dr. Grimm-Pitch continued on the other end of the line.
Brenda took note of the office address, and scheduled a meeting in a few hours. As she waited, she decided to go to Dr. Crisantos’ office.
“Ms. Allana, may I ask for paper, and borrow a pen?” As soon as the secretary handed her requests, Brenda immediately started writing a letter addressed to Dr. Crisantos.
Her resignation letter.
Brenda folded and sealed it with tape and asked Ms. Allana to pass it on to Dr. Crisantos. After, she hurriedly left the hospital and boarded her car. She figured out what to do with her life. She wanted to save people by continuing her profession. She wanted to get as far as she can from her mom. She needed to bail out.
Talking to Phil the night before had tired Drew more than he thought it would, so Drew drifted off to sleep without realizing it. When he opened his eyes, Phil was no longer sitting in the chair beside his bed, but someone else was. He smiled.
Girlie looked up when he spoke, and their eyes met.