How many deaths one must die before one breathes one’s last?
SOMETIMES life can be so cruel that the only way to survive its sting is to grit your teeth, plug your tear ducts . . . and walk valiantly on. Allow me to retell a series of true stories that befell one brave lady, maybe the bravest lady I had ever met in this lifetime.
She was the tall, beautiful red-headed daughter of a many-termed governor; and she and her father were much loved. On the day of her wedding, something happened to her groom. He disappeared! No, he was not taken by aliens or government agents. Aboard her own private plane, the groom’s mother imperiously arrived at dawn of the wedding day. And to keep things more imperiously private, as soon as the son stepped lankily into the plane, the cabin door closed, the engine roared, the plane rolled. It was down the runway and was gone in seconds.
They did not return on time for the wedding, this foreign lady and her equally foreign son, who also happened to be the engineer who constructed that runway. Nor did they return late for the wedding, with proper apologies extended. They simply did not return.
With wedding mass overdue, the flowers wilted away, including the bride. Only then did quiet pandemonium take place. The women in the bride’s family quietly dropped in dead faint; her male relatives clenched their jaws and their fists and not-so-quietly punched their other palm, also the church walls of ancient bricks. That created pandemonium. Blood flowed freely that day. Gums bled from clenched jaws. Fists bled from punching on walls. Hearts bled, too, for her, alone before the altar. “If I knew the mother felt negatively about this wedding, I should have given you the blessings last night after dinner,” her uncle the parish priest mumbled regretfully into her ears.
The town talked, of course, but their talks were just awed whispers. After all, the bride’s family was respected for their achievements alone. And she, a nurse so rare at the time, was most sought-after by suitors white, yellow or kayumanggi.
Unnoticed, she left the church for home just across the church and beside the municipio. She discarded her wedding dress for riding clothes, and she rode her horse straight to the farthest barrio where she substituted as a teacher. Didn’t I mention she was also a teacher? There, where leeches fall like rain down trees, where wild pigs roam and big snakes curl to sleep under her bed – she bawled her heart out. Finally, when she came down from the treehouse the natives built for her, her tears had all dried up. Afterwards, even in the deepest of her miseries, not a tear ever dripped from her eyes the rest of her life. Not ever.
Two years later, she herself took off on a plane. She was stewardess on the nation’s flag carrier. One day, her plane landed in a far southern city. After she let off the passengers, she herself was halfway down the stairs. At the bottom step, she saw a familiar tall figure waiting for her. She backtracked up the stairs fast. She plopped down the nearest seat. Then she promptly went numb and dumb. When the pilot exited from the cabin, he noticed her shocked state. He asked what was wrong; she told him her story. The pilot bit his lips. He wrapped his coat around her shivering body. He wrapped, too, one arm around her (those are a lot of wraps!). He gently lifted her up her feet. Then he escorted her down the plane. He guided her to the would-have-been groom. He showed no intention of leaving them alone. With his arm still wrapped around her, the pilot waited patiently to listen to the engineer’s own story.
The engineer dragged his eyes away from the pilot’s arm wrapped around her waist. He gestured to the tarmac, “I constructed this runway, too.” He rushed on without pause, “forgive me for what I did, or rather, for what I did not do. Mom was so insistent. She wanted me to give myself more time to think. Before I knew it, her plane was off the ground.”
She nodded and nodded and nodded. She was screaming at him, but only in her head, only in her head. “You moron, you could have gone back as soon as you were able to – as in the next church mass, or the next day, next week, next month, anytime during the past two years! If I were you, for our love, I would have jumped off the plane and hopped back including broken bones straight into your waiting arms!”
He shut up when he noticed her very polite quiet nods. She nudged the pilot to walk on. She glanced back only once. The engineer was silhouetted darkly and handsomely against the wide, white, sun-washed tarmac. His hair was tousled – forever not by her fingers but by those of a gusty wind.
This beautiful lady (nurse, teacher, stewardess) married a surgeon, a son of one of the oldest, respected families of Dagupan City. The couple married in a simple church ceremony; but before this, they were first married before a judge. They left no room for second thoughts or disappearing acts. Needless to say, this groom arrived on time for his own wedding . . . both his civil and church weddings.
Though, against his will, he himself disappeared years later. But, that’s another sting coming.
(To be continued another time.)