"Anak, gising na," my mother beckoned from downstairs. I had been holed up in my room all weekend, trying not to let even the slightest ray of sunshine filter in. My heart was broken yet again. This month's suspect was a beautiful boy who thought he could love me. But just like all the others, my damage was too deep and too dark for his soothing words to heal and he left before I could even tell him how I really felt.
It was hardly my first rodeo. I knew how these things went. Everywhere, people were holding hands and basking in love's ardent glow whereas I was still in my room in two-day old boxers. Maybe it's time for me to accept that it takes all sorts to run the world and as Kermit put it, there are lovers, there are dreamers, and then there's me.
"Dali na. Tanghali na…" she said, her voice getting louder and louder as she came closer. I could hear her steps on the wooden stairs, her slippers spelling the end of my self-imposed prison sentence. "Tignan mo o. Ilang araw ka nang nakakulong diyan. Bangon na."
"Ma..." I begged. "Masama pakiramdam ko. Mamaya mo na ako guluhin." I dug deeper into the covers, my head burying into my pillows.
She put her hand on my forehead then on my neck, feeling for a fever. Seeing I was fine, her hand retreated to my shoulder, her touch tentative but reassuring. "May problema ba? Wala ka namang lagnat. Baka sinat lang." I did not answer. Maybe I couldn't. Maybe I didn't know where to start.
"Halika, tulungan mo ako mag-luto. Uuwi ngayon kuya mo. Ipagluto natin siya nung paborito niya." When I was a boy, I would often help her out with some of the kitchen chores. As the runt in the family, Ma entrusted me with the most menial of tasks. My brothers picked up the groceries and fed the dogs whereas I chopped red onions and crushed garlic for her.
"Sige na... Please?" She pulled away at the covers and instantly, I curled up like a caterpillar turned on its side. She placed her hand on my back, my undershirt damp from cold sweat.
"Basang basa na 'yang damit mo." She walked towards the cabinet and brought out a fresh shirt and some shorts. "Magpalit ka ng damit. Lalo kang magkakasakit niyan. Tara na." She left me alone after that and I don't know if it was love or obligation that pushed me but I did what I was told.
By the time I got to the kitchen, it was already a flurry of sounds, aromas, and spices. There were chunks of beef gently boiling in a pot. I could hear the sizzle of a roast chicken in the oven. There were vegetables of various cuts and sizes on the chopping board. Ma was on all fours reaching under the sink. Between the cramped space and old age, I could hear her muffled grunts as she reached for a pan.
"Ako na diyan, ma." I offered. "Baka mapano ka pa." She dismissed me with a muffled heh under her breath but moved out of the way. I didn't have to be told which pan to bring out. I knew she was reaching for her favorite – the green non-stick with the deep scratches. It was a wedding gift from my grandmother and although it had aged badly, she still insisted on using it whenever she could.
"Ano ba 'to, ma. Palitan mo na ito." I ran my hands through the pan's scratches, possibly from a too eager scourer or a misplaced silver utensil. "Baka magka-cancer na tayo niyan o."
"Okay pa 'yan. Gumagana pa naman. Kaya may gasgas, kasi ginagamit. 'Di ba ganun naman lahat?" I propped myself up on the kitchen counter as she pulled up a bar stool. I ran the pan under some running water as she freed a grilled eggplant of its skin. "Kung 'di ginagamit e ano pang saysay niyan?"
"Pero ma, ang lalim na nito o. Palitan na natin. Ikaw din. Ikaw rin mahihirapan maghugas niyan. Sale ngayon sa Landmark. Daan tayo sa weekend, gusto mo?"
"'Wag na. Okay pa 'yan, pramis." She placed her hand on my heart and I looked up in shock. "Kaya may gasgas, kasi ginagamit. Kaya okay lang yan. Gumagana pa naman, diba? Eh ikaw, okay ka lang ba?"
For a second, I considered telling her everything – my pain, my doubts, my fears about dying alone. But there was so much to say and so little time. I just wanted to relish the comfort of her touch. As soon as she let go of me, I knew we had somehow reached an understanding. It was as though she was telling me that she was on my side, that I still had love in the world even though it wasn't from the beautiful boy who broke my heart.
Pans get scratched up. It's nothing to get embarrassed about. That's how you know they get used. But what about hearts? Lovers leave marks like a heavy scouring or a careless utensil. What happens when he leaves your heart banged up? Should you still wear the scars as proudly?
Yes, my mother's touch told me. Because at least your heart still beats. Because at least you know you're not impervious to the pain. After everything, love always has and always will be a big gamble. Sometimes you win and it's like the world is on your side. But sometimes you lose and it's times like these when you're broke, you're broken, and you haven't moved from the space where he left you for two days – it's these moments where you have to come back to the one lover who has never forgotten.
"Salamat sa tulong mo, anak." Ma said as we started cleaning up. "Gustong gusto ko 'pag andito ka." She came towards me, arms outstretched with an embrace. In all my weakness, I let her hold me until the longing inside me passed.
♫: OneRepublic and Sara Bareilles | Come Home (2007)