But in emergency rooms, you seldom get your heart broken. Patients come and go in a matter of minutes or hours. Our connection with them go as far as the emergent procedure they need – nothing more, nothing less. I won’t wake up remembering their names and their sad stories.
People continued to run to and from the hospital frantically as I again counted the remaining bills I had. What if’s flirted with my head. What if I just kept rushing in and out of those hospitals? What if I made the American Dream happen? What if I don’t have to count bills because I had so many?
So now, I have this. Instead of hearty burger and fries in a California diner, there’s the aftertaste of cheap bitter gourd and old rice in my mouth. Instead of making millions, there’s the stale taste of loans; counting coins, not bills. Instead of driving an impressive car, I am driven by a rickety jeepney in this relentless heat, in this paupery, with a yearly income that doesn’t even come close to a quarter of what I can make in the US.
If I did, I wouldn’t have Lia to fetch and bring back home. I won’t be writing this. I would be out in the world but not truly living in it. I am here, alive, because I am now a mother and a writer. I didn’t have to buy my freedom, after all. I just had to claim it.
But these tears, they know that in that beat-up jeepney, knee-deep in trouble, I have no regrets. There’s no sayang. This is the life I chose. To be in a place where, no matter how poor you are and how many what if’s threaten to mess you up, there is nothing you would change about the now – not everyone has that freedom. And I have it. It may be Van Gogh-esque, but if there was a fuckup in the space-time continuum, I will still choose this. I will choose Lia and writing over and over again.
The tears slid down my lips. But unlike the bitter gourd I had for breakfast, they were not bitter. These ones tasted like sweet happiness. These are tears that know that after three decades of seeking, I finally found the right place. And now, I am heading back to it.