A Lesson Learned

Delta Winds cover 2003Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


A Lesson Learned

Tina Svetlana Gomez

"It is hard to survive the seventeen years of my existence alone." I have lived with my grandparents all the days of my life, and they do whatever they can do for me. In fact, my grandfather is my wake up call every morning. He cooks my breakfast and prepares the bathtub while my grandmother washes my clothes and irons them. My parents live a thousand miles away from each other -- my dad in the United States and my mom in Manila. All the years of my life, I have been living with my grandparents and a few relatives in San Juan. My grandparents are firm and determined to give me a prosperous life, but they do not know what is it like to exist alone -- alone at the heart of a vague, chaotic and endless battle for emotional survival. Yes, I live almost like a princess, but deep inside, I suffer and starve for things money cannot buy. At my extremely young age, I fight the devils -- the demons that I create.

"It is hard to survive the seventeen years of my existence alone." There came a time when I wanted to share my emotions with them, but I am hesitant to do so. I prefer to unravel my knots and qualms all by myself. Why? Because I believe that no one truly cares about me. Yes, I am skeptical of all things in my life. My high school classmates used to say that I am loud, and I admit it! Maybe that is my only way to express what I sense deep within: the feeling of emptiness, of desertion, of loneliness.

I cannot breathe anymore. In the middle of nowhere, I suddenly cry. From the veranda, I watch my grandmother sitting on her favorite couch, reading a comic book. She is facing my way, but she does not notice the brackish tears racing down my face. Do I blame her? She is old and cannot hear me. But, I feel like I am simply existing; I am not actually living. Feeling frustrated and helpless, I run to my room and slam the door as hard as I can. My arms are in pain, but this is not the reason why I am screeching out loud. Anyone who can see me will think that I cam silly because I look like a kid abandoned by her mom. How I wish that were the case! That would be better than to have imperceptible parents. To tell the whole world that I am angry by screaming is easy, but nothing comes through my mouth. As I agonize, I feel like I am in the middle of nowhere. I am running as fast as I can, but the road seems endless. People are around me, but I appear invisible. No one can actually see me. I close my eyes and cover my ears. Tears start to well in my eyes and my heart begins to bleed. My knees and hands are shaking. I talk to God, "Please tell me what to do. I cannot take this anymore!"

I hurriedly pack my things. My migraine is poking my head, but I disregard the soreness. Where to go? I do not know. After all, no one cares about me! With a snap of a finger, I become a rebel. The girl that used to be praised from her classmates and relatives abruptly changes her color. When my grandparents are tightly sleeping, I come out of our dwelling like an escaping burglar. Taking little, careful steps, I leave the house. In the darkness of the night, I saunter the wet and lonely streets of San Juan. Raindrops are my only comrades. Maybe the crickets hanging on the trees are thinking that I am on dope because I am talking to myself.

Sparkling lights and loud sounds coming from different establishments awaken my stagnant thoughts. Suffocating smoke from vehicles covers the whole place. The city is the exact opposite of our town; it is extremely noisy and unruly. While waiting for the bus, I sit on a filthy bench on the murky corner of the street to rest my back and feet. I take off my navy blue jacket because the rain has saturated it. "Stars don't even take a glimpse of me," I whisper to myself. Yet I am amused because I feel like a movie star portraying a prodigal daughter role in an independent film. Midnight drizzles continuously bathe my face and wash the traces of tears from my cheeks. As I look at the lights on the post, I examine my conscience: Am I doing the right thing? My dense ego shouts with pride, "If they don't find me, they will surely look for me. At long last, they will. . . . "

Ate, pahingi nga po ng piso . . . Gutom na gutom na po ako.(Can you give me coin? I'm starving.) A five-year-old boy has disturbed my thinking. He is awfully thin and haggard. His small and dirty fingers are inside his mouth.

Bakit hindi ka pa umuuwi? Gabi na ha. Nasan nanay mo?(Why are you still here? It is already dark. Where's your mother?), I reply, while giving him a piece of bread from my bag.

May sakit po ang nanay ko. Salamat nga po pala sa tinapay.(My mother is sick. By the way, thank you for the bread.) Then, he runs toward the other side of the street. He looks overjoyed and relieved.

Curiously, I quietly walk after the boy. The next picture melts my stubborn heart: The boy and his sick mother are sharing the small piece of bread that I gave him. His mother cannot walk. She is lying on the cold and damp street. My vision turns fuzzy. Tears begin to roll down my cheeks as if I carry a fountain of water in my eyes. And at that point, I almost become hysterical; I fall onto my knees and I cry like a feeble baby. I know that the bus is coming, but I choose to ignore it. I walk back to the bench where I sit and gaze at my muddy sneakers. I realize that my grandparents are indeed proud of my achievements, talents -- me in general. Even though my parents rarely see me, they never fail to call me everyday. It feels heavenly to perceive the positive side of my being. Sadly, I had never recognized it. One of the best decisions that I ever made in my entire life takes place in that instance: I decided to return home. I clutch my backpack and walk two miles to be home.

All the lights in our house are turned on. Our front door is open and a crimson car blocks the driveway. For the first time, I see my grandfather cry. My mother looks upset and teary-eyed. Hugging my grandmother who is looking at my anxious mother. Suddenly, my emotions change. I am now exceedingly in shame about what I have done. Honestly, I do not know if I still have the confidence in me like when I deliver a speech in school -- chin up with a hundred percent composure. It is clear: I did a ridiculous thing. Within a split second, I notice my grandfather staring at me. His eyes are not overflowing with anger, but with love and concern. Hastily, I run to my grandfather and hug him tightly.

Patawarin nyo po ako! Hindi ko na po uulitin, promise(I'm very sorry. I will never do this again, promise), I exclaim with a coarse voice. He did not know why I was apologizing. Instead of blaming me or shouting at me, he cries again. Bakit? Ano bang problema? Anak, huwag mo na ulit uulitin yun!(Why? What's the problem? Do not do it again!), he utters with a sound of relief.

My mother is leaning sideward on the door with a loving smile on her face. She does not say a word, but her expression speaks that she has unloaded a burden inside her. My grandmother, crying again, snatches the telephone from my mom's hand to call our relatives. I hardly notice that the rain is falling down from heaven again. Maybe God is welcoming and congratulating me since I am back from a turbulent experience.

"It is hard to survive the seventeen years of my existence alone." This is what I used to think. Now, even in my wildest dreams, running away from home never crosses my mind. As my other relatives start to fill our house, I spy a declamation trophy I received last year. At the bottom of the trophy is a picture of me and my grandfather receiving the award. I do not know why I smirk, but one thing is for sure: I will never run away from home again.