He sat surely on a white monobloc chair while intimating a story to the doctor. He just died. Suddenly died, he said. The doctor looked appalled. There was a wave of disbelief that etched on her face.
But being a man (or woman, at that) of science, she made her position known. But your friend could have been saved, the doctor said. You think he has AIDS already? The man seemed quizzed, and hinted affirmation.
The nurse suddenly butt in: Paano nangyari? The man tried to review the pages of his memory.
From what I've heard, he was sick. Very sick. It wasn't long since he was brought to the hospital. Or was he? I'm just not sure about what happened next but from what they told me, he suddenly died.
Ano yun namatay na lang siyang bigla?, the doctor asked. The man in snug-fitting muscle shirt confirmed. Sa tingin ko mababa na rin CD4 niya eh, the man added.
The doctor stressed her position once again, this time, with a snide remark: But he could have been saved. There are medicines. It may not cure but it could prolong life. She said as a matter of fact.
Kahit pa mababa ang CD4 nya, matutulungan natin siya, the doctor added with conviction hissing through her teeth.
In defense to his late acquaintance, the man seemed to vicariously made the hopelessness of his friend felt: Hindi ko sigurado kung alam nya ba in the first place na positive siya. I guess mababa na ang CD4 nya.
But the doctor, whose main job was to save lives, made her job description stressed. Ay sus, yung iba ang CD4 10 eh. Meron ngang naglalakad diyan na 2!
The nurse, whose medical profession is to ever willingly assist doctors, also seemed to made her job a reality: Meron nga iba 1 pa!
The man was quiet. Pero nakakawala ng pag-asa!
Hay nako, lahat ng bagay sa buhay may pag-asa!, the doctor said—as a matter of fact.
Before even knowing that my doctor was away for already 20 minutes, I was struggling to down a page of the book I was reading. It was a book I keep in my bag on cases when circumstances would race me wildly to the most patient nerve.
I flipped two pages already when knocking came. A man in his 40s peeked through the ajar door. The nurse, the sole keeper of the door, asked the man to sit and wait at the orange seats outside before being called.
Her voice pierced through the silence of the room. It squeaked like rubber shoes creating minor stops against a tiled floor. Her tiny voice, an indication of her teen years, betrayed her innocence.
So, may kasaysayan po ng pang-aabuso?, the nurse noted as if the teenager's story did not shatter her sensibilities.
From the tale of her past, what seemed to be served before the nurse was this girl having experienced being molested by a man who was a constant user of illegal drugs. Her voice tuned low when she was refreshing an experience she swore to bury six feet beneath the ground. Despite shame emanating from the way the girl recounted her story, the nurse, having a well of experience and stories to keep inside the folders of that brightly lit room, got it right away.
Tatay, dito po kayo, the nurse commanded the father. Upo po kayo sa tabi nya.
Nurse knew that the young woman needed consolation. Ano po ba ang nangyari?
Father was already sitting beside her daughter. He related that a man who was known to have dealing with drugs seemed to have been made her daughter a drug mule. Whatever happened next prompted them to the hospital as there was molestation that the patient endured.
But the discomfort squirming inside her chest would be far incomparable than what could be a crushed heart that she would pick up one by one if the result of the test would run against her will.
I stepped outside the room with a heavy heart, not because the doctor shocked me with a bad news but because of the things I heard. Yes. I was eavesdropping.
It only made me aware of the different stories inside the room where I stayed for a good sixty minutes—stories that humbled me and gave me reason why I have to fight and carry along even if dilemmas don't seem to wear out.
For once, I thought mine was the biggest problem this world had to attend to. But these stories, and others more left untold, could not but tug my heartstrings. Their stories, which might be an affirmation that truth is indeed stranger than fiction, made my own set of problems only a speck of dust compared to them. And for this, I have still something to thank for.
Woe to the many problems of the world that come in different plots, characters, and twists. If we already think our problems are a handful, there could still be someone out there who just wish to vanish right now. Somewhere in the corner of this world, someone is hurting. It might be you. It might be me. It might be someone we've known for a long time.
Tonight my prayers go to the restless, helpless, hopeless. May they find direction in confusion.