The streets are cold at eleven thirteen in the evening.
Mick, Jaejoong, and I were walking along Bajada after going to Elishar's wake. Elishar, or Chief to his friends, is a Sociology major who has been my classmate in one too many minor subjects back in college. I cannot actually consider us as close friends (or maybe even friends, at all). I'm pretty sure I never had any conversation with him except maybe exchanges of hi and hello. I cannot even remember his face when Mick broke me the news. All I remember is that sinking feeling in my stomach when I heard that he has passed away. The name, which has become all too familiar from the countless number of times I've heard it during roll calls or from the mouth of friends, resonated at the back of my head. And I know that even though Chief and I never shared a moment that I can rightfully remember, I have to pay respect to the familiar stranger who I share 80% of my network web back in college.
I've seen friends at the wake. Friends whom I haven't seen yet since that fateful day two years ago when we walked down the university field with our togas and diplomas. It's a reunion. In the simplest sense of the word. Tears fell, even without me wanting to, at the realization.
Why is it that old friends get together only when they aren't complete anymore?
Stories were told. And because I have none to share, I was simply there to listen. Bayani said he thought Chief will actually outlive him. It is after all logical that cholesterol-devouring, smoker-drinker Bayani will have the shorter thread of life compared to no-vices, healthy-living, goody-two-shoes Elishar, right? But then, life is always unpredictable. Funny part is, Life also dragged his best pal Death on his favorite hobby of surprising people. Mere two years after graduation and Chief, two months fresh from the age of twenty-three, already passed away.
Mick is sad. He said he is sad because he is frustrated. Frustrations mainly not his but that of his friend. He said Chief still had a lot of plans. Of things he wants to happen and titles he wants to have. None of those will happen now.
Looking at the coffin and the flowers all over it, I wonder: Had Chief received at least one flower back when he was still alive? Had all these people sending their sympathies actually given him a compliment back when he was still able to hear it? And maybe because even with all the wakes that I have attended to, I am still rather ignorant with this rite, I can't help but wonder as I look at the silk sheets draped over the casket: Is it only in the time of their deaths will poor people finally feel how it is like to lie on soft and silky mattresses?
I was crying all throughout the novena for reasons not thoroughly related with Chief. I cried because I see people crying and I was reminded of what life is in general. Life, human behavior, society. It was there where I realized how it isn't after all death itself which makes people cry during funerals. It's not the departure which saddens them but rather the feeling of loss. It's not the absence of the deceased person but rather the absence of something from their lives. People cry not because someone dies. They cry because in that person's death, they are reminded that they are now one friend lesser than they previously were. In other words, they cry for themselves. For the overwhelming feeling of loneliness.
For some reason, it made me think of myself and how things would be if I die. First off, how will my friends meet? The Islamic way mandates the body to be buried immediately after demise and that means no wakes to attend to. Who will tell my online friends? What might be the people's reactions?
I contemplated for a moment and talked to Millie when I had the answer figured out. My friends could go to our hometown during the 3rd or 7th day after the burial. 7th day would be a better option because 3rd days are usually reserved for family/clan sympathizers. Because I will be buried already then, I want them to arrive together. I want them to talk about the crazy things that they can remember about me (they will never ran out of things to say) and I want them to share the stories with my family members. Jenny should inform my online friends by logging in to my tumblr or twitter or whatever and share the news. That way people will not wonder why I'm not updating fics, uploading manips, or logging in anymore. I told Millie this and she shushed me. I looked for a piece of wood afterwards so that I can knock on it. xD
Going home, we (Mick, Jaejoong, and I) passed by a convenience store. I'm always hungry (psychologically) so I went inside the store. My initial plan is to buy something and then maybe buy another on the next food store we'll pass by along the way. I was about to grab a huge can of Pringles when I saw this street kid standing at the counter. He might be around eleven or twelve but his size is roughly that of a nine-year old. He holds in his hand a single pack of instant noodles. Another street kid younger than him stands on his side holding a carton of juice. The older kid counts the coins on his dirty hands before giving it to the cashier. The money might be the accumulated coins he had gathered all day, may it be from begging or doing random street jobs.
It was a simple scene but it struck me. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. On how this kid, could have easily steal things at this rather large convenience store but chooses to do otherwise. I asked him if it's only the noodles and the juice that he's purchasing. He nodded so I asked him to follow me and choose whatever he wants from the store. He can't seem to decide so I took a bread from a rack, two packs of sandwich spread, and a liter of water. When I asked him about his family, he said the other kid isn't his brother and that he's already an orphan. I told him to stop talking and refrain from appealing to pity because it will take him nowhere. I am actually against mendicancy but I figured that spending my money on eating even when I'm not hungry at all is downright unjust when these kids barely have any to eat. He was all too happy and ran with his friend outside the convenience store. The younger one already had an empty cellophane on his hand and a pack of vinegar on that other. Turns out, they do not cook the noodles (of course, how could they, they do not even have a house to begin with) but rather mix it with vinegar. They have the cellophanes for plates and my heart broke a little when the younger kid asked the older one what the sandwich spreads were for. Mick told me to take a picture but I refused. We were about to leave when the kid himself asked me to take a picture of them.
"para di mi nimo malimtan, 'te." ("so you won't forget about us.")
It was a funny statement but I started tearing up. Stupid kids! Here's the picture, anyway. Older kid looks a bit like Yoseob, neh? :))
People might think that my job in the media is a lucrative one; but honestly, I live at a budget of $130 a month. Food, transportation, and lodging are included in the budget. How I still manage to live is because of my osmness. The $130 is now $3 less from the food I gave the kids and to be honest, but it is definitely the most worthy $3 expenditure I had in my entire life.
Looking back at what happened today, I felt the need to write it so that I will always be reminded of the lessons it has brought. On life, death, and the struggle one faces as s/he goes between the two. To Chief, you will forever be remembered by the people whose lives you've touched. To the kids, it might be the last time we'll see each other but I hope that simple thing I did will always remind you not to lose hope in humanity no matter how hard life may become. To myself, I hope I will not forget the lessons I have learned today.
That life is fleeting and that all the people in the world can be classified into three categories on how they react with this reality: those who turn a blind eye, those who blame, and those who stops for a while and try to make a difference.