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papa osmubal
oscar balajadia (a short short-story version of a poem of the same title)

HE CAME to say goodbye. He held the cup of coffee I had handed him like an unforgiving eagle clutching its helpless prey. Those hands were always determined to hold what they wanted to hold. "You can hold and squeeze even the rays of sun until they bleed," he would always quip. "Even a dream---yeah, you can catch it with your bare hands. Then you can either keep it to yourself or share it with others," he said, extending his hands as though they were trying to grasp at something.

He sipped his coffee with dire curiosity as though it were the very first or the very last time to take coffee. He swallowed it slowly and felt it rolling down his throat. "Ahh," he said in frustration, "if only every one of us had appreciation of small and simple things, we would not crave too much; we would not crave for gold; we would not crave for power?"

It was midnight, and on that particular night I learnt that in the darkest of midnights languages die and are rendered futile and in vain. That night the rushing rain was the only sound that I could hear, but even this was drowned by my loud heartbeats.

The tired town was tight asleep despite the foreboding flood. He came to say goodbye. I knew that. But as if I had not known it, he confirmed it. "I am here to say goodbye. I will embark on a travel, and it is going to be long and endless," he said. He turned to look into the vast murk outside. The night was a prison, and the raindrops and occasional lightning were its silver bars. "Everyone," he said sadly, "is a prisoner here."

He had said many goodbyes, and this one was the saddest. He said he was going far away. A drop of tear rolling on his face held my entire life, my entire world. It was just hard to comprehend everything. It was just hard to give meaning to his gaze.

He looked at me. I then asked myself what a man whose eyes were drowned with tears could see. He smiled, and as if feeling what I was feeling, he said, "Brother, you don't need to know things. You just need to feel them. Look around you. Too many people know things or know a lot about a lot of things, but do they feel them? The point is they don't feel things. That is why?"

He sighed. He did not continue what he was intending to say. His sigh was heavy and rough as a boulder that would make even an Icarus cry.

It was too dark, and the rain was willing to rampage until the following morning, and it did. Words, sweet and sad, had no meanings, and he would not listen: he was determined to follow his heart.

Following one's heart, he always believed, is the end and all of life. Which is why he---my brother, this brother whose tears held my world---was a perennial slave to the voice whispering within him.

With heavy feet he walked out of the door. And the next time I saw him he was dead, but free: a pair of bullet holes on his forehead like a child's fresh eyes wide open, longing to capture the sun, calm like the morning dew clinging on grass and leaves.

[About the author. Papa Osmubal is Oscar Balajadia of Magalang (Well, don't get fooled by that name), now a Macau resident (Sorry, where?) and married to a Chinese local (How? How come? Why?). He has been a Catholic seminarian (OK, he once opened a book at an exam in Latin and Romance Languages---but who in frigging hell did not?), a Catholic missionary (Oh, the rosary is the answer to our country's economic problems and to your alcoholism and addiction to nicotine!), a bookstore staffer (Yes, sir, listen here, we know it is urgent, so your book is on its way from Guangzhou and will be here in 8 months!), a librarian (Oh, it's Friday the 13th and I am not putting 666 as Dewey call number on this bloody book!), and a teaching assistant (OK, pal, I know you prepared for the exams so I will check and mark them!). He is currently a teacher (yawn) and has an M.A. in English Studies (yawn even more, nod off, and then snore) from the University of Macau (sorry again, where?).]

-Posted: 9:47 AM 3/6/09 | More of this author on eK!