by LJ Famatigan
It was a cold winter night in the dilapidated wooden house on the outskirts of Barrio Sagada. I could still recall how my mother, who had recently gone home from her work abroad, welcomed the house with a rather ominous atmosphere. She used to be so lively then, but time and labor must have increased her aging. To us now, mother was nothing but an empty shell, without a rightful memory of the yesterday which ruined our lives forever and scarred us for infinity.
“It’s time to eat.” A voice that did not seem bizarre to us had yet reached my ears and embarked on the same familiar feeling of ecstasy, warmth, and solitariness as I sat before the worn out wooden table that held our meals back in the days where I can barely even manage to maintain a spoon. The aroma of the egg soup that my mother’s been cooking for as much as my vague mind can remember brought back fragments of memories as we shared the meal among the three of us. The silence betrayed us of unwanted thoughts and words longing to be uttered only to be held back by our pride.
“Will father be joining us?”, my eleven-year-old brother, who was in the middle of innocence and exposure to reality, asked. Without having the slightest glimpse of a hint, the occupant of the empty seat beside him can now be only seen through a small gap in the wooden door. And there inside was the man who raised us for years, drove through the roads of our town with his four-wheeled vehicle, bringing people to their destinations.
Not until my phone rang. It was my brother.
“Father is dead.”
It was as if I went deaf for a second, and all I could hear were those three words from the other line. I drove home as though speeding the car amounted to a second of my father’s life. And there I saw my father, lying lifeless on the cold floor with my mother beside him. His blood flooded the floor down to the dining table. Back in that moment, it wasn’t logical to ask about the cause of his death.
“He fell from the stairs.” at last, mother took the courage to lie. Father, though he may be an alcoholic, his superior strength isn’t something belittling. He could not have fallen down the stairs alone unless some other force made it possible.
That force happened to be my mother.
As I gazed upon my father’s lifeless body, it occurred to me that his visage of him was somewhat unfamiliar as I always viewed him as a ravishing beast with the tiniest hint of soundness left upon his mind. It was strange that he wasn’t holding his metal cane while inflicting bruises on my mother. It was weird that he wasn’t smoking his cigarette and pressing its button on my brother’s face. It was strange that he wasn’t lifting his fist to land on my body.
I felt tears rushing through my eyes upon my realization, and I thought I had cried silently. It wasn’t my own voice but my mother’s. We both cried. Not for the reason of father’s death or the punishment that awaits but for the cause of finally attaining freedom from this hell. My brother
could only remain silent, but his eyes tell the relief and contentment that the event had brought him.
My mother went to the court for trial. Had she been like any other criminals who would rather deny their own wrongdoings, mother proudly said that she had killed the man she vowed to marry and endure with for the rest of her life. It turns out that she had found love more potent than the one she had for him, and that is, the love for her children.
“As this woman, who would rather put herself behind bars and eat the cold meals of prison than to bear witness her own children, that she gave life of, be in pain and scarred for life, only deserves a reasonable sentence.” The lawyer pulled the words right out of my mouth and had reasoned instead on my behalf.
On a cold winter night, where the three of us shared a meal together after three years. The day mother was released from prison, she cooked our dinner. It was not the first time that I had tasted an egg soup. Instead, today’s one was warmer and filled our lingering resentments with yesterday’s memory.