Chapter 44 – Graduation
I stare at the headstone right in front of me. “Hey.” I say. “I’m graduating.” I announce. I’m at the cemetery today because it’s my graduation and I want to go and see Louie before heading out to my school.
“You were supposed to be here too Louie.” I tell him. It’s really unfair, the world is. Louie’s dead and today is my graduation. If he didn’t die, we should have graduated together. He should have been here celebrating with me. “Lani graduated yesterday, dapat nandun ka rin kasabay niya kahapon. I saw her cry again Louie and I didn’t know what to do.” I say as I pull the weeds beside his grave. “I didn’t know how to comfort her because seeing her cry Louie made my heart ached too. In the end, Lani was the one who held me. Nakakainis kasi dapat ako yung nagko-comfort sakanya kahapon pero sa huli ang hina hina ko.”
I don’t know how to comfort people, I never learn how. I know the things to say though, all you have to say to someone who needs a little comforting would be it’s alright; I’ve been there; I’m sorry; I’m here. I find those phrases to be irritating instead of comforting. So I don’t use those words.
Louie comforted me through actions and words. He’d hold me and tell me he’d never leave me. He’d sometimes allow me to eat pint after pint of ice cream. He was the only one who comforted me until I met Kim that is. So really I never know how to comfort others, I find it awkward to hug or talk so I just stare at them.
With Lani’s case though, I wanted so much to comfort her, to hold her as Louie would have done so but I cannot, I cried right in front of her. I was so weak and she who no doubt missed her twin was the one who held me and told me Louie would want us to celebrate our graduation. That he would want us to be happy even for him.
I cried more not because of the loss but because I hated myself even more because I can’t even comfort her. I’m not weak and broken.
“I’m never going to be fine am I?” I ask as I let a tear fall. “I’m never going to be strong as you would want me to. I don't know what to do Louie. A part of me wants to try to be fine but I don’t know how. Hindi ko alam kung paano Louie maging okay kasi wala ka na dito. I really don’t know how to live without you and I know you’re probably getting tired of hearing me say that but it’s true. You knew my life was nothing until you came along twelve years ago. You saved that little girl remember at dahil dun naging center ka ng buhay ko at ngayon na wala ka na hindi ko na alam kung paano mabuhay, kung paano maging okay kasi ikaw lang naman ang nakakaalam kung paano ako magiging okay palagi. At ngayong wala ka na wala na ring tama sa buhay ko. I don’t want to graduate Louie, I just want to stay in high school where I can pretend.”
I brush the tears on my cheeks and smile sadly at Louie’s headstone, I let my fingers trace his name. “Hindi ako nagpunta dito para iyakan ka ngayon Louie, nagpunta ako kasi nangangarap ako na baka makita kita dito. Gustong gusto kitang makita Louie at eto lang yung lugar na naisip ko dahil diba maraming kaluluwa sa sementeryo? Nagbabkasali akong makita kita ngayon.” I laugh bitterly. “I know it’s crazy but the other way of seeing you seems drastic, I can do it but I know you wouldn’t want me to not on my graduation day so here I am hoping to see you.”
I look around the place but of course whom am I kidding, I am never going to see Louie here or anywhere. Ghosts aren’t here. Still I really wish they are because I’d take it, I’d be okay if Louie comes back as a ghost.
“Mary male-late na tayo.” I hear Yaya’s voice and I turn to see her standing behind the car waiting for me.
I turn back to Louie’s headstone and smile genuinely. “I’m going.” I say and I stand up, I turn my back and start walking towards the car, I stop, turn around and look for once last time hoping still that he’s here somewhere.
I close my eyes and smile as I feel the wind brushes through my body, I’m not saying that I know the wind is Louie’s because I know it isn’t, it is just a coincidence that the wind was blowing right when I was looking for him.
I know that. Still though, it feels good because it reminds me that Louie’s somewhere and watching over me that no matter that he’s gone, he is still watching me protecting me from everything.
I smile again and I start walking away.
Before I went to visit Louie, I wasn’t okay with graduating. I didn’t want to graduate yet because in high school I could pretend everything is okay, high school is a stage where everyone is actually pretending, where everyone doesn’t care about anything because we still have an excuse, we’re young and we’re still a high school student.
College isn’t like that. College is closer to reality. It’s the final step before we walk towards reality and I’m not ready for that. I don’t know if I’ll ever will be because I know college will be different from high school, a lot different, a whole lot different.
But after this visit with Louie, I feel I’m okay with it. I’m not ready for it but I’m okay with it because there is one thing college and high school have in common and that is you can pretend.
You’re just one step closer to reality but it isn’t reality yet. You can still pretend.
And surmise to say, that’s what I’m good at and so I know I’ll be okay in college as long as my mask is always in place, as long as I am detach to the idea of stepping towards reality at the end of it because I’m never going to walk forward.
That’s what I’m sure of. I can’t do reality. Reality will crush me so as long as I pretend, I’ll be okay.
“Mary sabi mo kanina kay Louie, may isa pang paraan para makita siya… hindi mo naman iniisip yung naiisip ko diba Mary?” yaya asks suddenly. So she heard.
I continue to stare at the window. “Ano bang naiisip mo?” I ask but I know what’s she’s thinking. We both do.
“Hindi naman kasiguraduhan na makikita mo siya pag ginawa mo yun Mary.”
I shrug. “Still there’s a chance.” a chance I’m willing to take if I could see Louie.
“Sa tingin mo ba worth it yun?” she asks as she turns to stare at me.
I don’t look at her and continue to stare at the window. “Everything about Louie ya, is worth it.” This time I look at her and I know she’s seeing what I am not saying with my mouth, she sees it with my eyes.
She turn her head back in front and I know why, she doesn’t know what else to say after that. “Alam ko tingin mo dahil wala na si Louie wala na rin saysay na mabuhay ka pero sa tingin mo ba gugustuhin ni Louie na itigil mo yung buhay mo para sa kanya?” she says still staring right ahead.
She’s using Louie wants what’s best for you card. And I hate it when someone uses it against me because then I’d feel guilty for not trying to be okay for Louie. And I hate feeling guilty because I know I can never be okay.
Why no one can see it, I don’t know why. If they would just see that I’ll never be okay then it’ll make everything easier. Because even if they use that card and yes I’d feel guilty I’ll never try.
What’s the use of trying when I know the outcome already? In the end, nothing will come out of it except pain and I’d still be broken. Nothing’s going to change that fact.
That’s why I can finally understand the idea of dying, why I’m ready for it now. Yes, I was afraid of dying but somehow I’m not anymore, I’m ready and I want it more and more each passing day.
I relish the idea finally being able to be with Louie at the end of it. I wait for the day, I’d dream of Louie again and this time I’d take his hand and he’d never let go of it.
We reach the school and I go straight to the great hall where everyone is for the graduation brunch.
When I finally reach the great hall, the hall is filled with balloons and banners. Someone is playing at the piano at the stage and at the side is the buffet of foods. The center is filled with cocktail tables.
I smile as I see my classmates bundled up in the corner. I walk straight to them. “Hi guys!” I greet with a full smile on my face.
They all turn to me and smile. “Ang tagal mo!” Carmina complains.
I shrug. “Mamaya pa naman ang graduation eh.” I say. I look around to see familiar faces with all of them smiling just because it’s our graduation day and later we’d be graduating.
Yaya comes and walks towards the other yayas. She smiles at me and I smile back even with the tension at the car earlier I’m glad Yaya is here today.
My friends surround me and we talk non-stop. Parents come and go to congratulate us for today. I smile and try not to stare too hard at the door because I don’t want them to notice that I’m the only one without the parent here at the graduation brunch.
I know they’re not coming and that’s why Yaya is here today but again a little part of me is disappointment and hurt. Envious of all of my batch mates because they have a family with them and all I have is Yaya today at the graduation brunch.
I’m used to the disappointment but still what girl wouldn't hope that her parents would spare their time for her? I know they’ll come later at the ceremony and it’s not because they want to see me graduate no, they will come because they need to. Just for the pretense.
Truth be told, even if they are going half-heartedly, I’m okay with that. Because I can pretend that they’re here for me.
This graduation brunch is a tradition that the school still runs by, they bring us together here today because of the bonding, the time to just talk nonchalantly. A time to bring all families closer to one another.
That’s why I’m hoping they’d be here instead of coming later for the ceremony. I wish they’re here right now.
“Congratulations Mary.” I turn and see Cyril’s mom smiling at me just as she would smile at Cyril, motherly.
I smile at her “Tita.” I greet her.
She pulls me to her and hugs me. She pulls away then turns to Cyril.”Cy take a picture of us.” she instructs and Cyril obliges.
I smile as we take shots together. Even if I don’t have my parents right now, here’s one of my surrogate parents gladly accepting me.
And that’s okay for me. At least somewhere in the world I’m accepted.