|Road, picture taken by the author.|
Stella was a woman who could be in two places at the same time. She managed this feat exactly only three times during her life. The first time it happened was purely accidental. She had woken up one Sunday morning before anyone else in the apartment. It was still dark. So, she brewed herself some coffee. She wasn't annoyed at all that she had risen earlier than usual. She was glad to be alone at such an hour, the husband and kids still asleep. Finally, she had a few moments to herself. She filled up her cup and sat by the window of the apartment, the one facing the east. The sky was starting to lighten with the dawn. She watched it turn a dark blue and then different shades of violet and pink and then finally she saw the sun rise. That and the aromatic black coffee made her feel a sense of peace she hadn't felt in years. At that moment, she looked at the horizon.
The distant mountains there were sometimes blue or sometimes purple when she found the time to look at them. But this particular morning, she wanted to be in the mountains. It was a very pure longing. And then she found that she was in the mountains. She was just in her fluffy bedroom slippers, her nightie and a silk robe hurriedly thrown on. She hadn't even combed her hair yet. But indeed she was along a mountain road at dawn. She could see the city below, in the valley, and lower hills. She wasn't too startled at first. It was like a dream. She still had her coffee cup in her hands. She just walked along the road feeling the morning breeze and feeling blessed for this amazing gift. She was surrounded by trees. No one else was on the road. But then it began to sink into her consciousness: the disorientation. How was she supposed to get home? And who was going to cook her family's breakfast since the maids were on their day off? It was this mounting panic that totally destroyed her peace at finding herself in a faraway mountain. And this was what catapulted her back to her apartment. She stood up and looked at the horizon again. Was that real? she asked herself. She tried thinking of going back to the mountain but nothing happened. She knew it wasn't a dream. Her bedroom slippers were wet with dew. But look at the time! she found herself dismissing what happened and she flew into a whirl of breakfast preparation so the kids could have some scrambled eggs and fried rice as soon as they woke up.
Stella thought about the mountain incident several times. She wondered why she was given that gift or power or whatever it was. The thing was, she couldn't control it. It wasn't for a lack of trying. When she found out her daughter had a high fever while she was at work, she sat down at her desk, looked at her daughter's picture and willed herself to be by her daughter's side. But nothing happened. Apparently, it wasn't due to a pure longing only (what she thought had triggered the incident). She ended up filing for a leave to take her daughter to the ER. Vanessa, her daughter, had malaria.
The second time it happened was completely accidental as well. Or at least Stella thought it was completely accidental. The family was on a road trip to Baguio when in the middle of the trip, right smack in the middle of Tarlac, her three year old son, Carlos, started to cry. When they left at dawn, he had been asleep. But now, he was wailing inconsolably and ruining the trip for everyone. "What's the matter, Carlos?" Stella asked him from the front passenger seat, twisting her body around so she could see his face. "Mama, I want Booboo! I want Booboo!" Booboo was the name of his little stuffed toy T-Rex from his favorite Ninong Danny. It was his favorite toy and he even slept with Booboo. There was going to be no peace for everyone for the entire trip! But instead of feeling upset, she looked into Carlos' face and saw real sadness, a loss that could not be borne. She held his hand and thought for a while. She asked her husband, Bobby, to stop the car so she could console him. She held Carlos tightly in her arms and fully felt his pain, closing her eyes. She opened her eyes and she was back at the apartment. She went into the kids' room and saw Booboo on her son's bed. She picked it up and put it in her handbag. She closed her eyes again. She could hear Carlos wailing again. "Carlos, look what Mama has in her bag?" she asked him. Carlos looked at her incredulously. She opened her bag and handed him his Booboo. A look of utter adoration was on his face. "Ay naku, Stella, why didn't you say you had it all along?" Bobby said irritably when they went back into the car. Honestly, she couldn't explain it so she just smiled. And they went on to have a wonderful time in Baguio.
The last time it happened, she had finally figured it out. Stella was fifty, driving down the Skyway, Southbound, on a trip to Alabang to visit a friend. Out of nowhere, an out-of-control bus, probably running at 120 kph, tried to cut her off. To avoid it, she swerved to the left, hit a cement island marking an exit, slamming into a wall. At that point, she knew her time was up. Strangely, she felt calm even as she felt excruciating pain shooting all over her body. All she could think of was Bobby. It was exactly 10:15 in the morning and she knew he was in a meeting in his office in Makati. She enters the office and sees his assistant, Tina. "Mrs. Eusebio, how nice to see you!" Tina greets her. "I need to speak with Bobby, please." Tina tells her his meeting got delayed and she could just go right in to his office. She enters and sees that he's staring at his computer monitor with a frown. "Honey!" he says in surprise, "what are you doing here? I thought you were on your way to Suzette's." She smiles at him and gives him a hug. She smells his familiar cologne and she just wants to hang on for another five minutes but she knows she can't. She looks into his eyes and says, "I love you, Bobby. That's all." He looks baffled but she steps out knowing that she's at least said goodbye. In her last moments, she realizes that her gift can only come to her in moments of absolute peace and absolute connection to another person. And she realizes that her three moments of this gift were all worth it.
(c) Justine C. Tajonera 2014