Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Bellow and the Uproar

If only real life was a movie, full of good or bad omens that portent of triumphs or tragedies to come, then we could have a better handle of it. But in real life things happen senselessly, meaninglessly, disjointed and without narrative sense. One minute we walk along rose-lined pathways, trimmed and ordered, and the next our legs are caught in brambles and thorns, the roses themselves tinged a deeper red with drops of our own blood. 

Uno's last month at school was a cause for celebration in itself, with much industry his name was sure to belong to the candidates for graduation, a good omen for his eventual emancipation. Review classes for his licensure exam were to follow, and if his stars were allowing, prospects of a job will then proceed after his passing. Though these were trying times for him, his eyes were set firmly on his prize: of love consummated, the worth of the wait fulfilled. There were no heroes in his love story with Aris, no great trials surpassed, no labors fulfilled, except the trial and labor of time itself: the agony of the waiting, the slow ticking of days, of self-conscious time moving at a snail's pace, embarrassed to be observed.  

Show me a hero, and I'll write you a tragedy. But in the absence of heroes, why does tragedy persist? The false magnitude of my own troubles revealed itself in the face of Uno's real adversity. On an afternoon like any other afternoon, a regular and ordinary Thursday that augured no misfortune, a day that should not have much consequence on the rest of his days, dusty, yes, but stark and sunny, cloudless as a tourist's wish on his beach holiday, Uno's life was upturned, the rest of his days irrevocably changed: Aris died of pneumonia. 

We took turns to be with Uno at the wake. I was with him Thursday night, Adam sat in my place Friday morning, Dan took Adam's place in the evening of the same day, and all three of us were with him by Saturday afternoon in time for the next day's memorial service. Uno never saw Aris again, not even his lifeless body, for when he received the news of his death the remains had already been cremated, transferred to an urn too small and insignificant to have contained the sum of Aris's self. None of us broached the subject of the cause of his death though all of us knew what it really was. In asking we would inadvertently surface the fear we were trying to bury, that Uno may be tethered to the same fate now. We agreed amongst ourselves that there was the right time to ask but not now. Not as he grieved for love lost, for time lost, for opportunities to be with his love squandered to follow the senseless whim of his parents. We all knew what he was thinking beneath the veneer of his stoic stare towards the urn, that if he only knew that Aris's time on earth was short, he would have taken full advantage of it, the wishes of his parents be damned. 

Aris's parents were accommodating. They knew Uno, knew him for who he was in their son's life. They wanted to have him sit in the front pew with them and the rest of their family. But even in his great distress Uno's grace was unparalleled. He chose to sit in the back pew, away from the prying eyes of distant relatives and acquaintances who came to the wake to pay their perfunctory respects, the question of who he was never voiced. But on their offer to have him rest and sleep and bathe on the family's quarters he acquiesced, but only reluctantly, on purely practical reasons that the transit between Las Pinas and Araneta Avenue was too great a distance to be done every day. 

The bellow and the uproar of his heart and soul were all contained within. For except for silent tears that trickled down his cheeks that he quickly wiped away as soon as they came, we heard nothing from him. He only spoke when spoken to, and only for such inconsequential matters as saying no to offers of refreshments or saying thanks for the paper plates of food we offered him. He wouldn't have eaten if we hadn't insisted, and if not for our constant vigilance he would have spent all his time sitting there in his own grief, too incapacitated to do anything. We had never seen him this helplessly composed, keeping it together but falling apart at the same time. 

The gilded columbarium shone from the overhead lights, sparkling wherever the light hit. We were all given flowers, white roses whose thorns had been trimmed from the stem, and in a single ordered pile we were to place the roses on the floor in front of the niche that kept the urn. As the roses grew in pile the people thinned, and at last, only the four of us, and Aris's parents remained. Then the niche was closed, the roses were gathered, and the parents too walked away, and Uno's body crumbled from the weight of his grief, kneeling as if in prayer, one hand on the floor supporting his weight, and the other on the square, gilded door of Aris's niche, the urn locked away forever. The finality of Aris's death descending on him heavy like an anvil. 


  1. My sincerest condolences Earl. I hope Uno gets through all of this.

  2. Such a tragedy. It's one of those days of darkness which swirls around and envelopes the people like us - how hard it is to separate love from such fears, almost as if our kind has to bear our morality more than others.

    I extend my condolences to you and your friend, Earl.

  3. That was incredibly unfortunate and extremely heartbreaking. I feel like crying after reading this. *sigh*

    Nag-aalala ako kay Uno. I want to know what happens next.