Enduring Your Fear

6 February 2014
8:20 PM
Manila

M.–

We are here at the hospital. My sister got confined on doctor’s orders and is currently undergoing some tests. It’s my eldest sister, and not C., but is a cause for worry all the same. She hasn’t been able to breathe properly these past few months, and it’s about time that this got all examined.

She has asthma since childhood, so that’s a factor, but lately when we watch her sleep we notice that she has trouble getting oxygen. She takes these quick, short gasps while asleep, as if she’s drowning, and sometimes she turns grey. We tried everything from elevating her back by stacking more pillows, to upping the temperature on the air conditioner in the hopes that the cold air will make her breathe easier. Nothing’s doing the trick.

So, here we are.

I’m fucking scared. And it’s not because of my sister. It’s because of me. I have trouble with hospitals. I don’t like it here, I never have, which is quite ironic since I’ve been here lots of times when my grandfather was sick. I’ve also taken a few turns in staying the night to care for one of my sisters or one of my parents whenever they get confined. I should be okay with it by now but I’m not. It gets under my skin. When we take the stairs I could feel myself pitching forward, as if driven by an imaginary force, and I get nervous, thinking I’ll fall down, that I’ll lose control over my body and hurl myself towards death. When we’re taking the elevator it feels very much like doom as I watch the doors slide close. I break out into a cold sweat, and I hold my breath until the doors slide open again.

When we came to my sister’s room I immediately seized the chair by the window, as if a lifeline. I tried to occupy myself with other thoughts. I don’t know why Philippe Petit came to mind. I suppose I was thinking along the lines of “facing your fears,” that sort of thing. But it’s really more of facing it, and then enduring it, no? And then hopefully, getting past it.

As soon as we arrive, my sister got whisked off to do some tests. It was just me and my other sisters in the room, left to amuse ourselves until she comes back. Perhaps an hour later we got a knock on the door, and it was my grandmother and aunt come to visit. Only, the patient isn’t here, so we are left to make small talk and polite conversation–another thing that scares me.

You see–I don’t think I am a shy person. Perhaps when I was younger. However, that doesn’t mean I like to do it now, talking to people, I mean. If anything that made me even more hesitant, because a lifetime of awkwardness has very well informed me that once I open my mouth, there can only be two outcomes: a) I am witty enough to make you laugh and think me interesting, or b) I will embarrass myself and won’t stop until I’ve embarrassed us both. There is no middle ground.

So: what do we talk about at four in the afternoon? Apparently one of my cousins is getting married. Some speculation about the details. A short summary about my sister’s condition. A surprisingly passionate discussion about celebrities between my sister and my aunt, which was like watching a tennis match. Wedding traditions and superstitions according to my grandmother. The usual what-do-you-do-now talk that made me want to crawl out the window.

It’s evening now, and they’ve gone. I wasn’t very talkative, I don’t think. My best course of action was to keep my mouth shut and only answer when asked, so that’s that. I may have allowed myself to be a bit nosy for a minute or two when I heard about said wedding, in which my grandmother launched a tirade about why people should not get married during the last days of December, as it will undoubtedly bring bad luck. It was really a rant disguised as a lecture, because she was thinking of her own wedding day held on the 29th, I think? The bridal car was late, or something like that. Either way it was bad. Very bad, she said. In defense of my grandfather (god bless his soul), I couldn’t help but say that the wedding pushed through anyway, didn’t it? Was that so unlucky? There was a moment of silence in which several looks crossed upon several faces, and I mentally kicked myself. And promptly shut up.

Anyway, where was I–

Fears, yes. Papa is on his way to pick us up. The weight is heavy still on my chest. The lobby still reminds me of the time we rushed back, years ago, because the nurses called and said my grandfather was having another cardiac arrest. I still cringe whenever I see someone lying in bed and being wheeled out on the hallway. I still crane my neck to look for a white butterfly that only appeared the day Lolo died. I think about my sister sleeping here for the night and I still put my hand inside my pocket and cross my fingers that nothing major is going to happen.

To face your fear, and then to endure it. To walk the wire. To take one step forward, and then another. Still needs work, but the day is almost over. I think that’s enough for today.

Goodnight,
T.

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