By Mariz Leona
“Cheers to our success!” I said as I raised my wine glass. Indeed, it was a fantastic night for all of us. The exhibit I spearheaded was surprisingly a big hit for beginners like us.
“Your paintings were really a work of art, Francis, literally and figuratively speaking,” Dina, one of my dearest friends, said. The tinkling of glasses made her voice sound romantic, or maybe it was just my personal judgment.
“What do you mean by ‘literally and figuratively,’ Dina?” I asked back, of course. I couldn’t just leave her hanging. I couldn’t just leave myself hanging.
Bebot laughed at my sing-song voice, mocking me perhaps.
“Literally because it was literally arts,” Dina said. “Oh come on, Francis! Do I really need to elaborate it to you?” She laughed.
Oh, good lord! I thought. Blessed I am for hearing such a wondrous sound—sweet and appealing.
“Cut it out, Francis!” Bebot’s teasing voice roared in the room. “Seriously, you’re like puking rainbows and hearts!”
Oh, for whoever’s sake! Do I really look like some asshat lovesick puppy?
“No! But you look like a chapped drooling old maggot,” Bebot whispered, but I heard it clearly because the idiot whispered it right in my face. Did I just say it aloud?
“And that too,” he chirped while filling his empty glass.
I gave the dumbass my fiercest killer look. It just faded when I heard again Dina’s melodic laughter. I turned my gaze to her, mesmerized by her angelic face. We locked gazes. I suddenly found myself holding her waist while dancing in a song I could barely understand but to the melody of which I swayed. My room, which had been messy earlier, had turned into a grand hall with glitter balls above us. I wondered where Bebot was.
Sweet atmosphere covered the room. I tasted cotton candies and chocolates, but Dina was the sweetest. We danced closely until our feet hurt. With a heavy heart, I let her sit and gave her a bottle of water. It was a mystery, though, where I had gotten it. It was magical. My feelings too.
I woke up in my bed without a memory of how our night had ended. Did it really happen, or was it because I drank too much? And one more thing: how did I end up here in my bed? Where are my friends and Dina? I was flooded with my own questions. Tired of them, I got up my bed and took a shower.
I entered the kitchen and smelled adobo. Oh, my favorite dish.
“Good morning, Pa!” a little kid chirped while spreading her arms as if asking for a hug.
I hugged and kissed her good-morning as I felt I was expected to do it.
“Look! Mama cooked my favorite adobo because I got stars yesterday!” The little girl sounded really happy.
“Honey, you told her yesterday you would take her to the mall as a reward.” A woman with a sweet voice entered the kitchen. She had a sweet face too with a bright smile. Maybe I looked flustered because her face contorted. “Have you forgotten?”
I stumbled to find words. “Of course I haven’t! Let’s eat now and prepare to go to the mall.” I gulped the coffee in front of me. Words just came out of my mouth as if it was meant to be said.
I held the hand of the little kid as we strutted inside the mall. “Papa, I said yesterday that I wanted you to buy me a paintbrush,” she said and led me to a bookstore. She let go of my hand and found her way to her paintbrush. I stood still, confused about everything, until someone tapped my shoulder. “Hey, Francis! I am asking you if you want this.”
My eyes went frigidly wide because Dina was in front of me holding a paintbrush. “What?” She sounded irritated.
“Of course I want it. Thank you!” I smiled at her, but my hands were shaking. My body, my soul, was shaking. “Have you seen a child?” I asked.
“What child?” she asked back, confused.
“The child I was holding a while ago. She said I am her papa.”
Dina stared at me with mocking eyes. “Don’t start with me, Francis! Please leave your story madness at your house, you geeky artist!” She laughed as she linked her arms around me, and then she pulled me to the queue of customers.
I found myself lying in my bed while a kid was jumping beside me. She noticed that I was finally awake. “Good morning, Papa! It’s Sunday today!” She kissed me and led me to the bathroom. Does she want me to take a shower? “Faster, Papa! We will be late,” she shouted outside the door. I did what I should do.
I was formally dressed, the kid too and the lady who was smiling at me. I smiled back, and she held my hand tightly. They were listening to a homily that I couldn’t understand. Someone grabbed my hands and kissed me on the cheeks. I was flustered. It was Dina. Dina again. What is really happening? Have I gone crazy?
“Thank you, honey! I really like your painting,” she said. Happiness was evident on her face. “I also have a gift for you.”
I returned her smile. I was confused, but her smiles told me that it was okay, that everything was normal. “Where is it?” I asked.
“It’s not where, it’s what,” she answered.
“What?” I asked.
“I am pregnant!” Her face was blushing, and she was smiling widely.
“Wh-whaaat? Who’s the father?” I asked, disappointed. I couldn’t smile back. I just couldn’t.
“Of course it’s you, my husband. You silly!” She laughed so hard as she hugged me tightly.
It doesn’t make sense! Everything doesn’t make sense! But contrary to what I was thinking, my body responded happily. I hugged her back. I felt my eyes swelling and then my tears flowing. I was happy—no, beyond happy.
She watched him stomping on his brushes and paintings. She didn’t notice that she was already tearing up with just a view of him. He was now miserable. Her loving artist was now miserable. Was her love for him not enough? Was their love for him not enough? She closed the door silently and went to the kitchen.
She saw her angel eating her favorite adobo happily. Her bright and innocent baby. “Mama! Eat! Eat! Eat!” she chanted while raising her spoon.
She went to her and caressed her hair as she continued eating heartily. She watched her eating. A smile crept out of her lips as she realized that it had been ten years since she came out of her womb. She carried her for nine months with Francis by her side. He cheered her always, provided for their needs, and filled their house with his love, not to mention pampering her whenever she had tantrums. How cruel life was for destroying their happiness—his happiness.
She heard a loud bang coming from his room. She ran immediately with a thudding heart. She opened the door and saw that he had stumbled, his face on the floor. “Francis!” she yelped and helped him to the bed.
“Have you seen Dina? I need to give her my painting,” he mumbled.
She looked at him right through his eyes, without blinking. She kissed him on the lips. “I love you,” she whispered. He closed his eyes, and a smile formed on his lips. She tucked him into bed and got out of the room.
“Did he do it again?”
She looked at Bebot who was standing outside the room, holding a bouquet of her favorite flowers—red roses and lilies. She just nodded and tiredly smiled.
“Leave him,” he said seriously, which made her disgusted and furious. “He lost his life!” she shouted at him.
“He just lost his arms,” he said. “He is overreacting.”
“He is a painter,” she said. “A famous one, Bebot.”
“I love you.”
“You’re unbelievable. You’re his best friend!” She is mad, so mad at him. She looked him straight in the eyes. “I love him,” she said with conviction and left him there.
“But he is now a good-for-nothing crazy asshat. A psycho. He can’t even remember you, Dina!” Bebot’s frustrated and angry voice filled the house.
She heard it clearly, and she knew it. She knew it all. “I love him still,” she murmured to herself as tears fell down her face.