EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of the works in a five-part series in line with the Dapitan 2017 theme “Paglisan” or Departure. All works that are part of the series are written by the Flame‘s Letters staffers.
HER MOTHER talked about him like how one would tell a bedtime story—hopeful, gentle, and with the presence of familiarity and a sense of longing.
The child often observed how her mother’s eyes would twinkle in delight whenever her lips, in mid-utterance, would form her father’s name. She always brimmed with hope whenever she explained why he had to live oceans away, or how every December, she would try to convince her the boxes filled with new toys were never from Santa—but from him.
Her stories were always softly told; she never mentioned anything negative whenever she would talk to him on the phone, and every evening, when her child would retire to bed, she would tell the amazing stories of their youth—their life unfolding before their little girl.
The little girl liked to call him to tell stories about her day; odd facts that she learned in school or how her mother tied her hair in a particular day, and Papa rejoiced whenever he heard the girl’s giddy and tiny voice. She would then visualize each curve and wrinkle in his face—how he looks when he laughs, or how he shakes his head whenever he chuckles.
The little girl would spend most of her time staring at photographs of him stiffly plastered on the walls: pictures of her mother and her father, pictures of him studying blueprints that were laid out on a table, and pictures of her younger self, cradled in his arms—but it stops there, for the color of the photographs are slowly fading, and the frames have collected dust. She would learn about him, but she will never know who he truly was.
The presence of familiarity became evident as her mother’s bedtime stories became redundant. She could retell the entire story inside her head; her Papa—who had great adventures, and who loved them unconditionally, yet was never present to physically express that love.
Sometimes, the child could not help but imagine the feeling once she imagines herself in the stories; how would it feel to get a clear look of his face? Or to finally quit imagining, and instead, see the way his shoulder shakes every time he chuckles?
Even though her mother has done enough effort for her to realize who and what kind of person her father truly was, she could not help but see him as a mere part of a bedtime story—almost a figment of her imagination; a hopeful and gentle bedtime story with a hint of familiarity, and with no tinge of longing.
The little girl wonders if there will ever be. F CORHEINNE JOYCE B. COLENDRES