I was in in the country visiting my mother when I first heard him. Yes (you read it right) heard him.
We went to a resort very near where my mother used to live. The place was gorgeous. There were natural spring water pools, trails to hike, beautiful falls and lots of nature’s best keep secrets. The owner didn’t alter what was there, he simply enhanced it. What a wonderful idea.
I was about to hit the water when suddenly I heard My Way of Frank Sinatra floating in the air from some unseen speakers somewhere. I always admired people who can sing convincingly; so I decided to look for the origin of the sound.
My curiosity led me to place on top of a hill next to the pools. There, stood a half-open picnic cottage and the sound was indeed coming from the inside. I was amazed to find out that the owner of the voice was a very small boy of about 12 years old. He glanced at me once and that was it. I could hardly believe it. The voice and the boy didn’t go together. (And it will always be that way)
I saw him again the next year and the year after that, and the year after that… He was one of the boarders of my godmother and it happened that my mother’s place was next to the boarding house. There were lots of boarding houses in that area, since most of the kids were from the mountains and only come home on weekends.
When I look at the old holidays’ photographs, I am a bit surprised to find him almost in every each of the snapshots. I didn’t notice him around that much. He was just a kid my niece had a crush on and I’m a grown up doing grown-up things; only much, much later that I spoke to him; and only by coincidence.
I’m not what you called an outgoing type. When I am on vacation I stayed at home with my mother. Never been to a disco or things like that. I read mostly. That time it became a habit of mine to spend an afternoon till late at night at the boarding house. Mainly because I became very fond of a newborn baby (who will later become my godson) whom I baptized Ngit-pa, which means ugly in our language, and ngit-pa he stayed till this very day. Few people remember his real name. I’m not one of them. I called him that because he really is a ngit-pa in a very adorable way.
One time I was alone gazing out the window at groups of students coming out of the local high school just across the street when he came in. When I first heard his name I thought it was Mandy short for Armando. Only when he said it to me personally and I grabbed his school ID for confirmation that I found out it was really Monday, as in the first working day of the week. What an unusual name; especially for a boy…
I don’t know anymore why and what we talked about but I remember that it lasted till 1:00 in the morning and ended up with him saying to me that he thought it was boring to talk to old people and now he knew that he made the wrong assumption. I wonder if it was a compliment or an insult.
Anyway, the talk became a habit. I often avoiding going to the boarding house early in the morning (because guarantee he will be late) or in the evening (because he will stay up and will be late the next morning) but as it happened, we seemed to always catch each other one way or the other.
He taught me to strum a guitar, I wrote letters for him (even provided the stationery) to his one and only greatest love Tracy Ann, the prettiest girl in the neighborhood!
We had a lot of fun together with other kids in the boarding house, playing cards, singing in videoke, going picnics, climbing over the fence of the school just to sit on the roof watching the full moon, things like that.
Monday was a very handsome kid with a brain to match; I do not know any girl in town who didn’t have a crush on him at some point in their academic year.
He was in a pilot class and always on top 5, a campus personality, a dancer, a singer, and captain of CAT. Nobody would ever suspect the kind of troubles he was going through. No one would ever guess that his father drunk too much alcohol, his mother was working out of town God knows where, that Monday had to stretch 100 pesos the whole week sometimes two weeks, depends on how fast his mother could send his allowance to cover his school and living expenses.
That he owed my godmother more than three months rent, that he ate his portion of rice in his room because he was embarrassed and didn’t want the other boarders to see that he ate it with nothing or whatever one peso could buy. That he was washing buses till late at night to earn pocket money, or he forced to play cards till 4:00 a.m to pay for his school projects.
I offered to lend him money several times and said I was going to talk to his mother but he refused both flat out. He never told me the reason why. I was worried about him. He’s almost as old as my daughter. If only my niece was as dedicated as he was regarding her studies. No, my niece thinks she was born an Onassis or a Trump.
The last time I saw Monday, I hardly recognize him. I knew right away that he jumped over the line. He crossed it. I first heard it from my hairdresser and Monday confirmed it. He said:
“It’s hard not to have money in my pocket. Besides, they do it to me, never I do it to them.’”
I asked him if he thinks there is a difference. He said:
“Believe me or not, I do not sink that low yet.”
My heart bled. I could not understand his parents. Monday has only one brother and worth every cent his parents were paying to send him to school. If he is mine, I will do anything to be sure that he got the best education I can afford. But then again who am I to say? I didn’t know the reasons why he was in that situation and probably I will never know.
The last thing I heard about him was from my mother. She told me he didn’t go to college and he was working somewhere in the city. I can’t help it, but I find it a waste. A waste of a bright mind, and a wonderful kid…
Fast forward to present time:
I got him on the phone the other day (I didn’t know how he got my number and I didn’t ask) the first thing he told me is this: “I’m not a kid anymore.” Which puzzled me. He said he was calling to tell me that he graduated from college and now a certified civil engineer. He even sent me a graduation picture. He changed. Gone is the little boy looks, replaced by a young man carrying a few extra pounds especially in the middle. He resembles his father. Something I never thought possible. He invited me to see him if ever I ‘m in the country and provided me with home address and cell number. He told me it’s so delicious to be grown up. I don’t know what he means by that. I purposely lost the information he gave me. I find that although we cannot outrun the past, we cannot possibly go back there expecting to find everything untouched…