BE STRONG… aniya sa sarili sabay kuyom ng kamao. He should not look as pathetic as he already is especially in front of Mushroom. Marahas niyang pinahid ang luhang kumawala sa mga mata niya.
“You have to talk,” anang Mommy niya.
“There’s no need,” aniya na pinatatag ang boses.
“You need to talk,” muling sabi ng Mommy niya, mas diniinan nito ang bawat salita. “Mushroom bears your child,” anito at iniwan silang dalawa.
Napapikit si Gino ng mariin. He kept swallowing that invisible lump. Mushroom shouldn’t have come. Because it will be twice as hard letting her go this time.
NAMAGITAN sa kanila ang katahimikan. Mushroom could see how messy the place is. Nagkalat ang brush at pintura. Gino looked like a mess too. His clothes are crumpled and full of paint and dirt. He looked so miserable that her heart ached. She wants nothing but to wrap him in his arms. She missed him… so much. A day without him felt like a year. And now, she is finally close to him again. Hindi niya napigilan ang pagpatak ng luhang kanina pa namumuo sa paligid ng mata niya.
“You lied to my, Mom,” galit na sabi nito at hinarap siya. Bahagya itong natigilan nang makitang lumuluha siya. “Didn’t you understand my letter? I need to be alone. You have to go back home. Now.”
Nangangatal ang labi niya. She felt relieved seeing him now. She wants to go straight into his arms and hug him tight. But seeing that look in his eyes prevented her from doing so. She could see anger, fear, resentment, frustration in his eyes. It should be enough to make her step back. But she will not leave. Not without Gino. “I’m not going anywhere but here with you. If I should go home, then you should come with me.”
“Oh, please, Mushroom, don’t make this hard for both of us,” tila nahihirapang sambit nito.
“Am I the one making this hard, Gino?” aniyang hindi napigilan ang pagpiyok ng boses. “Stop pushing me away. I told you I’m not going anywhere but here!”
“I don’t want you here,” mariing sabi nito.
“Liar,” aniya na pilit iwinaksi ang hapdi na nararamdaman ng dibdib sa salitang binitiwan nito. “You want me! And you need me as much as I need you. Stop fighting about this. You are only hurting us both,” aniyang napahikbi. “Do I really have to beg just to be with you, Gino?”
Nangalit ang bagang nitong nakatitig sa kanya. Pagkuwa’y tumulo ang luha at walang salitang tinawid ang espasyo sa pagitan nila’t niyakap siya ng mahigpit. Kinagat niya ang labi para pigilan ang sariling mapahagulhol.
“Oh, please, Mush…” Napabuga ito ng hininga. “Please stop crying. It makes me feel sick.”
“Then stop pushing me away,” aniyang napayakap din dito ng mahigpit. Isinubsob niya ang ulo sa dibdib nito at doon umiyak. Saglit walang nagsalita sa kanila. “I missed you so much, do you know that?” aniyang halos hindi kumawala sa bibig. “I was so afraid I won’t be able to see you again. Parang hindi ko makakayanan yung sakit. I can’t believe you really left me!”
“I did what I think was right. And my thought about that doesn’t change. It won’t be easy being with me, Mush. It’s better we say our goodbye’s now before the hurt goes deeper. I’m only saving you from hurting. It will be better if-”
Hinarap niya ang kasintahan at tinitigan ito. “Stop telling me what’s better. I’d rather have the worst with you than all the best without. Hindi ako magiging masaya kapag hindi kita kasama. And I know that you feel the same. We are in this together, Gino.” buong diing sabi niya.
His tears flowed again saka dahan-dahan siyang binitiwan. “Do you have any idea about my illness, Mush?” anitong bakas sa mukha ang paghihirap na nasa dibdib. “I have a tumor inside my brain. If I go to surgery, I have 30% of survival. If I don’t go to surgery, I’ll have few months to live. Do you understand that? In either way, I could die! So I know what is better for both us. It is better that we say goodbye now.”
Ganoon na lang kalakas ang iling niya. She flinched at every word he said. Hindi pa rin maampat ang luha. “I know,” aniyang humihikbi. “But I’m not letting go of the chance to be happy with you just because you could die. No tumor can stop me from loving you. All I’m asking is for you stand up and fight for your life. Because I’m standing up for you and I am fighting for our life together. We aren’t giving up living just because of the possibility of dying. Because it is possible to survive too. So, I’m not saying goodbye, Gino. Dahil hindi kita kayang isuko. I’ll hold on to that thirty percent. Hindi ako bibitaw. I won’t give you up just like that!”
Mapait itong ngumiti. “You don’t know what you’re saying,” anitong umiling-iling. He was as if in so much pain he could breakdown. “If I ever survive the operation, there’s a huge possiblity that I will be paralyzed, I could lose my sight, all my senses, and lose my memory again. I won’t be the same Gino you knew. I will be a complete stranger, Mush. And I’ve seen how it could hurt. It is not the life I want you to have. So stop being stubborn and just leave!”
Tiningnan niya ang kasintahan ng matiim. She’s faking a strong upfront because she doesn’t want to lose him. But everytime he is asking her to leave tears her apart. Puno na ng hinanakit ang dibdib niya.
“You’re giving me up, just like that?” aniyang hindi naitago ang pait sa tinig. “I said yes to your marriage proposal. It meant I am looking forward to say ‘I do’ and I have no plan, not even a single thought of taking it back. I have decided Gino, I want to spend my whole life loving you,” aniya na dama ng puso ang bawat katagang binibitiwan. “If by chance you wake up and not remember me, I will remember all for you. I will remind you how much you love me and I know it won’t be that hard because you’ve always had me in your heart. The heart isn’t capable of forgetting. It only knows how to love. So even if you won’t remember me, I know you will love me still. And it is more than enough for me. If you lose your sight, I will be your eyes. If you won’t be the same, my love for you won’t change. I will be with you through all of this.”
“No, Mush…” anitong puno ng hinagpis ang mukha. “I don’t want you seeing me weak. I should be your knight in shining armor. I should be the one whom you can draw strength and not the other way around.”
“I don’t need a knight, Gino. I need you. Just you. All my life, all I needed was you. Have I told you that you are my answered prayer? I’ve prayed so hard for you to come back. And here you are. I’ve asked for you. So whatever comes along with you, handa kong harapin basta nandito ka lang sa tabi ko. Even if I get to live with you for only a second, I’d still grab that opportunity no matter what the consequences may be because I love you… through the good and the bad, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health… and even in life after death… nothing will be able to change how I feel for you. And I’m gonna fight for this love even if you’ve already given up on me.”
Bumuka ang labi nito pero walang anumang namutawi sa bibig. He looked at her with so much love and yet he is still holding himself back.
“I’m no damsel in distress,” pangungumbinsi niya. She tried not to sound desperate even when she already is. “Hindi mo ako kailangang iligtas. All your life, you’ve always loved me. I want to love you back, Gino. I haven’t shown you yet how much I love you. Please let me…” muling tumulo ang luha niya. “We only have a lifetime. I don’t want to waste it being away from you. So please, I’m begging you, let’s fight this together. If everything should come to worse, at least, we still have each other,” aniya na inilahad ang dalawang kamay. “C’mon Gino, let’s face this trial together. I know God won’t give us something we can’t handle. I trust Him more than ever now. I am deeply convinced that He wants me to be with you. So don’t just give up. Because we still have a lot to live for. We haven’t even started our plans yet.”
GINO’s heart felt like breaking. He wanted to reach for her. Pero nananaig sa puso ang kagustuhang huwag itong masaktan.
“I took the risk when I loved you. And I will face it all just to have you beside me,” dagdag nito. “If I was the one who is sick, would you let me go without a fight?”
Now, that is too much. He reached for her hands and placed them on his nape and hugged her tight. And for the first time in his life, he sobbed like a child in the arms of the woman he loves.
Before that day ended, Gino found hope and courage to battle for his life… for Mushroom.
RONALD REAGAN UCLA MEDICAL CENTER, August 22, 2010, 08:00 AM. Humugot si Gino ng malalim na hininga. After a tight hug from his Mom ang Mushroom, he was led by the nurse towards the holding area where his anesthesiologist and a nurse he had known before were there, asking some questions he had answered before.
“Afraid?” anang nurse na tila tinutudyo siya. That was what she asked before during his first operation.
“A little,” sagot niya. He isn’t afraid of dying. Eversince he was a child, he was prepared because he knew of a place called heaven where there will be no more suffering. But today is different. Because he wanted so much to live. He is afraid to leave Mushroom behind. He is afraid that when he dies and goes to heaven, he will still feel like dying when he sees Mushroom cry.
“It’s gonna be alright,” she smiled, giving him assurance and kindling his hope. “In no time, after we go inside the OR, you will be out, fixed.”
Muli siyang napahugot ng hininga at napahawak sa rosary bead na hawak. Last night, Mushroom prayed together with him… And they prayed the same thing… to have more time, to live together, to fulfill their promises for one another.
Lumipas ang ilang minuto, inilipat na siya sa operating room. All faces are familiar to him because they are the same faces who helped him extend his life before. Dr. Ledoux, his neurosurgeon winked. “Welcome aboard,” anito.
“Doc, can I have a request?”
“Requests are for dying patients, and you are not,” sagot nito.
“I know,” aniya. “I’m requesting now, in case I’m dying. If something goes wrong, can please let Mushroom in and say goodbye?”
Napaisip ito ng saglit. “Certainly,” pagkuwa’y sabi nito.
His anesthesiologist, Dr. Zanella, leaned over him and said, “This should make you feel good.” Saka niya naramdaman ang karayom na tumusok sa likuran niya. Sumigid ang sakit nang maramdaman niya ang pagdaloy ng likido papunta sa loob ng katawan niya. Then he felt warm, and then, he fell asleep.
MUSHROOM kept walking to and fro while Gino’s Mom was silently waiting. Parang mamatay siya sa sobrang kaba. Gino has been in the operating room for more than three hours. Every hour, may nurse na pumupunta sa kanila para i-update sila sa nangyayari.
Nagulat siya nang biglang hawakan ni Tita Donna ang kamay niya. “It will help you relax if we pray,” anito. Her tears were about to fall. Pero pinigilan niya. Then holding hands with Gino’s mom, they prayed… that Gino will survive.
Then something gripped her other hand. Nang dumilat siya, hindi niya napigilan ang paghulagpos ng luha. It’s her Mom and Dad. Napayakap siya agad sa mga ito. She can’t believe they are actually there. Pero bago pa man sila makapag-usap biglang bumukas ang pinto.
“Who’s Mushroom?” anang nurse. Mabilis siyang lumapit. “We need you inside.”
It happened so fast. From one moment she was holding her parents’ and Tita Donna’s hands, now she’s being led by the nurse inside the OR wearing a lab gown. Everyone was busy when she went in. Sinikap niyang huminga ng maayos. No one has to tell her what is going on.
“Hurry up! We’re losing him!”
“Charge to 200!” narinig niyang sigaw.
The paddles were pressed on to Gino’s chest. His body went up with the electric shock. But the line on the monitor went straight.
“Still no heartbeat!”
They charged it again. Still, no response. Parang tuod na nakatayo si Mushroom.
Oh, God, please no… Please let Gino live. Take my life instead. Just let him live… piping dalangin niya at dagling lumapit sa kasintahan at hinawakan ng mahigpit ang kamay nito.
“Beat for me, Gino. Please. Hindi ko kayang mawala ka. Hindi ko pa kayang bitawan ka… Please, fight for me…” aniyang pigil-pigil ang pag-iyak.
Saka lang niya namalayan na tumigil na silang lahat. Wala ng ibang naririnig kundi ang tunog galing sa monitor.
“You need to say goodbye,” anang doctor.
“Gino, you are not dying on me! You have to fight!” aniyang impit na napahagulhol.
God please, samo niya. Tila hindi niya makakayanan ang sakit na nararamdaman niya nang mga sandaling iyon.
Then suddenly, almost unrecognizably, she felt a movement from Gino’s finger.
“He’s back! We have a heartbeat!” sigaw ng nurse na nakatingin sa monitor.
Halos hindi makapaniwala ang lahat ng nandoon.
“God gave us another miracle. Okay, team, let’s close him up.” anang doktor. Mabilis na tumalima ang lahat. “Suction.”
Mushroom was then pulled out. She gave Gino a light squeeze.
Thank you, God… aniya kasabay pagpatak ng luha.
AFTER nine hours, Gino was transferred to the ICU. They successfully removed the tumor from his brain but he still needs to be monitored. The doctor could not explain how his heart suddenly stopped during the operation and how it started to beat again when they have given up reviving him.
Mushroom was relieved that Gino made it that day. And she felt so grateful that he is still alive. After one day, Gino hasn’t woke up yet. Bumadha ang takot sa dibdib ni Mushroom.
“Gino, wake up,” aniya. But he is still sleeping. Dr. Ledoux said it is normal for patients to be in coma after a brain surgery. Gino lost a lot of blood. They are checking on him every now and then. He told her the truth that it might take time for Gino to fully recover.
She accepted that. She will wait until Gino wakes up. She wants to be the first person he will see when he opens his eyes.
Another day passed… Mushroom waited… she hoped… until it became a week… Still, Gino hasn’t woke up yet.
SEPTEMBER 22, 2010, Mushroom took a deep breath as she went inside the room. It’s been a month and still, Gino shows no sign of recovery. Umuwi na ng Pilipinas ang mga magulang niya. Pinilit niyang magpahinga ang Tita Donna niya dahil tila nangangayayat na ito.
Everyday, she is hoping he will wake up. Hinaplos niya ang mukha ni Gino saka masuyong hinalikan ang labi nito. Everytime she does that she remembers how a kiss used to have a great part in every fairytale’s happily-ever-after. A true love’s kiss had the power to revive Sleeping Beauty in her deep slumber of a hundred year… it brought Snow White back to life… It turned the frog into a prince… And she is hoping that one day, Gino will be revived by her kiss… for along with each kiss, is a heartfelt prayer that soon, he will wake up and they will live happily together again.
“Don’t sleep too long, Gino,” aniya saka niyakap ito. “Because I am missing you so much already. Please, wake up.” aniya. Bago pa man siya mapabunghalit ng iyak, lumabas siya sa silid nito. Dumiretso siya sa chapel. She doesn’t want him to hear her crying. As much as possible, she wants him to feel everything is alright because she wants him to wake up with a smile. Kahit kinakain ng takot ang dibdib niya, pinilit niyang magpakatatag. She is so afraid that Gino won’t be able to wake up. She is so afraid that this is all that they have. Every new day she is grateful she is with Gino. But seeing him unable to move, unable to do anything, is gently breaking her apart. She knew that Gino is suffering. And she can’t do anything of all the pain he is going through.
Napatingin siya sa crucifix sa may altar.
“I believe that You could heal him. Because You love us all You even gave Your life for us… Please, Jesus Christ, give Gino a chance to live again. Give him back his life… In the name of Thy love and mercy, I beg You, please grant my plea…” aniya sa pagitan ng paghikbi. She stayed there for several minutes until all her pains, her hopes, her fears she had let out to Him. Then when she pulled herself together, she went back to Gino’ s room.
She searched for her facial tissues when she caught glimpse of a piece of paper. Naalala niyang bigay iyon ng isang batang pasyenteng nakasalubong niya kahapon. Pinahid muna niya ang luha bago hinalikan ang kasintahan.
“Guess what I’ve found? A poem,” aniyang pinasaya ang tinig. She always tells him everything that happened in a day. Because she knew he is listening. “A little girl named Erika gave this to me yesterday. She said someone who loves her gave it to her. And she wants me to read this to you,” kuwento niya. Then she read it to him.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by ROBERT FROST
She smiled after she read the poem. It’s beautiful…
“You still have miles to go before you sleep,” aniya kay Gino. “and promises to keep. Keep going, Gino. I will will be right here waiting for you until you arrive. I will be just here…” She held his hands… and for a second, she felt a gentle movement from his hand.
Password protected po ang last chapter. Dito n’yo pa rin po mababasa. Pasensiya na po, SOP lang ^o^
For the password: Ano ang pangalan ng alagang pusa ni Gino at Mushroom? Answer: _n__h__e
Clue: It’s an eight-letter word which is also a name of a famous fairytale character na may seven dwarfs. It starts with a capital letter! 🙂 pag di nyo pa rin na-gets pm n’yo ako firstname.lastname@example.org. 🙂 Isa pang clue, sa Chapter 11, andoon siya.
Don’t post the answer as comment kasi bawal po… Yun lang 🙂
Thank you po sa patuloy na pagbabasa at sa walang sawang pagbibigay ng komento. I love you all!!!