My eyes watered. My hands were shaking. I felt butterflies in my stomach. You were seated on the plastic chair, head bowed toward the ground and rubbing the palm of your hand on your lap. As I put my last piece of clothing in my bag and closed it, you looked up. Our eyes met, but neither one of us utter a word. I am not sure how I feel leaving you, mother, brother, and my three year old daughter.
You hugged me, so tightly that my muscles felt a pinch. You combed my hair with your fingertips and rubbed my back saying, “Be careful, my child. I love you.” I let go, grabbed my bag and walked away without saying anything to you. I stepped into the minivan that will take me to the airport. With a heavy heart, I watched you standing there waving as tears fell from your cheeks. I imagined my family without me as the driver took off.
My heart was pounding so hard, I thought my chest would burst. In an air-conditioned airport, perspiration dripped down my spine, my forehead, my nose, my lips. Reality was kicking in. I was leaving my home country, my family, my friends, my culture, for a different life. A brighter future.
It is a beautiful city. Big, tall buildings. Clean streets. At night, you feel safe walking outside by yourself as the roads are lit. As far as I know, it is the safest place I have ever been to. Singapore is a place where dreams can come true.
After three years of being away, homesickness was not an issue. I was able to talk to my parents, my brother, and my daughter weekly.
It was a Sunday night. Something was off. At a restaurant where I was having dinner, I kept seeing my father’s image whenever I turned to look at the waiter. I remember his brown eyes staring at me and smiling, nodding as if he was saying, “Hello, my child.” His hair combed back. His wrinkles and gray hair. My heart was happy then, seeing my father’s face on someone else’s. But whenever I blinked, my father’s face faded. I brushed it off as my imagination.
At three that night, my phone rang. I was startled. I picked up my phone as I rubbed the sleep off my eyes. It was my mother, her voice lower and hoarser than usual. She shouted, “You need to come home now!”
I asked why.
She simply repeated, “Come home now.”
Angry and frustrated, I asked again. “Tell me why.”
“It’s Papa. He was in an accident. You need to come home now.”
She started crying.
I was confused. “What happened to Papa?!”
I was getting emotional now.
“Papa is gone. You need to come home now!”
I started crying. Tears streamed down my face as my nose dripped. I held my phone to my ear even though I had hung up. I kicked my covers and myself. Finally letting the phone go, I grabbed my pillow. I buried my face in it and sobbed for a long time. Before I knew it, my alarm clock started ringing.
I rose from my bed and washed off the tears from my face. I tried to pretend that everything was fine, but I could not help my tears from flowing. My employer approached me and asked me what had happened. I told her about my father and said, “I want to go home.”
Never would I have thought that I would return home without Papa to greet me. I will no longer hear his stories about my childhood. His hands will not be there for me to hold anymore.
My Papa is in a casket, lying peacefully while the rest of my family mourns for him.
I ask myself, “Why my Papa? Why so soon? Was it a punishment for the mistakes I have made in the past? Why? Why? Why? What is going to happen to my family? How is mother going to get through this without me by her side?”
The biggest question is, what am I going to do now that I do not have him around anymore?
Mary Grace Borjal