Circa 2014

“Where exactly are you?” I asked as I entered the gates of Philippine General Hospital. “I’m on my way down, see you.” Click. Richard’s voice didn’t have any emotion, not his usual self. That day was his wife’s operation, she was diagnosed with stage two ovarian cancer. His wife called me up days earlier, she needed someone to check on her husband while she’s in the operating room. The only family member in Manila was busy taking care of their 5 year old son at home. Despite the bad news, they were looking forward to the possibility of being cancer free after chemotherapy since she still has her left ovary after the operation.

As I walked closer to the main building, I felt a bit uneasy. I never really liked going to hospitals, it always leave me uneasy. Random strangers were walking to and from the hospital, the mix of energies emanating from every direction was enough to make me feel light headed. I clutched the paper bag I was carrying, as I scanned the area. And there he was, standing the steps of the building waiting for me. A faint smile, obviously tired and fighting back tears, he hugged me tight instead of usual greetings. Marilyn was already inside the operating room for an hour. “Have you eaten anything?” I asked. He shrugged, and I handed him the paper bag. Let’s go to the parking lot so you can eat. I knew he was worried and didn’t really feel like it, but I had to force him. We’ve been friends for almost a decade, I knew how he deals with situations like this.

I was stalling. I didn’t really want to go inside the hospital. I was already feeling all sorts of woozy at the parking lot. “Shit…” I murmured… imprints in the compound. I know I just have to be prepared once I walk into the main building. Richard heard me as I lowered my head on the ground. “Do you see something right now?” I stood up and gave him a wink, ” I can handle this, don’t worry. Let’s go back to your wife.”

My feet were heavy as I pass by the security guard inspecting my bag, air was heavier. I followed Richard go up the stairs, all the way to the operating room. It was a bit of a walk to be honest, until I saw two nurses limping ahead of me. “Here it goes…” I mumbled, as the nurses turned right opposite the stairs. They weren’t wearing the usual nurse uniforms we see nowadays, it was a bit odd. Both them in white uniform, one with a collar and buttons in front, the other uniform looked like a round neck one with no buttons. Both uniforms looked like one whole dress with a band around the waist… with blood splattered on their skirts, running down their stockings and shoes.

My head was throbbing as we reached the operating room to check on Richard’s wife. I could hear sounds similar to water flowing inside my ear, and I know what was coming next. I tried to ignore faint voices telling me “no more babies”, “They will take everything out” or imprints in the building as if playing on a loop. Finally, the doctor came out the operating room. She told us they need to take out her uterus instead of just her right ovary, everything had spread inside. “Miss, You need to bring your friend downstairs. This will take a few more hours, get some sleep for the mean time. Miss? Miss?” the doctor was looking at me, trying to get my attention. Richard nudged me,  “hey, you OK? Let’s get a cup of coffee before she comes out of the OR. What the hell are you looking at?!” Richard’s eyes followed where my I was looking. Just behind the swinging door and the doctor, were old people sitting in their chairs just looking down at the floor. I frowned, “I’m sorry, I though no one is supposed to be inside the OR… what are they doing there?” Richard and the doctor looked at me funny, “miss, you see someone behind me?” Richard realized I was seeing something else, “sorry doc, everyone’s tired. We’ll just wait downstairs. Thanks!”

Silence. 

We sat down on the stairs for a minute, Richard trying to process what the doctor said… and me, watching a severed head roll in front of us like a ball.

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