It was the middle of summer. The kind of days when the gust of wind produces burn on your skin creating tan lines on your back that testifies your midsummer’s goings-on. And these are the times of the year that I have to stay with Tatay and Nanay. That is how we, their apos, call them. I have to endure an exhilarating seven-hour travel time to be with them. But to understand how long a dreary, mind-numbing seven hours of sitting in a public bus is, you have to be familiar with the law of relativity. Calculating that using Einstein’s way ~that seven hours is equivalent to my three days worth of time.
Like any other story, I was able to bear the boredom of the seven-hour trip. I arrived just in time before sunset. Our house is located wherein you will see the setting sun in between mountains. And every day, some minutes before night awakens, when I look out the window, I observed that each sunset of every summer is differently crafted by the universe. And every drama of each sunset I dreamt of seeing is right in front of me. Sunset reminds me of the coming death of life. This thought keeps hunting me. It whimpers in my ear that every day there ‘is’ this one sun that has to be buried. And it’s like a gunman shot me at point blank range with the idea of: SOONER OR LATER, I WILL DIE.
It has always been summer that I get the chance to be with Tatay and Nanay. That’s the only time of the year when all them cousins, coming from different region and countries, reunite and bond and visit the beaches of La Union. This is the time of the year when I burn my skin. I will be darker and I will hate myself that I spent another summer in the province.
I bid my respect to gramps. Went straight to one of the rooms, unpacked my bags. Then and there, I saw a pair of brown shoes. It’s Tatay’s I assume.
I jokingly said that I want the shoes. Tatay said that I can’t have those. I reiterated that I really want them. Tatay didn’t answer. This gives me the urge to want the shoes more although it’s not my type and I know that I won’t wear it if I go back to the city. I just want the shoes because I want to tease Tatay and give him one more reason why he needs to drink his hypertension medicine. It is just for fun and, at the same time, to grasp the opportunity of making special memories with Tatay.
The pestering goes on for days. I would wear the shoes and when Tatay saw me putting on them, he’ll get mad and would remind me in an irritated tone that I can’t have them. This continued until summer was over. I then had to return back to the city.
The next summer, we celebrated the grand reunion. My uncles and aunties together with my parents wanted to have this before it’s too late. Tatay and Nanay are not getting any younger. That same summer, I saw the shoes again. It was still new and barely used. I didn’t care at all, because at that moment, I am looking at the sunset. It was lovely and nostalgic at the same time. Yes, at the same time.
That was the last summer.
Because months later, a different reunion is to be commemorated. My family is to celebrate a bittersweet gathering ~Tatay’s funeral. My uncle called each one of the apo and asked one thing: “Is there a will or a wish that Tatay told you before his passing?” This is one of the hardest questions that have been asked to me not because I do not know the answer but because it only means one thing. Tatay is already gone. My cousin told my Uncle that Tatay wants to wear the brown shoes when he died.
The same brown shoes that I am pestering Tatay a year ago. Now it makes sense. That shoe was given to him by my uncle. And up until the last moment, Tatay wanted to wear the things that were given to him by his loved ones. I knew it, Tatay wants to bring with him in the afterlife his happy memories. Memories of which will map his way to the heavens.
I still think of sunset as a coming death of man, and Tatay had a stunning sunset of his life. But the thought of deaths and sunsets no longer creep me out. I am going to die, I know, but I will collect as many happy memories I could collect.
And I will watch as many sunsets I could watch..