I first met her before she went back to the sky.
We paid a visit to my Lola Aba in the hospital. She was admitted to St. Lourdes in Manila because she suffered a stroke. While waiting for her test results to come back, she recuperated in a room that smelled of alcohol, steel, fruits, and biscuits. In the family, me and my Tita were the only ones who could be with Lola during that time. They were all busy but us.
On the bed, Lola Aba held a rosary. Her lips barely moved but she knew the prayers by heart. Oftentimes, I would see her staring out the window, her face bathed in the moon’s cold light. She did this on a routine as if one day the moon will be outside her window asking her to walk towards it. But it had other plans.
At 12 am, my tita and I woke up to the smell of feces. Lola Aba was looking at us both. Her diaper needed a change. Tita reached for a button on the headboard and the light above it turned red. Two nurses came in. They turned Lola Aba on her side and pulled up her hospital gown. They peeled off the diaper on one side, it came off with a crack of the glue.
Family members said Lola Aba was born under the New Moon. When she drew her first breath, the sky had nothing but the stars in it. They said that particular phase marked the reflection of past goals and the transition to new beginnings after the culmination of the Full Moon.
When I was small, I would always run away and hide if I got upset. I hid in so many places – inside wardrobes, beneath beds, behind doors, and even under the stairs. I frequently passed out in these dark places only to be awakened by Lola Aba asking me to come out. She would hold my hand until I wasn’t upset anymore.
The smell that broke out of the opened diaper drove me out. The hallways were lit with yellow bulbs resembling the sun on a string. It was a quiet midnight, and the vibration of air-conditioners was the only noise. I walked to the farthest end of the hallway and found a window. There were grills welded outside of it, but I could see nothing. Not even a single star.
This was the same shade of hair I saw beneath my feet, and it trailed all the way to the other end of the hallway where another window could be found. The hair belonged to a figure of a woman. There was a pale glow coming from her. I approached her. Her one eye illuminated her face.
“He-Hello?” I said.
“Go back to your lola.” she said.
“Why?” I asked. “I can’t help, I’m not an adult.”
“It shouldn’t stop you,” she said. “Here.”
She opened her only eye and it popped out of her head. It floated on her palm and turned into the moon. She passed it onto my hand, and it dropped into my skin like a golf ball diving into water. The woman’s face became completely shrouded by the dark.
“What is this?” I asked, staring at my palm to find where it went.
“A gift,” she said. “You’ll need it soon.”
“Don’t you need it to see?” I asked.
“The doctors couldn’t find a cure,” she said. “I accepted it.”
“Accepted what?” I asked.
“You’ll understand soon,” she said. “Goodbye.” She passed through the window and the steel bars. Her hair beneath my feet faded into the floor.
In Lola Aba’s room, the smell of alcohol and disinfectant became stronger. Tita tucked Lola Aba back in the bed, making sure her spine was not in a lot of stress. Lola Aba was looking at me. I said good night and kissed her on the forehead. I laid down on the small couch at the corner of the room and closed my eyes.
In the morning, the doctor stood beside Lola Aba’s bed. The nurses were there too. Tita was crying. They covered Lola Aba with a blanket and wheeled her into the hallway.
I choked back a cry.
Beside me, Lola Aba squeezed my hand. She kissed my forehead, and we exited the room.
Julienne Maui C. Mangawang
Julienne Maui Castelo Mangawang finished BA Asian Studies at the University of Santo Tomas. She is taking up her MA in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines — Diliman. She loves gardening, dogs, and esotericism. Email Maui at: firstname.lastname@example.org.