Tuesday, November 02, 2004

chapter 1, part 3

Beatrice nervously wrung her hands as she sat on the couch, her eyes drawn to the yin-and-yang symbol on the crystal tray in the center of the coffee table, a tray that was also filled with pebbles of assorted shapes, some sand, some twigs.

She found herself wondering why she could not find any books on the bookshelves, only stacks of magazines and journals -- medical, scientific, metaphysical, philosophical, psychiatric, psychological. Framed photographs also littered the bookshelves, pictures of happy children, smiling couples, healthy men and women, young and old, beautiful and ugly, strangers to her all. No, not all. She recognized the photos of Sarah -- she saw one were she was dressed in a toga; another posing with her nieces, perhaps; still another of strange poignancy, her eyes closed and her lips forming a sad little half-smile.

Beatrice looked at her watch. It was 10 minutes after 1. Sarah was late. It was their first session. She hated waiting.

The room was in an old building in the Kingdom of the Jesuits, where the students were taught that they must give something back to the society that nurtured them. Beatrice had to admit to herself that when she was younger and had enough energy to muster hate, she had seethed with passion against the children of the Jesuits, those whom she had once dismissed as self-righteous fools who did not know the real lives that ordinary people led.

She had studied on the other side of the great divide that was Katipunan, where the Republic of the Proletariat was supposed to fan the flames of the revolution and bring forth a paradise on earth for everyone, not just the privileged few, such as the pampered sons and daughters of the aristos and bourgeoisie that inhabited the hated kingdom. In turn, many of the bluebloods of that time had dismissed the noisy, long-haired marchers as idealists hopelessly out of touch with the real world, spending all their time criticizing and complaining without actually taking steps to improve the lot of their fellow man. Some even suspected that the revolutionaries wanted the poor to be with us always, for what would be left for them to do if they had no more cause to fight for, no more inequities to be indignant over, no more victims for whom to seek justice.

The door opened and Sarah burst inside the room, a bundle of nerves.

"Omigod, I’m really sorry but I had this lecture and it started late. I was going to text you but I’m low-batt. Here, wait, I’ll plug it first. Sorry ha, nakakahiya. It’s our first meeting pa naman."

Beatrice smiled. "It’s okay, I don’t mind. I was just looking at the pictures."

"Ang pangit ko, ano," Sarah said with a hearty laugh. She took the photo that showed her with her eyes closed, made a face and placed it face down on the bookshelf. "Papikit-pikit pa habang kinukunan ng camera man."

"I like that picture, actually. I think it’s such an artistic shot."

"Naku, maarte ang sabihin mo. But enough about me. How about you? Did you have a hard time getting here?"

"No, nahanap ko naman agad. This is a nice clinic you have here."

"Thanks. Ilang buwan pa lang. The university is leasing the rooms in this building to non-members of the community like me." Sarah took out a form from her folder and handed it to Beatrice. "Here, kindly fill this out. Standard stuff, you know. Then we can start talking about your concerns."

Even when she was a child, Beatrice hated official forms. She could not really say why. While others simply wrote down the information and thought little of it, Beatrice would find herself fixating on one blank line or another. What was her name? Why did her parents choose that name? Why was she always checking to make sure she put down the right numbers for her address, and the right numbers for their telephone?

And when she was older, she would wonder, how many brothers did she have? Should she tell them about her half-brothers? Should she tell them that her mother was no longer living with her father? What was she going to put as her father’s occupation? She would die of embarrassment if she admitted that during the time, while she was in college and wondering about her place in the scheme of things, he was unemployed. It always seemed to Beatrice that she had to fill in too many blanks.

"Are you all right? Is everything okay?"

Beatrice was startled out of her reverie. She gave a sheepish smile as she realized she had been staring at the form, her pen still poised in mid-action.

"I’m really sorry, Doctora Mendoza."

Sarah smiled. "It’s all right. Please just call me Sarah. Would you like to talk first? We can just take care of that form later or some other time."

Beatrice nodded gratefully. "I don’t know what happened. I… I just couldn’t write."

"Okay lang ‘yun. I know we already talked about it a bit over the phone, but why don’t you tell me again why you want to get counseling."

"I’m not really sure. I guess I just don’t know what else to do, or who else to turn to," Beatrice said, rubbing her palms and then running her right hand through her hair. "Some days, I just feel paralyzed. That I don’t want to do anything. That I can’t do anything. I literally can’t."

"How often does this happen?"

"I don’t know. Maybe three or four times a week. At least before. Lately I think it’s getting worse. Like a few hours everyday. The same thing happened a few months ago. I would feel depressed for days on end. I’d have to convince myself to do anything."

Sarah leaned forward. "Do you have trouble sleeping at night?"

"I’ve always been an insomniac. It’s nothing new, really."

"And have you been experiencing bad dreams?"

"Bad dreams? No, no nightmares. Most of the time I don’t even remember when I wake up. Sometimes I think I don’t dream at all, most nights, anyway."

"You mean you don’t remember?"

"No, I mean, I don’t. Something happened to me a long time ago, and I’ve never really slept since."

Beatrice shivered and folded her arms, looking intently at Sarah.

"They said I slept for seven years, Sarah. They said they couldn’t wake me up, that they thought I was in a coma and that I would never wake up again. But I was awake all the time. I saw them. I tried to make them see me, tried to make them hear, tried to make them feel. After I woke up, they said that these must have been dreams. I don’t know. Maybe they were. But I know that it was real, and that somehow the world changed. Or maybe I had changed."

Beatrice laughed. "You think I’m crazy, don’t you? I know… sometimes, I think that myself. I don’t really know what happened. Hindi ko alam."

Sarah cleared her throat. "And it was after this that your depression began?"

"No. I think it’s always been with me. I can’t blame that on… whatever happened. But I guess it happens more often now."

Sarah stood up and walked toward the window, staring at the trees. Then she sighed, turned around and sat down again.

"I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I was just wondering…" Sarah began.

"It’s okay. I don’t mind. It’s natural."

"You say you slept for seven years. That’s a truly remarkable story, and I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you and how much of a burden you must be carrying. But I’ve never heard of your case, never read it in the newspapers or saw it on the news. I mean, please don’t get me wrong, but surely something that remarkable should have made the news?"

Beatrice nodded and gave a sad smile.

"I told you, Doctora. The world changed."