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People have come to view life in stages: infant, toddler, childhood, adolescent, teenager, adult, senior citizen. In reality, it’s more like pre-innocence, post-innocence, and post-maturity. The time in which change happens has been less definitive in recent years. The brink of turning into a teenager can be said as the point of changing innocence. For me, I lost my youthful innocence at the age of 7, the day my father passed away.
The littlest of things can shape your view of an event in years to come. Life may seem perfect, but it’s in those moments that everything from you is taken. You have to be vigilant in everything you do because at any moment, everything might end. As such, everything was perfect ten years ago until October 9, 2001.
I hated Tuesdays. It was an uphill climb and barely the start of the week and still far from the respite a weekend would give. From the moment I woke up, it was already a bad day simply because of its name. And when a bad day happened for me, it meant one thing; I was going to be a brat. I gave my dad attitude. What made things worse was that my brother got to stay home. He got his weekend early.
Living in Philippines, things were different than in the United States. Classes were longer. In this case, it was a full eight hours. So for the rest of the day, I expected a full mind-numbing torture system that beat at my aching brain.
The morning was a slow process. I ate, showered, and dressed like routine, sluggish. My mind worked sluggishly, especially at 5:45 in the morning. I thought about how everything would just be that much longer. A full eight hours of school from 7am-3pm. My body ran on auto-pilot, not noticing what was going on, just wanting to get through the dreadful Tuesday.
I was brought back to reality in the car. It was such a beautiful day outside with the bright, vibrant sun hanging in the sky with a crown of fluffy clouds around it. Perfection in an imperfect day. I left the sight of the sun and rode behind my mother, who sat next to my dad, the driver. I saw the empty space where my brother should have been, feeling the torture I felt. I sighed.
“Did you say your morning prayer yet?” my mother’s words brought me out of my reverie.
“Yes, Ma, I did.” I was such a liar. It came naturally, like breathing. It was a talent too. I could make it believable. Why would I say my morning prayer? I was lazy and I had better things to do, namely looking outside the car and watching the houses blur past me in a rainbow of color. Red houses, blue roofs, green lawns, it was wonderful. My school in itself had a forest green colored gate. But when I saw those, it meant the ride was over.
My parents looked to the back of the car, at me, expectantly. I knew the routine. Kiss my parents good-bye. I still had the attitude from the morning, so I only kissed my mom.
I was about to open the door when I heard, “Aren’t you gonna kiss me too?”
Exasperated, and in a hurry to just get out, I hurriedly kissed my father on the cheek. Leaving the car, one of my friends greeted me. He wasn’t a friend, really, more like an annoying classmate. He babbled about something, and my dad had yet to pull out, so I just stared at my reflection at the back window of the vehicle. I saw my long, black, sleek hair pulled up in a bun, my drab uniform, and my very sour expression.
Wanting the boy to shut up, I did the logical thing, and elbowed him in the gut.
My mom saw and her face showed how she was taken aback. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was agape. “Enya!” she scolded.
Next to her, my dad chuckled. “Don’t worry about her. She’s just spunky.” Spunky, that’s the last thing he called me.
The boy next to me left some time ago. Being hit in the gut tends to make one move away from the attacker. My parents finally left, and I was free to go inside the school gates. Finally. My mind wandered to comic books. Spiderman in particular. I hated spiders, but I liked Spiderma—
My head turned, not fully through the gate, I saw the pearly white car of my dad stop in the middle of the street. Everything and everyone stopped. I heard the distinct sound of my dad cussing. I stood frozen on spot. A clear hole went through the pane of the glass with a web of cracks around it. Still, my young mind couldn’t quite comprehend or put together the pieces of the scene unfolding.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Strangely, I couldn’t hear my mom, but my dad sat clear in sight from the still open front window from where he peaked though and called me spunky not ten minutes earlier. The red of his blood contrasted the clean whiteness of the car. Everything was red, so red. Who knew someone had so much blood inside of them?
Nine shots? Ten shots? A lot of shots afterwards, the noise stopped. I didn’t see what happened to the shooter, just my dad. My eyes could only be trained to him. Someone opened the driver side door and his arm dropped to the side, the arm that so many times hugged me, carried me, cared for me.
I turned and went through the gate inside the school. Did I cry? No. I wasn’t a big crier, even then. The open window classrooms, which can be seen through the pavilion, had students who were all rushed inside by their alert and quite scared teachers.
Another bad thing about living in Philippines is that in any case in the United States, if there was ever a shooting outside school, it’s guaranteed that classes would be cancelled. Philippines was just different. The school didn’t seem to care enough to shut itself down for the day.
I still couldn’t process what was going on. Still, I pushed it away from my mind and ignored the incessant words that would tell me exactly what had happened.
My classroom was in a separate area upstairs where they have yet to know what took place just outside the school. I didn’t say anything. The next eight hours were a drone again. After hours, I did not think about what happened. I focused on the classes in front of me and thought nothing astray from the subject. The nagging in my head intensified though as I saw some time in the day, my mother running inside the principal’s office.
Must have imagined it
School ended, and the principal herself showed her presence in front of me and my class, and declared, “Enya, I will be taking you home today.” Never have I heard or seen a principal take a student home. From those cheesy safety movies, I knew that I shouldn’t go inside just anyone’s car. But instinctively, I felt and knew I had to.
I walked down the steps and felt a sort-of shame wash over me. The hallways were long and gray. The principal didn’t speak the whole way to the school garage where it was so dark, I couldn’t see.
Silently, I went inside the car and finally, the principal broke the silence. “You know, my mom died when I was 13 from cancer.--” The rest of her words flew right by my mind. Did I really listen? No.
Why was she talking about this?
I nodded, like the polite student I was, and looked out the window. The houses, gray, black, brown, white, went by like tick marks, one house closer to my destination, home.
Despite the afternoon sun, the windows reflected no light up the stairs and throughout my house. I entered the room my brother and I shared. The curtains were drawn inside and my brother slept peacefully from his bed, snoring lightly. After checking up on him, I went to the master bedroom to watch some cartoons.
I noticed my mom wasn’t home, but I didn’t acknowledge anything until later on. In her place was my grandfather, who was very distracted. He didn’t seem interested in my explanation of the cartoons I was watching—Dexter’s Laboratory. I chose not to acknowledge the fact that my grandfather only visits on holiday and never on a regular day.
Happy for something else to be filling my mind instead of what I really should be thinking about, I hear the bedroom door open and my mom step in. She was in tears. Her face was drenched in them. Her sobs took in gulps of air, and she could barely get any words across from the excessive weeping.
“Ca-Can yo-you p-p-please g-go—“
It took me a while to understand what she said to me through the hiccups. Eventually, I figured she wanted me to go to my brother’s and my bedroom. I looked behind me and saw my grandfather look at me with a somber expression. I swore I heard the funeral march in that moment.
I knew the words my mother would be speaking. It was worse for my brother to be woken up by the message that would bring this house into chaos. She got a hold of her voice to form this one sentence. As she had me sit next to my brother, I had no way of warning my brother to brace himself for what he was about to hear, no way at all.
“Your father is dead.”
I looked down and there was a tear on my lap.
The littlest of things can shape your view of an event in years to come. I remember my dad calling me spunky. I remember how I was mad at my father that day. I remember the houses as they passed through or the color of the sky above. I remembered all the names of the people who I associated with during the time. I remember how I blamed myself that he died because God was angry at me for not praying that morning or how I lied, still lie today.
I hardly think about the perfect, innocent bubble I lived in before I was seven. But I do think about the moment my dad died every day. It was the first of a series of events that would shape me today. But nothing could take away the moment when I opened my eyes to the world I lived in.