Bobby was halfway through when his mom came down the stairs adjusting an earring. He was engaged in the breakfast counter surrounded by turkey slices, mayonnaise, fresh tomatoes and lettuce.
Mrs. Duke smiled, ruffled her 7-year-old son’s hair. “You’re making three-pile sandwiches? My, aren’t you the growing boy.”
Bobby was spreading splotches of mayonnaise thoroughly on the bread. “It’s not just for me,” he replied. “Mom, do we have any flowers?”
In an amused trot, Mrs. Duke almost hop-skipped to the garden to pick one of her lovely daisies. She felt a strangely charming sense of elation.
Bobby put the sandwiches neatly inside his X-men cartoon lunchbox and tossed the flower unceremoniously with them. He informed his mom that he was ready to go.
Mrs. Duke was whistling all the way to the day care center. She kissed her son goodbye, waved to the teachers and stuck around to see her son approach a girl in the schoolyard and hand her the flower. Smiling, Mrs. Duke drove to work.
As soon as Bobby realized his mom had left, he went over to Noah and opened his lunchbox. “I made them for you. Three layers, just the way you like it.”
50 years old. And a single mom.
Chinese parents, can’t help that. It didn’t make things easier that the only man I ever loved was a Filipino, and the son of a roadside eatery owner, no less.
In hindsight, I guess I punished my parents for driving him away, for making me do it. See, I didn’t marry, and had gotten pregnant with a lovely daughter whom I raised very differently from the way I’d been – the extraordinary testament of my successful rebellion.
But now, golden and wrinkly, I realized I may have punished nobody but myself.
Two days after my party, I received a surprise: a card from Paulo, my only love, wishing me well. However, he included a family photo snapped from a fishing weekend with his wife and their twin boys. A portrait of true joy. I fumed, naturally. How dare he slap this on me now. It was inexcusable!
Then I noticed the necklace he was wearing. I had given it to him some 30 years ago. Then the message hit me. I looked at the photo again. Strangely, it wasn’t as menacing as before. And a little piece of jewelry had made all the difference.
Death is a much greater loss for those left behind. This said, people shouldn’t dwell on the tragic death of Officer Jerrique Lee, 28, a local hero in the small town of Fortuna. He was shot and killed in a shootout in Blackline Road, where he and his partner apprehended three drug dealers fleeing in an escape vehicle. One of the perpetrators got him on his right cheek.
You see, unlike the living, he would never succumb to the dreariness of an uncertain future or stumble on any corrupt act that would tarnish his heroism. He was denied a future that at best possessed a questionable outcome. His heroic legacy, however, will go on living.
Beyond that, he would continue to swirl in the desolate dreams of award-winning author Nathaniel del Mar, ever-driven in his quest for closure that is now unattainable.
What if Jerrique hadn’t been frustrated over some “silly preference” that would inevitably come between him and his vocation? What if the tall, muscular police officer had just been as brave as the lanky, bespectacled author? These scenarios will endure in Nathaniel’s fantasies. Unlike his hope, only the fantasies have survived the fatal bullet that killed his beloved.
“Would you like to grab forty winks before you go?”
“I got three classes in the morning.”
“That doesn’t really answer my question.”
“Yes? Stop staring.”
“How do you feel about the name Hyacinthus?”
“I’m serious, stop laughing.”
“OK… It depends, I guess.”
“How do you feel about the name Apollo?”
“I love it.”
“What are you doing?”
"Nothing criminal, I’ll tell you that.”
“Oh I beg to defy that. Yes, surely… I-I do.”
“Why don’t you stop me, then?”
More movement. A long and wordless silence.
“But how does this work? I’ve never… What of tomorrow?”
“What of now? I can’t believe you’re worried while I’m su… Can we worry about this later?”
Another silence. The quietness of despair. Surrender. Inner struggle and final submission. More movement. Hungry and frantic. Wordless race to the summit of forbiddance and bliss. Then gratification. Catching one’s breath after the fall. Basking in its afterglow.
“What did we do? God, what are we?”
“Neither killers nor thieves, I’ll tell you that.”
Uncertain eyes. Desolate stares.
“Hey, listen to me. We’re both in this. Let’s not pretend nothing happened.”
Release. Succumb. This is life.
“OK. Let’s not.”