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A letter

I once found a letter in our mailbox that was addressed to nobody I knew. The address on the envelope was ours, but the name was a stranger, so short of going house to house in our neighborhood and asking for somebody by that name, I didn't know how else to help the letter find its way.

It sat on a bookshelf for weeks before I decided to open it. Maybe it contains a clue on the person's identity, I reasoned to myself, as I opened the envelope carefully so I could still seal it again.

It didn't. It was an apologetic love letter, from someone who hadn't communicated in a long time, a ghost before ghosting had become a phenomenon people would write and tell stories about.

I haven't forgotten you, the letter said in Filipino, and I am sorry if you think I have. Do you still live in this address? Please let me know. It was signed with love, sent from foreign waters with no specific return address.

For a few seconds, I felt like I had been handed an important mission by the Universe: to bridge a couple's eternal love.

Then a few seconds after that, I put the letter down. If he really loves her, he will have to find his way.


On growing up without water


A few afternoons ago, I struck up a conversation with a woman who was waiting her turn at the couturier. The dogs--the shop was also a home--had gotten bored with me and had left to sleep under the remains of the sun, and since I was there only to keep my mother company, I decided to talk to the woman while my mother and the couturier settled on a design for her mother-of-the-groom gown.

It turned out that the woman and I lived in the same subdivision, and after I shared with her some of my concerns about cleanliness and security in our neighborhood, she suggested that I run for our street council.

I smiled and said I would consider it, but to be honest, my first reaction was: Let the adults handle it. 

Then, I remembered that childhood was a million years ago. I have been, for many years now, a person younger people turn to in a room.

***

I've been reminded of my childhood a lot lately. It's almost funny what the triggers are, if they weren't actually tragic. Like the water crisis experienced by some parts of the city recently, for example.

Water shortage was very much part of my growing up years. I think I was already in college when our area finally got reliable water supply--and by reliable, I don't mean 24/7. More like 12/7.

For years, on the days we had any supply at all, water just flowed out of a single faucet in our house, the one outdoors and closest to the main line, because water pressure was that low.

For much of the 1980s, we'd save water in pitchers and jugs for drinking and pails and metal drums for everything else during the hours that it was flowing. Bathing or doing any other business in the bathroom often entailed fetching a pail of water outside.

When we were younger, we had helpers who did that for us, but when we were older, we had to manage by ourselves. Imagine doing that daily, for three children and an adult, before the school bus came to pick us up at six o'clock.

Eventually, my father engineered a makeshift water storage system in our backyard that made it easier to collect water. It still didn't go inside the house, but at least we had sufficient supply, even if sometimes the water wasn't very clean and the metals drums were soon encrusted in rust.

A few years later, we had a booster pump and a proper water tank installed, and finally water ran inside the house again. The first time water flowed through the dry pipes, it came out dark brown with rust and dirt accumulated through the years.

I still remember how the bathroom came alive with this brown water, the toilet bowl's water closet hissing and gurgling and the shower head coming out of early retirement with a spurt and a splatter and finally with a rain of what first looked liked mud and eventually was water, glorious clean water.

To this day, I feel grateful I get to wash the dishes and take a long shower.

***

While looking at recent pictures of people desperately lining up with their buckets for water from different sources, including  a condominium pool, I felt some of the trauma of extended periods what was essentially drought resurfacing.

Where are the adults in the room? I found myself asking, before I remembered childhood was a million years ago.

Adult learning


"The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell." This, I remember from high school biology too many years ago, a sentence that resurfaces every now and then like debris from a long-ago plane crash in the pacific ocean of my brain.

It's a memory that is not entirely useless, and now it is telling me how to live. I held it up closely today, reading about programmed cell death--a healthy and necessary cellular suicide that allows fingers and toes to form themselves, among others, but not cancer. Some cells are supposed to die.

I didn't understand at fourteen that death is programmed in the body in the same place that gives it life. I know this, because if I had, maybe I wouldn't have fought too hard to keep all the things alive long enough for many of them to go bad. I had to learn it the long way: you have to let some things die.