To Die For
If you have a month left to live, what will you do?
I found out a few weeks back that I had stage 4 cancer and that I had practically only a few months left to live. I can’t remember exactly how I felt when I heard the prognosis, but I remember experiencing a single moment of clarity, in which time seemed to have stood still, where there was absolute silence, and I was alone in the world, hearing nothing but my ragged breathing. I remember being told I could go into rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and the like and that with those, I could delay the inevitable… for a time. I remember not being surprised at all about what the doctor said. It was as if I was expecting it. Having lost my father to cancer, I was more or less sure I would succumb to the same disease when my time came. And having seen him go through the arduous treatment and still die, albeit months after he would’ve died had he not undergone treatment, I was adamant that I would not go through the same thing. I ran my fingers through my long hair and decided I would die with a full head of hair. I am thirty-seven years old and I will die beautiful.
So, there I was, in a cab, on my way home, trying to determine what I would do with the rest of my short life. Approaching my house, I saw my husband and twin daughters on the porch waiting for me. What happens next will determine how I would finally leave them…
If you have the rest of your miserable, hopeless life left to live, what will you do?
My life has been one long period of “nail squeaking against the blackboard” experience for me. Ever since I could remember, I have never felt any measure of happiness. I never felt any love from my parents. In fact, I was physically and psychologically abused by an alcoholic mother and thoroughly ignored by an absentee father, who left, as soon as my mother’s drinking became uncontrollable. I was an only child and it took some time before neighbors decided to help me out of the hell-hole of my life. I was shuttled back and forth between government shelters, orphanages and foster homes. When I was old enough to fend for myself, I ran away and tried to survive on my own. I went from one odd job to another, mingling with the underbelly of a society that could only exist for miserable people like me. I had no illusions of grandeur… nor of happiness… Well, maybe one time… but that is now a distant past. When I dared to hope. Hope that I was worthy of respect. Of love. But, as it turned out, I was wrong. I was only worthy to be used and abused. An alcoholic boyfriend took the place of both alcoholic mother and absentee father. And soon, all hope was beaten out of me.
I am now twenty-eight years old. On my own again. Until this morning, when the test showed I was pregnant. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t remember even having unprotected sex with anyone for the past weeks. Unless… shit… that one night when my bastard boyfriend decided to seek “ex” privileges when he dropped by to get the remainder of his stuff from my apartment. He beat me and raped me. And the sad thing was… a part of me was elated because I still loved the bastard, and any physical intimacy, no matter how violent, was still intimacy to my warped sense of happiness.
So now… I’m pregnant. With my history and my frame of mind, who am I to bring a child into this world? When all I really want to do myself was to leave this world…
3. Plane Ride
Rebecca felt rather than heard the person beside her on the flight to Davao crying. She didn’t know how she knew, since her eyes were closed and her ears were plugged with earphones listening to music. She just knew. She opened her eyes a crack and saw a cute, short-haired woman staring out the window. There were no tears, but her entire demeanor and her expression confirmed Rebecca’s feeling. This is one tragically sad woman. Well, if she only knew. Nothing could be worse than what I am going through right now.
For some strange reason, Francesca suddenly felt that she was not alone. She turned and looked at the woman beside her, but the woman was sleeping. The woman had long lustrous hair and classically beautiful features.
4. Boat Ride
Francesca stared at the water as the boat sped towards the resort. It is so easy to just jump off… and end it right here, right now. But she knew that with everyone onboard, she will be saved in no time and it will take more effort to explain how she could have fallen.
Rebecca stared at the surrounding sights and marveled at how beautiful nature was. The blue water, the lush landscape of the islands they passed. She looked around the boat and saw people of different ages and nationalities as they prepare for a weekend vacation at the famous Pearl Farm resort in Davao. Then she saw her flight seatmate, alone and staring at the water. I wonder what her story is… she looks so sad… so out of hope…
Francesca turned and saw the beautiful woman staring at her. The woman smiled and Francesca just raised an eyebrow and gave a quick forced smile. Then she went back staring at the water, thinking of how she would do it.
5. Welcome Drinks
God, it is so beautiful here! I wish I could bring my family here… I wish… Damn… I wish I had more time… Rebecca drank the welcome drink given her and she looked around the Pearl Farm resort, both with excitement and wistfulness.
Damn it… where the hell am I going to do this? Everything here is so fucking… beautiful… as if it is mocking me. And this drink has no alcohol! Francesca shook her head. She went straight to the reception area to get her house key. I just want to be alone…
6. Room Assignments
“What do you mean I don’t have a room?” Francesca demanded. “This sucks! I mean, why even give away free trips and accommodations when you can’t even guarantee a room to stay! What the hell am I going to do now? Go home?”
“Ma’am, please don’t create a scene. We are so sorry… We will fix this, don’t worry. Just please wait for a while and enjoy the amenities. We will have this sorted out in a few minutes.”
Francesca was seething. “Where’s the bar? I assume because of this, I should have at least an on the house shot of alcohol…”
“Yes, Ma’am… The bar is at the reception area. Drink all you can, on the house for today.”
“Great! At least…. Something…” Francesca turned and stomped towards the bar.
Rebecca was next in line. She saw the receptionist shaking and near tears.
“Hey… I’m sure she was not mean on purpose. It was a long trip…”
The receptionist started crying. “I screwed up. She had a room, but I gave it to someone who was a late registrant, thinking that she was coming in tomorrow still…. Now I don’t know how to fix this and I will be fired… and I still have my kid to feed… and…”
“Don’t cry… does my room have a double bed? She can stay with me. I know I have a pretty big room…”
The receptionist stared at Rebecca like she had just saved her from drowning. “Oh my God, Ma’am… thank you!!!! And yes… you do have a double bed in your room.”
Rebecca smiled. At least, before I die, I was able to help someone keep her job…
“Just bring my things and her things to my room then. I will get her myself. What is her name, by the way?”
“Her name is Francesca Villa.”
“Hi… Francesca? My name is Rebecca… You can call me Becs for short…”
Francesca looked up and saw the woman’s face swimming before her eyes. “How do you know my name?”
“Well, it looks as if we will be sharing a room. The receptionist is extremely sorry about the mix-up.”
“Share a room? Great…”
“Don’t worry, you won’t even notice I am there… I will be out exploring most of the time.”
Francesca looked at Rebecca and saw a hint of sadness and paleness in the beautiful face. “You can call me Frankie…”
Rebecca smiled and her face transformed again into that classically beautiful face she remembered from the plane.
“Hi Becs. Join me, the drinks are on the house. Might as well take advantage, right?”
Rebecca laughed. “I haven’t been drunk at 3pm in the afternoon for a long time…”
“Live a little…”
Rebecca stared at Francesca’s haunted eyes. “Sure… why not?”
“I have not been this drunk for years!” Rebecca slurred as she plopped on the bed. “My God, the room is swimming!”
Francesca plopped on the bed beside Rebecca, eliciting girlish giggles from Rebecca. “I have never been this drunk with someone I could really talk to…”
“We talked about anything and everything… except for our personal circumstances…”
Francesca curled into a fetal position. “My personal life is the stuff of telenovelas. I would rather not talk about it.”
Rebecca turned and hugged Francesca, and was not surprised when Francesca started to cry like a baby.
“Hey, Frankie, I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think…”
“Easy for you to say, you seem to have the perfect life…”
“I don’t… Believe me, I don’t…”
“I have never felt I was truly loved… by anyone…”
“I’m sure that is not true.”
Francesca talked about her parents, her childhood and her boyfriend. She told Rebecca everything, except for the fact that she was pregnant.
“Oh dear girl… hush… Everything will be alright…”
They slept like that, with Francesca in Rebecca’s tight embrace.
9. Motorcycle Ride
Francesca surprised Rebecca by renting two motorcycles and two drivers to take them on an inter-island tour. Rebecca was game. She smiled when she saw a different light in Francesca’s eyes.
They spent the morning riding through dirt roads and marveled at the sights.
While navigating through a narrow dirt road where the left side dropped into a steep cliff, Rebecca saw Francesca stare at the cliff. Then she saw a different glint in the girl’s eyes and knew before it happened that Francesca had a plan. She felt a scream escape her mouth.
Francesca suddenly shifted her weight and put her hands forward to cover her driver’s eyes. The motorcycle veered this way and that and went dangerously close to driving off the cliff. But the driver got things under control and the bike skid to a halt, but not before Francesca fell into the stone-filled dirt road.
Rebecca ran to Francesca’s limp figure. “Frankie!”
“Lady, she did this on purpose!”
Francesca opened her eyes and she saw Rebecca’s worried face. “Damn it… I’m still alive…”
Rebecca stared at Francesca. Then Rebecca slapped Francesca hard. Rebecca walked away, rode on her motorcycle and asked the driver to drive her back to the resort.
10. Shots Part Deux
“I am so sorry Becs…”
Rebecca looked up and saw Francesca sitting beside her at the bar. She then noticed the various scrapes and cuts on the younger woman’s face, arms and legs, which were obviously treated already.
“They have a clinic here?”
“Yeah… My driver was ready to kill me. I would have welcomed it, you know… But he was ever the gentleman as he drove me back and brought me to the resort doctor.”
“I hope the medicine they used hurt.”
“It did… big time…”
“Whatever it is that you’re going through, it is not reason enough to want to kill yourself.”
“I am just so tired…”
“You are not allowed to be tired.”
Francesca stared at Rebecca, who by this time was already tipsy. Francesca remained silent, waiting for Rebecca to speak.
“You are not allowed to give up living… Some people would give their right arms to just continue living… and you will just throw yours away?”
“I’m sorry Becs… I just… I don’t know. I thought I could do it. I thought there was nothing else for me in this life…”
“Frankie… I am dying. I have a few months to live. And it kills me to see you throw your life away, when you still have it. If only I could trade places with you. I’m so bad, right? You want to die? I will give you my cancer. Because I want to live, for my husband, my kids… for me…”
Rebecca cried. Francesca took Rebecca in her arms.
11. The Talk
Francesca helped Rebecca into bed.
“Frankie… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that…”
“I deserved it Becs… Don’t worry. I’m sorry for being so insensitive.”
“Promise me something, Frankie.”
“You will not try to kill yourself ever again…”
“I can’t promise that…”
“Yes, you can…”
“I am pregnant…”
Rebecca gasped. “Then all the more you should find the will to live.”
“How can I bring a child into this world, when I myself am so fucked up? I have always wished that my Mom had aborted me… I can’t stand having a child of mine feel that…”
“Then you make sure that when the kid gets born, you have already turned your life around… Frankie, damn it! You are pregnant and you’ve been drinking and riding motorcycles?!”
“I know. Unforgiveable…”
“No… I forgive you…”
Francesca stared at Rebecca. Tears streamed down her cheeks. “How can you forgive me?”
“I just did. Life is short…”
Francesca cried. “Oh my God… what have I done?” She put her hands on her tummy and cried harder. “My baby…”
Rebecca reached out to hold Francesca’s hand. “We will go to a doctor tomorrow. I also need to have a check up. My doctor recommended a clinic here in Davao.”
“Becs, I’m scared…”
“Frankie, I’m scared shitless myself. But we will do this. Together.”
12. Seven Months After
Francesca opened her eyes and she saw the face of the friend she had come to love with all her heart.
“Hey, Frankie! You did good… You have a big bouncing baby boy! Totally healthy!”
Francesca smiled. “I couldn’t have done it without you, Becs.”
Rebecca smiled, even though her lips were chapped. She looked gaunt but happy, her head covered by a scarf. “You gave me more reason to live… So thank you as well…”
The door opened and in came Rebecca’s husband and twins.
“Tita Frankie!!! We saw him! He is so cuuuuuuuuute!”
“He looks like a doll!”
The twins, nine years old and wearing Twilight shirts (one with Edward and the other with Jacob) spoke excitedly.
“You are now big sisters!”
“Does it hurt?” Jane asked.
“Of course it does, dummy. She has a big cut on her stomach you know…” Jenny said.
“Don’t call your sister dummy…”
Upon hearing their Mom’s voice, the twins moved to either side of their Mom and hugged her.
“I asked the nurse to wheel in your son here in a few minutes. That is, if you’re up to meeting him for the first time,” Tim, Rebecca’s husband said.
Francesca looked at Rebecca with fear in her eyes. Rebecca smiled and nodded.
Francesca sighed and said, “I am as ready as I can be. I can’t wait to meet little Jacob…”
“Oooh I am so glad you picked Jacob over Edward!” Jane exclaimed. Jenny frowned.
“Well, motorcycles played a role in how your Mom and I met and when I learned to love myself and my baby… so it was inevitable that he be a Jacob rather than an Edward.”
“Hmmmp!” Jenny said with a frown. Then she smiled. “You’ll name your next kid Edward, right?”
Francesca smiled at Jenny. “Sure… I promise! Even if he turns out to be a girl!”
The room erupted in laughter. Rebecca felt happy and content. Francesca looked around and remembered how close she came to not even experiencing this.
There was a knock on the door and the nurse came in wheeling in little Jacob.
When Jacob was placed in Francesca’s arms, she started crying. She looked at the baby she knew she was going to love forever. The baby that will steer her in the right path. The baby she would not have had if she had not met Rebecca.
“Becs, come look”
Rebecca sat beside Francesca and looked at Jacob in Francesca’s arms. “He looks so beautiful…” Rebecca whispered.
“Thanks, Becs… for everything.“
“Frankie, thanks for being in my life as well. I never would have gone through the treatments if it weren’t for your persistence.”
Francesca smiled. “Well, you wanted me to go through with the pregnancy, the least you can do is go through with the treatment. At least we could be cranky together!”
Rebecca and Francesca laughed together.
Who would have thought that a weekend trip to Pearl Farm would be life changing for both? One went to end her life herself. The other went to accept her life was ending without fighting for it. Both ended up living their lives the best they could, savoring every minute, and being the best friend they could be to each other.