Her Convalescence

One day, she had this terrible gut to write something about moving on and taking a second chance at life. The word convalescence had crossed her mind so many times and tried to read the meaning of it in the dictionary. It’s funny how the word comes into place when she thinks about having another chance to be happy.

Convalescence - gradually recovering from illness. That’s what the Webster’s says. She gave it another meaning though, that's why she is writing a story to put another essence into it.

Recently, she met a former classmate from college named Maureen. She was her seatmate before but they were not close for they were only acquaintances in one subject. The lady used to be the “life” of the class. With her ecstatic energy, enthusiasm in everything and her sense of humor, she had many friends and admirers.

Well, she’s a real beauty with a brain and most men in the campus were courting her. In short, she was considered as one of the school’s popular celebrity. With Maureen, there were no dull moments in their subject. At first, she was insecure when she became her seatmate. Well, they were worlds apart when it comes to socializing and personality. She was the silent type and had limited circle of friends whom she hangs out with. She was not as popular as Maureen but she was not considered as a nobody. She usually handled the secretary position in their class and sometimes she was a part of the guidance committee helping students cope up with their school troubles. She knew herself well, so when she heard comments that she was too calm and contained, she just smile and say, “Well, that’s me”.

She can say she envied Maureen since she heard about her and became her classmate. Maureen has the characteristics she wants to have, a happy-go-lucky intelligent-talker. She seem to be happy all the time and the word “problem” couldn’t be attached to her image. And I took that as an advantage because when she was with her, she became confident with herself. Maureen also made her talk a lot and laugh out loud and she likes her.

But she understands that nobody can be somebody. Maureen is different from her and she is what she is and vice versa. Above all, she loves herself and what she is. But she couldn’t help but envy someone who is opposite her character like Maureen. And because someone like Maureen seem to be the most acceptable and likable person.

But what puzzles her about Maureen is that she doesn’t talk about a problem. Everything is just fine with her even if she is hurt, nothing is a big deal, she seems forgivable. And from the moment they met until their subject ended, she had never seen Maureen in a bad mood, bothered or even looked sad. Well, she thought, maybe Maureen is just a jolly person and everything bad that is happening in her life is not a problem with her. Maybe she has the nicest family in the planet to get burdened with family troubles. Or maybe she just knew how to handle her burdens or problems and that she’s as strong as a bull.

As they met again after two years, she didn’t even recognized Maureen until she introduced herself.

“Oh, yes! I remember you. It’s good you still recognize me. So, how do you do?” She asked
Maureen, and felt a little bit uncomfortable seeing her. She had changed a lot from the lady she used to know two years ago. Before, she wore the most fashionable clothes like she is in a modeling ramp, now she looks ordinary with a plain gray t-shirt and faded jeans. From what she can remember, she never seen Maureen dressed up like that. Maureen always looked good and sexy. But now?

She got curious what happened to Maureen after their graduation. She didn’t get to congratulate
her back then for having an award. She didn’t even expect to see her again, with her new aura. It’s shattering. Not from Maureen she envied before.

Maureen smiled dryly. “Of course I recognize you. How can I forget you, when you are the one I used to consult when it comes to serious matters. You’re still beautiful as ever. More beautiful this time.”

She smiled at the compliment and uttered a simple thank you. She can’t handle compliments because it makes her shy. But it makes her uncomfortable to say the same things to her. Yes, Maureen changed, too, but beyond what she had imagined Maureen to be. How can she say she’s beautiful when she can see Maureen is not at her best?

She tried to wipe away the sudden pang of pity that crept her heart and just asked her how
she’d been. Maureen just shrugged her shoulders and smiled at her bitterly. She knew Maureen is not all right. And she never thought that she would see that bitter smile from her.

“Would you like to have some drink? We can sit and talk”, she said. They ordered in one of the
food chains nearby and Maureen didn’t talk since then. She silently eats her food like she is not with someone, she exclude her. She understood Maureen immediately. Most of the people who have something bothering them don’t have the enthusiasm to talk a lot. And she finds herself looking at Maureen’s lonely eyes and got confused. No, Maureen couldn’t be burdened. She is a superwoman, is she?

“You know what, I admire you”, was Maureen first words since they entered the food chain.
Maureen already finished eating and now drinking her ice tea when she finally looked at her.

She chuckled. “Really? What made you say that?” She never expected Maureen would say that to her. She will not be intrigued if somebody say that. But from Maureen, it’s a different story.

“Well, I remember from the time we became seatmates, you are always conscientious and calm. Sometimes you were sad and aloof but you can always handle people in that state. You can also calm our classmates when there is a conflict. You seldom talk but when you do, they listen to you and you don’t have to make an extra effort to get their attention. How do you do that?”

“Ah...” She never thought of that either. What she thought is that their classmates doesn’t like her because she’s too quiet and sometimes they say her type is dangerous and couldn’t be approached. But her friends, who knew her, say otherwise, though. “Is that so? I am not even aware of that.”

“Maybe you were not aware about it, but you know most of our classmates before also see that in
you. They were even awed in you because you showed what you are and you are a true person. They knew and see you when you are sad and happy. Even if they always comment on how contained you are, they understood what you are. But me, they just like me because I make them laugh, which I admit I do exert an effort in doing it. They just know me as Maureen, the joke lady and little do they know who I really am.”

“But hey, you were natural and you made us laugh. And you were one of the campus popular female student. And everybody likes you. That’s cool enough.”

Maureen shook her head. “Yeah. But sometimes I wish I shouldn’t be that way all the time. Yes, they like me because I am what they see. I can cheer anyone but not myself. I can make you laugh but I don’t know if I can also laugh the way you did. Things were just too normal but in the reality, I am trying to set aside what’s bothering me by pretending I am happy. But after a day’s struggle, it’s still there.”

“Well, I haven’t noticed that. I thought...”

“Yeah. I know what you mean.”

She stared at Maureen for a moment. “That’s a huge revelation. I admit, I couldn’t believe it’s coming from you. So you mean to tell me, you have problems after all?”

“Yes. Who wouldn’t have, right?” Maureen looked down like she is defeated in something she couldn’t accept admitting.

“Well, everybody has a problem and nobody is exempted. But it depends on someone how they attacks it.” She said to her.

“Well, I am curious how you’ve been after we graduated, Maureen. How are you?”

Maureen hesitated for a moment and sigh. “I was miserable.” That’s all what she said.

“How can you say that?” She felt confused once again. Maureen’s nature couldn’t become miserable. Maybe she was just expecting Maureen to say she’s happy and content, but she find herself rebelling with the thought because she sees otherwise and she knows it.

“Maybe because I have this belief that I feel better when I avoid problematic situations instead of facing it. I thought I can run away from my problems by laughing and avoiding them all the time. In some way, it does good to just laugh but sometimes I knew I am just fooling myself. Actually, I’m burdened with family issues. My father has many vices which my mother always nags to him. They fight more often, you know and I am sick and tired of it. My mother absorbed that entirely, she usually suffers from nervous breakdown. Our parents can provide us with material things but not peace of mind. And I don’t want to be like my mother.”

She never expected that, too, from Maureen. But she felt she’s sympathizing with her. She also has family issues she thought severe but Maureen’s issues are worse. “Well, I don’t know what to say. I am sorry to hear that...”

Maureen shrugged. “That’s okay... When we graduated, I married Dave.”

“Oh, Dave Adorno? I remember him. He was your partner when you won first runner-up in the Mr. and Miss University, right?”

“Yes. We became sweethearts since then. But after one year we got married, I discovered that he
was cheating on me but I ignored it and didn’t confront him about it. I don’t want to create any misunderstandings between us. I chose to be silent about it and pretended everything’s alright . But I haven’t noticed I am already having a nervous breakdown. Maybe unconsciously, I am angry and hurt but buried those feelings by trying not to feel anything. I think that’s the best thing I ought do to protect our relationship. But I am just torturing myself. I was in the hospital for a week because of depression. I am recovering now.” That explains everything why she looks that way.

“What about Dave?”

“We separated. I confronted him and he left me. God, that day was the only time I became angry.
And after I have shouted, I felt what he’d done, I felt better. I suppressed that anger for a long time and it just exploded at that moment. I couldn’t even remember what I said. But it did good for me and I felt relieved.”

“I’m sorry, Maureen.” She hold her hand and squeeze. For a moment, there is tension between them and she can see Maureen’s eyes starting to cloud with tears. She understands Maureen’s feelings. Broken relationship is one thing humans are hard to overcome. “You know, you can still find someone better than Dave. Someone who would treasure and love you dearly.”

“I heard that many times, and at first I didn’t believe that. My world revolved around Dave. I love him and forgetting him is not that easy. But I tried. For a week after he left, I became sad, I let myself absorb the sadness I am feeling instead of avoiding it. And after that, I slowly learned to let go and hope for something better. I guess, it’s when I felt sad that I learned to be strong.”

“I felt that, too” She agreed and smiled at her.

“Now I know. That’s why I admire you. You are strong because you are not afraid of admitting to yourself what you feel. I thought I am stronger than you when I can only laugh at my problems while you looked bothered all the time. Are you really that burdened?”

“No. Maybe it’s just the way I look. And I do have friends whom I can share my problems and my mother who is always there to hear me. Maybe I just don’t talk too much, they say I am hiding something. But that’s not always the case.” Maureen smiled bitterly. “So the parents really do play a big role in their child’s problem, huh? I haven’t even had a girl talk with my mother and we could not talk about serious matters. She is also burdened herself and that is what’s important to her, you know. She can’t even give us her full attention when she can nag our father all the time.”

“Well, I guess sometimes life is unfair. But you are not alone with your dilemma, Maureen. People have their own struggle, too. We should learn to accept reality because we are not living in an imaginary world. And maybe accepting reality is the only way we can cope. Somehow, you can always have someone to talk to aside from your parents, right?”

“Yeah. But I admit I am not that open even to my friends not until now. I can’t bear talking about it.” Maureen said. “And I guess that’s what I need. The courage to open up and not be afraid to reveal my true feelings, admitting it and accepting it.”

She gave Maureen a friendly smile. “Yeah, maybe that’s what you need to do, Maureen. And that idea comes from you and not from other people so you are not obliged to anyone. That’s good for you. So how do you feel now?”

“I feel... light inside. I have never felt this good.”

“I can see that.”

Maureen slowly wiped her tears and looked at her with a genuine smile she used to give her. “I never thought seeing you again would create transitions in me. Even before when we were at school, you gave me the silent look that I needed. I never expected that it’s what I need and maybe I am not just aware. I also never talk to anyone like this. So I thank you for lending me your ear and giving me time.”

“Don’t mention it. You did the opening so you must congratulate yourself for it. And I am
pleased to hear you open up to me.” She haven’t imagined that this person trusted her to hear her revelations. Nevertheless, she felt overwhelmed and happy because there is one person who considers her as an inspiration to change her life. And that person happens to be Maureen, the one she wished she was.

“You know what? I also admired you, Maureen. In a way, you are strong for laughing at problems and making us forget our problems, too, by making us laugh. Sometimes we need laughter to make us feel good and that’s what you always did. I even wished I was like you before.”

“Really?” Maureen said in disbelief. Her smile widened.

“Well... yeah. I admit, I am.”

Their conversation continued. And this time they talked as if they will never have the chance to talk with each other again. They shared their heartaches and pains as well as their joys and achievements. They don’t even mind the passing of time until they were told it’s already closing time. And somewhere along their conversation, she often smiled because she can see Maureen’s burdened aura is slowly fading. She knew Maureen could heal faster in her own way.

At one point in time, she envied Maureen and fancied of being like her. Another realization made her proud of herself. She felt convalesce. Not because of an illness but of gaining confidence and loving herself above anything else. And this time, she only wishes to be herself.

Just the real her.

Inside Joko Jun

Joko Jun features Filipinos from around the world... musicians, writers, photographers, and other creative people.