A thousand little cuts

Mas mahal niyo pa yung mga pusa niyo e,” he retorted.

All we wanted to do was bury Scabbers. He just wanted to throw her body in the trash.

+ + + + +

I had spent perhaps an hour in the kitchen, making dinner. But when we sat down to eat, he took a bite. Then he got up and went to the kitchen. He came back with a bottle of seasoning, Maggi or Knorr or something, and he sprinkled it liberally on his plate.

My mother was appalled. I told her that had happened so often that I didn’t even notice–or care–anymore. Sometimes, instead of sprinkling seasoning on my cooking, he got a banana and ate that with rice, instead of whatever I had cooked.

After that, my mom made sure to tell me, out loud, that my cooking was delicious.

+ + + + +

He made breakfast every morning. Once, we were in a hurry, and Oneal said we didn’t have time to eat. He got angry.

Since then, even if we were running late, if breakfast was on the table, we would sit down and eat, no matter if we had to hurry through our bites.

“Ginagawa niyo ko’ng katulong e,” he muttered once.

But we rarely ever asked him to do anything. Certainly we offered to wash dishes. I offered to do his laundry, and he refused. We did the groceries, paid the bills. If I was home, I cooked, or I made sure there was food that was ready to eat. We had someone come to the house every week to clean.

He complained that the people are the store two streets away mistook him for househelp once. I wondered, how is that our fault?

+ + + + +

We tried, for many years, to get pregnant. It was a painful struggle. We saw different doctors, had different tests done, tried some medications.

One night, he turned to Oneal randomly and said, “Baog ka ata e.”

+ + + + +

He’d given me a jacket that he’d gotten from a golf tournament. It was a water-resistant vest, with a hood. He gave it to me because it had a UP logo on it.

One day he was looking for a jacket or a vest he could wear to a golf game. He asked if I still had that vest, and if I used it. Maybe he could try it, he said, if I wasn’t using it anyway.

“Hindi na ata kasya sa yo e,” he reasoned. “Masikip na siguro,” he laughed. He looked at me pointedly, as if he was expecting me to answer him.

I was too tired to argue.

+ + + + +

We came down for breakfast. We told Lucas to say good morning. “Loola first!” Lucas insisted. Lucas went and said good morning while hugging my mom.

When Lucas went to him, he turned away and said, “I don’t like na, I’m not the first.”

+ + + + +

My mom asked Oneal to buy ice cream for Lucas. It’s been so hot, she reasoned.

After lunch, he offered Lucas a banana. “I want ice cream!” Lucas said enthusiastically.

He frowned. “Syempre mas gusto niya ng ice cream.”

+ + + + +

“Sana matapos na to para makaalis na kayo,” he said angrily, after a fight over lunch.

Another time, he shouted, “Magsilayas na kayo!

+ + + + +

Our cleaning lady told us that he was the reason our nannies kept leaving. “Alam mo naman si sir,” she said to me. “E hindi nila matiis.”

In 2018, we had a total of five nannies, each one staying only a month or two. Most of them told us, within a week of their arrival, that they wanted to leave. One left for the weekend, and simply never came back.

+ + + + +

He asked about some remedy he read about on the internet, something that was supposed to ward off COVID-19. No, we told him, there’s no evidence that it works, we explained.

He looked angry, and as he walked to the kitchen, he muttered, “Kung ayaw niyo maniwala, e di wag!”

+ + + + +

I sat down with him. “Bukas, aalis na kami,” I told him.

He was silent.

“Thank you, sa pag-alaga mo sa amin. Sorry kung di namin naalagan itong bahay, at ikaw, nang maayos,” I added.

I wanted to say more. I wanted to tell him, years of you yelling at us to leave, months of this lockdown and you yelling at us to get out, so we’ll just go. I wanted to tell him, years of anxiety and discomfort in the place that’s supposed to be home. I wanted to tell him, years of fearing we would say or do the wrong thing, and trigger another shouting match. I wanted to tell him, I was just so tired.

Instead I said I had to go and pack.

He asked a few questions. Then at dinner he said more hurtful things, followed by, “Kalimutan na lang natin lahat, tapos na yun.

As if we could so easily forget years of cutting remarks and hostility.

“I’m sorry, hindi ko na kaya. Pagod na ko,” I said.

So we left.

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