The forehead splitting headache started on a supposedly sweet sunset cruise on Saturday evening. The catastrophe seemed like a combination of an hour on the cruise, a glass of Italian sparkling wine, a canapé composed of a frozen shrimp with cream cheese and brown toast topped with lime that gave me nausea and that monthly women’s issue that came without warning on a light, breezy afternoon when I felt elated enough to wear all white.
My room that night smelt like a house of a hilot, where my mom used to bring me for tawas whenever I fell ill. Aling Lita’s kubo was built on stilts on the rocky area of the river. We had to climb bamboo stairs to get to the house. The flooring was made of bamboo and I can see the rocks down below if I look through the slits. That’s where I would sit down, in front of a small basin with water where Aling Lita would melt the candle and wait for the wax formation before she could tell if the source of my illness was a dwarf or a lady or another unworldly creature.
At that time, I thought the house was cool. It seemed like a playhouse to me. But now I realized it must have been tough for them during the monsoon season, when the river overflows and when their rusty roof leaks. After years of living there, they finally succumbed to the hopelessness of the situation and the ever-increasing family members. They moved somewhere else. We never heard much about them except the occasional visits of one of Aling Lita’s daughters every Christmas to say hi to my mom, her godmother and get some aguinaldo. The last time we saw her, she was almost a teenager. After that, we’ve heard no more of her and the family.
The air in my room was a mixture of balmy scents. Yet, after the inhalation of white flower and Vicks and the self-head-and-shoulder massage with Efficasent oil, I still woke up the next day with the headache but I still followed my dailies. Had my breakfast, attended the morning briefing at 9am and headed to the office. But after sending an email or two, tears voluntarily flowed from my left eye so I went to my room, switched off the light and sat with my back on the wall. I closed my eyes and tried to massage my left forehead. I fell asleep sitting. And probably when my body ached, it automatically lied down. I drifted in and out of sleep and later on found myself in a fetal position.
That blue-colored gel capsule did not stay true to its promise. Fast-acting-relief was its tag line but the pain still lingered and made me live a sleeping-life on a Sunday, waking up only for meal times.
I craved for something warm for dinner and found myself opening a cup of instant noodles, sipping its warm soup full of MSG, paired with white rice. I felt the warmth from my throat to my stomach and the feeling was so familiar. Whenever I get fever as a kid, I would be served instant noodles with rice. It’s funny how I got the unhealthiest food on my weakest times as a child, yet I still seek the same food now, as an adult whenever I don’t feel well.
But maybe it’s the comfort and the feeling of familiarity that I seek most. That the hot MSG-filled soup will make me feel better, just as the melted wax formation on water did decades ago. We sometimes put faith on such things, even though we know what’s true.
It is now Monday morning and the pain on my left forehead is still here, pounding gently from time to time. I sniff Vicks and drink warm coffee as I write, putting my faith on such things, hoping these could make me feel better.
And as a colleague of mine entered the office giving me a branch of orchid with pretty purple flowers, one that broke off after a huge coconut branch fell on it, I laughed and felt a bit better.