I clutched my stomach tighter; almost sure I can catch the butterflies fluttering inside. For the nth time since this morning, I took a deep breath thinking they’ll be gone. And for the nth time since this morning, they only fluttered more restlessly. I am walking faster now, paving this long, narrow hallway with quick, long strides. I can feel my heart almost falling out of its cage. My heartbeat and my footsteps, a deafening fusion. I shook my head filled with anticipation. “At last, at last.” I whispered.
After what seemed an eternity, I was finally here. Here in front of the room I thought I would only have in my dreams. As I moved closer, I realized that it hardly had any noticeable difference from the room I always see in my dreams. Only this time, it’s for real. I touched the sign nailed on the door, carefully reading the inscription. Dr. Ramon Reyes, cardiologist, it said. A smile emanated from my lips. This is enough proof- proof of the right decision I have made in the past. I searched my heart for the feeling of satisfaction, of contentment, of success, of happiness; but beside this overwhelming anticipation embracing me right now, there was nothing else. I fished inside the pocket of my white lab coat for the keys- my keys. I turned the knob, its coolness almost similar to my hands’. I peeked inside the room and remembered the reason I came here early today. A glance at my wristwatch confirmed that it was ten o’clock on the dot. Just as agreed, my first patient was here. That’s right, the very first.
The old woman sat on a corner, seemingly engrossed with the newspaper she was reading. I slowly walked towards her but she doesn’t seem to notice. Her head was still bowed, focused on the newspaper resting on her lap. I was two steps away from her when finally, she lifted her head, her eyes going straight to mine. I froze for a moment, resisting the urge to touch my chest where my heart was violently beating. I had to remind myself of my duties as a doctor, as a professional as well. I suppressed my emotions with a blank face and carefully examined my patient’s looks.
My eyes feasted on what tiny details I can absorb from my patient’s tiny physique. I saw her gray, thinning hair, her wrinkled, sagging skin, and her thin, feeble hands. But when I met her deep, brown eyes, I felt something familiar. So familiar that it brought memories with it. Memories I have tried so hard to avoid. I shivered as my memories slowly crept inside my being.
“No.” My tone was calm but full of conviction. In front of me, they both stood, hard as stone. Their faces were filled with disbelief. I ignored the warmth flowing from my eyes. Was it so hard to understand? I tried to shake the tears away but it was no use.
“Monching,” I heard my father’s stern voice. I’ve always obeyed my father, my mother as well. But this time it’s different. This time I know I am right.
“Monching,” this time it was my mother’s voice that I heard. Her tone was harsh, as if warning me not to push my luck with my father. I only shook my head.
“Is that how you think of me? It’s my future we are talking about. Don’t I have a right to decide for myself?” I said. My tone was hurt. This is unbelievable. I thought I had been very promising- A poor man’s son graduating from high school as a valedictorian. I thought all my sacrifices had been enough but I was wrong. I hadn’t convinced them one bit. My mother’s lips parted as if to speak but I continued. “This poverty has been enslaving us for the longest time. It has confined you both from growth. Do you want me to have the same fate?”
From my parents’ words, I was starting to comprehend. They don’t trust me enough to let me go. They don’t think that I can do what I think I can. “I can work right now. That’s all you wanted me to do, right? But what will that make me? Will that make me successful in anything? Will that entitle me to a chance at a better life? Will that give us an opportunity to prosper? Can’t a poor man be a doctor?” I fought my tears so I could speak more clearly. I glanced at my father’s side and saw that beneath his disapproving stare, there was an understanding he was trying so hard to suppress. “I can do it. Please trust me on this.” I took the bag I have packed a while ago in one swift motion. My mother and father both looked at me, their expression was hard to read. I stood in the doorway, waiting for them to speak.
I don’t want to leave like this. I listened intently but all I heard was the deafening silence. I glanced at my father and saw his hands clenched into fists. My mother was sobbing. “This is for the best, I promise.” I said, finally realizing they had no plans of speaking. I left without looking back. I was broken. I didn’t want to leave like this but I was left with no choice. “This is for the best.” I whispered to myself, attempting to lessen the guilt.
I moved to the city and polished my plans for college. I worked for a few years to save money to fund my schooling and as soon as I have saved enough, I plunged into college. I studied hard and studied well. Before I knew it, I was a year away from graduation. I tried to get in touch with my family by calling but a soon as I hear the first ring on the phone, my pride gets the better of me. What if they still can’t forgive me? I tried to put my memories of them aside so that I could concentrate on my studies. After a few more years, I graduated with flying colors. I passed the board exam, and am now ready to practice. I look at myself in the mirror and see an achiever- a very lonely one.
A sound interrupted my reverie and brought me back to reality. It was the old woman’s newspaper falling to the floor as she stood. I looked at her once more. This time, I saw past her grey, thinning hair, past her wrinkled, sagging skin, and past her thin, feeble hands. Instead, I looked straight into her eyes. She looked at me just the same. I took my stethoscope at my first attempt to shake the frenzy of my emotions. I held the end of it with my trembling hands and pressed it against her heart. I heard her heart beat. It was beating as fast as mine.
“Doctor,” she started to speak. Her tone was low, almost a whisper. There was a deafening silence as I waited for her to continue. “My heart is hurting.” I tried to speak but my throat was dry. There was so much to say yet no words could suffice. “Monching.” She said this time. Her voice was just as sweet, just as warm as it has always been. It was just as comforting as I could remember. My heart melted at the sound. The pressure that thickened the air moments ago seemed to slowly vanish as she spoke again. “Monching,” her voice was a melody to my ears. I stared blankly on the floor as I waited for her to continue but she stayed silent. I fought the lump in my throat and the fear in my heart.
“Mother,” I said, finally gathering enough courage. “Please forgive me.” I continued. I wiped my eyes to remove whatever it is that has been clouding my vision. Only then did I realize that I was already crying. I lifted my head to look at her. Tears welled her eyes. Her shoulders were shaking as she sobbed. She parted her lips at another attempt to speak but there was no sound. She couldn’t seem to find her words. Instead, she threw her arms around me and gave me the tightest embrace she has given me yet. Suddenly, I was a child again, so safe in her arms. I felt the warmth I have always longed for, the love I have always longed for, and most of all I felt the forgiveness I have always longed for.
We shared the moment in silence. I don’t seem to want to escape from her tight embrace. I felt the overwhelming anticipation in my chest and was surprised that beside it, there were more: satisfaction, contentment, success, and most of all, happiness. I flashed a triumphant smile as the lonely achiever finally left.