“Just in case you’d wanna know, I’d like to tell you what happened next, but maybe some other time; when I’ve already gathered enough strength. This letter is already getting too painful to write.” ~Riley Part 1
Hi there! So, like I said, this is the part where I tell you what happened next… Here it goes…
Wake, Day 1
I received a text from Sweet, she’s asking if maybe we could meet up and go together on your wake. I went to this mall where I was supposed to meet her, and there she was… waiting. I haven’t seen Sweet for like 2 years already. I hugged her tight, gave her a beso, and we started walking towards the taxi bay. While walking, she slides her hand from the usual abra-siete, to clasp my hand. I looked towards her. She smiled. I smiled back. She hasn’t seen you since after we graduated from high school. I could tell she was scared.
Outside the mausoleum, I saw 2 people from our barkada, and the four of us went inside. “2nd floor daw ano?” asked one. “Yes, 2nd floor.” I answered. This was it. The eerie guest book lecter beside the door with your name on it gave me the shivers. After signing, we opened the doors and let ourselves in.
Inside, your aunt was all smiles in greeting us:
“Good evening, friends kayo ni Riley?” she asked.
“Yes po,” we answered.
“Sige, have a seat. Wala pa kasi si Riley. Mga 8 PM pa siguro.”
I looked around and saw a couple of our batch mates and other members of our barkada. There were also people from other year levels back in high school who shared memories of you, in way one or another. Yes, it really was the grand reunion that you wished for. Almost everyone was in there.
While waiting for you, a video presentation was playing. I think a cousin of yours managed to gather happy photos of you and compiled them to a video. There were even other videos of you fooling around, making fun of others, or getting drunk—the happy times. After the happy times, there was this video of you, in the hospital. I’m sorry, but I fought back my tears… I told myself, “Not yet, not just yet…”
Your mom, your sisters, and other relatives arrived a little past 9PM. They sat your mom in the back, she looks really exhausted. Some batch mates already left, because they still have to report to work. A few minutes past 10PM, I felt a shiver from my neck down to my spine and it gave me goose bumps.
“Riley’s here…” I told the others.
“Wala pa raw, nasa morgue pa… They are still preparing his body…” said one high school batch mate.
“No, Riley’s here…” I reiterated and showed them my goose bumps. Then a batch mate known to have a “third” feel (not third eye, since she cannot see, she can only feel… And I think you know who she is):
“Riley’s here…” she confirmed, and showed us her goose bumps as well. Sweet, who is seated on my left, grabbed my hand, and leaned her head on my shoulder. The door from the back opened…
“Andyan na po siya…” said the guy from the funeral home. Then, the front door opened, and there you were… in a white casket with intricacies of gold.
“Riley!!!” groaned your mom to almost a breakdown. My heart broke the moment her wailing echoed throughout the room. A sound of sorrow resounded not only to the walls of the room, but also to the walls of our hearts. Your sisters were the first ones to take a look at you, followed by your relatives. No one from our high school buddies had the courage to get a glimpse of you just yet. Most are just crying on their seats. Rick was the first one to stand up. Wala siyang pakialam. He went there in front, and just cried there like crazy. Well, aside from the fact that the two of you were really close; he also has the same illness as yours. After Rick, people from our seat stood up. There were like 10 of us looking at you. You look peaceful in there. Stripped from worries, devoid of pain, your countenance spells serenity.
Of the 10 of us, Cel was the one who started the crying spree. From that moment, I felt that I was supposed to cry buckets for you. To my surprise, there were no tears. Not even a single drop. I patted Cel on the back, saying: “Ok lang yan ya, Cel.” She hugged me real tight.
“Nate, how long has it been since I last saw you?” she asked.
“Four years, Cel… 4 years…” I answered.
“I miss you. And I’ve always wanted to see you in a reunion. But not like this. Not in a reunion like this. P*tang ina… Had it not been for Riley’s death, hindi siguro ulit kita makikita,” said Cel.
“There there, Ces…” I hugged her back.
Wake, Day 2
There’s not much that I know of during this day. I only heard stories. I wasn’t able to attend the 2nd day ‘cause I rendered OT at work.
Wake, Day 3
Leighanne called me up, asking if I’d be going to your wake. I said I’m not sure, and I’ll check out my schedule. She begged me to come, so that we could accompany someone to your wake. Upon learning who it was, I immediately agreed to go. It was Carlyn.
Leighanne met me outside, and whisphered “She’s there in front,” pointing to Carlyn. I slowly approached her, and observed what she was doing.
She was crying. She has a handful of your pictures that she’s arranging in this beautiful album–like scrapbook.
“Nate? Nate!” she rushed towards me, and gave me a really tight hug. This time around, the crying turns to wailing: “Nate, he’s gone… Wala na si Riley… He’s gone…”
“Shhh… I know, Carlyn… I know…” I returned the hug to comfort her, and gave her an assurance that I felt the same way she felt. The tears that I fought back during the first day of your wake now flowed incessantly. I guess Carlyn was all I needed so that I could release the sorrow I’ve felt. We stayed like that for a while, until her wailings subsided to light sobs. We, then, went back to where she was seated.
“How are you?” asked I.
“Not good… When was the last time you got to talk to Riley, Nate?” said Carlyn.
“Uhm, about two months ago…” I answered. Then, I took out my phone and showed her messages and call logs of you.
“What’s that you’re doing?” I asked.
“Nothing, I’m just organizing his pictures,” she answered.
“You can stop doing that right now, Carlyn… Mas masasaktan ka lang…” to which she answered with sobs: “No, I’m going to finish this one,” she said. Then, one of your Ate’s sat, beside Carlyn.
“Kamusta ka na Carlyn?”
“Ok naman po, Ate…”
“Na–miss kita… Na–miss ka rin ni Riley…” She, then, turned to me and Leighanne saying, “Alam nyo, Anne hasn’t been really that much of help kay Riley. Lagi kasi silang nag-aaway eh… Yung stress nya kay Anne, naka–sama sa health nya, and worsened his condition…”
“Sana ikaw na lang, Carlyn… Sana kayo na lang ni Riley… Kung kayo siguro ang nagkatuluyan, I guess this wouldn’t have happened to our Riley…” said your Ate, then she hugged Carlyn and broke into tears.
It was something uncalled for.
Carlyn froze, but tears are also flowing from her eyes. Leighanne and I can’t help but cry along with them. Your mom, then, sat beside us. “Tama na yan, dry your eyes. Mag-picture tayo,” she said. We stood up, wiped our tears, and tried our best to smile. Your mom took our picture, saying “Na-miss kayo ni Riley… Alam ko, masaya siya na andito kayo….”
Hahaha! Parang timang lang kame… We just cried the whole night. But it was ok. We needed that. We needed release.
But the weakling in me didn’t show up again; this time on the day of your burial… I’m really sorry about that, Riley. Hindi ko talaga kaya…
Oh, just so know, I wasn't the only one who didn't show up... Anne and baby Josh never showed up... Not on the second day, not on the third day, not even during your burial rites... I'm sorry about that too...
Remember how we talked about Carlyn the last time, and how you said she still has a special place in your heart? And how, after all this time, you’re still madly in love with her? I would’ve told her that. But, after what happened that night, I don’t think telling her would help ease the pain. Baka mas lalo lang siyang masaktan. She has cried enough.
But just so you know, I asked how she feels about you…
And after all these years, nothing’s changed. She still loves you, just like the first time.
I hope this made you smile.
Oh, and one more thing... Dalawin mo daw ang mga Ate mo... they miss you...