You liked her as soon as you first heard her speak while both of you were inside the elevator on your way to the fifth floor – she with that distinct, Michelle-Pfeiffer-sultry voice that coos and mesmerizes the Fabulous Baker Boys while she sings on top of the piano. You were meant to be together, you whispered to yourself. You were surprised, and so was she, when you realized that both of you were going to the same restaurant for your first day of work. The lounge area was so quiet… and the only sound that you heard was the thuds in your rushing, beating heart. You knew right there and then that you must have her, by hook or by crook.
Of course, several months later, you got what you wished for. You visited her place one time and after dinner, both of you listened to Roberta Flack as she ebbed her dying chorus regarding a boy who was strumming her pain with his fingers and was softly killing her with his song. You needed to close the windows as the rustling of leaves kept intruding the harmonious silence of the evening. You were listening to her sighs as she kissed your palms while you were gently caressing her cheeks. You knew how someone from her past had screeched her gramophone and left saying nary a goodbye. You heard the sound of her tears sliding down her cheeks as it tousled with her hair, and you just put up your dam to prevent it from overflowing. Shhhh… It’s going to be alright, you said. She said she wanted to eat…. But then you just sat there, feeling disoriented because you had just splurged on the first memories of your skin touching, and you were still basking in the afterglow. No, she said. I didn’t want you to sit. What I wanted was for us to eat something. Aren’t you hungry? You then laughed, sealing the chemistry between you two, grateful for the connection. But it was also the first time when you experienced how a mishearing can affect your communication. After that night, you became an item. She became the cup to your saucer, and you, her tenon to the mortise. You became inseparable. You became her god while she became your muse.
Soon you became one in marriage and not long after, three children followed. You both were devoted in bringing them up. You both knew the intimate times were somehow getting few and far between. But it didn’t matter. You both were caught up with your own respective affairs – you as the boulder of the family, and she as the light. You barely noticed the seasons passing by in a frenzied hush, sashaying you to be quiet. Their moods were mostly mad, desperate for speed, squashing what was left of the day before when all were just figments of borrowed memories. Soon you both found yourselves missing the silent rifts and skirmishes amongst your children. You heard the last fledgling leave, and you were left with the empty nest. What to do now?
You loved watching films at home. During Blockbuster’s heydays, you always made sure that Friday and Saturday evenings were spent watching whatever films you both fancied; it was also the sacred time for homemade pizzas or pastas, which she so lovingly cooked. You adored her for her culinary expertise – wasn’t that the primary reason why she caught your attention and fell in love with her in the first place? But the food you always guzzled down on those nights was just secondary to the passion you both have for the movies. You loved to be scared out of your wits and preferred whodunits or psycho thrillers. You got a knack out of watching Ted Bundy’s horrid tales and Hannibal Lecter’s eating fava beans for a side dish, while she adored romantic comedies which featured all the ingenues from the Golden Age up to the present. You saw how she got starstruck and imitated her favorites in Tinseltown – Claudette Colbert, Audrey Hepburn, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Lawrence. You laughed whenever she would mouth Bette Davis’ famous line, ”Fasten your seat belts – it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Whenever you both went to the cinema house on rare occasions, you always turned to her and asked her to repeat what had just happened or what the character had just said. You said you were lost. You were kind of upset when she ignored you. You know that whenever she watched a movie, she wanted to focus on it and not get distracted in any way. You wanted to hear every single word that was uttered even by the minor characters. You wanted to be there. You wanted to be in the moment. All around you, you heard the shhhs and the tsks tsks – coming from random people in the dark. You hated it when home movies didn’t have subtitles.
You were fine, you mentioned. This quirky ear would act normal soon. You always convinced yourself that you are far from being deaf. The hospital visit could wait.
You were not there when Mr. Paredes mentioned to your wife that your land title was being revoked due to a technicality. Your wife wished to tell you sooner, but she was preoccupied with finding the resources to hire a good lawyer. She hid all the details not just from you but to all of your children… thinking in her mind that you wanted to get rid of the property and just look for a smaller place for the both of you. So she decided to just be quiet in the meantime. She would let you know at the opportune time… as soon as she got a better deal for the sale.
It was 3:00 in the morning, and you complained about why she needed to wake you up just to check if your dog Tubby was safely tucked in her bed. Hmmm… hmmmm…. Then eerie silence. You said, “do you really need to check?”
You remembered earlier you had just watched “A Quiet Place” in the cinema. Alone. You had done that because you had to wait for her while she was having her me-time with her two friends at the salon. Aarrghhh… Emily Blunt mouthed. You abhorred the alien who would like to pry on her and perhaps hurt her unborn son. You knew how painful their silence was. Tap. Tap. Tap. Water was overflowing in the bathtub… Shhhh…. You knew you enjoyed the movie, like the way you enjoyed foreign films because you didn’t need to hear the lines, you just need to read the subtitles, especially now that you could watch movies on your tablet.
It was dead of night. You were there, beside her. For some reason, you just wanted to hug her, feel the warmth of her embrace and touch the glistening strands of her wavy, graying hair. You pushed your chest against her breasts and soon you two were stuck together, glued by unseen forces, your two hearts beating as one. You let her feel the tears running down your cheeks, a river that wouldn’t let up. You touched her face like she was the only star left in an evening on which all of the universe’s galaxies had hidden themselves for the night. You were hugging her so tightly, both of your loose naked skin screeching like a printing machine, which always jammed because the oils hadn’t been used and calibrated for so long; enmeshed and oohing, a mosquito buzzing in your ears to let you know it wanted to suck your blood.
“I’m sorry,” you said. “How can you forgive me?”
Shhh. The window pane was knocking like a soft tumbleweed, all the snowflakes summoning Jack Frost to come and make amends for not coming sooner, just when you needed him the most.
You just sold the most important deed in your lives – the land title you had so long kept and cherished. When she told you to just “seal it” and wait for her to look for a better deal, you thought you had heard her say “sell it” and with that mishearing, Mr. Paredes smiled the widest smile of his life not realizing that the next day, you, and your wife’s lives would never be the same again.
You tried to rectify your mistake. You tried to contest the misunderstanding, the mishearing. You told them it was your condition that caused the blunder. Trying as you had to recover all lost ground, the enemy didn’t budge. You signed it. Your wife endorsed it. Somehow you wished this was one of your silent movies that you were used to watching on Friday or Saturday nights, when even if you couldn’t hear what Robert de Niro was saying in Raging Bull, or Scott Campbell’s gibberish to Julia Roberts in Dying Young, you could always depend on the subtitles. If you were given the chance, life should be a series of tapes where even if you forgot to hear the words, you could always pause and rewind them to hear the misheard lines again. Hush. The night is still. It’s just money.
You decided to leave that night, convinced that it wasn’t too late to get the land title back. All you needed was a good lawyer. This lawyer lived next to a railroad station and you were determined to get a hold of him. You hailed a cab on your way there and soon found yourself walking on a railroad track, praying somehow that you would be back early morning the next day, just in time so you could make her some brewed coffee, for a change. You didn’t hear the muffled sounds of an approaching train. All you heard in your mind were answers that would bring a smile back to her lips. You loved her. It would break your heart to see her cry. Back home, she was awoken from her sleep when she missed hearing your rugged snoring. Downstairs, Tubby was groaning, like a cat trying to kill a rat. Back in the bedroom, she tried pulling herself from the bed but decided against it. You just couldn’t interrupt her smile for obviously, she was enjoying her dream. She was hugging the pillow like it was you. You were there.
Written By: Fernando Rosal Gonzalez
About the Author: Fernando Rosal Gonzalez has published novellas, children’s storybooks and written TV scripts both for mainstream and independent producers in Manila. He created the children’s TV show, “Oyayi,” which was jointly produced by CBN-Asia, the NCCT (National Council for Children’s Television), and ABS-CBN. He is currently taking up filmmaking and creative writing courses at CCSF.
Visual Art “Haze” By: Eunbin Lee
About the Artist: I am a student studying photography from Korea. Living in a new culture and environment of the United States, I try to express through pictures what I felt based on various daily experiences. I feel a sense of freedom by expressing it through my photographs rather than words. I hope people can feel the feelings that I want to convey through my photos.