The irony of modern transportation has trapped me in the middle of the sea in this slow-moving, fossil-powered majesty of the ’80s. The advancement of technology fades to the white that covers the rust of this ship. Obscure islands turn into a blur as they are drowned by the echoes of the hums of this engine. The sea breeze mixes with the smell of the cigarette I light. Amidst the organized chaos, I hear your voice.

I’m leaving. Take care of them.

With a tone as if it was farewell, I shrugged it off. Opting for practicality instead of accepting reality, I disembarked with that call merely being a figment of that travel. Even in your tears, I chose to deny you of my emotions, chose to move forward—as if I did not hear the tremble in your voice, as if I did not feel your tears. I did not confront my emotions then, should I confront them now?

Can you actually choose the memories that stay in your mind? Like, could I choose my memory of you and purge the rest? Actively choosing what stays and what goes out instead of letting my subconscious blindly decide what to keep is something that humans should be allowed to do. Because if we cannot—If I cannot—the guilt of the memories my mind chooses to keep will haunt me for eternity. I do not want to keep this feeling of angst, frustration, sadness, or disappointment. I want to remember you for something else. Not the imperfect figure that I witnessed before you left. Not the weak you that was afraid of the world. Not the defeated you. Never the defeated you.

It is grim that when you traded for your wings, I heaved a sigh of relief. It is as if my heart was too broken by you that my mind wandered to economics and practicality. As if it did not want to barter like it always did but instead welcomed it like a guest it did not invite but wanted to come. But this guest did not want drinks nor did it want a piece of the charcuterie, it wanted to stay in a dimly-lit corner, with a cigarette in his mouth, looking at me like it was looking for a lighter. I wanted him here but at the same time, I feared that he should not be here.

A year ago, I remember writing about how mental health would be a pandemic after this. With the yearning for human connections, even I felt that way. A person’s mind can be his own enemy. This broke you more. You cannot reduce us to electronically transmitted voices through your short-circuited cellular phone. It was understandable. We were yours before we were ours. The same way that we expected that your blood will know you as theirs. But they did not. Instead of seeking to understand you, they chained you like you were a prisoner. One figured it was better to cuff you to a chair. One figured it would be a good lesson for you to restrict your freedom. And the rest? With judging eyes, they accuse you of things that you are not even remotely close to being capable of. A person’s mind can really be his own enemy and in the same vein, it can also be his strongest weapon.

I ask myself, was I a good son? Now that you are gone, I can never know your answer. All that I will get is the answer from those prying eyes that scream vexing, unsupported thoughts of my failures. Maybe I could have done something more? But would you have wanted me to do more?

I struggle with the grief that is inside me. As I was broken when you left and broken again when you left for good. You left and I took care of them—my mother, my brother, and my sisters. I want you to know that I took care of them and I hope you find peace in that. I may never find peace in this lifetime as I have this guilt still a guest in my mind but I will choose to keep a memory of you. Your smile is what I will keep etched in the annals of my memory. That carefree, mischievous, sincere smile. I know I have it too. And as I smile from this day on, know that each curve that my lips make is supported by my memory of yours.

Rest easy, Pa.

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