He opened his eyes and saw the lights of the day penetrating through the Venetian blinds hanging on the kitchen window. He sat up and laid the pillow, wet with sweat, onto his lap. Julio knew it was a new day for he heard the familiar sounds of the same motions that people go through every morning. From the fourth floor, right on his bed, inside his solitary space, he could imagine the same routine taking place in the community below.
There was the rumbling sound of the motorcycle engine starting up. He knew that the uniformed man living in the building across was bound to his duty. There was the high-pitched voices of children trying to get ahead of each other. He sensed that their school bus has just arrived and they would be taken to their classes soon. He could hear the brooms brushing against the pavements. The street sweepers must have been up, cleaning the surroundings. Outside his unit, doors opened and closed, unlocked and locked. Footsteps descended the stairs. The owners of those left and soon, silence would reign in the hallway.
But Julio did not move from his spot. He would not go through the same actions as others around him did. He was stuck. Idle. Except that he was counting the time. The wall clock was ticking on the corner. He watched as the long hand moved second by second clockwise. The ticking formed some phonetics, and then an inquiry was spoken directly to him.
“Is this how you’re going to spend the remaining days of your life?”
Julio did not answer and hugged his pillow instead. There were visions flashing back as he cuddled and kissed the pillow with his eyes shut. “Is this how you’re going to spend the remaining days of your life? Conjuring up sweet memories of the past that would never come back? Imagining ruined things that could never be undone as whole and real?” He did not answer the clock. Tears were starting to well on his eyelids. “Is this how you’re morning would always be like? Endless crying until the final day comes?” Julio could not find the right words to say and he let the tears fall on the pillow.
He alighted from the bed and peered on his reflection in the full-length mirror. He clasped his hands together and began his morning recitation. “For I know the plans I have for you….” He was interrupted by the same voice. “Is this how you’re going to spend the remaining days of your life? Saying the same declaration that doesn’t even bring about change in you?”
Julio looked at the clock again. It was now 9:00 in the morning. Time would never stop. He pressed his right hand on his abdomen. There was pain in there. He tolerated the spasms for seconds. Then, he pulled open the door of the ref and took out a pitcher of cold water. He brought down a box from above the sink and searched for certain tablets. But nothing matched what he was looking for. There were no more medicines left. He drank two glasses of water and entered the toilet. The voice of the clock followed him as he tried hard to excrete the stubborn urine that would not come out as easily as it used to be. “Is this how you’re going to present yourself on the final day? Physically pained? Afflicted? Unhealthy?”
He sat on the black leather sofa to compose himself. What else is worth living for? What else is worth fighting for? What else is worth waiting for? These questions made him lethargic. He lay on the sofa and wanted to sleep again, wishing for it to last an eternity. As he was about to fall asleep, the voice of the clock spoke again, louder this time. “Is this how you’re going to spend the remaining days of your life? You’ve just awaken and now you want to sleep again?” Julio curled up and stared at the floor. “Answer me! Is this how you’re supposed to cope with your misery? When someone you love was ungrateful, unapologetic? When someone you love was immature to understand the value of sacrifice? When someone you love was too cold to care where you’ve been?” He has the answers clinging to the circuitry of his brain, but he seemed to have lost the energy to voice them out.
Time has moved on. He could not hold it for a second. Then, it was time to eat. He did not cook a new breakfast meal. There were still left overs from last night’s dinner. He steamed the rice and dish and boiled the water. While waiting, he looked out into the window and saw the same group of young grown up men playing basketball in a small court below. The dribbles, the laughters, the agile movements are indicative of life, vitality, and strength. They did not have careers. They did not have high-paying jobs. They were part of lower class like Julio. Yet, they appeared to be very happy and oblivious to the vicissitudes of daily life. He heard the clock speaking again. He turned off the stove and started plating his food. “Is this how you’re going to spend the last days of your life? Envying others’ happiness when you can create your own? Eating and satisfying yourself with the same kind of food from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner?” Julio remained taciturn and proceeded to eat his meal.
When he turned on the radio, the popular male anchor of the biggest broadcasting network was grilling a chairman in an interview about the infamous, chaotic, and unresolvable traffic situation in Metro Manila. There was a flash report on a new charge against an incumbent senator that questions her Filipino citizenship. The second highest government official of the country was defending himself against allegations of graft and corruption. Still, there were several reports of theft, car napping, kidnapping, hold upping, shoot outs, murders, and missing children despite police statements that crime rate has been significantly reduced. On his Blackberry, he tapped on Facebook and the news feeds revealed photo collages of enhanced selfies and food porns. Julio scrolled down, then quickly closed the application. The voice of the clock became audible again. “Is this how you’re going to spend the remaining days of your life? Listening to endless negative reports and checking on egoistic status updates?” Julio shook his head. How can you maintain your optimism in this world full of negativism? He turned the radio off and locked the smartphone.
He cracked his knuckles, thinking of what he should be doing next. His half-day regimen has been through. There were piles of books on the table, but he was too tired to read them. He seemed to be not getting the most out of the books he was reading lately. He stared at his wrists and beneath his pale skin, he could make out the network of blue nerves. He rubbed his left wrist and turned his gaze on the stainless knife in the dish organizer. Julio shut his eyes. Noooo! Not yet. I am hoping for a painless death. And what I’m thinking right now doesn’t fit that description. Will I last till the final day? The pain accumulates everyday. Maybe I should do this now? No, not yet please. I have to stick to the original plan. But…
His mind was in that dilemma when the phone rang. He was in a state of confusion so terrible that he missed the call from a very important person. He reached for his phone. Three missed calls. Oh my gosh! He took his calendar and confirmed that an appointment with the caller has to happen today. 2:00 PM, the wall clock said. He has only an hour left, and if he fails to make it, his last hope would vanish forever.
“No!” Julio faced the clock. Finally, he has spoken. “This is not how I’m going to spend the last days of my life. I have to do something else. I have to do things quite differently.”
Blood rushed to his face. And for the first time since he woke up this morning, Julio felt the fear of time running out.