i remember her from my childhood.
no, remember is not the correct term -- she was part of my childhood.
because if truth be told, my childhood recollections cannot be considered complete if she was squeezed out of the picture.
but as i look at her right now, and the apparent torment that is lurking underneath her disheveled exterior, i no longer recognize the sparkle of innocence that seemed so obvious before.
it is sad when friends we know have gone astray, or have outgrown us -- but linda's case was different, for neither one of us outgrew each other. but through the years, all her accumulated pain and sadness have scathed her, and this may very well be the reason why she no longer has her sanity intact today.
i've seen her twice or thrice probably, if my memory does not trick me, in the streets, virtually reduced to a beggar, wearing nothing but rags for clothes, and her body swollen all over with scabies.
once, i remember gathering enough courage to at least try to talk to her, in hopes of her recognizing me. but there was never a hint of familiarity in her eyes -- she only stared blankly at me for awhile, and then she walked away.
i honestly do not know if that was merely her defense mechanism because she was ashamed of what she had become, but as she looked at me, i was convinced that she had ceased to be my playmate who frequented our house during lazy summer days. she was no longer the sweet young girl who did everything to wake me up almost every morning so we could have our daily games of kayukok, dakpanay, teks, and dampa.
she was no longer there -- or if she was, she was pushed way inside her heart, unable to break free and once more see the beauty of living.
my sister, who had taken up nursing as her undergraduate course, shared that in their community immersion class, they were tasked to interview certain people with mental disabilities -- and after she was made aware of linda's case, she chose her to be her sample respondent. this was two years ago.
halfway through her research though, she was surprised to find out that like linda, her mother, aling edith, had also gone insane. and it was just as depressing when my sister later discovered that she was in a much more advanced state of insanity that she needed to be coercively chained inside her house so she would not roam around freely in the neighborhood.
linda, she observed, had more lucid moments back then and, during her better days, was still able to talk sensibly to her. but it had already become apparent that her living condition had taken its toll on her, and insanity was fast encroaching upon her rational faculties.
which is why lalab, my sister, was surprised to see her in her condition two years after -- her mental disability had worsened, and she had degenerated into a street vagrant who depended on the crumbs of those who were willing to dispose of what excess food they had to dogs and humans alike.
hushed whispers from neighbors and people once close to linda's family surmise that she had succumbed to post-partum depression after having given birth twice -- worse, they say, both had been fathered by her own father -- a drunkard who is notorious for his carnal trysts in our neighborhood.
all this started, they say, when aling edith became fully incapable of looking after herself. apparently, her departure from the household also signified linda's assumption of her sad role as the new woman of the house.
we live sad lives.
and just when we start to believe that stories such as linda's do not happen in real life, reality slaps us hard and makes us see that they are more than real. they, in fact, throb with life, and they serve as reminders that life's turbulence can sometimes scathe some of us irreparably.
linda may have transformed into a stranger. but as i see her in deep pain and anguish, i choose to remember her from before: when she was a carefree spirit and an innocent young child who was oblivious of what was to come later on in her life.
and i am certain that i am not alone in choosing to see her through her past -- because i know, i just do -- that deep within the recesses of her heart and soul, she is secretly wishing to be that little girl once more.
(written four-ish years ago.)