The sound of her fingers pounding away at the keyboard was the only thing keeping her awake. Glancing at the time on her computer monitor, she saw that it was already 5:47 PM. She straightened her back and forced herself to focus on the task at hand. It was Friday yet it looked like she would need to stay for a couple of hours more unless she wanted to incur the wrath of her boss. She couldn’t blame him. She was asked to turn her work in Wednesday morning but she waited until the last minute to get started.
Two and a half hours and three cups of coffee later, she picked up her bags and made her way home. She loved Fridays but hated the additional commuting hassle that came with it. Her shoulders ached from hunching over her desk all day long, including lunch time, and from the weight of the bags she insisted on carrying everyday. Her colleagues teased her often about this habit of hers. They told her it made her seem like she was carrying everything she owned. Truthfully, she did not know why she did this too. She did not need the change of clothing, the mobile phone charger, the planner, the tumbler, and the pair of sandals that she kept stashed in her pink-and-white striped bag. On one occasion, she was the butt of jokes for not having a pen with her. “You brought your entire house with you yet you do not even have a pen in either of those bags?” their procurement manager teased her while he reviewed her request for additional notebooks. She smiled at the joke but inside, she bristled. Yes, it was ironic that she did not have a pen with her given the nature of her job but did he really have to point it out to her?
She sat in the rear part of the shuttle and prepared herself for the long ride home. Plugging her earphones in, she was dismayed to find out that the battery on her tab was only at 3%. Drat. No House of Cards for this evening, then. She hugged her bags and observed the people in the vehicle.
She shared the space with 18 other passengers, driver included. In front of her was a young couple with limbs expressing as much affection as the cramped space allowed. She was torn between annoyance and envy at the couple. She remembered a time when she and her girlfriend of nine years were like that couple – when each stolen moment felt like it was the last time they would see each other. She fished out her mobile phone from her bag and sent a text message to Mina. She held her phone for five more minutes and put it back in her bag. Her girlfriend was probably still asleep and won’t be replying until the next day, the end of her shift. It has been like that since Mina got a job as a call center agent in Ortigas and Sam was slowly starting to get used to it.
It was not until the vehicle hit a hump that Sam realized she had already dozed off. Quickly glancing around her surroundings, she saw that she was still a long way from home. She rolled up her blazer and tried to get comfortable again. She had been sleep-deprived for the past few weeks, not just because of overtime work she had to render but because of the series of strange events that have been taking place at home. Nightly, she would wake up to the sound of heavy footsteps on the second floor (she usually slept on the sofa in the living room). Once or twice, she checked on the noise but was met with the view of her sleeping parents on each instance. The next time it happened, she was convinced their house was haunted. She meant to tell her mother about it but kept forgetting. She had no plans of telling her father though, as he would probably brush it off as a figment of her overactive imagination. “Why don’t you just fold the clothes in your closet instead of engaging in silly thoughts?”. Her father has always adopted a pragmatic view on things, including her career plans. She wanted to major in theater arts, but her father scoffed at the idea. “Theater arts? Not everyone can be Lea Salonga or Pinky Amador, hija, Why don’t you study business managament or nursing so you can make money when you graduate? Or how about accountancy? Yes, you will be the first in our family to have a title.” She tried to follow her father’s plans for her and majored in accountancy but did not pass the departmental exam that was handed out every end of the school year so she shifted to management. She did not like many of her major subjects but decided to stick it out as she knew her father would no longer pay for her education if she told him that she really wanted to switch majors once more. She got a job right after graduation and was convinced that she would be renting her own place before her first work anniversary.
She has been working for six years now and still lived at home with her parents.
It was already 11:00 PM when she got home. Her mother was still up. “There’s still molo soup on the table. Eat first before you go to bed.” Aling Letty told her. “That’s okay, Inay. I will just go to bed now. I’m tired.” “Suit yourself. Oh, before I forget, I received the disconnection notice from Meralco. It’s also on the table” Aling Letty added. Sam sighed and told her mother she will take care of it. Her father promised her that she would not be helping out as much with the bills once he got back to work but Sam knew her father’s chances of being hired as a seafarer were already slim as he was already nearing sixty. She changed her clothes, brushed her teeth , and plopped down on the sofa. She was too exhausted, she forgot to remove her make-up.
Thirty minutes later she was awakened by the clomping sounds on the second floor. It happened at the same time every night. The industrial electric fan she set up was not enough to battle the balmy summer heat, but she pulled her covers around her and waited until the sound was gone.
But the sound did not go away. In fact, it grew louder and seemed to be making its way to the stairs. Her heart pounded faster and she grabbed her phone to call Mina. After two attempts, Sam answered. “Hey! I was just on my way to work. Can I call you later?” Mina asked.
Sam shook her head and realized it was silly since Mina could not see her. “No, please. Talk to me. Just talk to me.”
“Mahal, what’s going on?” Mina probed, disturbed. Sam opened her mouth to tell her what was happening but noticed that the sound had already stopped. “Nothing. I’ll tell you tomorrow. Take care. I love you.” She hung up without waiting for Mina’s response and lay in bed for hours.
She wanted to sleep in but her mother nudged her awake at six o’clock in the morning; she was in the way of her mother’s cleaning schedule. She figured she would just pick Mina from work. She was already on the bus when Mina sent her a text message saying she and her workmates had a team building activity and were already on the North Luzon Expressway. Cursing under her breath, she sent an angry reply to Mina then turned her mobile phone off. She did not have the time to deal with a fight this early in the morning.
Her mother was surprised to see her at home. “I thought you were on your way to see your friends?” Her mother still did not know about her sexual preference and was still hoping their neighbor would work up his courage and finally ask her daughter out. Sam mumbled an excuse and got herself a glass of water. “I guess I’ll just go back to sleep,” she told her mother.
“Yes, you should do that. Your Tatay and I are concerned with the number of hours you’ve been putting in the office. I hope they recognize you for the hardworker that you are.”
Sam just shrugged her shoulders.
“I mean, you’re always tired that you sleeptalk and wake us up in the middle of the night.” Aling Letty added.
“What? When?” Sam asked.
“Every night now, for the past two weeks.” her mother responded. “Last night, you even sleepwalked. Your father was on his way to the bathroom and saw you standing at the bottom of the stairs. He almost jumped in surprise.”
“Inay…” Sam began cautiously, “Does tatay remember what time this happened?”
“Around 11:30 PM. He had just finished watching the late night news.” Her mother answered, matter-of-factly.
The hairs at the back of Sam’s neck stood on end and she nearly dropped her glass.
(To be continued…)