C How They Made Me! Chapter 19

Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer

C How they made me chapter 19:


Like I have said numerous times, when I first came to the Philippines I was a comparative stranger to death and tragedy however life in the Philippines is tenuous at the best and very soon both death and tragedy were to become all too familiar, as were the feelings associated with them. When I saw Hilda slip away I immediately thought of the Dylan Thomas poem “Do not go gentle into that good night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . rage, rage against the dying of the light” and I wanted to reach out and help her. I wanted to tell her no don’t go, don’t leave me, don’t leave this life there is so much more for you. I wanted to reach out and give her my life force to make her strong, I wanted to see her quirky little smile and hold her in my arms. I wanted to hear her voice as she struggled to communicate with me in halting English, I wanted to hear her laugh and cry, I wanted her to be the Hilda I knew and loved but now before my eyes all of this was fading away and from this point on was only to be memories. Hilda obviously wasn’t the type to rage against the dying of the light and as I stood there watching through the foggy haze of tears she slipped gently into that good night never to be seen again.

When someone close to you passes away there are the inevitable questions which assail your mind, what if I had done something different, why wasn’t I there, could I have done something to change this situation, what if I had never done this or that? There are feelings of remorse, feelings of guilt and worst of all feelings of emptiness like part of your life has been taken away and you can never get it back. All the different possibilities flow through your mind but in the end there is only one inevitable conclusion and that is someone has passed away and you will never see that person or what they represented in your life again, all that is left is the memories.

When I saw Hilda pass gently into the night I didn’t know what to do I was bombarded by a myriad of feelings and emotions. I felt sad and helpless I felt anger at the futility of the situation, I felt like someone had taken a part of my life away, I felt like someone had wrenched a part of my soul through my rib cage and out of my body. There was an intense feeling of sorrow and devastation combined with a feeling of emptiness. For me I tried to assuage myself with platitudes such as, hey Martin death is just another part of the cycle of life, death is something that happens to us all at some time or another , she has gone to a better place, for those left behind life goes on etc, etc. Platitudes like this certainly serve their purpose and they provide psychological support helping the people left behind in the land of the living deal with the intense emotions produced by someone’s passing away but in the end they cannot hide the fact that someone is dead and they can never stop the feelings of grief and anguish that stricken those of usleft behind.

When Hilda passed away my initial feeling was one of emptiness. It just hit me to the point where I was numb and to some extent in denial. I think this is a natural self defense mechanism when someone dear to you dies. It’s like a feeling of disbelief a feeling that this can’t possibly be true this can’t really be happening. I remember the feelings of pain assailing me the feelings of desolation and emptiness and I remember just walking out of the hospital like a zombie totally devoid of any feeling, I was just going through the motions, I was on auto pilot, my body was there and functioning but I was not inside it I was somewhere else coming to terms with what had just happened. I can vaguely remember reaching the front door of the hospital when someone grabbed my arm and pulled me back to the main reception area where I was asked to sign some papers which were resolutely shoved under my nose I can remember giving the details of the Mayfair Hotel and instructing them to send whatever medical bills had been incurred to that address with nowhere to go like state in a daze I just walked out of the hospital. I can remember someone chasing me and pulling my arm, I can remember walking back into the hospital signing some papers shoved in front of my nose and giving someone the contact details of the Mayfair hotel. After that it was a stroll through the doors and out onto the street to hail a cab to take me back to the Mayfair.

In the cab on the way to the Mayfair I sat in the back totally devoid of thought or feelings, it was like I was a total blank. I realized I should have been feeling something but it wasn’t happening, I was like a blank slate, a living zombie. I arrived back at the Mayfair paid the driver and still in a trance like state walked into the outside reception area plonked my ass down on the plastic chair and said to Mario the bar tender, “give me a double Jack Daniels and coke”. Mario heard the tone in my voice took one look at my face and within seconds I had a double Jack Daniels and coke in my hand. I scoffed down the Jack and coke and promptly ordered 2 more. I was half way through my fifth one when I felt a presence besides me and looked up to see Dave standing above me with a worried frown etched on his face. “You all right mate” he asked to which I replied, “I will be after I finish this bottle of Jack” and with that I proceeded to gulp down my current glass full and asked Mario to bring two more. Dave was not exactly a prolific drinker as his emphasis was on chasing pussy more so than getting drunk and partying with the boys but I guess he empathized with me and could see my pain so he drew up a seat and said “pour me one of those Mario I think I will join Martin for a drink”.

They say that with the passing away of a relative or a loved one those left behind will require a period of grieving and I can certainly attest that this is true. They also say that to drown ones sorrows is good temporary relief and I can further attest that this is most certainly true. David Goldshaft was certainly not the biggest of drinkers but he managed to sit with me for 3 or so hours as we finished off one bottle and started on another. During this three hour period David was a rock he just sat and listened as I poured my heart out on his sleeve and only interjected when he felt it would help me. When it comes to grief and the painful feelings associated with the loss of someone close I theorize that as humans we are incapable of handling the intensity of these emotions so rather than face them we tend to compartmentalize them, we put the feelings in mental boxes and keep those boxes in a far corner of our mind only to be opened on the very rare occasion when a particular situation warrants it. Even though I was feeling numb I had not totally compartmentalized my anguish and as I drank the implications of what had happened to Hilda hit me like a sledgehammer. Luckily David was there to keep me calm and after about three hours of solid drinking I vaguely remember stumbling up the stairs to my room with my arm around his shoulders then collapsing on the bed watching the room spin around me when I closed my eyes. I have no idea how long I was lying on the bed but the next thing I knew was awoken by a knocking sound inside my head. Feeling like death warmed up I awoke and through bloodshot eyes and a throbbing headache I realized there was someone insistently knocking on my door. I mumbled something like come in but then realized the door was locked so still holding my throbbing head I got up and opened the door only to be confronted by two uniformed policemen. “Is your name Mr Martin” they asked and when I replied in the affirmative they then said “Mr Martin we invite you to accompany us to the station”. I looked at them somewhat befuddled and then managed to mumble, “what the hell for” to which they replied, “to assist us with our inquiries into the death of Miss Hilda Delgardo sir”.

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