There are a few songs I can recall from our trip: Human by The Human League, When Doves Cry by Prince, and Rio by Duran Duran. In between those songs, I remember playing popular tracks from the 80s, even when you reminded me that the decade wasn't your favorite, unlike your brother who loved almost every song that played on the radio. You called me a bad curator and you fell silent when I played songs from my playlist.
But when Hall & Oates came in, you started bouncing on your seat, the way you would when you’re munching on your favorite chocolate from the sari-sari store nearby. You asked me to turn the volume up. Dad and I spent quite some time listening to your voice crack every time you tried to mimic the singers’ voice.
“Now that’s good music.” You said while snapping your fingers, following the beat of the bassline and swaying your body on your seat. And through the rearview mirror, I saw you humming Daryll Hall’s words.
“I’m down on my daydream, oh, that sleepwalk should be over now.”
I visited your house with storage boxes in hand a few weeks ago. Before I came by, I’ve asked permission from your siblings and house helpers to gather your belongings. It took me a few days just to muster the strength to touch anything you left – either untouched or obscured. But on the last day, I came across a small white radio that sat on the corner of the table you used to work on. I asked Ate if it was still working and she told me that they’ve learned how to use it from time to time.
She said that Dad bought it for you to keep you company during your last days at the Philippine General Hospital. And what pestered me was that you know almost all the staff there. I assumed that you knew every nook and cranny of the premises because you worked as a doctor there for years. And what was it like to rest on the hospital beds, knowing that you’ve spent most of your life treating patients who have slept and died there?
Dad told me that you often called him to buy you food, and I believed that those were excuses. You even had nurses beside you, yet you didn’t need to start a conversation with them. Not with anyone who reminded you that you are one step away from demise.
I imagined that you would lay down on your bed and stare at the cracked ceiling, listening to whatever it is that would come up in the stations. Or maybe you listened to the static sound of a lost signal, just so you can drown the noise out.
Your brother sang in front of you. Everyone sat on their seats as they watched and listened as his voice cracked. I do not remember what song it was, or why it seemed that it was the kind of song you would listen to. People came in to hear him fumble with the lyrics. The moment interrupted their cigarette breaks and excuses to leave the room. Despite the loud volume, the room seemed silent. I was there, sitting in one of the pews, drowning myself out with the words blasting on the speakers.
During a playdate, my brother came to me with a walkie-talkie in his hand, and he turned the volume up so everyone could hear. No one else listened except for me. There was a blowing sound, like how windy storms made whistled noises, and he kept it close in his ear. Everyone told him to turn it down because the high-pitched tones were hurting their ears. But he saw me listening, and at that moment it felt that we understood each other.
“It’s him.” He kept the walkie-talkie closer to his ear, and he would mimic the noise a few times. A long whistle. Dad laughed at his assumption.
He turned the gadget off and dropped it on the table. “He wants to say that he’s here.”