(dedicated to Dr. Kate Leyritana; thank you for saving my life)
“How come the sky looks so much bigger out here in the province,” you ask me
in a text message, one of many in an on-going correspondence
and it was only then that I realised you were not in the city and you were
somewhere far and remote and beautiful and surrounded by things
you would not see in the city.
All of a sudden, all that talk about medicine and health and procedures
seemed so small when I discovered you were in Ilocos, a place I’ve never been,
enveloped by a vast sky that is peppered generously with stars.
“It’s always bigger,” I respond, “the sky, when you are away from the city.
The city skyline eats away at the emptiness above, like it is jealous
of the vastness of space.”
I don’t know how I come up with these lines; maybe it’s because I’m a poet.
Or at least, I’m trying to be one, and it comes naturally for me to forego
the scientific back-and-forth we usually engage in, when we are talking about my health.
You did, after all, save my life. You are the doctor who never gave up on me
even when I did; and our correspondences jump to-and-fro from the practical
to the abstract in one large stride, without missing a beat, because there’s something here
far deeper than a doctor-patient relationship. You saved my life, I owe you one, big time.
And in that space, we’ve become friends.
And you can be in Ilocos and I’ll be in Manila and we can talk about my health
or we can talk about the stars or we can talk about our individual histories
of what we were before you were my lifesaver and I was your patient.
It’s like the distance between the north-most point of Luzon can be traversed
to the capital of the country in the south of the island by what we have between us.
It can be HIV or meningitis or the flu, or it can be the stars and the sky and silence
of provincial towns. It can be all of this or none of it at all. It is time travel. It is teleportation.
It’s, like, science fiction, yet we know it, inherently, as that thing we are taught when we are but babes.
Gratitude is like a pair of seven-league-boots, a phoenix, a unicorn, or the holy grail.
I stop texting at this point, leaving you to enjoy the vastness of the dark Ilocos sky,
peppered generously with stars. In the city, I drown out the sounds of cars and trucks.
There are not as much stars here as there are out there but there are still stars here in the city.
And it shines brightly, shines brighter than the sun, and yet blinds no one.