To start building our life as a family. It was the image envisioned in my mind when we agreed to stay in a little room in a little town outside the city.
It is actually a suburb bustling with so much activity from dawn to dusk. Its pioneer residents have lived there for several years; having already grown a number of generations.
Amidst a busy town
Few of the structures that they can brag of, besides the old Churches, were the Spanish style houses with cozy balconahes and windows made of capiz shells.
As days and months passed, the simple life of its people gradually unveiled before me. The friendly smiles of the elderlies greet you as you passed them. Peddlers haggling stuff from tilapia to peanut butter to buttered (small) shrimps to rags were not uncommon sights on the streets; or neither the scents of various kakanins being sold from morning until afternoon.
Young children running to and fro along the iskinitas and the religious piety of both the old and young alike. The noisy bets for the battles of spiders and the arguments between the members of the paluwagans. People hanging out by the streets on wee hours, pretending they were merely playing cards or darts– there were few of the things that may remind me of that place.
What mostly bemused me was how the neighborhood cradles hucksters. They’re trading the country’s most prominent, most prohibited substance today.
Drug abuse in that little town does not choose age nor gender. Men and women alike, youths and adults. Married, widowed, separated, and single. Out-of-school-kids, students, laborers, drivers, professionals and unemployed– anyone could be lured to the said stuff.
The community keeps some “users, runners and mongers” whom I realized, were mere pawns in this somewhat big and widespread illegal trade.
Families are not exempted
It was indeed, a trade that could tolerate even the most painful consequences to a family. I can only recall a few — men keeping two wives under one roof. Minors forced into illicit affairs with dealers, wives being battered, parents axed from their jobs, couples being separated and children being abandoned by their own mothers.
Every day, these are what’s actually happening before my eyes. I get curious why those people can outrun the authorities. They do their transactions even in the middle of the day, even they use the simplest street language.
It was a wonder why our other neighbors could tend to evade that — were not their own sons and daughters affected as well?
How could the residents overlook this and go on with their lives? When, directly or indirectly, their lives are intertwined with the rest of the neighborhood?
Eventually, I realized existing in the same place demands one to act oblivious to what was happening. But I cannot do what others do there and it was sad that it seems it had made things worst.
Even our own family
Perhaps, that’s why I drafted this writing: because the system affected my own budding family. It slowly seized from my daughter and me the chance to live peacefully with my husband.
He became a drug dependent again.
He was unemployed for some time. He began to steal and started selling different kinds of stuff from jeans to CD’s to Auto spare parts to anything just to support the vice.
He even got an affair with a married, a much older and similarly, drug-dependent woman. She, I guess, could more satiate him with his monetary and salacious needs.
His family had repeatedly warned me not to be disturbed. Neither mind him nor his ways. Since he was just being his old self again, I had to stop waiting for changes and need not to worry about him.
I must no longer mind if he went home at two o’clock or four o’clock in the morning. I must not be bothered if suspicious callers call him daily for apparent “suspicious business.”
I must not nag or force him to tell where else he had spent almost the 24-hour of all of his Sundays or even his Christmas and Valentines.
And it’s funny that it’s still expected, or even insisted on me to remain a docile wife as ever. The house must be neat, meals are cooked and ready, the kid is well-tended, and the wife must be cheerful and cuddly in spite of everything.
The idea seems foul enough, yet, I tried to conform to the expectations. I strive to be the embodiment of devotedness that was imposed upon me.
The distance between us became much too raw and much too cold not to notice. We seldom share lunch or dinner together then. More often, he was getting unreasonably defensive as if guiltily protective of something or someone.
The number of times he turned his back at nights already hurts. The times our intimate relations disgustingly happened merely because he alone needs only to release the tension the substance built within him.
Our fights were another. I withdraw and explode later; while him, he started hitting me. However, apart from the vindictive words he threw, I was more insulted and more wounded about the idea that he wanted us to leave him all alone.
It felt like he has long given us up — our family, our relationship, me. It almost makes me crumble and shatter. Yet, faith reminds me that I cannot be defeated just like that so easily.
It was then I decided, against my desire, to let go of him, of everything that we started. Our dreams, our little family and even our little home– if there used to be one.
Leaving but not giving up
I left that place and took my child with me.
Yet, hoping that in doing so, I am not yet really giving up on him. I left vowing that I shall do something about whatever happened, or perhaps, what is still happening there.
I left praying that we may still take my daughter’s father away from that deteriorating place.
Twice before, I have already tried going away with him to start a new phase of life somewhere. Yet, he seemed scared about finally detaching himself from the charm of that place: the crutch of his frailties and of his dependency.
Anyway, who else would be brave enough to live decently amidst a place poisoned by cowardice and absurdity?
I wonder how many young families may still break because of the apathy of today’s society regarding drug abuse. Whose children would be denied a secured future before the government shall actually do something?
It is in this light that this writing is hoped to be taken.
For the purpose to go far beyond that small place so that no more same stories shall be staged in another neighborhood again. That this tale would no longer repeat to another guileless young person’s life again.
Author’s Note: After nineteen years, similar stories still happened in so many places and it was just sad to realize drug addiction never stopped from spreading.