So there’s this guy. Quite a lad, not too young, but still can’t be called a man. He has tattoos on his arms, a piercing on the right side of his nose, and a spider tattoo on his hand. I like it.
I envy him. I envy those who have the courage to live life. I would love to do a lot of things, too. I want to be reckless, have fun, go places, ride a speeding bike, drink and laugh till sunrise, fall in love with sunsets, curse and kiss the sun at the same time. But I live a very different life.
Every day starts with a rush. An hour feels like minutes, you’ll seldom notice the difference. Scorching heat, once-crisp white uniform drenched with sweat, a pair of sunglasses, and a drink in hand. You go to work, prepare the things you’ll be needing, constantly check the time, anticipate problems, calculate, heed the needs of your means, endless writing, endless questions, inquiries. Then attend to your higher beings. So many things to do, a lot of things to occupy your mind, sometimes you even forget to pee. Then the remaining hours you wish you can pull faster.
That’s the image of my daily life. But we know pretty well that the days are not always the same.
The doctor comes rushing. We have been waiting for quite some time. She checks the heart, his breathing, and looks at the ECG machine. Flat line. No pulse, no blood pressure, no breathing, nothing. No vital signals that he’s still alive.
She pronounces it. The family expects it, but it is still heartbreaking. All in a matter of minutes.
Now it’s time to do my work. Start to clean him up, with help from a coworker. Remove all of his contraptions. All these with mind occupied by the things I need to accomplish right after. Definitely a toxic day.
“I really want to get a tattoo like this, too,” I say while looking at the spider tattoo on his hand.
“I like tattoos, I just don’t have the courage to get one. Well, how can I go abroad if I have one?”
It’s my first time to have a patient die. But I’m not scared. I’m used to seeing dead bodies. Well, in this profession, you do, anyway. Overwhelming emotions are there, too, so often that you start to get numb. Well, not really, but still you become used to it.
As I clean him up, I ponder on. He’s just an empty vessel now. What life has this boy lived? I’m not one to judge, but by his recklessness I think he wasted it away. But then again, maybe by that he lived it fully.
Really, no one can tell if life is really wasted. One can live to 100 but still feel like one has not lived at all. That’s the funny thing about life. We take it for granted, but the moment it slips away from us, only then can we understand its worth.
Life. Life for me is very hollow. You are born, grow up to study, work to save, start a family, then die of old age (if you’re lucky). A cycle so simple, it makes you wonder: Is that your purpose? To live just to die? Science will say you live for the continuation of our species. But humans are so complex, sometimes you wonder maybe there’s more to life than living. Sometimes you feel that certain emptiness, but you don’t know what’s missing.
“Hey, let’s go. We’re done here,” my coworker says.
“All right, let me just talk to the family,” I say. Then to the family: “You can be with him now, until the funeral service arrives.”
“Thank you, nurse.”
I leave the room to go on with my work. I still have other patients to attend to.
Ma. Katrina San Pedro Dionglay, 23, is a nurse in San Pablo City.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.