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Tightening the screws

It may be that the anesthesia from my recent surgery still hasn’t worn off entirely, which is what’s causing my bizarre dreams and weird hallucinations.

First of all, I thought I was still in Hong Kong, where I lived for many years not long ago. Folks in that territory who have defiantly declared “We’re Hong Kongers, not Chinese” have been objecting to China tightening the screws on their freedom, and somehow I found myself among the mobs of protesters milling about the Legislative Council building, hurling rocks and ramming objects to break down glass windows and doors. It felt good showing China they were hated by great numbers of people who are totally different from some Filipino politicians who, by their kowtowing and bending over backward, keep demonstrating their abject devotion to the malevolent Middle Kingdom.

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Soon after that, I had a nightmare about walking along a rocky path strewn with bits of papers, which turned out to be excerpts from speeches peppered with swear words and nauseating untruths that sounded familiar. I cried out “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” as I read them, but then some subspecies who looked terribly familiar (his spectacles were on the tip of his nose) slithered toward me menacingly. The creature proclaimed, “Those are universal truths coming from the grand panjandrum in the Palace!”—making me wake up covered in sweat.

Because my doctor prescribed physiotherapy right after my operation, I’ve dragged myself regularly to therapists who work on me, make me pedal a stationary bike, walk on tiptoes, sit and press my feet on the floor, haul myself up holding on to rails, and engage in other forms of torture which, I’m told, aim to prevent muscles from atrophying.

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One therapist who said my neck and shoulder muscles were very tight advised me to avoid all tension. That’s easier said than done, as I can’t shake myself of the habit of reading newspapers and viewing TV news daily, so I explained to him that seeing the obnoxious faces of our lunatic leaders on TV screens and hearing them bloviating just make my muscles seize up. Sometimes I have to be stopped from hurling the remote toward the TV screen whenever one of the usual scoundrels appear.

Recently, my muscles seized up even more when some senators who decried the Chinese ramming of a Filipino fishermen’s boat declared that the country’s leader has “broken people’s hearts.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Heartbroken persons usually curl up in bed and cry their hearts out quietly. The boat-ramming situation cried out for fist-shaking and screaming of imprecations like “outrageous” and “disgusting.” I yelled “pusillanimous SOBs” at the mealymouthed officials who merely expressed “dismay”; I almost shattered the TV screen when I aimed the remote at the Agriculture Secretary.

On the other side of the hemisphere, the sight of a large orange ape-like character strutting about in Europe proclaiming he was really going to tighten the screws on his country by stopping all immigration, pulling out of Nato and ignoring signs of climate change shook me up, further contributing to the tension on my neck.

It was probably when I was still in the hospital recovery room, floating around the ether, that I panicked while trying to get past some grey clouds hovering around me. Beyond was a parched desert strewn with animal and human skeletons. Sobbing in the distance, a pale student kept shaking her head and saying, “They wouldn’t listen to my warning.” I realized it was 15-year-old Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has, in the past year, mobilized over a million students in 112 countries to urge their governments to act as they would in a crisis. “Act as though your house is on fire!” she shouted (words that are now immortalized).

I lay there trying to clear my head, feeling helpless because I couldn’t join her. Instead, I found myself being trundled back to my hospital room.

Right now, it’s all a muddle, but I expect judgment day will dawn soon and bring some peace on earth.

Isabel Escoda’s surgery involved having titanium screws inserted in her lower spine to correct a condition called spondylolisthesis. Titanium is a metal used in planes and cell phones, so she thinks she’ll soon be making long-distance calls while flying. Most of all, she believes a large number of the country’s leaders need titanium screws put in their skulls to replace old ones that have gone loose.

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