She sits beside me on the hill overlooking another hill of tombstones. It’s December the first and the wind brings with it a chill of winter that never makes its way to the Philippines. Like a ghost passing by; we don’t see it with our own eyes, but we know it’s there because we wouldn’t be so cold otherwise.
Stratus clouds march our way. I point this out to her, and she breaks into a grin.
“Like soldiers,” she says. “They’ve come to give the dead a bath. It’s their wake up call. They’ll be taken prisoners and sold, but someone will start a coup against those evil soldiers and save the prisoners and then they’ll be free to roam the sky like doves do – not so high, but high enough that we can’t reach them, only see them.”
“You do know I only believe it’s either heaven or hell, right?”
She keeps on watching the stratus army. “Either way, it sets us free from our limited existence.”
“Would you rather we don’t exist at all?”
“I’d rather I can bring back time and live a different life entirely.”
I look away from her. On the other end of the cemetery, another family in white huddle, crying. “All of us wish the same thing at one point in our lives.”
“No, it’s the only thing I can wish for.”
“How come? Aren’t you happy with your husband?”
“I’m happy with him,” she says and smiles faintly at me. “I’m happy with Leslie and Mace. But in spite of all that happiness, I can’t bring myself to be happy with myself.”
“You mean you feel incomplete?”
“Do you remember that painting of a boy our art teacher made? That last one?”
“Yeah. What about it?”
“He never finished it,” she says. “He died before he could paint the other half of his face. It was just a sketch, that other half. He started it without knowing he won’t be able to finish it. His last painting – unfinished. How sad.” She wipes the teardrop that spilled from the outer corner of her left eye. “I can’t be like that painting. People like us have to be stronger than we really are.”
I tip my head back. “The stratus army is gone.”
She tips her head back as well. “Maybe it’s tired of taking prisoners.”
“Or maybe that someone who saves them has set them free for good.”
“…Maybe,” she says. “I hope so.”
“Let’s go back now or people will start to get worried.”
“That’s the last thing we want.”
We stand and dust our clothes. Through the corner of my eye I see her picking on her black tights and scratching her wrist. I try to imagine her fifteen year old self, but she’s already gone.
She notices me staring and says, “Yes?”
“Nothing,” I say.