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Monday, April 4, 2011

An Original Short Story

By Annabelle R. Villanueva

Med school that semester was tedious for Gene, short for Generoso. A tall, dark, handsome, smart, intelligent, rich guy, all of twenty-six summers built in. His not-so-close friends and acquaintances envied him, for he seemed to have everything a guy his age yearned for, most especially loving, wealthy, doting parents, both business persons, who wanted their only child to experience all things they haven’t while each of them was growing up in the slums. He wanted to be a doctor like his favorite paternal uncle whom he fondly called Uncle Ben.

A huge mansion for a home in one of the capital city’s most posh subdivisions, a fat weekly allowance, a family business that would see him through even without being in med school, a nice clan, good friends, not to mention the girls who ran after him—indeed, what could a young man ask for? But inspite of all these, Gene remained humble, kind, and down-to-earth. And above all, God-fearing. In those modern times, in the mid 90’s, it seemed that such a kind of a guy was already a rare breed.

Gene has had five girlfriends, but none of them would “fit” in, and the reason for this, he really didn’t know—yet, he hoped—why. He seemingly groped and searched for something yet to be unfurled. Yes, life is really full of mysteries; full of them. He seemed to be looking for something—or someone, to that matter—which/whom he didn’t know. But he didn’t question such mysterious feeling, because his faith, trust in, and love for God would then overpower it everytime it would start to creep into his senses.

“Put God first, and everything falls into place,” Gene would often say.

Semestral break came. One way to release tension and stress from the previous sem was to hang out with close friends, and that was what Gene often did. He would go out for a drink with his closest pals Ron, Bob, Henry, and Red, good-looking guys who all belonged to well-off families, just like him. Acquaintances couldn’t help but comment nicely on their closeness; any stranger could mistake them for brothers.

Gene was on his way to their meeting place, that October 28 night, driving his new car, a black Toyota Corolla that was given to him by his parents as a birthday gift that year. His thoughts racing, he did not see the dog that crossed the dark street just two blocks away from Reall’s Spot, their meeting place. A sudden swerve to the left after a futile attempt at the brakes, then a swift swerve to the right that made a loud, screeching sound, were seemingly the prelude to a final halt at the nearby lamp post.

“Oh, my God! Oh, my…,” a balut vendor cried, witnessing that accident, running to the crash site. “Somebody help! Please, help!” he screamed when he reached the spot, putting down his basket of warm duck eggs.

“Mister, are you okay?” He asked Gene while holding his hand, desperately trying to feel his pulse. Then, people who heard the cry for help swarmed like flies, most of them just curious, though some really helped by transporting Gene to the nearest hospital in a tricycle.

Still groggy, Gene managed to open his eyes when he heard his mom’s voice.
“W-ha…Whhaaat ha-happ…,” Gene mumbled.
“Shhh, don’t talk…,” Mrs. Helen Velez told her son. “You had an accident last night…”

Mr. Bogs Velez added, “Three kind-hearted men and a lady rushed you the nearest hospital and one of them called us up after searching your cellphone for numbers. We immediately went to that hospital, and just a few hours earlier, at around 5:00 A.M, your mom and I transferred you here in Med Hill Hospital, because your Uncle Ben is here.”

“Dear…,” Mrs. Velez started, “your buddies were also there at the first hospital, and were here shortly before you awoke. They just had to go home, for a shower, but they’ll be back later.”

On his third day in the hospital, Gene was feeling better, except for wounds and bruises on his right leg, which was put on cast. Love and care from his parents, other relatives, and his buddies made his way to recovery a fast one. On the fifth day, Uncle Ben dropped by his room.

“How are you feeling, Gene?”
“Hi, Unc. Nice to see you. I’m feeling better…”
“I’ve been here everyday since you were transferred here, but it’s only now that we finally meet, because you were always asleep when I dropped by.”
“It seems that I have rediscovered the beauty and essence of sleep… haha..”
“Gene, I have something very important to tell you. Your parents already know about this, and they tasked me to be the one to tell you this…”
The seriousness and deepness of Uncle Ben’s voice made Gene scared, making him prop up to a sitting position on his bed, from his usual lying-down one.
“Is there something wrong, Unc? Am I serious, I mean, is my condition serious?”
“Your wounds are healing, Gene, and the fracture in your right leg is just small, it will completely heal in two weeks’ time.”
“Uhm, what’s wrong, Unc?”
“Gene, your parents, your relatives… uhm, we all love you… I personally had blood transfused on you on your first day here--you know, you lost a lot of blood in that accident--after frantically searching for donors within the family, because Helen didn’t want to source from outsiders…”

Gene was very quiet, listening intently on every word his uncle said.
“It was your cousin John who donated blood for you… But before the transfusion, I personally examined a sample of your blood just to make doubly sure of your blood type… To make the story short.. later, I saw some peculiarities that led me to perform a DNA Test, and it showed that you are not blood-related to any of us…”

“W-w-h-attt? Are you sure, Unc?”
“I ran such test again to be sure, and it came out the same. But, Gene, after a hear-to-heart talk with your parents, we decided that though blood is thicker than water, we all love you the same, as if this DNA test did not happen. Let us just forget about this teeny-weeny DNA test, okay?”

Uncle Ben then came near Gene and wrapped his arms around him, and the warmth emancipating from his shoulders soothed Gene to the point of sobbing like a child, but he knew he shouldn’t; he was a strong man.

“Always remember that no matter what happened and what might happen, you are still a Velez, one of us…Let us just forget about that DNA test, okay?”

At that moment, Gene couldn’t help sobbing like a small child, to the point that his eyesight became blurred due to the rain of tears, and no voice would come out his tight, dried-out throat.

Like what Uncle Ben said, Gene’s entire family really did forget about that DNA test, and life went on as usual, as if it did not happen. Gene finally went out of the hospital fully recovered from his fracture, ready for the second sem, though he already missed a few days of classes. Though Uncle Ben told him to forget about that DNA test, he couldn’t take his mind off that; no day would pass that he didn’t think about it. He even had a recurring dream that he attributed to that DNA test, because such dream started occurring only after he heard about such test. He would dream about a perfectly-arched, strikingly-colored rainbow. Just that, a rainbow. But even if it was just a rainbow, that dream made Gene research about the meaning of dreams, horoscope, etc., something he wouldn’t have done had he not known about his not being a real Velez. He had always been religious and God-fearing, and he knew that this sudden thing for astrology would not be in alignment with his deep, strong faith in God.

A month after he knew about that DNA test, he decided he should do his own search for the truth. He had always heard, “the truth shall set you free.” The truth about his real identity, and his parents’ real child’s. He felt it was his mission to seek for those truths. But how should he start? He gathered his thoughts, and one weekend, he thoroughly scrutinized his birth certificate, something he hasn’t done before. He looked at each word written in it. And, finally, he lingered on at the parts that said “Attending physician: Dr. Nina Pett” and “Hospital: Villa Provincial Hospital” and Caesarean delivery . He suddenly paused to think that such hospital was just a few miles away from their place; a small hospital, but a decent one. That same day, he drove to such hospital. When he reached it, he looked around. His thoughts raced once more, and he could feel his heart thumping. Out of fear? Of excitement? Of eagerness? He wasn’t really sure. All he knew was that he had a mission, that was why he went there. Where and how would he start? He didn’t know. Oh, what would he do?

“Excuse me, son, may I help you?”

Startled back to reality, Gene looked around to see a pleasant-looking middle-aged man wearing very thick spectacles. Then Gene fumbled, “Uhm… Sir, I’m looking for a certain Dr. Nina Pett…” Before Gene could even finish his sentence, the pleasant man said, “I’m sorry, son, but she passed away many years back.”

Upon hearing what the man just said, Gene felt numb, and he slowly said:
“Oh…. I’m sorry… to… hear…that.”
“You may want to see her daughter, instead, son, another Dr. Pett, Dr.Gina Pett. Her clinic is that door over there,” pointing to the first door in the hallway along that ground floor.
“Oh, thank you, sir,” Gene exclaimed, with a tingle of hope in his voice.

When he came face to face with Dr. Gina Pett, he came straight to the point, showing her his birth certificate first. After a couple of minutes, she mumbled, “September 28, 1966…oh…” Then she looked at him from head to foot, trembling…
“Anything wrong, doc?” Gene asked.

Instead of directly answering his question, she stared at nowhere blankly for a minute or so, then looked at him again from head to foot. Then she finally said, “So you were that…”
“What, doc? What was I?” Gene excitedly cut her off.
“You were that baby… Oh, dear lad, I’m so sorry… I really am… That day is still so fresh in my mind. Actually, I’ve been bringing that day, that burden all my life….”

Gene was impatient. Excitedly impatient. Not wanting to be rude, he tried to be calm when he said, “Doc, I’m sorry, but I have to know right away.”

She narrated how, as her late mother’s assistant, switched two babies because of her very upset stomach, that made her go back and forth to the C.R. and made her not to be able to concentrate well on her job, that fateful day. How could she forget that day? The start of a bad amoebiasis episode and worse, her accidental switching of two babies, which she could have corrected right away had she not been so afraid of her very strict mother, Dr. Nina Pett, whom she served as a secretary-cum-nurse aid while still at pre-med school. Oh, her mother fully trusted her not only because she was her daughter, but because she was very intelligent, seemingly all-knowing.

That fateful day, two babies, one boy, and one girl, went to two different mothers who both underwent CS under Dr. Nina Pett. Born only five minutes apart, two beds apart in the small operating room of that small hospital. Right after each baby came out from the mother’s tummy, Dr. Nina, without even looking at the baby nor its gender, would leave the rest of the work to her daughter Gina.

“But, doc, are you sure you really switched a baby boy and a baby girl?” Gene asked without batting an eyelash.
“I am pretty sure, lad… I’m really so sorry… You were that baby boy.”
“Doc, can we trace the whereabouts of that baby girl? She could be my parents’ real child…” Gene didn’t bother to ask why Dr. Gina haven’t ever thought of going to the switched babies’ homes; that didn’t matter anymore. What mattered most was that glint of hope—no, not glint, but spark—that spark of hope that was there right before his very eyes. He knew God would help him in this mission.

The following three days that passed, in between classes, Gene would go to the clinic to brainstorm with Dr. Gina. They finally came up with a final list of six other mothers who gave birth to baby girls via CS that day he and the baby girl were born. Just to be sure, they gathered all names and addresses of such six mothers, even if the time of giving birth was far from Gene and the baby girl’s birth time.

Gene decided to save the best for last, and so he thought. The most probable baby girl, the one born 5 minutes after him, was No. 6 in his list. No.5 was born 45 minutes before him. Any of the two could be “her” and a DNA test would confirm it. The other 4 were born far from the time he was born, but he would still go to their addresses.

No. 1 in was baby girl Morales, born 3 hours before him, whose address in the hospital records was just in the next town. Gene went there that same weekend. Upon seeing and meeting Ms. Morales, he knew she wasn’t “her” because both her parents were Spanish. No. 2 was baby girl Smith, an American. Geesh, Gene thought, this could be an “international hunt.” True enough, for baby girl No. 3 was a Chinese girl. All three were far from his and his parent’s dark/Moreno/Filipino features.

Gene wanted to skip the 4th one and go straight to the two probable ones. But he decided to go to baby girl No. 4’s home anyway. Unfortunately, the address listed in the old records had different occupants already, a Filipino family of four. The parents bought that house from a certain Mrs. Reyes just a couple of years back. Yeah, Mrs. Reyes; No. 4 was baby girl Reyes. Gene did not want to miss No.4 although earlier he wanted to skip.

“Ma’am, do you have any idea where Mrs. Reyes and her family moved to?
“I don’t know exactly… Wait—she mentioned they would be migrating to Canada.”
That was it. Canada was too far away to continue the search. As the famous song goes, “the search is over” for baby girl No.4.
“Uhm, thank you very much, ma’am. I must be going…”
“You’re welcome, mister.”

Exam week. Inasmuch as Gene wanted to continue his search, he had to study. Had to, for his parents, who did not change a bit even after finding out he wasn’t really their son. He was very grateful to them because they didn’t even bother to look for their real child. To and for them, Gene was their child, no ifs, no buts, no conditions. Ah, unconditional love.

That week seemed endless and “blank”— he used to be very concerned about each and every answer he gave to each exam, but for this set, it wouldn’t matter anymore. What mattered most to him was to go to baby girl Nos. 5 and 6.

“Knock, knock. Good morning. Is anybody home?” Gene asked loudly at the gate of baby girl No. 5’s address.

Nobody seemed to be home. But he waited. Fate could wait, he thought. At last. After 20 minutes of standing out there, a man came out the front door. After talking with him for 10 minutes, he found out that the girl he was looking for was assigned to London. He asked for her email address., he scribbled on his small notebook. He wasted no time; got his laptop, and sent her an email.

Wanting to go to the last, but definitely not the least, baby girl, he decided to skip his morning snacks, and headed fast towards north, 10 miles away from where he was at that moment. But he hadn’t gone past the first mile when his hunger pangs were uncontrollable anymore, so he stopped at the nearest Jollibee outlet, and ordered a big meal which he was munching on, when a beep-beep was heard from his cellphone. Oh, an email from! Gee, that was fast, he thought. His lucky day? Could well be. In between munches, he opened his laptop and read the email that went: “Hi there, Gene. Emmie here. I want to help you with your search… Well, as you requested, I attached a photo of myself…” Gene couldn’t wait to open such attachment. When he saw her picture, he was very sure that Emmie wasn’t his parents’ long-lost daughter because she looked far too different from any of them. She was very pretty, as his mom was, too; his dad was very handsome, but her facial features were nowhere near either of them—he looked more like the “real child” because of his close resemblance to them, than she. Nevertheless, he still sent her an email, thanking her profusely for replying, right away, at that.

10:25 A.M. his watch said. He just finished the last bite off his Champ burger. Off he sped towards the direction of baby girl No. 6’s address. One mile, two miles… oh, he could barely wait. Barely wait to see her long lost “sister.” Sister? He suddenly paused awhile. Not really a quite a sister… Perhaps “my parents’ daughter” would be more appropriate. He sighed… He was way more interested about finding her parents’ real daughter than finding his real parents, but of course, it also mattered to him to know about them, his real identity.

Finally he reached the area of his target place. Where would he go first? How? He gathered his thoughts for a wee bit, and tried to be calm. How could he be calm? He was so excited; excited to think that it may be just a matter of minutes before his whole life story, his destiny, would change—for the better, he was positive of it.

345 Rizalina Street… That house! That brown house! He alighted from his car, and with trembling knees, he approached the door. There was no gate, so he went straight to that door.

As he was about to knock, a lady at his back said, “Excuse me…”

What an angelic voice! He was quivering when he turned his back to face the owner of that voice… Oh, what a pretty sight he saw! A very pretty lady who looked just liked his dad! And had a voice similar to his mom’s! No question, this was his parents’ daughter! But he was tongue-tied and he froze on the spot for a several minutes… Her parents therefore were his real parents…

“Everything okay? Let’s get inside so you can rest for a while…” the angelic voice asked.

Still tongue-tied, he nodded slowly. Inside the house, at last he was able to talk already. “I am Gene…” he began.

Right after introducing himself, it started to rain. Then a cool breeze went past him, making him more inspired to tell his story to the girl whose name was Angel. Angel Jacinto. An angel indeed!

He found out that Angel’s parents (his real parents) passed away many years ago, and since then, she had always been alone in that house. She was a registered nurse, and worked night shifts regularly in the nearby hospital.

His real parents were not around anymore; Angel’s were…After telling her the entire story in about thirty minutes, he expected her not to believe him, at least not right away, so, he was really surprised when she muttered, “I believe you, Gene…” Oh, not only her voice was angelic, but the look in her eyes was super angelic as well! What was in those eyes that made his heart a-flutter? It was the first time he felt that way. And boy, he loved that feeling!

Angel continued, “I believe you not only because I grew up under the scorn of my parents—oh, your real parents… People around would often tease me for not having the same looks as theirs… You know…Tatay and nanay sometimes would beat me so bad for no reason at all. They did not love me…” Then she sobbed.

Gene wanted to comfort her, but he didn’t know how. He wanted to hug her to console her, but before he could do so, Angel said, “Where are my real parents? Can you take me to them? Please?”

“Of course!” Gene happily exclaimed. “They both will be very happy to see you and to welcome you.”

“Thank you so much, Gene. Let’s go. I can hardly wait to meet them,” Angel
said with such a sincere tone in her voice, although deep inside she was a little frightened.

When they both went out the door, the rain had stopped. And far away, but still very visible, there was a perfectly-arched, strikingly-colored rainbow, just like in his dreams…

Fast forward to twenty-six years later, when Dr. and Mrs. Generoso and Angel Velez would be preparing for their silver wedding anniversary in three days. They got married a year after Angel was heartily invited by her real parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bogs and Helen Velez, to permanently stay with them. She immediately agreed. After all, they were her real parents; a DNA test performed by Angel without telling them all, and only showing them the positive result, proved that indeed, she was their long-lost daughter, and also, she was already an orphan. They all decided that she would retain her surname Jacinto; they did not adopt her, nor make any change about her personal information, when they knew that she and Gene and were in love with each other. True love. Both their 6th love relationship. It was just like a dream, a “buy-one-take-one” deal, as what Uncle Ben would joke. Their parents, incidentally, will be celebrating their golden anniversary on the same day as they; Gene and Angel decided to tie the knot on exactly the same day.

On the day of the double wedding celebration, the theme song was "The Search is Over". When I touch your hand, I could hear you whisper ‘The search is over; you were with me all the while’… soulfully sang by Gene and Angel’s 20-year-old daughter who they lovingly named Rainbow.

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