“Malapit na tayo, Hannah,” Karen said. I woke up, and by reflex, looked outside. I expected to see her, hoping we had not gone far, but she was gone. I couldn’t shake away her haunting eyes. I know she was still there, giving the same long looks .
As we neared our alma mater, Alabel Science High School, I hastily slung on my backpack. I got out of the carpool. Dreading another tardy mark, I hurried about wishing that the first bell would not yet ring. As I took the first step inside, the bell rang loudly, reaching the far ends of the school site.
“Puttttt Puttttt!,” A loud noise jolted her from her sleep. She was thankful she survived through the night but now she had other problems, like a car honking loudly at her face. A new blue car came into view. She quickly got off her feet and carefully folded the soiled piece of carton that had helped her through the rough cold nights. She felt hot and sweaty and decided on a little walk.
This is her playground, the busy streets of General Santos City. It was a beggar’s paradise. Many people meant much money for her to beg, much for her to steal. She knew that money was very important for survival. It is here where she could find a hundred stalls willing enough to give scrap food. It is here where she could scour a lot of booties in garbage bins. Yes, this is paradise for her. Nothing is more important than begging and stealing, not even going to school. She thought school made no sense.
She found herself walking aimlessly through the streets and finding a spot to beg . After hours and hours of waiting, a kind generous heart approached her. He held her gaze while guiding her hands to hold a plate filled with such delicious things. She smiled. It was the best day of her life.
She stood up and walked with a proud grin on her face. She found a discarded clean cellophane and emptied the contents of the paper plate. She tied up the loose ends of the cellophane and continued to beg.
Through the heat and fumes, she waited patiently for lunch time, her ecstasy building at each passing minute. She wiped all her sweat with her tattered clothing, keeping the hunger to herself. Time passed like seconds as she slowly opened the cellophane contents to savor the moment .
A painful punch landed on her cheek . She fell and bled. Through her blurry sight she saw a couple of boys picking up her treasure. That was when everything went black for her.
She blinked and she saw it was nighttime and she was still there lying on the floor bathe with her own blood. She didn’t bother to stand. Her life was a spiraling mess and she was tired of always trying to fix it. She wished her life were different.
“Putt! Putt! Putt!” Carpool’s finally here. Another long, tedious day finally ended. Brain-wretching algebra problems, drearily long lab reports and mind-numbing science experiments has eventually taken its toll on me. Dragging my feet I boarded the van. I closed my eyes. Sleep was a welcome relief.
But my subconscious mind won’t let me rest. Three essays and one oral report must be done before midnight. Must set alarm at 4:30 so wont be late again. So draining. So frustrating. So exhausting. I wished my life were different.
"Hannah, malapit ka na bababa.” Karen shook me awake. I stirred. It was getting dark. I could not see clearly at first. I looked outside, through the tinted glass. The carpool parked at our drop off point. I got out and weaved my way through the busy market place.
A feeling of unease came over me. My foot hit something sticky and my eyes met hers again. Blood drenched she looked at me from the ground. A long wistful look. I called for help.
Maybe my life need not be different. Maybe I should be thankful my problems and challenges are lighter. Maybe if I try harder life can be better for her too.
(Hannah Cartojano is a first year high school student in Alabel Science High School. She won 2nd place in the Feature Writing Contest in the National Schools Press Conference in Tagum City last February 2010.)