“A Cup of Coffee” by Rachelle Arlin Credo

A young girl grows up in a little barangay in Bogo, Cebu. Her name is Llianzareh but she is fondly called Leyan. She lives with her father in a little yellow house made of oak and narra just beside the road. Her mother who was only nineteen when she conceived Leyan, died of a heart attack right after giving birth. Since then, it was her father who shouldered the responsibility of rearing her up. Having only graduated highschool, her father had a difficult time finding a permanent job. He had to jump from one opportunity to the other and frequently changed jobs in order to provide for their growing needs. When Leyan reached five, their fiscal problems alleviate. Her father has found a job in the newly opened factory in the nearby town as a laborer. He only works during the day so after working hours they stroll in the park and sometimes play hide and seek when there are less visitors in the park. On weekends, they would tread the 2-km distance to get to the nearest beach to bathe under the sun and play sand-castle-building on the shore. It went on for years until Leyan crossed her adolescence. That's when things started to change. Being conservative and old-fashioned that her father is, they would often end up bickering on her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. Not a day passes by when they would not argue about anything. Consequently, her love for her father eventually turned to hate. Consuming anger seethed inside her. "I hate you!" she screams at her father one time when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument. That night Leyan felt she couldn't take it anymore. She finally acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times. She runs away.

She has never really been away from her father that long. But with the frequent soirees with her friends, she got accustomed to places in the city. She's been to clubs, concerts and slumber parties and just about any get-together there is. The thought of Junquera immediately crossed her mind, the haven of flesh trading. With all the mobs and thugs abiding in that place and with all the newspapers reporting in lurid detail the drugs and violence in Junquera, she concludes that it's the perfect place for her refuge. Probably the last place Dad will ever look for me, she thought. Maybe Danao, Mandaue or Cebu City but not Junquera.

So she packed up her things and made her way to the big city. Daunted to make her escape known to her father, she refused to tell any of her friends about her whereabouts. She rode a bus on her own and made it to the heart of Junquera. There she meets a man driving a shiny yellow Honda. He offers her a ride, buys her food and arranges a place for her to stay. He also gives her some pills that make her feel better than she's ever felt before. She was right all along, she decides: her Dad was keeping her from all the fun.

The good life continues for a month, two months, a year. The man with the big car - she calls him "Bogard" - teaches her a few things to thrive. Since she's underage, Bogard taught her to lie about her age and made her dress like a woman - actually more like a tramp. He taught her how to flaunt her body in the streets and seduce men with words. She felt awkward at first but as time went by, she became familiar with what she's doing. She now lives in a penthouse, and men just give her a ring or drops by her place for her services. Occasionally she remembers her Dad, somehow missing him but she loves her life now and thought that her Dad maybe enjoying his life without her too- without someone to piss him off all the time.

One time while sauntering the cold streets, she saw her face on the headline of the newspaper. It read, "Have you seen this girl?" She felt her heart pound fast from fear of being noticed. She calmed down when she realized that no one would recognize her anymore. With her brown curly hair, thick makeup and jewelry all over, it was a perfect disguise. Not even her father will be able to identify her.

After three years, the first sallow signs of illness appear. Bogard who used to love her and take tender care of her suddenly turned mean and grumpy. Before she knows it, she's already out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, but with her habit to support, her money usually just goes down the drain. When winter blows in she finds herself sleeping on metal grates outside the big department stores. With dark bands circling her eyes, her hair smelling like dregs, and her skin tingling against the cold, she looks like a bummer without a family and a home.

One night as she lies half-awake listening to footsteps, memories quickly flash in her mind and realizations came dawning in. She no longer feels like a woman of the world. She feels like a little girl, lost in a cold and frightening city. She begins to whimper. Her pockets are empty and she's hungry. She needs a fix. She pulls her legs tight underneath her and shivers under the newspapers she's piled atop her body now turned lanky and pale. Something jolts a synapse of memory and a single image fills her mind: her life at home in Bogo, where a million sampaguita bloom at once filling the morning air with such fragrance while she serves her Dad his favorite cup of coffee in the morning.

God, why did I leave, she says to herself, and a pang of guilt stabs her heart. She's sobbing, and she now realizes that more than anything else in the world she wants to go home. She thought about her father and how much she misses him. She wonders if he's missing her too.

She decided to make a call first before going home to give her Dad a chance to prepare for her arrival and in any case, allow his anger to subside before she makes it home. She goes to a phone booth and dials their home number.

Ring...ring..ring...ring...

She awaits patiently for her Dad's voice on the other line. Fifty rings but still no one picks up the phone.

"Oh, yea, it's still 2:00 pm. He must be at work." she relieves herself. She decided to surprise him instead. She was sure he'd be able to forgive her despite her shortcomings.

"I'm his only daughter and he loves me," she reassured herself. She thought of just letting the day go by without a word to her Dad in hope of making it a big surprise.

The next day, she scrambled off her feet and headed towards the nearest bus station. She felt so excited. It's been years since she last saw her father and she wonders how he's been all these years. Her thoughts bounce back and forth between those worries and the speech she is preparing for her father. "Dad, I'm sorry. I know I was wrong. It's not your fault. It's all mine. Dad, can you please forgive me?" She says the words over and over, her throat tightening even as she rehearses them. She hasn't apologized to anyone in years.

The bus has been driving for four hours now. Her pulse races after every turn. She could hardly wait to hug her father and patch up with him. The world outside looks dark and dreary. It seems so dim but at the same time it was still and peaceful. Yes, peaceful, that's what she's been wanting all these years- some sense of peace. Junquera is such a clamorous place. She wished she could get home soon.

When the bus finally rolls into the station of Bogo, its air brakes hissing in protest, the driver announces in a crackly voice, "Abot nata! (We're here!)"

She immediately checks herself in a compact mirror, smoothes her hair with a fine-toothed brush and tangles it to a ponytail. She wipes her lipstick with a Kleenex and checks her nails for nail polish. "All right, I'm all set," she utters with a deep sigh.

She walks into the terminal for a tricycle en route to her barangay. Familiar faces greeted her with a smile. There's Manoy Alberto who was the frequent companion of her Dad in their drinking spree and there's Manang Cacang, still hollering and talking the passengers into purchasing her "bananacues". Everything's still the same and it made her heart wrench inside.

"Oh, how much I missed this place." she whispers to herself.

She finally rides on a battered 3-wheeled vehicle and gently slumps on a seat at the back. She felt worn to a frazzle but her excitement supersedes her physical depletion. The tricycle finally arrives in her hometown. She gets some coins and pounded the railing with a coin to make the vehicle stop. The tricycle screeches to a halt and Leyan extends her fare to the driver. She went down the vehicle and went straight to their house. But not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepared her for what she sees when she walked through the yard. There, in the small frontyard of their house, were her aunts, uncles, cousins and a few neighbors seated in a row.
Out of the crowd breaks Aunt Maryjane, her Dad's older sister. She approached Leyan and hugged her tight.

"Auntie, what's this all about?" Leyan whines. "Where's Daddy?"

Aunt Maryjane smiled wryly and said, "He's inside. He's been waiting for..."

Without letting her Aunt finish her speech, she rushed inside to check on her Dad. Her thoughts filled her with fear and anxiety. As soon as she entered the door, she felt her world collapse into pieces. She moved towards the huge rectangular casket held in front of her. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes like hot mercury and begins the memorized speech, "Dad, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. It's all my fault..."

Aunt Maryjane interrupts her from behind. "Hush, child. No need for apologies. It's not your fault. He's been having that cancer even before you ran away. He never told you because he didn't want you to worry." Leyan stood in disbelief. Her father had long been suffering from cancer and she didn't even know. She felt a twinge of guilt slowly sweeping her inside.

"Here's something he left you," Aunt Maryjane confided while extending Leyan's inheritance. "He said it will remind you of him and the love you shared for each other."

Leyan received the envelope and the cup of coffee. Her hands were quivering as she holds them with both hands. She didn't know what to say. She felt the one to blame. She felt like a criminal to her own father. She burst into tears and felt her chest exploding. She wanted him back. She badly wanted her father back. But there's nothing she can do to make him come back from the dead. If only she could turn back time, if only she could. She sobbed some more and wailed in pain. She realizes now how much her father really loved her and how much he means to her. But it's too late. She's only got the cup of coffee to remember him by.