This particular story of regret was summoned into mind again when I met Pampu, who looks so much like my late best friend, on the mountain trails of Mt. Manalmon in Bulacan province last 12 February 2012.
Twenty years ago, I was this young and naive boy. I did awful things to animals, particularly the frogs. These frogs brought the worst of my childhood because of what I did to them. I toyed them; I maltreated them. Until, I learned from my grade school science teacher about their role in balancing the ecosystem, not to mention protecting us from the lurking perils of dengue fever. Since then, I made a vow to make up for all the horrendous things I did to those helpful creatures. I refrained from putting big stones into their holes. I started educating my playmates on their positive impacts to the environment. I began appreciating the beautiful music they make after a long, heavy rain and, above all, I defended these frogs to my playmates who refused to stop toying them.
If there’s one person who knows about my love to animals, it would be my uncle (Ollie)–not my father–and whose house was just standing right next to ours. My father’s obliviousness on the term animal love doesn’t bate my love for him though. He’s just not familiar with it I guess.
Days passed by so quickly unnoticed. Skitter, my best friend, had grown bigger than expected for just months of being with me, with us. I fulfilled my responsibilities as best friend to her and vice versa. Skitter never failed to greet me each time I woke up in the morning and every time I came home from school. She never touched any food on the table unless served to her mouth. She never forgot to go outside the house to answer the calls of nature. She never missed to bring a smile on my face especially during bad days. That’s just a few of the many things she did for me, for us. Everyone in the family was nice to her because it’s been quite a while since there was “a man’s best friend” in the house.
Summertime rolled in and Skitter and I couldn’t be happier because of one thing: I’d be spending two straight months with her. The thought of being able to bring her to the green fields to play and to the river to bathe together everyday if possible is just a piece of the many exciting things that may happen in our first summer together.
A couple of weeks after, my elder brother, Tom, who was studying in Manila, went home to spend his summer vacation with us. It was, of course, something to be convivial about too considering that he’s been away for some time.
Things went pretty fine. Tom helped me take care of Skitter; we also got busy catching up the lost times.
Like every story, this joyful summer came to an end. Tom and I had to go back to school just like the rest of our siblings, and I had to limit my time in seeing Skitter again. I thought it will end plain and simple as that, but it didn’t.
A day before Tom went back to the metropolis, I got trapped in a situation I had never imagined would cause one of my biggest regrets. It was eight in the morning that day when my father approached me, while I was reading one of the books I borrowed from the public library, and directly said, “I already sold Skitter for three hundred and fifty pesos. The money is with me now. I’m sorry.” My ears suddenly passed into coldness upon hearing those words. The sorry word didn’t bring any sense to me. I wanted to scream but no words came out. I wanted to pulverize the person standing in front but my feet turned numbed as my heart was pounding hard. Then he continued like that wasn’t enough, “The buyer will be here in an hour so please tie her up before he comes. Listen, I know how you feel.” I immediately replied in my mind, “NO YOU DON’T!“, but I was so verbally paralyzed. Finally, he explained, “The truth is, I was just forced to do that because Tom’s vacation here wasn’t approved by your aunt; therefore, producing money for his return trip is my responsibility now. You know how much I’m earning from driving for five days. It’s not enough to send your brother back to Manila.” That explanation, however, didn’t make sense either. After he looked at my somewhat indescribable reaction for a few minutes, he left for work.
What happened next is something that still pains me much each time I remember it…I turned her in to the buyer because I didn’t have the balls to refuse. I should–for Tom’s sake. I also killed her–indirectly. It was made clear that she was to be butchered for pulutan (Filipino term for a snack accompanied with liquor) on the buyer’s birthday.
Up to this day, I regret that part of my growing up years. In fact, I am still wishing I could turn back time to make things right. On the contrary, I can’t and the things I did cannot be undone so I had to just live with it. To live with the memories of Skitter whom I consider as someone. Someone who taught me the essence of blissfulness, of responsibility at a young age. This way, I am always reminded that animals are as important as humans in the end.
“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable” (Sydney J. Harris).
Photo Source (PS): Agfa Photo eClipse Explorer
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