Beyond Deadlines is proud to serialize Mr. Romy Morales’ first book “Time to Breathe (Confessions of an Alien).” It is a personal account of a Filipino immigrant in the United States. It is a must read for those who wish to migrate to the U.S. Come let us join Romy in his journey and see what is in store for us.
Marilyn is talking this time. This is new as she seldom say a word ever since I first met her. She is also very selective with her friends and oftentimes prefer to be by herself.
After almost a year with the Baltic Publication, I could count in my fingers how many times I heard her speak. Nevertheless, although she did not talk much, Marilyn excelled in her job as an account executive.
Marilyn had been in the US for almost 13 years, five of which had been spent with Baltic Publication. Her mother had petitioned her but unfortunately the petition “perished” so to speak as her mother died while her papers are still “in the process.” She kept and hide her status from her co-workers by constantly saying that she would soon go home to the Philippines and retire.
“I don’t like the way they are treating us here, making us look so small,” Marilyn opens up, revealing her disgust with the management of Baltic Publication. There was an incident, she said, that almost made her leave the company had not Thalia intervened.
“There was this advertisement which I was working on. The company called up, I was not around and Thalia’s sidekick got the call. The next thing I knew, he closed the ad contract under his name. I learned of it only when my contact person reprimanded me for not returning his call. I told him, I didn’t get his call.
“I talked to the owner with whom I was negotiating the deal. She says somebody from the Baltic got the advertisement. I confronted Thalia’s sidekick, telling him I didn’t mind the advertisement going to him, but he should have at least told me. As if he had done nothing inappropriate, he had the nerve to proceed and ask what I wanted. A sudden rush of adrenaline shot up to my head and I exploded. ‘You can get the ad, it’s all yours,’ I banged his table with my fist. Thalia pacified me when I handed her my resignation, assuring me she would thresh out the matter with her sidekick.”
* * *
Several days later, Marilyn calls me up. She became sick after Christmas and had been in bed for three days. She is sharing a house with a friend and other tenants but has her own room. She requested if I could bring her a gallon of water to which I gladly said yes.
As I entered her room, I saw that she is still very ill. Marilyn says she has flu. She appears to have aged so fast. Five more years and she would be sixty but with her unkempt hair, and face with no make up, she looks several years older than sixty.
Before I arrived, she threw up on the carpet but was able to partially clean the mess. The smell of vomit still lingers in the room and some regurgitated food particles are visible on the carpet. She says her landlord will clean the room the next day.
I hand her a glass of water after which she threw a few tablets into her mouth and immediately wash it down with water. I place the gallon of water on the table near her. She took out a few dollars from her purse but I shove it back to her.
“You need the water,” I told her.
“You don’t have a job.”
“That’s nothing. We need help. It’s hard to live in America, when you’re alone. You have nobody to turn to. We can’t afford to get sick and we must not. We don’t have medical insurance. Keep that money with you.”
“I’m alone in the evening most of the time. You can sleep in my room. I don’t want you to leave me. I’m afraid,” Marilyn begged, coughing profusely as she talk.
“No, I have to go home,” I said firmly. “I can’t sleep here.”
“Just let me fall sleep…then you can go. Don’t turn off the television…you can watch it while I sleep.”
Seeing her in that situation, I felt so sorry for her. I pitied her. I then thought “what if I were on her shoe?”
She is already falling asleep when the phone rang. She grabs the phone and puts it against her ear.
“He is here,” Marilyn said, excitedly handing the phone to me.
“Romy,” the voice on the other line said.
“Marilyn says you’re a good writer. Probably, you can help me with my thesis. You know, I’m not good in English. You can help me straighten the grammar.”
“Why not,” I answered.
“Let’s meet tomorrow. Where do you want us to meet?”
“Do you know Red Dragon?”
“Shoot. We’ll meet there tomorrow at five. My name is Serg.”
Marilyn is already asleep when I left at about ten in the evening. I slowly closed the door behind me. There is still nobody in the house, except her. I got out, closing the front door and then the gate. It is dark outside but not totally dark as there are Christmas lights in some of the neighborhood houses. Marilyn’s had none. It is gloomy, maybe as gloomy as she is. Once in a while a car or two would pass by and Marilyn’s house would be lit up only to be enveloped again by darkness once the passing cars disappeared.
* * *
Bob’s apartment is four blocks down the road. I didn’t tell Marilyn exactly where I live when she asked. I told her I stay in downtown LA. and that a friend usually picked me up at Vinnies Donut. I lied but I thought that’s much better. If she knew I just lived nearby, she will insist that I stay longer.
I walked down the sidewalks, away from her home towards mine. December nights are cool. I put my arms around myself as the cold winter night is getting into my body.
* * *
Apple reported to Sequel Communications, Inc. on the 18th floor of One Wilshire building for a night shift assignment on the 23rd of December, from ten o’clock in the evening to ten o’clock the following morning. By then it is already Christmas in the Philippines.
As a communication analyst at Sequel, Apple mans and monitors telephone calls all over the world that ran through the IPX machine on that particular day. Alone in his job, he asked me to go with him on his tour of duty. He didn’t want to be solitary in a small room much more in a big building.
We laid down empty computer boxes on the floor to be our sleeping mats and used pieces of Styrofoam as pillows. Apple would wake up now and then to see if there are problems in the equipment while I remain fast asleep.
I learned the next morning the machine had been swamped with calls and emails, and that he had to reset it to make sure the calls are being connected. Christmas is usually a busy day as overseas workers around the world call their love ones.
Before we left, Apple handed me $20 for having gone with him even when I slept through it. Not bad, especially when what I was earning from my employer was just a pittance of a share. Any amount would make a difference.
* * *
The following day we had a Christmas get-together at Bob’s apartment. Kristina was there and so was Sarah, with yet another boyfriend. Apple also came. We exchanged gifts and food is plenty; we had fun. It was my first decent Christmas party, unlike the ones I attended during my initial years here in America.
After much singing and while we literally bring ourselves closer for a picture taking, it just dawned on us that when we came to the publication, Kristina is already there welcoming us. Sarah came next, followed by Bob. Then I came to be followed by Apple. All of us came to the US as visitors, although my visa is different from them. I have a journalist visa.
One by one we left the Baltic Publication until Kristina is alone again, waiting for another batch of tourist job-seekers to come and work with Thalia.
Kristina is a “cry woman.” She easily cries when her emotion is touched. She wants to cry that night but we prevailed on her not to. We hugged her, lifted her spirits, cajoled her, and perked her up. We sang Christmas songs until she had no choice but to join us.
* * *
On the last day of the month, just before New Year’s day, Apple asked me again to keep him company at Sequel Communications.
“Of course,” I told him.
“If it would mean twenty dollars for sleeping, why should I not?”
* * *
“George W. Bush became the 43rd president of the United States on December 18th after the Electoral College gave him 271 electoral votes. Gore got only 266. The Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount ruling that manual recounts were unconstitutional. Ironically, by popularity votes, Gore got 50,996,064 while Bush garnered only 50,456,167, making Gore ahead by 539,897 votes.”
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Steven in a dissenting opinion wrote: “We may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election.16”