The Ballad of the School Hallways
And so, after October came November, and November for teachers wasn’t Halloween. It’s actually a time for great anticipation, for our 13th Month Bonus (a.k.a. Christmas Bonus) was expected to arrive at our ATM accounts soon. (1)
I repeatedly checked my bank account online, but the money still wasn’t there. I’d been pretty broke lately, since I went around spending my money on some, well, ‘worthwhile things’…like game credits, and anime stuff. Anyway, it’s not that I’m alarmed, though. Such instances were actually pretty common; our salaries and allowances won’t be there if we checked in the morning. But by afternoon, it would be credited to our account.
“Hey bro, can you monitor Joseph for a bit? I’ll be cooking our lunch.” my younger sister asked me. Even though she’s got her own family—a child and a father, plus her—she and her baby had been living with us in order to help them with their living expenses. This was because the only one who’s working was the father, and his salary was way too low for a family of three to live at the bare minimum.
“Ayt!” I went to the baby’s crib. The child, named Joseph Zion, was less than a year old. But I’m telling you, he’s pretty much way too active. He kept on crawling around his little private space, like some cute critter.
You see, my sister’s pretty much an amateur when it came to child-rearing. Joseph was a product of a ‘wrong decision’ that eventually cost my sister her job as a teacher, and the anger of our parents—temporarily. In the end, they reconciled, and they invited her back to our house to live with us.
Well, they don’t want to risk the child’s health. They’ve been reduced to eating unhealthy food since my sister eloped with her husband.
“Here ’ya go, li’l guy!” I took my nephew from his small, confined space and put him down on a mat that was laid down on the floor specifically to let him crawl around. Joseph’s been pretty docile when it came to me and my mother, for we often treat him gently unlike his disciplinary mother.
The baby crawled relentlessly; I just let him do it to his heart’s content. I only watched and would reposition him on the mat from time to time to keep him off from the cold, dirty floor. He’s really cute…
However, I can’t continue like this. I’ve got classes this afternoon, and I had to take a bath soon.
“Hey Sera, where’s the milk bottle of this fellow?”
“I put it on the sofa. Just open his box there; I already made some milk for him to drink, anyway.”
I got up and took a milk bottle from my nephew’s box. Shaking it a little, I gave it to the baby.
And he didn’t take it. Probably he’s not hungry just yet.
Anyway, so since Joseph wasn’t ready for his milk, I sat down and crawled along with him on the mat. I guess the gesture excited him as well, for he quickly rushed to my side while giggling like a baby.
Wait, he is a baby…
Haha! We look like idiots. Uh well, let me correct that. I look like an idiot; I keep on forgetting that Joseph’s still entitled to baby manners.
My nephew was laughing and screaming like a baby should, and he was clearly enjoying his time with his uncle. I was having fun as well, which was kind of strange. I didn’t like children that much, see? They’re a noisy, often unruly, bunch. I’m just a miserable introvert.
It’s like a ‘I hate kids, but the kids like me’ situation.
Anyway, since I’m having fun, I took out my phone camera and shot a couple of selfies with my cute nephew. Good thing he’s pretty game with it; he just went along and smiled as well. A few images turned out to be exceptionally good…
And you know what that means!
I quickly did some edits and opened my F*cebook account. Then I uploaded our picture in the social media, with a caption that read: ’Get ready to crawl, losers!’.
I meant that as a joke, of course. And in as fast as five minutes, it gathered a lot of reactions and likes. I could say that our picture together was a success.
However, I didn’t know that my joke was about to become a reality only a few hours after it’s been done…
When November arrived, I was notified that one of my fellow teachers had been successful in obtaining a transfer to another workplace. As such, he was then promptly transferred, making his department—the Filipino subject—lacking in one teacher. Now the thing is, he’s the Grade 8 teacher for that subject; and as I had a prior training in Filipino in the past (I was formerly the Grade 9 teacher), I was groomed to take his place soon.
And so, from MAPEH, I became the 8th Grade Filipino language teacher. My schedule became fixed, as opposed to my old subject’s ‘shifting days’ class, and it’s been a great change of pace for me. Not only did I get a single subject to teach (it’s all about language), I also had my regular schedule.
Well, life’s been pretty easy for me this time.
The traffic light had displayed its red light as a sign for us drivers to make a stop. I’m at a major intersection, and the weather’s been pleasantly balmy. As I didn’t want my skin to be burned by the heat of the sun, I took my time to fix my glove and sleeves so that there’d be no space where the sun’s rays could get through.
The journey from my house to my workplace usually took about an hour. And that’s by a motorcycle, not on public transport. Before, I used to commute, which wasted about an hour and a half of my time, so I when I finally had the means, I immediately tried to get a motorcycle for my own service vehicle. And truth be told, I had been driving it for two years now.
Yep, this fellow has been a reliable partner for my travel needs.
The traffic light then turned green, telling that it’s our lane’s time to go. The vehicles raced to reach the other side of the intersection, as we only got around 60 seconds to do that. Fortunately, I was at the very front, so I get to be the first to run.
That’s what makes the motorcycle great for me, I can squeeze myself in tight spaces so that I rarely stop in traffic.
I took a left turn, on my way to the alternate route I use daily for my commute to work. It passed through a private subdivision, and the vehicles that didn’t have its sticker had to pay a small fee for using their roads. But it’s fine for me; not only did it gave me a more relaxed time while driving, taking that road would allow me to bypass the dangerous city traffic.
Well, the road’s pretty wide, and only a few vehicles pass this place. So, I guess, revving up the throttle wouldn’t hurt.
I felt the engine of my motorcycle roar as the speedometer climbed from 50kph to 60kph. Nice, the wind’s pretty pleasant, and I can feel my mood go up as I increased my speed.
Everything’s clear to see, since it was a sunny day. From a distance, I saw a car that was parked at the front of my lane, so gradually I shifted lanes so I wouldn’t crash to that vehicle’s rear.
Then my motorcycle hit 60kph.
It was then that the accident finally struck. Since the idle car blocked my vision of the right side of the road, I did not see an incoming bicycle of a student that suddenly appeared, and crossed without delay towards the other side. The guy didn’t even halt to check on the rushing vehicles; he just hurried continuously to his destination.
I tried applying brakes on my motorcycle, but I committed a grave mistake. I pulled the lever of the front brake too hard and too sudden, and then I forgot to apply the second, rear brake. For a person traveling 60kph, the result could be disastrous. I did slow my vehicle long enough for me to avoid hitting the student’s body—and possibly killing him, but I collided with the rear end of his bike.
That disturbed the momentum of my vehicle, and I uncontrollably veered to the left. The motorcycle hit the center island off the road, and the resulting force threw me off a few distances away from my fallen vehicle. I tried to steady my motorcycle, but as I flew away, my right leg and hand hit the ground.
As if that wasn’t enough, the heavy motorcycle followed me and fell on my body, at the part where the muffler—piping hot—hit my foot.
I didn’t even have the time to scream.
I wasn’t unconscious, but I was horribly disoriented by what happened. When I got some of my sanity back, I noticed that the idle car’s driver was taking pictures of me instead of doing something to help.
Yeah, thanks for the good will, dude.
I tried to get up, and check on the student that I hit. However, much to my horror, I couldn’t even put force on my right leg, and even so, on my right hand. Both ached like hell. And not to mention, my motorcycle added to my woes; I think it twisted and burned my foot when it crashed on me.
It is heavy, so it remained in its position for quite a while.
“Hey man, c’mere!” I felt strong hands grab my arms. A man wearing a helmet was helping me, while a security guard from the nearby village took my motorcycle and propped it up.
“You alright, son?” the man asked.
I nodded in reply. Honestly, I was still in shock of what happened, I couldn’t speak just yet.
“Sir, are you okay? Here’s water,” someone gave me a cold bottle of water. Much to my relief, it was the student involved in the accident. He seemed perfectly fine, but I still am not sure.
“How about you? Are you okay?” instead of answering, I returned his question him.
“Yes Sir, it’s just a small wound,” the student showed me his bruised arm. It had a little scratch with blood on it; but otherwise, he could still walk like normal.
“Can you stand?” the man with the helmet removed his protective gear and promptly helped me. He asked if I could put force on my right leg, but a sharp pain came up as I did that. Luckily, the rider was holding me up, so I didn’t fall down.
Oh good lord, I can’t walk properly.
The guard was looking at me, and asked his fellow worker to get a monoblock chair, which they put on the side of the road for me to sit on.
“Did you hit your head on the ground?” the rider asked.
“No. It’s just my leg and my hand,” I answered.
“I see. But please do go to the hospital to have it checked. We have to be sure you’re okay.”
“Thanks for the help, sir,” I offered a handshake to express my gratitude.
“No problem!” the man shook my hand, “I’m also a rider, so I can’t just abandon a fellow like you.”
“Really, thank you very much.”
The rider, after making sure that I was fine and would properly be taken care of, waved goodbye and went on his way. The student, too, after the accident, walked away relatively unscathed. I was left in the care of the two kind guards of the village.
“How’s your foot, sir?” they would ask of my condition occasionally.
“I think it’s swelling,” I replied. I tried to move it but now, it was so swollen that I couldn’t even make a minute jerk. It hurt like hell.
“Tch…looks like you have to go to the hospital to have it checked,” the guard had pity on his eyes for me. “You want another bottle of water, Sir?”
“Yes, thank you! And can I ask you to have my phone get loaded by credits? I want to inform my workplace and my parents of what happened to me.”
I gave the guard money for his trouble, and as well as for the phone credits. Meanwhile, while waiting for him, I began typing a short message to my co-teacher, telling him what just happened to me.
It was in the middle of day when my accident happened, and it sure was hot as hell. The guard came back with my phone credits replenished, and another bottle of ice-cold water. I swore to myself I wouldn’t forget this kind gesture for the rest of my life.
The reason I bought credits for my phone was that I wanted to give my mother a personal call. I knew her; when it came to us, she’s so protective it could get awkward. And if I sent her a short message about my accident, she could go on a panic mode, which I didn’t want to happen…
Especially when she’s undergoing chemotherapy.
A year ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it surely shook our world up. She had undergone an operation to remove the malignant tumor back in April this year, and after that, went for a radio treatment, and chemotherapy. A vial of her medicine costed us a hundred thousand bucks per piece. (2)
Of course, we don’t want to lose her painfully, so we did our best to keep her well…even if doing so sucked our pockets dry.
And so, armed with the means to hopefully defeat her cancer, she underwent torturous chemotherapy every 21st day after the previous one. Coincidentally, this day was also her 21st, that’s why she’s with my younger brother who accompanied her to the hospital.
“…” I could hear her phone ringing on the other side of the line. A few moments later, she picked up.
“Hello? Why are you calling?” it’s my mother’s voice.
“Hey Mom!” I cheerfully answered back to keep her from panicking. “What’s up? Where are you right now?”
“Well, we’re already on our way home. We brought some food for you to eat tonight when you get back.”
“I see. Well, Mom, as it turns out, I think I’ll be coming home earlier than we thought. So better ready that food!”
“Oh? Why? What happened?”
“Uh…please calm down, though. I’m pretty much alright, save for my right foot and hand, which are aching.”
“Ha?!” her voice rose up; I knew she was filled with tension. “What happened to you?”
“Well, I got into an accident. Haha!”
There was a long silence coming from the other side of the line. I don’t know if my mother was thinking of anything, or she’s left speechless by what she just learned. I only breathed in relief when I heard her speak again, “Okay, tell me your location. We’ll head straight there, since we’re on a Grabbed vehicle. Give to your brother the keys of your motorcycle, he’ll be driving that home. I’ll take you to the hospital.”
“Thanks Mom. Take care on your way.”
The line then went dead. A few moments later, the Grabbed car they hired appeared, and my mother took me to the hospital.
Author's Note: (1) All of the government workers in the Philippines receive bonuses at the year's end (November-December months), and one of those is what we call the '13th Month Bonus'. Basically, it's just money amounting to a month's worth of your salary, so every November, teachers like us receive double of our wages.
(2) $1 = Php50-54. Edit: as of 1st week of July 2022, it is now $1 = Php55.