The carving in the old mango tree, the sound of the vibrant flowing water, and the dilapidated treehouse was the ill-forgotten piece of my past. The hums of the birds and the buzzing of the bees had not dared to divert my attention. It was a pain to know that Emma, the daughter of Mang Teban who lives near the park, can’t recognize who I am. My brother and I used to play with her. I remembered that it was no easy feat, it became a challenge for us to walk home without her noticing our silly walk due to our trousers becoming slightly constricted. Mum, used to scold us back then.
As I reminisce my childhood, I realized that it was only during those times that I had ever talked to my brother. If Emma was not around, I find my brother displeasing, and I always used my books as an excuse whenever he asked me to go with him.
Walking in the bountiful Panguil River Park was one of my family’s agenda every Saturday. Beside the river, where Mum wanted to spend the whole day, was our favorite picnic spot. The enchanting smell of flowers and the turquoise-blue stream were the few remarkable things this park have to offer. We always go to this spot to relax and enjoy the park’s peaceful ambiance – except of course for my little brother Sev. A typical annoying brother. He always asked me to catch butterflies across the river which would anger our mother. I always told him that it would only make our clothes dirty and wet.
“Hey, Abel! Let’s go catch some butte- “
Not even letting him finish, I already knew what was about to come out of his mouth. To prevent such infuriating utterance, I immediately replied “Shhh. I’m reading, go there by yourself.”
“No! I want you to go there with me. Butterflies are fascinating you know! Follow me when you’re done reading!”
I pretended to agree with him and he left. But I never followed. I was too busy reading the new novel I bought, and I can’t trade my precious time with butterflies – especially not with him.
After we finished eating lunch, we left the park earlier than the usual to visit our Lola in Biñan, Laguna. We arrived home late at night. I immediately went straight to my bedroom to finish the book I’m reading. Then Sev aggressively knocks…. “Abel, Abel!! Let’s play!!”
“What?! No! I don’t want to, go back to your room and stop bothering me!!” I replied, but he never stopped. He repeatedly called my name to go catch butterflies with him. Grabbing whatever I could grab, I threw my alarm clock at the door.
“SHUT UP I SAID NO! Besides the butterflies are probably in their bedroom too. Go to sleep!”
“PLEASEEE,” he replied.
“I SAID N-“ when I opened the door he wasn’t there. He really likes to play games with me. Stupid kid.
After a few minutes, my mum called me downstairs for supper. It was already eleven in the evening, but I still went downstairs. When I got down, I only saw three plates, and asked, “How about Sev?”
Mom and dad looked at each other blankly and confused.
“Son-“, not even finishing her reply my dad interrupted her.“
Just eat, Abel. Sev will eat later. He’s resting.”
“Oh, okay,” I replied.
Another Saturday came and we went to the same old park. I decided to not bring any book with me to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the lake. Again, Sev asked me if I could help him catch butterflies on the other side of the river. This time, I gave in to his request so he won’t bother me again. Sev showed me the way to a stepping stone where we could cross the river. It was filled with moss and some stones were missing. Sev crossed first, and I agreed to soon follow. The river was not acting normal, the water was flowing rapidly, but he managed to cross the river. When it’s my turn to cross the river, I was doing fine and then I slipped—
I heard voices shouting my name. I felt the waves of the ravaging water punching my weak body as I grasped for every last bit of air. I felt a sense of intense chill and pain on my chest, trying to find leverage to pull myself one last time – but I failed. Coldwater filled my lungs as I anxiously waited for this nightmare to end. My mind went pitch black. When I woke up, I saw my mom caressing my face and hugged me tightly as soon as she saw my eyes opened and said “I thought we’re going to lose a child again. We can’t afford to lose you too. Why did you go to the water alon-?”
“Where’s Sev?” I immediately asked.
My parents gave me the look they gave me before, then finally Dad said something.
“Abel, listen to me, Sev’s gone. I know that you know this, but he drowned in this river while crossing to catch butterflies. He drowned and we never found his body. Don’t you remember? This is the reason why we go here every Saturday,” he said. “We know that you blame yourself for the death of your brother, but, it’s not your fault. Please move on.”
Then there I realized, my brother is dead, because I always said no. If only I accompanied him that day, he wouldn’t have drowned. I can’t even say yes to him in my hallucinations. He died because of me – because I never appreciated my brother. I clench my fist and unknowingly a tear broke free, then the rest followed. Filled with doubt and misremembrance, I ran away from my parents.
The carving in the old mango tree, the sound of the vibrant flowing water, and the dilapidated treehouse was the ill-forgotten piece of my past. The hums of the birds and the buzzing of the bees had not dared to divert my attention as I ran endlessly. Heavy with contemplation, I paused to look at the river where my brother had died. The display was like a trigger. The breathtaking view of the lake presented itself as it froze time. Deeply pondering of the things that had happened, I realized that Sev was not the one who died, it is I who had neglected my duty as his older brother….
“The most important work we will ever do is within the walls of our own home.”
– Harold B. Lee