Miles Apart

FEU Advocate
June 16, 2024 18:55

Reuben was barely three feet tall when I first left, but I already knew he was destined for greatness. He might not look like a big shot with his scrawny build and snot-stained hand-me-down tee, but at age three, he can already sing his mother’s favorite karaoke song. 

Don’t let that mislead you, though. Reuben had always been a Papa’s boy. He would cry outside, his small fists banging on the bathroom door whenever I had to take a bath. Reuben always acted like I was three seconds away from leaving; so he’d cling onto me hoping I’d take him anywhere I go. Maybe that’s why my heart felt extra heavy every time I had to leave — he was there, tugging its strings; bathing in his tears just to plead for me to stay. 

Reuben was already in kindergarten when I came back. He wears nicer clothes now, patterned with his favorite cartoon characters; he’s significantly less skinny; and no longer has to constantly wipe his trademark runny nose. He wore a big shot smile while his mother struggled to scrub his star-stamp-covered arms clean. It made me feel like a big shot too, in a way. This was the life I dreamt for him to live — comfortable enough to allow him to grow. And finally, I had the means to provide for it. 

He threw a massive tantrum upon seeing me return, successfully making sure I knew he hated me for leaving so suddenly. I had to take him to an amusement park that week so he’d finally hug me. After that, he acted as if nothing happened, as if I never left. I convinced myself that things would always stay the same — that no matter the physical distance, we could never grow apart. 

Apparently, I was too naive and wistful to believe so; time and distance proved to be too strong for a dwindling bond to withstand. I couldn’t pinpoint when the great rift between Reuben and I started. Was it when I went home for the holidays and got him a bunch of clothes two sizes too big? Or was it when I missed his valedictory address on his high school graduation? 

Slowly but surely, we struggled to keep conversations afloat; and there were more things about him that I am yet to discover. At 19, Reuben stands five feet and eight inches tall; he favors his Mama more than me now; and he no longer finds amusement park rides fun, they make him nauseous. However, there are still remnants of the barely three-foot, snot-covered child somewhere in there; Reuben’s love for karaoke never died; I still catch him rewatching his favorite cartoons at night, when he thought no one else was awake; and I kept the essay he wrote about how I was his hero during his first semester in college.

“Happy Father’s Day po, Pa,” Reuben flashed me his awkward smile after answering my video call, the same smile he’d give distant relatives visiting for the holidays.

“Thank you, ‘nak,” there was silence for a few seconds. Minutes, maybe. I internally fought against blurting out a “kumusta ka?” because that’s how most of our conversations end.

“I heard from your Mama that you’re starting up a blog, ‘nak,” Then I caught a glint of surprise in his eyes, his smile slowly morphing into a genuine one — the one he wears when he finally gets a hold of the videoke’s microphone. 

“Actually, Pa, maybe you can help me with my first blog post,” he started enumerating possible topics. I stared at him, passionate as ever, and silently took note of things he found interesting. I guess this is not so bad of a start. 

- Valerie Rose V. Ferido

(Illustration by Darlyn Antoinette Baybayon/FEU Advocate)