(In which the Time Thief has taken it all.)
Sandy kept on asking me what we’ll be doing the day we run out of gold bars and I kept telling her that we will study. She will always shout “No!” as if telling me that’s the most boring thing ever. Honestly, I know not. But I would want to give her credits for helping me keep the Three-Unit-Per-Day Policy her mom smilingly imposed on us. And giving her a gift is already a given.
I should have thought and prepared for that long before had it not been for the last stressful week that had me a home buddy in the most uninteresting way. I was actually planning to give her a big bone pillow since we always talk of how she will manage to send me a piece of spicy chicken across oceans. But she already has a bone pillow so I decided that I should just give her wind chimes. Someone told me to choose a design that is Filipino enough to be unique. So when I saw these chimes with a darkly-varnished bamboo finish this morning, I just thought they were perfect.
There are small wind chimes that hung outside our classroom door that caught her attention the first time we had our class. I explained to her that it’s a symbol of good luck. But since then, the wind chimes became the symbol for the start of a lesson. No. I didn’t make them sound to summon her. She would usually leap several times to reach it and hear it clatter and only after three consecutive, successful jumps can you make her sit down and have class with you. I knew that at times, it’s just one of her delaying tactics. But sometimes, it’s more than that. When after trying so many times and all she was able to move was the central clapper so the metal tubes remain still, she will sit on the floor and look up to the chimes. Then I will tell her to try again later and have the class for the mean time. But she will repeatedly say “No!” and won’t stop until she gets a good hearing of the clatter celebrating her victory. Then she will pose like a Powerpuff girl after a battle won.
Teacher Aaron told her the chimes were meant to remind her of me when the wind makes the chimes sing, to which she replied “Teacher Ree-jell, very noisy!” We all laughed.
She also gave me something – a necklace with a thick, yellow string as a lace and a round, orange pendant. Inside the pendant was a tiny tube with words written on it. The tube moves inside the liquid interior of the pendant so that the words were magnified. FOREVER U & ME.
Sandy has her own pendant in the shape of an S and her was name written on the tube inside the pendant.
Mine was the round one.
Mine was the round one.
The first hour was spent on short lessons and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The second was divided on playing games with the other teachers and students and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. When it’s almost time, she told me “We should pack up.” And that was the first time she did that. The moment felt strangely new it was like a premonition. While we were cleaning our table, she softly and slowly spoke “Thank you for everything.” I patted her head and said “You’re welcome. And thank you, too.”
In our job, we were trained by time not to be attached for people keep coming and going. Sometimes the interval was so short that your feelings toward people become automatic. Jean once told me she doesn’t think it’s healthy. I do too. But that’s what we do. I know it might not sadden me much today. The greater longing will come later. And it will strengthen with the knowing that we lost all the gold bars.
“What time is it?”
“Three forty-seven,” I answered.
“Oh! Change time!” she said as she moved her hands in a circling motion.
I wrote in my letter that she could hang the chimes somewhere really high and reach for it. And when she grew taller, she could hang it somewhere higher and so leap higher to reach it. She might not understand that now. But I know someday she will.
Sandy, my lovely solace.