Posted by: stu robbins | July 26, 2012

Strange Memories

A clairvoyant. A mystic These are splendid gifts one could have but at the same time a curse.

Years ago, I was dazzled by such when I went through severe leg cramps during my childhood. She would look at me and for a very unexplainable reason, it was as if I was under her spell; I could not look away from her gaze and felt partly paralyzed. I cannot explain the gush of magic since I was neither afraid nor wary.

She was our relatives’  household helper. My aunt would tell me stories of how she would succumb to a long sleep that would last for days without waking up for food and water. They would not dare wake her up as she was in the process of recharging her inner energies for a mission. She was their ‘arbularyo” or quack doctor when medical science cannot transgress some ailments. I would believe that she could read my mind and hear my thoughts. My mother would bring me to our relatives’ place so that Ofelia can help ease my leg cramps that was getting worse. She has a Mona Lisa expression that is neither poker nor colorful. She looked ordinary; around her 50s (then), small-framed, dusky-complexioned and thin with very long locks that she kept in a loose pony tail. She massaged my legs and with the last time we saw each other, gave me a big jar-full of one peso coins to which she instructed me to spend a peso ever day and I would get well. I could not recall if I was able to dutifully spend every peso in the jar (with my mother’s assistance) after but I did not experience any leg cramps after.

Years have passed and I was in my early 20s. One time, my brother and I accompanied my aunt to my relatives’ house; the same house I visited when I was a child. We went there for a small family reunion. My grandaunt had aged wearily and my aunts were old as well.

However, what surprised me most was the petite, dusky lady who looked exactly the same of more than a decade ago. It was as if she was plucked from a memory; she barely changed. Ofelia sat from afar and like a ghost, silently, motionless and measurably looked still at me as if deciphering my conceived fragments of time and memory over the years. I pretended not to notice her but her gaze overcame me. I slowly looked at her and tried my best to be fine and composed. In her calm yet resounding tone of voice she spoke to me in vernacular, “hindi ba ikaw yung batang english-speaking dati?” (were you that english-speaking child sometime ago?) I nodded. She continued to verify that my mother passed away a long time ago and then told me with such reserve and courage that I ought to be strong because I am strong. She spoke in fragments also telling me in a slow but well-thought manner some things of my worth that I hold on to. She spoke in riddles yet I knew that, now, these things manifested itself the way she unraveled them to me on that reunion.

Fast-forward to 2008. We held a family get together outing at my grandaunt’s place, this time in their sprawling farm. I saw my relatives but sadly, did not get a glimpse of Ofelia. An aunt of mine told me that she was still around; looks the same as she was the last time I saw her but at that time she went home to her province to continue some “mission”.

I did not know if I wanted to see her or talk to her. Her stare was something very extraordinary that keeping a normal conversation was futile. She was not demeaning; she has a muted expression always on her face and gave advice when she thought it was worthy and timing. I would wish to wonder what it was like to be her but then again, I would not want to dissect and rationalize her. It is best not to touch her butterfly wings and unwrap the magic she has after all. Whatever spell she has, my memories of her are part of who I am and what I believe this world to be.


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