“There was an earthquake?” I said to myself as I read the ticker tapes on last night’s newscast. I scratched my head in disbelief. And I stood frozen for a while, fear seizing my throat, the devastating aftermath of the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand still fresh in my mind.
It was at 6:37 pm when Metro Manila was shaken last night by a 5.4 magnitude earthquake with epicenter in the coast of Occidental Mindoro. My nannies felt it and cowered in fright as they saw the chandeliers swinging. Alphonse was completely unperturbed as he bounced on the trampoline. I did not notice it, and that is perhaps a blessing in my anxious state these days.
At 6:37 pm last night, the whole family was running on barely three hours sleep from the night before. Alphonse went to bed at 10:30, with great difficulty, I must add, and woke up promptly at 1:30 am. He was wide awake by then, opening lights and jumping on beds, that we knew that there was nothing else to do but keep him company the whole night. Forcing him to bed would only make him angry and taciturn; as it was, he was in a pretty good mood at such an unusual hour.
I was planning to grab a few hours of sleep when his teacher checked in for morning duties but he missed his class yesterday. By mid-afternoon, despite my brain’s muddled neurons and malfunctioning connections, I was simply too tired to sleep. No wonder my brain didn’t even register the temblor. Then again, Alphonse had to push the envelope some more- he went to bed no earlier than eleven last night and we all dropped like swatted flies immediately soon after.
A lot of people have asked how we are these days and I’ve always avoided answering lest I jinx us out of some good fortune. I seem to do that a lot so I am always wary about giving general and categorical statements on the state of his mental health. But the truth is, Alphonse IS a little better, though still far from the way he used to be. Days are easier for all of us as he is constantly kept busy and moving. Nights are harder as his tantrums seem to come on the brink of sleep. I get nervous at night because of this. My anxiety levels shoot up and I almost hyperventilate, were it not most imperative that he does not sense any of my fears. (I am wearing down the nubs of my fingers from using them as replacement rosary beads to calm me down.) Shortly after coming home from our short trip, he directed all his anger at me for three nights- pulling hair, pinching my arms, legs, and belly fat, and kicking me in the gut- but he ignored my presence most of the day.
His moods are still volatile though more predictable. When he is loud, he is happy. When he is silent and brooding, we know enough to withdraw from his immediate vicinity. He has calmed down a bit but his affect is flat most of the time. His cycles of happiness (mania?) seem entirely artificial to me as I can sense no connection with him to us. He refuses our affections and holds himself at arm’s length from us all the time. And there is always that far-away look, that distant gaze that tells me he is not entirely here with us. Even in moments of calm, he still breaks my heart. I feel like we’ve lost him forever.
But we wait. I wait. There is no other thing to do now but that. Earthquake or not, our world has already been moved and shaken and turned upside down.
This is Week 11.