Love in the Time of Covid

By: I@mlegend

Nakatitig lang ako sa kanya habang binabasa nya yong sulat na pinaabot ng mommy nya. Ang sakit panoorin. Hindi ko kayang panoorin.

"Ben, labas lang muna ako.", paalam ko sa kanya. Binilisan ko ang pagtalikod para hindi nya makitang umiiyak din ako.

"Huwag!", pigil ni Ben. "Huwag kang umalis. Dito ka lang.", dugtong nya.

Pasimple ko munang pinunasan ang luha ko bago ako humarap sa kanya at nagtanong, "bakit, may kailangan ka ba? May nararamdaman ka bang masama?"

"Wala. Ayoko lang mag-isa.", sagot nya. "Pwede mo ba kong tulungan?", tanong nya sa akin.

"Sure. Ano 'yon?", balik-tanong ko.

"Can we record a video on your phone and send it to my mom?", ngumiti sya ng bahagya. Parang naglalambing. Pero maluha-luha.

"Sure. Pero ano irerecord natin? Magti-Tiktok ka ba?", pabiro kung sagot na may kasama pang dance moves na napanood ko sa isang video.

Tumawa sya ng mahina. Sabay hinga ng malalim. Pinilit sumandal sa kama. Huminga ulit ng malalim. Saka nagsalita.

"I'm not sure if I will make it. I wish I can say, 'I'm ready to die', but I'm not. So at least I can leave some messages to my family. Especially to my kids.", he almost mumbled through the last words. And then he cried. Again.

I could feel the pain. As a doctor for six years, I'm not used to this scene. I mean, I'm used to seeing patients crying together with their families or families crying together for a lost loved one but not this. It's a different story because Ben is my bestfriend. And the love of my life. Yes, I've been secretly in loved with Ben since I met him in College.

I went near his bed and held his hand. I was already crying but with all the positivity I have in my spirit I told him with my lips shaking, "you'll get through this. This is just a virus, alright? We are doing our best so you can recover. You're gonna be fine and you'll go home and you will be with your family. You're gonna spend summer with your kids."

And I felt him holding my hands back. Almost crushing them and he said, "please?".

Kinuha ko ang phone ko sa bulsa. With my hands shaking, I turned it on and set it up ready to record a video. I told him I'm ready to take if he is. He wiped his tears dry and fixed the upper part of his lab gown as if he was gearing up for a formal online meeting.

Through my phone, I was looking at him and all I can see is the picture of a healthy Ben years ago. That Ben who would use to tease me about getting married or looking for a permanent guy I can settle with. But in reality, the Ben today is pale, thin and weak. He's been confined for two weeks and he's health is deteriorating. It didn't help that before he was infected with Covid-19, Ben was just recovering from a recent operation because of his kidneys. As a doctor, I'm required to tell him his chances of surviving but as his bestfriend, I have the responsibility to make him feel better. That he has a chance to survive and God knows how I want him to survive!

Ben continued talking to the camera while I was trying to distract myself from crying. Until he said the words, "Aya and Santi, I hope you all grow up respectful and loving. To everyone. Especially to the poor. You know, sickness doesn't care if you're rich or poor. You can say we have enough money but money couldn't help daddy now. I don't even have the choice for a hospital. We are all equal. So be loving, okay? And take care of each other. Tito Art here promised to bring you to Elyu on summer. Right, Tito Art?", he looked at me. Peaking on the side of the phone. And I said, "yes".

None of his next words I can remember now. I just tried to held the phone so it wont fall. But I was crying and shaking because I didn't even know if I could share that video to anyone, especially to his family.

I was ready to go out after we finished recording and pep-talking to him about his chances to survive only if he will cooperate. Pero bago pa man ako lumabas, Ben called me again.

"Bro, do you regret loving me?"

He was serious. And I was put on the spot. I couldn't find the words to say.

"Do you?", a follow up.

"No", I said. "I will never regret loving you.", dagdag ko. And then he smiled. I asked him, "why?". Then he said, "Because I regret not loving you the way you wanted me to".

That's it. I looked at him. Smiled and went out the door.

That was yesterday. Today, I can't believe I'm still staring at him the same way I did when I first met him. Only now, he can't stare back. But I know everyone else in the room is staring at me.

"Doc, ", the nurse transported me back to reality. And then I said, "Time of death: 16:09".

I will miss you, Ben! I love you!

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