Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kristel Tejada and the Getaway Cafe

Photo from "Our Colorful World" in Google +
MANILA, Philippines - She just wanted to finish her studies and help her four siblings.
Kristel Tejada, however, still owed P10,000 in tuition for this semester at the University of the Philippines in Manila, where the 16-year-old was a behavioral science freshman.  

She asked for a tuition loan or installment payment and offered a promissory note.

When these were all turned down, Tejada’s mother, according to some reports, even knelt before UP Manila Chancellor Manuel Agudo and begged that her daughter be allowed to continue attending her classes.
 
When that still didn’t work, Tejada was forced to file a forced leave of absence (LOA) earlier this week.
 
At around 3 a.m. yesterday, the despondent girl drank silver cleaner at their home in Tondo. She was rushed to the Metropolitan Medical Center but emergency teams failed to revive her.--http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/03/16/920420/student-kills-self-over-tuition

how many hours
went by
this morning
i've used them all up
to stop at sites
like a getaway cafe

at first sight
i recalled a house 
i once knew
& where i felt loved
it stood by a brook
that swelled 
or petered
or dried up
depending on the season

i stopped by this cafe

in this delaying 
exercise of
facing the required 
one thousand words
i have to daily write
so i could earn
so i could pay
so i could repeat
the entire process
of paying monthly
bills over & over
under & under

i had to stop to mourn
silently for stranger 
kristel who could've been
a daughter 
a niece 
a younger self

she poisoned herself
by drinking cleaning silver

she couldn't afford
to spike it 
with wine or scotch 
or bourbon or mix it
with fruit juice

she had no means 
to use the web 
as pit stop
to rest
a desperate soul

no boyfriend
to take her to a real 
getaway cafe
where she could
sob into 
one paper napkin
after another
or let her tears
commingle with 
a shot of espresso
or a cup of americano

no girlfriends
into whose arms
she could fall
when all else failed

no phone to help
her dial a suicide line
while a counselor
heard her out 
& bought her more time

today i decided
to get away
from temporary ties 
to a real 
graspable world
of deadlines
to saunter into
a make-believe cafe

my reality
can be joyless 
or joyful
depending on seasons
inside me

kristel never
lived long enough
to face it
or know it

but i know she
is in another 
getaway cafe
perhaps even in 
a house by a brook
where kind
residents now
feed her hunger
"to finish her studies 
& help her four siblings"

the news report
cannot support
my surmises
cannot tell me more
cannot tell me how
to appease others'
own thirst for
silver or gold cleaning

--Babeth Lolarga
March 15, 2013
12:42 p.m.
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