Sunlight streamed through the opened jalousie windows, evidently casting a warm glow within the tiny bedroom. Not too long after, the silence of the early morning was broken by a loud, high-pitched cry of a rooster which caused Kate to slowly wake up.
Day 15. She thought, her eyes stayed glued to the ceiling as she tried to make sense of where she was at this very moment. It has been fifteen days since she last reported to the office. What seemed like only 15 days of absence felt like an entire year for her. What was a mere fifteen days on paper felt like a year to her, and the realization that that the pandemic was still a harsh reality and not at all a part of her dream came crashing down around her like a freight train.
With great reluctance, she sat up from her bed. The number of deaths around the world have been increasing by the day along with the number of protective measures that have been instilled within the city. She grabbed her phone on the bedside table and checked the time, internally fighting the growing curiosity of checking the number of infected persons in her social media accounts. She would not start the day with bad news if she could help it.
It was 6 am, and the day requires her to complete her household duties along with her stay-at-home work tasks as soon as possible. There was no logical reason on why she had to do these things as quickly. With minimal chores (she only had to clean her bathroom), zero items on her shopping list (enhanced quarantine means only one person can go out of the house), and a flexible work schedule (they really didn’t care as long as she rendered 40 hours of work), Kate could technically start her day any time so long as she gets things done and take her meds.
The latter was the one thing that her mother asked of her.
“Take your medicine and the vitamins.” The matriarch of the household would remind her 20-something year old daughter for the sixth time that day.
Kate often wondered why her mother threw a fuss about her taking her meds. Antidepressants would not shield her from COVID-19, although the multivitamins her mother bought for the entire family did. Kate remembered that day. It was the 8th day of her self-isolation and her mother stood nearly 4 hours in line, hoping to get at least a small box of multivitamins or anything that had some Vitamin C in them.
She downed the pills and took a sip of water from the glass on her nightstand before she got out of bed.
I’ll make breakfast. She decided, making her way down the stairs. She had already memorized every one of her family members’ daily schedule. She knew her sister wouldn’t be awake until 1 in the afternoon while her two brothers worked in their rooms during the night shift. Her father would probably sleep in until it’s 10 in the morning and her mother . . .
Kate walked into the kitchen and stopped in her tracks. She was the unpredictable one. Kate had assumed that her mom would still be in bed with her father, but there she was, standing in front of the stove while she’s cooking breakfast. Her brown eyes, similar to Kate’s, looked tired and withdrawn as she waited for the eggs to finish. Kate couldn’t help but notice the dark bags underneath her eyes.
She’s been up all night, again. She concluded. It was obvious. They lived in the same house, after all. Kate knew that ever since the news broke that their city had more than a handful of infected individuals, her mother has been finding it harder to sleep by the day much less take good care of herself. Instead of getting some sleep, her mother would scour the internet for the latest news, all while staying online at Facebook while waiting for the latest announcement to come. Whether it was a new policy on keeping safe, or the latest update on the infected and death toll, Kate couldn’t help but admire her mother’s tenacity to stay on top of things.
Then again, it wasn’t surprising. Rosa Merioles was born into poverty and had to constantly work from childhood to bring herself to a place of comfort and security. Now, she’s reliving her childhood survival instincts by eating only one meal a day (or none at all) and making sure everyone was well-fed even if she herself wasn’t.
Kate had also witnessed her constantly updating on the family budget, always making sure that their daily expenses didn’t go over the limit as she counted the same numbers repeatedly. It was always the same. They haven’t gone out since they got their vitamins along with other much needed supplies.
Kate had assured her they would be fine but Rosa didn’t seem convinced and continued to count the numbers again along with keeping tabs in their inventory “just in case”, which meant that every egg, piece of bread, bag of rice, and canned food item was counted, measured, and labeled. Once she was done with checking the food, she’d go back to the internet again, worried that she might have missed something important.
“Mom,” Kate muttered as she watched her mother look over her shoulder. She looked surprised.
“Ah, Katkat, you’re awake? I thought you didn’t work at one,” she said cheerfully, although Kate could have sworn that smile looked forced.
“That’s Kara’s job.” Kate clarified and stood beside her in front of the stove, her eyes now focused on the eggs which she transferred to the pile on the plate.
“Go sit down Ma, I’ll cook,” she said.
“No it’s okay I’ll do it―”
“It’s just eggs.” Kate interrupted, unsure why she was raising her voice.
“It’s almost done, anyway. You can cook next time.”
Kate frowned. Her mother really didn’t take no for an answer and Kate wondered if this was what her mother needed… a distraction.
“Fine, but can I have your phone?” Kate asked, holding out her hand.
“Why?” Her mother raised an eyebrow.
“Because I want to ban you from using it.” Kate grinned, knowing deep down her mother would not take her seriously.
“Nice try. It’s in the bedroom. If you will go upstairs, please tell your father it’s time for breakfast,” she replied and started frying last night’s leftover rice with garlic.
Kate nodded and turned around. Somehow it didn’t feel right. She had to do something, and she stopped in her tracks.
She took a deep breath. It was now or never.
“I know you’re scared. We all know; and you’re doing a great job in helping all of us get through this. I just wished you’d let us help you out for a change.” and once she started she couldn’t stop. It was early in the morning, she was tired, and whether things will ever get back to normal was still up in the air.
“We’re all scared; not just because of the pandemic but because you haven’t taken care of yourself lately. You don’t sleep, you rarely eat, and we don’t want you to worry yourself to death.” Kate stopped and blinked back tears. The image of losing her mother was not something she wanted to even consider, so she shook her head.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t be careful or that we shouldn’t be prepared . . . ” She trailed off, unsure of how she would finish this. She never really had a heart-to-heart talk with her mother before. Sure, their relationship was pleasant, but Merioles doesn’t talk about their feelings. It was an unspoken rule in their family and Kate had wished she had stayed calm, cool, and collected instead, but seeing her mother’s tired face broke something in her.
It was now or never.
“But you’re not alone,” she finally said and left, completely ashamed that she had put her mother on the spot like that. She was certain she had made her uncomfortable, and Kate hoped that her mother wouldn’t laugh at her overreaction and would continue like nothing happened.
“Kate.” Her mother’s voice was shaking and Kate stopped in her tracks. Her heart was beating frantically against her chest but she still willed herself to turn around and face her. Her mother’s face, as always, was calm, cool, and collected, although her eyes were glassy.
“Thank you, Anak,” she said and with that went back to work.
Kate smiled. For the first time in a while, she felt confident that her family will be okay.
“I love you, Mom.”