I'm back in Manila too soon. Karma is ruthless when it demands its payback. She acknowledges no friends or previous sufferings. She simply claims what belongs to her.
Last Thursday night, I was already heady with freedom, wallowing in this unique pleasure I get whenever I embark on a long journey towards some place I've never been to before. A smile was already plastered on my face when, aboard the Philtranco shuttle for the 12-hour trip to Tabaco, Albay, I received a text message from my boss "Fix the aircon situation of the clerks. Update me tomorrow."
I was torn between getting off the bus which was already plying the road between calamba and sto.tomas by that time, or just staying on the bus and sending the boss a text message feigning diarrhea early in the morning. I chose the latter. I was so guilty. I've never done this before. I had hoped that no one would ask, so I could be saved from a lie. But my boss seemed to have this radar. She seemed to catch me all the time. My mind enumerated justifications for my escape and I was convinced to text her in the morning. Even if I knew escaping was wrong, I wanted this getaway so much I believed I was doing right thing.
Early in the morning, while I was aready in Legazpi City welcomed by the marvelous view of Mayon, I got another message, "Text me when you're in the office." Uh-oh...
I had to wrack my brains for the best, least-obvious lie I could muster. I texted back, "Ma'am I don't think I can make it today. Been having LBM, abdominal cramps and fever since 4AM." And my boss said, "Take care." Whew! That was a close call!
My troubles didn't stop there though. The whole day, endless streams of text messages haunted my Catanduanes trip. There were so many problems that came up. Ugh, my day of all days! Two of my staff also didn't report to work and this time, I had no moral ascendancy to reprimand them (Lesson: never trust your staff enough that you make a conspiracy with them).
There was no way they can spoil the fun of my Catanduanes adventure. However, I decided to cut my vacation short, take the bus home on Saturday night and be in the hospital by Sunday morning.
Saturday night - I was aboard a non-aircon bus on the way to Manila. I figured, heck, I have time to spare. I'll still get to Manila by 4AM anyway. The ordinary bus will give me a chance to mingle with the common crowd, to listen to their travel gossip, to drown my own woes in the wailings of the children, the cackling of chickens. And I've always loved the wind on my face.
It was 1AM. The bus was inching its way across Gumaca, Quezon when a sudden spasm, complete with the fierce growling of borborygmi, of my insides woke me up in a jolt. I broke into a cold sweat. My hands clenched the metal rails in front of me. My mind was screaming "Bathroom!".
Thankfully, the ordeal lasted only for 30 minutes. The bus stopped in a gas station. I implored the driver to allow me to use the bathroom and he obliged me the favor, to the reproach of the rest of the passengers. I hurried to the 24-hour grocery shop, bought tissue paper, and hastily did my thing. Ahhh, relief! There was no water in the toilets but who cares! Whoever is using the cubicle next doesn't know my name anyway. Thank goodness I had the sense to bring alcogel for my hands.
The bus plodded along the Quezon road and I fell asleep. After 30 minutes, my insides catapulted and did that revolting thing again. The air was cold but I was sweating. I was shivering while grasping that roll of tissue paper I was still holding. There was no hope of getting a toilet break in the next few hours. Mind over matters, mind over matters. That was my mantra. With the urge to defecate, the brain sends an apalling impulse to your diaphram and abdominal muscles instructing them to bear down, and bear down you will.
So their I was, sweating, pale, instinctively bearing down, with my entire existence and every ounce of my human decency at the mercy of several tiny muscles struggling to keep that aperture close. Thank God the external anal sphincter is voluntary. Never before have I said a prayer of gratitude for that little miracle of nature. The torment came in waves. For three minutes I was relaxed, and then comes a minute of exquisite suffering. Bathroom, bathroom, I'd even do it at the roadside if I had to.
After almost 2 hours of torture, the bus stopped at a Calamba roadside. Several passengers got off. It took several minutes for them to remove their cargo. And there it was again. Far ahead I saw a gas station. I didn't even think about it. I got my backpack from the overhead bin and almost jumped off the bus. The bus conductor was suprised, "Di ba Pasay kayo ma'am?" I just told him, "Dito na po ako. Salamat!" And to the gas station I ran.
I made it to the restrooms on time. Thank God I was alone. No one heard that gush of air and that explosive sound made by whatever poison my insides spewed out. And thank God there was water.
Ahhh, catharsis. I never knew what that word really meant until today. I had to mark this day, this insignificant moment in the annals of time, when I, Dr. Jean Alcover, a wannabe-traveller/adventurer, experienced nirvana in a dimly-lit gas station in Calamba. And while I was at it, I could see Karma with a sly grin on her face. I wanted to give her the dirty finger or slap her mocking face. But I ended up laughing too.
The joke was on me. I wouldn't dare mess with Karma again.
I managed to get on another bus home. My bowels behaved until I got to my apartment, when I could sleep in the toilet if I had to. Where there was water and soap and no one to hear the disgusting sounds I made.
Early this morning, my boss texted (God bless her. She has a mother's intuition!), "Jean are you ok now?" And with a straight face, I texted back, "Still having diarrhea ma'am, but already feeling a lot better."
This time, I was telling the truth.