By Franciss Nikole Eli | February 6, 2021
On another episode of “The Daily Discomforts of Remote Learning,” Rodrigo lazily wakes from the two-hour slumber, the most decent sleep he got this week. With his eyes still closed, he wakes the laptop too, that got two hours rest for this week, just like him. The daily round of attendance is called and he tries to focus for the next hour.
Lately, the “comforts of home” irks him. The little space that confines him chokes his soul. Perhaps it was not the four walls that triggered his claustrophobia, but the watching eyes just above his screen. The lone dot placed just above his screen that connected him to the class bothered him so bad. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep or the morning tummy growl but the camera looked utterly unsettling. Then, Rodrigo billows in a heap of worry, disgust, and anger.
The current situation has pushed Rodrigo far beyond his means, working for an online company in the evening and chasing deadlines in the morning. The daily round of mess triggers even the slightest emotion. After an hour of muffled murmur from his failing earphones, he hides in his thick comforter as the rain pours hard outside.
Rodrigo knows that his recent behaviors may be alarming. The silver knife by the kitchen counter seems to dance and wave at him when he loses hope. It occurs to him that perhaps, the escape from life through a sharp silver blade. But even this decision, he cannot make, in fear that the tiniest of his choices might go wrong.
The lack of words to express how he feels bugs him. The overwhelming schedule and overlapping requirements burden the heavy heart. Somehow, the passing publication materials across his timeline taught him that perhaps it is time to ask a professional and seek help. However, with his pockets nearly empty from paying tuition and the family’s stigma surrounding the idea of seeking professional help, Rodrigo remains hopeless. His family’s machismo has choked him far too long and mental health discussions are prohibited on the dining table. The family brags that dining table discussions should be worthwhile—such as the achievement of his cousin abroad. In a tangent, these talks stray towards her mother’s gossip about Marites, their neighbor who got pregnant by an ex-convict.
The dynamics of a family he thought he grew accustomed to was noisier this time. His mother’s mouth blabbers on and on, giving Celia, his sister, outdated and unsolicited advice about courtship and relationships. He silently sighs as he eats the last spoonful of rice he plans to eat that day. The table silences as his chair eerily slides through the floor tiles. His mother notices and comments on the amount of food he eats lately.
“Oh, Jun ngano gamay naman pud imong gikaon?” (Jun, why are you eating so little these days?)
He responds, “Busog ko, Ma” (I’m full, mom.)
The room remains silent for a microsecond until it breaks as his mother begins another litany about her discomforts of cleaning the house by herself.
His stomach growls, showing the disinterest in the “daily” dining table discussions where Jun feels socially excluded. Rodrigo’s patience is growing thinner as he grows slimmer, holding no answers to the questions, and most of all, excluded from the conversations that “fostered love and care” (more like fostered prejudice).