She

It never crossed to my mind that some lessons in life could be found in a place I considered as a graveyard. A place where girls' dignity dies, buried six feet beneath the ground. Only the toughest and the most desperate dare to enter its gates. Once inside, one may not or may escape its clutches but a mark burns deep in their skin remains. The mark that sets them apart, despised by the society that once embraces.

Two years ago, I ran away from home. My mom accused me of something I haven't done. Words were flying everywhere but our argument was ended when she slapped me, turning my cheeks scarlet. I didn't feel the pain but I felt as though a dagger was pushed deep into my heart. Then a thought came to my mind. I would run away. I wanted to leave, to run as far and as fast as I could. I left with nothing but a cell phone and some buck in my pocket. I heard my mom calling but I never looked back.

As I grew tired, I sat down beside the fountain in the park, the farthest place I could reach. I felt tired as I breath heavily making my shoulder more obvious. Tears started to fall and soon I was sobbing so loud that the woman sitting next to began to wonder why I am crying.

I told her about what happened and she comforted me. I would say I was very surprised to her reaction but I fell into her arms anyway for I was tired and needing some buck up. She told me that she was once like me. She left home when she was sixteen and went to Manila. In Manila, she applied and worked as a housemaid. All was well but when her male employer harassed her sexually, she immediately fled away. She rode a jeepney going somewhere but she didn't care where it would lead to. When she got down, she has no idea where she was. She looked around in the crowded place and soon realized that she was in Libertad in Pasay. Not far from her, posted on the wall was a sign saying that they want girls with pleasing personality and looks. Thinking that it could be a way for her to survive, she looked for the place and got herself involved into something she never thought she would end up in.

She was a prostitute. After that word was a deep silence that made me notice that she was not looking at me anymore, as if reminiscing. I sensed that she wished to cry but she resisted. She tried to smile and kept her poise. She told me that somehow, this job is worth with all the things she has to give up. It paid her bills and it fed her. As easy as it looks, she told me that it wasn't that simple to stand in front of male crowd while dancing almost naked. And that being in a room with a man she barely or she doesn't even know at all is the hardest part. This is life for her. Dangerous and bold.

After some time, her parents heard from her and decided to follow but a tragic event made it impossible for her to see then alive again. Her parents were caught up in a boat accident and there was nothing she could do but to cry. To cry her heart out and blame herself for their deaths.

This time she couldn't hold it any longer, tears went on and I couldn't think of any other way of comforting her but to throw my arms around her just like how she did to me. Her next lines gave me difficulty in understanding for she was weeping but I tried even harder and soon figured out that she lost her husband just before her birthday because of heart attack.

Soon, the sun started to set down. Cold breeze blew. She held my hand and she looked into my eyes. She acted me to promise her that I would never run away again. She told me that whatever happens, parents' decisions are still the best for their children. We may not understand it now but soon as we look back into our life, we will realize that what they've done is for our good. She also added that poverty is never the reason for us to let other people to put us down. Living with dignity is better than living without it.

After her last message, my phone rang and heard my mom's voice. She was crying and she was asking me to come back home. I hung up and bid her goodbye. I was almost home when I realized that I haven't got her name. The girl who made me realize a lot of things is nameless in my memory but indeed she moved me.