In the last letter Pablo remembered from Margie, though he could not say when that was exactly, she told her father she had started to dream in English. She was even starting, she confessed in her scratchy script, to think in the language. Pablo thought it was incredible. As a child, Margie could not speak or understand a word of English — she would respond only to words in Tagalog. Her teacher had called the parents over to talk about Margie’s “problem.”

“Margie is a cheater,” the woman said rather harshly, showing them two identical drawings of a hut, each with a very nicely drawn coconut tree, its green leaves peeking from behind the bamboo thatched roof.

“This is Ana’s drawing, Margie’s seatmate,” the teacher said, pointing to the big scrawling letters in the corner of the paper. Dulce had not been able to suppress an exclamation, so impressed that some of Margie’s classmates could actually write their own names, knowing full well Margie couldn’t.

“And this is Margie’s,” the woman said, holding up the exact same drawing and the same scrawling letters spelling out the word, “ANA,” a perfect forgery.

“I assure you, Mr. and Mrs. Garcia, the children were instructed to do their own drawings.”

When Dulce had confronted the five-year-old Margie, she said the child just shrugged her small shoulders, already her own person. “I couldn’t understand, so I just copied the girl beside me,” she said proudly in Tagalog.

And this little girl that had won herself a scholarship to study art and art history in America was now dreaming in English? It was truly amazing. Pablo wondered what Margie’s first dream was about, and wished to God that he could ask her, because if she could answer, he knew she would tell him.

He watched his daughter, lying so still in this hospital bed faraway from her home. He watched the movement of her chest, the way it rose and fell with every breath. Pablo clung to that movement with hope clenching in his own chest. It was the only sign, after all, that beneath all the tubes and the tape, Margie’s heart was beating. Margie was alive.

Pablo tried to recall the dream that he had, his last night in Manila; it seemed like it happened a thousand years ago. It had that same familiarity, more a memory, and certainly, it was the best dream he had in a long time. It carried him afloat on a happy cloud so pleasing that even within it, he became very much aware he was dreaming, aware of Dulce, sleeping warm beside him in their bed, in their house. What had it been about? A happy spell with his wife sailing on magenta and orange technicolor seas on a boat he built with his own hands? Or was it a memory of Cherisse, his once-upon-a-time mistress for three years, now friend, the wife of a colleague. Was it an imaginary basketball game with only four players and a bubble-like basketball that never burst?

He regretted it wasn’t Margie herself that he dreamed of. It might have been of her, as the chubby cherub she once was, leaping into his arms, showering him with kisses as she embraced him, all the while grabbing fistfuls of his hair. The sensation of her solid little body, warmly damp from perspiration, the soles of her feet chalky black with dust. That was a million years ago. Pablo felt he betrayed her. There was his little Margie, fallen ill all by herself in this cold country, and Pablo had lain there asleep, dreaming his own silly, selfish dream.

That was when the telephone rang, shrill and persistent as the American voice that continued to ring in his ear, even after he had replaced the receiver. The voice said Margie was in the hospital, in a coma. She was ill. A virus, they said, had infiltrated her nervous system. Pablo could barely understand the words in English.

In a different world, Pablo thought as he sat in the gleaming white-walled room with this quiet man, waiting to find out whether his 22-year-old daughter would live or die—that would be the nightmare, and Pablo, sleeping at home beside his wife, dreaming about his mistress—that would be the reality.

He glanced at Brian. Brian Jacobs. Pablo didn’t much like the look of him. If it were true that little girls grew up to fall in love with men just like their fathers, then he felt mildly insulted. The controlled American man took charge the minute Pablo arrived, called his daughter, “Marge” and spoke to the doctors and hospital staff as though he were the one, in fact, the only one who mattered? This man, just his daughter’s…well, what would he be? Did people nowadays still use the word “boyfriend”? Pablo steeled his heart against the thought the same way he had steeled himself against everything. He could not accept this, not till he heard from Margie herself who this man was.

Pablo tried to recall her emails. No mention of this tall man with light brown hair, the color of the panocha with which he sweetened his coffee. No, she wrote she had a great schedule, she liked all her classes and the professors. She was happy winter was over, she loved the spring, and she had begun to dream in English. No man named Brian had figured on the pink stationary.

“Do you remember Margie ever mentioning Brian? In a text or email or maybe during a telephone call?” Pablo had asked Dulce last night.

“No, but why does that matter? Why is that so important to you?” Dulce cried, her voice edged with hysteria and piercing reproach.

He heard Brian snore. The man was tall but not bulky or barrel chested. He was stretched out like a ladder against a wall in stiff, exhausted sleep. At least he can sleep, Pablo thought and felt foolishly proud that he could not. The hospital staff probably didn’t know what to make of them— such an odd couple they made. He, an old man, emotional and foreign, given to silent endless weeping, and then Brian — brusque and blunt, his distress apparent but muted as though preserved beneath glass of his cold expression.

Pablo stood up. He had to leave that spic-and-span waiting lounge. He wanted to see his daughter that very minute, even while he dreaded the sight. Pablo walked the halls towards the ICU, trying to be purposeful, but inside, bit by bit, his stomach turned to ice with apprehension. It was the same as it had been this morning, just as it had been the day before. There was the bed that dwarfed his daughter. There was the tray of untouched food that came in the morning and was taken away at noon. How angry the American had been when the staff moved Margie to the ICU, but forgot to bring along the flowers he brought her daily. Lilies and some other kind Pablo could not name. Marge’s favorites, Brian said.

“They have to be where Margie can see them when she wakes,” the man told them. It was brave and sentimental, but it embarrassed Pablo, even while he admired it. The monitor continued to beep regular dashes of green signaling Margie’s heart, brain and life. Nothing changed.

As for Pablo, he could only think: this was not his daughter. His skin turned to prickly gooseflesh seeing hers: white as onion skin paper marked with splotches of squeamish bruised blue. Margie’s skin had always been taut, tawny resembling fruit you couldn’t even buy in Manila — peaches or nectarines. Pablo felt faint with aching. He said her name, half expecting her eyes to flutter open. But the lids were swollen, translucent, barely closing over the white slivers of her eyes. This was not Margie. This stranger in the bed was as alien as the man who led Pablo to her.

For the first time in his life, Pablo felt ice-cold fear; it contrasted with his involuntary, scalding tears. He blinked them away, not wanting Brian to see. This man who held Margie’s hand, kissed her cheek and stayed by her bed, even while he, her own father, remained standing at a stoic distance. Pablo felt foolish, too fearful to display emotion before a stranger. Instead, he just stood there, blinking away his tears.

“Come back, Marge,” Brian whispered. “Come back, baby.” The man then squeezed his daughter’s hand and kissed it, right there for him to see. Pablo had a memory flash of the boys that had come to call on his daughter. Back then Pablo was strict, unfriendly, detesting the thought of them, constantly quelling the urge to prohibit such visits altogether. These gangly, awkward and acne-faced, they stood to greet him. “Good afternoon, sir,” their voices cracked with a breakthrough manly pitch, instantly laughable. Pablo’s disgust became amusement, sometimes even pity — they were so unsettled by his presence. Sometimes he was even moved to sit and chat. After they left, Margie always asked, “What do you think?” Pablo would only laugh; no boy was ever going to be good enough.

But this Brian was a man. He indulged himself in a bizarre notion: how wonderful Margie did not grasp Brian’s large hand in her small one with a reciprocal squeeze. The gesture was then solely the American’s, and perhaps under normal circumstances, Margie would have nothing to do with it, except be its embarrassed recipient, too innocent to know how to refuse. And yet, Pablo thought, bringing his heart to breaking point, had Margie’s hand moved, it would mean she was awake.

 

It was the fourth day. The doctor had said they would need to try another course; Margie’s organs were showing stress. She was concerned about the kidneys. But today, she had nothing new or especially helpful to say.

“We keep doing what we’re doing, and we observe.”

One of the nurses was a Filipina named Gloria who came to take the tray.

“Sir, why don’t you have a bite — maybe get some fresh air?”

Pablo said no, he would wait for Dr. Goldberg’s afternoon rounds. He knew Gloria was from home the minute he heard her speak. Her drawling American accent did not hide this truth. Rather than feel comforted, Pablo was irritated by her. She was too friendly. Her lapses into Tagalog to him were overly familiar and inappropriate. Pablo disliked her presumption even though that was unfair, too. No matter what she had seen, she could not know what he was feeling. He hated that Brian had even made it a point of introducing them.

“Good to meet you, po. Don’t worry. We are taking good care of Marge.” Gloria nodded to Brian encouragingly as though they were on the same team. Pablo felt instantly offended on Margie’s behalf. He couldn’t say a word, just nodded his head, knowing he was being rude. But it was a shock to be in this formidable hospital with its long white corridors. Hospital? The café and waiting lounge in the lobby looked more to him like a shopping center or a five-star hotel. It didn’t even smell like a hospital, not like one in Manila anyway. And Dr. Goldberg was unlike any doctor Pablo had ever known. She seemed to him more like a doctor in the movies — crisp, business-like and altogether terrifying. Tall, thin and blonde, the doctor’s expression was as inscrutable as her glasses perched high on the bridge of her nose. She made no effort made to comfort him the way doctors at home did. Back home, doctors were always relatives or friends of the family, connected in ways more than medical. But Pablo forced himself to ask only one question.

“Please, tell me. How did this happen?”

“I know this is difficult, Mr…” Like Gloria, the nurse, Dr. Goldberg glanced briefly at Brian. “…Garcia…” She went on to explain the disease, using terrifying words: seizure, sedation, coma.

“I really can’t tell you how this happened. But it seems to be viral…similar to meningitis. That much we do know. We are hoping your daughter remains stable and her internal organs hold out. Unfortunately, the seizures cause terrible damage…to the organs.”

“But meningitis…there are treatments for meningitis…aren’t there?” Pablo sputtered.

“Yes, there are.” Dr. Goldberg nodded. “But this isn’t quite meningitis. Though it does exhibit many similarities.”

“You don’t know what it is.” Pablo’s voice fell to whisper-volume, like he was talking more to himself than to anyone else. It was incomprehensible to him that this highly-equipped, ultra-modern, first-world hospital had no answers.

Later on, Pablo stopped Gloria at the door, unable to resist a question to her in Tagalog. “Have you seen many patients like my daughter? Do they survive?”

Gloria nodded with a solemn air.

“Yes, I have seen them. They are doing a great many things here. Research and experiments. Marge will be out of this sooner than you think. You just have to have faith.”

Hearing this, Pablo allowed himself a split-second of hope. What he would give if tomorrow, when they returned, Margie were awake and laughing, waiting for them? Then he saw Gloria’s face, smiling with friendly confidence and self-important wisdom, and instantly hated her for knowing nothing. He sensed all these faded moments of hope in the hospital air, just floating there, like invisible dust.

Why had he let Margie travel so far to study in the first place? He remembered the day before she left, when she seemed to be having second thoughts. “Nonsense,” Pablo had scolded her. “How can you give up a chance that anyone would jump at?” he asked her. When she cried, he held her tight and then pushed her away. “You’ll be all right, anak.”

The two men walked out of Margie’s room in intensive care, and they passed another waiting lounge, one with a television. There was an NBA game on.

“Margie played basketball, you know?” Pablo said, wanting to say her name. Brian said nothing. “She was on the team in high school–she had a great three-point-shot.” It pleased him that he could reach for that detail, something he was sure this man did not know, and flaunt it.

But there was no mistaking the delight in Brian’s expression, hearing this story.

“Marge can do anything. She tries everything. It’s what I love about her.”

Pablo fell silent. Absurdly, he also felt jealous and further, angry, that he needed Brian now and had to depend on him. The complex sensation was not new in these past days, and popped up like a little bubble of toxic air that would then ping away.

They had a routine. Brian fetched him in the mornings from Margie’s studio apartment. They went to the hospital. They had lunch in the cafeteria. They went back to sit by Margie or in the waiting lounge where the television was. They spoke to Dr. Goldberg. They made small talk about golf, the weather, cars, Brian’s family. Already, Pablo knew how Brian took his coffee. That he drank diet soda. That he smoked nervously, around half a pack a day, and persisted, rudely Pablo thought, even in the face of his coughing fits. In the evenings, Brian took Pablo back to Margie’s apartment. Later, after Pablo opened himself a can of something he could eat with the rice he cooked in the rice cooker —sardines, luncheon meat— Dulce would telephone. At first, his wife would force herself to be calm, but toward the end of every call, Dulce would give way to shrill hysteria and anxious grief.

“What are you even doing? Why aren’t you with Margie?” And Pablo would wonder: what was he doing?

“No change for the worse. That’s something.” He had said to her last night. He knew he needed to have something else to say today.

“She is stable, the doctor says,” Pablo said.

“I’m coming. I will book my ticket right now,” Dulce said this, weeping into the phone.

He said no. He promised his wife that they would decide this once they knew more. It just didn’t make sense for both of them to be here right, not now. He knew he would not be able to keep it together if Dulce were here.

When their son, Miguel came on the line, he said, “Tell me the truth, Dad.” He knew too well how his father could lie to his mother.

“Just pray very hard, son,” was all Pablo could say.

Later that night, Pablo got up from his daughter’s bed, unable to sleep. He paced the short length of her bedroom, his cold bare feet on her furry carpet. He made his way by the light streaming into the window from the sidewalk lampposts. He stared at the pictures she had framed above her bed. Pray. But Pablo could not follow his own advice.

Instead he explored his daughter’s room. He opened her bedside drawers, examining their contents. She had pictures, letters, bits and pieces of things he could not see clearly in the dark. And then there was a journal, fabric bound and heavy in his hands. He switched on her desk lamp and leafed through it, pausing at the last page. Her final entry was in Tagalog and it was clearly about Brian. She was realizing just how special he was, what he was starting to mean. Pablo closed the book, not wanting to read more. He settled back in bed and only an hour later fell into restless sleep.

Now the silence in the hospital room was overpowering. Pablo made himself look at Margie again. Her face and her arms had swelled up. Her skin was ghostly white. Her eyes were partially open: slits of red and white. Her very position was unnatural—one arm jutting out, perpendicular to her torso as though it were not her own limb, but some appendage that had been screwed on, taped up, pushed through with a needle, so the fluid that was her tasteless food, drink and medicine could seep into her body. Margie had never been so still. Both as a child and as a woman, she was a boundless wellspring of energy. Even asleep, she was not still. Back from business trips, Pablo would inquire about a bruise on his wife’s arm or leg where a thrashing, sleeping Margie sharing her mother’s bed, had kicked her in the night.

Pablo sat down by his daughter’s bed, glad that Brian was back in the waiting lounge. Finally, he was alone with his daughter. He took her hand. Such a soft, white hand, and it didn’t used to be. It used to be brown, strong and even a bit rough. Pablo kissed it and allowed himself to sob in silence. He told his daughter he loved her, thought back upon all those times he recalls being seized with this emotion, like a sudden storm, and wished desperately he had been able to say the words out loud in this manner, each and every time.

But Margie could not hear him. She was dead. Pablo knew it. He could not stop thinking it. Dulce would never forgive him. She wouldn’t have it. She’d invoke the saints, recite the novenas. Brian, who bought flowers every day so Margie would see them when she woke, he was the one with the amazing faith. All Pablo could do was sit and think he no longer knew his daughter. He probably would never know her again. And his daughter was dead as surely as he was alive.

Pablo stood, crazed all of a sudden. He rushed back to Brian in the lounge for no reason he could fathom, at once overcome with harrowing regret and blame coursing through him as he ran through the gleaming, white halls. Why had he allowed her to leave? Why had he pushed her? He could feel the time closing in. He could no longer say that the doctors were doing their best, could no longer throw on this blanket of security. Because it was a lie. Looking at the floor as he ran, Pablo bumped into Dr. Goldberg.

“Where is Mr. Jacobs?” She asked with some urgency. Pablo gestured toward the lounge, unable to speak. Together they entered to find Brian smoking and drinking another cardboard cup of coffee.

“There is some news, Mr. Jacobs, Mr. Garcia. I’ve consulted with a colleague of mine at Cornell. He recommends a combination treatment that they use for encephalitis that, in his experience, has a way of stabilizing these seizures.” She pushed her glasses back up the high bridge of her nose. “If we can stop the seizures, we can slowly take her off the sedation. It’s an approach we can…utilize…”

The doctor continued to talk, more to Brian than to him. Pablo stopped listening. He needed all the concentration he could command to fill himself up with hope. He almost did not see the way Brian’s face had changed. No longer closed and remote. Perhaps this was what he really looked like. This was the face his daughter loved.

 

“When will you be able to bring her out of the sedation?” Brian asked.

The doctor hesitated, for the first time it seemed.

“Mr. Jacobs, like anything else, there are risks. We can’t be sure that there won’t be any…detrimental effects, on her brain, for example. It’s possible there may be damage.”

For the first time, this doctor, this woman, looked at Pablo. It was as though she hoped that his age and experience might help her manage the younger man’s hopeful expectations.

“Her kidneys are showing signs of failure…that’s why there is all this inflammation in her limbs and in her face. We also have to do tests on her other vital organs. But I do recommend this treatment, at this point. If the seizures stop, we might be able to pull her out. But you need to be prepared that she may be very different. What I’m saying is, we need your consent.”

“Let’s do it, then.” Brian said. “Bring her back… I don’t care…I need…” he trailed off and turned to Pablo. It was a small acknowledgement.

Pablo exhaled. What if Margie came back some kind of vegetable…a child who no longer knew who she was or worse, who anyone else was. He let his eyes meet Brian’s.

“All right.” Pablo heard himself say. “Please, do what you can.”

“I will call you back as soon as I know more. Or you can leave now and come back later in the afternoon?” The woman told them to go home, to get something to eat.

It seemed to Pablo a stupid thing to say. He did not want to leave to get something to eat. But Brian said they might as well. It would pass the time.

In the car, Brian whirred the windows open, so fresh air blew on their faces as they drove through the campus. He said he would take Pablo to a diner, their favorite place for brunch, his and Marge’s. He pointed out a few sights, something he had never done before. These were places that they went to—the steps of the university art museum, the movie theatre where they had seen six movies now, usually a midnight revival of something one of them had already seen, the ice cream parlor on main street, where according to Brian, the line for an ice cream cone wound all the way around the block.

“She always gets the same flavor, mint chocolate, but she always takes a spoonful of mine…unless it has nuts.”

“She dislikes nuts.” Pablo murmured.

Brian sighed.

“Sir, I know this must be hard for you,” the white man said slowly, not looking at Pablo but keeping his eyes on the road. “Margie never did have the chance to write. It was sudden for her, I guess…even though it wasn’t for me. This is not the way I wanted to meet you.”

Brian cleared his throat, uncertain what to say. For a split second, Pablo thought Brian was no different from the awkward boys in the sofa in his living room, anxiously waiting for some kind of approval.

“I love her very much. We were going to drive to the West Coast. I was going to take her to Disneyland. Once she gets well, that’s the first thing we’re doing.” Pablo envied and admired Brian for saying “when” instead of “if.”

The diner was a small greasy spoon place with a glass door with a bell attached so it rang when you pushed it open. Outside, the glass windows were plastered with white paint spelling out the words: Hamburgers, Pancakes, Omelette, Crepes.
They slid into a booth with ripped and faded red leather seats, and the waitress in pink gingham waited by the counter, allowing them time to see the menu.

“What will you have…sir?” Brian asked.

“Anything.” Pablo replied, feeling his stomach turn. “It doesn’t matter.”

“You need to eat, sir. We both do.”

The air was heavy with the smell of butter, sugar and bacon that somehow felt nauseating. He did not want American food. Had never cared for it. This was why he never wanted to go to America. Margie had always been the same. Every morning for breakfast, it was dried fish or cured pork with garlic fried rice for both father and daughter. Pablo doubted very much that this place was a favorite of Margie’s. When had she changed? And did she really love this American? Pablo’s heart ached at the thought that he might never know the answers.

The two men sat in silence, not even trying to make conversation. Just days ago, they would at least try—talk sports or politics. Today, their little shared space of quiet was odd, and Pablo suddenly knew what it was he wanted to hear.

“Can you just please tell me what happened that night?” Pablo tried to keep his voice neutral, clear of blame or resentment, but he knew that every word was weighted with both all the same, like too much sugar and milk in a cup of coffee.

Brian took another gulp of his coffee before he finally spoke. Pablo winced at the sound of his swallow. Brian’s words were slow as though he was having difficulty finding the right words, like English was for him, all of a sudden, a foreign language.

“She had had the flu. It was going around for a week. Nothing major…”

Pablo stifled a sigh.

“I mean, it was a low-grade fever. She was complaining she was tired. Also, it was finals week, and she wanted to take all of them. She wouldn’t talk to any of the professors to schedule make-up exams. But when the tests were all over, she said to me, ‘Now I can be really sick.’”

Pablo felt tears smart behind his eyes. It was such a Margie thing to say.

“You didn’t take her to see a doctor?”

“No. No I didn’t.” Brian’s voice started to get hoarse. “I am so sorry.”

The waitress came with a single plate of waffles and bacon that she laid on the table in front of them. Pablo stared at the food, the squares on the waffles, the heat that still sizzled on the bacon. If it was anyone’s fault, it was his fault. Pablo thought so. Dulce would think so.

“It’s not your fault,” Pablo told him. “You could not have known.”

“She said, ‘go home.’ I stayed with her. Made her soup. She was laughing. I thought she was coming out of it.”

Pablo willed the man to talk faster. Talk faster, damn it. There was no more time.

“I waited till she fell asleep, and sat with her. I felt her forehead and it was burning hot— the Tylenol didn’t do a thing. That’s when I started to worry. I thought, I’ll wake her and take her to the emergency room. So I did. Then she opened her eyes, but she didn’t see me. Then all of sudden, she sat up. Her eyes were rolling, and she was moaning, and her tongue was out. I called 911. It was a seizure, the doctors told me later on. But the scariest thing…”

Brian stopped, and Pablo saw he was gripping his mug so hard, the coffee moved in the cup.

“Marge looked at me but she had no idea who I was.”

Pablo no longer knew what to say or do, and finally, had nowhere else to look but Brian’s eyes. The man met his gaze. Brian’s eyes were not blue or brown like Pablo assumed they would be. They were clear and dark.

What would it be like, Pablo wondered, not to be 68 with an ulcer and hypertension, not to be a father with his daughter in a coma in the hospital? What would it be like to be 24 and to fall in love and then have it violently wrenched away from you? And what would it be like not to know whether you would ever have it back again? It must be a different, desperate kind of pain.

Brian spoke, “It’s only a matter of time now. I just know she’s going to get out of this. This new treatment…” The certainty in the man’s voice made Pablo close his eyes in compassion. It was close to four o’clock now, and they were the only ones left at the diner.

“Can I get you something else?” the waitress asked him. All of a sudden, Pablo was starving.

“Another plate of this, please,” Pablo pointed at the waffles.

Pablo had always felt he had a good life, and he was grateful for it. If the line faltered a little — his business went through a bad patch; he had succumbed to the temptations in his marriage- it always went quickly, quickly back on track. That was all he could ask for. But now Pablo was very much afraid that it was, in fact, too much to ask.

When they returned to Margie’s room in the hospital ICU, Dr. Goldberg was there waiting for them. “All we can do now is wait,” she said.

It must have taken hours, but the hours felt like days. Waiting with Brian for Margie to return was a whole life, it seemed to Pablo. And the life he had had, he and Dulce, raising Margie…that was just minutes.

Brian sat in the corner chair in Margie’s suite, holding his head in his hands. Pablo paced.

“Are you all right?” he asked the young man.

Brian looked up, his face wet. He shook his head. “She may not know me. She may not remember anything.”

“If you weren’t here now, where would you be?” Pablo asked.

Brian took a deep breath.

“We would be driving to California.”

“You and Margie?”

“That was our plan. She wanted to see America, and driving is the best way. Then from LA, she was going to fly home. She already bought the ticket.”

“Wait, Margie was planning to come home?”

“Of course, sir. She missed you all terribly.”

Pablo let himself be pleased by this. It was such a small thing. He tucked it away to tell Dulce later. Margie wanted to come home.

“And you? Your plan?”

“I had…I have a summer internship in San Francisco. We were going to write, and then, see each other back at school in September. And then…” Brian stopped. “I just hope—” The man stopped again and nervously ran his fingers through his hair just like the boys back in the sala in his house in Manila. Pablo joined him in whatever silent hope the man had.

And that’s when it happened. It was Margie’s voice. Such a small sound. Like the word “Oh” with two syllables. Or it might have been a giggle or a whimper like something had gotten caught, stuck in her throat.

“Marge? Marge?” Brian was at her side within seconds. Her eyes began to move rapidly, blinking fast.

Brian shouted for the doctor, and Dr. Goldberg was there instantly. She started reading the monitor while taking Margie’s pulse. Pablo kept his eyes on Margie.

Something was happening. The monitor began to beep rapidly and then even more rapidly. Margie’s eyes struggled to open.

“Margie? Anak?” Pablo couldn’t keep the words from escaping.

And then Margie’s eyes were still— just closed shut.

“It’s another seizure, I’m afraid, a big one. We were unsuccessful.”

“No!” Brian’s voice was stuck in his throat.

“The kidneys have failed. I’m afraid the heart is under severe stress.”

The words echoed in Pablo’s mind. The kidneys. The heart. And then Dr. Goldberg said the only thing she could say.
“Please, stay with her until she’s gone. I’m so very sorry.” And then she left the room.

“No…no…no” Brian kept saying, his voice becoming fainter and fainter. He sat beside the bed, holding one of Margie’s hands, burying his face into her side. Pablo just stood there, overcome — he unclenched his fists. He knew Margie was gone. He had known this from the beginning, so it was not a surprise. Pictures flashed in his mind of the girl that she was, the woman she had become. Slowly he walked to the other side of Margie’s bed. Then he looked at her. She looked like she was asleep now, like she might even wake up if you touched her. So Pablo did, and felt her hand, still warm. He just stood there and held his daughter’s hand. Then he watched as Brian bent his head close to hers. His words were clear and distinct.
Mahal kita, Marge, Mahal na mahal kita.”

The man told his daughter he loved her. Margie had taught him this. It was like a surprise, almost like a sign. Still his daughter did not stir.

The man bent to kiss Margie’s lips, and then he lay his head by hers and wept anew like a little boy. He could not stop, and Pablo let him. Later on, Pablo placed his hands on Brian’s shoulders, pulling him gently away.

“Enough na, Brian,” he said. It was the first time Pablo had called him by name. It was the right thing to do. The rest of it would all just have to wait.

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