The Last Straw

Bedroom, January 8, 2018, 11:20 p.m.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

—Edmund Burke

After cleaning the house all day and taking a shower, I sat down on my desk to eat my early dinner and watch some YouTube clips–as was my routine as soon as I’m done with work–only to discover my laptop drenched in water. I immediately cleaned it up as best as I could and let it drip-dry sideways. She has done it! My worst fear has happened! I tried so hard. I didn’t post anything sensitive or dark on my blog because I want a fresh start in 2018 and do away with all the negativity. In fact, I was working on uploading a series of posts about our trip to Japan last year. Then this happened.

As soon as she arrived, I confronted her. I couldn’t take it anymore. Not this time.

I screamed, “Nabuang naka? (Have you lost your mind?”) She said something sarcastic that just flew over my head. I found myself grabbing a fistful of her hair. She did the same—but hard. I kept screaming at her. “Undangi nako! (Cut it out!)” I just wanted her to stop provoking me.

She started punching my face—something she was threatening to do for a long, long time. Dad stepped in. I let go of her hair after clumps of mine already fell on the floor I just finished mopping an hour ago. She’s still hanging on for dear life. Dad had to push her off me before she finally let go.

I cried once more, “Undangi nako!

She cried back, “Undangi sad ko! (You cut it out too!)”

“Why are you doing this to me? I never took any of your stuff!” I told her.

At this point, Mom chimed in to defend me. “Wa na baya mi nanglabot nimo, ha! (We haven’t been touching your stuff!)” We as in “me.” It’s painfully true. I stayed as far away from her stuff  I could for some time now.

She yelled as she was making her exit upstairs, “You just don’t what she’s done!”

What did I do? Because I wouldn’t wash the cups she’s been drinking out of for the past two days? I chased her up the stairs. “I’ve had it with you! You’re no longer my sister!”

“Yeah? Well, you’ve stopped being my sister a long time ago!” she spat one last time as she slammed the door to her room and locked it.

Dad wanted to call the cops. I secretly agreed but didn’t say it out loud. Not because I was afraid of her or felt unsafe, but because I wanted her to get a major reality check. She has to understand that there are consequences to her actions. Mom, obviously, didn’t think it was worth calling the cops over.

I don’t know what else to do, what else to say. If there’s a word for “beyond exhausted,” I was that a year ago. I tried so hard not to cry in frustration but the tears just wouldn’t stop coming. Looking back, I woke up to this exact nightmare barely a month ago of us fighting again, only it’s the reverse. Just as I predicted though, she did most of the punching. In the meantime, clumps of hair are still falling off my head.

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A Potterhead Goes to Japan

You’re a wizard, Harry!

Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Ever since I picked up my very first paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at a local bookshop, where I paid PHP 229 ($4.50) almost two decades ago, I have been a devoted fan. I first read about this book in a magazine. Then I saw it some time later at the bookstore and bought it. Thus began my love affair with J. K. Rowling’s magnum opus. Year after year, I saved enough of my allowance—being only a poor student then—just to buy the latest book. I just got my hands on the fourth book, the thickest one in the series at that time, when the first movie was announced. I was beyond excited. I was the one who introduced my family to the magical world of Harry Potter, and they joined in the fandom wholeheartedly.

Looking back at it now, I’m glad I picked up that first book, though I thought it was pretty expensive at that time. Never in my wildest dream did I think I would be lucky enough to visit the Wizarding Word of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan. Having gone through four rides already, I felt my skin tingle in anticipation for the first time as we were walking through the Forbidden Forest toward Hogsmeade.

Then I spotted the towering, majestic Hogwarts castle in the distance. I was instantly transported back to when I first read the book. Sure, I was way past my childhood when I discovered Harry Potter, but I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve about the open her presents under the tree. My eleven-year-old niece, who shares my birthday, was just as excited.

After the longest queue we’ve ever had (easily over an hour), we finally get to experience the ride. It was breathtaking! Though I understood very little as Harry, Ron, and Hermione spoke in Japanese the entire time, it hardly mattered to me as I was so lost in the moment. Much sooner than I would’ve wanted, the ride was over and the spell ended. Still, I spent my last remaining yen to purchase these ultra-expensive-yet-worth-it souvenirs:

I had such a lovely time overall in my trip to Japan, but the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction will always be my most favorite memory. One that I will cherish for the rest of my life! And just like “Mischief managed,” the adventure ended and I went back to being a Muggle.

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For the Love of Kit Kats

Mama always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Forrest Gump

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Ever since I first tasted Japanese Kit Kats, I made it my mission to sample as many of the 500+ or so flavors unique only to Japan as I could. When I finally made it there late spring of last year, I had my fill of them. Still, it wasn’t enough. So far, I’ve tasted around 20—technically, including the ones I’ve had from Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. They are not as good as the Japanese ones, to be honest.

In my never-ending quest to get my hands on as many Japanese Kit Kats as I could in my lifetime, I’m like a Pokémon junkie with a strange addiction. “Gotta have ’em all” is my motto. So here are the flavors I’ve had in order of consumption (I think!):

Regular Green Tea
Cocoa Plan (dark chocolate)
Bakeable Sweet Potato
Raspberry
Pumpkin Pudding
Strawberry
Bakeable Butter Cookie
Special edition Almonds and Dried Cranberry
Matcha Green Tea
Ginger Tea
For Café
Premium Mint
Sake
Wasabi

From Malaysia:
Mini Mocha
Mini Cookies and Cream

From Australia:
Raspberry Cheesecake
Chocolate Mint Whirl
Mocha
Orange

With more than 400 flavors out there, I know I still have a long way to go. For those out there who truly know me, there’s only one way to make me the happiest person on earth—give me some Japanese Kit Kat bars I haven’t tried before. The weirder, the better (soy sauce, anyone?). Although I must admit, I’m partial to those elusive coffee-flavored ones and the cheesecake series. Wish me luck!

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The Dark Shadow

Green Bedroom, 3:21 a.m.

A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows. 

—St. Francis of Assisi

Three things have gone missing in the last 48 hours: my Marauder’s Map mug from Universal Studios Japan, my tiny spork (also bought in Japan), and my other spork someone gifted to me. Yesterday, I woke up and couldn’t find my sporks, which I always use during mealtime. While looking for it, my mug was still safe and sound in its hiding place. This afternoon, I discovered that my mug is missing too. I was so frustrated.
A few hours ago, I heard her complain, “Gihilabtan nasad akong butang ay! (Someone messed with my stuff again!)” as she was rummaging through her things she kept under the attic stairs. I knew she was referring to me. I don’t even use her bathroom behind the attic stairs so she wouldn’t have any reason to think I touched her stuff again.
I closed my eyes and saw red. I kept muttering over and over again, “Please, Lord. Please, Lord. PLEASE, Lord!” I was praying for peace until the red haze disappeared. How could she do this when my own stuff is still missing? I bet she was thinking it was me retaliating to my missing items. I’ve looked through her usual hiding places and came up empty. I’m scared to throw the garbage away for fear that she may have hidden them there! Lord, how did this happen? I often questioned myself. How could she even dare to do this while there are so many family members around the house now?
A few moments later, I thought she went downstairs. The door to her room squeaked open. I barely glanced because I thought she changed her mind about coming out of her room because the lights were off. A minute later, the door closed by itself. I thought I saw a shadowy figure behind it. Minutes later, I saw her coming up the stairs and into her bedroom. The lights turned on. That was odd. I thought she was in her room the whole time.

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Back at It Again

When someone tries to bait you for a reaction, your best response is to provoke them with your silence.
—The Quotebook
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Because she continues to ignore her sister’s existence, the misguided assault on her stuff started back up again. Exasperated, she says, “There are a number of reasons off the top of my head for this relentless vendetta: 
  • I get it, I’m an easy target. She has no reason to go after our underage niece since they seem reasonably close. She can’t openly antagonize our parents either because they still have the authority to kick her out of the house. So that just leaves me as the only object of her rage.
  • Maybe this is her way of crying out for help, that she’s hungry for attention because she feels lonely inside. But I’d counter that to say that there are a number of more effective methods than harassing me. I’ve been depressed before but I was never violent or oppressive with anyone (unless they deserved it, that is).
  • Perhaps she’s insecure and jealous. Granted, I do have some one-of-kind items I love using every day. She seems to delight in using them and making me clean it. I now have to hide some of my stuff so she wouldn’t get her grubby paws on them. Life is unfair, that much goes without saying. If we even so much as touch her stuff and somehow moved it an inch out of place, she would fly off the handle but has absolutely no qualms whatsoever of taking other’s stuff.
  •  Or maybe she’s just inexplicably bored and gets antsy if she doesn’t get to destroy or mess with my stuff.
A week ago, she woke up from a dream in tears. She dreamed that she finally snapped. Her antagonist just stood there while she pummeled her face with punches and slaps and jabs. She said there was no way her sister would be as passive as that in real life as she kept boasting that she had been training in MMA for years. She was crying because she don’t want to have to result to violence. Despite her craziness, she still loves her baby sister and pray for her before she goes to bed. She prays harder for God to give her strength and stretch her patience even more.
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Beyond Exhausted

Today my forest is dark. The trees are sad and all the butterflies have broken wings.

—Raine Cooper, HelloPoetry

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Seems like this is how she operates these days. “This too shall pass,” she would tell others in crisis. But she herself couldn’t find the strength to hold on to that belief. She often wishes she could clone herself. One to do her ubiquitous chores; the other would work on her constantly looming deadlines.

To others, it would appear that the dishes were washed and stowed away magically, the garbage cans emptied, the laundry folded and stuffed into closets, the floor swept and mopped itself clean, and the dog bathed herself. They couldn’t see the countless beads of sweat rolling off her, the hours of back-breaking work tidying up the entire house, and the putrid smells she had to contend with daily. All they could see is the finished product: the clean house, the fresh linens, the emptied garbage cans, the dishes stacked and drying, and the dog all fresh and cuddly again.

***

I was finishing up with the dishes when the Bipolar One used a little spoon to feed the dog. I refused to wash it and went upstairs to continue working. I was way past my deadline—again! Thirty minutes later, she came up and slammed the door to her room as she went in. She turned the Wi-Fi modem off again. Two hours went by, I went downstairs to get some water. My water bottle in the fridge was empty.

I sighed. It was happening again. When is it ever going to end? What did I do for her to be this angry at me? Does she hate me watching too many YouTube videos when I’m the one paying for our Internet. What would she have done if I changed the password and not tell her?

Barely a week ago, Dad was sick. Since I worked through the night, I decided to have some breakfast. Dad woke up early as usual, but he was coughing up a storm and seemed very weak. So I offered to cook breakfast, and he went back to bed. Around seven, I was all done and had my breakfast. Dad woke up and had his. The rest of my family usually sleep in on Sundays. After we both finished eating and I did the dishes, I took a nap and woke up around noon. I guess my dad made lunch. The rest of the afternoon, he was lying in bed. I took over all the chores, deadline notwithstanding. By the time I finished all of them, it was time to make dinner. At the end of the day, I was too tired to work. I crashed promptly at ten. The next two days went by like that.

All the while, she still delights in doing little things to annoy me, like emptying my water bottle in the fridge, leaving dirty mugs everywhere, and, yes, turning off the Wi-Fi I need for work.

Lord, you know my heart. Just lift me above all my troubles. Only you can give me true peace.

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A Knife in the Back

No parent should have to bury their child.

—King Theoden, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

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While washing dishes, a kitchen knife fell on the floor, its metallic sound echoing against the tiles. In the movies, this is what they call a foreshadowing. Fast-forward to three days later, a room in disarray. Clothes, sheets, and pillows were scattered everywhere. A freshly laundered shirt still hanging out to dry with a massive hole in the back. She was reminded of a heartbreaking scene in which King Theoden visits the grave of his only son and heir, Theodred. She recalled seeing the devastation on his face as he broke down in tears.

***
I have a lot on my plate. First of all, let me just say that I love my family—all of them. I moved back home because I want to help out my parents with the expenses, the chores around the house, and just basic moral support. That said, for the past few months, not only was I stressed out from the my deadlines and the never-ending chores, I am also locking horns with my baby sister. While I am not one for airing out dirty laundry in public, I don’t want to hide it away either like a shameful family secret.
A quick backstory between my sister and I. We used to be very close. In fact, I had her move in with me in Cebu a few years back. She’s been having problems with our family and her studies. Then there was that brief romance between her and my long-time friend. Somehow she ended up despising me and left. I think that’s how it started. Due to fortuitous circumstances, I  decided to move back home November of last year. She followed suit in March. She finally gave up the pretense of “going to school” and went home just before we had to leave for Japan. When we left for our month-long summer vacation there, we were not on speaking terms because of a few altercations, not yet physical then. But we seemed to have patched things up in Japan. However, the second we came back, her attitude toward me changed drastically again, which prompted me to stop talking to her entirely to avoid any more trouble. Just last month,  I panicked because my laptop would not charge and I had a deadline that very night. As it turned out, she poured oil all over my battery pack. I had to clean my battery and let it dry for hours before I could turn on my laptop again. Thankfully, the problem was fixed and I resumed working. But since then, my laptop won’t go full charge, just 90%. I said nothing, but she continued messing with my stuff.
Barely a week after our uncle’s funeral two weeks ago, I woke up very early after sleeping soundly the night before. It was the first time I slept through the night in a very long time since I normally go to bed around 5:00 a.m. When our labandera, someone my mom contracted weekly to wash our clothes, failed to show up for two weeks in a row, my dad had to do the laundry right after cooking breakfast. As soon as I finished eating, I took over the washing while he had his breakfast. All I did was move some of her hanging clothes she washed the night before so I could hang Dad’s laundry.
Without warning, she erupted in rage. I found out as soon as I finished hanging up the clothes that she trashed my room,  threw some of my clothes to the roof of the garage, and cut up some of my shirts.

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I did not tell my parents to avoid another conflict, but I did show somephotos to my siblings. My ate told my parents because they were concerned for me. Obviously, my parents confronted her, but she just ignored them and kept singing to herself. I let it slide and didn’t talk to her, which seemed to anger her even more. My mom used to complain to me about her attitude because she’s been disrespecting our mother for years. I called her out on it one time, which ended in a massive shouting match after. She even attacked our dad because he took some of her dried clothes off the hanging racks a week before this happened. Still, she wouldn’t back down or even apologize. I had to change the locks on my room to avoid any more thrashing. She also threatened physical harm for “locking her door,” which Dad did, not me. “You mess with my door, I’ll mess with your face,” she kept saying over and over again while having trouble getting into her room. Eventually, it gave way before she almost destroyed her own door. After finding out shortly that it was Dad who checked out her room, she gave me the old stink eye, muttering curses under her breath if I dared to mess with her stuff again. I chose to ignore it and continued working on my computer.
So this is what I have to deal with every day. Needless to say, I’m beyond exhausted. The struggle continues today. She seems to relish messing with my stuff, like emptying my water bottle and putting it back in the fridge, taking some of my weekly food groceries, and this:
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A few days ago, our mother bought three bottles of honey: one for me, one for our dad, and one for her. As usual, she took hers to her room. But then she also took some of mine and hid my bottle in the cupboard. My dad just found out my bottle last night.
To be honest, I would love nothing more than to get out of her hair and fly back to Cebu to resume my life. But I’m afraid that without my stuff to take her rage out on, she would turn her fury to our parents. That I cannot take. I’m not scared of my sister at all, but I am concerned for my parents. Plus, I made a promise to my siblings to stay put. Until my ate and kuya come home for good, I can’t leave our parents alone. My brother-in-law said my sister could be suffering from schizophrenia. I don’t think he is off the mark. If we had money to spare, I know my parents would have her treated for this. Until then, this is what I have to endure daily. I’m not disclosing this to extract sympathy. It is what it is.
***
Whatever happens in the future as things continue to escalate, she has no regrets. Although she knows she has not accomplished much in life, she takes pride in making sure the floor is swept and mopped, the dishes washed and stowed away, the kitchen counter is wiped clean, the garbage bins are emptied, there are fresh sheets on the beds, and some bills are paid off. Her only wish is that if people bump into her parents, she implores that they offer them kind words. They have been through enough already.
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A fleeting glimpse at a madwoman’s universe of mental chaos…