Saturday, September 17, 2011 | By: Rey Rusty Mendoza Gayuma

Sunset Bruises

I was in my senior year in High School when I came across with this heart-warming story. I have read it many times but I still really can't get over it. So there, I want you also to be fascinated by this story courtesy of Junrell Calunod. I hope you enjoy..

Darkness crept and started stealing the light. The once dashing blue sky slowly transformed into flaming yellow orange – until bit by bit, it became gray, then black. He could feel the chilly breeze captivating the whole place, touching his face. The strident voices of crickets began to mix up with the clashing of the waves. And the sun at a snail’s pace disappeared. He’d been there sitting for hours – watching the waves touching hastily into the rocky seashore; gazing at the sunset.

Minutes after the darkness completely engulfed the daylight, something reminded him that he needed to go home. He lazily rose and started walking with heavy steps. After a few steps, he felt something painful on his right knee. He supposed it was just an insect bite so he swiped it with his right hand and continued walking.

After a few more steps, he felt the striking pain again. Curious, he stopped to roll up his short pants and inspect his knee. But with the darkness enthralling the entire place, all he could see were dim pictures. He took his cellular phone from his pocket and switched on its flashlight. Blue rays of light illuminated the place but as he took a closer look at his aching knee, he found no mark of anything that caused the pain. He stopped for a moment and looked again.

It was still aching but there was nothing. No insect bite, no wound nor bruises. Nothing – except those light brown spots, those scars. In a while, the pain ceased again. He supposed he should get going now but something like a powerful force dictated him to stare and examine the scars on his knee more closely. He felt something strange and before he knew it, he was already massaging his smeared knee as memories started to flash back – memories he wished he could escape from. 

“How many times have I told you not to go to that rocky seashore? Look what you get? Bruises!” shouted Mang Canor. His face was red, sheared with wrinkles. His piercing eyes reflected an intense anger. “I... I just went there to gather ... to gather seashells... for my school project… And it was just an accident, I slipped on the rock ... and... And I got these bruises,” he reasoned out with a trembling voice. Tears started to roll down his cheeks as he saw his father’s face transformed into the fiercest look he had ever seen. Mang Canor marched back and forth, with eyes staring sharply at his son. “Gather seashells? Gather seashells at this time of the day?” his father emphasized the last phrase. It was already dark outside. “Gather seashells when the sun is already setting? Are you fooling me Marco? You still have to eat a hundred sacks of rice before you can fool your own father so stop lying!” He wanted to reason out but not a word came out from his mouth. He just kept on crying. “I already warned you not to go there, but you still did! There could have been no accident if no Marco sets his feet there.” His father’s voice was calmer this time; yet Marco still did not have the guts to speak. He knew what’s next. He just froze while his innerness trembled. Incessantly, he cried as his father pulled out his belt. The next moment, all he could feel was pain—and the flapping of his father’s belt. His body squealed at each whip that punished him. He felt immobile. Then he felt something wet! It’s a red liquid streaking from his knee! Blood! Every thump of the belt hit the bruises—until they became wounds, open and bleeding wounds.

Blood started to flood on his leg as he noticed that the whipping suddenly stopped. He looked up and saw that his father’s angry face transformed into something wrapped with guilt. “I’m sorry... I’m sorry, Marco... I did not intend this to happen. I’ll treat those wounds...” But he was already too numb to hear his father. He felt something burning inside that told him to push his father away, run to his room and lock it. He knew his father followed him but he has already turned deaf from his father’s words. Inside his room, he howled like a child while watching his blood-spattered knee. A moment later, he sat by the window. He gazed around. The sun had just set. He could still spot the kaleidoscopic colors of the sunrays. He incessantly wept while the blood continued to flow down. That night, a flame of anger burned him. The flame continued until a blazing fire dictated him to hate his father who had engraved wounds not only on his knee—but also in his heart. He hated his father. Starting then, Marco had never forgiven his father. He had stopped talking to him.

Several times, Mang Canor apologized and humbly offereed to treat the wounds, but he refused and denied forgiveness. Many times he noticed his father approaching him with a medicine kit in hand, but he would always turn his back and ignore his father’s efforts. Days passed and the wounds on his knee completely healed—but not the wound in his heart. Everytime he would see the scars on his right knee, the flame of anger he felt for his father would fire up. 

His galloping mind was awakened by the beep of his cellphone. He was back in his consciousness. “Thanks,” he uttered, thanking his phone for making him stop reminiscing the past. Looking back would only keep the wounds in his heart bleeding, he thought. The text message was from his grandmother. “Marco, please come home asap. Your father...” Just the mere mention of his father ruins his mood. He felt the heat engulfing him again after reading the message. “So what? What’s with him? Is he angry again because I set my foot back to this place? Will he will beat me again with his belt? Huh, not this time...” These were running in his mind.

He purposely went to the shore, waited for the sun to set and stayed longer until darkness started to prowl, just to test his father’s resolve. He wanted to prove to him that he was not the same Marco who would just cry in front of him like an anesthetized helpless rat ready to be beaten. This time he promised to himself that he would exchange blows if rebuked again. He headed home, expecting to meet his father’s enraged stare. And he readied fierce eyes for it. With the smoldering anger and incurable scar in his heart, he walked tall. The road was dark and the atmosphere was freezing yet he was flaming with the anger, as the scars continued to throb. He was already near their house and he could now see the iridescent lampposts that illuminated the lawn. As he drew nearer, he noticed that more lights were lit than usual.

Their house appeared brighter that night. Although his vision was still blurry because he was still afar, he could already spot that they have many visitors that evening. But then, he never cared interpreting the scenario. In his mind reigned the burning anger ready to blast. If his father would scold him in front of the visitors, he would fight back and they would see that his father can no longer take hold of him. It was only when he was about ten meters away from the house when he clearly saw the big changes around their home. Aside from brighter lights, he noticed a violet lampshade in their sala. The visitors, their neighbors, were everywhere playing cards and mahjong. He was amidst confusion and anger as he took a few steps nearer. “What really is happening?” he asked himself, subconsciously denying what was gradually running in his mind. His steps were heavy and unexplainable thoughts were clouding his mind, puzzled of what was going on. His heart started to clout.

His heartbeats were more intense and wild than normal. His knees were shuddering though he tried to still them. He remained speechless as he looked around and noticed that everything was hinting something sad. Everyone’s eyes were indicating something somber. Suddenly, he remembered his grandmother’s text message “Marco, please be home. Your father...” It was echoing in his mind. He gulped and gulped for so many times. He did not know what to feel. He tried to condition his mind that he must be wrong of what he was thinking. He stood there for sometime, stupefied, as the reality started sinking in. Suddenly, he saw his grandmother rushing toward him, teary-eyed with a handkerchief in the right hand. “Marco… You… You… Your father…”

His Lola Panyang could hardly say the word as she wept breathlessly. She hugged him tightly. She was weeping hard as Marco stood aghast. He was unprepared for this. He didn’t know what to do and he was suddenly not sure of anything, except that at that moment, the flame was swiftly extinguished and was replaced with guilt. He was deeply hurt. Tears started falling as his conscience began to revolt. He knew that many eyes were watching him and Lola Panyang.

The next moment, he was already in front of his father’s coffin. Everyone around him was silent except his grandmother who was muttering something he could not decipher. He still couldn’t say anything. For some moments, he was there staring at his father lying inside the coffin painted with white and gold. Flowers were beautifully adorned on top and around the casket. Marco’s eyes remained on his father inside the four-cornered thing. Mang Canor looked peaceful and cold in his embroidered white barong Tagalog and long pair of pants. Marco stood there, motionless. He still couldn’t get his sight off his father’s face. His heart was breaking. He felt guilty watching the peaceful face. It was still sheared with wrinkles but it wasn’t the same face he expected to meet at home. Gone was its sharp look and its reddened ferocious face. Gone, too, was the deafening and warning voice. He wished to see the ferocious face and hear the angry voice, not cry over a cold remains. His guilt was dissolving as he incessantly gazed at his father. Suddenly, someone patted him on the shoulder. It was Lola Panyang, handing him a white envelope.

“Marco, this is from your father. He gave this before he lost his last breath. This is for you,” said Lola Panyang, still with tears, but had already stopped howling. He slowly opened the sealed enveloped with mixed emotions – mostly pain, regrets, and guilt. Pain because he lost his father; regrets because they had not reconciled; and guilt because he was too angry to forgive. Marco slowly unfolded the clean sheet of paper inside the envelope. It was a small, brown piece with his father’ cursive handwriting in black ink. He took a deep breath and started reading the words. Before he knew it, he was already howling like a child as he read his father’s last letter. 

Dear Marco, 

Son, as much as I’d want to, I know I can no longer live long enough to make up what I have missed. I know that I had caused you so much pain and I am asking forgiveness for that. Believe me, I really wanted to spend some happy moments with you in the last days of my life; but because of what I’ve done to you, I failed. I am very sorry. The scars that I have engraved on your knee would stay forever, and would always remind you of the strict and stiff father you’ve had. I am deeply sorry that had to happen.

But son, I want you to know that I did that out of so much love I have for you, ‘coz aside from your grandmother, you’re all that I have. That bnight when I punished you with my belt and turned those bruises into wounds, I was just carried away by my feelings. It hurt knowing that my son, my only son, lied to me. I know you lied to me that night. You weren’t collecting seashells for your project like what you’ve reasoned out. That night, I was there, too, looking for you like I would always do whenever you’re late. And I saw you there, not gathering shells but drinking with your friends. You had those bruises not because you accidentally slipped but because you were tipsy. Maybe, it just hurt me too much realizing my son was weaving false stories to me that my ego dictated me to punish you with my belt.

However, it was never my intention to leave scars on your knee and in your heart. I just wanted to make you realize that what you were doing was not right. I maybe am over-protective to you, but only because I want you to become a better person. What we missed is a great loss. Yet I want you to know that your father loves you so much. I would like to hear that you feel the same to me, too. By the time you read this, I would probably be in heaven with your mother. Be a good person and know that I will always stand by you like I always do. 

My son, in my life, I only have one regret. I regret to have missed the chance to say this to you in person: I love you so much, son. 

Your father,

Tatay Canor

Upon reading his father’s letter, he felt the scars on his knee throbbing in pain again. He wept uncontrollably over his lifeless father. But it was too late. The sun had already set on his father – leaving him not just bruises but serious wounds. The wounds from the sunset bruises would always remain in him— hurting him perpetually for not forgiving his father, and for missing the chances to understand his father’s love.

-----the first time I read it, I was teary-eyed.. :) Hope you learned something from the story..


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