What More Could I Hope For?
*This article from Michael O’Riordan’s column Outside Looking In, was
originally published in the Dumaguete Metropost on the 24th of June 2018.*
*What More Could I Hope For? *
It was the look in her eyes that caused my concern. It’s the look millions
of men worldwide regularly experience from their women.
Unless it’s blatantly obvious because of some obvious misdeed, we, men are
rendered helpless with absolutely no idea what we may have done to deserve
THE LOOK. And we are reluctant to discover why.
It signals trouble if we did something wrong, and perversely also sometimes
trouble even if we did something right. Women! In these confusing
situations, I usually look out the window, wistfully imagining myself in a
galaxy far far away.
Vhie looked away, then walked into the kitchen with steam gushing from both
ears, and her lips sewn tightly together. Whoops! This was at least a
serious misdemeanor situation but more probably, a felony punishable by a
lengthy visit to the dog house. What had I done?
I reran the tape in my head but could find nothing from yesterday to
suggest any serious offense. What to do? What to do? As a former attorney,
I knew never to ask a question I didn’t know the answer to, so I remained
silent, as did the cobra hissing in the kitchen.
A while later, my falsely cheerful “Morning” received a clearly
unenthusiastic “Good morning’’ response. Clearly, it wasn’t a good morning
for me. I must have done something stupid to upset her because Vhie is
always happy, apart from when I’ve been a jerk.
Plunging into the unknown, I apologized for whatever I’d done and asked for
“You don’t remember?”
I wanted to respond, “Obviously not, and that’s why I’m asking you”, but my
sense of survival told me to forget it. Instead, adopting a repentant
demeanor, I said in a low, humble voice, “No. Please tell me.” It wasn’t
that, like all men in a similar position, I wanted to know, but Vhie
holding it in would make her day miserable. She deserves better from me.
Besides, I’m in the final furlong of my life race. I don’t have time left
for egotistical nonsense.
“You don’t remember?” asked Vhie in an incredulous tone as her eyebrows
rose high over her forehead before disappearing somewhere behind her head.
I briefly wondered if, unknown to me, Alzheimer’s or dementia had settled
in overnight. “Please explain,” I said again in a suitably repentant tone.
Vhie shook her head sadly. She’s young enough to still be surprised at
men’s stupidity. “It happened around midnight?”
“You were rude to me.’’
How was that possible? I was asleep. But it suddenly came back to me. At
around 8:30, Vhie was exhausted so she and Jermaigne went upstairs to bed.
Despite there being four lovely bedrooms in my home, in classic Philippine
tradition, Jermaigne needs to be close to Mommy so she always sleeps on a
mattress beside our bed, while the other bedrooms remain unused. I’ve no
doubt if Vhie’s mother, aunts, uncles, and cousins ever visit, all 50 of us
will be sleeping back to back in one bedroom.
But I’m digressing. When I went upstairs around 10:30, Vhie was cuddled
with Jermaigne, and in a deep sleep. I’d been drinking a lot of water so
got up around midnight to pee. Still half asleep, I staggered back to bed
where I vaguely noticed that Vhie was also there. Mumbling I was in deep
sleep mode, I prepared for a fast return to sleep.
Ah, but not Ms. Vhie. Despite my protests, she wanted us to cuddle. Oh,
mother of god, save me! Apart from being in sleep mode, I’m also
claustrophobic so cuddling then was the last thing in the world I wanted to
do. My understanding is, I said, “Please leave me alone. I’m going back to
Unfortunately, that somehow was culturally translated into: “Oh, you don’t
love or want me anymore! And you spoke sharply to me!” Up she then
indignantly hopped and rejoined Jermaigne on the mattress. I don’t know if
I heard sobbing noises, but soon, I was again safely with Morpheus and, in
typical male fashion, was sleeping peacefully.
But now, I was paying for my allegedly shameful deeds. It took all my
admittedly limited sensitivity, and much joking around, followed by
volumous amounts of kisses and cuddles before Vhie suddenly bounced back to
her usual, happy disposition.
It’s scary to admit this but it seems I’m finally almost house- trained!
In addition, there’s another expression that may also apply. I can’t use it
here because it would be considered indelicate. The first word is slang for
a part of the female body. The second word is ‘whipped’.
* * *
It was the look of accepting fear in her eyes that I’ll never forget. It
was not the blood flowing from her mouth and cut lips, but her calm
disposition that most startled me. This unfortunate child was no stranger
This was the first and only experience I’ve had of violence by Filipinos.
And it was nasty. I’d just come out of a bank in Dumaguete to see a man
fighting with another man, while an unattractive woman stood with a hand on
her head, screaming, and near her, an older woman holding a three-year-old
child in her arms. A white van was parked sideways on the street. A large
crowd had gathered. Some were laughing while others were horrified.
A man, who turned out to be the husband of the cheating wife, grabbed her
by the throat, and began to choke her.
I can’t handle violence of any sort against women regardless of the
circumstances, so I roared at the bank security guards to intervene. They
said they couldn’t, so I said I could, and grabbed one of their batons to
go and intervene. Two other guards restrained me.
This turned out to be fortunate because, Vhie wisely told me later, as a
foreigner, I’d be charged for violent behavior. The consequences could have
been serious especially if I’d done damage to anyone. No police arrived but
soon, traffic wardens arrived and calmed the situation.
I walked away obsessing over the image of the blood dripping from the
child’s mouth, creating bloody stains on her lovely, white dress, and her
calm acceptance of everything. It will remain forever in my consciousness.
* * *
It was the look of unbounded joy and happiness in her sparkling eyes that
I’ll never forget. Jermaigne joyfully jumped into the pool near Valencia
Proper, screaming while also somehow managing to pose gracefully for her
mother’s ever-present camera.
This process and photo-taking were repeated not twice but 15 times. Despite
that Jermaigne never lost her enthusiasm, relishing in her unconscious joy
of living in the present moment.
On Sunday, she created a lovely Father’s Day card and scribbled about her
love for me. Later on, she hid in different parts of the house then jumped
out and “scared” me. Mostly, I pretended to be scared, but other times, I
actually was because I didn’t know when she was about to pounce. Then she’d
jump up and down while clapping her hands, stomping her feet, and screaming
This world is magnificent but is constantly diminished by the inhumanity of
It breaks my heart to observe Jermaigne’s joy while also knowing that, over
time, she will inevitably lose her precious innocence.
My sadness is compounded by the knowledge that even if alive, I wouldn’t be
able to protect her from the world. I find consolation in believing the
inner strength she will have found from the unquestionable love from her
parents and family, together with the honorable principles ingrained since
childhood, will combine to buffet her somewhat against the slings and
arrows of outrageous fortune.
What more could I hope for her?