KUYA VINCE. 42y/o.
He is fondly called as “Kuya” Vince since he was older than most of the patrons of his bar. When he tells stories, he tells them with calmness and passion that I would just stare at him with a faint smile of fascination.
A couple of months back, he started losing weight and he shut himself out. He remained close to a few people but mostly, he would lock himself in his room at the 3rd floor of his bar. I once made an honest comment that he was losing weight and he took offense. We never got to talk ever since. I found out that he felt that when people made |weight comments|, they were indirectly telling him he had HIV. Mine was not, it was as it was. He did lose weight.
There were speculations and stories going around. HIV. Cancer. Stress. Anxiety.
Last week, I saw him at the bar talking to my best friend, as usual, we didn’t say hello. A few minutes later he was nowhere to be found, I told myself he must have gone into seclusion again inside his room. My friend, Ben, later told me he went to the hospital for check-up. He never came back to the bar. Days passed and we just heard he was in the hospital.
Still, no news.
Yesterday, Ben came over our house to use the PC but he also told me we had to go to the hospital because Vince’s family “asked his friends to see him already.” So we did.
I entered the room and I was holding my breath. There he was. Kuya Vince.
Frail and unconscious. His body slightly curved as he lied down gasping for breath. He had a respirator supporting him. His very thin legs were elevated using two pillows. He was in a public hospital– a ward with two other beds. And Ben was right, he looked like an 80 year old man fighting for his life. I was holding my back my tears and my friend knew me well enough, he had us out of the place within 15 minutes from the time we got there.
WHILE STANDING BY KUYA’S BED.
Yes, I confess, While standing by Kuya’s bed, I was scanning the side table. For drugs. ANTIRETROVIRAL (ARV) DRUGS. I wanted to prove to myself that it was in fact NOT HIV. I wanted to rid myself of the guilt that I failed to reach out to him had it been HIV. I wanted to clean my conscience that yet again, I failed to help a friend, a good man. I wanted to be the one to tell every rumormonger, “Shut up, he didn’t have HIV!”
There were no ARVs around.
Then again, I knew at the back of my mind, I will never know.
AND IT DOESN’T MATTER NOW. This is not about me.
He is in peace now. He has something which I or anyone reading this doesn’t have. Eternal Peace.
At this very moment, the family is arranging for his cremation, his ashes will be brought down South in Laguna for his Family’s last I-dunno-what-you-call-it. And then the ashes will be brought back to Manila to his bar where a “tea party” will be held. People surely will keep speculating the next few days, weeks, and even months. But I only hope that after all the rumors, they will go back to a place of good memories with Kuya Vince.
MEMORIES WITH KUYA.
I will always hold dearly evenings of wines and chats.
Moments of Kuya sitting in front of his laptop by that corner while the rest of the bar is singing wildly along with the karaoke.
Times of Kuya in the kitchen cooking my favorite pasta.
I will miss Kuya Vince.
He will be missed.
We love you, Kuya Vince.