When I was younger
I used to wake up
in the middle of the night to the jingle of keys
Door creaks; light cracks
Shoes streaking agaisnt the floormat
And the buzzing of the fluorescent bulb blinking on

I used to wake up to an embrace
Breathing in the stale hospital smell
of powdered gloves, dried up blood, and day old scrubs
pressed against my face
wrapped around me
falling asleep with me quickly
for the rest of the night
until the restless daylight
when my parents had to go back to the hospital

and all that was left every time they left
was the memory of their scent
the scent that lingers
on shirts, in dreams, on pillows between seams

a scent that is just kinda there
but not really

and the more you take it in breathe in and remember, the more it gets away
and the more you try to cling onto it, the less you can sense it

And maybe that’s the sense of the scents that are absent
scents that you resent when present
yet long for when they’re no longer there

and it is an odd predicatemnt growing up
the eldest child of two young parents
trying to stabilize their lives as doctors
working triple shifts
counting days in sets of threes
of PREs, of duties, of FROMs

and that is exactly what you resent as a child growing up
when absence exceeds presence

And never knew what it meant when I had to sleep in the rooms of residents
on schooldays, weekdays, thrice a week
as they tried to keep our family together

as a child all that mattered was the constant forgetting and remembering
of absence and presence and then absence again

and now more than a decade since
the scrubs i wear bear the same tears
the same scent of powdered gloves
of aseptic handrub
and freshly dried blood

and now i wake up in doctors callrooms
speaking in codes
running to pulseless hearts
stitching bleeding legs and breasts and throats
and now i wake up at the end of my bus ride home
door cracked open; light creeping in
to my younger brothers and sister

who tell me,
Uy kuya anjan ka pala. it’s always a nice surprise to see me I guess.
They tell me to please let’s play nintendo and d&d
and teach them algebra
the parts of the eye
and the lives and deaths of the phiippine heroes

and tell them stories of my daily life
and why i finally decided to take up medicine

and at this moment i am hovering
i breathe in and linger between presence and absence
stil trying to make sense of the scents at home
of the lingering sounds at the back of my mind
of monitors beeping
of life passing by
of conversations with friends and families and loved ones

at this moment I linger for a little bit more and hope that someday I’ll find out what I could do.