“Eleonora Amador?” the receptionist asks as she looks at around. Could she have been expecting the old woman to stand as the name was called? When you stand, she looks at you from head to foot then smiles wryly.
You are confident that you look your best today. You wear a ruffled blouse paired with skin-tight black leggings. You look even younger than your past twenty last November. You nod your curl-crowned head thinking of how many times people have wondered about that name of yours and how many times you have had to claim it as yours.
But your smile tells them that you never hated being Eleonora for it is the name you have been given. It sounds old and insignificant for some people who would rather christen you Elie, Eon, Nora, etc. You are named after your grandmother, Eleonora Jakob, the one whose grave you used to visit when you were a child and whose name you can say without reading the gray cement plate in the cemetery. There you learned respect for the dead and once, your father even asked you to talk to her or to them. That place was called Golden Valley in your province. It was going uphill and the graves lined up neatly with melted candles and flowers beside them. You had just become familiar with your vowels at age five but you knew that the visits were for Lola Eleonor. She died of old age and you only met her in black-and-white photographs that your father kept. Your father said that you look very much like her, but you’ve only seen her in long skirt and padded blouses in the pictures and you told yourself you did not look like her at all.
The receptionist hands you a form.
“Please fill it out, Ma’am.” She smiles with pursed lips. She could be as old as your mother, whom you have just texted about your going to an ob-gynecologist for a first-time appointment.
You reach for the tethered pen on the table. The cellular phone inside your bag is ringing. It is your mother calling. You turn it off. You have a form to fill out. As you are thinking of what to write on the form, you look around. This doctor’s office is located away from the main highway of the city. There are no passers-by looking inside the clinic; most people look inside as they walk by glass-walled shops such as beauty parlors. You feel conscious being inside the clinic especially with the thought of your classmates passing by and seeing you there.
The receptionist talks to the old woman. She could be a regular client of Dr. Thelma Rosario for the assistant is already telling her about the message the doctor left for her.
Framed certificates and baby posters hang on the wall. On the adjoining door hangs the sign THE DOCTOR IS OUT. You know that, of course, for before the old woman came in for her appointment, you had seen the young doctor come out from that door and smile at you as she excused herself.
“The doctor will be back this afternoon but she isn’t sure what time her meeting will end,” the receptionist says as she closes the door behind the old woman who opens her umbrella as the drizzle starts outside. A draught enters the room, its smell different from the scent the air-conditioner gives off. You stop scribbling your answers on the sheet and look at the receptionist who eases herself on the chair facing you.
“You can call me Rhea.”
“Hi, Rhea.” You feel awkward addressing an older person by just her first name.
Rhea smiles as her eyes search for a growing tummy hidden beneath your blouse. You can guess what she is thinking but you just continue answering the fifth question: How many months pregnant? You draw a series of connected lines saying 4 on the blank.
“The doctor has this private clinic and she also works in the Davao Regional Hospital,” Rhea tells you, as she looks at your form.
Rhea smiles generously and you can see in her your mother’s reassuring smile. You can hear the phantom sounds of the rain outside, the footsteps of a passer-by, a car accelerating, and a phone ringing. But you just want to be deaf, there are some things you do not want to hear.
Then Rhea stands up, leaving you to finish filling out the form. She busies herself with the patients’ folders. You continue scribbling words but you are thinking of being off track with your studies.
The child inside you is Leon’s. The boyfriend who once told you that your name is beautiful for his own being is in it. You never imagined him going to the city to visit you after months of being textmates. You knew him, of course, for you graduated from the same private school in your town. A hundred kilometers separated you the day you came to Davao to study Nursing while he studied Criminology in your town’s state college.
You know what is going on inside you. You’ve studied this along with contraception and anything with an –ology suffix. When he came for the semester break when you had just enrolled for a summer class in Pharmacology, you might have forgotten about the things you had learned when he urged you to make love to him. With his deep-set eyes pleading as he pulled you next to him in your rented room at Jade Street, you couldn’t help it. So by the time two pink lines appeared on the kit, you were sure of what hit you.
You got along with it as a secret, without your parents knowing about it. Only you and Leon shared the trouble. It was he who told you it was trouble and he never texted or called you back and you never wondered why because you weren’t that sorry for losing him. So the allowances kept coming and you wore a tight girdle in school.
You remembered the tablet your friends told you about. They laugh off pregnancy as if it were just a mild fever that could be cured by Paracetamol. What kind of student nurse gets pregnant? You knew what could get it out but you didn’t dare. You wanted to keep it.
Inside the clinic, you imagine yourself back in the San Nicolas Church in your hometown. You are looking straight at the altar where the saint’s statue stands with a dove on his left hand. You remember a chaplet just outside the church where the statues of saints are and there is an annex where a brass plate reads: For the unborn children. It is written under the Mother of Perpetual Help statue. You might have lighted a candle there once, but you aren’t sure.
You look at the sheet. Rhea is standing in front of you. She smiles again and says, “Wait you’ve forgotten to write your name here.” The upper left corner is blank.
Eleonora Amador. You want someone to blame but you cannot blame your name for it is your grandmother’s. You will be keeping the child, you tell yourself firmly. You’ve already found a name for the baby. You have a gut feeling that the throbbing heart inside you belongs to girl and you want it to be a girl. You will name her Eloise, which sounds pleasing to the ears and is the name of a French woman who fought hard for love. This name has the trace of your name and your grandmother’s and no trace of Leon’s. If your grandmother were alive she would pinch your sides and call you naughty girl like she did to your aunts. You were still young when you stood over her grave with your father holding your hand and you imagine her only from the pictures. Without Leon calling for months now, you feel as dead as the one you were named after. But you stand up and smile at the receptionist who tells you to come back on Wednesday. You gather your bag and stand up feeling ready to face the heavy rain outside and the sounds here and there. When your child asks where her name comes from, you will smile and say your name came from mine.
April Dawn Paramio hails from Mati and is a graduate of the BA English-Creative Writing program of UP Mindanao.