It was one of those long tiring days. I guess that I should be use to it. I leave my home every morning at 6 am to go to work. It’s tough to work for a textile company; especially when you didn’t finish school. So you have to accept any job they gave you. My parents and I lived in an isolated countryside. To go to the nearest market; we had to walk for hours on a dirt road. When my parents saw that I could read and write a little; they told me to stop and help them out with the farming. I didn’t have a choice. Later on I met my husband. During that time; he helped his boss who had a small truck to load in goods. It was love at first sight. He promised me that he’ll take me far away from this deserted place if I followed him. I did accept. So I left my parents at an early age. When we moved into town, we didn’t have a luxurious home. It was just a two roomed place and the kitchen and toilet was outside. I had to help my husband earn our daily bread. That’d why I decided to apply for a job in a textile company. I guess I was lucky that I got hired right away. I didn’t want to be someone’s housekeeper. They make you work real hard and hardly give you food to eat. At my job now; I’m in the “Pressing section”. You stand there during the entire day just ironing. I always have to bring a bottle of water from home to drink when it gets too hot. Some of my co workers just pass out. They’re probably too exhausted or it’s the heat they can’t support. I wish I could bring my own lunch from home but I don’t want to be different from the others. Everyone eats lunch there. The food is terrible. Some say that the cooks mix baking soda in the rice when they cook it to make it more. Often I get heart burns.
My husband runs in the house breathlessly: “Put your shoes on and let’s go!”
I obeyed not having a clue where we were heading to.
“Where is our son?” I asked him; while trying to catch up with his pace.
“He’s still with my mother. Hurry up!”
We got to a place where there was a crowd of people already there. It was pitch dark and cold. Some guys were prying a department store doors open. I was shocked. People were over excited and pushing each other to enter it. My legs became weak.
“Noro! Get in before everyone gets the good things!” my husband yelled.
When we got inside it was horrifying seeing people run everywhere and steal all they can. Some took off their own clothes and put on new ones. Others brought a plastic bag with them.
“Woman, why are you just standing there? If you’re not going to take anything. Get out of my way then.” a man said; pushing her aside. I didn’t know where my husband had disappeared. It was a total chaos. I was running up every floor to search for him; but no luck. I heard someone downstairs shouting: “Get out! Get out! The store is burning down”. That’s when I really panicked. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. The smoke was blinding me. I hardly could breathe. The place was falling apart. I heard screams from all directions. I thought that day I was going to be burned alive. My son came to my mind. I don’t want him to be an orphan. I tried to drag myself out. Some parts of my clothes were on fire. When I reached the entrance door; I could see the people trying to open it. It was blocked. I know I had to find another way out. I got up as fast as I can and went back upstairs. Some of the stairs were already crumbling but I didn’t care. I finally reached the second floor where I saw a gap big enough for me to squeeze through. All I wanted is to get out of this building. I fell and hit the hard ground. There were more screaming.
I’m not sure for how many days I was unconscious. I was relieved that I was still alive but the hospital bill worried me more. My mother in law was next to my bed with my son.
“Where is Terry?” I asked her. She just bursted out crying.
“He couldn’t come out the building. He was stuck there with the others who were burned alive.”
At that time I was devastated; thinking about what would become of us?
Weeks passed and I decided to go back to work. I still wasn’t strong enough. My boss noticed that too.
“Look! I know what you’ve been through. I’m sorry that you lost your husband. We have a lot of work now. You can hardly iron more than 10 clothes. I want you to leave right now. As you know that time is money. I have no time to waste.” The boss hollered.
I didn’t want to cry in front of him. I took my bottle of water and followed him to his office. He gave me my salary just for two weeks. I didn’t know what to do. It has been awhile that I couldn’t even pay our house rent.
My mother in law didn’t want anything to do with us since her son died. I wanted to go back home to my parents. I knew if we did; we’ll just be a burden to them.
As I walked in the street; I couldn’t hold my head high anymore. I didn’t even see the little dried tomatoes that I bought rolled out my bag. There’s a nice lady behind me who picked it up for me.
“Nowadays; people don’t smile anymore. This political crisis really destroyed each home. Some parents can’t send their children to school. Everything you buy in the market is expensive. Some just eats rice by itself. They can’t even afford to buy leafy greens to eat with it.” The woman said sighing.
“Madam, can you please help me. My son and I don’t have a place to stay. My husband died in the terrible fire at the department store.” Noro pleaded; tears falling down her face.
“That’s kind of difficult because I don’t even know you.” The woman replied.
“I’ll work for you as maid.”
“That won’t be possible. I already have one.”
“Or I can wash your laundry. Just anything to have a home for us. I don’t want my son to live on the street.” Noro told the woman.
“Look what I can do for you. I have this little place. Actually; it’s where my pigs used to stay. I had to sell them all because of this crisis. You have two choices. You can stay in my pigpen or out in the street. Don’t worry you don’t have to pay any rent. I give it to you for free until now. The only condition is that you don’t bother me and my family. You find your own food.”
After several days; I went back to see the ruins of the burned building that caused the death of so many people. I brought a flower that I found in the public garden. There were other families of the victims throwing flowers into what was left of the burned department store. That’s how they paid respect to their loved ones. I kissed mine and layed it on the ground.
I can never forget the day when we moved in the pigpen. It was filthy and stank. We didn’t have any bed to sleep on. We had to use our thin old mats.
That night I layed down and thought: “Even though I didn’t have much before I had a home. Now I have nothing. The change was too sudden and cruel. I believe that I’m not the only one who is suffering because of this crisis. We never know what would occur the next day of our lives. Too many innocent lives were taken for the greed of the others. Here is the country now; sinking in the blood of its people that were killed.”