“It’s not you. It’s me…”
“Don’t give me that shit. I don’t buy it.”
“I’m going. Take care of yourself.” Mary didn’t get a response and left the diner.
“Before you rue this day, it’ll be too late…” Rick whispered.
Ten months passed. Another dystopian morning after a sleepless night. Rick left his bed to freshen up, how he hoped the shower will help. But it didn’t.
Rick Zaragoza is the best story teller of his time. A well known Novelist, he had published over thirty books. All of which had become best sellers. Rick is probably the most gifted writer in history of Philippine Literature, unfortunately, no one knew. Just him. There’s a mistery behind his writings, he knew, but after decades of his writing career as a fictionist he’s still in denial about it.
His garbage bin is overflowing with crumpled papers. He badly wanted to finish his last manuscript before retiring for good. “No. This isn’t enough.” Rick said. He wanted it to be brutal, morbid, violent. Attributes that aren’t normally read on his previous works. Normally, if violence is inevitable in his stories, he use to make it sudden. Abrupt. Rick is not fond of giving details about violence and most especially, killings. He have his own reason. And it’s serious. And he kept that reason to himself, not even Mary, his wife for barely twenty years knew about it.
Mary. The love of his life. He knew for years she’s been cheating on him. But he said nothing. He did nothing. He keep on loving her despite everything. He loved her so much that he swallowed his pride for the sake of their son. And for the sake of his sanity. But ten months ago, Mary filed for annulment to end their nineteen year marriage. It’s over.
“Before you rue this day, it’ll be too late…”
“Who send this envelope?” Mary asked the maid. “Mr. Rick dropped by a while ago.”
Mary beamed. A manuscript with a note that reads, “My last piece”. She knew, it must be a remarkable one. Her ex-husband have been telling her about retirement for ages. But she kept pushing him to write. Then there’s this sudden guilt. She’s not a reader, she hated reading. Even Rick’s works. But this time, she will. It’s about time to pay it forward. For the love and support her ex-husband gave her for whatever she does. “I’m so sorry Rick. I’ve been bad. Really, really bad.”
“It’ll never too late”, Mary convinced herself. And after reading Rick Zaragoza’s last piece entitled “The Unfaithful Loyal”, she will read all of his books.
Rick Zaragoza is unaware that he just earned a new fan, his former wife. Mary spent the last eleven months reading his books and in less than a year, she became a Rick Zaragoza completist. After reading “The Unfaithful Loyal” she got obssessed with Rick’s writing. Once she opened every first page, she knew, she won’t stop. But she can’t help it. Mary doesn’t need coffee and cigarettes to keep her awake, she can’t even recall the last time she took an eight hour sleep after reading “The Unfaithful Loyal”. Rick Zaragoza’s books are like stargates that brought her to other world and dimensions that she’ll never experience in the present time. And after closing the final leaf of Rick’s thirty-fourth and final book she realized, she never lied to him everytime she say “you are the best Novelist there is.” Despite the truth that she never read a single book of Rick in nineteen years that they’re together in under one roof.
One evening, Rick can’t believe his home phone is actually ringing. It’s been ages since that phone rang and as far as he can recall, his last last caller was Mary’s lawyer to push their annulment. He picked up the phone hesistantly.
“Rick? How are you?”
“I’m doin’ good. How are you?” Rick beamed after hearing that sweet familiar voice from the line.
Rick and Mary’s conversation lasted twenty minutes with the latter ended up apologizing and lauding Rick’s works as a writer. Most especially, for his so called “Last Piece”.
Mary found contentment after that call. It’s a relief. It felt lighter than ever. She always believed she married a weirdo, as her mom said. But now, she’s starting to have regrets. She always believed that his Novelist husband will never take her anywhere. Spending long hours inside in his library seven days a week and she can count the times they had dinner together using her fingers. How many times did he forget their son’s birthday? She can’t remember. Probably more than their son Gino’s actual age. But is it enough? Is it enough to cheat on her husband while some of her friends are actually asking for her advice about their cheating partners? Is it enough to sleep with someone whom she believes can fill in for Rick’s absence everytime she needed him when the truth is, Rick is just one storey away from her? No. That’s not fair.
“If you’re looking for someone who can call my mistress, you’ll never find one. But if you want something to regard as my mistresses, go to the library sweetheart. There, you’ll find my books.” Rick once said to her over dinner.
She felt her heart, and it’s broken.
“Can we meet in the morning? I’m so sorry Rick. And I’m actually begging you to give us a chance. – Mary”.
Rick can’t imagine the feeling. It’s been almost a year of misery and pain. But this is not he’d been waiting for. Mary is the love of her life, there is no sense of living without his Mary. But it’s too late.
“Before you rue this day, it’ll be too late…”
That last message from the diner as he watch Mary walking away echoes constantly in his mind. “Merciful God. What have I done?” thought Rick.
Rick dropped on his knees. He knew that morning with Mary will never happen.
In the morning of May 2nd 2010, Novelist Rick Zaragoza has been found dead from a gunshot wound in the head. It has been declared a suicide.
His legacy as a writer continues and it will take five more years after his death that someone will discover the most mysterious case in history of Literary Writing.
“The Great Catastrophe” (Published 1985), a novella about a great storm occurred in Central Visayas that caused thousands of deaths and massive devastation. In May 2, 2011, exactly a year after his death, a devastating typhoon hit Central Visayas. Dead bodies, poverty and destruction followed that alarmed not just the whole country but the rest of the world.
“Two Martyrs” (Published 1988) , a novel about two innocent men sentenced to death for a crime committed by their master, a City Mayor. In 1989, family drivers of a politician where sentenced to death for raping a 14 year old student. In 1996, three years after their execution, one witness emerged and proved their innocence.
“The Rose Vendor” (Published 1991), a novel about a demented florist who is obsessed with the first lady of the republic. In 2004, two months before the National Elections, President Pascual Villaluz’s wife was shot point blank by an assassin. The killer works as a florist in Metro Manila. He ended up lying on the ground after changing gunfires with the Presidential Security with a photograph of the President’s wife in his overcoat.
“The Guitarist” (Published 1980), Rick Zaragoza’s first Novella. It tells the story of a guitarist who travelled on foot from Cagayan to Manila carrying his dreams to be a famous musician while performing on the streets. The poor, lone guitarist end up a Rock Legend. In 2015, Filipino Musician and Rock n’ Roll hall of famer Saul Ramirez stated in an interview, “I’m a legend. But you don’t need to wait for my autobiography, for it’s already been told in Rick Zaragoza’s The Guitarist.”
“The Unfaithful Loyal”. Rick Zaragoza’s last work of literature. It has never been published. A short story about an unfaithful wife named Maria, who were brutally murdered by a gang of burglars inside her home.
In the same morning of Rick Zaragoza’s suicide. His former wife, Mary Queen Dela Cruz was found dead inside her room. She was brutally raped, burned and decapitated by an unknown group of intruders after robbing her home. Surprisingly, their son Gino Zaragoza has been found by the responding police tied up but is left unharmed.
Ricardo Zaragoza is a self-proclaimed “Fictionist”. But mysteriously, all of his works are destined to happen in actual events. He knew, but he spent all his life denying it. And the worst mistake he ever made, is he wrote about the love of his life to get revenge, despite the fact that he has the power to gain reconciliation instead and live life with Mary, for the rest of eternity.
“Our words in paper are the most powerful. It’s immortal. But in my case, it’s way beyond to it…” – Rick Zaragoza (Magazine Interview – April 2001)
THE NOVELIST (a short story)
Published by Philippines Graphic Magazine