A retired teaching colleague who lives at my apartment complex often goes around the parking lot picking up the trash and the ubiquitous plastic that seem to reproduce in numbers each day.

One day while drizzling, he was walking aimlessly back-and-forth in the parking lot close to tears looking lost. He was lost. When I talked to him, the tears were about to fall. I asked what was the matter and he said that he has become incapable of making any decision; worst, he no longer has any idea what matters needed to be decided upon.

On my silent blank look, he continued that he just downed one of his medical pills but he can’t seem to get off “depression.” He had no sense of what needed to be done. His thoughts were circuitous at its best.

That was terrifying. I just came back from China then. I brought back with me eight packs of cigarettes that were lying around my house previously bought for keepsake or consumed by my wife and stepson when they still smoked but I decided they needed to be thrown away. I should have done that while I was still in Dong Bei. Instead, I brought them home with me.

Since airport Customs in Shenyang suggested I checked in the Jim Beam and beer (Royal Dutch, 16 percent alcohol per volume) handed over by the manager of the Waterbear Language Studio, going back to the front counter to check it in as luggage involved too many procedures so I allowed them to dispose of the liquid. I was still despondent over the matter when I reached Saipan but discovered an unopened bottle of Fundador in one of the kitchen closets.

Well, the Kent got me back to smoking in spite of the bold sign on the pack that clearly said, “Smoking kills!” Three fingers of Fundador allayed the awful solitude of being by my lonesome and before I knew it, I was carefully disposing of butts and letting three-fingers of alcohol send me to oblivion into the night. In two weeks, I was a despairing addict. Unable to find consistent income source, the despair was subtle, but I needed none of my acquaintances’ depression pills. I was already despondent, and broke.

My mouth was dry from smoking and drinking. My muse continued to be writing the tri-weekly output I promised my paper, but while hacking perched up my kitchen elevated table, I was taking breaks of four steps out of my door to the walkway and lighting up. Previously, I developed an allergy to second hand smoke as a former inhaler, but I got comfortable again with the smell of tobacco that I did not even pretend to cover up with a liberal dose of toothpaste and mouthwash. I was in bed before nine, thanks to the Fundi.

You’d think I would be thankful for the company of Kent and Fundador. Mind you, they are no strangers, but I left their acquaintance more than 30 years ago, and now, they have become bosom friends again.

Soudelor had been unkind to many in terms of income and today, I line up at NAP for the Monday orientation to find out if I qualify to certify. Will have fun doing what the less fortunate folks have to go through.

The SSA folks who keep a poker face were friendly but while they helped my tax data entry, the IRS was not too forgiving on speed given the volume of their workload. Happily, a lady on the other end of the phone looked at her rules and discovered that she could wave the penalty levied on my 2011 deleted. Chalk one for humans!

After the MD gave me a clean bill of health to meet requirements to teach, my cervical spondylosis started acting up again, almost eight years after I first endured the discomfort that sent me seeking therapy, withdrawing my retirement contributions in the process. The CNMI paid no counterpart and I shouldered my own medical. Now, I could not very well be healthy to teach, and apply for disability at the same time, could I?

Old age reminded me that my muscles are past neural distress. I dropped a tater on the floor and I picked it up with great effort just to get back up again. Meantime, my dental bridge fell so I negotiated at the dentist to start charging my CC in installments, hurried to my landlord to defer charging rent.

My neighbor continues to pick up trash in the parking lot, especially when it rains. He relishes walking up and down the wet incline that characterizes our parking lot. There must be comfort in the rain. On island, when it rains, it pours, oh, a good 15 minutes. Enough therapy.

Kent and I kept company for a week. Chewing gum, a smoker’s way of mitigating the consequent bad breath, pulled out the bridge that sent me to the dentist’s chair. The gum got us more than the tobacco smell.

Having been refused employment by offices that thought I was overly qualified. I offered a political campaign to hold up placards at street corners for pittance. I might even lend my literary skills to cajole folks on their votes, or get them out to vote.

My neighbor continues to make his walk, rain or shine. Nothing against my neighbor but I’ll skip the depression pills. We are still both depressed.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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