Illustration by Carla T. GamalindaCLASS! Pass your assignments to the front.”

Erika stared blankly at her professor. She averted her eyes and looked at the whiteboard. It’s been three months, she thought. Three months of waking up with nightmare visions of hospital contraptions hooked up to a dark figure.

“Sir” Keith died of cancer. The one last professor, who would crack jokes with his students has left the campus empty.

Despite teaching a major subject, Sir Keith’s lectures served as a breather for the class, a place where they could be riotous, but still learn.

That same person was the reason why she decided to pursue such a tedious course. Erika wasn’t really into science. She was the type of person who would rather spend hours inking her creative juice in mind while having a coffee break, than bother memorizing scientific terminologies that do not make sense.

“But I already put communication arts as my first choice!” Erika protested.

“Who told you to take that? That’s not what we talked about!” Her father exploded.

“You never let me say anything!”

“You don’t have to. It’s either you take pre-medical course or I won’t let you study.”

“But—“

“It’s final.”

But there is nothing interesting in pharmacy anymore.

Erika trudged through enrolment, the orientation week, and all “boring” events. Until Sir Keith came into the picture and made things different.

She always believed that if people do what they want and zealously practice their skills in the real world, glory was all for the taking. Never mind money and power as long as they reach the peak of their capabilities. But Sir Keith changed this.

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“Practicality,” Sir Keith told Erika on the day of the entrance exam, “is always the top choice in this poor country. If we always did what we wanted to do without first thinking about our future, then we wouldn’t be successful. We might not be able to feed our family if we had one.”

Sir Keith was everything to Erika. The ultimate guru of science who showed her how fascinating and important drug products and medication are, making her interested to pursue such a complex course. She was even tempted to dream to become a doctor because of him.

He simplified every topic they discussed, using very imaginative metaphors to make it easier for the terminologies to seep through their constricted minds. He once described drinking a tablet felt like “letting the tablet ride the long jam.”

During drug production, he would loosen the time-pressure brought by the deadline by joking around with the group and making fun of other professors by imitating them.

“Be careful in handling glassware! They’re expensive! Expensive! Ho ho ho!,” said Sir Keith in his imitation of our chemistry professor who had a high and squeaky voice.

Everything was great until Sir Keith passed away unexpectedly. Now there was nothing but performing experiments, studying and memorizing plants’ name and chemistry, and analyzing patient care and patient medication for the sake of gaining a diploma.

Erika stared across the room just in time to notice an amber bottle filled with tablets. She recognized them as the last work they made when Sir Keith was around. Their last discussion with Sir Keith about Paracetamol tablets — how it worked as a pain killer and how an excess of it could result in hepatotoxicity or liver toxicity.

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Sir Keith used that drug in his other subjects as an example for drug adverse reactions. Her classmate remarked that maybe he was talking about college life, and how the piles of work stack higher and higher. Erika ignored her.

There was no time to give attention to something or someone that did not share a memory with her like she did with his mentor, at least in this school.

* * *

Erika entered the house and was welcomed by its overwhelming gloom. In the kitchen, her mother was busy tossing ingredients of her favorite beef stew into a pot.

It was a futile attempt to even force a smile on her face. There was a feeling she wanted to avoid, knowing it was her professor’s favorite food too.

She went straight to her room without greeting her mother with a kiss. A worried look from her mother followed her up the stairs.

Erika threw her bag beside her bedside table that was filled with test tubes and bottles used on their experiments. She remembered how amazed she was with Sir Keith weeks ago when he would conduct his experiments in front of the class.

She picked up an amber bottle filled with tablets. She stared at them like she was trying to start a fire.

All of a sudden, she sat on the floor and closed her eyes.

She remembered how Sir Keith smiled when she submitted her results in experiments. She remembered how he looked proud at her having perfected a quiz in his subject.

She looked again at the bottle. The Paracetamol tablets looked darker than how they should be.

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The loss of him crept through her veins. They were turning blue and throbbing from the absence of his guidance. The poison spread faster with the thought of living her life without him.

Erika let the bottle roll from her hands. She set her eyes on a picture on top of her studying table. She stood up and walked towards the table, and held the picture frame delicately in her hands.

Everything went blurry. The glass surface became moist with tears, and Erika fell in a heap on the floor, sobbing.

There were footsteps approaching her and felt the warm hands of her mother wrap around her.

Her mother was also crying while holding Erika in her arms. They cried while staring at the picture frame lying on the floor – a family picture with Erika, her mom and Sir Keith in it. Robin G. Padilla

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