Ever since I contracted pneumonia around this time of the year in 2004, I have come to associate chamomile tea with being sick; more precisely, in need of healing.
It started off as a little cough. I was already (lightly!) complaining about the strong air conditioning at my workplace back then, and I had the misfortune of having my workstation placed right in the pathway of cold air blasts. I wasn’t even one year at work, not to mention it was my first job, so despite the escalating cough, I still showed up.
And my constant desktop companion was a mug of chamomile tea. I easily went through a box of 25 tea bags in a week.
Of course, I couldn’t go to work anymore when my coughing became painful, specially when the doctor’s diagnosis showed pneumonia. I was told to take time off, was prescribed powerful medicines (because I did not want to be confined), and I spent the days drawing Naruto fanart and writing in my journal.
And drinking chamomile tea.
After that ordeal, whenever I came across chamomile tea, I felt unwell. It felt like a fever was coming, when in reality, I am totally fine. The aroma of chamomile tea reminded me of dry and offensively cold air, and weeks of painful coughing and expensive medication. It came to a point where I actively avoided chamomile tea, and learned to identify the colors commonly used by tea manufacturers for chamomile (shades of yellow and ochre), so that I can tell from a distance what I should avoid. The method worked fine for me — until today.
In a hurry to go out and meet with a friend before my shift, I just shoved my lunch box into my bag, and grabbed a packet of tea — carefully avoiding the yellow colored ones, and picked a pink one. Joke’s on me: this particular tea company used pink for chamomile.
I find out later that it was quite timely. See, that meeting with a friend had me deal with something that broke my heart. Details aside, it was something that I had seen coming, but it doesn’t soften the blow. It’s when you know you have to rip the band-aid off at some point, then it happens, and there’s that distinct delay between your skin and your brain before you react and articulate your pain.
The thing took time to sink in. My eyes reacted faster than my mind did. I knew I was just about crying, but I could not articulate as to why I am. My friend’s question echoes in my mind as I write:
“Masakit ba?” (“Does it hurt?”)
I don’t think I quite answered the question, and just said things that indirectly alluded to my personal ideal that I should not be crying, that this thing is not worth my tears, and that deep in my heart I know that this is an answered prayer. Besides, an answered prayer isn’t always a, “yes.”
I dried my tears, we talked for an hour more about things to be thankful for and to look forward to, and we went on our way.
After lunch, I brewed my customary after-meal tea, and to my dismay, I found that I got a chamomile brew, expecting something -berry. I just shrugged my shoulders, telling myself to stop being such a baby and just enjoy my drink. As I sipped my tea, my friend’s question popped into my mind:
I may not be shivering from cold air conditioning vents, or coughing my lungs out, but right now, the cup of chamomile tea is very much welcome.