With Passion and Hard Work
Illustration by Phoemela delos Santos
I stood on the temporary platform they exclusively put up for the occasion and addressed the assembly before me with a grin.
“Thank you all for coming to my book signing today. I guess I wasn’t supposed to make a speech since there isn’t a microphone ready, but I can’t bring myself to just scribble on your books and go. Not many authors get to meet their fans in person. I am most grateful to you, my readers, because only privileged writers get to see a book signing. And I am one because of your support. I wrote this book using myself as an inspiration. From the moment I opened the first book I grabbed from my late uncle’s collection, I have dreamed of one day becoming a renowned writer. The journey to that end has not been smooth. At all. At 16, I ran away from an abusive home, dragging my 12-year-old brother with me to a city we’d never been to and had no secure future in. A few months upon arrival, to support my needs as well as my brother’s schooling, I found myself mopping floors and cleaning toilets in the company where I first applied as a resident writer. I never had a college education; therefore, despite my self-proclaimed skill in writing, I only qualified for a position several steps lower than what I had aimed for.
Throughout the six years that I worked as a janitress, I befriended some of the best writers in the company. You may have heard of them: Karen Lisaro and Grace Nostana. I learned so much from them and wrote so much for their critique until my skills were refined. Every night, before leaving for home, I tapped away at the office keyboard to write a manuscript for what I hoped would someday become a published novel. I barely ever had rest nor money, but I was driven by my passion for my craft and the hope that I could be better than what I was then.
I can no longer recall how many times I have written and rewritten this book. So many people contributed to my success today, but my heart bursts with gratitude towards my editor, Harriot Jansen, who gave this inexperienced, ‘undereducated’ girl a chance at the spotlight.
To be announced as a bestseller within the first month of coming out in the market is overwhelming for a new writer like myself. You now look at me with an awe I do not deserve. There is nothing extraordinary about this book. I only aimed to touch hearts and empower my readers to realize their full potential with hard work and passion as their arsenal. You see, dear readers, if my mere words can touch hearts, who’s to say your actions can’t transform your lives? Thank you and we may now commence the book signing.”
The audience applauded and I proceeded to sit on a chair behind a long table to entertain the book buyers already lined up for my signature.
“Hello,” I said to the girl in front of me. She’s in her early 20’s, with mahogany-dyed hair and thickly-drawn eyebrows. “How do you do? What is your name?” I asked.
“Penelope,” she said in a voice so quiet and contrasting from her striking appearance.
“Well, then, Penelope,” I said as I signed the book she handed me, “enjoy reading!”
“Thank you, Miss. I love With Passion and Hard Work. It’s so inspiring.”
“I am glad you think so. Fans like you make my work fulfilling.” I said with a smile and a gesture towards the next person in line.
“My, my, it IS Jane Ouano!” exclaimed the girl behind Penelope.
“Ms. Saturnino?” I asked tentatively. “How nice to see you here! I haven’t seen you since you retired five years ago!” I hope the brevity of my manner of speaking can make up for its lack of sincerity. Victoria Christina Saturnino is not, and has never been, a very nice person.
“I see you’ve made a name for yourself now, Ms. Ouano,” she said, raising one eyebrow as she gazed at me. “I never thought I’d see this day.”
I chose not to let that indirect insult ruin my present disposition and smiled. “Do you have a copy for me to sign?”
“Of course not! I am too old to go with this silly bandwagon. I don’t even think your book is worth the time.”
“Ah, yes. But it’s worth the time to wait in line to insult me. How very nice,” I countered, no longer bothering to hold my tongue for the old lady. I flashed her a smiled that didn’t quite reach my eyes and was about to retort with another sarcastic comment when I was interrupted by a phone ringing.
I jumped to myself in a puddle of drool on the table I had accidentally fallen asleep on. My phone was still buzzing near my head. A glance at the screen showed it was Daniel calling.
“Danny,” I said, putting the phone up to my ear, “where are you? I’ve been waiting for two hours. You made me drool on the table, you awful man!”
“Hey, sorry for the late notice, sis, but I can’t pick you up tonight. I’ve got a date with Megan. I can’t be late; she’s on her period and I never want to upset her then,” was the reply I got.
“Are you kidding me? I’m supposed to be at work in 20 minutes and if I commute, you know how traffic gets!”
“Well, you better run,” he said before hanging up.
Something akin to a growl came out of my lips. This wasn’t the first time Dan ditched me for his new girlfriend. I worked so hard to send him to college only to have him drop out on his second year because he was “tired and unmotivated.” “Yes, that’s right,” I mumbled to myself, “Just go about gallivanting around the city on the motorcycle I bought for your comfort and mine, you ungrateful bastard!” I grudgingly grabbed my bag and rushed out the door, hoping to reach my workplace in time.
Thirty minutes later and I was on the receiving end of a harsh reprimand. “This is the behavior you show and you expect me to one day promote you to a writing position? You will never achieve anything meaningful, Jane Ouano.”
I looked down, refusing to once again issue a rebuttal to Victoria Saturnino, my supervisor. I don’t want another lecture about how I’m not supposed to talk back like she’s my equal. After a seemingly endless tirade about how “lazy” I have been lately, the witch let me go on with my duties.
At lunch time that day, I encountered Karen Lisaro in the hallway. “Hello, Ms. Lisaro! Do you think it’s okay if I use your computer for a bit?”
She looked at me with confusion. “I’m sorry. Do I know you?”
“Yes. I helped you with something last week and you promised I could use your computer to send an email today. I just need-“
Karen’s phone rang. She passively waved at me as she answered the call and walked away. Feeling rejected and disappointed of the promise not kept, I went in search of an open computer. Everyone in the office was out for lunch. If I want to send my email now while it’s still office hours, I will just have to use a computer without the owner’s permission.
At the sight of an available computer, I immediately logged in my email and typed [email protected]
“Dear Ms. Jansen,” I wrote. “I am sending this email to ask for an update on the manuscript I sent you three months ago and to follow up on the nine other emails I sent since…”
I pressed send on that email and then copied and pasted the content to send them to five other editors, hoping one of them would finally respond to me. No sooner did I press send on the sixth email than the owner of the computer, Grace Nostana, came back from her lunch and caught me on her seat.
“What are you doing here? Please leave at once before I call your supervisor.”
I did as I was bid. I said a silent prayer of thanks that she didn’t react so violently and that I was able to send my emails.
I took the pail where I keep the tools of my trade and entered the first cubicle I have to clean today. With my brush in hand, I scrubbed a skid mark off this first toilet.
“You’re okay, Jane. At least you get to put your diligence to good use.”