The X-Ray Tech’s Love Story

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We began speaking Filipino when we learned we were both from the Philippines. I had gone to him for x-rays ordered by my primary care physician, who heard a murmur in my chest while listening with his stethoscope.

The technician’s name was Andy, a graduate of De La Salle in Manila. My training as a Freshman Comp instructor got the better of me, and I began to draw him out. Why did you choose La Salle, not U.P. or Ateneo? My uncle was Dean of Liberal Arts. What was your major? Law. How did you land a job as a technician here at Kaiser Hospital in Long Beach, California?

Andy had light brown skin, his Malayan blood mixed with Chinese, and a head of black hair touched with gray. He was in his late forties; I guessed, about the same age as mine.

He said, “I graduated with a law degree but had not taken the bar exam. My girlfriend Salud, a nurse, was accepted at St. Mary’s Hospital in Long Beach, and I married her…an opportunity to come to the States.”

To reciprocate Andy’s candor, I had to share something personal about myself. “My case was the reverse of yours,” I said. “I married a Peace Corps volunteer, Sophia, who was assigned in my hometown. She’s Italian-American.”

“Molto bene,” Andy said, laughing. “I bet you left someone behind with a broken heart.”

This chastened me, as the sad eyes of Kristina floated in my mind, when she learned I was leaving with Sophia; we were both highschool teachers. I guess when you go away you also leave your own broken heart behind. I said, “You were lucky, Andy, marrying your girlfriend.”

“When you think about it, not really. I left a potential law practice behind and started working as a tech. I was hoping to go to night school, study American jurisprudence. It didn’t work, I was too tired, and I became a father of two boys.”

“Well, we make sacrifices when we leave our country to make a life abroad. Sociologists call it diaspora.”

“Are you a sociologist?”

“No, I’m an English instructor at city college. By the way, I’m Arturo.”

We shook hands. Andy said, “I’ll call you Arthur, after the King of the Knights of the Round Table.”

“I like that name, Americanized.”

“Did you watch the Coronation of King Charles III?” asked Andy.

“No, I didn’t catch it.”

“Then you missed the Filipino church choir based in Basingstoke that performed on the day of the coronation in Windsor Castle.”

“Really? I’ll find it on YouTube.”

“You probably can. My wife Salud and I are also members of the church choir in Carson. We were proud to see the Filipino choir in the United Kingdom perform.”

I felt a warm feeling when Andy told me the news, but it was more for the country I left behind. I accept the journalistic label Overseas Filipino Worker. The OFWs have been praised for their dollar remittances that help keep the Philippine economy afloat. I have a cousin in Philadelphia who educated her two boys, the older in medicine and the younger in business. The sad thing is that the husband she left behind had fathered a child by another woman.

I often think of OFWs as swimmers, some drowning at sea, most landing on foreign shores to live and remember a hometown that’s slowly fading away.

“Which church do you go to, Arthur?”

“I used to attend the chapel at the Veterans Hospital in Long Beach. The chaplain is Filipino. But when Covid broke out, I started going to St. Joseph’s Church, afraid I might get sick at the hospital full of vets on wheelchairs and gurneys attending Mass. Getting sick makes you more susceptible to Covid.”

“That was wise.”

“I haven’t returned to the Vets hospital since. St. Joseph has a “Mass on the Grass” at 8:30 in the morning on Sundays, when the weather is fine.”

“Does your family go to Mass with you?”

“No. Sophia says she is a lapsed Italian Catholic, and my daughter is an agnostic.”

Andy and I became friends. I had to see him for two more x-ray appointments; my doctor suspected fibroids in my lungs. Thank God, I didn’t smoke. I did have asthma when I was a kid, and the fibroid is treatable. 

Andy had lunch dates with me at a Manila Lechon restaurant. One day he told me a touching story, not so much, I think, to get it out of his mind but to ask for my advice. “I wanted to give a girl a bouquet of red roses as a gift on her sixteenth birthday. Her name was Minda, a Spanish mestiza, who came from a rich family. Her father greeted me at the door. Upon learning the reason for my call, he said, ‘Minda can’t see you. Why don’t you return where you bought those flowers, and ask for a refund. Your mother can use the money.”

I could not believe it.

“I never felt so terrible. I dumped the roses in a trash can. That was long ago. I have raised a family, two boys, but each time I think of Minda, I groan.”

I touched Andy’s shoulder in a futile attempt to comfort him. How well I know the feelings that come with painful memories. I tell students in my writing class that feelings are chaotic, but you control them by finding words to describe them. This has a calming effect, and you need to be calm in order to write.

Andy continued. “A few months ago, I got a phone call from Minda.”


“She had traced me from a dialysis facility where she worked.”

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Illustration by Jimbo Albano

“You became curious about each other, I figure.”

Andy nodded, an impish grin on his face. “Minda had married a pharmacist and given up trying to pass the California medical exam after three tries. She was my first love…I’ve never really forgotten her. I just can’t imagine her administering treatment of patients hooked to a dialysis machine.”

“She could take an exam certifying her as a physician assistant. She can have the P.A. label on her name tag, distinguishing her from the RNs and LVNs.”

I could sense that Andy wanted me to tell him what to do. I thought, what if it were me who was cheating and Sophia found out? She’d most certainly kick me out of the house.

I had a strong suspicion that Minda had become Andy’s querida, Filipino term for mistress a common setup in the Philippines where divorce as a rule is not legal. But this is America and it is an easy recourse for his wife Salud or the pharmacist to take, if they found out about the affair.

At my father’s funeral, I recall, the family of his querida, four boys and two girls, sat in the left aisle facing the altar. My mother with her three boys and three daughters were in the right aisle. It was like a wedding arrangement. After the funeral, the families reconciled as half-brothers and half-sisters, and went their separate ways.

In my next writing class, I presented Andy’s love story as a topic. The responses from the students varied: Some jeered, others cheered, called it romantic; they should divorce their present spouses and relive their first love. The more pragmatic response was that it was puppy love then, starry-eyed, now it’s just tawdry…adultery, pure and simple. For the children’s sake and their spouses, the cheating couple should end the affair. Divorce IS expensive, for Christ’s sake.

The last time I saw Andy, he said he wouldn’t see Minda again. I didn’t pry. Was it because of family love, divorce expenses or a clean conscience when he attended Mass and sang in the church choir?

“I did send Minda a dozen red roses on her fortieth birthday,” Andy said.


Paulino Lim, Jr.
Paulino Lim, Jr.
Paulino Lim, Jr., is Emeritus Professor of English at the California State University, Long Beach. He had published several novels and full three-act plays. His latest work is Spots of Time: Memoir of a Mind (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2018).


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