Maria takes off her gloves and smells her hands, immersing herself her favourite fragrance. She then looks at the reflection in the mirror; the old lady with a permed white hair, with the reading glasses on top of the nose bridge that is unable to hide the wrinkles on her face.
Maria then washes her hands and dries them, then walks out of the public restroom that is freshly painted with her favourite colour, flashing the biggest smile on her face after sixty years.
Despite my old age, I am glad that I can continue my passion.
At Maria’s seventieth birthday, she put on an act.
Surrounded by young people, she instantly got the title of “Old Sister”. The title that let people came to her room for the sake of pursuing advice.
“Old Sister Maria, how do I get rid of my regret?” a newcomer asked with glossy eyes, desperately looking for an answer to dismiss guilt from her heart.
“Old Sister Maria, what should I do to be grateful for little things like you?” the women in her forties often asked.
“Old Sister Maria, how should I carry on with my life?” the youngest of the bunch asked as bullets of tear streams down her cheek.
Old age brought patience in her heart, so Maria answered all the queries from those young women. Maria felt joy when the young ladies honestly spoke their minds, but also pressured since every single word that she let out as the answer was monitored.
But truth to be told, Maria realized that giving advice was required for her to be set free. And she needed to be free to continue with her passion.
And so, she continued to put the kindest expression on her face, lent her ears, spoke beautiful words to the women who came to her.
At Maria’s sixtieth birthday, she was drowned in worries.
The joints on her knees were starting to hurt. During the morning sports session, she realized that she ran slower and slower each day. To the point that she got to be the last one finishing the run around the field when she used to be the first during her youth.
From thereon, Maria noticed other changes in her body.
The countless white hair that grew way too quick, took over the black in no time.
The wrinkles on her forehead and below her eyes, as well as the sagged skin that happened all over her arms.
The monthly bloody guest that no longer appeared, entirely rendered her ability to conceive and give birth. Not that she ever wanted to, though.
The eyes that started to become blurry, especially when she was reading.
The numbness of her ears, that she could not hear the youngsters’ question unless they speak loudly.
She thought to herself: Would this old body able to carry out the burning passion inside my heart?
And anxiety filled her heart, made her tear up every night to sleep.
At Maria’s fiftieth birthday, she succumbed to quietness.
Maria was put to work in the library. It was a completely different working environment from what she had previously. No one included her in the little talk while working, as no one else but her who was there.
She took some time to adjust herself to the tranquillity, a thing that she always hated when she was young. Because, from her understanding, the devil would always knock on her mind and gave the various ideas that haunted her whenever silence fell.
And the devil truly came when she worked in the library.
With all her might, she tried to fight the devil off from her minds by being immersed in the journey of the fictional world. The books helped her to escape from the devil’s whispers for a while, but the devil became louder than ever before, made it harder to resist.
Surrounded in silence, she put her book unto the shelves and gave up to the voice in her head that strengthened her youthful passion once again.
At Maria’s fortieth birthday, she distracted herself.
Those four people that Maria used to call friends made up a story and sent her to another building to live. Those ladies whom she had fun with were now separated; she heard the rumour that one of them was set free. Those women who used to spent time with her broke their pinky promises to be always together.
Angered with the fact that she had been left behind, paired up with her hate towards loneliness, Maria put all her mind and energy into work. She gladly accepts any job that came her way; be it manual labour in the field under the burning summer sun, cleaning dirty toilets, making pottery to be sold to the commercial market, even sewing clothes.
Through these works, she got to meet other workers, who chatted with her about trivial matters. And that was enough to keep the devil from entering her minds.
Through the busy working schedule, her body was too tired to listen to the devil’s suggestion when she laid herself in bed. And that was enough to keep her passion at bay, enough to keep her sane.
At Maria’s thirtieth birthday, she made friends.
When Maria arrived at the building, she immediately gathered a bunch of women around her age and spent most of her time with them. The group was to help her be distracted from the devil’s voice that kept reminding her of her passion but also to enjoy her youth to the fullest.
The group was of seven women, who often sat at the corner and enjoyed gossiping other residents of the building during lunchtime.
The group laughed as they bullied the newcomers. The group stripped the newbies off of their clothes and toyed around with them. None of the residents could fight their behaviour, not when the group was led by Maria.
The group moved further and smuggled cigarette for their use, which they obtained by selling their body to the men in uniform who guarded the building.
The group also shared complaints about the tight daily schedule made for them and discussed how can they ditch their work. And they did carry it out, laughed their ass off when they managed to sneak out.
The seven women promised to always be together, until one day Maria threw a suggestion.
“Let’s sneak out from the building.”
The suggestion that was opposed strongly by the group members, yet Maria pushed it off. The suggestion that led them to plan their step carefully. The suggestion that ended up killing three people and added ten years to Maria’s freedom.
At Maria’s twentieth birthday, she found her passion in life.
Maria was walking outside on one summer night, wandered around thinking about what she should do with her life when a guy suddenly pinned her to the bush. Filled with uncontrollable lust, the guy groped all over her.
Felt violated, a sound in her head told her to grab the small folded knife that her late father gave her.
And Maria followed the voice, who instructed her to stab the guy in the nape of his neck before he could do anything further.
Then, blood splatters filled the view with a shade of red that Maria had never seen. The prettiest red, easily her new favourite colour.
The guy screamed in pain as he retreated on his bum; a pleasant tone that Maria had never heard. In between the scream, the devil told her to reach out to the guy, to land another blow on his chest.
As she followed the devil, Maria uncovered a new smell that made her fell in love with instantly. The smell that made her hands to move faster than she had ever done.
When Maria noticed the last breath had left the guy in front of her, she smiled her biggest smile as she felt fulfilled. The feeling that answered her question about life. The feeling that was so great that Maria did not notice two men in uniform held up their handgun towards her, handcuffed her, brought her away from the area.
And that moment was where it all began. Where Maria realized her immoral passion. Where Maria started to hate loneliness. Where Maria started to resist the devil's temptation.
Where Maria’s life in prison began.