For four years in high school I never saw him more than a goon-looking (better description: Erap look-alike) boy. He was a chubby fella with thick puberty mustache on a snowy white face. He wasn’t tall but his features would comprise a typical bully creature. He would actually make a good cast on a pre-teen Nickelodeon show as, well, a campus bully.
I heard he was a good sketcher. He passed the meticulous screening as one of our student paper’s artists. I would often get his surname wrong, but I wouldn’t careless, he was practically nothing to me. He was not a classmate or a friend, just one of the other ‘Feedback’ members whom I never bothered to speak to just because. Up to this day, I am not certain if he ever rendered a single drawing for one of my mushy poems in that high school paper. I would love to see even just one now.
Fast forward to university life, I saw him getting lost under nicotine’s spell just outside Thomasian walls. He was alone, but he was sporting a grin perfect for an action star’s nemesis. He looked pretty much the same: just a few inches taller than me, fair-skinned, spiked hair revealing his forehead, etcetera, and etcetera. Only that he was carrying a cigarette in his hand and was wearing a UST Engineering uniform this time. I don’t know why it felt like I had high blood when I saw him again. Probably it was the cigarette, the ever-thick mustache, or the devilish layout of his face. Poor kid, he never wronged me but his very existence flushed angry blood in my veins.
I would get on the same jeepney with him from time to time, to and fro school. But as expected, I never uttered a greeting or paid an eye-to-eye contact. I always acted like a total stranger, a snobbish bitch. My deliberate avoidance and selective allergy to this man went on until my senior year in UST. But my superiority complex became tiresome, and one fateful night, for only God knows why, I found myself chatting with him online (I think I have to mention that I was once again part of the student newspaper and treated every college acquaintance a possible source of an insider scoop?).
I have to admit that I enjoyed our very first conversation (without malice on my part) despite knowing each others’ faces and names for seven long years. Weeks passed by and the getting-to-know stage was smooth, and this was again, despite the fact that I rejected our common friend’s matchmaking attempts a year ago. The after-class dinners with him became my most-awaited portions of the day. Whenever the clock strikes six, I would automatically hope to receive a text message doubling as an invitation for dinner and star-gazing in Lovers’ Lane. He never failed. Well, only once. I remember an instance when he called to check up on me and I learned that he was on his way home from a group meeting. Upon hearing my sad voice (which I of course tried to conceal!), he hurried back to UST, waited for my three-hour class alone in a bench in front of the Arts and Letters building (like he would always do), and took me home.
All courtships reach a deadline. There’s the inevitable judgment day for the other party to accomplish. I knew then that mine was near – it’s either a yes or a no from me or an act of surrender by him. My whole being wanted to say yes, except for my brain. Part of me still wanted to remain skeptic. I asked for a foolproof sign from the Guy from above. I figured that if the go signal would come from Him, I’ll be going to hell for entertaining second thoughts. I said “YOU have to tell me. Yes, YOU.” But He wasn’t crazy enough to appear in front of me or tell me what I wanted to hear in a dream that I usually forget. The morning I was dying to say yes, but have not told anyone yet, I got a surprising message from my best friend at 7am. Her words were something like “If he makes you happy, go and be with him”.
At around 3pm, I walked through the campus with him until I found the perfect spot where I could hand him my apology letter. It was our usual place in UST where we share stories and star-gaze at night. Yes, it was in Lovers’ Lane. How literal could it be?
The letter said sorry for a lot of things: the overwhelmingly long waiting hours he endured every day just to have a 30-minute jeepney ride back to Tondo with me, the calls and texts I failed to get back to, the thesis I have to prioritize, the occasional snob stares I gave, and the list went on and on. But basically, it said one thing. It said sorry that it took me a while to give him the yes he already deserved since day one.
After reading the letter, his wide excited eyes turned to me and said “Are we—?“ I smiled. And then he asked “Can I hold your hand?” I laughed.
That scene was 35 months ago. Today, we laugh even harder together, share more and more stories, stare and smile at each other for no particular reason, and watch the sky for new shooting stars (UFOs included).