The similarities of the mall food court and the school cafeteria end with a bunch of rectangular tables gathered in one area that’s surrounded by various food establishments. And yet, at that particular moment, I couldn’t tell the difference.
I had been so engrossed in my book and I don’t normally pay attention to other people in the mall (unless they look suspicious) so I didn’t notice right away the group of boys who sat a few tables away from me. But they were making so much noise I got distracted from reading and turned to look at their direction. There were maybe 7 of them (I didn’t actually count) and they were all laughing and telling jokes (I’m assuming, because I couldn’t really make out the words they were saying). But that’s not really why I took notice. I looked at them a little longer because one of them, looked almost exactly like E2*. Or, at least he looked like how I imagined E2 would look now. I don’t exactly know because I haven’t seen E2 in at least 5 years. Or maybe he didn’t look like E2 at all, and that he just reminded me of him because he had a group of friends around him, and that’s how I’m used to seeing E2. Either way, when I saw them, it felt like I was back at high school, back in the school cafeteria, back to watching him.
I remember how, even when none of us were hungry, I would insist that me and my friends go inside the cafeteria, because I knew that E2 and his friends would be there. I knew they’d be sitting at their usual table, and that they’d stay there until there was only 1 minute left of recess time.
“Why do you always sit at this part of the canteen?” a friend, who I don’t usually eat lunch with, asked me once.
“It’s strategic,” I said. “It’s close enough to E2′s usual table that I can always see him clearly, but far enough that he and his friends are unlikely to notice me looking.”
If there had been The Big Bang Theory back then, they’d probably have told me that I’m just as crazy as Sheldon. Especially if they found out that it wasn’t only in the canteen that I had a strategic spot to look at E2.
E2 and his friends had a specific hangout spot in the school grounds. It was the only other place they hung out at when they weren’t in class, except if they were eating in the cafeteria. So naturally, I found the perfect spot to look at them there, too. Or, more specifically, Fate found me a perfect spot.
Why do I think it’s Fate? Because I didn’t tell them to pick that spot as their tambayan, and yet there they were, conveniently located right in front of the school’s publication office, where I always hung out in because I worked for the school paper. I never bothered to count how many times I would take a break from proofreading an article by looking out the window to laugh at him and his friends goofing around.
I guess all this makes me sound creepy. But in my defense, I never eavesdropped on their conversations or bugged their stuff (not that I had the technology to). Besides, it was high school. And it’s not like he didn’t do the same.
Several times, I did catch his eyes favoring a certain direction. Towards the benches nearby. Towards one particular bench, actually. The bench where R and her friends hung out.
So you see, E2 and I were basically the same. I would always be looking at him, a person who didn’t know I existed. And he would always be looking at her, a person who didn’t know he existed.
Oh come on. Don’t tell me you thought this would actually have a happy ending?
*E2 – this is obviously a codename. I couldn’t just use E though because people might think that I’m referring to the person I usually use E to refer to. Nope, this isn’t him. This is a different E.