Thirteen

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Last Saturday, I met up with these people whom I collectively call “my high school friends”, but I’ve actually known some of them since I was 6. If there’s anything I’m happy about living in this suburb-type part of Metro Manila, it’s that when I was growing up, it really had this small-town feel to it, that everyone knew everyone and your classmates from first grade were still your classmates until your senior year of high school. We all don’t see each other often anymore, what with us being “grown ups” and all, but occasionally we still set aside some time to get together and play Super Mario.

Okay, we did many other things like eat spaghetti, sing songs as J and K played the guitar, gossip about our high school batchmates and mock our own successes/failures in life, but I would say that I’m proudest of the fact that we finished an entire game of Super Mario on my friend L’s Wii in one night. Or maybe that’s not a feat at all (for real gamers) but I’m happy about the experience anyway.

I always like seeing my high school friends because I think I really lucked out when it comes to the high school friends lottery. I met people in college and at work and they told me all sorts of horror stories about their high school experiences, so I’m relieved that during my high school, I just met the best people ever. I’m completely comfortable with my high school friends. They’ve never judged anyone based on his/her job, his/her romantic relationship/s, and everyone is really really funny. Like, really.

It’s difficult to put into words how I feel when I meet them, really. But I asked my friend J once about it and he used a Harry Potter quote to explain to me how he felt:

While you can still call home the place where your mother’s blood dwells, there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort. He shed her blood, but it lives on in you and her sister. Her blood became your refuge. You need return there only once a year, but as long as you can still call it home, there he cannot hurt you.

– Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

“We need to return to a place we call home so we’re not hurt by the harmful elements in this world. Even if it’s just once a year,” he explained. He said that our high school group, because within it we felt like we really belonged, was what he considered was his home, at least in terms of friendship.

I agree. Though I’ve met many great people after high school, that my high school friends are my oldest friends, every time I see them does give me the feeling of returning home.

 

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Note to Self:

Remember how in high school, the guy you liked didn’t like you back? That just a week after you shared that funny moment when he volunteered to come with you to the auditorium to take pictures of the quiz bee for the school paper and your Statistics teacher winked at you because she was sure there was puppy love between the two of you what with how you passed each other notes in class and copied each others’ homework.

Yeah, remember how only a week after all that, you saw him holding hands with a girl you’d never even seen him talk to before and yet he was suddenly proclaiming to the world that they were madly in love?

And that it didn’t even matter that everyone else, your Statistics teacher especially, raised their eyebrows and shook their heads and said that no, that wasn’t what was supposed to happen. He liked you. Everybody could see it. Why else would he have volunteered to help you with the school paper, right? And why else would he have said ‘sorry’ in front of the class and given you that candy bar when you got a low grade on that group report and it was all his fault?

Just remember all of that; how embarassing it was when you actually told your Statistics teacher that she got it all wrong. Remember how much it hurt when you heard they were going to the prom together, remember how you still had to see them holding hands and linking arms and sharing food in the canteen every single day after that week, and remember how they were still together even when you all went off to college and studied in different schools, which proved to you that they actually did fall in love and it wasn’t just a high school social status thing.

Remember all of that, especially how much it used to make you cry. Remember all those nights you skipped reading chapters of your books and got a low score on your quiz the next day.

Remember that. And then, remember that you got over it.

That when you think about it now, that when you look back on it now, you don’t even shed a tear. Remember that you don’t even know if they’re still together and that you never found out when they graduated or what their jobs are. Remember that if you somehow hear from friends or old classmates that they eventually got married and had several kids together, you can honestly say that you’re happy for them.

Remember that. And then, believe that if you could get over something like that once, if you could pull yourself together and make yourself feel better again after all of that once, then you can do it again.

And soon. Now, preferably.

I Heart LiaCom!

It’s the last day of February but alas, I have nothing romantic to say, nor did I compile a list of romantic stuff. I guess February of this year just isn’t as romantic as I thought. But Valentine’s Day is still my favorite holiday. Even if the highlight of Valentine’s Day this year for me was baking pulburon and wrapping them in red paper.

Anyway, I want to tell you all about how I ❤ LiaCom! 🙂

First: What is LiaCom?

In my high school, at the time when I was a high school student, the class sections of Junior and Senior High School students were divided into three. To be general, they were Math sections, Science sections, and LiaCom, short for Liberal Arts and Commerce. They say that if you’re not good in Math or Science, then you must be creative somehow, or entrepreneurial. But of course, we all know better. It means that the smart kids are in the Math and Science sections, and the rest are in LiaCom.

Second: What’s the point?

I’m just telling you because last Saturday my Senior Year section had a mini reunion (mini, on account of only 7 of us were there (there’s 46 of us in the class)). I’m not really close with those classmates of mine because the ones I was closest to in high school were my club-mates (i.e. the high school paper staff), but I know they didn’t hate me either. I mean, I was pretty invisible in class. But I did want to attend our mini reunion, just to see how everyone was doing.

So, I’ve been going on and on about how I’m unemployed, and some of you might think that it’s a bad idea for me to show myself to my former classmates because everyone always says that high school reunions are only for showing off how much better off you are than other people your age who basically had the same education as you. But, that’s where the part of my heart-ing LiaCom comes in.

You see, because we’re not a Math or Science section (where all the smart kids are), I guess people expect less from us. Which I guess can be a bad thing, but I think it’s actually pretty okay. Because it means that we have a higher chance of exceeding their expectations. Also, since nobody actually cares all that much about “succeeding” since we were pretty much underachievers in high school, our conversations are less about “what’s your job”, which I think is just a really impersonal topic to talk about, and more about, “how has growing up changed your outlook in life?”

Okay, I’m totally exaggerating. We totally talked about “careers” and who’s working abroad and who’s got a cool car and all that. But it really didn’t feel like anybody was judging anybody, or that anyone was jealous of other people’s successes. And I guess, because we really didn’t have any high expectations for anyone, so anything that anybody did was just neutral information. And so when we found out that four of us, out of the seven that were there, were all unemployed at the moment, it was just funny, and not at all embarrassing. 😆

Of course, this actually is a sad commentary on our economy and our graduates and the apathy and incompetence of our generation and all that, but… at the moment I just feel nice that my high school classmates aren’t a bunch of social climbers who only care about other people’s salaries.

I’m probably wrong but I think that people who were from the Math and Science sections care about that more. I mean, they were the ones who cared about having grades high enough to be included in the honor roll. I think we LiaCommers didn’t change one bit. We’re still easygoing and apathetic to numbers. Although my closest friends (i.e. the people I worked with at the high school paper) were all from the Math and Science sections, and I used to kind of feel bad about how everybody would assume that everyone in LiaCom were only in LiaCom because they were too dumb to get into the Math and Science sections, I’m real glad that I was put in LiaCom. It’s probably only with us that after 10 years of graduating from high school, there’s still not that much pressure to actually “be someone”.

Flashback #2

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.