By: Joan Paula S. Quinabo [written12-7-01
(This is a true story about me and my friends back when I still go to High School. What we’ve been through during that one night in the church was something that I want to remember always…It’s a moment that only lasted for about 18 hours, but every minute of it tells me a different story. Many people are involved in here…I can no further make it long, for I don’t really remember everything…I just focused on the things that happened that night that I think would really matter the most…Like the fact that friendship lasts…and no matter what, we can never hide from the truth. The next days that followed after that one night go on in here…and the story ends in a message for him…)
The blinking never stopped… But it’s not like I’m going to cry. My eyes hurt, but crying is not the only reason why they do…
I can’t stop thinking about this guy from school… I don’t even know why I like him so much. Whenever I think about him, I see his face in other people’s heads. As if he was really there… There’s something about him that makes me stay awake all night, and lie in the darkness like there’s no tomorrow. I speak of him like I knew him pretty well, but my own judgements can deceive me… Maybe I was in love.
Maybe that’s why I’m panicking whenever I run into him in the halls everyday…
Maybe that’s why I have nothing to say whenever he turns my way like he wants to talk. Maybe…
I need to be awake.
My emotions are as disorganised as my room. Knowing me, there’s really nothing there when you first look. But when you look close enough through the loops, you’ll see my world… The kind of world I live in which I pretty much like to hide. Still, everybody will always be welcome…
I’m just a girl. And I make mistakes…
Sometimes, I make mistakes but when you look at it, it doesn’t really seem like a mistake at all…
Maybe just a misunderstanding. Like what I’m in right now.
It all started in that one night… When I think about this one guy from school, and my mind levitates because he’s a crime I can’t solve.
It was a lonely night, and I don’t know where to go. My instinct tells me I should just go with the night’s flow and be with someone… And that’s what I exactly did. I didn’t really think about the consequences. But obviously it’s not what I’ve expected… Not at all…
Because by that time, I didn’t really know I would fall in love for sure… especially with my friend…
October 5, 2001
“Hey wake up!” a male voice whispered in my ear.
I, Joan Quinabo, cracked an eye open, and saw Jeffrey Ruivivar’s kind eyes staring back at mine. I closed my eye again and yawned. Lifting my wrist, I sighed. “It’s almost time to go home, what’s your problem?” I asked, stretching my arms over my head as I blinked a couple of times to clear my vision. Jeff stood up and grinned. I couldn’t help but wonder how long he’d been there by my side while I napped…I slept all through Trigonometry, and since it’s a Friday, we’ll be having an extra period next, which is RHGP or Homeroom in other schools…
We’re studying in SISRA Meycauayan, Bulacan.
I don’t get much sleep at night at home ‘because I never get comfortable, but in school it’s pretty much a hobby since we barely do anything.
Lifting my head, I realized my Trigonometry teacher has already left. Ms. German, our new adviser stood at the front of the room and was already halfway through a copy of a waiver she was writing on the blackboard.
That’s when I remembered the trip to the DivineMercyChurchin Marilao where we’re supposed to have a Recollection for tomorrow.
Smiling a little, I dug out my notebook out of my bag and started hunting down my pen.
“Can you write me a copy of one of those waivers? I need to show them to my parents.” Jeff was saying as I started to write.
I nodded without thinking, trying hard not to laugh at the wrong grammars written on the board. Jeff turned to talk to someone else as I finished quickly, thinking about Inderjeet Pabla. He’s fromIndia.
I’ve been having a major crush on him ever since we first met… My Social Studies teacher, Mr. Cudia, introduced me to him and I have to run for it before he got the chance to say anything because I was so embarrassed.
He was staring at me like he likes me already, and I didn’t have the guts to stay and make conversation because I got so tongue-tied. He was really good-looking, for a Hindu that is… A lot of people from school keeps telling me we actually look alike and that we’ll look great together. But I don’t really think he’d be suited with someone like me… You can say I don’t have much faith in myself, for I’ve been falling in and out of love four times already in all my fifteen years. In other words, I no longer trust myself when it comes to the opposite sex. That’s why I never get to talk to him again since the last time we run into each other…And he didn’t even say much but yes and thanks…
I couldn’t help it though… I want to try and talk to him again. Maybe make friends? After all, he’s new at school… He barely understands everybody ‘because it’s a different culture. It wouldn’t be so bad if I try to make him feel like he’ll fit in… But what if I just make a fool out of myself in front of him? I don’t want to look like I’m trying to flirt with him or something. What if I look at him and he’ll see in my eyes how much I really like him? Like the crush-infected idiot that I was?
Shaking my head, I grabbed a copy of the letter I’ve written carefully for Jeff and stood up to ask permission to go to the Molecule’s room. In our school different batches have different sections. I’m a junior in High School, and my class is the Atom. Jeff’s not really my classmate… He’s a Molecule, but everybody’s welcome to come to class as long as they’re not there to tear the place apart. And while I was half-daydreaming about Inderjeet, half writing the copy, I’ve realized he’d left the room and maybe went back to his own. It wasn’t that far though…just one room away…
I walked down the hall and immediately spotted my other friend, Ian Basilan, standing by the door of their classroom, probably waiting for the stupid bell to ring. He’s in Jeff’s class and even if he just broke up with one of my girlfriends, we’re still great friends… Sometimes, you have to listen to both sides so you’ll understand where to stand, because it’s pretty hard to get along with two people while they were fighting.
Especially if they were both your friends… Right now we’re all okay though.
And there’s really nothing much to expect but the change.
Ian spotted me almost at the same time I spotted him, and he smiled.
“Hello…where’s Jeff?” I smiled back, trying to look past him in their room. The class was making a lot of noise as usual, and I couldn’t see a teacher anywhere.
Ian followed my gaze around the room and started yelling Jeff’s name. A second later he came out of nowhere and gave me a questioning look.
Shrugging a little, I handed him the letter. “I’m sorry about the small penmanship. I’ll see you tomorrow then…” I said automatically, giving him a small wave as I turned to walk back to our room.
“Hey!” he called back over my shoulder.
I turned my head without stopping. “Hmmm?”
“Thanks…” he grinned, lifting the piece of paper. I nodded and turned back toward my class and started packing my stuff. Soon I’m going to see Inderjeet again…Every time the bell rings I know where to find him. Since Sir Cudia is tutoring him, they always stay at my old classroom when I was in freshman high school. The one you can’t miss when you walk through the only entrance and exit of the school… Only one door down to the Principal’s Office.
But every time I see him I never really got to talk… What the heck am I supposed to say in the first place anyway?
“Mama? Do you want to go with me? I’ll be packing for tomorrow…” I said excitedly to my friend, K2 Acosta. My friends and I call every single girlfriend our mama… I don’t exactly remember how it started, but we kind of got used to it.
K2frowned at me. “You knew I can’t come. I don’t even have enough money for fare.”
“Geez! I forgot! Wanna borrow mine?” I said. She nodded and I handed her ten bucks. She and the others followed me out the room as the distant bell rang in our ears.
“But you’ll come tomorrow won’t you? What are you planning to wear anyways?”
K2nodded again. “Anything blue will do.”
“Ookay…” I sighed as we went down the stairs…
Here goes! Am I going to see him? Will I look at him?
I couldn’t help but calm myself a little as I gave my friend Divine Malapote a hand on her wheelchair. I saw him already even before we got all the way down the stairs… Almost immediately my nerves started dancing.
I wonder why I get so melodramatic around guys I like…
“Thanks! Gosh I might have a load of chores when I get home again. Do you think they loaded the sink again? I’ve already done our project in chemistry by the way.” Divine went on and on as I tried to focus myself on something else. It’s a good thing she talks a lot… I could find myself a little distraction. Maybe tomorrow at the Recollection I could hang with her so it’ll help me forget Inderjeet even for just a little while…
That’s when I remembered she wasn’t allowed to go because she’s in a wheelchair.
“This sucks. I wish you can go with me tomorrow.” I said without thinking, my face falling.
Divine looked at me. “Yeah, me too. But you don’t have to worry. You’ll be able to find the right distraction when you know where to find it tomorrow.” she teased.
Something about what she said threw me though… But I just laughed like there’s really something there to laugh about… I never really thought about what she really meant. When I found out though, it was too late…
* * *
At home in Pineville, Lawa, my sister and I were gathering my stuff by the garage the next day.
“What time is it?” I asked that afternoon as I prepared my stuff. My sister shrugged and nodded at my wristwatch. I laughed and grabbed my pack.
“Where are you going? Are you planning on climbing a mountain? What are all these stuff for?” she asked sceptically, prodding my mini-suitcase w/ my entire extra clothes and underwear.
“Um, my clothes?” I said nonchalantly. I really don’t get her point. I’ll be gone for one night and I’m pretty sure my packing would be enough for three days.
She knew I always pack like that.
Grabbing the suitcase, she pulled a couple of shirts and underwear away from it before taking the whole stuff and stuffing them in my paper bag.
“Okay, okay…I get it.” I sighed, grabbing the empty suitcase and extra clothes and dragging them back inside the house. I have to remember fetching two of my classmates in Daungan before going straight to school that afternoon…we agreed in going together.
Remembering Wheezy, my stuffed animal, I grabbed him and stuffed him over all my clothes on the paper bag.
My sister rolled her eyes before following me out the sun as I raised an arm to flag down a tricycle.
A couple of minutes later we were walking down a narrow street towards my friends’ houses. I felt a little weird with all the bags around my feet…
I’m glad my sister decided to go with me.
“I can’t believe you’re bringing all of these…” she kept saying irritably as she carried my backpack. I gave her a look and started knocking at Genaida Evangelista’s screen door.
“Gen?” I asked when I glimpsed a uniformed figure sitting a couple of feet away from the door.
Gen stood up and opened the door for me. A smile spread on her kind face when she saw my sister and me.
“Hey! How are you? You’re here already! My mom’s still cooking my dinner. Would you like to wait outside or come in and get something to drink while waiting? ” she said, raising her eyebrows.
Remembering Agie Sison, my other friend, I smiled at Gen and asked if she’d seen her.
“I think her parents left earlier. But she’s definitely there with her siblings. Was she really allowed to go??”
I bit my lip. “I’m not sure. I wasn’t there during that day when she asked for permission to go. Can I go see her?” I said, shifting my bags. Gen nodded okay and I turned to my sister. “See you later!” I nodded briefly before turning in the direction of Agie’s house on the next corner.
“Hurry, will you?” my sister shouted after me. I rolled my eyes.
I imagined Inderjeet laughing at this kind of situation… He’s got a very exotic smile. Yesterday he was looking at me expectantly as if he wants to say hi…and again I’ve got to run for it. I have to avoid his eyes as I walked past him because I’ve no idea what to say…
I know he understands Tagalog, but not that well.
I nearly walked past Agie’s house when I got there. Immediately the noise distracted me.
They’re playing the play station.
“Hello Agie!” I called, sticking my head through the tiny gate. Their open door showed her sitting cross-legged on the floor with her brothers and sisters.
Agie turned and stood up when she saw me. She looked like she just crawled out of bed with a mighty fight with the covers…
“You don’t look…”
“My mom’s not here yet. She left. I’m only allowed to leave once she gets back.”
“…ready.” I finished slowly, goggling at her.
“I haven’t even taken a bath yet…” she laughed. “What if I just don’t go with you?”
I frowned. “No way! You’re going! Even if it means I have to be the one to pay for your food I will, as long as you’re going!”
How am I supposed to distract myself without her? We’re going to have a recollection and I can’t imagine my closest friend not being there.
Agie blinked. “Ok. I’ll try. You go ahead first. I’ll just catch up with you guys as soon as my mom arrives.” She said.
I smiled. “I’ll wait for you in front of the lugawan okay?” I said, indicating the front of the school’s campus. The San Isidro San Roque Academy front lugawan.
“If I don’t arrive on time, it means I’m not coming at all alright mama?”
I nodded. “Ok. I’ll see you later. I gotta get going.”
My sister was scowling when I got back at her side outside Gen’s house.
“Gosh, don’t tell me she’s not coming.” She muttered when I got close. I scowled back at her at the sight of all my bags lying on the ground.
Bending over, I hauled them by the counter at the front of Gen’s house.
“What’s your problem? You’re wasting all your excess body fats!” I complained, ignoring her comment.
She scowled then turned, as if to walk away. I sighed, leaning against the wooden wall. Later we were inside Gen’s house, waiting while she packed her food. I was wondering whether Agie could make it or not. I thought about my own food and wondered if I could eat it all on my own…
When we’re out the streets again we piled our stuff on a tricycle and I climbed at the back of the driver’s motorcycle.
We were breezing towards school when I remembered Apple Miramontes, my classmate and friend. She hasn’t talked to me yet. And I don’t even understand the real reason why. She just quit talking to me one day…
She’s the first one I’ve noticed when we arrive in front of the school campus though. The Lugawan.
She caught my eye, but I looked away immediately as I went down to gather my stuff. We settled on their table and everyone reacted all at once when they saw us.
Caroline Padua, my classmate, pointed out Wheezy and I said I might need a pillow.
I was laughing when I turned and caught Apple smiling back at me.
“You brought a lot of food didn’t you?” she asked softly.
“Yeah…” I replied, shocked. But it didn’t last long. It didn’t seem to matter… Later we were talking like nothing ever happened.
My sister was getting bored because we were all more than late and still the jeep’s not there to take us to Marilao yet.
I turned my back on the table and let my eyes wander across the street when Jeff appeared with my classmate Brian Balagtas right behind him. They came from the direction of the road out the highway and were both carrying their own packs.
That’s when I’ve noticed that I carry the most luggages among all of us.
Grinning, I nodded my head in his direction and Jeff grinned back. I was just about to wave when my sister asked me who he is, and then my teacher came.
Ms. Leony German beckoned us to come to her and everybody stood.
She gave us instructions then while waiting, I introduced her to my sister. Later I was introducing everybody. Including Jeff…
That’s when Agie came…
I didn’t notice my sister talking to Jeff about anything, because Agie caught my attention and I ran straight towards her. We were jumping around and laughing about her hurried packing with her underwear on top of all her stuff that I didn’t even realized my sister was having a deal with my friend, Jeff.
It was weeks after that faithful night when I found out what she’d said…
“Take care of my sister okay? Don’t turn your back on her…”
* * *
The jeepney arrived about half an hour later, and already only half of us could fit in. I was dragging my bags when my sister bid us goodbye when all the girls started boarding it. My backpack straps were already digging into my shoulders and I cringed.
Taking a deep breath, I heaved the other bag with my clothing by the first step and looked up when a pair of dark arms reached out to take it from me.
It was Jeff.
“Hello Joan. Sit beside me!” he invited, smiling gently. There’s something about his smile that I couldn’t quite point out… Before I knew it I was sitting right beside him and our legs touched. He felt so warm right beside me, and all the girls across the seat were staring…
He gave me that mysterious smile again, and I smiled back.
I was just wondering what am I supposed to say next when Raizza Rubio, one of my classmates, asked if she could swap seats with me because she wanted to sit right next to Tracy Santos, her old boyfriend who was on my other side. I was agreeing before I even realized what I was doing. It was almost like I was not myself.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jeff’s face darkened and he turned his face at the doorway of the jeep.
He doesn’t seem to like Raizza a lot, but I barely paid attention.
When we started moving, I ripped my bag open right next to Agie and pulled out two bags of chips. We wolfed it down, passing the bags around.
Slowly, the sky turned black and we exchanged various topics. Jeff and I talked across each other anyway and exchanged jokes. I was wondering how far we’ve been when the jeepney pulled over a huge old-looking church.
Jeff insisted on carrying my backpack for me when we piled out of the jeep…
I was awed at what I saw, and we all looked up to stare at the big building. I’d forgotten all about Jeff having my other bag as Agie and I walked around the building to find that the floor on its sides swooped straight downwards towards a bigger backyard in which another altar was made and a mass was taking place.
We felt like total aliens as we walked by, clad in SISRA uniforms with bags and funny looks on our faces. People all around us turned to look…
It was nearly full and we ended up taking the seats by the benches at the far side, right in front of a small chapel where the candles stood, flaming in the darkness and casting shadows about.
Fixing our stuff, the others started grabbing for some clothes to change in and immediately looked for the bathrooms.
I got sort of annoyed whenK2went for my headphones and ran off with them. Drinking some water, I handed it to Agie and tried to pay attention to the mass.
When I looked up, Jeff’s dark form was right in front of me and I saw my backpack on the seat right beside him. I didn’t bother to say anything until the mass was over because our teacher’s already glaring at us.
When it did, Jeff was the first one to talk though. He asked me if I have some water.
I have a big bottle with me, but by the time he asked it’s already way past half full.
He drank most of it and offered to refill it, disappearing in the dark.
Agie and I went to change in the girls’ bathroom later. It was right behind an eatery, and we have to walk up a steep road back to our stuff because it swooped right down to another level of ground. Beyond it was a gate with bob wires on top that would lead to another patch of earth going down towards a huge yard with monuments that leads to a circle. The mysteries of the rosary… So the church was a total of about three ground floors.
I was brushing my hair in a ponytail when Jeff appeared on my elbow and handed me my refilled water bottle. We exchanged that funny smile again, and he helped us gather our stuff as we looked for a better place to wait for whatever it is we were sent there to look for anyway…
That’s when I saw the tiny museum.
“Oy! What’s that?” I said without thinking, pointing out the light coming from the tiny room right beside another building, which we suspected was where the nuns sleep.
Jeff and I stood to check it out and were amazed at what we saw.
It was an artwork of some kind. A miniatureJerusalem…when Jesus was born. It had the big star at the very top that was supposed to be the sky.
“Would you look at that pig…and all those miniature humans…” I murmured, half to myself.
Jeff nodded, pressing his nose against the glass. There were cottons filled with dust that was scattered all around the box like clouds…
And inside the tiny houses were little lit bulbs that really looked like fire burning in fireplaces.
It was an amazing thing…we were enchanted by how it was made to last like that and still work.
People kept coming in and out to check it out, but none of them managed to bother Jeff and me as we started to talk later…
We were only cracking jokes about the tiny miniature animals when later, he suddenly turned to face me when we’re alone, looking me in the eye. His next question slightly startled me. And I wasn’t able to meet his eyes for a while.
“Joan, do you know anyone who likes me?” he said casually, as if he’s asking a sister.
I was surprised. I didn’t expect him to be so easy about it. Like he just asked me if there’s dirt on his face.
I didn’t have any idea what to say, so I just shrugged and joked that if he’s that desperate I might end up asking the girls in his class just in case.
We were laughing again later, standing so close side by side when Reinier Marasigan, his classmate, came in and squeezed himself right between us like a wall, pointing at the miniature pig by one of the fires.
I was barely paying attention on what he was saying when Jeff suddenly appeared on my other side and touched his arm with mine.
We looked at each other warmly and were talking again later when I noticed Reinier looking curious, so I turned away.
He left later and we followed. It was when I saw Agie and the others walking by that I realized something…
All the while that I was with Jeff, I didn’t even remember a thing about Inderjeet.
And that hasn’t happened at all for over a month already since we met.
* * *
“Guys? Do you want us to check out those statues by the backyard?” Agie asked us later while Jeff and I passed around my water bottle. Everyone’s thirsty and tired for various reasons…
I smiled and suddenly a group of about ten of us were already walking towards the path that swoops downward towards the huge yard.
It was already so dark that I could barely see, and every now and then I stumble on a rock or an uneven patch of soil on the ground.
I was inspecting a nearby statue of Jesus kneeling against a rock when I turned to find the others, and nearly run over Jeff. He grinned and his teeth flashed in the darkness like his eyes. I felt him take my hand in his own and he pulled me closer towards him.
“Over here! Look at this.” He said, pointing at another nearby statue of Jesus. Suddenly one of my classmates, Michael dela Cruz, passed by and snickered, eyeing our hands. He bent low then started banging his head on it.
“Hey what are you guys doing huh?” he hollered, raising an eyebrow in our direction.
The others turned to look in our direction and suddenly the air was filled with hoots and whistles.
I was embarrassed. So I let go. Jeff turned away and started walking ahead of me instead, so I walked with Cydney Lapidez, my gay friend who is Jeff’s classmate. It was a long walk back and my legs got tired, so I sat down for a while. Agie was telling me something about the night when I remembered my walkman and wondered where on earth it was.
“Who sawK2?” I muttered, looking around and craning my neck. But she wasn’t anywhere near.
Suddenly we were told that the Vigil’s about to start and we should get inside the ground church. Walking up the slopes, Jeff offered to carry my bag for me again and we walked the way together, smiling and cracking jokes again at each other.
The church was a lot prettier inside than outside on the first floor. We immediately found seats and settled down for a while. Our teachers glared at us when they saw us…
We were at the very front.
“Geez. I’m starving. Aren’t we allowed to eat yet?” I suddenly blurted out. Jeff laughed.
“I didn’t bring anything with me. Did you?”
I gave him a sideways smile and nodded towards my bag that he’s been carrying all along.
“It’s all in there.”
Jeff stood and grabbed it. “Come on let’s go downstairs to that canteen behind the bathrooms.”
Forgetting sharing my food with someone else, I followed him down the aisle. Everyone kept staring and I couldn’t help keeping pace as we took the long walk again down the long slope. When we got there though we were surprised to find several friends already having a feast.
We took the table right next to them and started unpacking my stuff.
I’ve got cookies and chocolate milk with me. It’s not much but already sort of heavy for the stomach.
We were munching away as I stared at frogs that sat around the tables. The people from the other table were cheering on us and we couldn’t help flushing all over again, not meeting each other’s eyes.
I was swallowing down a lump on my throat when Jeff suddenly barfed.
“There are loads of frogs, look. They look a bit like Kokak.” He laughed, and I nodded, indicating Sir Luis Naungayan, our fired adviser.
Looking back at Jeff, suddenly I was transfixed.
“What are you gazing at?” he asked tentatively, leaning a bit closer. I sighed.
I really wasn’t thinking about anything.
Suddenly I was telling him a story about this day back when I was about eight years old and we visited my relatives back in Tarlac…Me running into frogs. And later ate delicious lunch until my uncle told me it was one of them.
Jeff laughed again. “I didn’t know that your province is Tarlac. Me too!”
“Really?” I grinned, taking a swig on my milk bottle.
“Yep. There were times that I used to ride at the back of carabaos there as a kid…where in Tarlac does your folks used to stay?”
“In Camiling…We have trees there growing mangoes and papayas!” I said.
Later we were laughing again about his usually riding at the back of a carabao when he was younger that we didn’t notice the others leaving us… It was long before we realized we were the only ones there left.
Until the lights went out.
I gasped. “What the heck!”
Suddenly there was scrambling and two voices argued in the dark.
The lights turned back on and we caught a glimpse of a woman arguing with her husband about the light turning off.
It turns out later that the guy thought there’s nobody there left and ended up turning the lights off until his wife told him about us.
Feeling stupid, Jeff and I grabbed our stuff and started walking the way back up to the church, finishing our drinks on the way. We walked much faster and with much strength that we got there on time.
People stared as we walked past, and I looked up in time to catch Richard Dulalia’s eye as he asked me if Jeff’s my boyfriend already, and I immediately shook my head no.
“I think we’re here for other reasons…” Jeff whispered as we went to get our stuff from our seats to transfer somewhere near the back instead. And indeed he was right. This was no recollection at all…
I sat byK2for a while when I saw her screwed up face. She talked about her argument with her best friend, Ian. It turns out that she’s in love with him and he’s in love with Apple. I was barely listening, for I was looking for Jeff again suddenly. I reassured her a little then turned to look where he went and found him sitting not a couple of seats away with a small miniature chessboard on his lap at the back of the church… I’d forgotten all about my walkman.
Without thinking, I stood up and slowly walked toward him. Jeff looked up and cracked me a smile, then scooted over to give me space on his side.
I sat down and we arranged the pieces as we started a game of chess.
But I was just about to move a pawn when one of our teachers scolded us and we have to put it away.
“I think there will be singing…”
“Probably…” I murmured, letting my eyes wander.
Jeff turned to look at me. “And dancing…”
As if on cue, one of the church staff went to the very front of the altar and put a huge stereo on the socket by the wall, then walked towards a podium to put up some lyrics to a song.
Jeff sighed by my side, and as I turned to look at him I realized suddenly that he was holding my hand again.
He stared at my arm. “Your rosary is very pretty. Can I borrow it?” he asked, raising my wrist. I nodded and took it off, handing it to him. Jeff wore it then he looked at me.
Jeff sighed again. “Will you…?”
But he wasn’t able to finish whatever it is he was trying to tell me… The speaker came onstage and talked and everyone stood.
Jeff let go of my hand and obediently, grabbed the papers by the aisle and said a silent prayer for the night. People all around us bowed their heads and prayed, not even paying much attention as a band took their time setting up their instruments by the altar.
Later there was singing…
Everyone was clapping and cheering as Jeff grabbed me gently by the arm and twisted me around.
When I caught his eye, I could barely hear his question over the noise of the music…but I understood clearly…
“…dance with me?” he laughed, pulling me toward him.
I couldn’t help it…
I laughed too.
The night was not so young… It was that night when I found God without even knowing it.
…It was bliss.
* * *
It was later when Apple joined us and we went down the base floor to attend the Vigil.
“Look! There’s a wishing well.” Apple declared, pointing towards a well right in front of Mother Mary’s pedestal. Jeff and I walked towards it, staring down the many coins that have been thrown very far down the waters.
“Wow. That’s amazing” I muttered, looking at Jeff.
He smiled and played with the rusty metallic net over the well with his foot.
“Hey don’t do that!”
“I’m just dropping the other coins…” he said, laughing as we watched the coins that got caught against the net fall through the holes, dropping with a splash on the water.
“Now you can make wishes without having to drop a single coin.” He laughed, pulling his foot out of the round well.
“I won’t tell you what I wished for…”
“Are you done?”
“Yes.” Jeff suddenly turned around, walking back towards the benches.
I sighed and followed him.
“I’m getting really sleepy…” I whispered next to me as I sat down beside him.
“Me too…I think I’m already dreaming while awake.” Apple responded on his other side.
And I was tired. My head lolled against my neck, finding it’s way on Jeff’s shoulder. He shivered.
As I opened my eyes I saw PJ Dayag. My classmate stared and grinned at the two of us.
“Hey Joan…what does that mean, what I saw?” he was later asking me as Caroline, another classmate, handed me my pillow.
“Nothing.” I completely ignored him, looking around for Jeff. I wondered suddenly why I was looking for him. Richard, Jeff’s classmate irritably asked me if Jeff’s my new boyfriend all over again.
I have to keep calm as I turned to go.
When Jeff suddenly appeared and he waved at me. Apple stood beside him and they were both pointing towards the inside of the church under the real one.
I followed them.
Inside we prayed the vigil together with a few adults who seem to have been there for the past six hours, doing the same thing over and over.
I nearly slept on my chair, right beside Apple.
I couldn’t help thinking about the night until I realized it’s already one o’clock in the morning.
We all stood when the last amen was said, heading outside where our friends all hang.
“Joan?” Jeff asked, sounding sleepy.
“Yes?” I replied, lifting my head towards his voice.
When I did, Jeff suddenly stepped forward, taking my right hand in his left one.
“Come on let’s look for Ian and the others…” he whispered briefly, guiding me towards the stairs.
I grabbed hold of his hand and my pillow in the other, wrapping my jacket more tightly around me. The air was starting to get chilly, and I was comforted by Jeff’s warm hand against mine.
I felt people’s eyes following us as we walked the path back towards the benches…
“I wonder what they are doing upstairs…” I said to myself, but he heard me.
“Maybe they’re still singing while praying…” he replied with a brief glance at me, as if he was aware of the feeling beginning to wrap around our joined hands.
“Maybe some of them fell asleep already.” I said thoughtfully, trying to think of something else to say besides the fact that my hand seems to fit perfectly with his.
People hooted and cheered as they saw the two of us walk slowly toward the benches where Caroline, Tracy, Brian and others gathered.
Stopping every now and then to greet people, Jeff never let go of my hand. Even when Michael banged his head between us again like what he did earlier.
I held on as we walked much faster…
“Yahoo! I’m so lucky! The night of the recollection, she became my girlfriend!” Reinier cheered Jeff on as we walked past, still holding hands.
I stared up at the moon and seem to count to three with Jeff under our breaths until we reached the nearest bench, letting go of each other with one pull.
Sitting beside Caroline, I sighed.
“When will they allow us to sleep?” I murmured, suddenly aware of how far Jeff was, sitting with Tracy and Brian.
“You’re going to be okay. I’m going to sleep here. Can I borrow your pillow?” Caroline said.
I nodded and handed it to her.
I cracked a smile. Carol didn’t seem to notice though.
In the distance I could hear Jeff laughing at something Brian said. As I turned to look, I caught his eye and he smiled.
“What a night…” I murmured under my breath, looking away with a grin.
My fingers were tingling where he touched me…It was so weird.
I’ve felt like something changed…and it’s not funny or anything at all.
I was with him the rest of the morning too…
We slept together side by side on the church, as he snored on my sheet that I’ve lent him.
He left when it’s late around three in the morning and I walked towards the benches all by myself…lying down on one. By five I was sound asleep, unaware that he slept right beside me on the next bench after a couple of minutes…
The insects chirped and the late sunrise started…
And we slept on…
* * *
By six o’clock I was awake. I raised my jacket off my head and Ian came into view standing over me.
“Nye! It’s you Joan! And I was wondering whoever’s sleeping over there all covered…” he exclaimed, laughing.
I stood up and stretched, looking around.
“Good morning Ian, what’s up?”
“Not much. Did you seeK2and the others?” he asked.
“Nope…” he walked away. I looked around me and noticed the other sleeping bodies a couple of benches away. [Jeff was gone by then] I remembered my stuff then, so I walked into the church to get them.
When I did I headed straight into the bathrooms and changed into a shirt. As I brushed my teeth on one of the sinks outside, someone called my name and with bubbles all around my mouth I turned to see Jeff with Chester de Luna.
They waved and I waved my hand with the toothbrush. They laughed.
“Hoy Joan…Jeff says hi! He feels sort of shy!”Chesterjoked, practically strangling Jeff around the neck as they passed to go to the men’s comfort room.
I couldn’t believe what’s so funny besides my bubbly smile, so I just turned to continue my brushing. Later that morning the joke went off-hand and I wasn’t laughing at all.
We went to get breakfast at a nearby “Lugawan” and Jeff was completely avoiding me. I turned in my seat while eating with Agie as I looked at him, sitting beside Apple and his friends. He kept avoiding my eyes, and I feel so sad about it.
The others kept making fun of us as a couple. And Jeff glared.
It’s all I can do to keep myself from crying right then and there.
When the first jeep came to fetch us, Jeff stepped up and turned around in his seat to grab my hand. He shook it, yelling over my face.
I nodded without thinking and not letting it sink in. I didn’t realize that it was that time when Jeff made things clear between the two of us. I was too busy thinking about his friends’ teasing and what happened between us all night until morning… About us looking like we’re more than friends.
I came to ride another jeep. And in it I seethed until the others stopped teasing me.
Claire Barela, our valedictorian, and I went to Sir Luis’ house when we got home to Meycauayan. He’s our old adviser who got fired when the assistant principal got jealous of him because he got all popular in school even if he’s gay. He’s been a very big person to the students that everyone nearly broke down the school when he got fired with Teacher Nella. The principal thought we’re going to have a rally and spoke before us earlier that week, scared we’ll leave the school because she fired our precious adviser. Ever since then we’ve been visiting him in his house and getting the chance to chat.
But to my horror, Claire blabbed all about Jeff and me instead of talking about something else… I was quite groggy from lack of sleep that we were leaving before I knew it.
Sir Luis was pretty much convinced like the others that Jeff and I was a couple. I dropped Claire off to her house…
As I went home I thought about what happened…
Over and over I ran the night in my mind…
The way he held my hand…while we walked down the aisle. Like a married couple…
When I got home, I dropped down the bed beside my father and slept all through the afternoon…
I thought about skipping school the next day, and I did…
I was so tired…
I continued thinking about everything, nearly going insane. It mattered a lot to me if Jeff’s thinking of the same things that I’m thinking.
I couldn’t help feeling blue…
I never knew what’s waiting for me the next day when I returned to school…
* * *
“What exactly is happening to you?”K2asked me, eyeing me suspiciously.
“Why do you ask?” I muttered, flipping my hair on one shoulder.
“Are you and Jeff dating?”
“Of course not!”
“Then what’s with the HHWW?”
I frowned. “What does that mean?”
I frowned harder. “It’s not even funny. He just helped me carry my bag because I’ve brought more food than you guys did.” I said without thinking, turning away as I blushed.
K2smirked. “Yeah, sure. You were with him the whole night!”
“That’s not totally true. There were moments he left me. We were together remember?” I insisted, going red in the face.
K2shook her head and suddenly pointed toward the doorway of our classroom.
“Well, here he comes.” She said.
I looked around, alarmed. Jeff stood by the window, peeking over at me. He smiled.
I couldn’t bring myself to smile back. I just said hi then turned away again.
“How are you?” he asked.
“I’m fine.” I mumbled. By the time I turned to look at him his back was turned to me, talking to someone outside the hall.
“You will never convince me…”K2laughed.
“I didn’t have to.”
And I wasn’t able to… Later that afternoon I asked Jeff for my rosary, and he brought it back…
It smelled like toothpaste. All day long everybody else kidded us both… I couldn’t stop myself from avoiding him suddenly. I was shocked from all the rumors… And I wasn’t really expecting people to suddenly care about what’s going on between the two of us. And my decision seems to hurt his feelings.
Suddenly his classmates were calling me his girlfriend and stuff.
We look at each other at the halls, and then turn away…as if we don’t know each other. Things went a little bit nasty in the next few weeks that followed.
We never talked at all…
And I was beyond confused.
I thought he felt the same way…
And I think I’ve fallen in love with him, but he’s not showing any signs that he does felt the same way… Besides glaring at anyone who mentions my name to him then make jokes about the recollection night.
I didn’t know what I was going to do…
I needed time to think…
So I avoided him altogether and fretted by myself.
It was weeks before I realized that I don’t want to lose a friend in him….
If only it’s not too late.
So I decided to write him a letter.
I told him how special he is to me and that I want to be friends again… I want things back to normal between the two of us.
But Jeff couldn’t ignore all the teasing…and what I said about his carrying my backpack.
He was beyond disappointed. He’s so angry you would have thought we committed a crime together that night because of everybody’s taunts.
He didn’t reply to my letter or anything at all…
The rumors spread all over school that even the teachers were discussing us…
It was a painful moment.
I’ve cried and in the girls’ bathroom Agie consoled me…
“Where did I go wrong?” I asked her, tears streaming down my face on her shoulder.
She patted me on the back and sighed.
“You fell in love with your friend. That’s all…”
I never thought it could lead me to this.
Suddenly our friendship was ruined…
* * *
It was during late October that a weird thing happened.
It was the United Nations program, and Jeff was an escort of the contestants. He went to school late, dressed in a red tuxedo. I gaped at him as he passed me by the stairs, sitting beside Mara Lozano, a senior.
She turned her head and raised an eyebrow at me.
“Are you alright?” she said, eyeing me. I nodded solemnly.
Her little niece suddenly appeared out of nowhere and I was dragged along as they came upstairs to their classroom, right next to ours.
Mara was fixing her make-up by the mirror that’s hanging against their wall as I walked toward the door, looking down the hall.
Suddenly Jeff emerged from their classroom, looking around.
Jeff walked down the hall straight towards me, adjusting his tie. There was a huge smile on his face…
“Hello Joan! How are you?” he said gently.
I blinked. It took me by surprise that he actually talked to me, not to mention asking if I was okay.
I was just about to open my mouth when he saw Mara. His features changed.
He suddenly looked embarrassed.
Before I could say a word he was walking down the hall toward the stairs, away from me.
I nearly cried again right then and there…
He made me feel so sad.
For the whole day I kept trying to catch his eye. But whenever I do he always stares at the one I’m with or the people around me. He seem to really wanna talk but only when we’re alone.
Months passed after that…
He never wrote back…
But he’s been trying to talk to me every chance he got.
There were simple hellos and everything, but he wasn’t able to act the same way he did that night.
During New Year I baked some cookies for him and asked Agie, his neighbor, to give it to him from me as a Christmas gift.
That’s when he started to talk again…
By January, we’ve been having brief conversations about nothing.
One afternoon, Agie and I went to school after the bell rings, because of a project. We bought donuts and were offering them around when I saw Jeff by the stairs with a couple of my classmates.
Agie and I walked over then smiled at everyone.
“Kuya, want some?” I asked Jeff, offering him the bag full of donuts. He stared at what I called him, and then joked about taking the whole bag away with him.
Ever since then I’ve been calling him just that…
Finally the rumors stopped. No one’s bugging us anymore…
But still there’s some kind of wall between the bond that was built the night of the recollection…I was never able to come over it.
“You know what, those cookies you gave me before? They were delicious. Thanks so much.” he told me one day as Agie him and I gathered at lunch in the cafeteria.
I grinned at the compliment. “Thanks. That’s my favorite recipe.”
Agie rolled her eyes. “Don’t they look like pancakes?”
Jeff laughed. “Sort of.”
“That’s not important. As long as they’re delicious.” I said, munching on a chocolate bar.
We fooled around and killed time together…
It was fun…
Finally I was able to be myself around him again.
* * *
I was sitting cross-legged on a table alone next to the teacher’s table late one night.
It was the prom… Couples were dancing on the dance floor, arms around each other…
I scratched at my knees, reddening the skin. Mosquitoes kept biting me through my panty hose…
I was depressed…all alone. With my friend’s cellphone in one hand, texting my sister. She’s the one who’s supposed to fetch me that morning at 1am.
I sighed, looking up from my dark blue dress. Jeff was dancing with Apple, but he was looking at me. Apple seem to be saying something to him…
I looked down again and let out my breath. I was wondering if anybody would bother dancing with me… Not even my classmates seem to care…
Or maybe they’re just shy because I’m a couple of inches taller than nearly all of them.
Suddenly I remembered this one bet I had with my sister…
I will give her 900 bucks if Jeff dances with me. And it looks like I’m winning it…
When suddenly the music changed… It’sSavageGarden’s I Knew I Love You. I was just about to text my sister that I’ve won when the chairs a couple of feet away from me rattled and someone appeared to be walking toward me. Jeff’s figure stood over me in the dark and he grinned, holding out his hand to me.
“Joan, let’s dance!” he said over the noise, smiling hard at me. It wasn’t a question…more like an order. I merely nodded and stood up. He turned and started walking towards the dance floor; me following him like a robot being controlled.
When we got under the spotlights I put my hands behind his neck and he put his around my waist. We swayed slowly through the song, not meeting each other’s eyes.
I looked at the couple dancing beside us…It was Gen and Michael, and they were both grinning at us.
I smiled back and looked back at Jeff.
I turned his face towards mine and I gave him a smile. “Congratulations, kuya.” I said warmly. Jeff seems to relax a little, taking my hand in his and shaking it. “Thank you…” he murmured, wrapping his arms around my waist again.
I shivered and later we were joking about his treat on Monday because he won the contest as Mr. JS. He looked so handsome in his suit…
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed my friend Michelle Nabong dancing with her new boyfriend, Vaynard Alvarez. Jeff and I turned to watch them and they smiled at us…
I leaned against Jeff as the song went on and closed my eyes…The moment was beautiful. I couldn’t help but wish that it will not end…
But it did when the song did. Jeff let go of me and guided me back to my seat.
I turned and was just about to thank him when he waved his arm and insisted that I go on. As I settled myself in my seat I watched him head towards Apple and they danced again. That’s when I realized I’ve lost the bet with my sister…
Over the music, I heard Jeff speak to Apple. “There you go. I’ve danced with her. Are you happy now?”
Shocked, I turned away, tears coming to my eyes. So he didn’t do it on purpose… He didn’t dance with me out of his own free will… Apple asked him to.
When morning came my sister came to fetch me and I looked ahead behind Jeff’s back.
Slowly he turned and caught my eye. We stared at each other…
There was something mysterious about his eyes, but I wasn’t able to tell when he turned back again, walking ahead.
I looked down and sighed.
After that night he’s been coming to our classroom non-stop, seeming to like it sitting on my chair while I haunt the halls waiting for him to leave.
But Vaynard and him just sat there in Agie’s and my row, talking to our classmates during recess.
Apple one day told me something. “Are you angry with Jeff?”
I blinked at her. “Why did you asked?”
She shrugged. “Because you never smile. You always have this mean expression on your face whenever he’s around.”
I gave her a little smile and she laughed. “I’m not talking about a doggie type of smile. Will you smile naturally?”
Jeff then suddenly peeked over the window and looked through me.
“Can I borrow your mirror?” He said.
Apple handed him my mirror.
“There you go again…” Apple giggled.
Jeff looked down and returned the mirror back. He went in the room and sat beside me.
“Michelle said you’ve been crying…” he said silently, not meeting my eyes.
I gaped at him. “I wasn’t. It was just that they kept teasing me!” I said.
Jeff nodded and looked up at me.
“So you’re okay now?”
Suddenly my surroundings changed. It’s almost like we’re the only ones there…
I looked back at him. “Jeff, I’m really sorry about what happened at the recollection. I didn’t really mean to do those things. It was because of me that your classmates kept making fun of you. I hope you’ll forgive me.” I said desperately, looking him in the eyes.
Jeff looked away. “It wasn’t your fault, don’t blame yourself. It’s all over now.”
He made sure that I’m not crying, and then he stood and left amidTracy’s screeching. He was staring at us, yelping at the top of his lungs…
By the open window I saw Agie talk to him as he passed. Jeff was smiling but Agie had a frown on her face as she went to sit next to me.
“What did you tell him?” I asked.
Agie sighed. “I asked him why he has to go here and do that. I tried to stop him from coming into the room, blocking his way, but Michelle tickled me. I told him he’s not aware that he’s already hurting someone else’s feelings without even knowing it. And I’m right wasn’t I?”
I hesitated, and then put my head in my hands. “I’m so humiliating. Why am I like this? It’s almost as if I’m losing it.” Again we ended up in the girl’s bathroom and I wept.
Things became different again with Jeff…
One day I found out that he was courting my classmate, Caroline. Ian’s ex.
He kept coming to class, just to talk to her. But Caroline didn’t seem to like him more than a friend…
I felt supportive for him instead of jealous. I couldn’t help it but feel sad when I saw his face when Carol told him she just looks at him as a friend. And she likes someone else…
Months passed again when Jeff only came to class to sit in my chair again and look for me…
Whenever we meet eyes though, he just turns away…
I got so frustrated that I couldn’t make myself talk to him again…
Until that day came when it’s time to say goodbye…
* * *
It’s the senior’s graduation day in late March. And Jeff and the other COCCs were preparing the flags.
I’m an OPM so I was there too, arranging their drinks for them. And the riffles.
I was arranging our project in Trigonometry in one of the tables… And as I turned I nearly collided with Jeff… He grinned at me. I figured he’s relaxed because we’re the only ones there in the headquarters when he suddenly started joking around about his RHGP book that he passed late. I told him about our project and later we were both laughing like that night at theDivineMercyChurch…
“Were you there when we did some cheerleading last Intramurals?” I asked Jeff, as some of our friends started filing in.
He shook his head. “No. I was up here at the second floor playing some chess game with a kid.”
“Really? That’s sad, we won the championships and you weren’t even able to see our routines.”
He smiled. “But I saw your routines back when we’re still in freshman year. It was amazing!”
Then he started singing some of our cheers…
He wasn’t there during sophomore year, so I figured he saw only one routine. Until I remembered something…
“Our routines were way much better this year. Especially since I became the captain.” I said proudly, sitting up straight.
Jeff smiled wider. “Really? Sorry I wasn’t able to see them, Ms. Captain.”
“I had a picture during that day. You were there.”
I nodded. “You’re lying. It’s true that you were here at the second floor, but you were watching us do our routines together with Jenniebelle and Annabelle.” I laughed.
Jeff sighed. “You caught me…”
The night wore on…and we talked and talked. My classmate Michelle kept putting herself like a wall between us, trying to interrupt, but still we talked…
Suddenly everyone’s staring again.
And Jeff and I were forced to stop kidding around.
I sighed and looked out the window, trying to figure out where Agie went.
Before I found her though the principal announced that it’s time to go…
Jeff walked ahead and I ran after him…
Tapping his shoulder, I drew my breath.
He slowly turned with a blank expression.
“Always remember that I’m just here…” I was just about to add when he needs me but already he was walking away…
“Bye Joan.” He said before taking off at a run to catch up with his neighbor, Brian.
I still loved him after that… And at the same time I never expected to see him again…
But I did during senior year.
My motive was captivating…And my friends were singing me that song that says Goodbye doesn’t mean forever in class as they sat with Jeff, watching me fall apart one day…
All I ever wanted was my friend back, and I’ve had him…
But still that night was never forgotten…
Until now, I still remember how it was like the way he took my hand in his…
As I think about it, I knew…
He will always be someone special, no matter what…
We never talked again…
It’s been two years after…
But as I look back at what we’ve been through, I’m glad to know that I’ll always have a friend in the Jeff that I knew then and now…even if we never talk.
Mr. Jeffrey Ruivivar…I will remember you.