The girl on the broken bench just didn’t like me. But at the time, who could blame her? I was virtually nonexistent in the Blue Waffle building. The Cool Team used to have this award for Cool Person of the Month. Members of the team would vote by writing notes describing who the coolest person in the team was for that month. The person who gets the most notes wins the award. I got a note that said something like, “Marvin is Cool because he goes to work and gets off without anyone noticing.” And I retrieved this one from my wallet:
“Marvin is Cool because he may be quiet, but he tries to communicate despite having difficulties translating his martian language into english. hehe… Glad you’re coming to the outing.”
To say that I expected the girl to even pay attention to me was absurd. First, the Tagaytay Incident was only possible due to alcohol. Second, I was trained to go to work and come home on time five days a week. I had no time to do something “risky.” Third, I just didn’t have the guts to walk up to her and say that I liked her.
And I liked her very much. After Tagaytay, I kept thinking about her and how cool her presence was. She exuded an air of silent freedom, the kind that shuts down your mind to the stupid trivialities of everyday life. She wore funky glasses and she would often have a retro look. I don’t know why she didn’t win the Cool Person of the Month Award because I really thought she made every cool person seem lukewarm.
Anyone could say I read too much from the Tagaytay Incident and I would completely agree. Still, could such suggestions even erase the budding feelings in me? No. I knew I was stupid but my mind and body couldn’t help it. Anyone could say that I was a loser, but the truth couldn’t be denied — I had a crush on the girl on the broken bench.
Stars, Aristotle, and Other Cringe-Worthy Efforts
I did what every smitten person does: try to get into my crush’s life. In grave disobedience of the laws of solitude that I’ve always been keen to follow, I joined her and other Cool teammates during breakfasts and lunches. It was during those times that I discovered how quiet and reserved she was when not drunk. 90% of the time, she just ate silently and laughed minimally at the jokes RJ would crack. The duality of her persona further tickled my curiousness. Was this the same girl who asked me upfront if I was a virgin?
Thanks to those breakfasts and lunches together with other Cool teammates, I was able to somehow make my humanity known to her (which was important because someone had already likened me to a “martian.”)
She once asked while we were eating why the moon did not set like the sun and why stars didn’t appear on the horizon. I jumped at the opportunity to increase my significance in her life by quickly researching on the topic. Regarding the absensce of stars on the horizon, I just couldn’t believe that that was the case. I searched for images of stars on the horizon on Google, stood up from my chair, walked up to her cubicle, gently tapped her shoulder, and showed her the stars on the horizon on my computer screen.
“Photoshop lang yan.” she said.
“Hindi ah. Galing sa NASA yan.” then I showed her the source to illustrate my brilliance. I think she merely smiled and said “Sige na nga” just to end the awkward conversation.
Thanks to Google, I also found out she had a Multiply blog (which was overflowing with coolness I almost cowered in my seat). I had a Multiply account too, but I’ve never developed it, contented as I was with the simple functions of the aging Friendster site. But here was the opportunity to establish another means of connecting with her without shoving my face in her affairs, so I immediately updated my Multiply account: put blogs in there, pictures and stuff. Then I added her as a friend.
As early as April 16 last year, I wrote a long blog entry for her. She asked me if I knew “Aristotle’s Theory of Natural Changes” through YM. I said we didn’t study that in Sociology, however I told I her I’d be glad to look it up for her. Fidgeting with excitement, I launched into a frenzied search for Aristotle’s damn theory on the Web. This was easy, I thought. How could Aristotle be harder than Marx? I found the theory and wrote a dead serious blog about it, making sure I clearly answered her question.
On the very same day I wrote that blog, I also asked her over YM if she could let me help her finish her quota for articles. That was an insane move. Daredevil himself would probably pee in his pants if he heard it. I did that because I learned that she was just beginning to work on her articles on a Friday, the last day of the week. I couldn’t imagine how on earth she’d be able to finish the quota with such an impossibly short amount of time left.
At first, she pointedly refused my shocking proposal. But I insisted, making it sound like my intentions were purely professional. At last, she gave in and I told her how I felt at the end of the negotiation.
“Hahaha.. bored ka ba.. haha.. sige sige, isa lang, hehe.” she said.
“Yehey. Sige sabihin na lang natin na bored ako.”
She later admitted that she didn’t get that line. That probably also worked to my advantage since I could continue my foolish strategies without the “secret” being discovered. Still, why I said “Good morning” to her through YM every day and told her whenever I’m going out of the office is beyond me. We were not really “friends.” Just officemates exchanging short conversations through a private messenger. Looking back, all the stuff I did were pretty ridiculous, cringe-worthy, even creepy. But if you’ve never been smitten, then you can’t understand me. A smitten man is 10 times more stupid than the average man.
Not that I expected all my efforts would achieve something worthy of daydreaming about. After all, I discovered the girl already had a boyfriend.
Loser at Loose in Gutson’s
I’m used to it, you know, this thing they call heartbreak. My friends have seen me violently kick plastic cups on the roadside to let out my frustrations. I’ve shook my head at the rarity of mutual attraction for a long time. Reviewing the situation: her coolness, my strangeness, our professional relationship, and her goddamn boyfriend — I could only resign my fate to what’s logical.
I tried to erase her in my mind, the Tagaytay Incident and my tiny achievements in breaking through her life. Still, as I worked, I couldn’t help but wish she was mine. If only she didn’t have that freakin’ boyfriend. Curse him.
Whatever we had got cold (if there was really anything there) because of the lack of communication. Whenever I’d see her, looking painfully cute during breakfasts and lunches, I’d just remind myself that I didn’t have a chance at her. Out of my league, out of possibility. For the most part, she remained a crush in the office, someone to be nervous about when she’s three meters near me.
In July, the Cool Team had another gathering at Gutson’s, a dark and sleazy billiards, videoke, and drinking spot in Metrowalk. The team previously had pizza at Shakey’s in SM Megamall, where I made sure to sit beside her at the table. In fact, I made sure during the whole team gathering that I remained within five meters of her: sometimes in front, behind, on her left side or her right side. The team also went to a bowling center where bowling plans were crushed while I performed magic tricks in the group, hoping she’d say a compliment or two. She didn’t.
But in Gutson’s, I was lucky. Having accepted my fate as a colleague but still failing miserably to get rid of my feelings, I was contented to sit quietly on the table and drink the beer. There was the possibility of another sex talk starting, but I shrugged it off as I quickly drank the beer. When my face was already rubbery and my saliva was about to drip from my mouth because of my poor alcohol tolerance, I was offered to sing “Magasin” by the Eraserheads since the team knew I was a big fan of the band. I sang my defeated heart out amid the roaring laughter of everyone.
Three bottles and I was out. When I woke up, she was already beside me. Then followed one of the most fun conversations I’ve had in my life. Now I realize one of the reasons I was able to say the things in my head unabashedly was because I didn’t carry too much baggage anymore. Here was a beautiful, interesting girl — who’s my crush — but who nonetheless wouldn’t fall for me even if the gods turn the world upside down. I was free to say whatever I want in her face.
So I talked to her — nah, I argued with her. I had fun stoking her anger at my belief that Baguio citizens looked outdated (mukhang luma). I think I also said they wore loincloths all the time. And then we debated on relativism and she accused me of being trapped by my own limited beliefs, and that culture is relative. I told her I wasn’t and that I used to study relativism in UP. She mentioned a Cordillera hero that I didn’t know and who I hinted probably wasn’t important at all historically. We argued all night, our mouths like machine guns never running out of words to say. I smiled, she laughed, she refuted, I raised my eyebrows. It was a blast of a conversation with the girl on the broken bench.
We got so close to each other at that short period of time, that she started to open up about her deepest secrets. My messiah complex kicked in and I wanted to save her from things. Then I understood where she came from. A large part of her liberty, her silent freedom was revealed to me that night.
The two of us were so absorbed with each other that I completely forgot about the rest of the team in Gutson’s. She was the night, the memory that I’d take home with me.
Still, I never forgot that she had a boyfriend and I’m merely reading too much into everything.
Outside, while everybody’s waiting for cabs to ride home, she asked me if I wanted to have coffee with her. I refused because I was dumb.
She even spread her arms and said, “Hug!”
“Hindi ako intimate na tao eh.” I replied while my heart burned and the gods laughed at the loser that is Marvin.
This three-part blog is written in celebration of a year of having a huge crush, then falling in love with the girl who sat with me on the broken bench. 🙂