I wish I can say that I got the girl in the end, but that ending doesn’t really happen in real life. In real life, the jock gets the girl in high school and you wonder for the rest of your life whether or not you’ll ever measure up to her standards.

Problem is, by the time you finally grow up and become a man, you realize that she wasn’t who you thought she was after all.

I bumped into R. the other day while browsing books at the local eccentric bookshop. R. was another old friend from high school (they seem to be popping up everywhere) who just happened to be the cutest high schooler in the Taft Avenue area. She wasn’t tall or Castillian or blessed with a supermodel’s body, but she did have a smile that sent the hearts of boys in at least three schools aflutter.

I never really got a shot at R. back in high school. She was being courted by my best friend and that meant hands off for reasons I need not explain. Besides, my best friend though not necessarily a jock, was one of those reluctant girl magnets. It was not unusal to see him sending sighs to girls throats every few minutes.

Although R. and my best friend became an item, they split up after a week because R. thought all her friends were pressuring her to get with my best friend. Their breakup was given much hulabaloo by our common friends who thought theirs was a match made in heaven, but R. stood firm in her decision to end, albeit temporarily, my best friend’s happiness.

R. was right, of course, because it was high school and because teenage girls and boys have nothing better to do than play matchmaker. My friend eventually got together with the class brain, while she drifted off into the void inhabited by lost friends.

It was R. who recognized me (much to my delight) because I was transfixed on a pamphlet of early Pablo Neruda poems. Within seconds of her hi and hello, my knees, aided by the romanticism of early Neruda, began to fail.

“Do you want to get coffee? There’s a good deli just outside the store and I know just what to get.”

Long pause.

One of two things: she’s blind to how nervous and pink I am, or she’s being really cool about it. Either way, I wasn’t going to be standing much longer. I hope it happens before that smile is kills me.

“Sure… Whatever.”

Turns out she’s a dentist now, and she’s been dating this guy she met in college.

The lucky punk had a picture in her wallet, which she showed me posthaste. To my surprise and apparently, to all her girlfriends’s, this guy was a nerd who made Bill Gates look like Tom Cruise. They became an item when he stood out in the rain hurling Romeo-like adulatory bullshit outside her window. He spent the next few hours in the slammer and the next three years with her.

She’s glowing as she regales me with stories of her and Nerdo, and I’m happy she’s happy. I tell her so. She rewards me with a kiss, and I feel elated. In a haze of happy thoughts I obliviously light a cigarette, but it doesn’t catch., making me draw harder.

Do you know how hard it is to light a filtered cigarette from the wrong end?


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