A Long Story

I had the pleasure of being reintroduced to Kat, the sister of an old, old friend over the weekend. It’s always nice to meet people like that. They remind you of earlier, simpler times.

I wish I was back in high school.

***

I was supposed to be conducting a small lecture on how to write newsfeatures for the school paper, while the paper’s managing editor managed to convince her to give a similarly small talk on how to shoot good photographs.

We were several hours late enroute to my place in Batangas, and people had yet to eat dinner. Instead of stopping for bulalo as planned, I encouraged the entourage to get food to go from the superhighway McDonald’s and from there ride to the beach.

It was then when the introductions were made.

For someone as terrible with names as I am, an introduction made while standing in line for fast food has the same effect as being introduced in the middle of a dance floor to a gaggle of people. It just doesn’t happen for me. Adding to the disconnect between name and face was the fact that we were riding in separate vehicles. I rode with my in-laws, while Kat rode with the rest of the workshop participants brave enough to come.

So it came to pass that as we finally sat down to drink cheap tequila and other alcoholic potions later in the evening that I knew nothing of Kat, save that she was a guest in my place and that she had never before gotten piss drunk in her entire life. This had to change.

***

Back when I was working for a non-existent magazine, one of the financiers for the venture told me a truism I’ve found most useful: you can always tell a lot about someone from the high school that person attended.

Noticing that Kat had a decent accent, I asked her details about high school. Where did she go to? When did she go to high school?

“St. Scho, 1996,” she replied. That was my wife’s batch.

“No shit! My wife left St. Scho in 1996,” my voice turning giddy at the thought of meeting someone who might know my wife but just not recognize her. Ten years does change the way people look.

“I mean I entered high school in 1996,” she replied.

Egg on my face notwithstanding, it was all good: most of the people in my law school block entered high school at around the same time, so the level of discomfort at talking to people way younger than I am wasn’t that great. The fact that Kat went to St. Scholastica’s made it all the easier.

***

No one goes through high school unscathed, and I believe that it’s in when people find that their scars are similar to others that they find kinship. It’s the same mindset that keeps old fraternities and sororities alive. Philosopher-architect Alain de Botton also notes that bonds forged on shared experiences are stronger, such that those who have survived a traumatic experience (like say, the Boxing Day tsunami) will have a bond stronger than those friends who meet every now and then for coffee.

In Kat’s case, it wasn’t that I went to St. Scho (which obviously isn’t the case), but it I believe that I earned most of my high school scars from that point in my life when I spent more time there than studying in UP or elsewhere. Anyway, I have the yearbook to prove it, and a hundred million stories to boot.

***

When I was in high school, suits were sent through letters. It would be not uncommon for one enterprising student to sell a wide array of perfumed stationery, as if to match the vanity of the girls his classmates admired. The letters would be sent through one of the boys, who would act as a courier.

The courier’s role was to gather ardent letters from suitors in school, for him to later go to a girl’s house at the dead of night to exchange correspondence from with equally ardent admirers from the girl’s school. The courier was usually someone living near the girl. If he was interested in her, then sending the letters was an added bonus. If he wasn’t, then at least he would be the first to open his letter.

Oftentimes, the letters served no other purpose than to relate to the recepient the fears and experiences that person was feeling at the moment, as the story would inevitably be told again later that night in hushed tones as to not wake the parental units.

As for me, I usually spent the better part of the day, Math class included, writing the perfect letter. After all, I was a senior and expected I could get away with anything. I was right.

This scenario of letter-writing and exchanging would be repeated with as many schools as links (made through interactions, official and “underground”, soirées, and older brothers’ birthday parties) would permit – after all, we were all playing the Lotharios mothers warn daughters about.

I related as much to Kat, who, admittedly, had grown up in an era of text messaging and unlimited mobile phone calls.

“Really? That’s so romantic! All we did was text each other.”

And that’s the end of that story.

***

The problem with writing letters (especially angry ones) is that they last longer than your intentions at the time of the writing. To remedy this problem, one must either infuriate the recepient to the point that they either return the letters to you or burn them in disgust. Fail to do so and some pretty awkward situations are a sure bet in the future.

This is my personal embarassing letter moment.

So it came to pass that one day I received a call from a dear friend, for whom I had felt some form of unrequited attraction several years back.

“Hey! Kiko! Guess what I found?” It was good to hear her this chipper. “I was going through my old journals when I found your letter. It’s hilarious!”

Oh no.

I had once written her an angry letter when we were younger. I never really meant the things I wrote in the letter, as it was the histrionic outburst of a person who could not understand how everything had gone to shit.

“Please burn it,” I begged. “That piece of shit belongs to the garbage can.”

“I’ll do that later,” she said between giggles. “But not before I show it to the girls.”

Terrific. I can only pray that she knows how mortified I am at the very thought.

“It’s okay, Kiko. I was never mad at you.”

If you’re reading this, I was never mad at you too.

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