I’m fated to embarrassed myself in front of my crushes. The most horrible was in fifth grade. I was eleven and a transfer student in Negros Occidental, Philippines. At this stage everyone has already established friendship with everyone, and it was awkward being the transferee. I become subject for bullying, but I’m no damsel in distress. Oh, I fight back like a tiger. I was a tomboy, but that didn’t stop me from crushing at the most popular boy in class. Ian.
I developed a crush on him too because he defended me from the Geraldine’s gang who accused me of “stealing” my classmate’s best friend, Madeline. Madeline and that girl had a fallout and she and I have more in common, so we become friends and later become besties.
Back to Ian, ever since the day he mocked Geraldine, who was also crushing on him, I did my best to get him to notice me again. And he did. Just not the way I wanted it.
Our elementary classrooms had their own private toilets at the back of the room. I’m guessing it was to make sure that even if students needed a restroom break, they’ll still hear the teacher’s lecture.
I grow up in Palawan, the small long island close to Borneo. The country I’ve grown to fear because cannibals live there. If I’m a naughty little girl, I’ll be ship there to be their lunch. The adults did such a good job making me afraid of the country. Good job guys!
My elementary school in Palawan differed from Negros Occidental. There are only four restrooms for the entire school. Two for the girls and two for the boys. I’m not sure how it was for the boys, but there were two kinds of toilet in the girls. One was a squat toilet, and the other is the normal one where you seat. But I learned I got to lift my skirt and squat at both toilets. So, I did it when I needed to pee after our fifth-grade teacher dismiss the class. There would have been no problem if I had locked the door, but I didn’t because I didn’t know how to do it.
Out of all the people in the class, Ian opened the door and saw me in the most embarrassing position I could ever show. Skirt up, panties down, squatting at the seat facing him, and his equally shock friend behind him. Yeah, you get the picture. Everything I’m hiding showed. I’m mortified. I screamed and fell off the seat while Ian hurriedly closed the door.
Then a roar of laughter erupted outside the restroom. Ian’s friend loudly told every detail of what he saw while I covered my face in shame. I didn’t want to step out, but I can’t wait for Madeline to rescue me, she was absent and I can’t stay there forever.
I rather faced the humiliation sooner than later. I walked out of the room and Ian stood there. “You should lock the door.”
“I didn’t know how!” I replied and glared at his friend who burst out laughing together with our other classmates.
Ian didn’t defend me this time. He entered the toilet and let his friends with the rest of our class laughed and taunt me. I hated the derogatory way they called me “probinsyana” (a girl from the province) or country girl, but I couldn’t say anything. I walked with my head high and maintain the false bravery until I was alone and cried it out.
Flash forward two years later, I enrolled in a small high school that specialist with educating kids about fishes. Madeline went to another school, so once again I was alone at my new school. But I’m a freshman and there was a lot of us new kids. One of them was Miyu.
Miyu was a few months younger than me, but she was tall and voluptuous, while I’m petite with a barely there breast, but I liked Miyu right away. She was shy, she speaks Tagalog, the language I grew up with and needed help with Ilonggo and I’m more than willing to play the translator.
One week after the school start, Miyu and I were eating our lunch in the classroom when the topic switches to boys. My story about Ian came up. I told her about it, but the one who laughed with me was the boy behind us. Christian.
Unlike the stoic Ian, Christian was mischievous, loud, and rowdy but popular with sunny charm. He makes everyone laugh, but he behaves like a brat around me. He always found ways to annoy me. Either by taking whatever it was in my hand, notebook, ballpen or test paper, or buzz around me like a bee.
“I’d die laughing if I were him!” Christian said. I want to punch his face but I just smirked and get back to Miyu. However, Christian continue. “He should see what a witch you are.”
He grabbed my hair clip along with a few strands of my hair. It hurt like hell. I jumped out of my seat and grabbed him by his collar and pull him down to my height. “That hurt, you jerk.”
“And you’re wrinkling my shirt, you witch.” He straightened up and towered over me by a head. He was not the tallest boy in class, but I was the smallest girl. “Pandak,” he added with a sneered meaning “dwarf” my most hated word.
“Give me my clip back!”
Christian pocketed the clip. I reached out for it, but he gasped like an assaulted girl. He squeezed his thighs together. “Are trying to feel me?”
Laughter surrounded us. It’s already four months since school start and everyone learned to ignore our bickering or treat us as entertainment.
At thirteen I was shy as a wild meerkat. I blame it on puberty, but somehow when facing Christian’s smug face everything vanished and I’m my extrovert self again. I smacked his head and inserted my hand in his pants pocket. I got the clip, but he squealed. “Oh my god, you just touch me! Pervert!”
The boys whistled and hooted, and my face burned from embarrassment.
“Oh, you become darker. I expect nothing else from a girl burned by sunlight, I guess.”
I turned to Christian ready to beat him when he makes a ran for it. I chased him around the school and by the time we got back, class has started and our subject teacher was furious.
For the nth time, I made a promised never-ever to let Christian get to me.
We were going home that afternoon when my stomach growled. “I’m hungry.”
Miyu giggled. “You ate so much already.”
“Yeah, but I still feel hungry.”
“Probably because you kept chasing Christian every break.”
I groaned. “I don’t get it. Why does he have to piss me so much?”
“Because you’re a witch!”
Miyu sucked her lips and I whip my head to my other side ready to grab the jerk called Christian but he got out of my hand like a slippery fish. He stuck his tongue out and once again, I broke my promised.
Three more months passed and nothing changed between me and Christian. “I think he likes you,” Miyu once say, which made me laughed. But that one sentence from her was like a magic spell. For some weird reason, I wasn’t as annoyed with Christian as before. In fact, I kind of miss his antics when he wasn’t around. I still chase him, grab things back, but I had fun. Yes, fun.
In my high school, there comes a time when each class will have to choose a “muse.” Someone will nominate a classmate and all the nominees will stand in the front and the class body will cast their votes. The one with most vote becomes the “muse.”
I found the whole thing stupid and the last thing I want was contribute, but then I was called out. I didn’t budge from my seat, but Miyu urged me to go.
I stood next to a girl whose second after me in terms of height and size. She has long hair too, but other than that we’re different. She got fair skin, big breast, wide hips and a cute dimple on both cheeks when she smiles. On top of it, she oozes of confidence while I shrink like a rat beside her. To make matter worse, the two of us are the only candidates. I hate whoever it was who nominated me.
The teacher wrote our names on the blackboard with one voter each. “The one who nominated the candidate automatically counted as a voter. So is there anyone else who wants to vote for Jessica other than Christian?”
My eyes went wide and narrowed as I zoomed in to Christian’s face. He scratched the back of his head with abased smile. I will struggle you! I thought as I feel my self-confidence broke because no one else voted for me. Not even Miyu.
As soon as the class was over, everyone teased Christian. “So, that’s why you keep pestering her because you find her most beautiful!” said one boy.
Christian clucked his tongue and leave the class. I stood up and followed him, ignoring the cheering crowd. I caught him by his arm at the back of the school. “Did you have fun, huh? Was it fun to watch me embarrassed myself, huh?”
“No, I did not have fun and what’s wrong with nominating you?” I expected him to turn around and make fun of me, but he looked serious.
“You know so well I won’t win! She’s more beautiful, feminine and popular than me. I have nothing against her!”
“You’re the most beautiful for me!”
The world went silent. It was as if the time stopped. By the time I recovered from what Christian said, I was alone. I don’t know how I spend the rest of the day. All I know was the awkwardness between us for the next week. Christian sat beside me a lot when no one was around. He opened and closed his mouth then leave saying nothing. I can’t even look at him more than a second before feeling like I’m about to get a heart attack. And did he just get more handsome?
“You’re in love,” Miyu told me after I told her what was happening to me.
“I am not!”
She was right. I was. It took more days, but the next time Christian spoke to me it was to invite me to join him and his friends to go fishing. I agreed but regretted it when “fishing” involve him rolling up his pants and capturing the giant catfish behind the school.
“You’re not allowed to do that!” I told him. He and his friends laughed. “What if the teachers find out?”
“They’ll only know if you tell them.” Christian smiled and shoved the roasted fish into my mouth. I swallowed. “Now, you’re guilty too.”
He shoved more into my mouth and I gave up. The fish taste good and I like him feeding me.
Our cat and dog fights continue after that but on a much lighter level and it usually ends with him hugging me before we nervously separate.
He said nothing to me, but all his sweet gestures make my everyday complete until one day, about a week before the school end.
I entered the classroom and everyone went silent.
My eyes first landed on Christian. He froze, and the commotion returns. “Oh, the girlfriend will be so mad!” said one boy.
Miyu sat far away from me. What? Strange. I asked one girl in front of me. “What’s going on?”
The girl looked back at me with pity. “Miyu confessed having a crush on Christian and—”
My heart pounded painfully in my chest. “And?”
“And Christian hugged and swing her around.”
Another girl turned and said, “It was so romantic to look at. I wonder if they will date now. You’re not dating right?”
I glanced at Christian. He was still all over Miyu. I felt sick. “No, we’re not dating. I’m too young for that.”
After a minute, Christian plopped down next to me. “Hey, you’re late.”
I clenched my fist. “Go away.”
I furrowed my brows. “Aren’t you busy with Miyu?” I said a little louder than intended. The class went silent. Everyone’s eyes were on us.
He beamed and peered at my face. “Are you jealous?”
“Why should I? Go away.”
“You are jealous!”
I grabbed my bag and stood up.
Christian grabbed my bag and prevented me from leaving. “Hey, just admit it. You’re jealous.”
“No. Let go.”
“I won’t until you admit it.”
“I said I’m not!” I let go of my bag. My hand flew to his cheek. A loud slap echoed in the silent classroom. My palm stung, and Christian got a red mark of my hand. The shocked on his face horrified me, but my then fourteen-year-old self was full of pride. Instead of apologizing, I spit out, “So what is it to me if you want to date her? Go ahead. I’m so tired of you bothering me.”
My heart broke for every word I say but what made it break the most was the way Christian’s shoulder drop as he looked down and gently put my bag back in my hand. “Sorry, I didn’t know you feel that way about me.”
“Well, now you know.”
“Yeah, I won’t bother you anymore.”
“Good!” I say and walked out of there. I went to the back of the school where we use to hangout and cried. I didn’t return to class until after lunch. Everyone ignored me. Even Miyu, who seemed hell bent to chase after Christian. Christian ignored her though. On top of my heartache with Christian, Miyu’s betrayal crushed me.
All this time, I didn’t know she feels the way I do. If only she had said something from the start instead of waiting for me to fall in love before making her move, then I would have stepped aside. But it’s too late. There was no way to fix our friendship.
While each time Christian and I face each other, we stopped and I will be the first to look away. I was such a coward. I wanted to tell him I didn’t mean a thing I’ve said, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know where to start. The days went on like this, and the school year ended without me speaking to anyone ever again.
I was at home when I found a letter in my bag. It said, “I’m sorry for hurting you. I’m sorry that I didn’t know I was being a pest. I only hug Miyu because I wanted to make you jealous and admit that you like me too. I choose Miyu because expected her to explain it to you afterward. I didn’t realize she was serious. I wanted you to be my girlfriend. I love you. Goodbye. -Christian.”
Tears flooded my eyes, but I didn’t know what to do. The school was over and even if I wrote a reply, I didn’t where to send it. Cellphone was rare back then, and I don’t have one.
I had no choice but to wait for the next school year. However, three months later, I didn’t see Christian anywhere.
I asked his friends from the previous year, but I heard that his family moved to another island. My heart broke again that day and there was nothing I can do than cry and wish I had at least told him “I’m sorry.”