About A. – some biographical notes on the summer of 1994

There are some things I am prepared to share here that are too personal. The original version named her, and probably three other people I know. This version has been redacted. The essay is in honor of the team behind Scout Magazine whose launch event yesterday provoked these reflections.

Some of the paths on which I walk all lead back to a summer class 20 years ago.

When I was in high school (and I understand it is still around), Ateneo’s high school had what is called the Summer Enrichment Program. It often gained the nickname of “Soiree Everyday Program” in honor of the fact that most students came from private single-sex schools and hence it was a chance for them to interact outside those organized parties of that name. And most of the classes were, in many ways, academic. These helped kids gain a leg-up in high school subjects, all in an environment that was, in many ways, fun.

There were a few non-academic classes, though. After barely surviving my first year in high school, I persuaded my folks to sign me up for a class called “Leadership Training.” I no longer remember exactly why I chose to sign up for this class, but I do recall a few things. First, it turned out to anticipate my later years as a psychology student. Second, it was the first and only time I ever treated my classmates to a birthday party. Third, it was one of the smallest classes I ever had in school up to that point. And fourth, there was a person who turned out to be one of my first female friends since grade school.

She was the younger sister of someone I already knew from my first year class. She was just about to enter high school at Philippine Science High School’s main campus. I still have a faint memory of her face from back then, and probably a few other memories. We were both very articulate people and I recall feeling comfortable around her. I recall that we had four other people, three of whom I have met over the last few months. One of them became one of my most loyal friends in college (and up to now). Two of them were cousins and were connected to someone famous (or infamous, depending on one’s views). We had another young woman in class, whose name I forgot.

When I mentioned that this class anticipated my time as a psychology major, it was because a lot of it drew from the kind of methods I learned in a class on group processes and the inductive method. I can still vaguely remember that most of what we did were the sort of thing my friend from college and I would later do as psychology majors in that class. What I also vaguely remembered was that when the girl and I were pretty much on the same wavelength, it led to quite a bit of ribbing from my classmates.

We didn’t particularly take kindly to the ribbing, mainly because both of us saw each other as friends. But it was hard to ignore the feeling that she made my heart skip a beat, for a while. Those were the hormones speaking. Otherwise, if one pressed me further at that time, my crush that summer was one of my neighbors, who was then an incoming sophomore at PSHS herself. Back then, the whole idea that those sorts of things could easily occupy discrete slots was kind of impossible.

However, long after the six of us parted ways, I wondered about her. In a way, she was as mysterious to me when I first met her and then became, for a time, good friends. I asked her sister about her, and I probably spoke with her once on the phone after she entered high school. And then, probably not long after that, I forgot about her.

Almost. In some way, my time with that young woman left an impression on me I could not shake. It convinced me, and still does, that it is possible to find someone with whom we could have nice conversations and be fine about it. And probably, if we were together long enough, go through rough patches and learn from it. Since then, I have had glimpses of that possibility coming to life, little ones. Nothing like that summer. But it does not really matter. I somehow let go of it.

The last time I met her was in late 2006. I was working for a start-up and it was challenging. I do not recall exactly how she got in touch with me again, but she did. We ended up having dinner together. It turned out that, apart from catching up, she wanted to sell me something. I was not really willing to buy. But I did learn one thing: she liked the Goo Goo Dolls. And I did feel my heart skip a beat, for once. Since then, I have not heard a word from her.

So how did this brief encounter lead to where I am now?

A. came to mind this morning after I was at the Scout Magazine launch at SM Aura’s Samsung Hall last night. She was connected with two musicians I knew. One of them played in a band that night. The band has a lovely song about a mysterious woman who impacted one’s life in a good way. On reflection, the song reminded me a bit of her.

The other connection? Well, she may have been in the same high school class as one of the lead singers of another band that played that evening. It all seemed to fit. After all, one last thing we both had in common? We lived through the Nineties.

A final word: here is the song I connect the most with that summer of 1994. I remember this because the culminating activity was that we had to organize a closing program and those two cousins got the bands. One of bands covered this tune.

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