The whole room seemed so quiet, I could hear the soft drone of the traffic all the way from Quezon Avenue. His breathing was soft and whistling. A sliver of light shone partly above his face, and I saw his lips part.
Well, I was so nervous because A. we could get caught, and B. I’ve never really been with anybody (Virginia Lights ang drama!) so I was lost as to what I should do. Being Maria Clara, I settled on laying beside him with my head resting on the crook of his elbow.
For a while there was only our breathing that I could hear, and my pounding heart. Then I felt him move and turn towards me and bam! I definitely felt something on the side of my hip. Juice ko, 2 am pa lang may flag ceremony na!
I got the feeling Harry was giving me an all too clear message even if he was “sleeping”. But I kept my restraint knowing that my imagination usually runs away with me, and maybe I just misinterpreted it and one false move and this guy would beat me to a pulp.
My mouth was so dry (damn that gin) I badly needed a drink of water, but a part of me also felt that if I move away from the flagpole I’d miss the chance of a lifetime haha! So I just lay there like a rock, until I distinctly felt his hand grab mine and did something which was unmistakably the cue for Panatang Makabayan.
I woke up the next morning in my bunk- I did not now how I got there, but thank goodness I was because if X and Y found out about the early morning flag raising that would have been the end of me. The bunk below was empty, and in an instant I felt a flash of guilt. I got my towel, pail, and tabo straight to the showers to wash the Monica Lewinsky-inspired Clorox stain on my ROTC t-shirt I wore last night.
At the canteen I saw Harry with Y and some of the Yakal girls. He was avoiding my gaze and seemed to have amnesia that he ever knew me. Oh well, I thought. I guess I’d have to be especially nice to X and Y in the next few days.
I went to live in Quezon City for a while during sem break, though I was both missing and kind of dreading seeing Harry again when school starts. I moved back in Friday (the weekend before classes started), and I found myself alone.
I ran into the dorm master, and was half expecting the lady to manhandle me to her office for my crime, but I was just surprised when she told me well have a new roommate because one of my old roommates decided to leave the dorm. She must have read the look on my face because she quickly chimed in,
“Mukhang mabait naman si Mr. Z (hiding their names using algebraic expressions seems like the most convenient for me), sophomore sa College of Human Kinetics.”
I forced a smile, thanked her and went back to my room. I was shocked to see Harry, with his duffel bag in hand.
“Alis ka na ba?”
He gave me a puzzled look.
“Hinde ah. Si X siguro tinutukoy mo, sa Katips na sya nakatira ngayon.”
I sat on the desk, relieved. I guess the distance served us good- I got a vibe from him that the whole episode was behind us.
Our new roommate Z occupied Y’s upper bunk, while Y moved to X’s lower bunk. Harry and myself kept our bunks. The rule was, the newbies get the upper bunk. I didn’t mind as long as I was on top of Harry, chos!
We never talked about that episode again (I guess amnesia works for some guys), but did it happen again? There were a couple of times when we’d change clothes side by side, or watch a VCD on Z’s computer with Harry’s arm resting on my shoulder, or other “hearts-a-leaping” moments for me but none of the flag ceremony moments again.
I’d never forget the Lantern Parade December of 1998, that was the culminating activity before everyone leaves for their province. We spent the last weeks of November working day in and day out in Melchor hall, and that 18th of December was the night of the parade.
Our college won an award for Most Dramatic (yeah, that’s my award alright), and I gave the lantern I was carrying to a buddy so I could find my roommates. I found them huddled near the admin building.
Harry stood up and gave me a hug.
“Congrats! The best talaga lantern n’yo.”
“Thanks. May next year pa naman para sa Eng.” I joked.
Y and Z gave me a pat in the back, and there was this girl I know vaguely from 2nd floor of the dorm, smiling at me.
“Punta kami ni Aimee sa SM North, sama ka?” Harry asked.
“Sige, kayo lang muna.” I said.
Y, Z, and myself walked to our dorm. Y spilled the beans that Aimee was officially Harry’s girlfriend. I was lucky it was dark, because my knees felt wobbly and I felt like someone hit me with a hammer.
“Kelan lang?” I asked.
“Kanina pre. Ayos din mag-timing ‘tong si Harry. Sinagot sya habang may fireworks display.”
After that I just felt like I wanted to bury my head on my pillow. I pretended I was tired and had to sleep immediately. Can’t say I wasn’t affected because I cried a bucket of tears that night.
Well, I guess I should have known flag ceremonies don’t last a lifetime LOL. It hurt too much to stay, so I asked my folks if I could transfer to a boarding house instead. I avoided him altogether in the days before I moved, and even when classes resumed January the following year I’d duck into a classroom if I see him approaching in Melchor hall. From then on, the 1st to 3rd floor were off limits to me, including all fishball stands near Yakal.
Men can be so dense when it comes to feelings. The day I left, Harry, Y, and Z were in the room. I said my goodbyes while I was dying inside (kimi la). The only thing Harry said was:
“Nakalimutan mo tabo mo.”
“Sa 'yo na.” I said as I walked away.