Part IV. MEMORIES WERE ALL THAT WAS LEFT
It was semestral break and I know I should have been enjoying myself and making the most out of it because when school starts again, I would be busy with my studies. However, I wasn’t in the mood. I spent most of my days inside my room since finding out about Jayjay’s death. One day, I found myself staring at our photos when we were in 5th and 6th grade, and I felt myself drifting and going back in those years.
5th GRADE (1991)
On my 5th grade, I had difficulty catching up with my studies. For one, my classmates were fast learners and advanced readers, which is what I was not used to. I have to be competent because I don’t want to be the bottom rank. It would be such a shame.
Another, having new friends with my new classmates was also a struggle. I am shy and silent type of a student. There are a few who are nice and friendly but they already have their own group of friends and I can’t seem to fit myself in. So most of the time, I eat lunch with my former classmates and friends if I am able to spot them at the canteen.
A few months before the end of the school year, guess what?! Our adviser in class changed our sitting arrangement. Yes! We have that sitting arrangement where you’re stucked with your seatmate for the rest of the school year or until the teacher changes her mind and change it again. I ended up sitting beside Jayjay. I was so nervous then, because that would be my chance to get to know him. I am not sure if I would still be in this class next year. So I thought, I should be doing my best to be noticed by him, to be friends with him. But the plan of befriending him didn’t turn out well. I never expected or even imagined that he was a complete asshole. He made my every minute of the day a disaster. He would always play jokes on me and he and the rest of our classmates close to our seats would always make fun of me. I would always be embarrassed and I felt like crying every time but I just kept silent. I never thought he could look like an angel in the 2nd grade but a complete bully three years later.
A few weeks after, I noticed he was getting nicer and eventually, he and some of our classmates close to our seats include me in their small chats in between classes. I have started getting to know them and vice versa.
One time, a few of our classmates decided to play touching ball. It was one of the most popular games during that time. The mechanics of the games is: The opponents will be divided into two and will be standing at both ends of the court (assuming we have a small court). Then they will be throwing small plastic ball the size of a big pear and must hit a target, meaning must hit/touch one of us to be out of the game until no one is left. So when the one side throws the ball to the other side, you must run away from the ball. It was a battle between 7 boys and 10 girls, as far as I can remember. So the game began, and then when there were just a few of us girls left, Jayjay suddenly grabbed me from behind. He embraced me with my back in front of him and signalled the boys to finish off the rest of the girls so I would be left behind. I was struggling to get free but failed to do so. He held me closer to his body and whispered to me that there’s no use of fighting him because he’s stronger. I have never felt such a feeling of electricity running down my spine and ooohhh…never felt so heavenly to be held by a boy. He was warm but soft and smells like powder. Compared to our other boy classmates, he smelled far better than them. I have never been that close to a boy before, so I didn’t know if that was a natural reaction. I was kind of pissed off with how the game was going but at the same time, I liked the sensations I am feeling. They are strange but felt nice. I was like in a trance. I can’t remember who won or what happened in the game. All I can remember was I was in cloud 9 that day.
Then another time, Jayjay and I together with a few of our classmates decided to visit our sick teacher who had measles. We rode the jeepney and I don’t know how he ended sitting beside me. Then within the trip I didn’t notice that he let his arms rest at the back of my seat and we were seated very close to each other. Then one of our classmates (May) noticed it and she started teasing us. Then everybody was cheering and he was smiling smugly. After such a long time, I was again the laughing stock of my classmates. I got pissed off. I took off his arms and for a moment, I noticed he was caught off guard. He looked embarrassed or hurt by the gesture (I was not sure.), then he suddenly regained his composure and just made another joke about it. All throughout the visit, we were careful and very conscious not to seat beside each other to avoid being teased again.
After a few more months, it was already the end of the school year.
6TH GRADE (1992)
First day of classes, usually my mom and I would look at the lists of lower sections posted on the bulletin board near the principal’s office. However, that year, my mom checked the A section hoping I am still listed in that section. Unfortunately, we didn’t see my name there. I was so disappointed. I know I did my best on the previous year. I can’t believe I fell out of the first Rank 50 but my mom made me feel better.
We went to find the room. When we finally found it, I felt my legs were heavy and can’t seem to lift them. I don’t want to get inside that room but I know I have to. I went to sit inside and I felt all eyes were on me. I know what they were thinking. They were thinking why I ended up in the last section. I also know how they felt about me. I know because it was how I felt when I first entered the A section’s room. But my musings were interrupted when somebody took the seat beside me. “Hey, Jen! I didn’t expect you to be here. I think I’m going to like it here after all.” I was open mouthed. It was Jayjay.
In the middle of the school year, one day I was walking towards the canteen to buy food when a young girl approached me and introduced herself. She seemed very enthusiastic and seemed to want to give me a hug. She said she’s Kristy, the sister of Jayjay. She shook my hand and said her brother always talks about me with her. I was speechless and surprised and I don’t know what to feel right then and there.
Being in 6th grade gave me a lot of sweet memories to look back into. There are times when I catch Jayjay staring at me during lectures. And if he sees I caught him, he would just wink and smile sheepishly. Another time, I sang a song in front of the class. I went to sing towards a guy who’s a very good friend of mine, and me not knowing that at the back was where Jayjay was seated. He thought I was walking towards him to sing the song and oh boy! I thought I saw his jealous eyes imploring at me if me and the guy were an item.
That school year, Jayjay and I have become closer, became good friends should I say. There are a lot of things I remember about him that I don’t want to forget. There are those times he stood up for me and I for him.
TIMES HE STOOD UP FOR ME
- He was disappointed one time I flunked an exam. He scolded me like a big brother telling me I should have been studying harder. I don’t know what to say then. I was so down for failing an exam at the same time, the last thing I wanted right then was a sermon from him. I appreciated the gesture in the end anyway.
- He saved my butt one time I was not able to answer during recitation. The teacher asked a question about history and she called my name to answer. I didn’t know the answer so she asked me to stand until someone answers for me correctly. Nobody dared to raise their hands because if they gave the wrong answer, he/she will stand with me for the rest of the period. Nobody dared except him. Guess what?! He gave the right answer. He wasn’t even sure with his answer. I was glad he made an intelligent guess. And when I am able to answer during recitation, he would give a thumbs up sign at me.
- He was the class Vice President, so he was always the one being asked by teachers to collect projects and assignments to be submitted to our teacher. One time, I am far from finishing my project while the rest of my classmates were about to finish. He saw my work and I know I am going to flunk this project again for not finishing it. He did me a favour by talking to the teacher to give us one more day to finish it because mostly are not able to do so. When in fact, I am the only one far from finishing it.
- He was there ready to catch me when I fell one time I was hanging something on the ceiling for a certain program. I did not even notice him watching below me.
TIMES I STOOD UP FOR HIM
- One time he had a fever but he was in school. I saw him sitting at the pergola and asked him what is wrong. He said he wasn’t feeling very well so I told him to go to the clinic. He said he had just been there and that they won’t give him medicine until he eats something for lunch. He asked for a favour from me if I can feed him. So I did feed him like a toddler while the rest of our batchmates and some of our classmates passing by were watching us. I was so embarrassed, but for him, either he didn’t notice or didn’t care what other people think at all.
- I watched most of his basketball games if I am available like those Milo best basketball at the capitol in our province. He would nod at our (me and my friend) direction when he sees us in the bleachers.
- One time they lost in a basketball game and he was so lonely. I saw him seating at the pergola alone still wearing his jersey. I asked him what’s the problem and he won’t say a thing so I said, I would go home and leave him alone. Then he asked if I can stay a little longer with him. We just sat there watching younger kids play at the field area until he said it’s time to go home. He was like that. If there’s a problem, he won’t talk to me. He would just remain silent while I just figure out in my head what is on his mind.
- One time, one of our classmates confronted him saying he dropped his bag on the floor. I stood up for him saying Jayjay wasn’t even there so it wasn’t him. Then Jayjay suddenly said to everybody around that I liked him that much for me to stand up for him. I was blushing from humiliation, but I was smiling to myself as I was walking away. Then I remembered he’s a black belter in karate. What was I thinking? Of course, he can defend himself even without me being there.
- He asked me to enlist to a girl’s basketball game he was coaching because they were shortlisted. Even if I was not familiar with the mechanics of basketball, I did sign up just for him. Then we’d spend time together practicing dribbling and shooting the ball. Oh my! How I suck at basketball!
- One time he fell in the pyramid (cheer leading competition) by accident, I got so worried that I ran towards him immediately. Then while everybody’s amused by what I did, he was on the grassy field faking a sprained ankle while I nursed him. And behind my back, they were all exchanging glances and winks and smiles. They all made a fool of me.
A few weeks before graduation, we have this recollection day. It talks about our spiritual aspect of life as students and the like. But one activity made an unforgettable memory. The priest said there are times that we are left speechless or don’t have the nerve to let out our feelings towards others. So he made up an activity where you pass a key to someone you want to say: I am sorry, I love you, or I care for you. I was expecting a few from those classmates I had misunderstandings with but I didn’t expect I would receive one from Jayjay. It would have been better if we were just blindfolded or something and was able to receive what message that was intended for us than receiving a key from him and wondering what it means.
Then a few days before the school year ends, we (Jayjay and me and a few classmates) hung out at the playground. We were just sitting on the grass and chatting about anything. Things like where to study in highschool, what to do for the summer vacation, about graduation, and a lot of other things. Then everybody seemed like talking to one another and I felt I was left alone. And that was when Jayjay came to sit by my side. We talked about some nonsense things for a while then he popped something that left me surprised and confused and disappointed all at the same time. He mentioned he’s going to the seminary. Oh yes! He really gave me lots of surprises before that school year ended. But this one left me disappointed and hurt. And I can’t think of anything else to say right then and he is looking at me intently. I don’t know if he’s expecting anything for me to say or he was observing how I reacted to this. And all that I was able to say was, “You want to be a priest?” I wasn’t even sure if it was asked or it was inferred. I don’t know how I delivered it. The answer was like so endless for me to wait. He said, he wasn’t sure. But he very much want to try what’s life like in the seminary. Then he asked me what I think about it. What am I supposed to say? I remember I said something like if that’s what he wants, then he should go for it. But deep in my heart I know I don’t want him to. I am scared I am going to lose him like this.
To be continued…