The boy remembers when he first laid eyes on the girl. It was a weekend. There was a knock on the door. He opened it and there she was.
She wants to buy ice. He says they don’t sell ice. She points to a cardboard that says ICE FOR SALE. He laughs and tells her the sign was left behind by the previous tenant.
The girl leaves. He removes the sign and watches her, at the corner of his eye, walk the pathway to the apartment next door.
The year was 2000. He was a college senior barely out of his teens. She was a college freshman barely out of high school.
He still remembers distinctly the place where she stayed. It was a little elevated. The roof was colored red and so was the floor. The curtains green. The walls unpainted. There was a small porch. A small table sat in the corner.
Mid-afternoon he would notice the girl pass by eating a stick of banana cue. He learns later that the girl’s classes end around that time. His classes, on the other hand, start at that time until late in the evening.
For a whole semester that would be the pattern. The guy wakes up in the morning and eats breakfast. He sees the girl pass by on her way to school. He studies. Formulas. Numbers. Circuits.
In the afternoon the guy leaves for school. The girl arrives TCWAG in hand.
They pass each other. Their eyes meet. Not a word is spoken.
A semester later the guy and the girl’s class begin at the same time.
School was only a 10-minute walk from their apartments. A few times the boy and the girl would walk to school at the same time but never together.
There was, again, eye contact. A demure smile from the girl. A lopsided smile from the guy.
The girl would always walk ahead. The guy a few steps behind. He wants to quicken his pace and walk and talk with the girl. But he doesn’t.
He went to visit her once albeit a short one. Both were too shy. Introverts both.
Nothing came out of the visit. He didn’t ask her out. Nor asked if she wants to walk to school together.
He still remembers the time he brought pasalubong for the girl from his hometown. He waited for the perfect timing (or muster the strength) to hand over the pasalubong but couldn’t find one.
The pasalubong ended in the trash.
She was his crush and everyone knew it. The girl’s housemates would knowingly smile when they pass by the guy. The guy would avert his eyes and bow his head. Embarrassed.
His housemates would tease him incessantly. Bagay daw sila. He would turn red but chose to keep mum.
One time the guy was alone in the apartment. He was bent on making the LCD circuit project work. He heard shrieking and giggling next door. He peeped through the window and saw food. Cake. Pasta. Barbecue. Roast chicken. Softdrinks. An afternoon party.
One of the girls steps out of the porch signaling him to come over.
He freezes. Should he? He looks at himself. He was filthy. He has not taken his bath yet. Has not even changed out of his clothes that he slept in the previous night.
He shakes his head and raises the circuit board he was working on indicating that he was busy.
His roommates reprimand him later that night. It was the girl’s birthday.
Soon after the guy graduates and moves elsewhere. Even miles away he continues to ask for news from his housemates. He even got her mobile number.
They exchange text messages but not often. Then the messages stop. The girl got herself a boyfriend his roommate tells him.
He moves on. He gets involved in serious relationships. He goes out on dates. One-night stands. Flings. Single. Married. Separated. Older. Younger.
He plays the field and breaks girls’ hearts.
But why is it, a decade since, he still remembers her? Her walk? Her damp hair in the morning? Her hair tied in a ponytail in the afternoon? Her hometown? Her name?
Note: This is a work of fiction. Almost.