Walking into the ocean of people in the MRT station, I spot Ian L., my first live crush. I was thirteen and had come from an exclusive girls’ school; up until then my crushes had consisted of teenybopper stars I saw from my classmates’ TigerBeat and BOP magazines. Once, in sixth grade, I had a dream in which Jonathan Brandis, rest in peace, led me through a maze of corridors, only to kiss me and end up proposing. That was probably my first wet dream ever.
And then I see Ian in the MRT station, looking like the Stay-Puff marshmallow man of Ghostbusters fame (why he was ever a ghost has always boggled me — he never seemed to have lived, much less died), wearing a long-sleeved shirt, his midsection bursting from his belted black slacks, looking like then thousand other yuppies in Makati. Around his neck hung a cute girl around my age, looking possessive and in love. And all of a sudden I am thirteen years old, and it is my first day of high school.
I enter the classroom, two weeks late for class, and the first person I see is this cute boy with small, dark eyes with obscenely long lashes. He has that hairstyle so common among boys in the mid-90s, longish without being too long, even at the back, bangs threatening to get into the eyes. Think Leo di Caprio in This Boy’s Life. Think Mark Anthony Fernandez (I was actually more of an Eric Fructuoso fan, but I digress). He smiles shyly with what I mistake for demureness (it is several years before I finally understand that boys are never demure; if they seem shy it is because they are polite and you’re not their type). I swoon. Here is an actual, living, breathing boy. The class introduce themselves. His name, I find out, is an anagram of mine. I attribute it to fate, to destiny. I nearly faint in happiness.
Throughout the first weeks of my freshman year, I tried to position myself as near him as possible. Every time we crossed paths and he smiled, I giggled like the schoolgirl that I was the year before. I couldn’t help it; he was, in my untrained eye, the epitome of boys on TV, boys in movies. He was charming and funny, friendly and kind.
Of course, truthfully, I hardly knew him; from a distance I attributed all these qualities to him because they were ideal. Whatever he was really like, I didn’t care; in my mind he was perfect. And, as my high school soap opera played out, I never needed to know him anyway. We would never be friends.
Some time during that year, someone had told him i had a crush on him. It didn’t take a genius to figure that one out, although I was too young to understand that it was sickeningly obvious. My despondent stares, my shamelessness in telling people who my crush was (it was all under the guide of, ‘I’ll tell you my crush if you tell me yours’, but for some reason I didn’t care who their crushes were; I just rambled on and on about him). Since he wasn’t stupid either, and he knew, he more or less stayed away, as if there was an invisible TRO between us.
But that didn’t stop me from writing poems about him, poems that only a thirteen year old can write. I wrote songs. One time I had smuggled my instamatic camera to school and asked a classmate who was close to him to take a picture of him. Don’t make it too obvious, I said, make it look like you’re taking a picture of the three of them (meaning him and his friends). Of course, my classmate told him right away, which explained the jeering expressions on the faces of his companions. But at least he was kind enough to smile for the picture. I carried that picture around for months. I wouldn’t have exchanged it for anything, even an autographed picture of Wil Wheaton.
Of course, in the end, he was replaced by another crush, and then another, and then another. He grew a little, and his voice changed. We went off to college, saw each other once in a while. Since we had never been friends, we didn’t really have anything to talk about. Aside from the occasional funny remark about our “history” (we had both acknowledged and accepted it by college — why deny it? — we can’t all be thirteen forever), we never really talked about anything. And so we fell out of each other’s radars, not that we ever really minded being in, and life happened, until now, thirteen years after we first meet.
So that’s the story of my first live crush, as I know you have yours, and while these stories are funny and embarrassing and tragic and stupid, they are all true. In the middle of our lives, with everything that’s happened and everything else that will happen, we tend to connect to resolved events. Seeing him after all these years, having ended that book before I even understood that it never could have begun, I finally realize that while I enjoy thinking about life at thirteen, I am glad that I am now (almost) twenty-six.