I think this was around 1994 or so. The break up with my girlfriend at the time was still rather fresh in my mind. I was still hurting, but the same time, I was indescribably lonely. Perhaps I was just simply love starved. Having stopped drawing comics completely, I returned to the office grind for an Architectural firm in Quezon City. Fortunately, my job there allowed me to be out of the office for long periods of time supervising the construction of one project or another across Manila.
I found myself travelling Recto a lot by jeep or by walking. It was rather convenient because I lived only a short distance away at P. Noval in Sampaloc, beside the University of Santo Tomas. I loved Recto. I loved the little places where one can find really cool things. I found some really nice comics there, and some really nice drawing instruments.
One particular day I was just minding my own business as I rode the jeepney when I noticed this girl sitting across from me. She was very pretty. She had long very curly hair and she wore what looked like a college uniform. She had some kind of leather shoulder bag and carried some of her books and folders across her chest. She was so pretty that I couldn’t help but look.
Back then I would do this a lot to girls I found attractive. I’d look at them and then when they found me looking, I would look away. And then I would look again.
This girl caught me looking again, and I looked away again. But now I know she knew I found her attractive because she’s caught me looking twice now. From here on in, she’s on the lookout to see if I would look again. I’ve noticed this pattern numerous times. I didn’t think it meant she thought I looked good or found me attractive, but I think she might have been pleased to be found attractive, and was looking for further verification of it.
She got down somewhere near the University of the East, and I just watched her disappear in the crowd. I didn’t think much of her after that, well, at least until I saw her again on another day, on another jeep. And of course, I looked at her again. She looked back and I could swear she grew a half smile. Or a quarter smile. I couldn’t really tell. Did she recognize me? Was this an indication that I was familiar to her and that she didn’t mind seeing me again?
We played the back and forth look and look-away game for a while until she had to go down again. I think this exchange happened twice or three times more over the next couple of weeks. This time, I started to really think about her. Without really knowing her, I found myself really liking her and wondered if I had the courage to actually come up and talk to her. Several times I intentionally hung around where I would normally see her and try to get a ride if she was taking a ride in the same jeepney.
One day I saw her again in a jeep and with a quarter smile, I looked at her. She saw me looking and quite angrily looked away. I was kind of dumbstruck. Did I do anything wrong? Was she trying to discourage me? Was she trying to tell me to get off her back? Did she have a boyfriend? All throughout this trip I would look quickly at her once in a while and all I would see would be that long beautiful curly hair, her face hidden from me as she looked far in the distance, far from where I was sitting.
It bothered me for the next week or so, as I thought of what I would do next. I thought about writing her a letter. I was frustratingly shy, you see. Sure I could have just talked to her, but I didn’t think I had the balls to do that. I fell back into that thing I found comfortable: writing. So yeah, I wrote her a letter.
I can still actually remember the gist of what I wrote. It probably went something like, “Hello. I hope you’ll pardon me for giving you this letter out of the blue, a letter from someone who don’t even know. But I’ve been noticing you for a while as we seem to take the same ride every once in a while. I hope you’re not offended or put off and I certainly hope I don’t frighten you. I don’t really mean any harm. I just wanted to say how pretty I think you are, and I was hoping I could talk to you…” or some bull crap like that. I know it has an air of desperation to it, but my failed relationship gave me an anger, and a blunt edge that just let me throw caution to the wind. In many ways, I didn’t care if she never responded, or if I never saw her again. What mattered to me was I got to tell her what I thought.
For days I waited for her near the gates of the University of the East just waiting for her to get down from the jeep or pass by. After a week or so, I finally saw her. Working up some courage, I actually came up to her, and gave her the letter. And then I turned and walked away as fast as I can. I looked back and I saw her walking away, her long curly hair covering much of her back.
That was the last time I ever saw her. I never heard from her. She never replied.
Another project in another part of Manila started and kept me from the Recto area for a considerable amount of time. It hurt a little bit, not hearing from her. She was probably offended. She was probably put off, and yeah, I guess I most probably scared her.
It was probably just as well. Looking back now, still nursing a broken heart, it would not have been wise to enter another relationship. It would be unfair to the girl and I’m sure it would have surely ended badly. On rare occasions, I do still wonder whatever became of this girl. That was almost 20 years ago now. She must be married, and have teen-aged children. I’m sure she would have cut her hair short by now, as girls often do when they get older. She could still be in the Philippines, or she could be abroad. Maybe she’s even on Facebook. I’m pretty sure she, and her children are on Facebook. But since I never knew her name, I could never find her again. Not that I want to.
It’s one of those little mysteries in my life that I prefer to remain mysteries. This girl is best remembered as a memory, a memory of something silly I did once in my life.