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My First Crush

“Hi, Joi. It’s Tony. Remember me?”

Intrigued, I clicked his Facebook account and switched back to our chat: “Yes! We were university classmates in Manila, Philippines in the 80s. How are you?”

We exchanged fast facts summarizing the last 30 years. We’re now both married with great spouses and awesome kids, stable jobs, blah blah. I thought the chat was going to be predictably short but then he started randomly talking about his crushes in our classes.

“My secret crush back then was Annie Rubio who from my eyes was the closest I could get to Phoebe Cates. Years later, I bumped into Annie again. She still had her maiden name. Still charming and fresh. She had short hair already and the Phoebe look no longer cast its charm on me. We had coffee and I took her home and ended that illusion chapter of my life. We never had coffee again.”

For the life of me I couldn’t remember who Annie Rubio was. My very mediocre university years were a blur to me. But a two-year teaching stint at a refugee camp was the turning point in my life.
I decided to go to grad school, and for the first time in my life, collected academic awards—which
may have contributed to my poor dad’s quadruple bypass and my mom to question the university’s
quality of education. Clearly, I was a late bloomer.

“What happened to your best friend, Lisa?”

I told him Lisa did not end up with her perennial boyfriend, Reyden. I wondered what she did with her “LIREY” necklace. I made a mental note to check e-Bay later.

“What about you? Who was your crush then?”

My fingers froze on the keys for a second. I debated telling him I had to finish my laundry or that someone was knocking at the door. Instead, my fingers began typing. I did have a major crush on a guy 1 or 2 years older. His name was Nicolas Diaz.

“Nicolas Diaz? He was active in student politics when we were freshmen, right? Fair skin, hairline on the side, prominent eye brows, lean, stood about 5’7 in height. Political Science or Philosophy major.”

Unbelievable. Tony had a disturbing ability to remember the past. I told him I was 100% sure Nicolas would never remember me today.

I was content admiring Nicolas from afar. I memorized his daily routine, where he ate, who his friends were, which bus he rode. I especially took note of the times he went to the library so I could synchronize them with mine. I would sit at the very end of the library, just watching him studying.
Whenever he looked up, I would pretend to yawn and bury my face in a book.

One day, my friends had had enough of my pathetic, oneway “love life”. They dared me to do something brave, or at least silly. Hmm… There was a picture of him posted on the bulletin board
in every hallway because he was campaigning to be president of the university student council at that time.

So, early one morning, when no one appeared to be around, I stood in front of a bulletin board.
After a few moments of repeated I-can-do-this like a mantra in my brain, I peeled off his picture and put back the double-sided tape on the board. I was rather pleased with myself until suddenly a deep voice boomed behind me.

“Um… What are you doing with my picture?”

I thought I would die. “It fell so I picked it up,” I mumbled, avoiding his eyes.

“Riiiiighhht,” he said, with a laugh.

I smacked the photo back on the board, turned and ran. “Wait, what’s your name?” he called after me, but I didn’t stop.

Tony wrote back:

“Then, what happened?”

After a couple of days, Nicolas visited our classroom and asked our teacher permission to make an announcement. I thought he was there to campaign again, but he said: “May I speak with Miss Joi
Irong?”

Seriously? How did he know my name? My friends stared at me as I nervously stepped outside the classroom with him.

“And?”

He handed me a new, bigger picture of him. He said, “This is for you. This is a better version of me.”

“I feel like I’m watching a cheesy Korean soap.”

I thought I was in heaven. I whispered to God, “I can die now.” There was even a cute message on
the back of the photo. He ushered me back to my seat as I held his portrait close to my wildly beating heart. For a few weeks after that, he made several attempts to talk to me after school. He would wait for me outside the classroom, buy a sandwich for me at the canteen, even chat with me in the library. I was terrified, so I started avoiding him.

“What? You are a bizarre person, Joi.”

Nothing much happened after that because I was not really prepared to be chased by an upper-classman. Or by any guy for that matter. I was an awkward 17-year-old with pimples, unwilling to
venture out of my small, quiet world of Rick Springfield vinyl records, Molly Ringwald movies, and Mills & Boon novels. So, after I had evaded all his efforts, he eventually got the hint. Later, I transferred to another university and never saw Nicolas again.

“I just saw him on TV.” 

Nicolas?

“Yes. He still speaks in the same hard northern accent. He’s a renowned lawyer now and heads his own firm, aptly called Diaz & Associates.”

After my chat with Tony, I spent the next hour or so checking out Nicolas’ website. How strange that my once mysterious, almost ethereal, crush now looked like a typical, middle-aged lawyer I’d hire for my business.

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