IMPORTANT NOTE: This story was written for Candy Magazine (published in 2002) by Sunantha Mendoza-Quibilan and I. Sunantha (AKA Sunshine to all of us) was also my best friend in high school. But I never made out with her brother. I wrote Lia’s part, she wrote Camille’s.
Lia, 16. A junior in St. Sophia’s all-girls highschool. Best friends with:
Camille, 15.Â Also aÂ junior inÂ St. Sophia’s all-girls highschool.
Miggy, Lia’s 18 year old brother who studies in La Salle. A freshman in college.
Sleeping over Lia’s to finish a project for Pinoy. We’re supposed to compare Filipinas today to Rizal’s version of the ideal girl–Maria Clara. I’m supposed to prove that Maria Claras are alive and kicking even in my kikay classmates, while Lia is supposed to say there’s trace of Maria Clara’s hanky in our closets. We’re calling it “The Filipina as Maria Clara: Fact or Fiction in the 21st century?”
I can’t concentrate knowing Miggy is in the same house, breathing the same aircon air as me. I know I should tell Lia, but I feel funny. She’s always making fun of Miggy-the-basketball-hotshot. Once, a snotty senior gave Lia an envelope that stank of cologne addressed to Miggy. Inside (Lia opened it) we found five pictures of the girl in a bikini! We laughed and laughed all afternoon. Besides, it was Lia’s idea of a joke that got us together. She chased after us for the Blue Flame marriage booth at last year’s fair. I thought Miggy would get pissed at her for pairing us up, but actually, Miggy was really nice about it. I’d seen him around her house, but never got to talk to him.
While we walked around, I found out that we had lots of stuff in common. We loved the Dave Matthews Band and loathed Westlife. We even had the same favorite Quickly flavor: Blueberry Ice. Even if it was so hot and our hands were tied together, his palms weren’t sweaty. I thought that was nice. I had to really look up to see his face because he was so tall, and I thought that was nice too. I noticed that he had really long eyelashes and smelled like ivory soap. No perfume. Nice. So when he asked for my number I just gave it to him, I didn’t even say, “Ask Lia, she knows it by heart.”
So how can I tell Lia that? She’d laugh at me, even if Miggy does have the same qualities I like about her– they both laugh at my corny jokes. I don’t even know if Miggy really likes me–he’s not courting, anyway. If I mention Miggy to Lia in a non-brotherly setting it would gross her out. But nothing about Miggy is gross.
We kissed. We kissed. I can’t believe we kissed. Let me get one thing clear: I did not go in the kitchen hoping to see him. I just thought it would be serendipitous to bump into him. The weird thing is, when I did see him, it wasn’t weird. Everything was slow and soft like I was sleepwalking. He looked up from the ref, said “hey,” and offered me water. I said “hey” back, and got a glass for him to fill. Then, Miggy looked at me, touched my cheek, and blew lightly onto my lower lip! I totally did not expect it. So I shut my eyes and kissed him back.
We heard the kitchen door and pulled apart, but it was too late. It was Lia–she looked horrified. I pulled away from Miggy. My heart was pounding and I felt like I had a bowling ball in my chest. I didn’t know if Lia was going laugh at me or scream at me. It was worse. She didn’t do either. When i got back to her room she was pretending to be asleep-so I just lay down beside her. I fell asleep touching my lips. So this is how it feels to kiss!
The next day, Lia didn’t wake me up til 15 minutes before the school bus arrived-I didn’t even have time to eat breakfast. In the bus, she didn’t talk to me, so I just kept quiet and kept looking at the notes I jotted down for our Maria Clara project. “The 21st century Filipina is brave and honest, unlike Maria Clara who hid everything from the people she loved.”
Lia and I usually eat together, too, but today, as soon as the lunch bell rang, she disappeared. As I was walking to our tambayan, by the lunch counter, I saw her sitting with Annabel and Tonette. Ok, so she’s avoiding me. I still have a bowling ball in my stomach. But I don’t just feel guilty now, I’m angry too! Why can’t she just talk to me? It’s just like Lia to pretend I don’t exist when I do something to annoy her. How do I say I was embarrassed to admit I liked her brother? She was the one who said that he walks around in his undies at home. Shouldn’t she understand that I feel bad too?
In Pinoy class, I pass her a note. “U finish yr section of the paper. I’ll finish mine. We’ll just deliver the report separately.”
Miggy called me last night and told me that Lia wasn’t speaking to him either. She didn’t even bother to respond to my note. But I know she’ll do her work. It’s due for 3rd period, and we didn’t even read each other’s papers. I know we’re going to flunk. Ms. Cabral called us to the podiums, and I started.
I took a deep breath, looked at Lia, and said: “Filipinas today aren’t repressed by society, like Maria Clara. We’re not made to stay at home to cook–in fact, we can even become President!
“But that doesn’t mean that women today are very different from Maria Clara. Things that bother girls–like boys and love–still bother us today. The difference? 21st century Filipinas deal with these things differently. We’re a little more brave and honest. But like Maria Clara, circumstances still exist where we can’t just speak out. We still feel ashamedÃ›about our bodies, our relationship, and what we feel.”
I can’t believe it. No wonder Camille was taking so long–she was swapping spit with my brother! I can’t believe she didn’t even tell me!Â We’ve always told each other everything–like the time I got kuto in second year she was the only one who knew, or when I told her I liked Pancho, her crush, too.Â I never hid anything from her. And she never kept secrets from me either; she told me about her parents separating and how she once fed her little sister toothpaste-coated cotton balls.Â Why did this have to happen now?Â Maybe I should have been more sensitive, maybe I should have read between the lines more.Â I feel so stupid for not even having a clue about her and my brother.Â Which makes it worse–what could she possibly see in Miggy?Â He walks around in his underwear, for heaven’s sake. Plus, isn’t that like incest?
When I saw them there in the kitchen, I couldn’t breathe.Â Camille and my brother, under that ugly fluorescent light, kissing.Â Some things, no matter how hard you try, or no matter how much you don’t want to remember them, get stuck in your mind.Â Like that hideous song by Westlife, “We have joy, we have fun, we have seasons in the sun . . . (yuck)” has the tendency to haunt you for days and you wish it would just stop.Â That’s what happens to me, every time I look at Camille.Â And it breaks my heart, but I just can’t speak to her.
She felt like a stranger sitting next to me on the school bus.Â Like all of a sudden, there was something about her that I couldn’t be a part of, like she knew something I didn’t know. (Well, of course she knows something I don’t know. Duh.)Â I decided I was going to concentrate on our Pinoy report: “The Filipina as Maria Clara: Fact or Fiction in the 21st century?”Â But all I could think of was Maria Claras couldn’t possibly exist anymore, because if they did, they wouldn’t go around kissing their best friend’s brother.
I ended up having lunch with these two girls, Tonette and Annabel, who are obsessed with anime.Â The entire lunch period was devoted to a Psuedo Intellectual Discourse on Samurai X and Fushigi Yuugi.Â I must admit I was starting to miss Camille and her Erap jokes.
I wish somebody would tell me why this hurts so much.Â I should be happy, shouldn’t I?Â If Miggy marries Camille, then she’ll be my sister!Â Why should this upset me?Â It doesn’t make any sense.Â If only Camille said something, it would’ve been perfectly okay–gosh, all those times she and Miggy would run into each
other at my house!Â I wonder who she told–the whole time this was happening. She must have shared this with somebody if it made her so kilig, if it was making her so happy.Â I feel betrayed that it wasn’t me–that she wasn’t honest enough to trust me with this big secret.
She passed me a note in Pinoy class reminding me about our project. I crumpled it up into a little ball and held it for a long time.
I go home, and there’s Miggy.Â This whole thing follows me wherever I go.Â He’s extra nice though. Last night, he put two pieces of Choc-Nut on my desk while I was studying.Â But I know it’s a trick, to distract me from considering all the possible heartache he could cause my best friend.Â I couldn’t help thinking about how I would kill him if he ever broke Camille’s heart.Â Even if he’s 18 and bigger than me, I will personally kick his ass.Â So I didn’t eat the Choc-Nut.
In Pinoy class, Ms. Cabral called on Camille and me to deliver our reports. After Camille spoke, I stood up.
“Maria Claras no longer exist in the 21st century because we all strive to speak up and take care of ourselves.Â We’re aware of how women are in society, so we try harder to be heard. Deep inside, all women recognize the need for empowerment–but we still have a long way to go before we can change the world.”
I sat down and smiled at Camille, who grinned back. At that moment, we both knew everything was going to be okay. Ms. Cabral said, “Very good work, girls! I can see you two really prepared for this project.”
Camille looked at me and told Ms. Cabral, “Actually Ms, we really put our heads together to produce the best team effort.”
When the lunch bell rang, we started towards each other. “I’m sorry-” Camille started. “I was such a nasty-” I blurted out at the same time. We laughed. “Can you believe Ms. Cabral actually gave us a compliment?” Camille said. “I actually pinched myself–I couldn’t believe you were talking to me and we weren’t going to flunk.”
“I’m really sorry, Camille. I just got a little paranoid about you hanging out with my brother. I just didn’t know how to react,” I said.
“Me too. I should’ve told you earlier. But before the kiss, there was really nothing to tell you! ”
“So how was it?” I nudged Camille with my elbow.
“What, the kiss?” Camille asked. “Uh-huh,” I replied, waggling my eyebrows.
“Uh…I don’t know,” Camille said thoughtfully. “Wet . . . “
“Wet? Eww.. that’s what you get for kissing my brother.” I said. “Warm . . . soft . . . ” Camille continued. “Stop it, enough!” I covered my ears and ran to the caf, with Camille following me, saying “Minty . . . slurpy. . . sticky. . . .”