Sometimes, I feel that I could have excelled best by being a con artist.
I shall exorcise myself of a memory that has been haunting me for years. Travel with me back into the past.
Once upon a time, I was a victim of ostracism. You see, I was a student transferee from a highschool in far-flung Mindanao where my mother, as a church minister, was assigned when I was fourteen years old. I’m cutting the story short to save on computer rental in the Internet cafe, but suffice to say that when I was nearly sixteen, my family moved back to Manila and life in my new school as a senior was the bottomest circle of Dante’s inferno.
My only friend was the battered and worn notebook on whose pages I wrote random poems and snippets of conversations I overheard from all around me… conversations I wasn’t part of. My classmates have indomitable bonds with each other, they being together since freshman year. And because, to them, I was a promdi*, it added to the ostracism. They kept a wide berth from me (I could sob here and soak the keyboards but choose not to), isolating me in my corner of the classroom. The kinder ones tried to make small talk, but in a teenage world where cliques run one’s life, those kinder ones risked being isolated and excommunicated from their groups as well; so, those kinder ones were never really my friends. Nonetheless, they made life bearable in that infernal high school.
Thinking about it, that experience could’ve been one of the catalysts of my tendency to stay on the sidelines and watch the show unfold in front of me, allowing me the luxury to take down notes. That experience surely was the reason I have nothing to share when others discuss their prom nights. I boycotted the said “momentous” occasion in favor of a movie marathon in HBO, rather than be around kids who, in my opinion, had the collective conscience of a lamppost on a coastal highway.
Still, before the school year ended, I got my revenge.
I’ve planned it to a tee, having already ordered a set of hand grenades, TNT, and dynamites over the Internet using a stolen credit card number and under a false name. But my revenge took a different, less violent way when I finally exacted it.
The “cool” kids wanted a Christmas party other than the usual fruit punch and spaghetti and fried chicken in a styrofoam variety. And I was guilty of putting the idea in their heads of having an out-of-town party in one of the private resorts in Laguna — to stay there overnight and hold the party without any adults present to keep a check on the pheromone meter. I blurted the idea out of my desire to be accepted by the group. The popular girl squealed in delight and cast a meaningful look her boyfriend’s way. Even before the others could vote nay or yea, I knew what the outcome would be.
It was 30 to 2 in favor of yea. The two dissidents were immediately coerced to recant their decision and half-heartedly gave their assent after a private conference with one of the popular girl’s sidekicks.
The condition of the planned party was that no teachers should know. And that the parents should think that the out-of-town party is a chaperoned one.
The solution, I gave to them. They lapped it up like a fish to bait. For a moment there, I savored the feeling of how it is to be worshipped in awe. (Pathetic, I know.)
Kids who read this, one advice: DON’T DO THIS IN SCHOOL!
I told them to attend the school-required party but not spend so much. Just a simple early gathering of classmates with no exchanging of gifts portion, which was usual in high school Christmas parties. Contribute something for a teacher’s token so the class adviser would not be so miffed that her students are leaving the party early. The teacher didn’t have an idea that the entire class would be on its way to Laguna before lunchtime.
Regarding the parents, I took care of writing and printing out copies of a letter of permission for each of my classmates. The letter had an attached detailed whole-day activity schedule for the pre-Christmas spiritual life workshop held in Laguna. It was even signed by the class president, who was one of those gung ho for the party (she was, after all, the girlfriend of the school jock).
That year, the class adviser of Fourth Year Lemon** experienced the blandest Christmas party held in her three decades of teaching in that high school. The compensation was the Burberry bag she got from her students as a present for the Yuletide season. It was an orginal, although bought on sale from one of the malls in the city.
Then, Laguna opened her doors to the thirty or so unchaperoned minors. We found a townshouse securely enclosed in a high fence and a strong gate. There was an olympic-sized pool in the yard. Three bedrooms plus nooks and crannies. A kitchen, a bar, a patio, a shower room, and a toilet. We rented it out for the entire night.
When the caretaker closed the gate after him, the party started. Someone brought wine and champagne. Beer bottles and various other liquor products materialized out of bags. Someone else had a boom box, and there was suddenly trance music pulsating and reverberating all over the place. There were couples entwined in the nooks and crannies. The three bedroom doors were locked; the occupants inside were oblivious to the knocks of those who were outside.
The pool was full of kids. Alcohol and pool water mingled in joyous abandon.
I looked at the happy drunken faces of my classmates. I brought them here. Bacchus would be proud of me.
I chain smoked through it all while seated on a lounge chair. My notebook took the brunt of my cigarettes’ ashes.
Midnight came, and the popular girl came up to me, her dazed boyfriend in tow. “This is the best party ever! You’re the greatest!” She hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. Her boyfriend tussled my hair as if I was his favorite cousin and we’ve known each other since kindergarten. I must have smiled. (Pathetic, I know.)
The noon of the next day found us packing up. We were homeward bound. Some kids came up to me and gave me high-fives. Others taught me their class handshake. Others tussled my hair or gave me a pat on the back. One of the laid back guys who belonged to a band sat beside me on the bus headed for Manila. He commented that we do something like that again for graduation and asked for my number. (Pathetic, I know.) In the bus, I distributed “lecture” handouts about the workshop for my classmates to show to their parents, just in case mom and dad inquired how it went.
When the school opened after our Christmas vacation, there were classmates who sat with me during lunch. And life was easier all the way to graduation day. We share a bond now, it seemed.
The first thing I did after I got home from Laguna was cancel my Internet orders for the TNTs.
My confession ends here.
*promdi = a denigrating slang term for people who come to the city from provincial orgins; “from the province”.
**name of class section was changed to protect privacy of those involved