If not for me feeling so bad about how my special mentions of Ale have terribly gone out, another one came in during one of the Dance-a-Parable practice sessions. I was resting somewhere at the Yuchengco lobby when Cuyeg came in, introducing my blockmates to this Nico guy.
And, of course, I was confused as to who everyone was referring to. Aside from a one-letter difference, our names sounds the same. Only his increased presence afterwards - he somehow earned the title of "unofficial blockmate" after his many appearances, and increased networking that went beyond the BonoSoc - increased my confusion, if not aggravated my already sinking propositions.
I'll admit, I'm not really that close to Nico. Maybe it was only during the third term when I really got to talk to him, if you'd be willing to call that a conversation - it's just natural drift, especially when you realize it's when I came a bit close to the BonoSoc, and vice versa - and by then I even thought I was just sprouting up like an unwanted mushroom, covering stuff like Nico and Cor being together (incompletely at that). There's even this perception of him being that funny guy, that guy who could absolutely relate to everyone like he'd known them for ages. For a moment it seemed everybody was his friend.
And, as much as I didn't want to admit it back then, I wished I was like him.
You could just imagine the role Nico played during the first few months of my college life: one huge insecurity. He's not an insecurity the way I called Ale way back - that would be a really different thing - but instead, what I saw him doing was something I've long wanted to be. Somebody that's genuinely popular without even trying, seemingly. One day he was a nobody, with Cuyeg introducing him to everybody during that practice day, and the next thing I know he's cracking jokes with everybody. Isn't it obvious I was extremely intimidated?
It was only during the first CWTS classroom session when his presence began to rub off on me. He was always there, passing by whenever he gets the chance. He's there before classes start, and he's there waiting when classes end (or its us waiting for him), and then the BonoSoc, having already adopted him as a member, leaves for some weekend getaway. Only I could guess that in those days everyone would talk, exchanging everything from funny pranks on the guys to the more serious stuff. If anything for this Psychology student (of course, before the family decided to mkigrate for Canada), it was maturity that he showed, a spark that everyone probably needed before things went through. Of course, everybody gave pieces of advice, but his words have some uncomprehendable ring to it. Suddenly everything works.
Another thing I would remember him fondly for is his go-for-it attitude. There's something in him - if I could explain it, I would say that he'd do anything, even if he would look stupid, just to get through something. That's exactly what he did on that day he wrote the words "I love you, I'm sorry" on an illustration board, in different colors, then wearing it around his neck waiting at the l'Hermitage. If anything for his infectiousness, this principle would be later known as the brad attack, a term that would later be associated with anything romantic.
Jino and Ale could be one of his success stories. It was said that the two got together, beyond the two brad attacks, because of him acting somewhat like a middle man. Little did the two know, apparently, that they've been telling their feelings to each other to the same guy. Jino was dropped from CWTS class and yet he showed up with flowers, and much later he would plan with Nico everything that happened on 18 January. Aside from that aforementioned attitude, there's this creativeness in him - and then there's constraint.
As for me, we'd later become a bit chummy together. He's become a victim of my hyperactive tendencies, with him always passing by, and me just realizing the third floor of Miguel is too small for us not to cross paths. In the middle of Kizia's story, he suggested that I do something about it, with his assistance even - apparently, almost another brad attack that I refused.
"Keep them coming before I leave," he once dropped one day in May. I was clueless he was leaving, if not after his cousin Paolo dropping by did some of the clues show up. By then a friendship had already forged itself without me knowing it, and right now I'm somehow regretting having him as an insecurity in the first place. Apparently some of him has rubbed off on me as well - think of that birthday. Only he could have inspired it, without his intervention even.
It was only lately when we've began to chat, although I've added him to my YM list months back. Somehow, apparently, he had this urge to catch up with everybody, especially with the fact, he says, that he'd be gone for good, that time is ticking on him. He wasn't in school for this term save for a few appearances that never fail to take some people by surprise. Although we'd never talk about anything substantial on the nights that we were online at the same time, it was only then when I realized every trace of intimidation on him wasn't well-placed. I dropped a line and he was laughing along. For once, I felt comfortable, and it remained that way.
Most definitely welcome.
It would remain that way for everybody else. During his last visit to DLSU yesterday, he was going to everybody - BonoSoc brads, blockmates, classmates, people - and was sending out his goodbyes. "Sabado na alis ko," he'd reiterate once in a while, and afterwards he'd give out a hug, a handshake, or a lifted hug, in Kim's case. When I left Pizza Hut yesterday I decided to give Nico one last handshake - or maybe he offered it, but we were thinking of the same thing - and we did the handshake. He had one last lesson for me.
"Firm dapat ang handshake," he said. For the next split-second, I gripped harder.
His family leaves the Philippines at around 07.00 this Saturday. By then I would be travelling somewhere, and maybe I would forget to leave a text message bidding him good luck, in that last spurt of thoughtfulness before his mobile goes blank in the cold Canada sky. By then, maybe some of the BonoSoc people are bidding him farewell with much more intensity - maybe some would cry, who knows? - and then he'd be flying, to somewhere he didn't exactly wanted to be. But he's leaving with much more than he knew.
All along, Nico was everybody's, and everybody was Nico's.
To someone who was initially just a differently-spelled nickname, I'll send you all my gratitude. You'll probably never have any idea what you did to me. Oh, and it isn't intended to be a joke.
Photo courtesy of Nico Manga