"Seven Harry Potter books daw ang bigat?" I asked, after placing my signature on the second column.
"Actually, parang car battery," Chris replied.
He led me through a couple of rooms before finally finding our way to an obscure door in the fourth floor. There were many boxes inside, mostly unclaimed copies. There were a few posters, but most of the walls were full of shelves, and old DVDs. The 2007 edition, I figured, and Chris reiterated. Something went wrong with our DVD, and I'm not allowed to divulge anything.
He opened up one box, and pulled out on of three smaller boxes inside. I knew our yearbook was big, but I didn't expect one printer-delivered box to have only three copies each. Thankfully it came with a handle, and it made it easier to carry. "Kaya mo ba sa stairs?" Chris asked, and I nodded before thanking him and leaving. It was an easy to carry car battery, and gravity helped me as I got down the building and went straight to the GMG booth. I promised Elaine I'll show her the yearbook first. There wasn't much conversation.
I was at school yesterday, basically to attend (and cover) the miting de avance - a stark contrast to my belief that something I do should benefit me in a way. Well, there was the honorarium I had to pick up for a couple of tarpaulins I worked on immediately after graduatation, and then there was work. I remember the surprised faces of my friends who have stayed, and the candidates who didn't expect me to actually return and take photographs. "May work ka na?" is the usual question. "Naka-leave ka?" almost always followed it. I was in the presence of strangers, all right, but my reasons were simple to those who knew me. I said I needed a break from work; I could've elaborated, but that was reserved for the few who know, like Asia, who I met up with later in the day, in the least ideal circumstances possible.
So, at least, I had a valid reason, but it felt pretty awkward. For the most part, it felt that I shouldn't be on campus, not for the most trivial of reasons, at the very least. I spent most of the morning walking idly around, wondering where the familar faces - those I thought would stay when we go - have gone. There were the occasional surprises - Ayanne was there, Naomi dropped by, Chelle was at hand with explaining the goings-on at the second floor - but as the day wore on, I felt slightly disconnected. The car battery wasn't helping - I got it late in the day, but it got to me, especially during the bus ride home. Traffic made things worse, but I should've seen it coming.
I only got to really see the yearbook when I got home. Sure, I was browsing at Kitaro, when Asia and AK welcomed an outsider like me to their complicated world, and I was also peeking a bit when Elaine and Zelle read out write-ups of common friends. The first book was ours; the first pages were ours, especially, and quickly I knew I wouldn't pick up my yearbook for a very long time. No, I wasn't disappointed. I just didn't want to dwell on the past, on three years spent trying to get things right, and failing in most of them. Inevitably, I'd chuckle at the airbrushed photos and the write-ups, because they tie in so well to all of those random moments.
There's Jill, my first ever college crush, who's "bold enough to break the mold".
There's Kizia, whose presence is obviously heavily documented in this blog's early months. I wonder who wrote her write-up? It's in third person, but there's a reference to the writer lost somewhere.
There's Tina, a friend I met through Ale and Tracy, and I snickered at the fact that I only knew her last name long after graduation.
There's Majet, and she doesn't have any photos. At least she has a write-up; Asia thought a one-liner attributed to someone else was an excuse for non-submission, but someone had a completely blank slate.
There's Jepoy, the guy who borrowed my calculator during statistics class and didn't return it until I hunted him down.
There's Krisnell, the girl who later died in a fire the newspapers got wrong. I was struck because she still made it to the yearbook.
We were roughly seven hundred people in our batch; obviously not all of them made it to these pages on time, and some of the names here were delayed for terms. It's funny that, all of a sudden, all of the faces that you've seen at the third floor just passing you by have names and attributes. Perhaps one can call it a stalker's paradise; all of those pretty faces that you've seen on those corridors - an exception to the rule: Neobie is absolutely nowhere - are finally within reach, at least through email. It's funny. You thought all those faces will just get blurred as you graduate and fall down hard.
I actually refuse to believe everything. I choose not to remember those airbrushed photos, those big words used in the profiles. I don't know. It's not what I know, and it's not definitely what I prized, or what I held on to fondly. It's a little surreal, perhaps, all those familiar names - and all those missing, which means I'd probably forget Misha soon - and the sudden sense of connection, the something that brings every name in the yearbook together. Where was that before the printers rolled?
I don't know where the yearbook will go after I've finished flipping through it, or when I get tired of it. It's a big box, fully packaged, wonderfully designed (no wonder I called Claud a "layout genius") and perfectly suited for remembering, or rewriting, as I insisted before, especially when my neural connections disappear and I forget I even felt this way in the first place. There's the missing organization photos - the batch assembly shoots went nowhere - and there's the things that they wouldn't be able, or choose not to, tell. That's where I come in. I may feel disconnected with the changes on campus, but that bench is still where we sat before, and that classroom is where I did the silliest things, and that studio is where the best and the worst happened. That'd probably mean six volumes for the yearbook. Two car batteries, or more.