Around three weeks ago, I got a text message from Chiqui. She's one of those OCM majors that I kept on bumping into, thanks to Reena. She's also one of those OCM majors that I seem to be classmates with in at least one class for the last four terms. Apparently she picked up my number from Edsel, and in the next minute I was reading the message repeatedly. I somehow can't believe it.
"Can you please help us with our thesis?"
Their thesis basically amounts to promotions and campaigns. In Chiqui's case, she - along with Abby and Tel, whose associations are the same for the past four terms - are doing an advocacy for an NGO, and I was tasked to work with their radio ads, since they aren't really taught to do so, and they're really supposed to ask for help from CAM students like me. Why Edsel decided to give my name is another story - I guess my name comes up pretty quickly - but three weeks later, I was back in school, even when I shouldn't be, and even if I don't really have a way to do so.
The campus is still the campus. Nothing really changed, except perhaps for a few tarpaulins hanging from any imaginable ledge. There's a new exhibition, a new sponsor for the athletes, and the usual thing we should expect when a new school year begins: new faces. Lots of them.
I was, pretty much, a lost boy in a sea of students. We're now the seniors - some of us, at least, since I'm one of the few from our batch who's graduating on time - and we're the ones whose presence are not supposed to be felt. Not that I felt bad or anything; it just felt, well, somewhat poignant. There went Carry, for instance, leading her batch through the usual long adjustment lines. It was something Reena and Mara used to do. It was something Sarah and Jaja used to do. And now, well, it's not our time anymore.
I had to get used to the questions. I was technically on a visit - at least I got my temporary alumni card, which guarantees my safe entry for the next two years, at least - and I was fielding queries from the technicians and my delayed friends. "May trabaho ka na ba?" one would ask, and I would tell my worn-out story of entered applications and quiet prospects. Slightly pressured, I started waiting.
It took a full three hours before I could actually start working on their recordings. Chiqui and Abby met me at the drinking fountain, and they realized that they need to have written permission from Miss Diaz first - thankfully, she's their mentor, so it's somewhat easier - and get their voices transferred. I obviously didn't know everything, but we got through nevertheless, thanks to Mang Ric being more than willing to pitch in with the wiring, and listen to whatever magic I was supposed to weave.
So, I guess, that's how it's supposed to feel. I am finished with my tasks, and am now technically a commodity; someone can just call me out and have me do things. I almost received compensation for the editing I did, but I got finished early, perhaps to their relief. After having them hear the stuff I did for advanced radio production - the reason why Edsel probably remembered my name, and perhaps enough compensation for my ego, at least - I was out and about again, walking through the (still) long lines while spotting familiar faces, perhaps greeting some of them, and perhaps holding off the felicitations on others. I felt young again, and that's a cliché.
And that's all there is to it. We're done, pending a few more things, and the actual document being given to us. It feels surreal thinking of that, when all you want is some continuity, and while I was talking to my friends, it felt complicatedly funny. I've got to move on, and yet I'm there, thinking of everything else, taking the photos Marcia missed, being the usually boisterous person that I am, knowing that it'll probably be the last time I'll be allowed to be so. And when you're there, you can't help but see that you'll never be part of the changes that you're seeing - all those long lines at fastfood restaurants, all those crazy events during U-Break, all those signs Mang Norms would hang at the editing bay, all those sightings of people you shouldn't get involved with, and all those possibilities of Misha being one of the boys... you know, stuff like that.
I got my thank yous from Chiqui and Abby, still happy at the result, while I managed to impress myself with the way I got to grips with the equipment that I was supposed to forget. (But that's impossible. Radio is still a far-fetched dream.) I got home in respectable time, and while the commute was the usual, everything else wasn't. It was hard saying goodbye to the people you're so used to seeing on a daily basis, much more not hug them anymore, if you get to do that.
I was back to school today. I was supposed to meet Mon on Tuesday, but she wasn't able to do so. I was supposed to meet her today, but when I realized there's really nothing to do - the measurement for our togas have been done online, a fact that wasn't clarified well, and I basically spent money on transportation for nothing - I told her not to come anymore. I'm still lost in a sea of new faces, eager to see the world while keeping their naïve perspectives for shattering, and while I was filling my extended craving for a KFC Famous Bowl, all those thoughts came back to me. The lines weren't as long, but I can pick out Janelle's face from the crowd, and as I pondered whether to say hi to her or not, I thought about whether this will all matter when we're settled in part whatever of our lives. I guess it wouldn't. Besides, sweet corn and mashed potatoes make for a good combination.