By now I don't think I have to reiterate that lunch is the only time I get myself some much needed reflection. Depends, really. I either write article outlines on the back of the receipt, or concentrate hard on whatever my earphones are playing me, or - and this happen more often than not - contemplate on the food I'm eating. Since I eat later than most, I end up getting hungrier, and perhaps, more appreciative.

Yesterday was just one of those days. It's usually quiet (and empty) by one in the afternoon, which is why I prefer eating at that time. I can just stare blankly into space and imitate sleep without closing my eyes. Also, it's summer - although it doesn't feel that way - and there aren't any students who will loiter around Pearl Drive. They're not exactly annoying, but I'm annoyed at them anyway, partly because I'm done with what they're doing, and partly because they all look like my friends in DLSU - one looked like Raymond, another looked like Gaille, and I swear one of them looks like Misha.

Alas, I think UA&P has summer classes.

Yesterday, I ate lunch later than usual, after my schedule for the day - one finely tweaked since I only have to go to work for four days this week - was disrupted by, of all things, technology. (Kat knows it still does today.) I was already surprised after seeing the usual lookers smoking in front of Starbucks. I was more surprised when I dropped by Chiggy's and saw a group - seven girls and one boy, or is he? - talking loudly over empty plates and bottles of beer. They're probably around 17 or 18, I don't know. And what struck me the most is, that's what I used to do a few years back.

Well, except for the beer. I never drank beer throughout my college life until Monica's graduation afterparty. Anyway, I meant eating with groups - although that's another thing I did rarely, since I almost always ate alone unless it was either course card distribution day, or something involving thesis. (If I ate with company, it's never a group; it's just one other person. Case in point: Naomi after philosophy class.) And, of course, there are the things that go with eating with groups: the jokes, the jibes, the shouty conversations, the dares, the inside references, basically anything that made the group the group.

Three years ago, I badly wanted a group, and never really came close to having one, as if being everybody's friend (but never anybody's best friend) is enough consolation for all the crap in the world. I wanted company back then, the way I still do now. But maybe I won't be able to take it.

I already had earphones on, and the volume was reaching impossibly high levels, but I was still hearing the kids. Shouting. Shouting with glee. Shouting with light-hearted derision. Shouting like they're playing some game, like someone's doing some interesting yet life-threatening dare, like that person's social standing mattered. But that's putting too much to it. I'm guessing you know what I mean - how else could someone who's never had that much attention describe it?

I got annoyed. So annoyed.

Well, there's etiquette, and in a small restaurant you shouldn't be shouting. (If me talking in a modulated volume always elicits a "hinaan mo!" comment from friends, well, I do have a right to be annoyed.) And then there's them having fun - for some reason the sound of laughter annoys the hell out of me, something I definitely acquired from the past ten months. But I don't know. I was already jarred, and here they are, carefree people, jarring me further.

I'm guessing it's a belated welcome to the outrageously manipulated and forever exploited labor force. There's taxes. And then there's everything else. And that's why we want to be like those kids again.

And your responses...

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