Art by Charmaine Yu
I barely remember anything from my college orientation, but I do remember him.
Even then it was hard to forget him. He had curly, slightly overlong hair — a novelty to someone like me, fresh out of Catholic school where boys were required to keep their haircuts above their ears at all times. He was quiet and a little broody. Our shirts were color-coded; the one for Arts and Letters was white but despite sitting in our section he was wearing black, which was supposed to be for Fine Arts. Did he miss the memo? Was he just sitting wherever?
Either way, I was smitten.
I would continue to see him around school after that: in line for the photocopy machine at the library, getting lunch with friends at the cafeteria, at a waiting shed (he commutes!), sitting on the steps around the Palma Hall lobby looking godly and bored in his hoodie. He was everywhere. He looked serious but not unapproachable. He looked like he could be nice.
I still didn’t know his name, or what department he was even in. If he was from Fine Arts, he was artsy and talented. If he was from Arts and Letters, then he was exactly my type. I wouldn’t find out any of these things for three semesters. (That’s a year and a half.)
At that time I was trying to get over someone I thought was it for me, someone I got to know very deeply after years of friendship and whatever else. I was out of practice dealing with feelings for somebody else who was a complete stranger all over again.
When you like a person you barely know — and when you read too much YA romance — every single little event feels like a Moment.
When you like a person you barely know — and when you read too much YA romance — every single little event feels like a Moment. I would sit in class thinking about him and his blue button-down shirt, my favorite on him, instead of listening to the discussion on Machiavelli’s The Prince, and on my break I would find out that he was actually wearing the shirt that day when I saw him out the jeepney window. A Plot Development, obviously.
I’d write about him on my blog and get messages about how my stories were “so dreamy and fanfic-y and so perfect it makes me want to cry because I’d die to see someone almost everyday who seems as perfect as he is.” (I copied and pasted that verbatim.) I called him Dev, because he looked like Devon Bostick, and the people who read my blog posts followed suit.
But I couldn’t call him Dev forever, and my curiosity was getting the better of me. So I devised a number of (highly idealistic, only half-serious) plans to find his identity once and for all, rated according to a far-fetched scale, or delulu in the modern vernacular. I could rip off the missed connection Ferry Girl, which was viral at the time and was itself already a rip-off of NY Girl of My Dreams, and let the internet write our love story for us. (Far-fetched scale: 4/5.) I could ask him to answer a survey I had to do for a class, or was pretending to have to do. (Far-fetched scale: 3/5.) I could just strike up a conversation and get it the hell over with already. (Far-fetched scale: 4,785,348,548/5.)
What I did end up doing, but was no less far-fetched and extremely on brand for my Scorpio Venus and delulu tendencies, was combing the entire list of entrance exam passers from our year — minus the female population, those who got into different campuses, names I already knew, and those whose courses did not attend my particular freshman orientation — and googling each name until I found him. (Far-fetched scale: 2.5/5. Only because the idea of looking at 13,000 names to find one damn special person is an overwhelming thought.)
The punchline is, of course, that his name wasn’t even on the list of passers at all, because he went to an international school and got in through special cases. Luckily, I only got to the second page before some cosmic force up there took pity on me and finally gave me what I wanted.
In the end, all it took was a friend telling me over text what his name really was. I found out that he was actually taking a communications course. He liked alternative rock. He was an actor and a basketball player, effectively making him a real-life Troy Bolton. He really was from Arts and Letters, after all. It was all very nice to know. It felt like closure. We still crossed paths on campus and the small moments still made my day. But there would never be anything else.
It was all very nice to know. It felt like closure. We still crossed paths on campus and the small moments still made my day. But there would never be anything else.
We only ever spoke once: I was in a hurry, he was in the way, I said excuse me, he moved and said he was sorry. He didn’t hear it, but I said it was okay.
When I think of him now, I think of all the accidental eye contact — brief and fleeting, but always intense. That one time we looked at each other as I was laughing at a text I’d gotten, and he actually smiled back. I think of the fact that we could’ve taken Shakespeare class together, because it was the one thing our courses both required us to take. I think of the Blue Shirt, capitalization intended. I think of Best I Never Had by the Downtown Fiction.
When you like a person you barely know, it feels like one long missed connection. He represents, now, a time in my life when everything felt like a big deal and the possibilities were endless — all that projecting and romanticizing and idealizing, except it doesn’t hurt. It means you get to live with the could-haves without feeling the need to chase after the never-coulds. It doesn’t have to mean anything else.
Maybe Makoto Shinkai made some points.
The last time I wrote about Dev was a few years ago. I saw him yesterday, it said. He walked into the rain because he had no umbrella. I think some part of my hopeless-romantic 17-year-old self remains, because I can’t help but think that it all seems very symbolic and fitting, like of course that’s how it ends. I don’t think I’ve seen him since, and I find that I don’t mind the way everything turned out at all.