Every Wednesday, I have an essay on any topic that catches my fancy!
We all have moments when we obsess about our own condition and cease to consider the state of the rest of the world. It could be whining about writing (writer's block, lack of time, rejection, etc.). Or contemplating suicide. Or picking up the pieces of a broken heart. In such a state, we seldom wonder what other people are feeling. And the only time we realize this is when we've awoken from our stupor of self-pity and by then, we've hurt other people.
My grandiose moment of self-absorption occurred when I was just about to graduate from high school. Precluding our graduation ceremony was our graduation ball, a tradition in our all-boys school that everyone was bent on maintaining. The event for the most part was staffed by fellow students, everything from collecting the exorbitant fees (during the last days of school, we went to the mall with the treasurer and he told us to never leave his side for he feared he'd get robbed of the six-digit monies that was concealed in his school uniform) to contacting the prestigious hotel in Makati where the ball would take place. The attendance of virtually everyone in the batch was guaranteed whether they came in as official participants or gate crashers.
The first and foremost dilemma of every student was acquiring a date for the graduation ball. Even the batch braniac who wondered what his two mistakes were in the SATs had a date, the result of a deal he made for allowing his seatmate to copy from him during a crucial exam. And at the end of the day, because we were all guys, it probably didn't matter who you brought to the ball whether it was your best friend from the all-girls school across the street, your classmate's sister, or a blind date with the daughter of a family friend--as long as you showed up with someone to the event.
Because the social network of this introvert bibliophile cum gamer cum otaku was small back then, I was originally intending to go for the gold and ask my crush to be my date, even if I knew there were two other people in my class who were interested in asking her out. For the sake of expediency, I will call my crush Nessie because her nickname does indeed sound like title of the Loch Ness monster (and it wasn't me who gave her that nickname). Now I had spent several days agonizing on whether to actually ask Nessie out, finding the right opportunity to pop the question, and worried that she'll give a lame excuse instead of simply giving a flat-out rejection. Apparently, I had spent too much time deliberating over my course of action that a batchmate asked her out first. From now on, I shall refer to the batchmate as BB (and I'll keep it at that because his actual name--in the surreal world that is the Philippines--is the Filipino word for scrotum).
Now BB was a good friend of Nessie and in truth, I expected him to ask her out if it weren't for the fact that he was actually interested in someone else (unfortunately, like me, somebody had beaten him when it came to initiative). So the decision was pretty much taken out of my hands and I had to decide on someone else to take to the graduation ball. Quickly rummaging through my list of contacts (it's a short list), I decided to ask out the prettiest girl I knew. And surprisingly, she said yes (these days, I don't really know how effective the line "My crush was taken so I thought of asking you out instead" is). Let's call her Marie. (No, there's nothing special in her real name, thank goodness--unless you count being named after a Pope in a Catholic-dominant country as weird.)
I wish I could have ended the story with a happy ending then and there but life seldom works in the way we want it to. BB was having second thoughts on his date (damn him!) and was thinking of passing Nessie to me (apparently it's in the handbook of high school proms that if you rescind on a date, you need to find a replacement so that the other party isn't left dateless and without a use for the dress they specifically bought for the occasion). Which was a chance I would have grabbed if it weren't for the fact that I already asked Marie (she already bought the dress--yes I was a jerk and asked). To further complicate things, because of high school politics, I ended up in the same table as BB and Nessie (mostly my fault because I agreed to it).
As the days leading to the graduation ball approached, I slunk into a depression. I came to realize that as pretty and sexy Marie was, I really wanted to ask Nessie out (who was, in many ways, the physical opposite of Marie as she was short and chubby). It did not help that during the entire time I was supposed to be entertaining Marie, Nessie would be at the periphery of my vision and well within earshot. Instead of appreciating the fact that I was going out with a beautiful woman who enjoyed my company (or so I assume because she said yes), I wallowed in self pity.
I voiced my concern to Marie but she agreed to put up with me nonetheless. During the trip to the hotel where the ball would take place, Marie's smile was a stark contrast to my frown. She did try to cheer me up but I never found it in me to feign even a small grin. As for the ball itself, I have vague memories of it (which I attribute more to my wallowing in self-pity more than "you're getting old and forgetful") except for the emotions I was exhibiting: gloom and depression. It didn't help that Nessie was within arm's length.
Anyway, me and Marie are still friends yet the entire ordeal was less than pleasant for her. I mean here she was, putting up with a guy who was supposed to take her out to dinner, dancing, and introduce her to some of his friends yet what happened was the complete opposite: she was the one who initiated the conversations, took the lead in the dancing, and at the end of the night feigned enjoying my company. What kind of a deal was that?
These days, every time I'm tempted to grind myself to a halt and indulge in needless self-absorption, I recall Marie's optimism, perseverance, and what she had to put up with.