Letters of Youth


/ 16 July 2021

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in the summer of ‘18 when one of my best friends and I entered the nearest restaurant from my school’s gym — McDonald’s. Fresh from a tiring afternoon of playing basketball, we stumbled into the well-lit fast-food chain desperate for a meal. A smile of relief spread across my face when I saw that there were only a few customers scattered throughout the first floor. No schoolmates; no teachers; perfect conditions.

After ordering our meals, we instinctively walked over to a table at the restaurant’s leftmost corner, away from the restless clatter coming from the counter. This area happened to be the hottest and most secluded spot; it felt as if there was a partition between us and everyone else. We were then there, seated opposite each other, with a single agenda on our minds— one that we often skirted around for many months.

See, fresh out of graduating from an all-boys high school, we both had a problem. It was a problem that for one second could seem so trivial but in the next, extremely significant. Imagine a makahiya plant— we were those small leaves that had a peculiar defense mechanism of folding inwards at the earliest sign of trouble.

It was only a matter of time before one of us had to speak first. I could feel sweat forming on my face, forcing me to constantly push my glasses back up. Looking up slightly, I could see my tall best friend pulling at a strand of his usually well-groomed hair. Exchanging restless glances for what seemed like an eternity, I finally cleared my throat.

“So, Allen…, what’s our game plan?”, I hesitantly asked. And as if failing to recall a formula during a Math test, our faces looked confused and slightly ashamed.

 “Bro,” he said in a desperate tone and continued, “I don’t even know.”

Awkward silence. It’s funny how both of us could talk about basketball for hours on end but when it came to this, we could barely utter a word. In fact, this should only be a problem kids had when they were in grade school. None of our close friends had it. We were alone; just two little makahiya leaves yet to unfurl…

…but not totally without opportunity. We both have been to get-togethers between our class sections and those of neighboring all-girls schools. Our batch leaders had even organized daylong, batch-wide interactions with those schools but somehow, we still couldn’t achieve our one goal. Despite our differing personalities, we were but birds of the same feather, flocking together in that type of controlled environment. We would keep to ourselves, speak only when necessary, and most of all smile awkwardly. We folded inwards every time.

As some unfruitful minutes ticked by, a light bulb suddenly went off in Allen’s head. There was a loud clang as he hit the table with excitement, much so that I jolted and cursed at him.

UY, why don’t we check the internet?”, he suggested.

“Huh? Ano yan, Yahoo Answers ganun?”, I teased, all the while trying to keep a straight face. For a few seconds it seemed as if we were back at our usual spot in the school’s cafeteria, only to be brought back by a menacing glare from an old lady at the other end of the restaurant. During the struggle to restrain ourselves, I started to take his suggestion somewhat seriously.

It was a fact that both of us wanted girlfriends in college; we even made a pact to go on a double date as soon as we both had one. We even reached the point of stalking our blockmates on social media to spot any possible matches. But, knowing our defensive mechanism, how could we avoid folding inwards? Attending an all-boys school since kindergarten really took a toll on us, especially with interactions being almost exclusively with the same gender. With college starting in two weeks, desperate times indeed called for desperate measures.

“You know what… I’m g. Let’s search,” I said with a straight face. Allen raised an eyebrow for a second, then immediately pulled out his phone from his pocket. We spent a couple of minutes searching until I struck the jackpot. I nodded to myself, admiring my research skills as one of my jittery hands forcibly tapped Allen on the shoulder.

“Dude, eto na, legit. I found the perfect article. Look o, it even has pictures!”

“Sure ka okay yan? Does it have what we need?

“It wouldn’t hurt to try.”

And on we read from top to bottom, word for word. Just two makahiya leaves slowly starting to unfurl, reading the article: “How to Talk to a Girl (with Pictures) – wikiHow.”