This singular experience remains as one of the most unexpected happenings in my life that defies explanation. Because if there was anything in me that would remain unquestionable, it could only be my delicate heart that embodies hard-core femininity.
It was in an all-girl Catholic convent school where I spent my secondary education, which meant the presence of lesbians was a given – albeit there had been only a few in our school at the time. To spice things up due to our drab existence of not having boys around, some girls would even fake their sexuality and couple up with another girl just to “be different” or be talked about, or to experience what it’s like. Other than my innocent curiosity on how genuine girl to girl romantic unions express their ardent feelings for each other, I wasn’t interested. I’ve gotten along well with members of the third sex my whole life –they’re interesting and fun to hang around with – yet I’ve unequivocally preferred swooning for the virile gender.
In high school, the tougher your moniker sounds, the cooler and more popular you get. My friends playfully jumbled the letters of my name and had thought of calling me “Majo” or “Jomar” – until we finally settled with the nickname “Ojie.”
I was in third-year high school. She was called Tesong. Short for her full name Theresa Ong (Not to worry, thousands and thousands here possess such name).
It all began when the two of us played lovers in a classroom theatrical project. A mini-movie. Rehearsals and the actual shooting of the drama required her and me looking deeply in each others’ eyes, doing some sundry sweet motions – minus the usual intimate contact. Kissing not included, thank God.
The girl is not gay. But for unknowable reasons, her moves are not ultra feminine. That could explain why she played the Romeo, and I, the Juliet in the love drama. She has got masculine aura. Or at least that was what I had come to perceive. I did feel it – although I couldn’t explain it. No, it was not sexual at all. I was only 14 years of age. I wouldn’t even conceive of touching lips with her. Nor hold her hand. Unimaginable.
She had shoulder-length shiny hair she was always fond of smoothing with her hairbrush each break-time. An average-looking girl – who was nice and smart – with a complexion slightly darker than mine, she was well-liked by everyone, too. What I found most compelling about her was her gaze. Her somewhat chinky eyes – caused by her Chinese descent – had this ability to pierce through the very insides of one’s soul. My soul, for that matter. She could give an intense look that would go right through my heart and my core making me ask myself in the aftermath, “What was that?”
Repeated photo shoots to promote our minuscule movie served as the germination and perpetuation of my, er, secret sensations. From then on, I got tongue-tied whenever she’d come near me, made all the more convoluted by my pounding heartbeat. I kept on thinking, “No, no. This can’t be possible.” I possess too much of an effeminate heart to fall for my kind. Proof of which: my lengthy list of male crushes – photos of guys, both local and international, with killer looks and handsome faces that graced the cover of my writing notebooks and bedroom walls.
I couldn’t tell if she sensed how I felt about her. How could I let her know – or embrace what I’d been feeling when I was infallible of the fact I am so not gay? It became a difficult period instead because my deep infatuation for her was bringing me external discomfort and slight inner mayhem. Nonetheless, there was no uncertainty as to the young lady chromosomes that run through my body. I kept my silence without telling a soul at school and at home.
My uneasiness lasted for the whole school year. When I reached my 4th year, we weren’t classmates anymore. How I thanked the heavens above.
There are things in life we just can’t explain.
I met her accidentally inside a restaurant several years after our high school graduation. We were already in our early 20s. I was with a boyfriend then and she was about to have lunch with a bunch of her male colleagues. Still possessing of that shiny smooth hair and penetrating gaze, she seemed to have changed. Like she became more feminine. She even looked quite demure and giddy in the company of her debonair workmates. She truly was a girl after all. We had a little talk – then said goodbye. It had been my total closure. And I was glad.