At dinner, a couple of weeks ago, the children asked about the men I had loved.
Love comes up a lot at our table. I have a 16-year-old son, a 13-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old little boy, so there’s a lot of ribbing about boys and girls. I don’t like the kids feeling embarrassed about all these new feelings they’re having, so I like to join in about having crushes and all that jazz.
I have a couple of favorite crush stories, ones I tell even to my students. There was the glass guy, the light bulb guy, and the fish balls guy. The glass guy was my crush when I was in Grade 4, and it was my first time at a school fair. He was the DJ at the main booth, and I stuck to that booth like a leech, in awe at his ability to speak on the microphone. When you’re young, you don’t know that you like someone because that someone has the very thing you wish you had. How mysterious is the truth that falling in love with someone is a little bit about falling in love with oneself or a possible version of oneself. At the end of the day, he gave me his school glass. It was sticky with Coke, but it felt like a metaphor. I still didn’t know about metaphors and their power then. I just knew that it stood for something.
Mr. Light Bulb was a guy in high school. He asked me to the school dance, and I had on a pretty pink dress with green flowers. I was wearing green shoes, too. I think dreamy nymph maiden was the look I was going for. He waited for me at the school’s Administration building with four red roses. I never could figure out what four stood for: “I love you, maybe?”
This dance was a huge thing, as it came at the end of the Marcos years. The years before this, in between the fair in grade school and this dance, were lean years; years our school did not allow for frivolous things. So a dance and to dance with such freedom was something I felt deep in my bones. I mean, in grade school, our bags were constantly checked and classes were sometimes cancelled because of supposed bomb threats.
While dancing to Mike Francis’s “Let Me In,” I told my crush how pretty the gym looked that night. It was festooned with blue lights and the whole gym lost its sweaty and gray self, and in its stead was this sky-like ethereal, massive thing. He looked at the blue lights and at me, stopped dancing, and without even tiptoeing, un-screwed one of the blue light bulbs. He handed it to me, still hot with electricity coursing through it. It was the singular most beautiful thing to happen to me so far in my life.