Last night my husband and I watched a new film from Taiwan, Your Name Engraved Herein. The film is about two high school students falling in love. The themes explored in the film, as well as the message, triggered memories of my high school years back in my country.
I went to a high school that was closed to another high school; one was private the other was public. Because both school had the same schedule, often, after school, fights broke out between the students from both schools. Because of this, both administrations decided that friendly sport and scholarly competitions between the two schools would be a way to have a better relationship between and among the students.
I was never good at sports but I was good at many scholarly subjects such as reading, writing, speech, acting, poetry, etc… so when the competition took place, I usually ended up representing my school in one of those areas. It is within one of those friendly competition that I saw him. The subject was speech and he was competing against me.
Seeing him for the first time was an experience hard to describe. I remember making a complete stop and almost sighing deeply as I saw him. And once I learned he was part of the speech competition, I recall thinking of ways to meet him without making it obvious to him or anyone else. I remember that after I had moved to the next round of speeches, he came to congratulate me. Of course he had moved forward too so I thought it was just his intimidation strategy.
The competition continued and we both moved to the final round, which was going to take place the next day after lunch. As I left his campus, I spotted him outside talking to his friends and as I passed by him, I turned to look at him and to my surprised he did the same. I recalled he winked at me.
One of the rules of the competition between the two schools was that students within both schools needed to come together and befriend each other. After all, the competition was not about showing who was better but rather building bridges. So the next day, once at his campus, when the time came to have lunch, the cafeteria was alive with students from both schools, where students were seated according to their sport or scholarly category. Needless to say, I was seated with the writing, poetry, speech, and related subject kids, both from my school and his school. As we ate, students talked and switched places as needed and at some point he ended up seating across from me. As our conversations about “this and that” took place, he pressed his foot against mine. When that happened, I looked up and he, very casually smiled once again. And that was the beginning of unexpected things.
He won the speech competition and I took second place, but honestly that did not matter because I ended up gaining his friendship. Of course, our friendship carried with it feelings that, at that period of time, could not be openly expressed. And because no matter how “friendly” our competitions were, at the end, we were from different schools. This meant that even being friends was not looked up in favor.
Our friendship was limited to seeing each other from far away, figuring out how to meet and talk, and daring to express our feelings to each other without saying them. We even created a complete new symbolic alphabet in order to write to each other. That’s right, we created a symbol for each letter of the alphabet and we used it to compose our letters. The letters were left in a specific place not easy to find. And if anyone did find them, they wouldn’t be able to read them because it was all written in a symbolic language. We carried on this manner for a while until we had the courage to meet during a weekend. On a single day, we spent most of the time in the rooftop of his house where we finally were able to hold hands and where we finally kissed. It was my first kiss.
Weeks or months later, I don’t remember to be honest, I was just walking around town with my school friends when suddenly I saw him walking with his family. The moment he saw me, he had a big smile on his face and without hesitation he came to say hi. I panicked. And as a result, I was cold; I was indifferent, and I dismissed him.
At the end of the next school day I went to the place where our letters were secretly delivered because it was my turn to send him one. I noticed there was a letter from him, which surprised me. I picked his letter and as soon as I had a chance, I read it. I cried. I had hurt him and he didn’t want anything to do with me. I wrote him a letter and delivered it to the usual spot. For the next three days I waited for him to pick it up but he never did. Once the weekend arrived, I went to his see him.
His mother told me he had been sick but he could come out to the patio and talk to me. The moment I saw him my body trembled. I wanted to hug him; I wanted to hold him; I wanted to kiss him. But when I saw his face, I saw the pain I had caused him and also saw a vast sadness within his eyes. He was cold, distant, and cutting. “I wanted to give you this.” I said showing him the letter. “I don’t want it.” He responded. I must have looked shocked or on the verge of tears because he said, “Don’t!” and quickly took he letter from me. He then told me he did not want anything to do with me anymore and asked me to leave. The following week, I waited for him after school but he never stopped to look for me and when I tried to called his attention, he pretended not to hear me.
A few months later the competition between our schools took place once again, this time hosted by my school. To my surprise, he had switched to short story writing and poetry. That year I won first place in the speech competition but it really didn’t felt like a win. He and I were no longer friends. On the last day of the competition our school also hosted the party. I don’t know why but I thought it would be an opportunity to mend things with him. And it would have been it I hadn’t seen him being intimate with another guy from my own school. At that moment I knew he and I would never talked to each other again. I was also able to comprehend the pain he felt the day I dismissed him in front of my friends.
And I cried. I cried a lot. It was my turn to be heartbroken. #carlosmanuelspeaksthetruth.