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Archive for July 8th, 2006

When I was nineteen I worked for my university’s cafeteria.

On orientation one of the most gorgeous Filipino (and half white–why are mutts always so pretty? Seriously, someone tell me.) men I’d ever seen sat next to me. He was tall, tanned, lean-muscled and had these large, soft, almond-shaped eyes. I was instantly smitten.

We hung out in different circles, so we never had an opportunity to speak to one another. I was the mousy, albino English major with huge, frizzy hair and buck teeth; he was a bit reserved himself but played for our college’s soccer team—add that to the fact he was good-looking and nice, and you have someone who was confident, well-liked and out of my league.

Day in and day out, we’d pass each other, layering sandwiches, slapping cream cheese on bagels, decorating pizzas and humming along to alt-rock on the speakers.

As I left for work one day, I saw him sweep through the parking lot on his longboard, eating a small bowl of cereal. For some strange reason, that intensified my crush, and I couldn’t get enough of him.

I found myself going to the cafeteria when I wasn’t working just to watch him pour and serve coffee. I pushed myself to engage in small talk with his friends. I even tried to learn how to skateboard (and failed) and caught random soccer games on television.

Unfortunately, he only seemed to see me at embarrassing moments–like the time I spilled a tub of marinade on myself, and the day I cried after a fight with a friend over the phone. And I was always a sweaty mess, with food smeared across my apron and my skin reeking of burritos and coffee.

As the weeks went by, I noticed that I was seeing more of him, without any work on my part. During my early weekend shifts in the ice cream shop, he’d walk in after practices. When I’d gather my hair into a ponytail, I’d find him staring at my neck. He made my turkey subs exactly the way I wanted (heavy on the avocado, Swiss cheese, no pickles, wheat bread).

Sometimes I’d look up just to find him . . . well, looking at me funny.

And although I was extremely self-conscious at the time, I realized that somehow, this Adonis had grown to like me, too. The problem was, we were too shy to actually do anything about it. With the exception of pleases, thank yous, and our one-time quibble over how healthy and yummy hummus is, we’d never had a conversation.

Considering how little we had in common, it seemed like that would never happen. Then, one day, I came to work early, just as he was leaving. A counter filled with plastic bowls of tiramisu caught my eye, and I instantly swerved towards it. Soon we were standing there, side-by-side, spoons in hands.

“We sell tiramisu now!” I sighed.

“But nobody bought it,” he said, surprising me with the disappointment in his voice. “They don’t know what it is . . . it’s all going in the trash.”

Lucky for us: as Filipinos we’re accustomed to consuming vast amounts of leftovers. We cleared that countertop, until all those bowls had been emptied of cheese, ladyfingers and espresso. We washed the dishes quietly, with small smiles on our faces, as if we’d just shared a secret little corner of the world.

It was the highlight of that autumn working in the cafeteria–that half-hour spent eating cakes with a beautiful boy. Soon after, I quit the cafeteria to make time for my studies and martial arts classes. He left as well.

Green tea tiramisu

But every now and then, we would just happen to catch glimpses of each other on campus. And we’d exchange grins–all over an insignificant moment between bowls of tiramisu.

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