I don't like socializing.
Let me tell you that right at the beginning. But don't get me wrong. I have my share of friends and sometimes we do stuff together. But it's not the same as getting stuck in a party or social event where I need to rub elbows with people I barely know.
I really don't like socializing.
So I've succeeded trying to ditch my school reunions for the past several years. I mean, I could call up my friends and set a date with them any time I want. I don't need a stupid reunion to do that.
But there's one thing I don't like more than reunions or any form of socialization. It's getting dragged into a stupid blind date.
I even hate it. I'd rather suffer my brother's grumpiness for a whole year than be in the company of a guy, whose nature I have no inkling in the slightest, for an hour or two. He could be a serial killer!
I really don't understand why I let my insane cousin talk me into it. At first, I just said okay because I wanted to be rid of her. I was getting tired of her nagging me all day and night to go get a life. Apparently, she thought up this brilliant idea of setting me up on a date with one of her eligible bachelor friends. I was seriously wondering why she has a lot of them.
How old are you gonna be this year, Ella??
Twenty-five. So what!??
See?? You haven't had a boyfriend for as long as I can remember!
What exactly are you trying to say? Get to the point.
I'm setting you up on a date.
I was silent for a heartbeat.
What did you just say?
She gave an exasperated sigh before responding.
You heard me. A. Date. A. Blind. Date.
I practically tore her head off. She always had this annoying habit of doing something at the spur of the moment. But this--! After much kicking and screaming (from both sides), I finally agreed. Very reluctantly. Right then I knew how prisoners on death row feel like when they're being led towards the electric chair. (Boo-hoo!)
So what happened during the date?
Uhhh...let's just say that I won't go to another blind date again, especially if my cousin sets it up. Never again. EVER.
As I've said, I don't like having to socialize. In my job, as a freelance writer, I've tried my best to remain low-key and anonymous. My readers don't know who I am. My stories are published under a different name, which is what my agent and I agreed about. It's because I don't want unnecessary prying into my private life. Anyway, I'm not famous so I'd really appreciate it if people leave me alone.
Things were okay recently. I have a 9-5 job that keeps me stuck in an office cubicle which smells faintly of caffeine and air freshener. It's not the best job in the world but, hey, there are worse jobs. So things were pretty so-so until...
I should've known it. My insane cousin (let's just call her Ria) just won't leave me in peace. Turns out she set me up with yet another eligible bachelor friend of hers. AAAAAAARRRGGHH! This is getting REALLY bothersome. I mean, why can't she just leave me the hell alone????
NO. I AM NOT GOING TO ANOTHER STUPID BLIND DATE!
Hey, calm down. This is different.
NO. NO. NOOOOOOO!
Okay, okay. How about this...you check him out first. If you don't like him at first sight, you can just leave.
What??? Are you really insane???
Come on, Ella. He's a really nice dude. It would be too bad if he ends up with somebody else.
The hell I care! I don't give a fart if the guy ends up with somebody from the nether regions of the Milky Way!
No. I am absolutely not going.
As I've said, you can check him out first.
Then leave him hanging? No way, Ria. I don't wanna go to another date, blind or otherwise. But I don't like the idea of leaving a person hanging even more. I'm pretty sure I won't like the guy.
He doesn't know you're coming.
I was a bit taken aback and realized that I was right all along—Ria IS crazy. Whatever psychotic thoughts she has in her mind, I absolutely can't dig.
Say that again?
He knows somebody is coming to meet him. But he doesn't know who. If you don't like him, I have somebody else lined up.
So if you don't have anything planned on that day, please let me know a day before. Okay?
She's so infuriating. Maybe I should just call up the lunatic asylum or something. Have her confined there for the rest of her life so she wouldn't bother me anymore. So I was thinking up an alibi when I suddenly spotted something lying on top of my dresser drawer. For some reason, I couldn't remember what the thing was. It's not really surprising because I occasionally forget things. Curious, I ended my call with Ria and went to inspect the thing on top of my drawer. It looked like an envelope of some sort.
You are cordially invited to the blah, blah, blah...
Ah, yes. The invitation. I get one every year since I graduated, which was around 4-5 years ago. Each year the thing ends up at the bottom of my trash bin.
I guess at the start I've told you about how I've been successfully eluding my school reunions. Well, I have. It's not just because I don't like socializing. There's more to it than that. It's something that I don't care to discuss with anybody. When I left school 4-5 years ago, I made a decision to leave behind my memories, too.
I stared at the date on the invitation. The reunion is going to happen on the same day that Ria wants me to go on another blind date. I thought about it for a moment, weighing the pros and the cons.
Much as I hate going to reunions, I hate going on blind dates even more.
So now I have two choices—the devil or the deep, blue sea.
Heads or tails?
If you could go back in time and change anything from your past, would you do it?
I would if I could.
I would go back to the summer when I was 17, to the time before I met him.
If I could, I would change it so that I won't cross paths with him.
I would un-meet him, un-know him...
I would if I could.
I would...un-love him.
Some people like being late for an event or party. Late is fashionable, they say.
I came a full half-hour before the reunion program started and sat myself in the farthest corner of the room. I also made sure that the clothes I wear would not make me stick out like a sore thumb. Black dress and black low-heeled shoes. I was pretty sure almost everybody else would wear the same color although it was not a strictly black-tie event.
Let me give you a background about myself. I graduated with a degree in Broadcast Communication, although originally I wanted to take up Journalism. My parents are based in Canada where they have been working for God knows how long. I have a brother who's two years younger in age but ten years older in temperament.
Uhh...that's all I can say about myself for now. My life's pretty boring, really.
Back to the damn reunion.
I tried my best not to attract attention when other people started coming in. But, you know, it's futile. The moment a person comes in, the very first thing he or she does is to look around the room and try to spot familiar faces. Unfortunately, my face hasn't changed a bit from my graduation photo.
I winced when I heard somebody screaming my name. Good God. Nobody has called me that name in perhaps half a decade. I instantly knew who it was.
Suzy, my closest college buddy. Haven't seen her in three years, maybe. Last I heard, she moved somewhere and married her high school sweetheart.
Oh my God. I swear you never age, Isabella. You're a freaking VAMPIRE!
I had to suffer through the indignation of being pinched on both cheeks, bear-hugged and squeezed on the chin. Why is it that everybody I meet seems instantly overcome with the tendency to mutilate me???
You're cute as ever, Isabella.
Sit down, Suzy. Please stop squeezing my nose. Rhinoplasty isn't cheap, you know.
He-he-he. You evil girl.
I had no choice but get stuck with Suzy for the rest of the night. We caught up on news about her and our other friends. She kept me amused with stories about her honeymoon trip to Scandinavia. I was interested. Scandinavia would be a good setting for my next horror story.
How about you, Isabella? I've talked your ear off, telling about my experiences. But you haven't said a single thing about yourself.
Come on! How have you been doing these past years?
Nothing much, Suzy.
Are you married?
I answered so forcefully that Suzy was surprised at first. She stared at me and I instantly felt humiliated. Then she burst out laughing.
Oh, Isabella, you never change. Still touchy about the subject of romance.
Okay, okay. Well, come on. Let's walk around and say hello to the others.
I sighed and resigned myself to being dragged around by Suzy. We met the other kids from our batch, a lot of whom have either grown fat or looked miserable. I guess life as an adult isn't that easy.
Dinner began promptly after the short program. I sat at a table with Suzy and the others. Across me sat Dave, one of my classmates who had a crush on me in college. That, I must clarify, is what my friends said. I was never in the habit of assuming somebody harbors romantic yearnings toward me.
Anyway, Dave sitting across the table from me seemed a very bad idea. I guess he has been stealing glances at me for about twenty minutes straight. I cleared my throat and looked down at my mobile phone resting on the table beside my water glass. For some reason, I thought about the guy that Ria wanted me to meet in a date. At that moment, what must he be doing? Hmm...I could picture him sitting at a table in a restaurant. He's wearing a coat (it was rather cold that day) and looking at his wristwatch from time to time. There's a cup of coffee on the table beside—
Whoa, Ella. Your description is so vivid it's starting to get creepy. Get a hold on yourself, girl. This is not one of your horror stories.
I shook my head to clear my thoughts. Dave seemed to notice this. I looked up at him and smiled. I swear, I saw his cheeks turn red. But he smiled back. Uh-oh. Did I just lead him on???
All throughout the night, we were entertained by a string of intermission numbers. A hired band played songs that were popular during the time that we were teenagers. I felt nostalgic. And really old. Like, maybe 80. I haven't listened to any of those songs in a long time. In fact, I don't listen to music at all nowadays.
This next song is for Ms. Isabella Kim.
I promptly looked up when I heard my name. The band's lead singer, a guy sporting messy hair, grinned at no one in particular. Then the first strains of the song filled the air. My classmates and friends cheered. I quickly picked up my glass of brandy and emptied it in one gulp.
Whoa, Ella! Go easy.
I'm okay, Dave.
That's your favorite song, right?
I don't know. I can't remember.
I feel embarrassed admitting this but—I was into Taylor Swift in college. For me, Taylor's music represented everything that I was back then. Young, impressionable, hopelessly romantic. I don't listen to her anymore because, like her, I have grown up and gotten my heart broken.
I had too much to drink at that reunion. Been a long time since I last got fashionably drunk. As the event winded up, I found myself blabbing to Dave about my whole damn life. Suzy was too drunk to respond by then. Everybody else was taking pictures and joining the band in singing on stage.
Do you think my life is boring, Dave?
Uhh...not really. Being a writer is an exciting job, I guess.
I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about my life as a whole.
Well, how do you feel about your life?
I was still sober enough to give it a thought. Boring? Maybe to other people it is. But I've already gone on this far. I guess I've already gotten used to the monotony of my life. Every single day is the same. Shades of gray and white.
I don't know, Dave. You tell me.
Do you ever...wanna go back in time and wish you could have done things differently?
Haha. Who's the drama queen here now, Dave?
Well, do you?
I stared at my brandy glass and willed my tipsy mind to think about Dave's question. Go back in time and change it? Phew. I just wish.
I would if I could, Dave.
Yeah. Me too. I wish I could.
I wish that, too.
But wishes sometimes do come true, Ella.
I grinned up at Dave. He's still the dreamy boy wearing big glasses that I used to know. How cute.
I beg to disagree on that one, Dave. If wishes do come true, I wouldn't be here now.
Reaching out to give Dave a consolatory pat on the arm, I rested my head on top of my arms on the table and slept the sleep of the drunk and the wasted.