I usually take a seat at the back, the farthest I can go away from the professors and their trigger-happy, chalk-loving hands that love to point randomly at students and force them to recite. I just hate that. So I dodge their looks and pretend to preoccupy myself with taking down notes, even if all I really do is draw nasty caricatures of anyone in class. Even when I love the subject, I only find it necessary to talk when I am in a debate, present a report, ask a question, or join in to make fun of someone. But the thing that I hate most in class is the BIBO or the pa-BIBO type who make it their life’s mission to shoot their hands high up in the air every other 5 minutes and talk non-stop, TANGENTIALLY and CIRCUMSTANTIALLY, about things that they THINK are related to the topic. Its basically migraine-inducing.
Noda WAS such a person.
I sat next to her in a basement classroom during college. She was this geeky-looking girl who wore her shoulder-length hair as straight as Sadako’s. Everytime she went to class, you would see a black jacket constantly TIED to her oversized ‘piano’ shoulder bag. She would wear her ultra thick eyeliner behind her ultra thick black-rimmed glasses. This girl also wore layers upon layers of unnecessary clothing. I am used to the ‘walang pakialamanan‘ fashion subculture that UP has but she would come to class as if Philippines is in Antarctica: donned in polo or in tees worn over long sleeves,sometimes paired with jeans and knee-high boots. And did I mention we were classmates during summer?
The first day of class started with us getting seated in alphabetical order. As I sat in the front row, Noda beamed at me behind her black glasses. I smiled back and introduced myself, as I always did for my seatmates. She gave me her real name but insisted I call her ‘Noda’, after her favorite anime character who, like her, is a genius with the piano. After I smiled and nodded politely, I turned my attention elsewhere to try and scan for familiar faces but then she taps me on my shoulder and the next thing I know, she had told me all about her ravishing childhood in some foreign country, her 2 failed relationships and why she ended up in UP and not in ADMU, UST, DLSU, MAPUA, FEU, and other schools in Manila all in 10 minutes. I thought it was nice to have a chatty seatmate especially since the prof looked like he was boring to death.
The prof started by giving us the lecture syllabus and proceeded with his class rules and other academic requirements he wanted. It was fairly typical. By the end of his mandatory speech, he looked around and asked if we had questions. Noda raised her hand and even before she was recognized to speak, she said (as accurately as I can recall, in verbatim):
Sir, totoo po bang may multo sa St. Therese? Kasi po dun ako nakatira. Baka magalit parents ko.
First of all, she was in 5th year and I would have forgiven her curiosity if she was a freshie. Second, were campus ghosts within the scope of PI 100!? Third, I see no logical connection between ghosts and her parents getting mad at their presence. As I contemplated these things in head, there she was beside me: smiling and looking around for affirmation in the class – but all I saw were irritated faces all around, mine included. The prof however was kind enough to tell her that stories would not have been passed around for so long if they had no basis.
So Sir, hindi totoo?
I thought maybe she had a hearing defect or something. But as I learn in medicine now, maybe she had an auditory hallucination at that time. The prof this time said flat out,
And with that, I thought the class would have finally ended. As I start to gather my things, Noda raised her hand and asked,
Sir, hindi ba kayo naniniwala sa ibang dimension?
My eyes rolled. I was pissed. Not only was I late for a PE class that was miles away, but I was scared out of my mind that I might have to endure the entire summer sitting next to her.
I must have forgotten to pray that night or I did not pray hard enough to let those migraine-inducing, hand-raising events to not get the better of me. I was literally depressed and annoyed and angry and uninterested with everything about that class after that fateful first day. It was such a pain to come to class and more so to hear her questions and to see her raise her hand to every little darn thing. I just shut down after a couple of days and as the 1st week ended, I was fuming mad at that alphabetical seating arrangement. I was staring into space and praying that the class would end in 10 minutes or less or that for once Noda would be absent. Or better yet, she decided to drop the course entirely. I was looking for excuses to have the class dissolved, even if we were more than enough to fill a decent-size class room. I was mad, mad, mad.
I remember very little from that class, apart from the 2 required books the prof made us buy (new tagalog versions of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo) and my new found love in reading Ambeth Ocampo’s works about Rizal. I cannot recall my classmates, their names or if I ever shared a decent conversation with any of them. Everything was overshadowed by my hate towards Noda and her oh-so brilliant, pa-cute questions.
Summer ended. I was exempted to take the finals in that subject and I was freaking happy to exit from that whole miserable experience.
Just recently, a classmate from that subject added me in FB. He was kind enough to introduce himself as such and, seeing as I do not remember anyone from that class, I was obliged to add him. We had the opportunity to talk (via chat) and reminisce about our class during that particular summer. It somehow felt weird that this guy would add me after all those years and after all those nightmarish days I spent in that class. Things got even more strange when he told me how funny me and my seatmate were.
I told him that I do not remember a lot from that class since it was so long ago. And that he needs to remind me big time. Well, apparently, a lot of people found Noda very amusing although at first they all wanted to choke her with their bare hands for asking those silly questions everytime. But as the days and weeks rolled by, the majority of the class actually found her funny! As in F-U-N-N-Y! In my head I was like,
Are you sure your adding the right person here?
And what was my role in all this super FUNNY business? According to him, they found it funny whenever I would slouch in my desk or nod and roll my eyes everytime Noda would speak up. And after all this time, I thought I did those things very discreetly. I can tell he was laughing in his seat, behind his laptop as he typed with so many emoticons and LOLs and HAHAHAs and exclamation points at every end of his sentences. He told me things I honestly did not remember and even quoted his favorite Noda lines. My response was all blah, like HAHAHA and LOL and HeartHeartHeart without saying anything at all. I mean, how could I when all I could ever recall was this intense boring pain in my brain?!
We ended our chat after 20 or 30 minutes. My fingers were too tired from writing HAHAHAs and LOLs and <3s so I called it a night. After a few days, a couple of more people from that class added me. All of them had the same stories about me and Noda and how entertaining that class was. They even proposed to meet at the ELBI FebFair for a mini reunion. And I was like,
In my head, I’m thinking 1) they must be adding the wrong person, 2) they must have been high on buko pie that summer or 3) I might have been mentally and spiritually absent all those time. And what was more surprising was that every single one of my former classmates are raving about Noda and our tandem. I seriously cannot recall anything from that class more so the FUNNY moments that these people keep on telling me.
Was I THAT detached?! Did I imagine all those annoying things about Noda and if not, why am I the only one able to remember them?! OMG. I think its time I chill, cut people more slack and be more receptive towards other people.
Its time I stop being too judgmental.