A happy memory of young love that had the innocence of a child and the corruptibility of an adult.
He was 17. I was 19. He was my student. I was his teacher. He was studying to become a priest. I was a fresh college graduate out on a volunteer mission in the diocesan seminary.
As a first-time teacher in Freshman English, I was adored by the boys and I adored them back. To them, I was that well-off girl from Manila who wanted to make a difference in the world by becoming a volunteer teacher. Some were older by a few years but they accorded me the respect due to a lady teacher. I guess teachers will agree with me when I say that there is usually that one student in class who strikes you for some reason. Such was the case with Mark, a 17-year old son of a furniture dealer.
It was an awkward first meeting. Mark never met my eyes as we were introduced by the seminary rector. He gazed on the ground for the most part so I had the chance to study his face and read behind his sheepish gesture. I thought he was too shy but good-looking. In fact, he was the most handsome among the boys. It was no surprise that girls tried to get a seat next to him during mass or get a glimpse of him by the barbed fence as he did the weekly gardening with the other boys. But Mark ignored them and returned gifts and love notes sent by the girls saying it was part of seminary policy. I wonder now if there ever was a policy.
Mark eventually loosened up to me as the semester went on. He accompanied me to Sunday mass at the parish church, shared personal stuff about his family and volunteered to be my buddy when I tagged along their community visits. I enjoyed his company and greatly appreciated the little tokens he gave me on various occasions. We were drawn closer to each other as time went by. For me, it was purely a fancy which I deemed common between teachers and students who had a slight age difference. The friendship was platonic as far as I was concerned. I was assured in the thought that guys easily take me in as “one of the boys”-a trait I developed while growing up in a family of 3 brothers. But the seminarians knew otherwise. Little did I realize that this young boy had opened up to his close buddies about his real feelings for me.
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