This is a true love story
HEART AND MIND - Paulynn Sicam (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2019 - 12:00am

This is a true story. It is a love story of sorts, a bit late for Valentine’s Day, but always worth sharing, no matter the season.  

He was the handsomest boy on campus, a stage actor and an athlete. Let’s call him Heart Throb. Unreachable, it seemed, to two starstruck high school girls who worshipped the ground he walked on. They raved about his impossibly good looks, his acting prowess, his athletic physique. As high school crushes go, he was the object of their daydreams.

One day, the girls came across his home phone number and, on a dare, they called him. They expected nothing but rejection. They were sure that when he answered the phone, he would hang up on them immediately. After all, such a dreamboat would have better things to do than chit-chat with fan-girls. 

But to their surprise, Heart Throb was open, friendly and willing to chat.  Realizing that they had hit pay-dirt, they quickly created a character they introduced as Norma, supposedly a student of Samson Fashion Academy, who just wanted to be his friend. 

And so commenced a phone-pal situation with the two girls assuming the Norma identity interchangeably. Heart Throb always welcomed Norma’s call and begged her to stay in touch. The girls were shocked to realize that the man of their dreams was actually lonely, and like them, awkward, and unsure of himself. With the anonymity allowed by the telephone, they could actually let go and be who they wanted to project themselves to be.

They never met in person but here they were, chatting comfortably like old friends. There was an instance when one of the girls — let’s call her Norma 1 — was actually riding the same car as Heart Throb but she didn’t say a word, fearing he might recognize her voice.

The phone conversations developed into a warm, albeit anonymous, friendship — until real life happened. The girls grew up, went to college, had boyfriends and outgrew their girlhood crushes. They got married, started their own families and went to live abroad. Their teenage escapade with Heart Throb was just a pleasant memory they would go back to and laugh about as part of their crazy girlhood.  

Fast forward to decades later. I was visiting Norma 1 and we were reminiscing about our youth, when she said that she heard Heart Throb was living in the city I was going to. Could I please look him up in the phone book and send her back his phone number?  I did as I was told, expecting nothing.

She called the number, expecting nothing. But when she said she was Norma, he exclaimed, “Norma! Where have you been? Why did you stop calling?” 

Norma 1 was stunned, but Heart Throb was beside himself with joy. This time, she revealed herself as a sister of someone he went to college with.  She also confessed that there were actually two Normas, which was news to him. He never suspected he was talking with two different people. The moment of truth passed without incident. Heart Throb was just so happy to be talking to Norma again. Norma 1 passed on his phone number to Norma 2 and the three happily picked up where they left off.

So much had happened in their lives over the decades and it felt good to have someone intimate from the past to share and deconstruct their joys and sorrows with. There were more phone calls and even face-to-face meetings. With all the cards on the table, the friendship blossomed even more. 

He was the lofty campus figure, the “crush ng bayan” who they thought could have won the heart of any girl he desired.  Norma 1 and Norma 2 were giddy teenagers who thought they’d never get even a passing glance from such an unreachable star. They never expected him to welcome and even anticipate talking to teenage girls who were audacious enough to call him but too insecure to meet him face to face.  Who would have guessed that Norma would become such a big thing in Heart Throb’s life, and  that four decades later, he would immediately demand to know why she stopped calling? 

We never really know what goes on in people’s lives. We have our idols but we see them as one-dimensional: handsome, beautiful, god-like, funny, smart — but we don’t know what they are dealing with inside. Norma 1 and Norma 2 were just silly girls experiencing kilig moments flirting anonymously with their crush.  But what they found was a lonely guy who didn’t quite have the glamorous and exciting life they imagined, someone who needed a friend whom he found in the mysterious Norma.  

Who would have thought that what began as a dare between two giddy teenagers would someday result in a deep, mature and loving friendship?  Now well into their Seventies, Norma 1, Norma 2 and Heart Throb find in each other reliable go-to persons when they need a friend. Like the first time, when they were young and foolish and pretending, but much better this time, as themselves.

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