YEARS PASSED AND ONE DAY, within the first week of school in senior high, Buddy, Mark, and Jim saw me walking and they decided to block my way again.
“Nice to see you again, Huan,” said Buddy. “How’s the honor student doing?”
“I’m doing fine, Buddy,” I said. “Now that I’ve answered your question, may I pass through?”
Mark and Jim snorted. “Look, he’s answering back at us now,” Mark said to Buddy.
“Really? Could he fight?” challenged Jim.
“Let’s see,” Buddy said.
Buddy went nearer but as soon as he pushed me back, I swung my arm with a fist strong enough to give him a straight hook. Buddy was surprised. He didn’t expect this.
So he swung his arm, too, but I managed to dodge his attack.
I saw Mark and Jim prepared themselves for an attack, too. So I fought the three of them to the best of my strength and abilities. After a few jabs, straights, hooks, and kicks with each other, Mark and Jim tried to hold my arms but we heard someone shouted.
“Hey, the three of you!” someone called the bullies. “What are you doing to him?”
We all stopped. Buddy approached the stranger.
The stranger stood tall with a large built body. He obviously looked Chinese — fair-skinned, black hair, chinky eyes, pointed nose, small lips. The good-looking face and the large body seemed mismatched but there was something authoritative in his stance.
“Hey, who do you think you are? You’re the new guy here they’re talking about, I suppose.”
The stranger moved forward towards Buddy, threw a bottle of liniment. “Why don’t you massage my back with this liniment and see for yourself…” He turned around and pulled up the back of his shirt, exposing his back.
Buddy caught the bottle of liniment and saw something on the boy’s back. It was something that puts him in awe that I couldn’t see from where I was standing.
“Oops, I’m sorry…,” Buddy said.
“Next time, don’t mess around me, okay?” the stranger said and turned to face Buddy.
Buddy raised his hands in the air and threw back the liniment to the stranger.
“Come on, Mark, Jim, let’s go,” he said leaving me and the stranger alone. “It’s no use fighting this guy…”
And the three of them left.
“Are you alright?” the newcomer asked as he approached me.
“Yeah,” I answered as I wiped my sweat with the handkerchief I pulled from my pocket. “You shouldn’t have interrupted us…”
“I knew you’re going to fight them and might win over them, but without hurting yourself first in the process. So I came to help you out.”
“Thanks, I owe you one,” I said. “My name is Huan. You’re new here, aren’t you?”
“My name’s Fonsy,” he said and shook my hand, “transferred from Marcelo.”
“What? How come you ended up in this public high school here in Cimitarra?”
“Been kicked out too many times already,” Fonsy answered. “No school in Marcelo or in Buenvenida would like to accept me nowadays. What grade and section are you in?”
“Grade 11, section A,” I answered, “how about you?”
“Well, that’s nice. I found a classmate,” Fonsy said. “Let’s sit beside each other and from now on, be my buddy.”
Fonsy put his arm around my shoulder and together we walked towards a concrete table under a big shady tree.
“By the way, I wasn’t able to see what you showed to Buddy. What was it really?” I asked.
“So, Buddy was his name, too, huh?” Fonsy said. ”Well, I just showed him what he deserves when someone messes with me or any of my friends.”
Fonsy turned around, pulled up his shirt, and showed his back to me. It had a big tattoo of a dragon with some Chinese characters beside it. It seemed to be some emblem of their family or of a notorious fraternity or group like a mafia I may not be familiar with. But what surprised me most was a pistol sticking out from his pants.
“You have a gun in yo-…”
“Shh… be quiet…”
“But that’s against the sch-…”
“I know… Listen, Huan, I have to bring this for my own protection. I’m Alfonso Sy, son of Alfredo Sy, Sr. You might have heard the name.”
I nodded. How could I not recognize the name when it was all over the island and published on all media?
The Sys owned many businesses: from cars to restaurants, to insurance, and anything else that involves money. Their family could practically own the whole island of La Isla Colonia if they wanted to. I couldn’t complain. It was as if I befriended a celebrity in this God-forsaken public high school in Cimitarra.
THAT AFTERNOON, I WENT INSIDE THE LIBRARY and Fonsy decided to wait for me outside. I went to the librarian and asked for an application form for a library card that school year.
While I was filling out the form, someone asked me where to get one. Luckily, the librarian unknowingly gave me two sheets, so I gave my extra copy to the student.
“Oh, thank you,” said a sweet voice.
“You’re welcome,” I said and smiled at her.
I noticed that she’s new, too, and she’s beautiful. Fair-skinned, deep-set eyes, pointed nose, high cheekbones, red lips… it was as if I’m staring at a living doll. I continued looking at her and couldn’t help but saw the name she wrote on the form.
“Rosanna Marquez,” I whispered as I read her name.
“Yes,” she heard me. “Hi, what’s your name?”
“Uh… Huan Aisea Komani. Just call me Huan. You’re also new here?”
“Yes, transferred from Cimitarra Sur.”
“Nice meeting you, Rosanna,” I said and shook her hand.
“It’s my pleasure to meet you, too, Huan,” she said as she shook my hand for a brief moment. “Thanks for this form. See you around,” she said and left.
And that was how I got to know her face and name. The face I really can’t forget.
After I applied for a library card, I looked for a textbook I would be borrowing for an assignment. Yet, my mind was filled with Rosanna’s image. I realized that I was smiling alone while looking for a book.
When I went out of the library, I found Fonsy still waiting outside. “I hope I didn’t take long,” I said.
“No problem,” Fonsy said. “Guess what? I saw this beautiful girl. I wasn’t able to talk to her and get her name. But I like her to be my girl…”
I did not give a thought about it because my mind was filled with thoughts of Rosanna Marquez.