Blame it on the coffee | Inquirer Opinion

Blame it on the coffee

/ 04:10 AM May 15, 2023

We’ve been practicing for a few weeks now. I walk up on the stage when my name is called, I shake the teachers’ hands, and I go back down on the other side. I take a picture with my family, after which I sit back down. Our applause, our march, even the way we sit down, it’s all rehearsed for this one day in May.

We aren’t taking it seriously, maybe we can’t. The notion that we’re about to move on is too ridiculous for us. It feels like just yesterday when we were all ninth graders, running around, graduation the farthest thing from our minds, wrapped up in aimless chatter and gossip. That hasn’t changed, it seemed, even after all these years. Everyone is out in the halls, I see people fluttering from one classroom to another. They’re all happy, at least on the surface. They’re making up for lost time, both the time robbed from us before, and the time that is about to be lost very soon.


I find myself doing just the same, as I open the door again to find my friends from another strand. I wave. I sit on the floor in front of them as we talk about things, like our plans for summer, and what colleges we’ll end up in. We’ll all be scattered, many across our province, some going to Manila, all in different colleges, in different courses. They seem excited, or at least sure of what they’ll do. I convince them I am the same, that I am about to head to Manila myself on the 15th to confirm my decision. But, there’s an air of restlessness that settles around our conversations, clinging to our skin, making our hair stands up on end. I bounce my leg up and down. I blame it on the coffee I had that morning. We laugh it off. I laugh the hardest.

I get up and excuse myself. It’s our adviser, I say as I leave. She called us back to the room. I laugh one last time and find myself in the hallway. It’s oddly silent here, the faint echoes of the lower levels making their way up here. The sunlight is filtered through dusty glass windows. I doubt they’d been cleaned since they were installed. I run a finger over the dust and sneeze.


The walk from their room to mine isn’t long at all. It would take less than a minute, only a few seconds if I walked a little faster. But I have nowhere I need to be, nothing I need to see, and no one I need to talk to. I walk slowly, perhaps only moving a quarter of an inch with every step. I walk in such a manner that the sun sets slower, and the world turns at my pace. I analyze every tile, every broken light, and every patch of peeling paint. I run my fingers over the walls and the windows. I look at everything as if I want to remember this moment. But, do I really? Wasn’t I so sure of leaving just moments before?

Someone calls for me in the distance. I break my steady pace and run toward them. I have no time to linger in these thoughts for long. We’re back at the covered court once more. We do the same routine. Walk up when our name is called, shake the teacher’s hand, and come back down. I chat up my seatmate, I don’t care for much else. It’s a pleasant conversation, I find myself laughing a couple of times. We talk about the meaningless and the meaningful, some gossip, some plans. We exchange advice and opinions.

She brings up her school, the school she intends to go to. I told her that one of my cousins studies there. But I could not provide much of anything past that, my cousin and I do not speak much anymore. The air is a little strained. The last time I spoke to my cousin was months ago now, was it fair to talk about her own little anecdotes? Would they even be accurate? I shake my hands a bit and blame it on the iced coffee I bought earlier. I tuck the empty cup under my chair.

The conversation comes to silence. I occupy myself with my phone. I hear the teacher’s distant voice reprimanding the students at the back once more. You aren’t taking this seriously, I hear her say. They all laugh like chittering insects. I wonder if their laughter was happy or nervous. I don’t think there’s a difference nowadays. I can still hear them whispering in the back, but the teacher ignores them.

At the end of the day, the teacher gives us pictures from our graduation ball. I take mine, and I laugh. I show it to everyone, exclaiming that the person in the photo is not me. Their lips are too thin, and their eyes too narrow. It was unrecognizable to me. I run over to my friends and show them. Look, I implored them, look at how badly they’ve butchered me in the edit. One of them holds up the framed picture to my face. I can only laugh when they insist it’s me. I point to the picture of all of us together. That one is me, the one crouching on the floor. We all laugh about it. I laugh the loudest.

I bid them farewell as I get into the car. I look at the picture again. As we drove away, I looked at the façade of my school shrinking in the distance. I bounce my leg nervously again. Tatay asks what’s wrong as we turn a corner.

I blame it on the coffee and leave it at that.


* * *

R. Palasyo, 17, is a graduating Grade 12 student, trying to pursue their dreams of becoming a writer in the future.

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