this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on May 21, 2002.

I cannot sleep. I would like to dream about Russell Crowe, but my eyes cannot seem to close. I am too busy trying to answer all the pressing life questions that have been tormenting me for the last decade or so.

I am not attempting to answer philosophical questions (Why am I here? What is my reason for living?) or political questions (Is Gloria Macapagal a good president? Will our country get rid of the “trapos” and corrupt officials? Can pigs fly?) Looking for the meaning behind my existence can be argued in Philosophy class oral exams or night drinking sessions. Pondering on the finer points of the government can be discussed with angst-ridden, unemployed friends. The questions that are keeping me awake are more personal, specific and perhaps even mundane for others.

Questions like, why does my relationship with my best friend last? Christine and I have been friends for 15 years, and amid prolonged absences and lack of communication, our bonds of friendship never break or fade. I do not even consider myself a good friend. I forget birthdays, divulge secrets and hate surprises.

While I’m on the subject of friendship, also on my list is the question of why my girlfriends cannot go along well with my boyfriends and vice-versa. I do not mean boyfriends in the romantic sense but friends who are boys. It can get frustrating at times, because I constantly have to divide myself between these sets of friends. It is fun to have slumber parties with the girls, but it is also fun to watch a Bruce Willis flick with the boys. I have attempted to bring them all together in one place, but every effort ended in disaster. The boys hate the shrieks and the girls hate the rough, sexist talk.

When it comes to talent, why do I have everything half-baked? I can only play the piano with my right hand. My left hand freezes every time my fingers touch the keys. Yes, I can paint. But I can only paint landscapes. Landscapes are wonderful to do, but they can get monotonous because they are all the same-trees, flowers and shrubs. I want to do portraits, but I cannot go beyond the eyebrows. Do not even ask me about my culinary skills. I do not have any cooking talents to boast of. My everyday meals consist of instant noodles and fast food.

I also ask, why do the people I know seem to have clear ideas about what to do with their lives? I am taking my master’s degree because I feel that I still have a lot to learn, not because of other worthy reasons. Others are taking their graduate courses because they want to be teachers or to travel abroad. My only ambition in life is to have three kids. I want a little girl with pouting lips and jet-black ringlets, a little boy who will grow up to become a basketball player, and another boy who will be a cardiologist. With all my worries, I think I will need someone who can take care of my soon-to-be ailing heart.

Here are some more of my mind-boggling questions. Why do I hate math? My hate relationship with mathematics goes back to second grade when my father forced me to memorize the multiplication table. I remember crying so hard, with my head throbbing from exhaustion, but still trying to get the product of seven times eight. I hate math with so much passion that my mind goes blank every time I see or hear numbers.

Why do ridiculous things happen to me in public? I once tripped on a sidewalk along Ayala Avenue, with my legs and arms flying for all the people to see. I once convinced an Economics student that I got an A in Basic Economics, not knowing that one of his friends was my former teacher (who gave me a C+). In short, I became the butt of jokes in my “tambayan” for being a wannabe.

My life is literally peppered with lots of clumsiness and smooth moves gone haywire. But I still wonder why my friendships last, why I am always in a cheerful mood and why that Economics student has now been my boyfriend for three years. No one bothers to tell me. Amid all those sleepless nights deciphering probable answers, I realize that I want to go on living my unpredictable life, without changing anything. Maybe the answer is as simple as being true to myself and to the people around me. Maybe there really is no answer at all.

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