Ever since I was old enough to talk, I claimed to have fallen in love with a lot of people. It was not until the end of my third year in high school did I discover I was wrong.
It was April of the year 1999. Classes had already ended and I didn't want to sit idly at home. My parents were encouraging me to go on a vacation abroad but I declined because of several reasons. First, because I wouldn't be doing anything there (since there's no one to entertain me and I have virtually no access to entertainment). Second, the Philippines was experiencing an economic crisis. I didn't want to spend money unnecessarily. Third, and perhaps the most vital reason, is that I didn't want to leave my friends. It had only been the first year since I joined the clique of Pinoy Otaku, a group of people who loved anime, just like me. You see I never had a group of friends with whom I could hang out with. Not that I didn't try. I was just too weird to be accepted by my classmates and other acquaintances. PO, as we'd abbreviate it, had been my first experience of being accepted. When the sun sets, I'd log on to the Internet and enter the chatroom. That's where I'd meet up with my friends. We'd even arrange occasional EBs so that we could actually see what each other looks like.
Of course since the people usually came in the evenings, I needed something to do during the day. I don't own a Playstation and my PC was already obsolete. Playing videogames wasn't really an option. There's wasn't really much for me to do at home. I could go to the arcade and play all day but since I wasn't really very good at playing, it would have cost me a lot to go there every single day. That's when I decided I needed a part-time job.
Acquiring a job had two main benefits. The first was that I was preoccupied during the day. Any time I'm not spending money was time I'm actually saving it. The second benefit was that I actually got to earn money. This means I'd have a bigger budget for my hobbies and for buying gifts for people. I was infatuated with a lot of people by this time. I'd usually get into their "good graces" by treating them out or buying them something they'd enjoy (preferably something I could appreciate myself).
It worked out well for the first few weeks. I was able to get a job working as a sales clerk at Comic Alley. I spent my days productively selling merchandise, learning the ins and outs of the business world, and most importantly, meeting new people. Whereas I was an extremely shy person the year before, fearful of dialogue with the opposite sex and avoiding attracting the attention of people, I had managed to ease those habits and interact with the varied customers.
My habit of having infatuations didn't disappear. In fact, they increased. The more customers that came in, the more opportunities I had. My advantage over the salesladies in the shop was the fact that I bought the merchandise being sold there and I knew what I was selling. I was, after all, an anime fan working in an anime store. Thus, I was able to entertain the buyers and know what they wanted. I even chose items for them as I was getting more and more familiar with the anime soundtracks available. I called this my "edge" and I used this edge to get to know the people I wanted to meet.
Perhaps the most fruitful experience was befriending Sheila. It was her birthday and she was purchasing a gift for herself. My boss, Teddy, introduced me to her. When I saw her, I told myself that she was cute. She was ordering the Gundam Wing Endless Waltz movie. This gave me an idea. I talked to her about the show and we could relate to each other. I even managed to invite her to the PO chatroom and mailing list. Most importantly though, I discovered when she would be back for the video tape of the show she ordered.
The following day, I bought Sheila a manga of Gundam Wing. Because I wasn't working full time back then yet, I asked Tess, the head saleslady, to give it to Sheila when she claims her tape. You could just imagine Sheila's reaction when she came back to Comic Alley. The biggest and hardest part of befriending someone had been conquered. I had Sheila's trust and she thought I was a nice guy. We were both naïve at that time.
Over time, I managed to influence Sheila. She became a frequent chatter at PO and attended the anime screenings at UP where I usually went on Saturdays. We looked forward to seeing each other. It was during one of those showings that I learned that Sheila was actually four years older than me. I'm getting ahead of myself though.
A month later, I was working full time. That meant spending eight hours in Comic Alley for six days. I worked only four hours on Sundays. It was during this period that I had a paradigm shift.
One of the anticipated days during May was the Collecticon in the Megatrade Hall. Comic Alley had a booth there and they needed people to man the stall. This presented the perfect opportunity for me to hold an EB for PO. I told my fellow chatters about the con and asked if we could meet there, namely at the booth of Comic Alley since I volunteered to be there. Everything was set.
On the day itself, I met some very interesting people. I saw a girl with long dark hair and glasses approach our booth. She had a companion with her and they both looked Chinese. I concluded that they were ICAns.
The girl browsed through our posters and selected a Rurouni Kenshin poster. She told me she'd come back for it. I set it aside. An hour later, she came back and I sold her the poster. For some strange reason, I remember that scene until now even though it didn't seem particularly meaningful to me at the time. The girl looked pretty decent but nothing spectacular.
Time passed by and my appointed meeting finally arrived. A few PO members dropped by to say hi but none really stayed there. An important moment I recall is when Chrystel, an ICAn and recent addition to PO, came to the stall. She was with two of her friends and introduced me to them. I can't recall the other person she came along with but one was short and chubby. She had big eyes and was pale white. I found her mildly cute but not as pretty as other people I knew. Still, her appearance was memorable.
A few days after the convention, I was pondering on a new gimmick to earn money and to meet new people. I decided on selling Gundam pins which Smarty Toys was distributing. It was all I could afford at P50 per pin. I had it consigned to Comic Alley and it didn't sell quite as much as I wanted so I kept the surplus and gave it to people I became interested in or as a gift alternative.
I was planning to give my spare pin to Chrystel since she was a PO member and an ICAn. I was obsessed at befriending ICAns at that time since I knew only a couple and ICAns were supposedly the girls Xaverians went out with. Instead, the short, chubby girl with big eyes entered the store. I gave her the pin and contented myself with the fact that she was Chrystel's friend.
School started a few weeks later and my life resumed to normal. I was surprised when Marson, a classmate, told me that I met his friend Nissie.
"Who?" I said.
"Nissie. She told me that you gave her a pin." He replied.
I then recalled the short chubby girl with big eyes. So that was Nissie. Then I recalled that Bundi, our features editor, ranted about Nissie during break.
"That was Nissie? That anime fan was Nissie?" I mused to myself.
I soon found out that Nissie was also Erin Chupeco. We were both subscribed to two mailing lists: the now defunct Yu Yu Hakusho ML and POML. It seemed we shared a lot in common. After further research thanks to her own website, I discovered that we had A LOT in common. We shared the same passions like writing, reading, vampires and other mythological stuff. We watched the same shows such as Rurouni Kenshin and Yu Yu Hakusho. She enjoyed fantasy, just like I did. In fact, I later borrowed some books from her and I loaned her some of mine. It seemed like a perfect match.
As I got to know more about Nissie, my liking for her increased. It finally came to a point when I discovered that I was in love with her. Suddenly, all my previous crushes paled in comparison to her. She was the real thing. When I thought about it carefully, I didn't really share much in common with my previous interests. In fact, the only reason I became attracted to them was because of how they looked. Sure, some might have been kind to me but that was it. Our interests differed and I couldn't be myself around them. I remembered a saying about love. "If you can imagine yourself loving that person even if they became old, then that's love." I felt that way for Nissie. I couldn't say the same for the rest.
At that point, I realized what love was. I could understand how people can become faithful to only one person and love them selflessly. My previous crushes weren't really crushes at all. They were just infatuations.
I was certain of this because of one important reason. I wasn't motivated to know Nissie because of her appearance. She wasn't like Sheila who was beautiful on sight. Instead, her appeal lay in her character, in who she was rather than her physical traits. I could imagine myself growing old with her. I had fallen for Nissie; she was my first real crush.