smitten

A small distraction from all the recent cheche bureche going on: I have a new work crush. I rarely see him and I think he’s at least five years younger but, I mean, it’s just a crush. Happy crush. Yiiiiie.

Picture a small bar tucked in the corner of the second floor of a downtown mall. The lights are just the right amount of warm — bright enough for people to see each others’ faces, but dim enough to set the place apart from, say, an office. The music is also just the right amount of loud, if not a bit closer to the soft side. People can talk using their indoor voice and still hear each other, which is to say that this is not the bar you visit if you want to throwdown or get lit.

I find myself in that bar Thursday evening last week for our company’s client appreciation event. Everyone at work is required to attend, and the instructions from the powers-that-be is for us to talk to at least one client instead of just hanging out with each other. It is a networking event after all.

I go to the bar with my co-worker K. Once at the bar, another co-worker immediately pulls me away from K and introduces me to a client I used to work with. Ooh boy, the unbearable lightness of being an introvert! K joins our small group, then we suffer through the agonizing pains of pulling our own teeth as we think of what to say next, what questions to ask, what to reply to a comment about wives and kids blah blah blah.

“We’re just gonna go grab more food,” I tell the client, and K and I awkwardly head to the snacks table. I am wearing my aligners so I can’t eat shit, but K grabs a saucer and fills it with mini burgers and tater tots.

“Do we just stand here?” I ask K as he munches on the snacks and scans the vicinity.

“Let’s hang by LR and LJ over there,” he says and nods to the direction across from us.

“What? What are we supposed to talk to them about?”

“Nothing,” says K. “It’s just better to stand beside people who can actually talk in case the clients approach us.”

“Good point.” I shrug and we go to the high table where LR and LJ are.

LJ and LR are two of the most attractive people in the company. LJ is a tall white woman with a perfect jawline. It is very, very easy to hate her knowing that despite looking like a fairy tale princess, she is also one of the smartest engineers in the company. Meanwhile, LR is a tall Filipino man who has amazing style and who has previously published articles in academic journals. LJ and LR guys are basically brainy models, and I have not given either of them more than two seconds’ worth of thought until that night.

The two Ls are talking about Mexico when we get to their spot.

“Everyone is going to Mexico,” says LR, then he names the people whom he knows for sure are going to Mexico in December.

I’m going to Mexico,” K chimes in.

“There you go,” LR says then looks at me. “What about you? You’re going to Mexico too?”

“No.”

“Are you going anywhere?”

“No.”

“Are you just staying here in the city then?”

I look at him and pause for comedic effect: “No.”

He laughs, and I hear the sharp woosh of Cupid’s arrow swiftly leaving its bow. This kid is handsome as fuck.

Our huddle of four starts to grow as our other co-workers join in. I don’t learn much about LR other than he plays League sometimes. Why is every cute guy a gamer?, I think to myself then I think of that guy — that same guy who’s shaken my otherwise humdrum life — but I refuse to let the thought linger. #strong

K and I soon decide to leave so we can join our friend C for another event. “You guys heading out?” LR asks us.

“Yea,” I say. “Wanna come?”

“I’m still waiting for another client. I think he’ll be here in 15, but I’ll join next time!”

“Sounds good,” I say, then I head to the coat room to grab my coat and backpack while K and C wait for me outside. As I walk from the coat room to the front door, I notice from my peripheral vision LR following me with his gaze. Not that it means anything — maybe he’s looking at someone or something else near me — but this is how I know I’m smitten.

And when I’m smitten, the confirmation bias is at an all-time high. Everything they do is about me. Back in the day, whenever I tell my school friends that I think so-and-so might have a crush on me because they did so-and-so, my friends brush me off like I’m delusional as fuck. Ilusyonada ka, ghorl?

This time, though, my friends are my number one enablers. Picture a different scene that takes place two days after the client event. This time we’re at a big hall in the city’s premier science center. There are about 10 round tables, one long buffet table, and one counter for the open bar. It is our company’s Christmas party, which we are having early because everyone is going on vacation for most of December.

I go to the party with my work friend Y and her boyfriend. I go alone because, as you already know, the guy I’m seeing has vanished into thin air. As soon as I enter the hall, I see LR sitting in a table between two men, one of which is the boyfriend of a new hire, the other is just another co-worker. LR did not bring a date. Interesting!

I sit in a different table with my closest co-workers slash friends. Note that up until recently, LR and I have never had a conversation that is not about work. Even our work conversations have been brief, usually just over Teams chat or a 1-minute phone call. We never speak to each other in person; he and I are not buddy-buddies at all.

LR stops by our table on his way to the buffet. “Hey Jolina, how’s it going?” he asks. Out of everyone in our table, he talks to me first. We have a quick chat then we walk up to the buffet together. We split as we head back to our respective tables to eat.

After dinner, everyone starts walking around the science center to explore. I may be overreading into things again but many times throughout the night, I find LR standing next to me or around me. He also agrees when Y invites him to join us for ice cream after the party.

Over ice cream, I learn that LR is really into music. He likes indie rock. He knows The Strokes and he likes modern jazz. His music taste is fire. Also, he looks fire. I wish he wasn’t too young though; otherwise I’d be simping. I’d be simping hard.

Instead of asking Y and her boyfriend to drop me off, I decide to Uber home with K and C. “Did you notice how LR was basically following you around all night?” K asks me in the car.

“What? No he wasn’t!” I respond. The struggle to keep a faint smile from sneaking out of my lips is real.

“Yes he was. Seriously! He was talking to you and sneaking glances at you, did you not notice that?”

“Was he, really?”

“Yes!” K says. “And you guys have chemistry!”

“Okay stop!” I finally cave in like a delinquent student of the Maria Clara School of Pababe Girls. “He’s soooo cute!”

“Yes he is!” C joins in. “You guys should invite us to the wedding!”

“Stop! But yes I totally will!”

The three of us squeal and fail to contain the kilig. We all agree that LR is one of the best looking guys in the company.

But, unfortunately, that’s as far as the story goes. LR and I have no other notable interactions because, as I said, I have never even thought of him until that one night in that way-too-proper-for-a-bar bar. Could there be a plot twist coming up? I high key doubt it, but I guess you, my friends, will be the first to know. 🙂


Featured photo by Jacek Dylag


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