Early chemistry

February 1992. I was a junior in high school, a week shy of 16, and sent as one of the school's representatives to a Metro Manila-wide science contest.

The contest was held at St. Paul's College in Quezon City.

I remember finishing the test early and spending the rest of the day waiting for the results and talking to a boy I met there, another chemistry contestant from a boys' school not far from where I am living now.

I remember his name -- initials, JL.

I remember being teased by my fellow school reps and even the teachers who chaperoned our team to the contest, From across the table I spoke with the boy, lengthily, animatedly, as if I had known him forever.

Morning snacks, lunch, afternoon snacks were all spent on that table, still talking. What exactly did we talk about? I forget.

It was, indeed, a Before Sunrise moment even before the film was even made: two strangers meeting, striking up a conversation, becoming oblivious of the passage of time. I recall being surprised that it was late afternoon already and it was time to go home.

No, I did not win the chemistry contest. Neither did he. Before we parted, we exchanged addresses -- no telephone numbers, for the plain fact that we did not have a phone then. This was a time when there was no Internet, to cell phone, no pagers even, and when it took years to apply for a telephone line.

I lost that piece of paper and lost track, period. No letter came. And less than two months later, I had met another boy, my life had turned upside down and would not settle until 15 years down the road.

Today I remember that meeting even if I can hardly recall how I ever got to be a whiz at chemistry in the first place.