She walked into the room. All heads turned toward her. She was wearing a plain white shirt and blue jeans; her looks weren't stunning, yet there was an air about her that made people look twice. Slung over her shoulder was a United Colors of Benetton bag containing all her school things.
"Find a vacant seat and sit down, young lady," said the teacher, Miss Marcela.
She scanned the room and spotted the empty chair on my left. She walked along the side of the room and stopped beside me.
"Is this seat taken?"
I shook my head and gestured for her to sit on the vacant seat. She sat down in the chair, placing her bag on the floor in front of her. The other students turned their heads back to Miss Marcela, who continued where she left off, describing the present political situation in the Philippines. I asked the girl her name.
"Wanda," she said, and then ignored me. She leaned over the armrest and opened her bag. She took out a Corona medium sized 60-sheet notebook. She placed it before her and started to look for a pen. She searched the pockets of her bag but could not find any writing material. She turned to me and asked if she could borrow a pen.
"Sure," I replied. I reached into my pocket and handed her my silver Cross ballpen. She thanked me and opened her notebook. I assumed that she was going to take down notes but she started writing in her notebook, completely ignoring the teacher’s lecture. From time to time, she brushed back the shoulder length hair that fell across her face. She continued to write, oblivious of the discussion going on between Miss Marcela and a student in the front row about the rice shortage affecting the purchasing power of the Filipino peasant. I peeked at what she was writing. It was a journal. From what I could determine of her handwriting, she had just broken up with Tom, her boyfriend, because she felt that their relationship wasn't going anywhere.
I looked at the teacher, who was now lecturing on the subject of human rights and how we students seemed so apathetic to what was happening around us. I glanced back at Wanda and discovered that she had stopped writing. Her eyes were closed and tears were streaming down her face. I reached into my back pocket and took out a pack of tissue paper I bought from the cafeteria a few minutes before the class because I left my handkerchief at home. I opened it and took out a sheet. I handed the tissue to her. She looked at my outstretched hand for a moment before accepting the tissue. She wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at me. She crumpled the paper and whispered, "Thank you."
I nodded and asked, "Are you all right?"
"I'm okay," she said. She looked at her watch. I looked at mine. Miss Marcela was wrapping up her lecture on how the Cold War hadn't ended. The class was about to end; everybody was closing their notebooks and crumpling their sketches and got ready leave. Wanda closed her journal and shoved it into her bag. The bell rang, she zipped her bag and stood up. She slung her bag over her shoulder and moved to the sides.
"Sorry," she said as she stepped on my shoes.
"It's okay," I said. She walked to the front of the class. She approached Miss Marcela, who was placing her notes into her bulky briefcase. They talked for a while, Wanda making some gestures with her hands, Miss Marcela nodding and opening a folder in front of them. The teacher got out her pen and signed something on the folder. They both smiled and Wanda quickly left the room. I watched how she walked, performing that strut of her that made more than a few heads turn. She disappeared from my vision before I realized that she still had my Cross ballpen! I quickly packed my notebook and the handouts Miss Marcela gave on the current issue of the oil price hike into my backpack. I rushed outside and headed for the stairs. I nudged my way through the crowd, stepping on a few toes and elbowing some poor guy in the ribs.
I finally got down the steps. I looked left and then right. Wanda was nowhere in sight. Damn! That was a fine ballpen. Oh, well, she'll probably give it back to me during the next class.