The end of the school year was fast approaching this March 2020. Just a week to go and it would be final exams for the senior high school department. Ms. Carine Soledad, Licensed Professional Teacher, was busy finishing up lessons and her students’ grades.
Carine had been a dedicated teacher for over half a decade now. She taught Math in a private school in Manila. Unlike other teachers who were mostly talkers and energetic, she was an introvert.
She was happy with her life, work, faith, family, and friends. But sometimes, she felt alone. Loneliness and longing for companionship crept in her mind and heart sometimes. She was almost three decades old, but she did not have a “forever person.” The only consolation was that most of her peers did not have theirs yet either. It seemed marrying late or never marrying at all were now trends in her generation.
But oh, she wanted love. She craved to be loved. She had boyfriends before and had already been in two serious relationships, but they were not what she thought she was looking for. She wanted a man who will see her for who she simply was and be loved for that. Still, Mr. Right had not arrived. She did not know if she was just being impatient or if she was a hopeless romantic, but sometimes she wished she had her forever person, her soulmate, or twin flame—whatever a forever person was called. She thought about why she was still single. Well, maybe because of her shy and homebody personality and her field of work?
Little did Carine, her students, and her co-teachers know that March 9, 2020 would be their last day in school together. Classes were indefinitely suspended due to the CoVid-19 outbreak. From then on, classes were held online, after which the teachers rushed to finish and encode the grades into the school’s online grading platform.
Four days before the grade submission deadline, Carine was still racing with time to finish the grades. At home, she worked on it all day. In fact, she had been religiously occupied with it for the past three weeks.
One night, when she was done working for the day, she relaxed by going online and checking her social media. A notification from Messenger jolted her.
A friend whom she had met in a writing workshop back in July 2019 messaged her a short question:
Are you still single?
She was a bit nervous about the question.
Yes, heck she was! But she was so busy. As always. So she decided to ignore the message and answer it when she was finally done with the grades.
But minutes after, the message was still stuck in her mind and curiosity got the best of her.
So Carine opened her friend’s message and answered it:
Then as an afterthought she jested:
Do you have a reto or a match for me? Ha-ha.
Minutes after, her friend, Mia, replied:
Yes! In fact, I recommended you as a match for him. He’s my friend and classmate from my Creative Writing Master’s program. I told him about you already. You have a lot of things in common. You’re both teachers; he teaches English, while you teach Math, right?
Surprised and excited, Carine answered,
Yes. Oh, wow, thanks!
Through an ensuing voice call, Mia told Carine about “the match.” “His name is Ernest Mendoza.”
“How is he? Is he nice?” Carine asked.
“Oh yes, he’s very nice. He’s great at writing poems. He’s like you—you’re both into literature and writing.”
“Oh, cool,” Carine nodded. “Why did you recommend me to him?”
“Well, he told me he’s lonely being single, and he thinks he would be alone forever and that no one would ever like him. I told him no, that he’s unique, and that someone will. Then I thought of who I can match him with. And I thought of you because you had the same interests. You know what, I think it’s one of my life’s calling to be a matchmaker for my friends, ha-ha. Go add him already.”
So with Mia’s prodding, Carine added Ernest as a Facebook friend. But she did not chat with him yet because she decided she would only do so when she was totally done with the grades.
A day later, Carine saw the notification that Ernest, who was now her FB friend, messaged her:
Hi, I’m Ernest. Mia has told me about you. What’s up?
Carine decided not to open the message and to just reply after she was done with her goal. A day before the submission deadline, Carine finally finished the grades. She spent the remaining time double-checking and then triple-checking if everything she encoded was accurate. She also answered her students’ inquiries online about their grades.
Two days later, Carine decided to finally reply to Ernest and apologize for answering late.
She opened her inbox and found his question:
What’s your genre?
She was really impressed with that opening question.
On dating sites, people usually asked common ice-breaker questions, but Ernest’s question was unique. Well, perhaps unique to the both of them who were writers at heart.
Hi! SLR, was busy finishing grades for our deadline. You know, the teacher’s life. My genre? Hmmm, that’s an interesting question. I write poems and stories. I’m not that good yet but I share my works online and I’m proud of them. I share them on my page. How about you?
After a while, Ernest replied:
Oh, I see. That’s all right. I write poetry and non-fiction.
Mia said that you write great poetry, Carine said.
Oh, she did? She’s exaggerating.
Ha-ha, really? You could share them with me too, if you like.
In the subsequent days of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, Carine and Ernest shared and exchanged poetry during their free time. Carine’s poetry was simple and short, fit for the “micro-poetry” Instagram posts, while Ernest’s poetry was more profound and traditional. They shared and talked about the many things they had in common, such as literature, music, art, anime, political views, teaching stories, and prayers. They also talked about the current situation and the happenings in the world and in their country. Ironically, CoVid-19 deepened old connections while new friendships were found online.
It would be nice to think that Carine and Ernest developed feelings for each other, given that they enjoyed talking with one another and they seemed to have a lot of things in common. It would be blissful to imagine that their story ended with them meeting each other after the pandemic and falling in love.
However, after some time, Ernest became busier with his summer online classes and submitting his writing to renowned publications. Carine, on the other hand, spent her time writing her first novel and learning Spanish. They barely chatted with each other anymore.
But it was okay. It was all right for both of them. Both Carine and Ernest enjoyed their singlehood, especially during the time of CoVid-19, when they were free to pursue their passion projects. Carine realized that Ernest was not for him and thought that maybe he realized the same.
But it was all right for both of them because they were enjoying and making use of their time to do their creative pursuits and other dreams aside from their teaching careers. Their yearning for romantic love ceased; yet they were able to give themselves love in a different form: self-love. They realized that no matter how they looked for it, love would find a way once they were ready for it.
But for now, they pursued their dreams first. And they were content with how they passed each day during the ECQ, how they looked at and loved themselves anew.