WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Oh where, oh where can he be?

He wasn’t really sleeping during lectures. Every now and then, when something interesting came up, he would open his eyes and look around to see if anyone else had caught on. Or he would chuckle in amusement before nodding off again.

I couldn’t blame him. The class was immediately after lunch when most of us were in need of a quick nap. Then, too, if such were indeed the case, I appreciated the way he relieved his boredom. At least, it was not disruptive.

 The last time I saw him was sometime in the middle of last semester. He was among the students mounting a gallery of pictures of human rights advocates, student activists, progressive elements, and media practitioners who had been killed or had gone missing since 2001. Most of these cases of murder or abduction still remain unsolved to this day. They’d probably remain unsolved forever.

He’d turned and smiled at me that day as my friend kept exclaiming about those gory pictures he was mounting. It was the same open-faced smile that had often lit up his face when he was still doing time in my classroom.

Somehow, that smile was not a contradiction. There was something antiseptic about those pictures hanging all in a row. Like, there they are, and here we are, and I am glad to see you.

I’d be glad to see him today, except that he’d gone missing.

He dropped out of school a few weeks before the finals and he never made it home for the semestral break. His mother came looking for him this week, but she did not find him. Where is he?

I keep seeing his face in my mind, lighting up with easy laughter at the jokes we shared during our class in freshman psychology or just after I would have dismissed them when he and his classmates would pepper me with curious questions as I erased the board or as we headed out into the hallway. He exhibited a fine mind – quick, discerning, and more than just a little curious.

So I guess maybe he’s out somewhere trying to understand more of the world and his place in it. I’d like to think he’s safe and that all this is about is just he needing space to get things in proper perspective.

Except that someone told me that there were other people who were asking about him sometime before he stopped showing up for classes. There were changes in behavior, too, like his sudden reticence about his physical movements, for example. He’d be gone from his boarding house for days on end without explanation. And now it seems like he’s dropped off the face of the earth. Why would he do that?

Withdrawal is oftentimes the result of a breakdown in social relations. It happens when people do not anymore see the relevance of continuing interactions with others in a specific milieu. It may be because they have emerging concerns that could not be met where they are, and so they opt to take themselves away from it and pursue the object of their curiosity at the moment. Yes, it could get obsessive and all consuming. It could also mean coming to a choice to reject the old and embrace the new.

Conversion is a kind of rebirth, too. It results from an experience of enlightenment, and it often afflicts those among us who are bothered by the contradictions to the way we live our lives. It is mediated by education, and not necessarily the kind you get in a classroom.

Or maybe I should say that conversion is a kind of reawakening. God knows the kid would wake up for something interesting. He would probably stay awake for something that would prove to be much more to his interest.

I wish he would get in touch with his mother, though. Heck, even ET wanted to phone home. He did not strike me as the kind of kid who would do something to cause his mom mental anguish. I hope his mother won’t ever have to find his unwelcome picture hanging on some antiseptic wall.

(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to [email protected] email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)

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