Just like any other student in a coffee shop, he pulled out his notes and manual. I know the feeling! I just had been liberated from a 2-month stint of nauseating daily study routine. Today was the first time I was in a coffee shop just because it was an interesting place. I even made a sketch of the artsy mug with golden yellow flowers.
It started to rain really hard so I decided to stay. We were sitting beside each other, me browsing through a sketch book by this Londoner while him still intent in deciphering his biochemistry module. When he had his lunch at 2 pm, I started to pry.

“Hi, what course are you enrolled in?”
“Chemical Engineering.”
Ooh fancy, must be smart. He goes back to eating and I look at my phone.
“What year are you currently in?”
He was not prepared that he had to raise his hand trying to signal me to wait while he swallows the piece of pork steak and rice in his mouth. “This is my…” looks up as if he were counting it from the ceiling “…6th year.”
“Oh but…”
“I stopped for 2 years.” He read my mind.
“Ah I see. But currently you’re?”
“3rd year? Cool.”
Then we went back to what we were doing.
“Why’d you stop?”
“I went to Australia.”
“You were from there?”
“No, my aunt lives there. I went to visit then she made me stay.”
“But you’re from here?”
“Uh huh.” Smile from both of us. “Are you studying here?”
“Ah no” fuck I graduated way earlier than him. “I was done 2012, but in Manila.”
“Oh.” He smiles and goes back to eating. I go back to my sketch book.
“So when do classes start now? I mean it was different before…”
“August, then there are no sem breaks but you get a month off Christmas break.”
“And is that better? Did you ever experience the old academic year?”
“Oh yeah, I like the new one more.” He chuckles a little.
“Well…” I join in with a smile.

That was the end of the conversation. The guy was cute, clean look, fair-skinned, and a little chubby. We didn’t even exchange names. At some point I was curious about how old he was but I didn’t ask anymore because he was studying. When the rain stopped, he said he’ll be going. I smiled and bid him luck on the exam.

I thought he’d probably be 23 at most. I’m 25. It got me thinking, what’s the worth of that 2-year age difference? Does it make me wiser than him? Sure I’m 25 but what value are those years? How do we measure the value of years, months, days, or minutes? Am I wiser by virtue of age? Am I supposed to be twice more mature? I doubt it.

Most of my years I spent in a simulated environment we call a campus. It’s like a cocoon. You live in your own world. Yes sometimes you participate in the real world you hear about in the news, etc. etc. but most of the time you’re in a sphere that rotates on its own amid the independent revolution around a bigger sphere. So if someone asked me if I was mature because I’m older, I honestly would just shrug.

I shrug because I unknowingly let the world pass me by. I shrug because I’m not sure if that was right or that was wrong. I shrug because I’m uncertain of what all those years were worth. I shrug because… because what else can I say? I don’t even have the right words for it.

Today was different though. I’m drinking the same beer, but I feel different. Hopefully something happens. Something with value. Starting today.