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Just this one time

You went home from school early with your night already planned out. You thought of just curling up into your bed with your favorite TV series on and some chips to munch. But then your best friend called you, inviting you to a mutual friend’s birthday party. You said you’ll pass for now but she insisted. She said, just this one time. Please come. She begged, putting your friendship on the line.

Because you’re a good friend, you said, okay just this one time.

And you instantly regretted your decision as you see the street, the colorful lights, and the loud music. The birthday celebration was at a local club, and your best friend begged you so much to go because she wanted to experience partying and drinking alcohol just once in your college lives.

The alcohol made you want to throw up at first, but because everyone was doing it, you forced yourself as well. You were afraid to be laughed at. You were afraid of not fitting in. So you gulped one shot after another—not minding that it made your eyes blur and your knees weak. You even congratulated yourself, thinking it was something to be proud of. And just when you thought that was enough to be cool, they made you swallow a pink tablet. Sort of like candy or ordinary medicine to cure headache. Without thinking, you took it and that’s when they told you what it really was. Drugs. Illegal drugs. Ecstasy.

You laughed with them.

The night stretched into long hours of crazy dancing and hilarious dares. You smoked cigarettes, kissed a total stranger, and chugged down more alcohol. You were having so much fun until you felt unfamiliar hands crawling their way up your skirt. You saw a grinning, but obscured face. He whispered something in your ear with his warm breath. Just this one time. You didn’t understand what was he asking for just that one time. But before you could even confirm, the alcohol found its way through your head and you fainted right in his arms.

It might go well for others, but you will never know who reality is going to choose as an example in order to teach everyone a lesson.

The next morning you woke up in your room. You couldn’t remember how you got home. Your head was aching terribly, and your body was completely sore and numb. You tried to move, but aside from your head, you felt something else that was aching so bad. You went to the bathroom, took off your underwear, and saw the blood on it. It was still too early for you to have your period. You just had it a week ago. Then you shut your eyes closed and sat on the floor. Cold crept into you, and you couldn’t help but cry. Something else happened last night. You cried, wanting to scream, but tried your hardest not to make a sound because you were afraid someone might hear and ask you what was wrong. Those arms that held you last night—you might not know his face, his name. You might not remember the things you talked about, or if you ever talked. You might be strolling in some place and meet him halfway, but you won’t recognize him at all. And in some other timeline, it might not be important—but right now, as you scratch your nails on the bathroom floor, you realize how that one time changed you in an instant.

Because while you let your guard down, someone had been inside you.

***

Sometimes, we risk ourselves in order to fit in. We try things we clearly know isn’t right—things we could have lived without. But still, we comfort our conscience with convincing words like “just this one time.” Just so you could say that you have lived your life to the fullest and you didn’t miss out on anything while you were still young.

It might go well for others, but you will never know who reality is going to choose as an example in order to teach everyone a lesson.

Being in the crucial stage of youth, we are caught between having fun and forcing maturity in. The notion that we only have our teenage years to have fun lingers above our curious, fragile heads. It leads us to think that we have the power and freedom to do anything because we’re still young. Youth became more than a name for our age. Youth became our excuse to do reckless things. And youth became a negative title given by those people who know better now.

As far as Philippine history is concerned, youth in Rizal’s time meant the hope of the nation. We could swim and drown down to the ocean floor trying to find where that essence went. Nevertheless, the struggles of being young—fitting in, having fun, and figuring out what to do for the rest of our lives—are never easy, and the possibility of doing it the right way is slim. We may have enough years ahead of us—to mess up and to learn—but just this one time, let’s not lose ourselves while trying to find where to go.