Author’s Note: The following is a work of fiction. While inspired from real life observations about law school, this is not an accurate portrayal of anyone around. All names are selected for pretentious literary purposes, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. 

——-

Valentine’s Day is celebrated with much more fanfare than Labour Day, it ought to be declared a public holiday instead. Amy had came to this conclusion at around 2 am on February 15th last year. The day’s lessons finally ended at 8pm, after which they met up and she surprised him with a handmade present which took two weeks to make.

For weeks, she had fretted over the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for this guy. This was the guy who had confessed in a round of Truth that he thought she was the prettiest girl in the OG; the guy who had insisted on driving her home after late night Rag practices although he lived in Queenstown and she, in Pasir Ris (“it’s only a U-Turn”, he’d say); the guy who, in the library, sat beside her in total silence till the cacophony of 9.45pm and drove her home thereafter.

Rag became a vague memory; CJ Koh, the eventual third party.

Lunchtime. A huge crowd has gathered at the entrance of Blk B. It is an annual thing, the sale of floral/furry/fluffy stuff in varying hues of red and pink. Someone is strumming a guitar, singing Collide by Howie Day. She couldn’t recognize the faces – Year Ones, she presumes.

From her seat at The Summit, she observes two individuals having a private moment in the midst of all the bustling. She smiles wistfully, and then wonders how long the fresh-faced couple will last.

The two hadn’t last very long. Sure, it may be Amy’s longest-lasting one yet, but ten months is nothing compared to the duration Jill and Yong have been together.

When Jill and Yong changed their Facebook relationship statuses about a month after Orientation, there was a little flurry of chit-chatter all round.  Did you hear—Yes, oh my gosh I can’t believe it–I’m so happy for them! Then there were the cynical ones who amongst themselves, collected bets as to the number of months they’d last.

This silly wager has since been forgotten.

***

Pete doesn’t believe in love. He recognizes fondness, and has, for more times than he’d admit, indulged in lust. He discounts intense surges of passion as infatuation, of which he likes to think are triggered by stress-induced hormonal imbalances.

Law school is after all, a very intense place.

Pete prides himself on being self-disciplined. He marches to the library after lessons and readily occupies his fortress of notes and books. What keeps him going is the pursuit: the relentless chase for that elusive A and the thrill that accompanies the uncertainty of the next. Time is of the essence, and a relationship is nothing but a hindrance. He has heard his friends worry over surprises and dates, and many a time wondered how could they juggle so many of such extra-curricular activities alongside schoolwork.

He came to this conclusion at the end of the second year: he was on the Dean’s List twice, and they weren’t.

Pete reminds one of the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. Except that he isn’t on a quest to find a heart. On the contrary, he is in a state quite embodying the paradigm of the Westminster model: the heart, the mind and the body function separate of each other. He has seen his LCS group mate degenerate into a dysfunctional wreck when his girlfriend of four years suddenly called it quits. “Apparently, law school changed me into a snob,” he lamented bitterly. She didn’t understand all his legal jokes and references. He didn’t couldn’t attend her beloved grandmother’s funeral (“It’s two days to the deadline for the public law assignment, and I haven’t started writing!”) and once, during a prolonged group meeting, Pete saw that his friend had fifteen missed calls from a certain Baby. “I thought she would understand,” the poor boy cried mournfully. “Gosh I can’t understand this. Damn this imaginary client.” Pete mustered his most convincing sympathetic smile, and silently swore to never let emotions cloud his thought process ever.

(500) Days of Summer was probably the only romantic comedy (out of the handful that he was morally obliged to watch in his short stint as a boyfriend) he managed to sit through awake. Two words:  Zooey Deschanel. But by the time Summer proclaimed that there’s no such thing as love, it’s fantasy, Pete found his soul-mate and wanted to marry her.

The marriage would probably end in a divorce, but Pete wouldn’t mind at all. Life would go on. After all, he has seen his parents’ union disintegrate when he was fourteen. Barely a year later he began calling a strange man Dad, and through all these, he learnt that promises were made to be broken.

It probably doesn’t help that he volunteers at the Family Court and guides weary women through the divorce procedure. The one time he sat in for a mediation session, he marvelled at how couples who once couldn’t get enough of each other now have to be separated lest they tear each other apart.

By the time Pete sat for his Family Law paper he was convinced that there is no such thing as romantic love. Or, in the unlikely event that he may be wrong, romantic love doesn’t have a life interest.

It is important to note at this juncture that Pete actually has friends. In fact, he is late for lunch.

***

It is apt that Ling is listening (rather ashamedly) to Taylor Swift wail “You Belong With Me” when she notices Pete walking towards her with his wallet in hand. She instinctively puts her head down, pretending to be engrossed in reading. He wants to know if she is ready for lunch. “Soon,” she mumbles. He shrugs and walks off.

Once the coast is clear, she reopens her internet browser. She reads whatever she has typed, but then hesitates.

Ling has never been known to be a sweet, demure girl. She makes it a point never to ask people for help – she can carry that venomously heavy stack of books by herself, thank you very much. She has no qualms about eating alone in the Summit (“C’mon guys, it’s not going to kill you.”). She knows that she is no man repellent, but she isn’t going to let anyone get close to her. She has seen enough of friends getting together, breaking up, thereafter posting sad song lyrics and forlorn tweets. She has proclaimed to everyone around here that she isn’t looking for a relationship, at least not in law school. There is too much proximity for her liking.

But deep inside she has always been curious. What was it like to fall in love? She has never dared to love freely, because loving meant being vulnerable. Vulnerability, to her, is a sign of weakness. She sighs, and continues typing on her computer. The iPhone flashes a Whatsapp message from Pete. It reads: At the Summit, usual place!

If you could see that I’m the one who understands you…

Ling has known Pete since the first day of law school. Or rather, he caught her eye when they, both decked in black and white, were queuing up at the registration booth before the Faculty Inauguration Ceremony. From then on, he has been, for lack of a better word, her “eye candy”. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized that they were in the same Criminal Law seminar. (Crim would become her favourite module when she was subsequently allocated to the same presentation group as Pete; when he added her on Facebook she almost died of joy.)

Been here all along…

She was Pete’s go-to for Public Law lecture notes, because nobody else could transcribe that fast. She coordinates all the birthday celebrations within the group, so that she can plan his birthday. She hates his music taste, but listens to whatever songs he posts on her Facebook wall anyway. Both of them are soccer fanatics and have long discussions about how Rafa Benitez’s career at Stamford Bridge wouldn’t last a month. Or that David De Gea had to please, stop making terrible clearances. Over the summer, she helped him secure an internship at her father’s law firm. He insisted on treating her to a meal.

So why can’t you see-ee-ee..

Over sashimi and sake, he said those three words that would change her life forever:

“Thank you, bro.”

You belong with me-ee-ee…

Ling already knows that she’s been friend-zoned, but so long as he is not attached, well–there is a possibility (if not a probability). Still, it is in her nature to be cautious. She re-reads what she has typed. Adrenaline is actually pumping through her veins. Should I? This was her last semester before graduation, her last Valentine’s Day in school. Oh what the heck. It’s anonymous, anyway. She clicked on the “Done” button, slammed the laptop shut and grabbed her purse. Should the administrators be benevolent, she and the rest of the gang would later be giving Pete a hard time about a particular post on the NUS Law Confessions Page, which Pete will insist is by some guy who just wants to troll him.

…You belong with me.
***

Caleb returns to the table with two drinks: iced milo for him, kopi-o for her. He has only ever seen her order that, and he knows she needs at least two doses of it to keep her functioning throughout the day. Amy takes the drink, grateful.

“Before others intrude on our moment,” Caleb begins, searching around in his bag. He pulls out a little red gift box and a card. “There you go!”

They exchange presents.

Amy reads the little note, and grins. “You’re such an asshole.”

Caleb blows Amy a kiss.

Normally, she’d roll her eyes and say something sarcastic in return. Not today though, because she’s extremely thankful for his presence. In fact, Amy doesn’t know how she would survive law school without Caleb. For as long as she can remember, he has always been her anchor.

The stereotypical law student has always been typecast as a neurotic, insecure yet cocksure overachiever. Amy is like that. Caleb, on the other hand, is so chill, it seems as if he is doing a part-time degree in law. He is the iced calamansi drink to her chilli-padi character. They’ve pulled all nighters together in school, and could go shopping without wanting to kill each other. They’ve had countless it’s-three-am-why-are-you-still-awake conversations, and even at that unearthly hour the rhythm of their conversations is quick-fire because they’re competing to come up with the best quips.

Amy and Caleb are best friends. The ones who see the best in each other, despite all the flaws and quirks. They love each other, though they can never picture themselves together romantically.

Earlier on, Amy sat through an acoustic guitar performance of Caleb singing Truly, Madly, Deeply. Clich̩, she told him straight in the face. But she gave the go aheadРhe is all ready for his moment later tonight. She also helped select a necklace she knows his girlfriend would love. Caleb was there for her during her breakup, and using that as a bargaining chip, had threatened to severe ties with her if she did not assist in making sure that his seventh V-day with the girl of his dreams is especially perfect.

***

For every lovely-dovey couple that celebrates 14th Feb, there is the swinging single vehemently announcing that s/he cares for Valentine’s Day as much as s/he cares for LCS. It is a stupid and opportunistic marketing ploy for all the restaurants and florists to leverage on. Today is just like any other school day. There is still has a pile of readings left unfinished for tomorrow’s seminar. Whatever.

Thoughtcatalog has plenty of sappy pieces lamenting about love. Amy has read them all, and even shared some on Facebook. Then there are the articles on “Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Never Date a Law Student”, and the rare contrived one on why you should. Apparently, law students are such an idiosyncratic bunch of people.

Amy looked around at the people around the table at the Summit. Pete is complaining about the standard of food to anyone who would listen. Jill and Ling are engrossed on Facebook, while Yong and Caleb are in one of their bro-conversations. Amy has to admit that all of them are rather eccentric characters. Suddenly, Jill shoves her phone into Pete’s face with hysterical laughter. This will go down as one of the most embarrassing moments in Pete’s law school life.

Amidst all the laughter and chatter, Amy realizes how much she loves these people, and how much she will miss her friends once they graduate. Together, they’ve lived through the various incarnations of the Summit. They’ve survived LAWR, Public Law and Evidence with each others’ encouragement and muggers. They’ve seen one another through heartaches and relationship issues. Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same. For love, in its various conceptions, bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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