Karen Gloria Norte had always been meant for greatness. Her parents thought so. She thought so. And she reminded friends and strangers about this fact every chance she could get.
When her company decided to send her to a huge industry conference in one of those posh hotels along Manila Bay, she was certain the fact her boss was down with chicken pox had nothing to do with the last minute change in delegates. She had EARNED that chance to rub elbows with industry giants. Her affirmations (“I’m going land huge deals with the new contacts I’ll be making!” or “I’m going to be pirated by the CEO of our rival company and become VP in 3 months!) amused her for days.
As she got off the cab on that big day, Karen straightened her suit with calm confidence. She reminded herself to walk slowly as she had just bought her beige Kenneth Cole 4-inchers the night before and were not broken in yet. She didn’t want to ruin her date with destiny by spraining an ankle. She walked to the direction of the ballroom, then towards the 5-meter long registration desk.
“Karen?” a voice squealed above the dignified silence.
‘Langya, is that …
A tubby girl manning one of the registration terminals flapped her short arms like fins on a beached whale. “It me!”
Squinting, Karen drawled, “Aaa …” Beth? Or Janice? No — Leslie!.
“Farah!” Oh, her. Farah had been the clown of her high school class. Seeing her again was a surprise as Karen thought she overdosed on diet pills in their freshman year in college.
“Kamusta na!” Farah gushed, “Are you a delegate for this?”
“Yes.” Obvious ba?
“Me, I’m temping for the organizers. I need the extra racket kasi — just like everyone else on this planet! If you want an extra snack muffin later, just tell me.” Farah blinked both eyes — but Karen knew it was meant to be a wink. “Did you go to the reunion last Christmas? Diana said they had a blast — I suppose that means everyone got drunk to their eyeballs …”
Karen’s eyes glazed as Farah monologued. Her thoughts were far from reunions. If this b*tch would just stop talking and give me my badge, I could do a little mingling over coffee.
Karen remembered how painfully mediocre Farah was back in high school. Back then, she pitied the girl for her low self-esteem, masked behind the godawful jokes. She was and always will be insignificant, the poor thing. If only she acted like she knew it.
“…And I heard Celina married this lawyer and she is like the super matrona of Ayala Alabang now. And remember …”
Karen breathed deeply. Okay, a one-minute delay in my grand plans won’t kill me.
“… But after high school I wanted to lose all the weight so I ate nothing but oranges and fiber capsules. It didn’t work — but my bowels are perfect now. Never had LBM since 1990 …”
I was wrong — it could! Karen held her hand up. “Listen, Farah. We didn’t talk much when we were in high school, did we?”
Farah smiled, “No. Such a shame, huh?”
Karen flashed her patented dead-ma look. “Actually, that was intentional.” She grabbed the pen on the registration table. “So, how do I register? I’m kinda in a rush here. I have to call my secretary before the conference starts.” Karen did not have a secretary; but figured no one there knew that.
Farah paused, before shifting to lithium-happy again. “Oh, I’m so super sorry. Just give me your calling card. I’ll type up and print out your badge for you.”
Karen eagerly walked away from the registration table, just as Farah mumbled, “Enjoy the conference.” Farah was a faint memory as soon as Karen felt the ballroom’s plush carpet beneath her feet. Finally, Karen’s plans were back on track.
I will make contacts that will matter in my upwardly-mobile career. I will impress people with my knowledge of the industry. I will amuse them even better with golf and Erap jokes. After this, everyone will remember my name — Ms. Karen Gloria Albano Norte. Senior Manager Karen G. Norte. Vice-President Karen Gloria Albano Norte …
Karen approached a group of handsome, young executives, only a few years older than she was. They were in a casual discussion near the center of the room. She took an empty chair beside them and skillfully made eye contact with the cutest one.
“Good morning,” cute executive in a Simpsons tie introduced himself. “I’m Juan Carlos Tobias from Imperial Telecoms. ‘First time I saw you in one of these things, Ms. …” he strained as he read her badge — before breaking into stiffled giggling — which looked unsettling on a grown man.
He signalled the others to look at her and soon enough, everyone was laughing. “We’re really sorry but … you poor, poor girl…” one of them managed.
Karen didn’t have a clue as to just what happened. She ran her hand on her face for smudge, her nose for booger — nothing. She looked down on her blouse for an undone button; but noticed something else.
Her badge declared in big bold letters. “Karne Norte.”