Les Trois Femmes

March 3rd, 2014

Woman #1

“Can’t tell cos I don’t know what he is like now. His mindset. His beliefs. He boxes everything till no one can get through… but I wanna know what you are thinking and what affects you. Not just you listening. Friendship is a two-way relationship.”

Woman #2

“What’s on your mind?” she blurted. The two of them were standing amidst the late-night crowd in the packed train. This wasn’t the first time she asked this question [1]. He thought it was cute. Well, kind of (but not on hindsight).


“I know you’re deep in thought. It’s your eyes. They look distant.”

He smiled, relented and tore her a page from his mind.

At first, he could tell from her reaction, i.e., her eyes (and the size of them), that she was not a little fascinated. Perhaps she wasn’t expecting him to indulge her. But by the time the train pulled up at the next station, she wore another expression on her face. It was as though she was given all that she wanted but her desire was, in no way, satiated.

“Why do you think of such mundane things?” she commented, with her brows furrowed. “It’s not like thinking about them would bring value to your life.”

He could have told her about how having stuff going on in one’s head was much better than leaving it blank [2]. Or worse, being mindlessly entertained by images on the screen of smartphones or tablets, or games about birds that are flappy or falling candies in bright colours.

But he said nothing and smiled at her.

On hindsight, curiosity didn’t kill any cat, but it must have killed the relationship.

Woman #3

What he was told: “He was reserved. He was evasive.”

What he saw that they didn’t tell him: “He was pushy and didn’t know what he wanted.”

If he was guarded and evasive, she wouldn’t have had the time to gobble down the strawberry-and-mango tart she ordered with glee and that gleam in her eyes. Meanwhile, the blueberries sitting on the tart he ordered must have been – in her mind – desperately calling out for her to burst them in her petit mouth.

If he was pushy, it would be him who initiated an exchange of phone numbers so that they could “hang out sometimes” and do copious amounts of Whatsapp-ing [3].

If he didn’t know what he wanted, he would not have shared with her how much raising a family – based on the tenets of the religion they both believed – was important to him that it became one of his life’s goals.

[1] The first time she asked, they were in a car he was driving. It was a safe environment for him to be more casual about revealing his thoughts.
[2] Which would mean staring into space, zombie-esque and expressionless.
[3] Which, of course, led to a screenshot of their conversation sent to him accidentally.

This resonates…

January 23rd, 2014

Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.

— Fyodor Dostoevsky

Lessons in life

January 23rd, 2014

In the past I would have yearned for some form of explanation. It was for the sake of closure; it’s a marker of sorts to tell my heart that it’s time to move on. It applies to all forms of relationships I’ve had with people in the past.

But now, I know better. Closures and explanations are not usual and they depend on the sympathies as well as the whims and fancies of others. Kindness, or the good nature of men (if you will), is never in abundance. The words of an ancient Chinese philosopher never left my mind when the JC tutor uttered them on a muggy afternoon: The primary nature of men is evil.

I don’t need an explanation from you anymore. I’ll find my own closure and deal with it. The lesson learnt is expensive but extremely valuable because it pushes me another step away from being such a sentimental person. I remembered the shock on your face when I told you that happiness is transient. While I have memories of the moments we spent together (and can’t really erase them), you have unwittingly contributed more evidence to how the emotions that we held when savouring those moments are transient. Being someone who is sentimental, I can categorically say that they (the moments) were happy ones.

Emotions are transient; it’s more so for the happy ones. I believe they are to you, even if you may not be aware.

Another lesson I learnt is gratitude, which is in short supply too. When the relationship becomes more intense, the level of gratitude expressed should grow in proportion. In the past, I held onto the notion that gratitude (which may be derived, sometimes belatedly, from reflections about past events, including those sweet pleasant ones) can be a strong foundation for the relationship. With this (final) nail you hammered in this coffin that is our relationship, that notion has been disproved. Doing something nice unexpectedly for someone you care about doesn’t lead to gratitude which (I thought) will nurture love. I can now appreciate how the phrase “taken for granted” was coined.

And with women, being made the way that they are, emotions can be fleeting if they are not anchored by something else. This also applies to gratitude [1].

I am not saying that you are evil. I am not implying that you’ve been ungrateful.

It’s just that my expectations and perspectives aren’t quite on the same level as yours. Because of you, I’ve learnt to expect less and from that, do less when the next woman enters my life. Compared to how much I’ve invested[2] in us and you, she will get crumbs from me until I am sure that her emotional investment far exceeds mine[3].

Life’s not fair.

[1] This reminds me of my birthday gift (which is in the hundreds, in terms of monetary value, and was impossible to wrap it in nice, glittery paper and fastened with a pretty ribbon) to a friend some years back. I’ve a vague impression that she mumbled something when I told her about the gift. Today, the relationship has deteriorated to the extent that I believe we’re acquaintances.

[2] It’s more than just the financial aspect.

[3] This reminds of someone I gave my first kiss to. I treated her to a buffet dinner on her birthday. I bought her a cake from Awfully Chocolate. She texted me a week later on Whatsapp to say how much that dinner and gift meant to her because that “scum[4] of her ex-husband never did that for her throughout their five-year marriage.” I’ve taken more care into planning our dates than merely calling the buffet restaurant up for a reservation and buying the cake in a huff at the train station for her.

[4] In the past year, I’ve met and heard from two women who invested their emotions enough to have (regrettably, on their hindsight) married and divorced “scums”.

Life on a turn

November 11th, 2013

We were in the car and I was manoeuvring a sharp turn when she suddenly blurted, “I don’t get much out of you about yourself. I haven’t been able to.” We had acknowledged the fact that we are both introverts; she was less of one than I am. I took my eye off the bend in the road to see if there were traces of frustration on her face. There seemed to be none. I then reminded her about how she remarked about her being a private person when we introduced each other.

I am reminded about someone from the past, a woman who was a prayer away from being my first girlfriend. The exasperation filled her face as she made the angry remark about how I had never shared anything with her. I didn’t respond because I couldn’t find the right explanation.

I am reminded about another someone from the past whom I recently met after more than 20 years. She said her impression of me was about how aloof I looked and was. A recent Whatsapp message from her was not a variation around the theme of “I find it hard to pry something out from you.” [Incidentally, she said I had a pair of charming eyes. No one has ever said that to me. I was properly stunned. I always thought they looked dead (from the perpetual lack of sleep).]

My introverted score is in the 90s (out of 100). I’ve lived long enough to know that not everyone laughs at my jokes although in my book, I crack them often. They just don’t get them. In my younger days, I believed I sucked at humour. I only realised just months ago how humour can be different for different people.

I think a lot. People can be forgiven when they insist that I live in my head. Every waking moment is filled with thoughts, ideas, plans and the right words to say to the right people (dead or alive) at the right time and place. I don’t articulate or express them. Unless and until I’m provoked, I keep thoughts to myself. When the first five years of my life was spent almost in isolation, I learnt that not everyone responds to what I say or hear me. There’s no need to speak when a conversation is always running in my head.

Back to the woman in the car, she once asked what the happiest moment of my life was. It took me more than 30 minutes to respond (note: not answer) to her question. Even then, the look on her face suggested to me that I hadn’t properly answered it. Getting the heart and brain to work together in throwing out happy memories of childhood – the fluffy clouds seen in cartoons, Saturday afternoon staple of Sesame Street which made me smile whenever I see Oscar the Grouch, being asked if I wanted ketchup in my instant noodles dry – was almost an insurmountable task. It was especially so when so much of my life was spent running through the sad incidents (which could fill a book).

I don’t talk a lot about myself in person because not everyone would and could appreciate the muck in my head if they invent some device that allows them to look inside. They are mostly deep, sad and scary (not necessarily in that order). They mostly turn conversations into discussions about heavy topics; it’s stuff that no one else wants to talk about. They mostly scare people away because of the intensity of my thoughts.

A dilemma surfaces here (and always). Do I want to scare people off even if I oblige their sincere desires to pry? I could lie but I don’t really want to. So adding to the muck in my head, I have to censor. Heavily. Or I conceal them (sometimes not expertly) in self-deprecating humour so that I fulfill the need to share more about myself subtly and dress them in the cheapest form of humour possible – at my expense.


October 4th, 2013

The phone vibrated. It meant that there was a Whatsapp message.

I was trying to finish the plate of six chicken wings I ordered, wrestling the midwing part with a fork. I put it down on the plate and dug my hands into the pocket for the phone.

Who could it be? I asked in my heart.

The earlier flurry of messages were from a friend I’d not met in years. She was sitting next to me at the table, nibbling elegantly away at a chicken chipolata. It couldn’t be her. That is unless it was a delayed message. It wouldn’t make sense for any flirty texts from her.

Another friend should be working out hard in the gym at that moment. That is unless she has the habit of texting while exercising, which has never happened.

A belated birthday wish… ?

By the time I held that thought, my phone was in my hands and its screen before my eyes.

The message came from a number, which was not assigned to a name. It didn’t matter. I was familiar with the number.

“Can help send me back?”

From a woman whom I’ve established (possibly and belatedly) she was not attracted to me and that I had been a joker card of sorts to her whenever someone else had cancelled their plans on her, this was most peculiar. She could hold her liquor well (and almost prides herself at it) and even if she was horrendously drunk, how could she text without any spellos?

I furrowed my brows and dismissed it as that she sent the text to me by mistake. I didn’t dwell on thoughts about whether she sent it to a man or a woman either.

I could have ignored it. I could have replied with a “?”, in keeping with the almost cryptic nature of the text. Against better judgement, I typed “What happened?” and hit the “Send” button.

It was on the same day that I had removed myself from a group chat she was also a part of and I deleted the whole chunk of our text conversations.

I put the phone on the table and went back to wrestling with the pile of chicken wings. I held one up and offered it to my friend. She wrinkled her nose, shook her head and nibbled at her chipolata.

As for the sender of the text, there was no response predictably.

I’ll leave it as that.