Day 3: A Place with a View

With a perspective borne of receding distance, I can only imagine how it would have appeared that afternoon, three years ago. To an onlooker, viewing us through the fishtank of a plate glass window at the Coffee Bean at Bishan he would have seen only a young man and a girl facing each other, remarkable only in their stasis.

………………

She looked at him across the table, impassive, waiting. In the meantime, her hair fell across her face and she let, it be, demure, tastefully highlighted streaks and all.

The young man looked back at the girl, slowly and with some difficulty, eyes red rimmed, brimming. Indirectly. His jaw stiffened, slightly.

So there they sat, across from each other, the table a gulf, proper in their suburban dress code. The young man in the casual scruffy chic Bermudas and crisp shirt the girl had chosen somewhere, sometime ago. And the girl in her khaki skirt and shirt, little bag and heels.

………………

Stony faced and through the curtain of her hair, the girl observed the young mans’ hands, toying with the base of an empty plastic cup. She took in the scuffed silver ring on his right hand, one she'd given him a year earlier, in happier times. A token from a Bali trip with her family, without the young man she'd missed desperately, a silly little keepsake really and a pittance in rupiah.

But he'd received the flimsy silver ring gladly when she’d gifted it and worn it with some pride on the ring finger of his right hand. Practice, he'd said then when he’d put the ring on on, with a light, tender smile, in the way young men do when they're deadly serious and mean to hide it. The girl had mirrored the young man’s smile, leaned into him and whispered in his ear, yes, one day. And let him place the twin of his ring on her hand.

………………

But a year had passed since they’d started wearing the rings and the girl had found out about the lies the young man had told only a week before. Which she'd confirmed with the Other Girl, who had been told similar but different lies.

She'd even made a chart of where the young men had told her he'd been each night that week, and asked the Other Girl where she'd been and what she was doing with the young man, who was no longer hers alone. Or had never been, really.

The chart was painful in it’s meticulousness, befitting her professional training. The chart proved that the young man had lied about where he'd been that last week. He hadn't been at the gym on Monday, but had been to a movie with the other girl. And on Tuesday, he hadn't had a bad stomach from a company dinner with colleagues. That was because he'd actually eaten a sparse meal of chicken chop at home and had squired the Other Girl for a late supper. And on Wednesday, the young man had met the girl but gone home early to chat online with the Other Girl. Thursday, Friday and the Saturday she'd found out about the existence of the Other Girl, were like blurs of covert activities , sickening in their duplicity.

………………

Now, the girl regarded the young man, more numb than hurt, having imagined that the hurt to have passed her by sometime in the past two days, purged, tear by tear in alternating bouts of hysteria and fits of quiet weeping. Her hard eyes betrayed only the slightest puffiness. And her hands were bare, unadorned.

The girl turned to examining the table and it's cheap, deeply whorled, pine grained veneer, deciding that it exuded an air of cheerful coomercial solidity. It was an easy decision to come to.

In the interim silence, their ice blendeds had melted though, barely touched, the whipped cream topping mixing into the water and separating, floating as an uneasy, oily white stain. The detente continued, suffusing the air between the young man and the girl.

When the young man finally spoke, an age or none had passed.

"Would it make a difference if I proposed now? I looked at the trilogy rings, they're really nice. You know, the one’s that Zoe Tay endorsed" His voice was light and tinged at the edges with a raw hoarseness.

"I don't think so, not after what you've done." The girl answered coldly. But sadness threatened and brimmed in her again, too familiar.

………………

So that was the first time I was proposed to. And it was the beginning of our end.

………………

We never recpatured the same uncomplicated joy of our past.

His badly explained credit card slips for hotel rooms at the Ritz Carlton Millenia and on Rasa Sentosa didn't help, for one thing. Nor did my innocuous, incessant questions about each and every detail of his day, each day, every day.

Sometimes he'd propose. Always, I'd refuse, setting new conditions that he couldn't, perhaps wouldn't meet. But still we lingered on, caught in the thrill of that dizzying downard death spiral for next two and a half years, bound fast to each other by a heady and toxic cocktail of loyalty, remembered joy and a dim, faint vision of marriage.

………………

My present freedom is sweet, but my perspective borne of my freedom far sweeter.

2 Comments:

Blogger The Legal Janitor said...
Your words are like nerve endings penetrating deep into my skull. I think that is how pain is transferred.
18 February, 2005 02:08  
Anonymous Diamond Engagement Rings said...
La parte migliore circa il ruby jewelry � che ci sono tanti posti per imparare pi�.Byebye, Bernard ruby jewelry
15 January, 2006 03:42  

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