"Whisk me away, I'll be yours for a day"Clean White Love (2009) by Lisa Mitchell
"You really are thinner!" she exclaimed brightly, looking up at me from below my chin. "I had to like, stretch my arms aaall around you before this..."
She closed her eyes for a second and laid her cheek against my chest, sighing. Then with a start, she recoiled and pushed me away with a laugh. "Security camera!" she said, glancing upwards coyly at a corner of the elevator's ceiling over my shoulder.
Saturday was a Phoebe Day. She spent the most part of her week-long sabbatical in her house in Pea Jay, occasionally accompanying her mother to the University Hospital to visit her recently stroke-stricken grandmother - while I spent the same time locked out of sleep and basic human rights in the final few days of my OB/GYN posting. Living a relationship separated by seven hours of hard driving on the North-South Expressway, we have to be like thieves. We have to steal our time together.
Phoebs with her favourite overpriced coffee. That's my slice of carrot (which Phoebs hates) and mandarin orange cake.
We didn't do anything too exciting, of course, but lovers know the best moments rarely are. We first spent a half hour at the hospital where I received a righteous round of bollocking from a nurse for stealing a look at Phoeb's grandma's case sheet. I could probably tell her that as a medical student, I am part of the fraternity, but I didn't have identification on my person at the time so it was something I did not dispute. Besides, it's just so frightfully hard to get worked up on a Phoebe Day, you know. There's just this prevailing mood in the air that's more than a little zen. People on the streets can break into song and dance and it would feel apropos.
Then, we lunched at our favourite restaurant which I had to solely drive to the middle of Kay Elle for - but that's okay. There are just some things that are never too far to travel for, as any bloke in a long distance relationship can attest to. We got the same table we sat at the last time we were there, which was only appropriate. This is precisely the sort of little moments I said we have to steal, luv. I take that this desire for sameness and symmetry as an indication we haven't tire of each other yet. The yearning for novelty is usually a reliable sign that things are getting old - if it does not murder a relationship outright, with a candlestick, in the billiard room (and you just know a Miss Scarlett is involved somehow).
It's not that our relationship is completely devoid of novelties though,
It was not how one would imagine it to taste like at all - there's just the subtlest suggestion of freshness and excitement of wasabi against a canvas of sweetness. I can probably work this into a metaphor of some kind but that would be far too easy for words.
Incidentally, that was Phoebe's pick from the dessert menu. Me? I went straight for my utmostest favouritest ice-cream flavour in the cosmos: black sesame,
Kurogoma aisu kurimu! I'll never tire of the kooky Japanese transliteration of the phrase "ice-cream", I swear.
Somehow, my appetite to try something new almost always get overridden by my longing for what I already know I love with surety. There's not necessarily a subtext here.
Then, I drove Phoebs and I all the way to 1 Utama because it's the mall she likes best and one which I like least.
"Aww, that's because you had bad memories of your ex here," she teased, knowing that scar tissue doesn't hurt when prodded at.
"Hardy har har," I said. "I don't like it because it's too damn big - and it doesn't even have a decent bookstore."
As I walked past a car in the parking basement, the girl in the driver's seat looked straight at me and I saw the instant rush of recognition in her eyes. She knows me, but unfortunately, the same can't be said for my side. It's very likely that I did know her but I have such a bad head for faces that most people I have encountered in life quickly turn into these vague, faceless shades in my memory bank. Too often have people who appear to be perfect strangers have come right up to me, shaking my hand and asking if I remember them. As a result, I have become quite practiced at mimicking that fancy-seeing-you-here expression and replying, "Yes, I remember you! HOW have you been?!" without missing a beat. This time, I bother not.
The last paragraph has nothing to do with anything whatsoever, by the way.
Speaking of exes and of flashes of recognition, Phoebs and I ran into my first ex (not to be confused with the Ex-Grrrfriend™, who's ex number two) at a Thai apparel store which shares the same name as my otorhinolaryngology Professor. Our eyes met just barely and I spotted that unmistakable flicker of recognition on her face, but she did not say hi. But then again, neither did I. That's strange because just months ago, I ran into her in a mall in Malacca and we made some smallish talk between us. Maybe she just couldn't be sure who I was because I had lost so much weight since. Yes, I like this explanation. I'm going to run with it.
"Phoebs!" I said excitedly after Ex One™ (Eximus Prime™?) disappeared into a changing room. "I think I just saw my first ex, but I can't be sure!"
When she emerged from the changing closet later and started chatting on her phone, I told Phoebs, "Quick, let's go browse some racks near her. I can confirm it after I hear her voice!"
And sure enough, it was her alright. And yes, I am such a freaking child.
"She sounds really matured," Phoebs commented afterwards, her voice sounding so very childlike in contrast. For the hundredth and certainly not the last time, I thought Phoebs should go into voice-acting.
"Yeah, womanly," I said, "I was fourteen, and that can be a real turn on for a kid that age. So, feeling any twinge of irrational jealousy?"
"Nope," replied Phoebs, "Should I?"
"I dunno, girls get jealous easily, don't they? They tend to do things like think about their boyfriends having once made out with their exes and stuff, for example."
"Wow, thanks for reminding me," said Phoebs, glaring.
On our way back from 1 Utama to meet her parents for dinner, my jalopy coughed and hiccoughed, and appeared to have taken up smoking to fit in with the cool kids. The temperature gauge was on its way to the ceiling, so I had to kill the engine a little way from Phoebe's house. I popped the hood to do a diagnostic on the situation, but the parts just weren't speaking to me. There's no note taped under the bonnet saying, "Don't worry! It's just the X. Just do Y and it'll be hunky dory!". All I know about cars entails checking the radiator water and the engine oil, both of which were in the blue that morning before I started my journey.
We hoofed the thankfully short distance back to Phoeb's place to see if I can get ahold of a mechanic's number - which Phoebs' mom readily had on hand. It took the guy and three of his mates more than an hour to make it but the wait was secondary to the fact that I was the sore thumb causing the delay of that night's dinner plans. It did not make for the most sterling of impressions, I know. One of Phoebs' cousins from Taiwan was in the house at the time - and like in a scripted family sitcom, another aunt and cousin paid Phoebs' household a surprise visit in the interim as well.
The mechanic, who coincidentally shares my first name, finally turned up at about eight-ish. Now, if I get this correctly: he said that a tube of some sort connecting my radiator to the engine have sploded, and all the water went bye-bye. How soon can you get it running? Tomorrow at about 3:00 pm, said he. Splendid! My day trip just turned into an overnighter. How much is this going to cost me? And the man said, "We'll see. I'll call you before doing anything." It was pretty dark out so I could not see if his pupils had turned into dollar signs. It did not, however, require a tow though so that's something.
Dinner was a kingly spread at some place famous for its roast duck, courtesy of Phoebs' Dad. Too bad they ran out of duck by the time we got there, no thanks to their daughter's boyfriend. Phoebs didn't care because she never much cared for duck anyway. Yeah, I know - she dislikes a heckuva lots of things, right?
Question and dilemma: What should a guy do if his girlfriend's father offers him beer? Male readers (I know I have some), I need you to weigh in on this. Phoeb's Dad ordered a large bottle of Guinness and poured me some before clinking glasses with me. Now, I didn't want to be be rude and refuse it - especially since I can't deploy my usual excuse that I have to drive - so I soldiered on and bottomed up my drink. That's what I do with food and beverages I dislike. I tend to try to get rid of them as quickly as I can (I dislike beer in general, and I find the sour taste of stout to be off-putting). Then Phoebs Dad poured me another, and another. Then he ordered another large bottle. So, yeah.
"Have you ever drank so much before?" asked Phoebs Mom almost rhetorically, laughing as Phoebs Dad filled my glass yet again. I just laughed along and wisely refrained from commenting on it.
"You failed the boyfriend test," Phoebs ribbed me later, "You should have refused."
"Hey, I don't want to come across as some sort of prude!"
After dinner, Phoebs' Dad took off, presumably to meet up with his buddies, and Phoebs Mom got the job of unloading me off at my aunt's place - but that was not to be because unexpected events come in mobs and droves. Phoebs' grandmother developed some respiratory complications and everyone in the household, barring Phoebs and her sister, headed for the hospital. So, circumstance dictated that I had to call my aunt to get me and I took to the streets of the suburbs of Pea Jay at about midnight to get to somewhere more accessible to my aunt, like the Quill 9 corporate building near Rothman's circle, say. Now, I have been mugged and beaten up before back when I was studying in SS15 so consequentially, I have become hyper-aware of my surroundings and oversuspicious of strangers. It's basically like a really lame superpower, but a useful one nonetheless. There were two other instances when I got pursued by muggers after that but I managed to outrun them both times; mainly because I keep a mental tab of everyone around me at any given time so the moment any lowlifes start acting of place, I am primed and ever-ready to take off.
This time around, however, I ran into my colleague, Jun Mun, who was just leaving the nearby Starbucks and he insisted that I should wait for my aunt in his car. It was certainly a day of surprises and extraordinary happenstances. The short chat we had revealed something about him that I ought to have known a year ago but I guess I'm just not a very good friend. I am so self-absorbed and get so caught up with my own life sometimes that the lives of people around me can figuratively cross-dress or get a nosejob and I wouldn't notice anything's amiss.
I left Kay Elle the next day after picking up my ride from the mechanic's at, as he promised, 3:00 pm. That's a surprise in itself, and a pleasant one too. The repair bill came up to RM 120, but that's only because I sicced my Dad on them (and the man loves a good challenge at bargaining). The girlfriend departed from the city for Butterworth at about the same time I did and there was no nick in the time in which we can meet, even for a minute, to say goodbye.
Oh, let us just not say goodbye ever, darling. It's that simple.
k0k s3n w4i