Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Marrying of My Oldest Friend

"Marriage: that I call the will of two to create the one who is more than those who created it."

Friedrich Nietzsche

Most of you know Nietzsche as the guy who said "God is dead." As you can see here, he said some nice things too.

I am out of my native element at weddings and that is why I rarely attend them. There is not much good I can honestly say about the institution of matrimony - holy or secular - but that doesn't mean I have nothing good to say about it at all. I am human after all and there are irrationalities I doubt I can ever be rid of. Sentimentality and nostalgia are some of those things. Psychologists have taken away the favourite toy of children, used an illusion to duplicate it and then asked which one the kids wanted. Most of the children rejected the "new" toy and wanted the old one back, even though it's the very same one. Imagine you have a wedding ring. Would you allow someone to destroy it and return to you an identical replica - even if they use a Star Trek-style replicator capable of reproducing it down to the last atom?

On an intellectual level, I know that marriages are shams but what I also know is that the excitement, trepidation and happiness people feel on their wedding days are real. I know it's real because I feel happy for them too, and on the 4th of June, 2011, that's exactly what I felt for my neighbour and my oldest friend when he married the girl he loves.

The Groom and I
The groom and I.

Over the years, his trajectory in life and mine had launched in wildly different directions and we have grown distant even while he still lives next door. Should I have done something to preserve the way it was back in our toddling, kindergarten days when we were the best of friends? Should he? I am a great believer of letting relationships live, languish and lie on their own terms in the graveyard of life's little tragedies, and I suspect most of us are. We would be very haunted men and women if we cling to every ghost of our past.

The mother of my second oldest friend was at seated at my table and she asked me that perennial favourite of questions asked by women of a certain age. She wanted to know when it would be my turn to tie the red strings and snip off the loose ends.

"I'm not into the whole marrying thing," I told her.

"You mean, you're not ready to get married yet?"

"You can say that. You can also say that I'll never be ready."

My family has a rather cavalier attitude towards the whole idea of putting love on paper, and out of the six siblings of my mother's generation, only half of them showed enough enthusiasm to actually put it to execution. But for someone who considers marriage so lightly, I also consider it a lot. I have a vague conception of how I would arrange my wedding and I have also dreamed up the beginnings of the vows I intend to make. Perhaps I would make them yet - not to a hall full of people, only half of which I know - but in the silence of a familiar night upon a strange place. I would not speak the words aloud but in a lover's whisper meant only for one person's ears; under no steeple but the sky, with not a soul in attendance but the stars, and on no authority except that of the only two people in the whole wide world who matter.

Photo of Chong Chan Bei's and Hairen Gan's Families
Congratulations Mr. Chong Chan Bei and Ms. Hairen Gan, and families.

I am now of the age where I'll see my friends getting hitched one after the other. Soon, I will start welcoming their children into this odd, crazy, messed-up but amazing world of ours. And before I know it, I'll see them leave it - I'll see the legacies they left behind. I have this strange, unshakeable, depersonalising feeling that I am just a side character in everyone's lives, more spectator than player and closer to fiction than flesh. I am that guy who my ex-girlfriends dated and hated. I am that black sheep in the family no one understood. I am that friend who is now just a jumble of numbers and letters between real people in their phone books.

What scares me most is the realisation that I have been slowly coming to terms with it all my life. I guess this is why a lot of us eventually settle down, marry and have kids, even when we didn't want to at first.

"'Cause I'm a little bit tired of fearing that I'll be the bad fruit nobody buys.
Tell me, did you think we'd all dream the same?

And doesn't that sound familiar? Doesn't that hit too close to home?
Doesn't that make you shiver, the way things could have gone?
And doesn't it feel peculiar, when everyone wants a little more?"

Yes, Missy Higgins - yes, it does. Thank you for your beautiful song about scars.

Your supporting actor,
k0k s3n w4i


Tom said...

"I have this strange, unshakeable, depersonalising feeling that I am just a side character in everyone's lives, more spectator than player and closer to fiction than flesh."

Poignantly said.

Phoebs said...

hey, you actually look thin in that picture :D

Anonymous said...

Awww, I love Missy Higgins! I have her albums! As in, I actually have the CDs. ;) The Special Two is my favourite from that album. I hope to catch her live one day.

Flobeco said...

"I have this strange, unshakeable, depersonalising feeling that I am just a side character in everyone's lives, more spectator than player and closer to fiction than flesh."

I guess you're better off dead.

k0k s3n w4i said...

Tom: thanks :)

Phoebs: you've been drinking again, haven't you?

lovealynna: scar is still my favourite song of hers - i still revisit it frequently from time to time. however, i actually like more songs from her second album. where i stood, steer and sugarcane are all very beautifully written pieces of melancholia :)