Sunday, November 2, 2014

At the End of Everything #4

“Err… hi?” I raised my hand up at the approaching girl, trying to force out a smile that doesn’t seem too awkward. She smiled and waved back at me, before rushing towards me. “Sorry for being late!” she apologized, but I told her that it was no big deal.

The past ten minutes have been spent looking anxiously at my phone, wondering whether I should bail from the whole meetup. It has been too long since I last went on a blind date, in fact I have never done something like this before. Arranging a date with a total stranger from the web.

Despite the misgivings, I stayed eventually, convincing myself that if worse comes to worst, we would probably end up not texting each other again. It wouldn’t be that bad. Or she will lure me to one secluded corner and butcher me for my organs.

Lucas laughed when I outlined all the possible scenarios that could go wrong during the date, and advised me to cut down on all the crime and detective dramas that I was watching.  “Just go and let things flow,” he advised, with a hint of exasperation in his voice. I guessed he that he was growing sick of my constant pessimistic rants and worst case scenario depiction. Energy vampire, that was what he called me. Accused me of sucking the joy out of any situation. Naive optimist, I annoyedly shot back at him.

“If it’s meant to be, it will be,” was the comment that he gave before I came to this meeting. I guessed he was right.

“So… how are you?” I asked my date for the evening, as we walked along the busy street. We were heading towards a restaurant that she had earlier suggested for dinner, a Taiwanese restaurant located in the central of Singapore. Prior to the date, we had been talking for about a week now. We started messaging in the dating app, before exchanging our phone numbers, messaging through our phones and finally deciding to see each other f\in real life.

“Lets meet up just as friends,” that was her condition for if she was to come out. She told me that she has been dating another guy for quite a while now, which was why she needed to set some ground rules. Still, she did not mind meeting new guys online. Just to keep her options and her social circle healthy, that was her reasoning. I was just happy that a girl was finally willing to come out to meet me, so I just agreed. In a way, she was the first girl that I went out with alone, after a period of eight years of being in a relationship. I couldn’t help but to chuckle at how sad that sounded.

We talked about many things while we messaged through the phone. She was a recent graduate from a university, still waiting for a job. Like me, she came to Singapore as a foreign student, albeit at a much younger age. In primary school. Religion to her was a big thing, as she attends church regularly. She was seeing someone now but not yet exclusively, which was why she agreed to meet each other for a dinner date. Quite contradictory, how she described herself, but I made no comments. She loves Starbucks, dislikes the outdoor, but enjoyed museums to a great deal.

“We should go to a museum sometime!” was one of her many ideas. A suggestion that I enthusiastically agreed to, though I did not know what can couples do at museums. I just wanted to score points with her.

Our topic took an interesting turn and drifted to our sexual experiences near the end, with her telling me that she had her first experience at the age of 19. She mentioned that she was quite open in this matter, and do not mind going to a guy’s house if he has cute pets that she could play with. Which was why I asked her out too in the first place, hoping that Meowy would be a big enough attraction for her. Already a part of my mind was creating different scenarios in which both of us will end up tonight, all involving her coming to my house. I felt excited and yet ashamed both at the same time.

The restaurant that we picked was located at the corner of a busy intersection, with people constantly bustling in and out. So far the meetup has been going relatively well, much to my relief. We made a lot of small talk, about how our day has been, what has been going on lately in our lives and what food we like to eat. As we sat down in the restaurant, I could not help but noticed how different she looked as compared to her pictures online. She was much shorter than what I had expected, her face a little rounder and her smile revealed braces underneath. She was wearing glasses as well, something that was not shown in her pictures.

Lucas would later tease me about trusting online pictures, and told me that when going out with someone you met online, you should never form an expectation based on their online looks. Doing that would just mean  I am setting myself for a huge disappointment.

The restaurant luckily had no queue, and we were ushered quickly to our seats. The middle aged man handed us the menu, before disappearing to serve other customers. “So what are you getting?” My date for the night was already busy flipping through the menu, studying what they had to offer.

“I have no idea,” I replied, as I began to quickly go through what the menu had to offer as well. There were a lot of items with their colourful pictures, but nothing seemed to catch my attention. Mostly were noodle and rice cooked in different styles, things that I did not have craving for that night. “How about you? What are you getting?” I threw the question back at her.

“Hmm… maybe the dumpling noodle.” She was still busy looking at the laminated A4 sheets in front of her, her hands gently flipping through each page of it. “And a iced lemon tea,” she announced, as she scanned through the drinks session. With her mind made up, she closed the menu with a snap and placed it at the edge of the table, shifting her attention back to me. Her brown eyes peered through her glasses, and she gave a tiny smile towards me. “Have you decided?”

“Uh, no.” I was momentarily caught off guard by her stare. I hastily flipped the already closed menu in front of me back open, suddenly feeling bad to keep her waiting. I picked a food at random, the beef brisket rice, decided that I would also get iced lemon tea as well. I raised my hands to get the waiter’s attention.

“Hmm, this always happens to me.” My hand has been in the air for about a minute or so, and yet none of the waiters in the restaurant noticed it. She gave a polite laugh, and then took out her phone and began tapping on it. Not a good sign, I told myself, as my heartbeat began to rise uncomfortably. I tried to raise my hands higher, hoping that someone would catch it. Eventually a waiter did see my hand, before apologetically rushing to our table to take down our orders. I recited what we wanted  to him and he scribbled on the piece of notepad that he was carrying.. 

After the waiter was gone, my date put down her phone soon after that, and we began to talk again.

Our topic mostly revolved around details about ourselves. I would ask her a question about something, she would answer me and then asked me back the same question. As the evening progressed, I began to feel more at ease, letting my replies flow more naturally instead of thinking them through each and every time before I open my mouth. If there was anything that I hate about myself, it was my constant need to pick the best reply every single time I talk with a stranger. We even exchanged a few laughs, with her sharing about her bad experiences in the dating app.

Before long, empty plates lied in front of us, with only stains here and there to suggest that there were food on them before. I looked around the restaurant, wondering whether we should leave or continue to talk in the restaurant. An hour had passed according to my watch, and so far, I actually found myself enjoying the evening. Lucas was right, this was fun indeed. I wanted to drag the evening longer.

“Lets go for a dessert, shall we?” It was the first idea that came to my mind. She thought about about it for a while, before taking out her phone and began tapping on it again. She was checking something, I guessed. 

“Hmm, okay. My date says that he’s busy, so I guess we still have time.” she said and gave a slight shrug after that. Right, she still had a “date”. How could I have forgotten that, even though I did not really know what her definition of date meant. Still, that realization suddenly dampened down my mood a little.

We walked to an ice-cream shop nearby, ordered a scoop each and sat down at a table inside the stall. We continued to talk about life in Singapore, and compared how our lives used to be back home. 

“So what made you come to Singapore?” she asked me, her spoon dangling in her mouth. It was a sudden question that she popped in the midst of our discussion about how much we missed our home.

People love to ask me the reason why I am in Singapore whenever they find out that I was not local. Some of the questions were of genuine curiosity, but other times I felt as if people wanted to judge me. I had a feeling that she probably experienced the same thing too, with her being from a foreign country as well. I searched for an answer, before settling with the standard one that I usually give to people whom I am not close with yet. “The opportunities here are better in a way, and home was tough. I wanted to try out another environment as well. How about you?”

She took another scoop of the her ice-cream, and let the spoon linger in her mouth. “I guess it’s the same for me too. I disliked my home country, and wanted a better life elsewhere.” I nodded in response. It was a feeling that I could relate to as well.

“Then would you stay long here then?” Another question that people like to ask me. I eyed her back, and noticed that she had already finished her ice-cream. 

“I don’t know. I’ll see how it goes.” I shrugged and took another bite of the Rum n Raisin that I ordered. It had a slightly bitter alcohol taste, but there was raisin bits in the ice-cream too. The ice-cream here was good, and I made a mental note to visit here again next time, when I get a girlfriend.

I turned to look back at her, and she seemed deep in thought. Her eyes were staring to a far off place behind me, her fingers fiddling playfully with the spoon. “I don’t think I want to stay though. It just seemed so… soulless here.” That was a word that I never heard people used before to describe Singapore.

Naturally, I was curious. “Why?”

She put down her spoon, and turned shifted her eyes back to me. “Don’t you think it feels like a factory here? An efficient factory.” She went on to elaborate on how everything is planned and executed in such a systematic manner, with the single goal of efficiency in mind. She gestured enthusiastically throughout her speech, and I guessed it was something she was passionate about. We talked about the topic for a while more, and debated on the perfect country to settle in. 

“You will make a good friend,” she smiled as she said that to me. We were sitting next to Esplanade, facing the Singapore river. We finished our ice-cream about half an hour ago, an she suggested if I would mind taking a walk with her. I agreed of course, happy that at least my Friday night was not spent alone. In the distance, lights played out on the Marina Bay Sands hotel, seemingly performing a show to an audience somewhere.

I smiled politely at her, unsure of what to respond. It felt as if I just got pushed into the friendzone. Before I could reply her however, her phone started buzzing, and she hastily swiped right and put the phone to her ears.

“Oh you’re finished?” Her tone of voice changed, and her face seemed to brighten up in response to the person in the phone. It must be her “date”, I thought. “I am done, I will come your house to find you now?” Oh. My heart sank. She blew a kiss into the phone, before turning back to me, smiling sheepishly.

“Err…” she began, but I cut her off.

“I know. You want to find your date. Go then.” I smiled. Even if I didn’t want her to go, I couldn’t possibly keep her. So the only logical reason would be to agree. 

She squealed in excitement, and proceeded to throw her phone into her bag. “Keep in touch okay!” she said and ran off into the crowd. I watched her go, suddenly unsure of what to do. I had originally planned for the night to end differently, not with me suddenly left alone. A sudden pang of loneliness hit me, as I looked at the various couples around me. This is going to be a long a tedious journey, I thought.

Giving a sigh, I forced myself to smile, and stood up. Singapore can be so pretty at night, with the lights, ambiance and all. I stood there for a while more, before finally deciding that I should perhaps go home too. I dropped her a text saying that I enjoyed the evening, sighed again, and then finally went to take the train.

*****

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