The lake at MacRitchie can be quite calming when you are drifting aimlessly on the boat, watching the water ripple as you enjoy the different sights and sounds around you. Especially the sound of the different birds and insects, and the water gently lapping the side of your boat. That would have been the case though, if not for the past fifteen minutes that I have spent awkwardly on the on it, because of the girl who was sitting in front of me.
We had been sitting in silence ever since the old man pushed us away from the jetty. I swung my oars gently and brought us to the center of the lake while Phoebe sat there mostly in silence.
I was not sure if she was angry at me, or if she was only waiting for me to talk to her. Guessing what a girl is thinking was never really my forte. I looked at my surroundings, trying to decide what to do. Most of the people around me were having a good time. They were enjoying themselves in the different activities that they were doing. I could hear laughter and chatter in the air. One could almost feel the energy in the atmosphere. Except in our boat though.
Different scenarios ran across my mind as I weighed my options. Talking to her was definitely the best solution, but I did not know what to say. Picking the correct words and sentence was never easy. I was afraid that the day would only go downhill should I decide to say something. The last thing that I wanted was to worsen the whole situation with my words. Things have the tendency of breaking down whenever I try to fix stuff. Bad luck Brian, that was how the internet would describe the situation that I usually end up in.
But the day should not go on like this, I thought. Or worse still, end on such a sour note. It was supposed to be a fun outing, after all. It should be remembered with fondness, not bitterness. My ego would not allow the day to go down like this.
What was I even afraid of, actually? It made no sense or whatsoever that I was afraid to talk to Phoebe. So I convinced myself to pluck up whatever courage that I had left, and to just take the leap of faith. “Hey, sorry for what happened back there.” That was the best that I could muster. For a few moments after my sentence, we both just sat there in silence. I wondered if she heard what I said. My heart beat in anticipation.
After what seemed like an eternity, she turned back to face me, her face tilted sideways. A slight smile, the kind that you give when you are tired, formed on her face. “It’s okay. Lets enjoy the rest of the day, shall we?” A huge sense of relief took over me. The wind carried the slight scent of her hair towards me as I beamed happily.
I was still unsure if her reply was good, but I took it as a positive change nonetheless. I smiled back in response. Trying to brighten up the mood, I replied with with a enthusiastic “Sure!” and started to ramble off about how crowded the lake seemed.
She smiled again, and her eyes joined in too. It felt more genuine this time. “So, where shall we explore?” she said as she turned back to face to front. At least we were talking again.
We spent the next one and a half hour on the kayak, rowing around the lake, joking about how challenging the whole activity was. Alone in our own world on that boat, we talked and talked. Secrets were shared and our plans for life was discussed. But somehow, the magic of the day seemed lost. It felt as if most of the talk were only scratching on the surface, without anything that was going deeply. She was a girl who was reluctant to talk about her feelings, I noticed, as our conversation deepened. Whenever we talked about her past, she would always mention about what happened, without touching on how she felt during those incidents.
She was talking about how she broke up with her previous boyfriend, going into details about how long they were together, how they met and his different traits, but she never mentioned about how she felt during the relationship or after she broke up. Like if she was happy or excited when he first confessed, or whether she was sad or disappointed when he decided to cut things off.
“So how did that make you feel?” I would occasionally try to probe, but her replies would usually be “I don’t know” or a vague “Like that, I guess.” Or she might just change the topic. I guessed that she may not be comfortable in sharing her feelings yet, as it was just our second date. It made me slightly uneasy, as I felt that she did not yet trust me, while I tried to share as much as possible because I wanted to let her know that I trusted her.
A whistle blow from the old man at the jetty signaled that our time was almost up, and we began to slowly paddle back to the direction of the jetty. My muscles were aching by now, unused to the amount of effort needed to row the oars. The back of my t-shirt was damp with sweat, and I could understand why Phoebe chose to wear a dri fit singlet instead. The thought of it made me felt stupid suddenly, because it seemed that I was not entirely prepared for the occasion.
I studied other couples around us. In most of the couples, the guys all appeared to be the one who is superior, the better prepared one. They looked like they were the ones in charge. A sudden sense of insecurity gripped me, as I realized that from the start until now, it was Phoebe who had been the lead for everything. I was merely following suit. It scared me. Suddenly everything scared me. The realization that I shared more of my feelings to Phoebe while she was holding most of her thoughts back, and how she was the one taking the lead in most of the interaction all along.
My suddenly decided to switch into paranoid mode, as it began to overanalyze everything.
“Hey, are you okay?” Her voice startled me. We were taking off our vests back on shore, returning them to the boat owner. He was asking how the entire experience was, and Phoebe was mentioning about how fun it was to learn how to control the boat. I was mostly silent, as I have been lost in my thoughts ever since we stepped on shore. The thought of inadequacy tugged uncomfortably at my heart. It was like an anchor that was pulling me down.
But it was not something that I would share. So I lied. “Yeah I am okay. What’s up?” I faked a grin as an attempt to reassure her.
My acting skills were never good. She looked at me skeptically for a while, before deciding that she would not ask further, and changed the topic. “Want some dessert? I know of a great dessert shop nearby.” Her voice sounded cheerful now, and she looked happy.
I agreed to it without thinking much. We set off to the dessert place that she wanted to go, an ice-cream shop located just a few bus stops away. It would have been a great experience, but already my heart was worried about something else. A nagging thought of insecurity lingered at a corner of it and gnawed at what we already had. And I did nothing to stop it.
P/s: I was initially afraid that I would not catch up because I was like three days behind schedule (6000 words short), but I decided to just fuck it and plough on. Rawr