After Jenny, I threw myself back into my work. It gave me something to concentrate on, where I could see my efforts making a difference. I started thinking about how I could make my classroom more enjoyable, instead of just finding a girlfriend all the time. Occasionally, I would still go back to the dating website, just to try out my luck. I would check out girls whom I have never chatted with before, reading up their profile, imagining how different things would turn out to this time. But it usually never differs.
The process was always the same; drop a girl a message and pretending to be interested in her life. We would talk about tons of routine stuff, like what are we doing, our previous relationships and what we were looking for. Small talk, mostly. We would go through the entire courtship ritual needlessly, which includes dinner, movies and trips, in the hope of getting the girl eventually. It all suddenly more like a game, a dating simulation, rather than a human relationship. I felt bored, jaded, and there were several times where I thought about giving up this entire relationship searching. Perhaps just be a monk and be done with it.
But try as I might, the loneliness will always come gnawing back. There seemed to be this curse that gets stuck to the young working adult’s life. Where you get this feeling that you’re alone in life. Everyday after work, you will find yourself sitting in front of a screen, food in front of you, with only the moving pictures on the screen to accompany you. Your social circle is not as big as it used to be, shrunk so considerably that the people you keep in a regular contact can be counted with two hands.
I guessed that is how most of us get tricked into this idea of marriage. We are so afraid of spending the rest of our lives alone that we desperately try to find someone. Marriage, it seems, was a creation to stop us from going insane by pairing us up with someone. What if this entire charade was nothing more than a byproduct of evolution, to trick us into procreating? After all, the loneliness creeps back in, we would do anything to chase it away. Like ending up with someone just for the sake of it. I guess that was why I kept to the dating website, fueled my yearning for a connection. For someone to talk to. So I would not feel alone.
But it was not before long that I realized the actual futility of this effort. While online dating website gives one the ability to connect to as many people at once, it actually makes us more picky and less focused. Rather than spending my time focused on only one girl, I was constantly talking anywhere from three to five girls, trying my luck with all of them at the same time.
A part of me felt disgusted for being so desperate, another part of me was afraid that if I pour all my effort into one girl, any failure would be totally heartbreaking. I was afraid to risk that, especially not a girl that I first met online. Not when they have tons of guys hitting on them too. I wondered if anything was right.
One thing that was consistent though, was how often I found myself missing Elaine again during. Lucas called them my loneliness bouts and he hated them. Whenever I found myself alone, my mind would inevitably think about Elaine, about the times we were together, and all of the things we did. It was hard not to remember the experiences of a eight year relationship. The traces of it were everywhere. In the food that I eat, the clothes that I wear. Something somewhere would always remind me of Elaine again.
With Elaine, never once with her did I ever felt unwanted, unloved. And more often than not, I would find myself drawn to her Facebook profile, trying to see what she was up to, tempted to drop her a message again. I would look through all our old photos and messages, rekindling the emotions that I once felt. It became sort like a drug for me, the feel good emotion of remembering a beautiful past. I wanted desperately to rekindle our old relationship.
“You gotta stop thinking about Elaine, she has moved on, and should you,” Lucas would try to advise me again and again, whenever he finds me staring at her profile. His words would usually fall on deaf ears. It was difficult to stop a lonely heart from overthinking, and from missing all the good memories of the past. There was not a moment in which I would regret my actions, and if given the choice, I would have gone back in time a thousand times over to right my mistakes.
But Lucas was right in one thing though. No matter how much I missed her, no matter how much my heart yearned, reality would still remain the same. She still has her boyfriend, a good one in fact, and much better than who I was in the past. In one of her latest photos, she was wearing a swimsuit in the Maldives, sitting on a lawn chair that overlooked the sea.
“Trip courtesy of my dearest!” the caption wrote. I seemed to have forgotten how pretty she looked. And her boyfriend actually brought her to the Maldives. I could not help myself but to feel a pang of jealousy. The most that I have brought her last time on a trip was a trip that I got off from a deal website to Batam, an island which pales in comparison to the Maldives. How ever could I compare with guys like this, I thought.
Six months after I started my online dating journey, I was ironically back at square one again, still thinking of Elaine. Sitting in my room, with the smiling photos of Elaine staring back at me, I found myself terribly missing her. I went to Youtube, put on the song “Let Her Go” by Passenger, and let it play in the background.
The guitar strummed the soothing intro, before a soft voice sang out the first verse of the song.
“You only need the light when it's burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go.”
Only know I love her when I let her go. How true. I buried my face in my arms, and gently wept.