It was sharp noon when we finally walked out from the hotel. I helped her to pack, her belongings for the past few weeks here, into two oversized suitcases. We dropped them off at the concierge, before heading out. As we exited into the sun, Sharry wrapped her arms around mine, and leaning her head against my shoulder. It felt good, even though my heart knew that it was only temporary.
“So where shall we go today then?” she asked.
It was not easy to think of a good place when your mind is preoccupied with different thoughts, but I was able to suggest the Gardens by the Bay from the back of my head. It was just right next to the hotel, and it was one of the places that we have not been there yet.
“There is one restaurant that I’ve always wanted to go, located on top of one of those big trees,” I told her, as we crossed the bridge that connected the hotel to the gardens. My finger pointed at one of the few tree like structures that stood in the middle of the gardens, towering above everything else.
Sharry squinted at the direction that I was pointing at, before turning back to me, a bright smile flashed across her face. “That looks interesting. You know, I always enjoyed park walks.”
We walked along the path towards the center of the gardens, making up small talk as we go. Mostly about how life was going to be after today, after she leaves. The sun decided to be kind to us by hiding mostly behind the clouds, letting us walk pleasantly without needing a shade even though it was in the middle of the day.
“You know, I just want to relax today, to just let everything go slowly.” We were in the elevator ascending to the restaurant, when Sharry turned towards me. She surprised me with a hug, before turning her head upwards to look at me. I must have looked nervous and stressed for her to say that, and she was right. My mind was filled with questions, doubts and worries about the future, and there was this nagging feeling in my heart that I could not quite explain. Another part of me wanted the day to go smoothly, afraid that her last day here would not be as enjoyable.
In the end, I gave a long, tired sigh. Sharry was right. I was trying too hard again, worrying myself too much over the inevitable, trying to grasp on what little time I had. To the point that I was no longer enjoying the present. “I’m sorry,” I said to her, as we locked on to each other's gaze. Alone in the escalator, in each other arms, what more could I ask for?
There was a Chinese saying that mentioned about not worrying whether something lasts forever, but rather having experience it for at least once before.
I leaned towards her, and let our lips touch. She pulled me closer to her, and for that moment in time, I willed my mind to forget about everything that had bugged me. I had one of the best meals in my life, sitting on a restaurant overlooking the Singapore river and the gardens, in the company of an extremely attractive girl. Sharry ordered a glass of wine as a celebration to our time together, which I felt had a bittersweet feeling to it.
After lunch, we continued our walk around the gardens, our fingers intertwined with each other’s. Just like any normal couple. Throughout the walk, none of us said a word. We just walked in silence, hand in hand. It not feel awkward at all, somehow the silence seemed more comfortable than the need to talk. We walked past different species of plants, past different groups of people and past the two glass domes that were signature to the garden.
We soon found ourselves at the edge of the garden, separated from the Singapore river by a row of metal railing. Sharry leaned against the railing, her hands resting on it. She looked into the distance, her face deep in thought. The breeze from the river blew against her hair, as they danced in the wind.
I hugged her from behind, letting my arms circle her waist. She said nothing when I did that, and continued to stare off to the distance. I brought my head close to hers, as my eyes looked beyond the river as well. Trees and flowers stood on the other side of the river, as ripples of water lapped gently on the side that we were standing on.
“So… what happens after today?” I found myself suddenly asking, the muddle of my thoughts finally coalescing into one question.
Sharry tilted her head towards me, then back to the river. A couple of minutes passed as we stood there in silence. Only the sound of other visitors, and the river occasionally filled the air. “The thing is Jaren, I don’t really know.” There was a hint of sadness in her voice, which pressed down on my heart as well. “If given the choice, I would want you to follow me Jaren, or I would want to stay here with you.” She rubbed my hands. I hugged her more tightly.
“But we all know life is no romantic drama, where we could just throw away our previous life and live happily with each other. Life does not work like that in reality. I still a have family to feed, and a dream to chase, Jaren. I have really no idea what is in store for the future, and I am too afraid to think of it right now. What happened in these three weeks was nothing but a short dream. A sweet, short dream.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
I wiped the tears off her cheeks, and pulled her close to me. “It’s okay, I understand. As much as I don’t want to, I understand.” My chest felt heavy too, as I struggled to keep my emotions in.
We sat on a nearby chair, and stared emptily at the scenery that laid before us. I put my arms around her shoulder, and just let time pass. When I turned to look back at her, she was already asleep on my shoulders. I cannot help but to give a sad smile, the only reaction that I could manage with the torrent of emotions inside of me. Eventually, a single tear did escape my eye. I closed my eyes too, letting my thoughts drift.
I thought about my previous relationships, about this that was about too. I felt tired in a way, of having to go through the same thing over and over again. But still, it was not something that I was willing to give a way. Somehow, each of the relationships, even though they did not work out in the end, changed me in a way. It gave me an opportunity to grow. And I was thankful for each of them. Sad, but thankful.
We went for a slight meal near the evening, eating at one of the many restaurants located in the Gardens. We did not talk much for the remainder of the day as well, unsure of what to say. It felt as if we knew what each other was thinking, and was too afraid to say anything, in case we said something to worsen the situation. I kept looking at my watch, slowly counting down to eight. After the meal, we went back to the hotel to pack her stuff, before finally heading to the airport.
The trip in the cab was no different. We sat there in silence, as the cab’s radio played in the background. We held each other’s hands though, while lost in our own individual thoughts.
We walked around a bit more in the airport, talking to each other about our future. I asked her about her plans once she gets back in London, and she mentioned that it will be work again all over for her. Meetings, deadlines, overtimes and travel.
“Will you be coming back to Singapore then?” I asked. A corner of my heart still held out a glimmer of hope. Perhaps we could work out some arrangement, I thought to myself, a last bid to perhaps secure this relationship.
She looked at me sadly, and put a hand on my shoulder. “Jaren, I think I need to be honest with you”. I need to be honest with you. My heart sank a little when I heard that sentence. Nothing good ever comes out when someone says that they need to be honest with you.
“The past few days have been great, Jaren. To be honest, out of all the guys that I’ve met with during my travel, you were one of the best.” She continued to say something after that, about how her work makes it difficult for her to focus on a relationship and that career is her priority now, but already I was not listening. Of course I was not the first guy that she had been with. How stupid could I have been to have overlooked that simple fact? She travels a lot, and she must have been doing this for a while now. I was not the first, and I would definitely not be the last.
The realization hit me like painful blow.
“Even if you want to come to London,” she said, “ You might not be able to find me.” I turned my gaze back to her, finally accepting the futility of my desire. This relationship was not meant to be long term for the start. That was the painful truth. I had no choice but to accept it.
As we stood at the departure gate, we exchanged a final hug, in which she proceeded to plant a kiss on my cheek. “Thank you again.”
“Thank you, too,” I told her, part of my heart still bruised.
I watched her push her bags past the gate, and before turning back one final time to look at me. “Keep in touch!” she yelled from behind the gate, and I shouted back that I will. I saw her disappear into the crowd, and thought about her final sentence. Damned right I will keep in touch.
As I stood there amidst the people who bustled in and out, I couldn’t help but to relive the past three weeks of memory. The random message that started everything, to the numerous outings that we had, and culminating with yesterday night’s experience. Now that she has left, all that is left to remind me of the experience was the memory, and a WhatsApp chat history in my phone. A short and sweet dream, just like what she said.
“At least you had the time of your life,” Lucas tried to console me, when I met up with him later that night. I told him about everything and how although I told myself that everything was going to be temporary right from the start, I am still so much affected by her farewell.
“The reason why you’re so upset now is exactly because you have experienced happiness before. You only know sadness only if you have known happiness. Be grateful that you’ve at least experienced the process before,” he said.
“Can’t I at least have a mourning period?” I shot back.
I did not know why, but I cried when I reached home. The feelings that was left boxed up inside all came pouring out, like a dam breaking. It was definitely not a breakup, but the pain sure felt like one.