But like the physical distance between us, eventually the distance between us slowly grew too. Our WhatsApp exchanges became less frequent, slower. Our Skype sessions became shorter, sometimes we even made up excuses just not to Skype. She had meetings with clients, I was not feeling very well. We both knew that they were just excuses, but we were fine with that.
It all felt too familiar, the process of growing apart. Like what happened to Jenny. The time difference and physical distance made it all the easier. We were busy in our own lives, she with her constant business engagements and me with my work, and it became too much of an effort to keep in touch. Or rather we became lazy. The entire thing soon became a routine, a habit, rather than something we both enjoyed. We slipped into the mundaneness of messaging, dropping boring messages such as asking how was the weather or just saying hi, without really conversing anymore. It was just for the sake of messaging.
And one day, I decided to stop. Just like that. It felt all too pointless already, trying to grasp onto something that was no longer there. I did not send out a reply to her message when I woke up, and left it with just two blue ticks in my phone. She never bothered to message back either, or ask why I did not reply. It just sort of died off like that. Unceremoniously abrupt. Weird, even. No parting message, no tears, nothing. Just a message from her with two blue ticks in my phone. And I guess that was the unofficial end to our sort of relationship.
I felt sad, of course. Downhearted. That it had to end like this. Even though a part of my heart had already expected this ending, it did not stop me from hoping that things might be different. That this time, it might just work out. Still, the pain was no longer unbearable as it used to be. I no longer feel the grief that I used to. Perhaps I had grown numb to it.
After a while, I noticed that the entire experience seemed to fit into a certain pattern. With Phoebe, Jenny and now Sharry, they were all the same. Things would often start out great. We would talk to each other, find out great things about each other, go out on dates. Everything would seem to be going on a straight path, but then the relationship will never progress beyond that. Something somewhere would go wrong, the relationship ends in an awkward manner and we would end up being strangers again.
For the first few times, I could not help but to feel as if everything was a waste. How the relationships just died off like that. We had spent so much time and energy with each other, just to let it all just revert back to nothing. Back to square one. It all seemed too pointless and troublesome. I started to question rationale behind it all. Everything seemed like a futile ritual, from the start to the end of everything. A meaningless loop. We kept doing the same thing over and over again, only to end up nowhere further than where we started.
“Welcome to our world,” Lucas teased me when I told him my thoughts. “Where finding a life partner seems to be more like a game than a magical journey You have to fulfill a certain kind of steps, meet certain kind of experiences, like earning how much per month, in order to land yourself a “soulmate”.” He used his fingers to make an air quote when he mentioned the word soulmate. After several rounds of disappointment, I could not agree with him more.
I found myself looking at Elaine’s profile again, as much as I told myself not to. It seemed that every time something bad happens in my online dating life, I would always go back to memories of her. At this point in time, I was no longer sure if I missed her, or the feelings that I had when we were together. I wondered if I could ever break out of this cycle of constantly stalking my ex whenever I felt lonely. What was I really looking for actually?
She was still with her new boyfriend, happily, constantly sharing pictures and updates of her new life. Me on the other hand, was looking through her profile, not knowing what to find. A pang of jealously, perhaps, and a little heartache to go with it. Not forgetting a whole ton of regret. I wanted her back. I wanted reverse time. To go back to the happy times.
“You have to start loving yourself dude, and be confident in your own skin. You trying to hold on to the memories of her, just to make yourself feel less bad is wrong, man. It seems like you can’t be happy on your, and constantly need someone to be your comfort pillow. You need to learn to be comfortable on your own, and not to depend on others to validate yourself.” Lucas’s face had this annoyed look to it. I guess he was tired from all the complaints that I was pouring unto him.
“Aww, don’t show me the face, please? I will treat you to this round,” I said, trying to cheer him up.
But Lucas does have a point, which was why I kept asking for his advice. I was someone who is terribly afraid of loneliness. I could never eat outside on my own, and I would rather go hungry than to suffer the awkwardness of sitting alone in a crowded eating place. To me, time spent alone was like a sign of weakness. It means you are unloved.
Which was why I have Lucas around. He was the person that I could call whenever I have to spend time alone. I wondered if what Lucas said was true, that the reason why I am afraid to be alone stemmed from my lack of self-esteem. That I am too insecure.
“This whole ‘I am so afraid to be alone’ thing is making you look desperate, you know. You need to say to yourself that you will feel okay and you can live meaningfully without having to derive your meaning and happiness from anyone. That you need to do first,” was Lucas’s parting advice. It was something that I need to put to the test, I thought.
The next day after work, instead of sending out a ton of messages asking if anyone wanted dinner, I took the train straight home without touching my phone. It felt uncomfortable, not being able to check my phone and to message anyone during the whole train ride back home. My hands itched for something. When I alighted, I walked directly to the food court next to the MRT station and stood outside of it, prepared to do something that I had never dared before.
It was crowded as usual, the after work peak hour made it even worse. People were bustling in and out, and many were standing while waiting for a seat. I felt uncomfortable watching the whole scene, more so when I pictured myself going into that place. The thought of trying to get a seat and then ordering food all by myself made my body tense up. Normally I would either just order a takeaway and leave, or wait until my housemates are back so we could eat together.
I was afraid of a lot of things. Like what would people think of me eating alone. Such a pitiful and lonely soul, they might think. He must have no friends. Look at him, unloved, unwanted. He cannot even find anyone to share a meal with. It seemed so stupid, with me worrying over such non-existent stuff. But it bothered me a great deal though.
“What are you so afraid of anyway? Does it matter what others think of you?” Lucas’s words echoed in my ears. What was I seeking for anyway? I thought a great deal about it. Perhaps it was not others who were judging me so harshly, but rather myself. It was me who is unsure of myself, with this morbid fear of ending up alone. And somehow that manifested into a fear of eating alone. How one’s thoughts can influence a person, I thought.
It was time I started to be able to love with myself, I thought. Not to depend on others. And this would be my starting ground. I took a deep breath, and pushed open the doors into the food court. It felt oddly liberating, and good. I smiled.