The tragedy of first love is that it does not take into consideration changing circumstances. First love tries to stay pure, unrestrained, and faithful. First love does not account for people changing and life moving rapidly ahead, and it is left in the dust that remains. Everything falls apart.
I caught up with Xin Yi after writing about our First Sunset; part 3 of my tale. Our meeting was silent, and yet comfortable. She had moved on ahead, while I was still the fool who held onto my memories. Seeing her again brings so many things to mind… Our sweet lovemaking, desperate escapades, and the thrill of hiding it all from public view. This part of the story builds upon the next chapter of our relationship: Surviving transitions.
It was great seeing you again.
The same smile. The same pout. The same cheeky glint in your chocolate brown eyes. You haven’t changed since the day we parted. Every memory is still dear to me, held sacred in the depths of my soul. I know that society would frown upon our passionate lovemaking. They would scorn us… They would vilify us for making a reckless decision in our foolish youthfulness.
That’s not true.
It was our love that gave us the courage to move ahead in life, and sustained us in the pain that came with adulthood. Our love gave us hope that we can create a brighter future in spite of our fears. You helped me to stay true to myself through the years. I wished I’d told you all this years ago… Is it too late now?
Thank you. Can you hear my words?
My face scrunched up in confusion as I glared at the past year assessment paper, absently wondering if I would bore a hole through it. I stabbed at my calculator in futility as I ran through the same steps again.
“You told me to do this, right?” I pointed out my equations to her, “Then how come I never get the answer?” We were perspiring a little, seated at the void deck and cramming for the upcoming ‘O’ levels.
“Tsk! No… Not like that!” She swatted away my hand and scribbled something on my paper, “Aiyo! Like that!”
My sweet beloved girlfriend, Xin Yi, the perfect student with a perfect record, had been giving me tuition for two months since we met. It was almost ridiculous to see how fast my grades went up. It was also ridiculous that I just couldn’t grasp the concepts behind my math equations as easily as she did. I was stumped as usual, and slumped back on the stone bench, sighing in frustration.
She shot me a look and promptly flicked some eraser dust at me.
We met for two hours each day, arranging our meetings during our previous meetings. This meant that if we missed one, we won’t know how to catch each other up again. I had to spend a lot of time waiting around to spot her at her block. It was also getting increasingly difficult for us to meet at times due to the amount of responsibilities that Xin Yi had in school. Sometimes, I felt jealous of her friends… Okay, most times I felt jealous.
I proceeded to furiously crunch through the rest of the paper, completing it in silence before tossing my pencil onto the table.
Xin Yi poked at my elbow. If I looked at her now, I knew she would bestow upon me a look of the purest angelic love that would mercilessly kill off my frustration. That was her way of getting me to open up to her when I became Mr Grouchy. It worked well enough to make me careful around her.
“We need a better way to keep in touch. We can’t call, and we can’t meet near our schools. And I want to meet you more often. Sometimes I wonder what you’re doing… And when we meet these days, we just study and don’t talk enough…” I blurted out suddenly before taking a deep breath, “It feels like we’re drifting apart.”
“Oh…” Xin Yi murmured quietly, “Darling… I’m sorry. Forgive me?” She slid over next to me and touched my tense shoulder gently, sending a jolt of electricity through my body.
“Hmph!” I huffed at her and tried not to give in too easily, “Even if I forgive you, nothing will change!”
Oops. I could see that stung her.
Xin Yi winced and I quickly reached out to pull her into my embrace. She melted into my arms as I murmured a thousand apologies into her ear, telling her that I still love her and that I wanted us to work through this.
“Sorry… Mmm…” I chewed through my thoughts tentatively, “Why don’t we keep in touch by leaving letters for each other at that place?”
“That place?” She nuzzled a little more into my arms and looked up at me curiously.
“You know… The HDB outside got this small cabinet with all the pipes and whatever inside. We can put our letters in there, since nobody’s living on that floor, right? We still don’t know whether you are free on Friday, so if you can make it then just leave a note there ah! See, I smart right?” I grinned confidently at her, trying to soothe over my words earlier.
“Hmph, not bad,” Xin Yi said while swiping at the tears in her eyes, “So I can assign you this two paper to do hor? Finish already put in there right? Hehe, don’t give me that look! Won’t work one!”
I groaned and pretended to faint, “Urgh, okay. Fine. Alright. Sure. I’ll do it!”
Xin Yi cheered in her sweet and adorable way, “Yay! Take this!” With that, she slammed down two practice papers in front of me, before she gave me a sudden peck on my cheek and skipped home with a sadistic little laugh at my expense.
Just wanted to cheer my girlfriend up. Fuck me, right? I’m so doomed.
I spent the rest of the day stuck in my room, not because I was doing the papers mind you. I finished those in a couple of hours. No, I was wondering what to write in my first letter to Xin Yi…
It’s been two months since we met, yet I don’t know what to write to you.
Two months since that fateful meeting at my school, when our eyes met and our hearts danced an endless waltz that has yet to reach its culmination. I still find it incredible how you feel the way you do about me. Why me? Why you? Why us? How did all of this all happen? I still don’t know, and I could barely hope to figure it all out.
Isn’t it a good thing though? Maybe figuring it all out breaks the magic behind it all. Maybe we never need to figure it all out. Maybe that’s the secret that will keep the magic going. Maybe that’s why Cinderella’s enchantment wore off.
I miss your tiny hands again. I miss holding you in my arms, and the way you laugh when I complain that your hair was trying to suffocate me. I love your smile and your laughter so much. I love you so much.
I feel guilty for never being able to say that when I am with you. It feels like some part of me is always hiding from you, holding you at a distance even though our lips are touching. It feels like some part of me is always on the run.
Do you still remember that day when we first met? Remember when you spewed out such a string of vulgarities that made me wonder what exactly had befallen me? I remember laughing at you when you hit that door, but I never knew that looking into your eyes could result in your capture of my heart. I never knew what happened after that. Maybe that’s why I’m running away. I’m afraid you’ll take my soul too.
Since I’ve met you, I feel like my days have become better and my heart has grown lighter. Yet, I still know so little about you. How can that be? It feels like I’ve known you my entire life, but the truth is otherwise. Am I being foolish? Perhaps this could be just another infatuation. Perhaps it would all be gone one day.
I’m afraid of that. Deep in my heart, in the depths of my soul, I am afraid of losing you one day. I’m afraid of waking up in the distant future, and realising that we have become just like our parents: Living from day to day in a loveless marriage. Cold. Bitter. Resentful.
I love you so much. And yet, I’m so afraid of you. You are like a flaming beacon in my darkness, drawing me towards you like a moth. Helpless, I can only continue dancing as close to you as I dare. I spin around you, my steps in the waltz taking me far wide. Yet, I’m certain that I would soon dance a little too close and incinerate myself in your flames.
I’m sorry, I never meant to veer off this way. Somehow, writing this letter has taken much more out of me than I’d expected.
Do you think we could meet at 3p.m? I will be free then, and I hope you will be too.
P.S. Was there anything else that I forgot?
I went up the HDB block shifting my weight nervously, opening that cabinet and dropping the letter inside with a tiny smile playing about my lips. It was my very first love letter. Writing it, walking to our private letterbox, and depositing it made me feel giddy with anxiety. I tottered over to the elevator and made my way back down, leaning heavily as I attempted to pull myself together.
Was I too forthcoming or too oblique? Had I made any mistakes in my writing? Had I done enough by her? I could run those thoughts through my head a million times, but I would never know for sure. I wanted to rush back upstairs and tear my letter into so many pieces, shielding my vulnerability from her. Yet, I know that would be a fool’s errand.
Opening myself to her in that small way would build our relationship. Intuition and logic both guarded me against my own emotions, allowing me to walk out of the elevator and away from the HDB block. I wandered home mindlessly, my thoughts and my emotions engaged in a war against each other, trying to find some semblance of peace within myself. When I finally reached home, I found it difficult to focus on my studies. Eventually, I managed to finish just one practice paper before dinner, as a distinctive jingle of keys brought my thoughts back to more weary matters at hand.
My father had come home.
“Father,” I called out to acknowledge him coming home after a long day at work. I had never asked him what he did and never knew what his occupation was, except that it always caused him to return home in a dark mood, his expression drawn tight to hold back his simmering resentment from whatever he experienced at work. As a toddler, I soon learned not to speak of work in his presence nor to ever put a toe out of line. His cane and his belt would mercilessly put back in my place.
In my mind, I always knew that my father had always pushed me extremely hard because he wanted me to succeed where he could not. His one dream was for me to get a degree, moving on to become a man of great achievements in life. There was once a time when I excelled in school, but that time was long past. Living in an atmosphere of fear and resentment had taken its toll on me, preventing me from being able to stretch myself fully, causing my grades to dive once I’d stepped into secondary school.
I spent all four years in secondary school, struggling to get by, trying my best not to fail my father. Yet, I did worse each semester until I’d met Xin Yi. It was only because of her that I could have a second life; a chance at redeeming myself once more. As I heard my father take off his shoes in the hallway, so did I put aside my practice papers while also cleaning up my table. My mother was already preparing the dinner table by the time I entered the kitchen, and I helped her set the cutlery down. My father entered the kitchen.
I sat down quietly, fingers tight on my bowl of rice as my chopsticks made their way around the dishes.
I dared not breathe too loudly for fear of rousing my father’s anger. My dinner was efficient as always; rice, vegetables, meat, soup, and then move back around the dishes again. I thought of my girlfriend, the way she gently held my gaze with her own. I thought of us being studying together, and her smile whenever she saw me peeking at her. I thought of a future together with her.
Would we be like this?
Would we lose ourselves as well?
Would our children grow up in a loveless family?
I remembered how she curled up protectively in my arms, watching my face intently as if seeking to touch my soul. I want to do my best for her. I want to excel in my studies to be with her. I doused my utensils with water and scrubbed them thoroughly with dishwashing liquid. As I went to sleep that night, I steeled my resolve to become a better person for Xin Yi.
It was not that difficult a choice to make.
Story published with permission, courtesy of White Wolf.